Reader Question: Harley Fags?

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Heres’ the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Brian asks: Eric, You are a car guy and a motorcycle rider. I, too, am both and so I hope you might be able to shed some light on something that I’ve been troubled with for quite a while.

I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 14. I’ve ridden a Suzuki, Hondas, Yamahas, and a couple BMWs but never a Harley. My current ride is a 1980 Yamaha XS1100. And I’ve always had convertibles, since my first car, bought in 1975, a 1968 Pontiac LeMans. My current daily driver is a 1998 Jaguar XK8 convertible. I don’t think I’ll ever have a car made later than 2005.

The summers here in New England are short and precious. Getting out on the road with the top down is such a relaxing way to see the world. Until the Harley asshole gets near. What is it about straight pipes that is so alluring? It can’t be that comfortable hearing that 110 dB sound constantly around you, or do they even hear that? Seems the sound is expelled out the back, only to cause discomfort to the people behind them. They excuse their sound with the tripe, “loud pipes save lives” – except when I have the top down and a straight-pipe asshole is in front of me, I’ll do anything I can, even endangering us both, to pass and get those pipes pointing not at me. How is that saving lives?

As a libertarian anarchist, I don’t think the solution is to pass laws regulating the decibels allowed. But what is the solution to this problem? Perhaps these riders don’t understand the discomfort they are causing, or perhaps they do and they don’t care about others. Or, perhaps they do understand, and are just looking for attention. Whatever the reason, they are just being rude. I’m not asking you to solve this problem, but perhaps you know some of these straight-pipe guys and can let me know their side of the story.

My reply: I’ll start by admitting that libertarians don’t have the perfect answer for everything. No one does. The less-than-ideal (and the asshole) will be with us, always. The libertarian choice is between accepting the possibility of having to deal with the occasional freelance asshole or the certainty of empowering official assholes.

The jerk on the straight-piped Harley will be gone soon. And more importantly, you can get away from him. All he has is noise and bad manners. He hasn’t got a badge. Jefferson wrote about the willingness to assume risk for the sake of freedom. Including the freedom of others to behave in ways that we may consider and which may well be objectively  unpleasant and inconsiderate.

But should there be a law against such?

I live in one of the few places remaining in this country where there is no zoning. I could set up a hog processing plant on my land – adjacent to my neighbor’s land. I don’t do it because I’m not a dick – just weird. And I’d rather run the risk that my neighbor might set up a hog processing plant adjacent to my land than live in an area with zoning laws that force me to get permission to put up a shed on my land.

I don’t get it, either – as far as the straight pipes. I have one loud bike – my antique (’75) Kawasaki two-stroke. But I don’t fire it up early in the morning nor late at night and I try to not make a point of it being loud – as some Harley riders seem to like to do.

I think this is one of those things that can mostly be handled by social conventions – in the same way that social conventions generally keep people from walking around with their zippers undone. Of course, there will always be a few uncouth, deliberately obnoxious people. These are best dealt with by just avoiding them.

. . . 

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  1. I have to laugh at cruiser culture. Here’s a bunch of LARPers pretending they’re some proud independent Old West cowboy, while they coordinate their outfits.

    Cruiser riders are basically 8th Grade girls going to the mall.

  2. The Harley cult and the crotch-rocket bros are the primary reasons I don’t ride. Well, that and the 8 months of winter… and the 26 weeks of on-call… I don’t want another lifestyle, I just want to have fun on a bike. Same thing with most male-dominated hobbies, there are too many men who are tribal in their thinking. The marketplace is more than happy to reenforce their behavior too, since the companies invest heavily in their “brand” and these days having a loyal customer base is more important than having a well-run factory (or in the case of HD, a decent product).

    • Amen, RK!

      I came across this guy on Youtube recently who makes videos “about motorcycling”. He’s actually got a video up about “wearing vests” -or as they call them “cuts”. It’s over half an hour long! He talks about the “organization” he belongs to (riding club) and certain fashion accessories (NOT safety gear) which are “required”; and rules that they must follow…and certain customs….and the hierarchy of “who’s who” in their club- while insisting that the BS they engage in isn’t about ego, but it’s all about “serving the kids” whom they do charitable deeds for to justify their existence and cultivate a positive image (as if all the high-school-esque ritualism is necessary to perform some token charity)….

      Essentially, the middle-aged guy is stuck at the mental level which most competent adults outgrow at adolescence- if they ever possessed such a mentality to begin with. Perusing a sampling of the guy’s video titles, there are HOURS worth of videos about vests, patches, who can wear what (So as not to offend the other adolescents at the bar).

      From the guy’s explanation of how “memorial patches” are often consolidated into one patch so as to avoid the inevitability of being completely encased in patches devoted to honoring the memory of deceased club members, it appears that, as one would expect, there are many Darwin Award winners among these groups of grown children.

      It’s just like [bi]cycling culture. I don’t want to pretend I’m training to be the next Lance Armstrong, nor pay $7K for a bicycle because it’s a pound lighter than a normal bicycle, while dressing like a minimalist pimp; I just want to ride my bike!

      • “They have special little hats to protect their special little heads … They give hand signals, he’s gonna tell me where he’s going, I’ll tell ya where you’re going, 30 feet up in the fuckin air is where you’re going!”

  3. RE: “perhaps you know some of these straight-pipe guys and can let me know their side of the story.”

    When I was in Jr. High, certain individuals thought it was really funny to get close to someone and belch real loud, as close as they could, into someone’s ear.
    The guys I’ve known who drive with straight pipes remind me very much of that.

    Bionic Mosquito writes often about the limitations of the N.A.P. and how the only real alternative (and, which works alongside the N.A.P.) to constructing what Eric refers to as, ‘social conventions’ can only come from Christianity. The real kind, not the 501 fear-embracing variety.
    Just a thought. I don’t know how.

    I like motors. Even loud ones. Just not the kinds that creep up on you in traffic same as the, ‘Boom Boom gangster-type speakers’ or blare past your house and through a residential neighborhood at O-dark thirty A.M. like they are cool, when, they are no such thing. Not even close.

    The definition of, cool, eh?
    Ask grandma?

  4. What’s IRONIC about the H-D straight pipe riders is that straight pipes HURT their performance! A straight pipe is good for someone with a high revving, 600cc crotch rocket, because that little 4 makes its power up top. OTOH, the V-2 engine makes its power down low, so the straight pipes don’t help it; if anything, they hurt the performance of the V-2.

    It’s because of these a’holes that I understand WHY the general public wants to go after bikes and riders; sad thing is that I USED to ride! I get wanting to take the stock pipes off, but to run straight pipes that piss everyone off? It’s because of a’holes like that that we’ll lose motorcycling in the US…

  5. **”And more importantly, you can get away from him”**

    Yeah- I was riding my bike once, and there was this uber-loud Hardley just behind me – so I just pedaled faster and left him in the dust.


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