Bike Psych Motorcycle Publishing
HAPPY MINORITY by Brenda Bates M.A. CH.t

Two-wheeled vehicles are common forms of transportation in many parts of the world largely because motorbikes are more economical then cars. The price of gasoline has always been high overseas, making bikes a better choice for many who do not live in our land of the free and the brave. Because bikes are popular overseas, no one really takes notice of the people who ride them - they are not in the transportation minority.

In America, historically, things have been different. Automobiles dominated our transportation needs in the early 20th century. After World War II, the American phenomenon of biker gangs took root in our country. The biker gang then became a sub minority within the preexisting minority of motorcyclists. Since gangs stood out more than average riders, Americans began to view all motorcyclists as more then just a transportation minority; motorcyclists became stigmatized as a social minority. The word minority suggests a plethora of negative connotations. Minorities are often suspect in some way - frowned upon, ignored, and even feared.

Further, the majority tends to view minorities as pests who constantly make noise, fighting for some silly rights. Today's motorcyclists fit within this definition. Most motorcyclists are aware of how we must fight for our rights, such as the rights to choose whether to wear a helmet and to take a stance on how we're allowed to modify our bikes.

Motorcyclists are also at odds with some insurance companies that discriminate against us by not covering injuries caused by riding, etc. Even when riders do have legal rights, non-riders often believe that we don't. For example, many cagers are enraged when biker's lane-split, unaware that in some places this maneuver is legal for motorcyclists.

However, there are many wonderful benefits that' come from being in a minority. It is part of the human condition to want to belong to something that is bigger than the self. Humans also long to be included into a tribe, a comfort zone. Generally, motorcyclists are like one big family. For example, we tend to stop if we see a rider stuck by the roadside. If you're a cager, you could wait for hours until another automobile driver would bother to help. Also, the familiar wave we motorcyclists show while riding is an indication that we feel connected.

A personal example of this familiarity with other motorcyclists occurred recently. I ride street, dirt, and dual-purpose. A few weeks ago I took a dirt bike vacation. While there, after a small tumble that I won't get into, I noticed that I was in need of some brake fluid. Feeling confident that almost any rider who could help, would, I asked another dirt biker if he had some of the elixir I needed. Without hesitation, this fellow rummaged through his truck and within minutes proudly displayed a bottle of brake fluid! Naturally, he refused any money I offered. Talk about family! As a therapist, I know that our chosen family is often kinder than our blood relatives.

Women make up a sizable portion of motorcyclists in modern America. However, since men largely dominate the sport, women are a sub minority within the minority. A branch of psychology called social psychology, which studies an individual in group situations, explains that the occasional tension between different races, sexes, cultures, etc., is often suspended due to a common cause. As a female rider, I can tell you that when  I'm within my own minority, I am never treated in a condescending manner because we share a common cause: bikes. If, on the other hand, I am around a bunch of car drivers, I am barraged by questions that are most curious, "Did you ride that all by yourself?" or "Do you know what kind of bike that is?" That last one, though absurdly funny, has been said to me many times by non-riders.

Men get their share of prejudicial comments from non-riders, too. Expectant fathers are often bombarded by people calling them irresponsible, because even with a child on the way, they're riding motorcycles.

It warms the heart to remember that even though we are a minority, we have a family out there just waiting to say "hello" or lend a helping hand. It's a fortunate thing for anyone who has social ties that are this strong. Being socially connected to a group is more than most people ever even dream of having. Yep, we motorcyclists are a happy minority.

This article appeared in the September 2010 Road Bike Magazine.
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