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Biker Code Nonsense

Blog Date - 08 October 2018

I occasionally come across a post on social media that reads a little something like this...

"Biker code my ass! My son's/daughter's/beloved's bike broke down on the roundabout near someplace. As they stood their all helpless and clueless 15 bikers went straight by and not a single one of them stopped to even ask if they were OK let alone offer any help. They ought to be ashamed, I'm embarrassed to even call myself a biker."

Ahhh the old biker code, the unwritten rules of the brotherhood (sisterhood? personhood?). Some riders want to believe we are all bound together by the shared experience of powered two wheelers. Because we share this common experience we are therefore, somehow, weirdly indebted to each other. 

A group of bikers on their motorcycles in a parade through the town's streets
"Hey! You ride a bike too huh? You owe me bro."

Bikers, motorcyclists or whatever you see yourself as are people. There are nice motorcyclists and horrible ones. There are friendly ones and curmudgeonly ones. There are fascinating ones and boring ones. They are just people who happen to use the same form of transport as ourselves.

My first thought is "did bikers really stop to help other bikers back in the day?" My guess is a very reserved "yes, but..." Perhaps a little more than they do now? 

I think "community" was different maybe 40 years ago. Not just the biker community but everyday community. It was more likely you'd know your neighbours at least in passing if not quite well. You'd know local people from the local pub. You'd be more likely to work locally too. 

Today's in home entertainment, ubiquitous transport and now the internet means there's less chat over the garden wall and the pubs are closing. Most folks would be lucky to recognise a neighbour enough to offer a friendly wave let alone a deep and meaningful discussion. 

So too was it that you probably knew most of the local motorcyclists and you'd stop to help if you saw them stranded. I daresay people felt a little less "threatened" by strangers than today so maybe, occasionally, if the mood took them, they'd help a random rider too.

A collage of motorcycle from mayn years ago, classic and vintage
Let's face it, with bikes like these you'd need all the help you could get.

Today? There are several problems with stopping to help a stranded rider.

Am I about to be mugged? Mr & Mrs bad guy park the helpless damsel in distress at the roadside with a motorcycle. Along comes a hero in shining leathers on a shiny metal steed to save the damsel. Next thing you know our hero gets slapped and the metal steed is gone.

Sharon poses looking sexy by her bike in the glorious sunshine
Can I help you madam?...WHACK!! 

Will I offend someone? Just because I am - insert a group of choice here - doesn't mean I can't fix my bike or sort myself out. How very dare you assume that - insert a group of choice here - can't look after themselves and fix their motorcycle. An approaching stranger can be a very intimidating experience for vulnerable members of our society too.  

Will I make a "friend" I'll never get rid of? Particularly through social media my random act of kindness may go viral and I'll be an unwilling hero and this person may never stop proclaiming their gratitude. Very embarrassing.

Will I get sued? So I've fixed your broken clutch cable with an electrical block connector and some pliers. I've warned you to take it real easy, avoid town where you'll need the clutch a lot, go straight home and get it replaced immediately. You instead use the temporary repair for 3 months then end up rear-ending someone because the "get you home" cable broke. And now it's my fault. Apparently.

A frayed and about to break clutch cable
Urgh, damn you clutch cable!

This is merely a tiny selection of all the possible problems. 

There are also very pragmatic reasons riders may not stop to help. Perhaps they are on their way to work or an appointment. Maybe they are shy or uncomfortable around strangers. It is possible they don't "do" mechanical stuff so they feel they couldn't help. 

Is this a sign of the demise of our society as a whole? I wouldn't say demise but certainly a shift in culture. While it may feel we don't help each other on the road as much as we used to neither do the mods and rockers fight on Brighton Pier anymore. We have mobile phones to call for help, we're no longer totally isolated. I don't believe our world is any worse, just different.

I still believe most people are good people. If I can I'll help out where I can. I suppose some people are still delusional with the notion of the past being better and bikers should be a community that has an obligation to one-another. We are people, for all the good and bad that brings, just everyday people.

A group of riders, a group of people, ordinary human beings
We share a common interest but we are just ordinary everyday people.

Share you motorcycle related articles here on Bikes And Travels. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Rod said :-
I still find many bikers will stop if help is needed. When I am parked up at the side of the road for a cuppa, I see bikers slow down and look to see if I need any help. A wave and a thumbs up, and their normal speed is restored.
As for the pic with the comment " with bikes like these you'd need all the help you can get". I will await Ian's reply.
8/10/2018 11:34:13 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Ting! Did I hear my name?

Most people who ride that sort of bike (the Honda possibly excluded) actually fettle their machines themselves so are usually able to fix the majority of things themselves. Having said that, ageing electrics (particularly magnetos) and carburetters can be troublesome.

But a wider point is that a lot of (most) people these days just have their bike serviced at a dealer and wouldn't know one end of a spark plug from t'other. So there's little point in their stopping other than to offer warm words. But there are still many who will stop - when I had trouble with my 400/4 a nice chap on a beautiful Amaranth Red Speed Twin stopped and held the traffic at bay while I pushed it off a motorway roundabout to a safe layby.

Further, in the "good old days" most bikes were essentially very similar and used common components so there was a fighting chance that if you stopped you'd have something to contribute. And of course if you stopped to help you were quite likely to learn something that may stand you in good stead for the next time it happened to you!

Again, RAC/AA (the only ones available then) membership was a luxury most of us couldn't afford. I have probably told here the story of how my Norton Commando decided to dump all its oil and break a con rod about 80 miles from hme, after which I managed to hitch a lift with it in a Transit driven by a nice man to a local station where I could buy a ticket for myself & bike to get back to Brum!

With respect to the original question, I recommend a book called "Enduring Love" by Ian McEwan which depicts some unfortunate results of offering to help. No motorcycling content but a good read.
8/10/2018 1:00:52 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah, I too have been stopped just to take a piccy or to stretch my legs and a random passing biker has stopped to check I'm OK. Despite modern tech's complexity surely even Ian must acknowledge the modern engines are more reliable? Surely?! He's behind me isn't he...
8/10/2018 1:02:03 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
No, that's me in front. Passed you when we encountered the head wind......

Modern engines certainly are more reliable and so they should be. But when I was an AA patrol in the dim and distant, the most common call out was a flat battery. I suspect it's still the same - look at lots of posts on many modern bike forums. But at least now you don't get folk locking themselves out of their Ford Escorts having left the keys inside.
8/10/2018 2:36:06 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Aaaah the old Ford Escorts. Lovely little rust-buckets.

I should imagine most of the flat battery scenarios these days are due to the bike only being used 6 times a year.
9/10/2018 7:44:23 AM UTC
NigelS said :-
I fell off my Vespa GTV250 on last Christmas Eve on the ice in B&Q car park and apart from 3 broken ribs I was absolutely fine. Whilst struggling to get my scoot back on its feet, rather than people rushing forward to help me, they gathered in a circle to watch! I wish now I'd passed my hat round - the lesson here is that if you're providing some pre-Christmas entertainment you might as well make some money!
11/10/2018 12:51:57 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Vespa GTV250 - see there's ya problem! Only teasing, bet it's a great machine.

3 broken ribs? Fine?! Last time I broke a rib I couldn't lift my own arm let alone a scooter attached to it. Ouch. I hope they at least gave you a round of applause once you'd collected yourself.
11/10/2018 1:18:50 PM UTC
Snod said :-
A few years back I was in a particularly good mood and did stop for a guy stood next to a dead BSA. Turned out the dynamo had shifted on its taper (or something) and all he wanted was the phone number for Carole Nash to come pick it up, which I happened to have as I am also a Carole Nash customer! A quick chat about crank regrinds followed (he used to do them, turns out Hondas are better than the rest because their cranks are case hardened - interesting if you like that sort of thing) and I left him to wait for recovery, feeling glad I did actually help.

Someone broken down on a modern bike can get stuffed though, I probably can't help with that unless it's a simple puncture or something..
11/10/2018 7:19:24 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I don't think being able to help mechanically is necessary. You may not have a mechanical bone in your body but it may be that you're mobile is working and theirs isn't. Maybe some local knowledge - "...there's a garage, what, half a mile that way, they might sell tyreweld".

I certainly don't stop at every biker I see. It may not be safe to stop, I may be on a time schedule, I may just be in a bad mood!

Oft times I have stopped it has transpired the rider is just having a smoke break, making a call, stretching their legs or looking at a map. It's really hard to know if a rider wants or needs help or is just having a chillout moment.
12/10/2018 7:09:03 AM UTC

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