WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Riding fast

By James - 3/8/2005

My co-workers think I ride fast. I do, but if you listened to them you would think I was jumping cars on the freeway and sparking my pegs on every turn. (The pegs are aluminum but they insist . . .) At first I figured they were just joking around but I have sensed, on occasion, a kernal of fear behind the laughter. I have been pondering this for a few days and I think it comes from the differences between bikers and cagers.

Fast is a relative term and depends on road conditions, traffic and mood, paticularly mine. When traffic is unrestricted I am usually the slowest person on the road, puttering at the posted speed limit, 65mph, in the second lane from the right. The majority of the cars are going in excess of 15mph faster than me. But in the San Francisco Bay Area that is a rare ride. Generally traffic is congested and I am splitting lanes. And this is where the difference in perception comes in. As I ride the lane dividers at 20mph, passing people sitting in their cars, I think that I am going slow; the speed limit is 65mph and if these people weren’t here I would be hauling. But as I pass the people sitting in their cars they think I am going fast, since they are at a standstill.

Invisibility is another aspect to motorcycling that adds to this perception of speed. It is truly amazing the number of people who don’t realize I am behind them. I wonder if it is my high-beam or my loud pipes that they don’t notice. Only when there is an opening and I pass them do they notice me. I figure the brain has such a hard time explaining to itself how they missed such a conspicuous vehicle as mine it rationalizes that I must have been speeding.

Of course motorcycles have the performance capabilities to go really fast, and the designers make the bikes look like they are going fast even when on their sidestand. But the general perception from cagers is that all bikes go fast and it is not always correct. I go slow intentionally so people can get a peek at my bike. It looks too good to only see it as a blur.

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