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Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.

Motorcyclists bad reputations are sometimes earned. I’m not referring to fast riders- many of them are highly skilled, getting their adrenaline rush on secluded roads. I plead guilty to that myself.

I’m speaking of slow riders, uncertain riders, often bloated riders on loud, bloated bikes. Many, I suspect, are returning riders with a grandfathered motorcycle license who haven’t ridden since the far-off glory days of their youth. Instead of taking a refresher riding course they just climb aboard the heavy machines they choose as the best option to haul their fat arses around. The lightweight slim bikes of their youth would collapse the suspension were they to attempt to mount. Besides, Bubba knows how to ride, he was a legend many years ago. Just ask him.

I’m not knocking their ride of choice (well, maybe just a bit), rather the manner in which they ride. This week I saw two prime examples for ridicule and driver’s anger. The first case occurred on a  road with hills, curves and limited sight lines. Exiting a curve I brake for two bikes ahead of me. Both riders on identical his-and-hers large-barge cruisers, each hauling a trailer.

Brake lights on, they were just creeping along a road posted at 80, considered by most to be a ‘suggested speed’. Then they stopped. In the middle of a road with no shoulders and bad sight lines. No signals and nowhere to turn. I dropped down two gears and blasted past them, cut in close and gave them a one- finger salute. If it were a heavy truck that overtook them instead of my bike that can stop in a much shorter distance, the outcome would not have been good for either of them. I doubt that realization even brushed the edge of their thoughts.

The second example is far too common. Perfect riding conditions on a good county road, suddenly slowed down by a stream of cars and trucks, brake lights glowing. The holdup… motorcycles? Yes, two of them, obliviously riding tottering along.

It goes against the grain. Motorcycles should never slow down a family sedan on a weekend tour, let alone a truck. It’s an unwritten law. Motorcycles were born to escape, not impede traffic. I won’t be that rider you have to slow down for.

  A Conscience Struggle. Climate change is not slowing down and it’s undoubtedly exasperated by human use of fossil fuels. 200+ years of  industrial and personal pollution have done damage.

Whether or not it’s reversible is debatable. Ignorance can be an excuse for earlier years but it’s no longer an alibi. I don’t agonize over my personal ‘footprint’ but I’m certainly aware of it.

Particularly my use of a motorcycle for pleasure. Yes, my bike has stock exhaust with a catalytic converter, but there’s no doubt that it pumps carbon into the atmosphere. I can justify it somewhat by the fact that it uses much less fuel than my SUV and I ride more than I drive for half the year.

But then there is my lawnmower, a 19 hp twin cylinder engine with no pollution controls and a muffler loud enough to satisfy the ‘loud-pipes-save-lives’ crowd (actually, loud pipes only annoy and damage hearing). It’s also burning some oil now in it’s old age. An argument could be raised that it would take more energy to build a replacement mower than the excess energy I will use. But still, that’s a weak lesser than two evils case.

What to do? Well, I do use my bicycle for short runs into town if I don’t need to carry more than a light load in a backpack. But that does not offset the fact that I burn 30-40 litres of gas every few weeks. The lawn still needs to be mowed, although I wait until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s an onerous task, a noisy, smelly chore. I also need to pick up picture framing supplies in the city, using the SUV in foul weather and for large loads- carrying 30×40 inch mat boards or foam boards on a motorcycle might work in China or a Laurel & Hardy film, but I’ll leave that trick to more adventurous (or foolish) types.

Do I consider all this when I ride? Yes, sometimes I do but those thoughts are soon replaced with a huge grin as I carve through a set of twisty bends on a good road. Pleasure overrides conscience every time.