Do you agree with the adage — “You are what you ride?”
I fell hard for Harley-Davidson (over 20 years ago now) and it took me more than three models later to acquire the current riding spirit of the Road Glide.
I’ll admit it. I enjoy the attention that comes with owning motorcycles of the Harley-Davidson caliber — parking lot discussions and drive-by salutations from strangers. Sure it sounds pretentious, but I’ve spent way too much time behind the handle bars of a Honda and Yamaha to resist metaphorically blowing my own horn.
Right or wrong, many of us place a great deal of importance on what we ride. Critiquing others freely, we are likewise judged by the sheet metal of our ride. Because, like it or not, motorcycles are a reflection of ourselves — a view into our wind in the face wandering soul.
We often purchase what fits our current character and life status. Everything from the color to the style and model is carefully and deliberately selected. Much of our riding and our life for that matter, is spent developing this ride persona — and it evolves as we do. Our environment may change from year to year where a mortgage or a kid in college influences what sits in the garage — as would the line of work, the economy, the community and our circle of friends. Whether we currently own the motorcycle of our dreams does not mean the statement is any more or less true.
As we know, not everyone can live with a Harley-Davidson status symbol — whether they intended to or not. Just go to any dealer and look at the low-mileage castaways in the used area. Those owners moved on to a more practical ride or abandoned the entire motorcycle “lifestyle.” An association with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is an extension of ourselves and a natural consequence of the freedom of the road culture. Like clothing, we dress in leather, steel and rubber, the same as we do with cotton or silk. Color, texture, design and shape — we’re being seen in public with our best “outfits.”
But, there is one great equalizer for all this pomp and circumstance activity — the gas station! It’s the one place where we gather like creatures in the desert at the waterhole, replenishing empty tanks. The perfect spot to critique both motorcycle and rider while staring through polarized shades at the others from a distance. I might dismount and swipe a credit card at the pump as fellow bikers draw conclusions based on my re-fueling habits. I’m not bothered by that — after all, I’m doing precisely the same thing they did just minutes earlier.
Vanity comes in many forms, and even the modest will present their motorcycle with some defiance — like wearing blue jeans to a formal event. It’s just a different perspective.
You may deceive society by how you look and the way you dress, your manner of speech and education, the neighborhood you live in or the reach of your bank account, but none of this really matters in a material world. Because in that moment of judgement, you are inevitably what you ride.