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Motorcycle Riders

My first motorcycle was a Kawasaki Eliminator 250 street bike. I consider it to have been my training bike, and it was somewhat generic in the sense that it was not easily identifiable as a member of a specific style of motorcycle. And, more importantly, by associating with other riders, I realized that I was not easily identifiable as a member of a specific class of riders. Riders are a species all their own; and, though there are many sub-classes within a class, observation has shown that three main branches of evolution can account for most riders.

The cruiser (Homo Draggusanus) variety is most often seen riding a vintage Harley or Indian-made motorcycle. He rides very low to the ground in a Ralph-Machio-crane-kick-like position—arms high and outstretched, knees bent, feet level with buttocks. Most cruisers are between thirty-five and sixty years old, but they always look fifty. If one is wearing a helmet at all, it is a small, open-faced helmet covering little more than the crown of his head. The helmet may contain a variety of markings, such as skulls with crossbones, or “Freedom” stickers that tend to match tattoos adorning the rider. The cruiser may have several metal objects hanging from various parts of his body, and he usually has matted facial hair that ranges from one-quarter inches to twelve inches in length. Members of this class also wear tattered bandanas, studded leather vests or jackets, “Born to Ride” T-shirts, or leather boots with spikes. Physically, the cruiser is generally unfit, with dark skin that is somehow both wrinkled and taut, and rotting, tobacco-stained teeth. Though most cruisers are docile unless provoked, a permanent scowl serves to warn would-be assailants that they are not ones to tangle with. Cruisers usually ride alone or in large, slow-moving groups and are best observed from a distance. They can most often be seen traveling on deserted highways or socializing in  rural cafés or icehouses.

The sportster (Homo Crotchrocketus) is a sleek creature that is most often seen riding a Kawasaki Ninja or Suzuki Katana.In order to decrease air resistance, members of this class ride face down in the fetal position. Sportsters are younger than the average cruiser, ranging in age from eighteen to thirty. They move so swiftly that they are very rarely seen; like the firefly, the sportster may be seen in one's peripheral vision, but when one turns to look, the sportster is gone. If an observer is lucky enough to get a good look at one of these creatures, he may see a full-faced helmet with a dark, tinted shield and a torso covered with bright stripes or patches in wild, fluorescent colors. If one were to sneak a peek at a dis-helmeted sportster, he might also see a clean-shaven face, or, maybe, a short, neatly trimmed goatee, relatively short, bleached-blond hair, and gleaming-white teeth. Members of this class usually ride in groups of two or three and are most often seen in urban areas. They stop infrequently to socialize, usually in large, open parking lots where they smile and laugh heartily with other members of the pack. But don’t let this frivolity fool you­­––when approached by an outsider, on or off the road, the sportster's attitude says, "I am a Motorcycle Maven. God of the Gravel. Ruler of the Road. Out of my way!”

Finally, tourers (Homo Middlageyuppia) ride monstrous motorcycles such as the Honda Goldwing or Yamaha Ventura, complete with stereo, air conditioning, multiple luggage compartments and optional trailer-trunk. Unlike the cruiser or sportster, tourers ride two to a bike, usually a male driver and a female passenger. The driver sits upright, as if riding a horse, while the passenger sits comfortably between the armrests, in the classic “electric chair” position. Tourers are usually forty to fifty years old with graying, salt-and-pepper hair. Their helmets are usually a solid color and match the color of the motorcycle. They wear jeans and designer shirts that seem one size too small for them, and, whether or not they have facial hair, they are generally neat and clean. This class is the most easily approachable of the three and usually travels in single, male-female pairs. They are always coming or going, just passing through, and rarely know anyone in the area; yet tourers are the most friendly and outgoing of the classes.

When choosing a motorcycle, one is, in effect, choosing into which class of rider he will eventually evolve. I have not yet decided into which class I would like to evolve. For this reason, I have not yet decided what type of motorcycle will be my second. My decision will rest on a careful consideration of the desirable and undesirable qualities of the different classes. Who knows? Maybe I will begin a new branch of evolution and start a completely new class all my own.

--J. Marshall Hinman, Jr.

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