Just Owning A Bike Doesn’t Make You A Biker

//Just Owning A Bike Doesn’t Make You A Biker

Just Owning A Bike Doesn’t Make You A Biker

As far as I’m concerned, the greatest thing you can do during your time on this planet is ride a motorcycle. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you’re on the road. And it matters not a bit what I’m riding or where I’m going. If it has two wheels, I’m a happy man.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for many, many years now, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do with my time. I currently own five bikes — each designed for a different type of riding. My wife doesn’t get it, but I’ve got the bug — real bad and I enjoy riding off-road as well as on the highway, so naturally I need a separate bike for that.

While putting in my time in this industry, I’ve been blessed to be able to ride with — and learn from — some of the most accomplished riders in the business. On the off-road side of things, I have ridden with people like Scot Harden, Guy Cooper, Mike Lafferty, Russell Bobbitt, Mark Hyde, Jack Penton, Rod Bush, and many others.  I’ve received plenty of training from these guys and learned something different from each one of them.

But when it came to road riding, I didn’t have the same pool of talent from which to draw good advice. Back then, I pretty much had to learn things on my own —To make matters worse, I started riding road bikes long before I ever threw my leg over a dirt bike. You could say that I started out “bass ackwards” when it came to my riding career, and you would be right. Most people learn on the dirt first (after all, dirt is softer than asphalt). Either way, I had to figure things out on my own, so I finally signed up for a road racing course, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

You don’t have to be a wannabe racer to take one of these courses. You can take a class that will teach you the fundamentals of safe riding. If you’re new to motorcycling, I would highly recommend you take some kind of course. What’s great about the racing classes out there is they don’t just teach you how to ride, they teach you how to react when things don’t go well. They teach you the limits of the bike you’re riding. You’ll revisit most everything you learn at some point in your riding days, and what you recall can make the difference between a close call and time in a hospital bed.

Simple things, like learning to brake before entering a turn, using proper braking techniques and proper body positioning. You can also learn more complex techniques. For instance, if your bike starts a front end wobble, you need to crack the gas and get your weight back to relieve the pressure off the front wheel. (That’s a lot different than your first reaction, which might be to slam on the front brake and transfer all the weight forward — very bad!)

Working at J&P, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to sit in the parking lot, watching folks pull in on their bikes. What’s apparent to me is that some of these people need some — um — help. I’ve seen riders drag their feet for 50 yards before putting them up on the pegs. I’ve seen riders putting their feet down in a turn, almost falling over when stopping, and nearly hitting each other in a gigantic parking lot. It makes me afraid for them and the things that can happen out on the open road.

But all of these issues can be resolved with a little bit of training and knowledge. Remember, just because you went out and bought a bike doesn’t make you a biker. Taking the time to learn how to handle your machine does. If you’re new to riding, or you just lack confidence, sign up for a course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a quick search page so you can find a course near you. Visit http://nm.msf-usa.org/msf/ridercourses.aspx?pagename=RiderCourse%20Info. The experience will do you good, and it might even save your life!

By |2015-04-15T15:11:11+00:00November 17th, 2010|Categories: Editorial/Commentary Articles|Tags: , , |39 Comments

About the Author:


  1. Ben February 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Biker… Rider… Motorcyclist, either way you are traveling amongst and competing with motorists in a 4 or more wheeled vehicle. I have found most “motorcyclists” to be focused and polite road users. I have not found this to be true of others. Not sure of the reason but we live seem to live in a society where patience is rather short behind the steering wheel. This can complicate sometimes simple and straight-forward road sharing between motorcyclists and others.
    Be that as it may, getting to-and-fro on two wheels poses its own hazards, both to the user and his bike. So I would hope most of the focus is on the part of the motorcyclist. I decided when I first chose “to ride”, if I start to lose this focus, it may be time to return to the “luxury” of the 4-wheeled (wander) vehicle.

    So…. be it biker, rider, …. all “motorcyclists” by any other name…Keep operator focus and safety first.. and pick a label.. well, next!

  2. Steve February 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I’ve owned Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, & Harley. Currently in our garage is a 650 Savage, 1100 Virago, & 1300 VTX. My favorite ride was my 1200 Sportster, but was changed for the practicality of the VTX. I’m sick of the stupid comments between American/Foreign, nd sick of one refusing to wave or acknowledge the other on the highway. Just get on 2 wheels and enjoy the ride! Who cares what, or how old the ride is… Life is short, and we all need the therapy!

    • RANDY February 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm


  3. Al Marchand December 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    This past spring I bought a bike after not riding for over twenty years, my 25 year old son and 18 year old nephew were buying bikes at the same time. I talked both of them into taking the safety course with me and it was the best thing we could have done.

  4. DAY December 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Lowell Anderson

  5. forestranger55 December 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    View from the forest: I only last year bought my first bike, an Indian Scout, at the age of 55. I now also own an Indian Chief. Took a riding course in FL before I was ever on a bike in my life, scared out of my wits on a little Yamaha 200cc in the parking lot. But all the tips the instructor gave us in class & on the range I put into practice, and agree that there’s enough room on the roads of America for all kinds, that all of us on bikes are from the same family and we should all look out for each other. Use safe riding habits when coming anywhere near cars because we all know they’re not always focused like we are. Always be ready to take evasive action, don’t lose focus for even a second, use your skill set, and know your limits. You’ll be around a lot longer to enjoy the open air and the beauty of America.

  6. sleepyjohn December 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    First, the riders course is a great idea, second, i’ve been called alot of things and “biker” was not the worst, lastly, SandySandals, thanks for not showing your “old boobs”!!!

  7. Kenneth cook December 11, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Back in ’83 I joined the Marines and soon after found myself moving from a dreamer of owning a “hot rod” to dreaming of owning a Harley. I had just turned 18 and had entered a world that I hadn’t known before. I didn’t grow up around bikes but now was hooked, and the chase was on to own my one. i won’t go into details except to say life happens but the dream never died. Two years ago this past October I decided to take a riders course. I was told by those who already rode that it wasn’t needed. But I hadn’t even put a mile on any bike in my life outside of my dreams, so I took the course anyway – without even owning a bike. The course was great. I learned in 3 days what some of those who already rode didn’t know. But I also knew the road was a different beast. Two years ago this coming January, I bought my first bike. It wasn’t the Harley I dreamed of; instead it was a Honda VT1100c. It had 7500 miles on it and was beautiful. A little rust here and there but with a little tlc it was shinning like new. Today i still have her. She now has just over 25,000 miles, all mine, and looks better than ever. We made our first long trip in April after I got her. I had a week off and decided to head south. i live in ky and wasn’t sure if I would even make Tennessee before i turned back, since it was pouring rain. The next night I was pitching my tent in gulf shores. I caught my dream of riding the coast and living without even knowing where I would be tomorrow. We spent that whole week like that. I have also spent another week with my teen daughter riding to DC. She (my daughter) even withstood the whole 600 mile journey back home in one shot.3 months ago my old truck broke down and it became a choice to either fix it for the winter or put the money on other needs and normal maintenance on the bike. The truck is still sitting and I am still riding. A long story just to say that it only took one inexpensive choice to take a riders course to give me to push I needed to catch my lifelong dream. Riding is not a hobby for me, it is part of who I am – who I always was. I don’t know if that makes me a biker, but it does make me happy. I will finish by giving praise to my Savior for seeing my dream, and because he loves me, decided to give opportunity to catch it. Ride safe.

  8. Charlie December 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    everyone has good points, i agree with all of them???, how can i do that ? couse i have been there. that’s how.regardless who you are, what you ride, how old you are, how young you are, male or female, rice burner or american made, biker, yuppie, green or well expierenced the one point no one has mentioned is ……. should i say it?……. what the hell!!! ((((( Respect ))))) it was mentioned about kickin in doors , i had to tear out the whole side of a car with my foot peg like a can opener becouse the car driver was not respecting the motorcyclist. then agian while i was driving my truck with the harley sticker in the back window on my way to work i’ve had motorcyclist intensionaly block the road so i could not pass, classic case of the motorcyclist not respecting the truck driver. what i don’t understand is when the motorcyclist don’t respect the other motorcyclist, what the hell we all are out to live our own lifestyle on our own bikes and the road is big enough for all of us, so if you got that stick shuved up your ass so far that it hurts don’t disrespect your brothers and sisters on the road, if they want to pass let um, your not a car you don’t need to be in the middle of the road and be in the way of other drivers or riders and if you are renting the bike your on don’t ride like you own it couse you don’t, you need to be extra alert couse you are green to the way the bike acts and reacts, so you riders need to ride to the side and let the locals go by. i’m in a state that alows splitting lanes, Ca.. if you don’t know the local laws move over and learn from the locals. So I guess the best combo of this is KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, KNOWING YOUR BIKE THOUROUGHLY, LOCAL LAWS, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST —RESPECT—

    ps. bringing your bike to the shop for every little adjustment, repair or mod will NOT bring you closer together to your bike you really need to get envolved with your bike to really know it.



  9. E Pitre December 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    First ride this year on first weekend of march and last ride second weekend in November In Cold Lake Alberta

  10. Panhead Pete December 7, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I’m not a biker. I just love riding. I ride year round everyday I’m fortunate to be alive. I finally got an 09 Roadking to join the Pan that I’ve rode for over 40 years. The Roadking is not a beginner bike. I am still learning. I practice everytime I lean hard into a curve, refining the techniques, learning the limits just in case the unexpected happens. Was one of the four bikes last Sunday at the OKC Swap Meet in the 20 degree weather because I just love to ride.

  11. Johnny December 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I would agree with most of what Lowell said about taking a course to help you get where you want to be on a bike … whether it’s just street riding or racing.

    I took a Motorcycle Safety Course recently (been riding for a while) and I guarantee you there is something there, no matter what your experience, that you can take from that course and might save your ass one day. Slow-speed riding, emergency lane changes, braking in reducing-radius corners, jumping obstacles, it’s all in there. I have to tell you, you are NOT allowed to take your feet off the pegs unless the bike is stopped, period, in the course I took.

    Maybe the best thing I could say about it, is after you’re done your riding for the day’s course, on your way home, you see countless bikers, some obviously experienced, making basic errors on the street. Some of them won’t kill you, but some might.

    Oh, by the way … the courses are about 2-1 women to men. Don’t think “girl’s course” think “meeting girls” and you get it.

  12. River December 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I am coming up on 70 this February, I have 4 bikes right now, 3 cruisers and one chopper build, but hoping to weed it back down to two. I guess people would call me a biker, I got my first one when I was 18. I used to ride crazy, like setting the throttle and standing on the seat guiding it with my feet.

    I don’t do that crap any more. I always have owned Jap bikes, when an engine shakes so bad it looks like its coming out of the frame (can you say Harley?) there just seems to be something basically wrong with that, but, what the hay? Thats just my opinion, more of my friends have Harleys and we ride because we like too. I find the Harley folks are just as good to ride with as any.

    The folks I ride with don’t give a rats what you ride, my two boy got bikes, so we ride some together in summer.

  13. D. B. December 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Hey C.L.A. – Another brilliant move would be to throw ball bearings through the windshield of some A-Hole that is tailgating you. When the crazy does run you down at least you did the Biker Thang.

  14. D. B. December 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Hey C.L.A. – Another brilliant move would be to throw ball bearings through the windshield of some A-Hole that is tailgating you. When he does run you down at least you did the Biker Thang.

  15. D. B. December 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Hey C.L.A. Another brilliant move is to throw ball bearings through the windshield of someone who is tailgating you. Never mind that they are probably crazy ass drivers. When they run you down at least you did the Biker Thang.

  16. Mike December 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Helmet law – your choice, I like wearing mine. Am I a “biker”…no. I’m an owner and a rider and I ride when I feel it is safe to operate my bike. I ride on my daily commute to work. It is a great stress relief(you have to focus on something other than the negative crap in the office)And yes I do ride in the winter when it is safe to ride and I can keep my hands warm enough. Does that mean I’m a Bad A**? Absolutely not I just enjoy riding when I can.
    BE Safe and enjoy the Rides

  17. Al Manzer December 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I’m not here to tell anyone about my experience but
    only to endorse what “Boots’ had said about defensive driving,, the one most single important piece of advise for all of us. Stay alert & Drive Safe…

  18. martin kibby December 7, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    OK, to each their own, I’ve been on a bike since I was 6, 1st mini bike. Now I’m 6t. I consider myself a fairly good and cautious rider. A few months ago some friends and I took off to the Ozarks from Tx. for a 4-5day trip. Well the 2nd day turned bad for me. I was the 2nd rider in our group and a dog (pretty good size dog as I remember it) ran out from a farm house on some back country road. I nailed it. It happened so fast I didn’t have time for squat. With all the training one can take sometimes it just doesn’t matter. One night in the hospital with a few broken ribs. The wife had to fly out to Arkansas and we had to truck the bike home. Just got it out of the shop last Sunday. Sure felt good to get back on it. Love that wind in my face. Oh yeh, helmet law, whatever your choice, I wear one and if not I wouldn’t be here jacking on the web and that’s for sure. Merry Christmas to all……..

  19. Flyin-Fred December 7, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I don’t always agree with being labeled a “Biker”. I own a bike…but I’m not a “Biker”. At the same time, I might be considered one of those ‘Yuppies” by anyone labeled a “Biker”. But, at 61 with over 46 years of motorcycle riding, I’d hardly be considered a “Yuppie” either. I own a highly customized V-Rod because I like it….I like riding it…I liked building it…I like owning it. Frankly, I don’t give a sh!t what anyone thinks of me…I ride because I can, and because I like to…period. But, at the same time…I realize that my reflexes aren’t what they used to be when I was a helluva lot younger.

  20. Griff December 7, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I currently have 11 bikes from 1921 to a 2000 Harley’s , Indians , Triumphs ect . IT’S a SICKNESS and I’ve got it bad but do I ever love it.
    Love building from basket cases or less to runnin machines , if you ain’t got a project you ain’t got shit and love goin down that long loesome highway.

  21. Lolita December 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve been a passenger for a while, but always wanted the front seat. However, I wouldn’t get on a motorcycle until I took the MSF course (through Harley) and practiced a lot. I’ve only been riding for 3 1/2 years, but I don’t think the amount of years makes one a ‘biker’. Doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride, ( I ride a Honda cruiser)! how you dress or WHY you ride, how often you ride, lifestyle or not, just THAT you ride. I love my ride, I ride in winter, I dress for protection and for fashion (I’m female after all!!) Riding is also a means of expression – let’s not forget that!

  22. C.L.A. December 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    If you’ve never kicked a dent in the side of some crazy F$!ks door because they were fixin to run you over….well then I suppose your lucky….but its a damn sure sign of a biker!

  23. SandySandals December 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I so agree with JRM. What a crock of crap. I get so tired of that attitude. I am considered a ‘wannabe’ by those people. Never mind that I am a short 62 year old female and often trailering is the only way I can ‘get there’. Never mind that I was taught at 12 in 1960 by my Dad who had been riding forever and worked in the motorcycle motor pool in WWII. Never mind that even though I have a custom Suzuki Boulevard and not a Harley, I still ride almost every day. It doesn’t have time to collect dust. So, I’m an old princess….I am not tatooed, I don’t show my old boobs in biker bars, I do NOT drink and ride but you can bet your bottom dollar, I am as much a biker as anyone out there. Why? Because I love it so. And always will. Being a biker is a state of mind and now how much you torture yourself by riding in the snow!!!!!!!!

    With all that being said…. I would still love to attend a good refresher training course and not the basic license course. I almost failed it…it was not a course but a lesson in chaos.

  24. Boots Chartrand December 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I’ve been riding motorcycles in excess of 40 years and one thing I’ve learned is defencise driving is the one reason that I’m still alive and still riding.Always ready to make split decision because a lot of poeple don’t give rip about poeple on bikes.

    Live to ride -ride to live
    A concerned canadian biker

    • Wayne February 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Defensive driving mmm I have always told all My kids and nieces and nephews, when you ride you are the running back and everyone else on the road is a linebacker out to knock the crap out of you that is how you have to look at it to survive!! so I gues I take defensive driving to an offensive state of mind. I have been riding 45 yrs now and it gets worse every year so take the courses they can only help you and remember its NOT WHAT YOU RIDE BUT THAT YOU RIDE!!! and yes I ride a harley but have had just about everything out there at one time or another shiny side up all!!

  25. J.R.M. December 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

    J. Wilson said, “Try riding over Mount Pocono, PA in January etc…. Ride to AND from a rally. Leave the trailer at home!”
    That’s the kind of mentality that sets standards for others to be judged by his kind and their “Holier than thou” thinking.
    You have to ride in the snow and winter? wow.
    You don’t trailer your bike? wow.
    Deal with it.
    You make your own decisions where to live, when to ride, how to ride, etc. Just because someone else doesn’t ride as far, as often, or as cold as you, doesn’t mean that you can judge them so arrogantly. At least they are riding, and they are riding within their own comfort zone.
    I would rather they do that than do something they are NOT comfortable with, just to impress someone like you. That’s why there are so many varieties of bikes, because there are so many varieties of people to ride them.
    Judge ye lest ye be judged.

  26. Rob December 7, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Have you ever been to a HOG Rally? That’s some scary stuff. Went to one in Luxembourg, watch out where you walk! Not only do they ride poorly, but they go to bed early and don’t make much noise.

  27. John Floyd November 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Would love to have the course – but rather expensive!! Why don’t they offer a dvd??

    • Lowell Anderson November 22, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Many of the things you learn have to do with your interpretation of the instruction given. The trainers ride behind you and watch what you are doing, then they correct the things you are doing wrong. A classroom setting is a good start, but most classes use both a classroom, and then track time.

  28. Tony Dhono November 18, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Good advice,in the old days I went to practice on the race track for the purpose of learning to handle the bike in all sorts of emergency high speed situations (not possible without practicing over and over again) and to get my adrenaline rush on the right place(not on the open road).By doing this I became a more experienced ,safer and calmer rider which would benefit me in all my riding years. I still ride my ’81 Harley Shovelhead (FXWG)Wideglide which I bought new in ’81 and has become part of my image in the biker world. As far as being a biker is concerned, I’ve never really tried to be one. It is something that comes naturally with time. I ride and live on my bike and have no service car behind me on my long distance solo rides.(I’m not against this cause it helps).
    One thing I do not do is ride Cafe to Cafe(take a taxi for that). Another thing I do not do is show off because this is the root of most accidents. My bike is my passport to most of my contacts as the cameraderie and brotherhood comes with the package. My motto is Ride hard,ride safe,ride free.
    I am against the helmet law but I will always wear a helmet by my own choice. At the end of the day I couldnt care less If you call me a biker or not,but I ride as part of my life and almost all my friends are part of this lifestyle.

    • Lowell Anderson November 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      All Good points Tony! I don’t really feel the need to be called a biker either…It’s definitely a lifestyle!

  29. Merf November 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I’ve been riding for 50 yrs. Since I bought my first bike I’ve never been without one. When I had nothing else I still had my bike. Biker is a mind set for me. Riding makes me happy when I’m sad and cures me when I’m sick. I can’t imagine being without a bike.

  30. J. Wilson November 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    All good points til now, but the truest measure of a real biker is whether the weather makes any difference. I ride year round cause I “need to”.
    Try riding over Mount Pocono, PA in Janruary etc…. Ride to AND from a rally. Leave the trailer at home!

    The clothes don’t make you biker either…..but they will keep you a little warmer! BE SAFE and watch out for the crazies!

  31. G. Guerra November 18, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Good advice!!

  32. VonZipper November 18, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Sure owning a bike does not make you a biker…but sticking a Harley sticker on the back window of you car sure does!

  33. Tin Man November 18, 2010 at 5:08 am

    All good points, training is a good tool when it comes to riding a bike and also very true that owning a bike does NOT make you a biker but neither does training, it just means you are someone who owns a bike and knows how to ride it well. Being a Biker is more of a way of life (on a Bike).

  34. Mike Jenkins November 18, 2010 at 2:49 am

    I forgot to mention THANK’S J&P Cycles, for all the support I get from your wide variety of selected parts, you by far have the hugest selection at the most competative prices, it’s GREAT to see that there are some GOOD SCOOTER PEOPLE STILL OUT HERE, and not trying to break our bank’s!!! KEPP UP THE FANTASTIC JOB, and PLEASE keep the part’s at a competative price, because I’d rather do my shopping through J&P Cycle’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Mike Jenkins November 18, 2010 at 2:41 am

    You got that right, you have to have it in your blood, not these yupie f-ck’s that get all geared up in the latest Harley chit, like boot’s, jacket, t-shirts, just to ride from bar to bar, I’ve rode bar to bar before, but that was when the bars closed in San Diego, and we would take off to Tucson, be plenty thirsty when we got there also. I’ve also seen people go in and “purchase bike’s” that are scared of them, so they sit in thier garage’s until thier wive’s make them sell them. Ride -em if you got em!!! RESPECT THE SCOOT, AND REMEMBER, YOUR IN CONTROL!!!and BY ALL MEANS WATCH OUT FOR AZ-HOLE’S, I’ve BEEN HIT 3’xs, BEEN THROUGH 2 MAJOR BACK SURGERIES, AND I’ll STIL HOP ON MY SCOOT AND TAKE OFF FOR WHERE-EVER, GOT GAS? GOT ANYPLACE IN THIS GREAT COUNTRY OF OUR’S CAN BE MY NEXT DESTINATION!!!

Comments are closed.