The "Why We Ride"? Question

There are 1,3 Billion search results to this question on the Internet and it’s just fair to assume that there are answers to it in every single spoken language on this planet.
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Instead of searching for the most politically correct answer to it, we should focus more on the feeling you get when you're riding a motorcycle, so let’s start with the basics and the 19th century. (yes, 19th)

Truth be told, the first motorcycle was invented by two German inventors, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885. For some reason, or maybe just because of a better PR office, most of us think that Indian, Merkel, or Harley-Davidson were the first motorcycles.

In those days, the basic idea was to mount an engine to a bicycle frame and make it work. It had to be easy to drive even for the ladies of the era, not exclusively built for men, and it was made to get you from point A to point B.

Officially there were no motorcycle races before 1906. It was only after racing began that motorcycle companies were established. The days of metal being used to be molded into these beautiful complex machines had started.

The pursuit of the feeling: The idea of riding in groups, for fun, to escape reality, wife, girlfriend, etc, came after World War II, when soldiers returned from service feeling abandoned, tired of war, society and rules, hungry for freedom. When they started the gatherings, that was the moment when riding became a feeling you started to identify with.

Hollywood helped promote this idea when it released movies like The Wild One in 1953, starring Marlon Brando, because his persona in the movie, Johnny Strabler, became a cultural icon in the 1950s.

The 60’s that came after became as psychedelic as the drugs of those days. It was something in the air, as they say. Everybody wanted to escape reality, and for some, the motorcycle became “a tool” that could deliver that. Bikes got better, pipes got louder and the motorcycle market started to become more diverse.

Various models, more manufacturers, more options for everyone. What the ’60s did well, however, besides good music and Woodstock, is that they gave us Evel Knievel. Another badass who without knowing it, helped promote the wild and free spirit of the rider. He gave us an answer to a question we didn’t have back then. Pure adrenalin!

If the ’60s were somehow “the muddy” years of western civilizations, the ’70s were viewed as a new beginning. Technology progressed and so did the bikes, and bikers went along with the changes. Heck, even the Softail started being produced in the mid-’70s. It offered a smoother ride, a change, it offered a different answer to the "why we ride"? question.

ABS for motorcycles was invented in the late ’80s, in 1988 to be more specific, although it is still not a standard on motorcycles to this day, so the ’80s offered a lot to the motorcycle community. They brought the still famous models like the Kawasaki GPZ, Vulcan and Ninja series, Yamaha Virago, Honda C35, VFR and Shadow, Suzuki CSX-R, Triumph Thunderbird, BMW K1000… What a decade! If you had an idea why you ride up to here, well, now it’s getting complicated.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, communism in Europe, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe became a market that craved for motorcycles as people saw in the movies. These are the 90’s. Imagine this, in Eastern Europe, in countries that experienced freedom for the first time, the number of riders was so small, that when they saw each other on the road, they would stop their bikes, walk to each other and hug in the middle of the road!

It was so uncommon to meet a fellow rider in almost every country from France to the east, and when you ride through Europe today, you can see the difference. In the UK almost nobody raises their hand to salute you, you get a few hands up while in France, but once you enter Germany and you go toward the east, almost 99% of the bikers salute you.

It would be tough to get hugs these days… There would be lines of people hugging each other for hours now. This offers an even more different perspective on the "why we ride?" question.

Why do we ride today?

For every second on the clock, there is a reason to ride. It’s adrenaline, it’s the smell, it’s the torque, it’s love, camaraderie, wind, freedom, rain, desert, olive trees maybe… corners, mountains, lakes, and all the possible and impossible things and reasons that make you want to start that machine and just go.

So after all this, do we really need a definitive answer to this age-old question?


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