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What makes a biker, and why choose a bike over a car?
Oct 20, 2008 | Views: 820
Firstly, let's look at the big comparison; cars. To my mind, a lot (if not the vast majority) of people learn to drive because they have to. It was less of a necessity in days gone by, but now it's hard to do anything without a method of transport. Many people will think nothing of commuting twenty or thirty miles to work and it's not something you want to be doing on public transport (despite what the Government would have you believe - have you seen rail prices? I don't want to buy the train! For the cost of a season ticket you could probably get chauffeured in a limo).
In comparison to thirty years ago, for example, towns and cities are much more accessible. We have a road network that (in theory) allows you to travel through the country on high speed motorways, with the idea of driving from one big city to another holding none of the trepidation that it may have done in the past. Having said that, it probably takes longer to get from one side of London to the other than it did when the vehicle fuel of choice was hay...
So you'll find a lot of people learning to drive and buying a car because they need to. Granted, many do it because they want to, but I'm sure that number is outweighed by the former. Now look at bikes. From a transport point of view they lose out to cars in several important areas:
They leave you exposed to the elements.
It's harder to carry passengers and luggage (you ever tried taking the family to Sainsbury's for a monthly shop on a Fireblade?).
Due to clothing/safety requirements, it's harder to jump on one and go.
If you do have an accident, it's going to hurt (to varying degrees).
The route to obtaining a licence is overly complicated and potentially more expensive (you could probably pilot a commercial airliner having gone through less paperwork and tests...).
Obviously there are some tangible benefits of using a bike as a mode of transport (cost and congestion-beating to name two), but for your average school leaver these will probably not be the biggest considerations. They don't want to muck about with a helmet, twenty layers of clothing and boots when taking a girl to the cinema on a Friday night. And she'll be less than impressed when you roll up after she's spent an hour picking out her favourite skirt and heels...
So, a car driver's crime (in buying one in the first place) is one of necessity. Given the reasons above, what draws a person to become a biker? Well there are the cost and congestion reasons as already mentioned, but there are, at least, a couple more:
A lot of car drivers don't really understand this, but the wind blast from being exposed, together with the instant response and manoeuvrability of a bike, makes driving a car seem like piloting the QE2.
Coupled with the above really, and the resultant adrenaline. If you build a one tonne car and give it 100bhp it'll get you about just fine (snigger). Now, if you build a bike that weighs about twice your body weight, give it the same amount of power (ergo pretty much any middleweight sports bike), then it will go like the proverbial excrement from a certain digging implement. You want a car that'll hit 60mph from a standing start in under four seconds then you better have £80k is loose change kicking about (I said 'car', by the way, not go-kart - you can't fit a month's worth of Sainsbury's finest frozens into a Caterham either). Want a bike that'll hit that acceleration? Well take your pick, there are probably more than a dozen and not one will cost more than £9k. Speed on a decent budget? You got it.
This one's related to both of the above, well, in fact they're all related to one another. Add the freedom together with the speed, throw in some manoeuvrability and you'll feel like one of the Speeder Bike riders trying to dodge trees in The Return Of The Jedi. The stigma amongst sports bike riders of those who can't get their knee down might seem pathetic (what am I trying to say?), but there is no denying the intense adrenaline rush from having the bike decked out at 70mph with your knee physically dragging along the ground and foot pegs sparking behind you. For extra kudos the bike needs standing up out of the bend, and wheelying. How's a car going to compare with that? Bit of a skid, maybe a wheel spin? Wow. Hold on while I get the tissues...
There is a reason that bikers tend to nod, flash or wave at each other on the road and that reason is camaraderie. It's almost an 'us against them' mentality and spirit. A biker knows the hardships that the other biker's putting up with. He knows about the diesel washed manhole cover, your frostbite ridden fingers and the apparantly blind Fiesta driving mum who is more concerned with changing the CD than not killing you at the next junction. Much of this also comes from exclusitivity. According to the Government there are over 32 million vehicles on the road in the UK, with just over 1 million of them being bikes. In percentage terms that makes it quite an exclusive club, so you'll find that bikers generally stick together and complete strangers have an instant topic of conversation.
Obviously there are bikers who don't go that fast and don't get their knee down, but I tell you something; they acknowledge the freedom. These reasons above (and more) sum up why people ride bikes. Maybe not all of them for everyone, and maybe in different measures but I can guarantee that at least one of them will reach a person's sweet spot as well as appealing to their outlook on life and their perceptions of the world they live in.
Now, I'm running low on milk, where did I put the car keys..?
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