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Tribes

As a test rider, I evaluate every kind of motorized two-wheel (sometimes three-wheel) contraption. I don’t have the chance to fall too deeply into any one subculture of motorcycling. If I have four test bikes in the garage, one might be a Superbike, one a V-Twin Cruiser, another a Dual Sport, and the fourth a small-displacement scooter with 12” wheels. I view my task as evaluating each fairly and objectively, while keeping in mind the attributes potential users of each type of bike would be most interested in learning about.

Sure, I have my own personal background and biases, just as all humans do, but I try to keep those out of an evaluation. Nevertheless, as a result of running MD for nearly 15 years, I have become keenly aware that motorcycling has several subcultures within the subculture motorcycling itself represents. From getting to know the manufacturers (everyone from Harley Davidson to Vespa), and reading thousands of reader email and comments, it is clear that motorcycling is not viewed as one big happy family by every rider. Many riders fiercely proclaim, and defend their particular group as separate, and even superior to others. They are proud of their Tribe.

Sometimes Tribes respect one another and cooperate, and sometimes they fight. Human nature, I suppose. If the United Nations has failed to end war, I don’t expect this little editorial to bring lasting peace among all the Tribes, and it won’t. What I do expect is that riders, and even non-riders, that visit this little corner of the web known as MotorcycleDaily.com, if they choose to speak to other enthusiasts here, show respect and remain aware that, despite the anonymity of the internet, you are talking to human beings with feelings (pretend it is face-to-face).

Finally, some, maybe even most, of us never joined a Tribe. Try not to feel superior. As I have ridden all these different machines, I have gained some sense as to why the Tribes formed. Tribes are not inherently bad.

19 Comments

  1. Scotty Mac says:

    [quote]You call them tribes, I call them herds. Like Zebras or Wildebeast[/quote]

    Don’t you mean “lemmings”…..

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  2. CASATOMAS says:

    If you notice in frame 2:27 the young warrior from the FOX MotoNation!!!! as adorned on his head dress. A free-styled spirited young man who soars with eagles and scrubs the doubles like the FOX and burrows occasionally into the earth like rag doll squid. behold the Fox MotoNation warrior!!

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  3. Crim says:

    Wave to them all. Let God sort ‘em out.

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  4. Tyler says:

    I have generally always had an HD Sportster in my garage, they represent my first, 3rd & 8th bike. As such, I never really fit in with the Harley “tribe”, nor with a sport bike one either. I prefer things this way. Not that I am anti-social, but part of my enjoyment of motorcycling is experiencing a world apart from everything else. At the rest points, the hotel or the restaurant after the ride I like hanging out and BS with fellow riders, but from the moment I put the key in the ignition I would rather not worry about anyone else’s plans, routes or pace. For others, riding is about inclusion and more power to them. That is not for me, however.

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  5. TheBaron says:

    By joves old chap, you really have hit the nail on the proverbial head, what! A form of tribalism was used by that dreadful fellow Mussolini, and a fellow fascist to the north, Adolf Hitler, to rend a large part of the world asunder back in the 1940s. They knew a large part of humanity craved to be part of a group. Still does. Thus the expression ‘the rugged individual’ to describe those who stand apart from the tribe. By some frightfully cunning marketing, the chaps in Milwaukee (or was it Madison Avenue), have persuaded a relatively small group of people that to be ‘rugged individuals’ they need to wear leather jackets with no sleeves, handkerchieves (appropriately branded) over their heads, boots with metal rings above the ankle, gloves with no finger protection (what the deuce is THAT about?), a large array of metal on their fingers, not to mention a rather bewildering array of inked designs on their skins. In some respects, this makes this tribe look a little, er, primitive.

    Now I have that off my chest, time to crank up the old Brough, what! Tally ho

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  6. Gronde says:

    “Tribes” are usually a bunch of bikes going 10 mph under the speed limit and holding up traffic behind them. I prefer NOT to belong to any tribe as it only slows me down! Trying riding with just 1 or 2 buds, you’ll have a lot more fun with a lot less standing around waiting for the “tribe” to get it together and get on the road.

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  7. crazychris says:

    You’ve had 4 test bikes in your garage for 15 years? That makes me a member of the HowcanIdodat tribe.

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  8. blackcayman says:

    Good Piece!

    I ride an SV1000 N – while most of the guys I ride with most often ride Harleys – they haven’t pushed my bike over and lit it on fire yet.
    I do track days on a GSX R750 and so I know some sportbike guys too. My wife has an XL1200 that I put around on to run errands b/c it has saddle bags and straight pipes!
    We still have a 150 Kymco scooter that I bought her before the Sporty – it mostly goes around the neighborhood with my two little girls smiling widely.

    Anything with two wheels and a motor is a good time. My next ride is most likely going to be a KTM SMT.

    I think we motorcyclists need to stick together. Now Bikers are a different story (sarcasm).

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  9. thoppa says:

    Nice sentiment, but what happens if you test a bad, or relatively bad, bike ?

    I like all kinds of bikes…and I’ve owned a wide variety, and although I’ve often wanted a Harley, or similar, their relative performance has put me off. I think if a bike works well at what it was designed to do and looks good too, it gets my vote. I guess I don’t have a bike tribe.

    I wonder how many other readers don’t feel they have a tribe ?

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  10. Ralph says:

    It’s nice to ride them all, over the years I’ve owned full on tourers (Goldwing, Streetglide), sportbikes (many Hondas, presently an S1000RR), sport tourers (BMW, Ducati, Honda), dual sports (Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha) and standards (Suzuki, Triumph).

    They’re all fun and all serve a purpose and I’d own any of them again. I don’t subscribe to any herds, but I do ride fast all the time, so the Goldwing and Harley guys thought I was nuts blasting the gap and making sparks, but whatever…

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  11. Jeremy in TX says:

    I think the tribes are inevitable since many of us have very different ideas as to what motorcycling is and means to us personally. Those with shared passions tend to come together to talk and share ideas which eventually strengthens the tribe. I don’t mind the tribalism, and I think motorcycling is on the whole a better experience with such segmentation.

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  12. John Fish says:

    I think tribes and respectful competition are good. The problem is when the tribes become mobs. Mobs have no respect for anyone outside their own group. Mobs are willing to act mindlessly and self righteously to hurt others.
    I also agree with Azi above it’s a sign of the times in this country in every aspect of life today. We seem to have a lot of people with the mob mentality.

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  13. sl says:

    Interesting piece. Hope it is well received. “Jayski.com” did a short time with comments after stories and the # of ridiculous comments made it a failed experiment. This group is better than most. Even if people don’t agree with each other the personal off topic stuff is minimal.

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  14. EZ Mark says:

    It’s a shame that so many riders feel the need to segment our chosen hobby.
    There’s strength in numbers, and since we only make up about 2 percent of the population, it would benefit us all to be more unified.
    You don’t see the rifle owners bad mouthing the pistol owners in the NRA.
    Because of that, THEY have serious political clout.

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  15. Azi says:

    Yes I have noticed the tone of discussion deteriorating since the website format changed to allow open comments. Dirck I think this may not necessarily be due to motorcycling culture as such, but rather a quirk of the internet medium. It is something shared in other forums, regardless of what the topic is. Your work on this site is greatly appreciated and respected.

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  16. Norm G. says:

    if you search around, i believe you’ll find no less then EINSTEIN himself has done a discertation on tribalism.

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  17. mickey says:

    You call them tribes, I call them herds. Like Zebras or Wildebeast, all individuals but looking and acting exactly the same, seeing the same view ahead of them as they migrate around the country.

    Yep we do like to hang with those most like us, and everybody else is OBVIOUSLY wrong. Suppose I’m a member of some herd myself, just can’t see it from where I’m sitting.

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