125 Years of Motorcycling and the Possible Beginnings of World Peace

Great River Road, East side of the Mississippi River, Illinois

Wow, we're legacy babies now... Motorcycles, since 1885, has it really been so long?  The state of Michigan actually put out a press release on their website this week about 125 years of motorcycling and I thought I was getting to be mature.  I hadn't really thought about it before, because I've been around them since before I was born.  We have slides that show my mom, pregnant with me on the back of a Honda, with my dad smiling.  Motorcycles have always been a constant in my life, even before I officially started riding them.  Now even the State of Michigan article says motorcycling may be older... 1885 for Gottlieb Daimler's gas-engine powered wooden motorcycle, but 20 years older than that if you can accept a steam powered motorcycle by Sylvester Roper (1869). 

They call Daimler's creation the first "true motorcycle", but what does that mean?  I was curious what a dictionary would say, so I looked up "motorcycle" online at The Free Dictionary.  They give a couple of definitions:  basically a stronger than average bike frame, generally powered with a petrol engine.  It can have 2 seats, and it can also have a side car with a third wheel.  They also give the engine capacity as between 125cc - 1000cc.  If this definition is definitive, then I don't have a motorcycle any more than Mr. Roper.

How and why we define things have a great deal to with how we choose to see the world.  Part of why we define things is to organize and understand things, and this is reasonable and good, because we can then share understandings and have common ground upon which to stand and grow.  However, definitions can also be deadly when they give us boundaries that are too rigid and inflexible to grow.  When definitions begin to define us, rather than being tools of understanding and growth, we can lose the true definition and ourselves.  Instead of making things clearer and brighter, a stale definition can muddy the waters and bog us down in the mire.

So, Part 1 here is to have you re-exam your definition of a motorcycle.  Let's look at the object we want to define for our common ground and growth.

First off, we would need to expand that cc rating.  Motorcycles have grown a lot since the 1800's.  I know that the highways don't like you driving on them, with anything under 125cc (some post higher cc limits), however, I still personally consider those on smaller bikes, dirt bikes, scooters (Vespa scooter for my die-hard friends), even mo-peds as fellow motorcycle sojourners.  As you've seen in my previous Virginia article, I will even expand my two-wheeled love for die-hard bikers with their engines of muscle, bone, sinew, and blood.  Certainly over 1000cc is a must, my bike is just shy of 1600cc and I consider it a real motorcycle.  And then you have to consider those who go to the extreme by putting v8 corvette engines in a bike frame with some huge tires to hold it all up.

Utah/Arizona Boarder, looking at Arizona (& the one above this)

Next, what about having more than two wheels?  How about our fellow bikers who've gone trike with their big Aspencades, are they really much different than a side-car with a third wheel?  And what about those Can-Am Spyders, two wheels in front and one in the rear.  I've seen one up close, fairly sexy, and I would consider them one of my motorcycle brethren.  Would you?  I like a more open definition, it allows me to be more inclusive, rather than exclusive.  It also allows for new innovations, growth, and future development.  I mean, did you see the new Star Trek movie with the axel-free motorcycle and the cop's rocket bike with no wheels... Yeah, I want that!

And now, Part 2:  How do we manifest our definitions?

I'll give you a classic example, the "motorcycle wave".
I've always liked the wave; it shows solidarity, friendship, acknowledgment, and general joy that I share with my brethren on the road.  Occasionally I do see poor manners, but for the most part if riders "know" about the wave, they do it.  It always increases my joy to share the joy of riding with others as I'm on the road.  The wave is like a great inside joke that makes me smile every time.  And no, it does not matter whether you raise your hand, give a low couple finger salute, or even a head nod (we all know there are times when your hands must remain where they are at). 

Natural Bridges Park, Utah
I have noticed over the last few years though, that either "new guys" don't seem to know, or again, bad manners.  I hate to become a Missy Manners, I'm no perfect Miss, but in some areas of the country and often with some types of motorcycles there is this lack of good "wave" manners.  Amazingly it's not often between cruisers and rice rocket racers, I see it most often between Harley riders and others.  There are some areas where Harley riders won't wave at anyone other than other Harley riders:  I say “poor show”.  Then I've seen others get just as biased about not dealing WITH Harley riders. 

My fellow riders, if it's a bike, salute!  I don't care if a dirt rider crosses my path; they are my motorcycle brethren too.  I've always loved the "motorcycle wave", I hope that we can save it and pass it along to others.  Can you imagine what would happen if all pick-up truck drivers started to wave to each other?, what about those silly little "green" cars?, what about all of the soccer/baseball/football moms?  If we all found more reasons to stick together and share the wave, well, what can I say world peace would ensue.  Cool huh?

The top of the Great Divide Southern Colorado
Now for those of you that think the "wave" is still a bit silly or outdated, I will let you in on another of my riding secrets.  I use the "wave" as a way to check on my alertness and attention to my surrounding environment.  If I notice a bike too late to wave, especially more than one, I know it is probably time for me to take a break because my mental acuity is down.  So, even if you want to use it as a check up from the neck up and not to be super friendly, do it.  No one will know but you and you will still increase overall motorcycle safety, and share in the combined efforts for world peace.  You might even find that you like it after a while, and you may even catch yourself smiling like a fool:  a cool, joyous, motorcycle fool.  There is a particular grin for that you know.  Ah, perhaps a discussion for yet another time.

Take care, keep riding, and if you have a fun story or idea... share.  Again, you never know, joy and world peace may follow.

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