The Code Of The Road For Motorcyclists

It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. That’s a common reaction when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and your motorcycle dies on you. Of course it’s a pretty uncommon occurrence if you’re on a brand new Vulcan 1700 Nomad or Yamaha FJR1300A. But if you ride them enough and don’t take proper care of them it can happen even on a bike like those.

More than likely, though, you’re on an old bike and it’s just showing its age. Or else you were just thoughtless and let yourself run out of gas. Who hasn’t done that at least once?

Whatever. You’re out there and the bike is dead. Dang, dang, dang. And double dang, you pull out your cellphone and it’s dead, too. Arghh!! What now?

Then, while you’re contemplating your options and fiddling around trying to figure out the situation, some guy on another bike comes along, and lo and behold, he pulls over. You’re relieved but you’re not really surprised, or at least you shouldn’t be. It’s the biker’s code. If a brother of the road is in trouble along the roadside, you stop and help. That’s just the way it is.

OK, sure, some riders will just pass you by. They apparently didn’t get the memo. But more often than not, other riders do stop. And it doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’re on. Those black-leather clad, tattooed guys on the American-built V-twin cruisers are generally thought to have disdain for Japanese bikes like your Kawis or your Suzukis or your Yamahas, but they still stop. Because they believe in and practice the biker code. And it works the other direction as well.

Case in point. I was headed home after a track day riding my Kawasaki Concours. The engine died and I rolled to a stop. Not two minutes later a guy on a Harley pulled off and asked what he could do to help. I hadn’t had time yet to even investigate the cause so he offered a few suggestions of things to check. We tried those to no avail so he asked if I wanted to use his cell phone to call for assistance. I called my wife to let her know the situation and asked her to call for help, gave him back his phone, and he took off.

Barely two more minutes later another guy on another cruiser pulled over to assist. We went through the same checklist and as we were doing so a wild thought hit me. Doh! The kill switch. The engine had died just after I reached over to set my throttle lock and I had accidentally hit the kill switch. I flipped it back to the run position, hit the starter, and the Connie fired up. Yeah, I felt like an idiot. I borrowed this second guy’s cellphone to call my wife to tell her to cancel any calls for request she had made, thanked him, and we both continued on our ways.

I could tell a lot of those stories. I stop a lot to shoot photographs and more than once some other rider has pulled over to ask if I’m having trouble. I always thank them profusely and assure them I’m fine, but thanks a lot for stopping to check.

And you’d better believe I make it a point to stop if I see someone pulled over. I’ll even do that if I’m in my car. Just because I’m not on a bike doesn’t mean the biker code doesn’t apply, at least to my way of thinking. And just as with me, most of the time they’re fine. But if they do need help, it feels mighty good to able to offer it. It is, after all, the biker’s code.

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