The Motorbike Sonic Boom

Click for Source: Vishweshwar Saran Singh Deo (Flickr)

It was a hot day and I was out for a ride in the car. It was the kind of hot that made people wish they could die and hurry on to Hell so they could cool off a bit. Since my A/C was broken (like always) I had all of my windows rolled down. Suddenly an infant rolled by with a binky in his mouth.

Um. Wait one. Scratch that. Let me try that again.

Suddenly a grown man rode by on his motorcycle. And when I say “rode by” I mean that he whizzed by (illegally) so close that the cute little pink tassels hanging from his “ape hanger” handlebars literally dug ruts in my paint.

Ape hangers. Has there ever been another vehicle part in the history of time so aptly named? Methinks not. I love it when products describe their owners so accurately.

Meanwhile, since my windows were rolled down, my ears were in for a real treat.


Nice onomatopoeia, eh?

A Boeing 747 taking off from inside my pants wouldn’t have been as loud. (But a lot more fun.) The sound waves from this dude’s audio wake slapped me in the face, driving my head back and into my car. With blood leaking from my ears and my ears ringing from a mild concussion, I paused a moment to ponder the psychology involved in this sort of event.

What does it say about someone to have to be that loud. Certainly, “Hey, look at me,” comes to mind as one possible theory. Ya think?

Eons ago when I was a kid I learned how to ride a bicycle. One of the things I did was tape playing cards to the back wheel. The wheel would spin, spokes would hit the card and my bike would make a sound reminiscent of an elephant stepping on a peanut. (I admit I stole that last line from Nethack.) The modern day biker as we know him (or her) evolved from that childish desire for sound and amplified it to a 1,000 times more childish level.

For good measure, he also added strange animal skins, a skull and bones motif, and adopted a zone of 10 foot radius of concentrated nicotine smell.

What’s it like to be a biker? To try to answer this question, ask yourself, “What if I lived every day of my life like it was Halloween?” Then you might get a wee but admittedly incomplete taste.

Back to the psychology involved, my spidey-sense is tingling and telling me that something must be up. Just the fact that they travel on two wheels already sets them apart. But for some strange reason, they don’t stop there. In addition to what I mentioned earlier, they got a whole other thing going on. The facial hair. They love Jesus so they try (at least partially) to look just like him. They want to be seen as “rebels.” The machismo. The tattoos. The “outlaw” mentality. They get off on calling themselves “one percenters” and I’m not talking high finance here.

Riding a bike can be fun. I get it. I’ve enjoyed riding a bike and I even owned two of them myself. But I didn’t go all goo-goo ga-ga into the subculture. The act of riding in and of itself was sufficient. At least for me.

Ride loudly and mount a big shiny skull. Click for Source: EfraCustomPhotos (Flickr)

The biker adorns himself with leather, ostensibly to provide a little protection against “rode rash.” He then goes out and drives like a hog wild idiot, showing off, and taking lots of unnecessary risks. When the shit goes sideways (along with his ride) he invariably blames it on the “cage drivers.” Thus, we come to one possible element of biker psychology: Victim mentality. Some have pointed out that the culture of forgoing some safety measures, like helmets, and taking foolish risks is indicative of a fatalistic attitude that’s part of the victim mentality.

A biker may be overflowing with testosterone. These pumped up dudes are known as “High-T” males and have been assumed to pass on characteristics to their spawn like confidence, strength and success. (The flip side, of course, is that they’re also more aggressive, abusive and likely to cheat.) Some studies suggest that women are biologically attracted to High-T males when they feel the urge to procreate, then flip back to Low-T males for the long term relationship and/or the raising of the kids. That’s because when the biological clock isn’t ticking women are attracted to Low-T traits like language skills, humor and artistic/musical abilities. Nature recognizes this reality by kicking a High-T’s testosterone levels in the nards once he becomes a pappa.

One other point: Studies suggest that High-T dudes also take a hit in the intelligence department. Ooga booga.

Being a biker has three basic elements. One is risk taking, stunts and the appearance of a loving embrace with danger. When you see a guy wearing the “half helmet” (the smallest helmet required by law) then you know he’s pissed about helmet laws and the half-helmet is his way of thumbing it at the man. Another element is shared rituals. Lastly, the “code” or sense of duty and community – at least to the mores within their own group. They tend to flock together.

When it comes to noise, it’s no accident. Noise ordinances in a lot of cities (like mine) mean that by default the noise from an excessively loud bike have already made the rider a law breaker. There are stories of bikers being pulled over and ticketed for their petulant exhibitionism. There’s a lobby consisting of bike manufacturers, the after market industry, and industry trade groups representing manufacturers, dealers and installers that fight noise laws across the country and other issues they deem important.

Harley-Davidson, for example, stopped making non-street legal exhaust pipes when faced with increased noise code legislation. Yet, the company also sought to trademark the noise from it’s V-Twin engines. An H-D executive described the sound as the “Voice of God” and said Gordon Gecko style at a conference, “Noise is good. Noise is the foundation of your business.”

Therefore, when you see (hear) a dude on a modern day Harley-Davidson and it’s a noise hog, you know that he went to considerable effort, time and expense to customize that bad boy into a noise maker. The default showroom noise default wasn’t good enough for him. He needed more.

Some riders claim that the obscene level of noise is necessary to protect them, for safety reasons, from the asshole “cagers” that they rage against. But we know the truth more likely has to do with an overblown need for attention, in a failed attempt to counter some deficit within, and probably not enough of mommy’s milk when they were babies.

All I want to know is this: Who’s going to pick up the tab for my doctor’s bill to suture my ears that were blown out by that guy on a motorcycle blewing by? And who’s going to pay to clean the blood that dripped out of those ears onto my sport jacket? That biker is long gone and someone has gots to pay my bills.

Docket: Taker v. Harley-Davidson, MIC, SEMA, Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, et al

2 responses

  1. Thank you.
    Onomatopoetry to my bleeding ears.


    1. Show off! Pfffffft!


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