Over the years that I’ve been riding motorcycles, the topic of segmentation and polarity comes up frequently in conversation. Cruiser people versus sportbike people versus commuters; greybeards and teenage fools… The longer I ride, despite the discussion about tribalism, I find common personality archetypes in every circle. Folks may not get your flavor of motorcycling, but that’s because you enjoy very different things about the hobby. I did a podcast about “Taste” a while back, and your personality archetype is an extension of your taste. Do you know any of these people? Which one of these is you?
Warning: Satire, exaggeration, and a dose of painful truth lie beyond this point.
The Adrenaline Junky
Some people call this person reckless, inconsiderate, or squirrelly kid (SQUID), but even if you haven’t met this person, you’ve seen them around. Pro stunt riders on manufacturer Instagram videos, a bike splitting lanes at eighty miles an hour, or that friend of yours that lives to grind down pegs. These folks are interested in going fast, taking risks, or in other ways using the bike to “feel alive”. Like all of these archetypes, these people come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of intensity; the speed demon in your life may be completely collected in town but a hooligan on the backroads, or hoon around on the sidewalk with their supermoto. Broken bones aren’t a requirement, but battle scars are common sight. Experiences vary…
There’s nothing worse than paying for something you don’t need or can make yourself. Watch-words of the utilitarian. Vegans of the motorcycle community, it’s virtually guaranteed this archetype buys strictly used bikes. Motorcycles, which in all likelihood, are wearing as many zip ties as they are factory graphics, badges or logos. The Utilitarian may love motorcycles for the experience, but half the enjoyment is absolutely about living on the cheap. Milkcrate luggage, used snowmobile gear, and a premium member on Alibaba, the utilitarian knows how to rub two pennies together better than an extreme couponer at Aldi. The utilitarian unquestionably knows how to perform all routine maintenance tasks on their bike, including valve adjustments and tire changes, but some of these personalities may struggle to maintain a “reliable” motorcycle for the duration of a group ride. When you’re trying to save a few bucks, the Utilitarian buddy is priceless in a jam. Unfortunately, a Utilitarian without self-awareness may dampen the spirit of “fun” in a group setting with their preoccupation with “budget sense”.
Tall mirrors, drink holder, and likely a continuously variable transmission, the commuter is easily spotted; typically because it’s pissing down rain and they’re wearing that florescent yellow rain suit. Often confused with the Utilitarian, the commuter knows how to sip the gas and avoid the most stoplights to get across the city. Despite the effort required to combat the weather, the commuter is a model of efficiency, every feature of the motorcycle tuned for maximum comfort and ease of use; one-piece riding suit, dual-pane visor, and yet no wrinkles to be found in their work clothes. They seldom speak of long motorcycle trips, typically a rare sight on a long group ride, but their odometer speaks for itself.
The Trophy Collector
Milwaukee orange, Italian red, or perhaps Bavarian white, black and blue, you’ve unquestionably seen the trophy collector parked in front of the coffee shop or curbside at bike night. The guy who just bought the “Panigale, CVO, or “M-series”, no expense has been spared in the pursuit of “the best motorcycle”. It may have been the recent promotion, divorce, or retirement, the Trophy Collector has “spiked the football” with purchase of a top-shelf motorcycle and all too often they’re prepared to tell you all about it. In its extreme form, this person is the most irritating “Harley Bro”, snobbish aristocrat, or self-absorbed d-bag that trying to advertise their superior status to the masses with the shiniest bike at every social occasion. Meanwhile, its most innocent is the retiree that humbly rides their celebratory purchase to cars and coffee, and afterward parks the bike at end of the driveway to sparkle in the afternoon sun, reflecting on life’s accomplishments in solitude. From bougie prick out to convince you they’re above your station, to content introvert, the motorcycle is the greatest status symbol; be it for good or evil.
Helmet off at every stop or a cold beer at every gas station, this person seldom skips a gathering of motorcyclists. For the socialite, riding motorcycles is fun, but it’s really about the people. While very common among the cruiser community, where poker-runs and other “bar to bar” events are more popular, this archetype exists in every circle. Riding beyond a hundred miles may be a challenge, unless there’s a glass of wine or an ice cream sundae at the end of the rainbow; riding is great, but the motorcycle is a vehicle to mix it up with the people, not for transportation or leisure. While several of the other archetypes may overlap to some degree, the socialite is both the most common personality you’ll encounter in most circles, but this archetype is often combined with several of the others on this list. This person may be the proud owner of a lonely motorcycle, or the curator of a garage full of classics, but you won’t have to guess, they rub elbows with enough people you’ll hear their name eventually.
Ear-splitting exhaust, obnoxious stereo and (insert “look at me I’m different” motorcycle trope here). Love it or hate it, motorcycles are associated with counter-culture. There are endless jokes (and articles like this one) about “posers” buying corporate products in the interest of rebelling against the system (like buying the most popular selling motorcycle brand in the country). It’s hilarious to think, entire companies have a business plan centered around making you look like an “individual”. As motorcyclists we laugh and poke at the irony… whilst we make up something around 3% of the population on the roadways. As cliché as it may be, this person exists. You may know this person, or you may have just observed this archetype in traffic. They don’t want to “conform to social norms” and for whatever reason, have chosen the motorcycle as the ideal transportation medium. Some of these folks literally don’t fit into society and don’t want to… others are just adult role-playing as the “bad boy”. Reasons, seriousness, and legitimacy aside, this list wouldn’t be complete without our cultural rebels.
The Museum Curator
At some point, you make an acquaintance that mentioned a different motorcycle in each interaction. At first, you think suspect this is the trophy collector, but you soon realize this person doesn’t see motorcycles as a status symbol, their garage is more like a museum. This person may be the rider that never sells a motorcycle they’ve bought. They might buy “basket case” bikes like puzzles and slowly piece them together over many years. They could be the person that goes from one segment of riding to another but always keeps the last bike. They may also be the vintage motorcycle collector or just a moto-hoarder. While you may question their financial decisions, you’re happy to have them around considering they likely know a few things about a bike you’re looking at buying; if nothing else, they have a rad garage to host a party. The curator recognizes something special in each machine, they may even have names for each of their motorcycles. Each piece of the collection likely has a story, a story they’ll happily tell when the appropriate time arrives. For the curator, experiencing each machine is important, but also “saving” them, “protecting” them, appreciating their uniqueness, and recognizing their emotional value (if not straight anthropomorphism).
At first glance, this person might easily be confused for the curator or just a hoarder; you’ll soon recognize the mechanic as the tools are scattered about the motorcycle lifts, along with the baskets of parts. The garage may be trashed, but the valves are lapped, and the tires on that forty-year-old classic have fresh “whiskers”. Unlike the socialite, motorcycles aren’t about meeting the people, their favorite pastime is “getting intimate with your motorcycle.” Some mechanics have evolved out of necessity; a consequence of abusing machines or unbridled passion for piling miles on the odometer. In either case, wrenching on machines provides as much joy to the mechanic as using said machines for their intended purpose. As a new motorcyclist, befriending this person is infinitely valuable, as they have knowledge to share and all the correct tools to keep you from learning hard lessons thanks to Harbor Freight. One thing’s for sure though, you better return that expensive tool you borrowed.
While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the artist is pretty easy to spot; custom paint, vinyl graphics, or handmade details are dead giveaways that you’re in the presence of an artist. The artist starts looking for basketcase bikes on the cheap when the temperatures start to dip in fall. They’ve spent the winter in the garage tinkering, grinding, painting, and polishing, and come spring (or the following springs…) the butterfly emerges from the shed. They show up to a few bike nights, maybe a show, and the next thing you know, you spot the bike on marketplace. For the artist, it’s not about riding or even having the bike, it’s about building it. To the artist, the joy of motorcycles is about taking a blank canvas, if only in their imagination, and converting it into something tangible… and when it’s over, setting it free for someone else to appreciate; all in pursuit of the next project.
Many people know a custom builder in their circle that fits this profile, but there’s also a more benign sub-species. If you maintain any sphere of motorcycle friends, you have a friend that tends to cycle through bikes with regularity. Every couple of years, new bikes are moving in and out of the stable. This person buys a bike, then talks about future plans with their buddies. Shortly after, they throw a pile of parts at the bike to make it “just the way they want it.” Once complete, they ride it for a little while, and within a year or so it’s moved on to another owner and a “fresh” replacement has taken up its stead. While not solely focused on “creativity” and “art” like the conventional bike builder, this breed of artist is interested in fitting a “newer” motorcycle just to one person’s liking and once complete, they can’t seem to avoid their drifting heart as it lusts after another. Of course, not to be confused with another closely related subspecies…
The Fear Of Missing Out Motorcycle Bro seems to have a new bike virtually every time you see them. This archetype often has the “latest and greatest”, not unlike the Trophy collector, but it’s not about having a “better” bike than the rest of the crew, it’s actually about “experiencing” everything the motorcycle market has to offer. Experience isn’t limited to new motorcycles, there’s also a variety of FOMO bro that’s a savage Craigslist shark. “Horse trading” bikes on the regular, this rider knows more about titles, transferring plates, and the inner workings of the local BMV than any dealership, and most BMV employees for that matter. Similar to the mechanic, FOMO bro is actually a very useful acquaintance to make, assuming you’re capable of resisting the urge to “Keep up with the Joneses”. If you’re thinking about the purchase of a new motorcycle, wait around long enough and FOMO bro is likely to bring one home; if you’re close enough, they may even lend you the keys for a test ride. That’ll save you the headache from hassling with a dealer, and maybe even extend the saddle time to help prevent you from making a horrible financial decision… or making one, depending on how the ride goes.
“Want to meet up sometime for a few twisty backroads?”
“I don’t ride on the street; I only do track days”
“There’s a dual-sport ride Sunday, you wanna go?”
“Yeah… I don’t do pavement”
Sound familiar? If you’ve been riding long enough, you’ve had one of these exchanges. Often confused with the Adrenaline Junky, the “Racer” is a specific type of motorcyclist. Easier to spot in street bike circles, the racer has a high-performance motorcycle in the garage; likely sans headlight, turn signals, and undoubtedly EPA compliant equipment. The racer feels much safer in full leathers and as far away from licensed automobile drivers as possible. The racer may not actively compete, only attending track days; their focus is (almost) solely on “closed course” motorcycling. The racer can be both, on or off the pavement, while also hyper-competitive, or simply interested in laying down the fastest lap times in the pursuit of besting themselves. The racer is unintimidated by spending big bucks on tires, tearing down an engine, or sliding down the track (or trail). Discussions about the hassle of routine maintenance are petty to the racer, considering each weekend typically ends with some kind of motorcycle assembly overhaul (Race on Sunday, shop on Monday). Assuming there’s no ego to compete with, the racer is an incredible friend to have around, as they’re a wealth of knowledge if you’re interested in learning advanced motorcycle skills.
It’s about the journey, not the destination. The traveler is interested in seeing new places, meeting new people, and gathering experiences. Coincidentally, the traveler chose the motorcycle as the best means to accomplish those goals. The traveler often appreciates a more relaxed pace, both because they want to maximize the advantages of riding a motorcycle (smelling the morning air, being literally in the weather, confronting danger head one), but also because they know they have to ride somewhere else tomorrow. Maintaining the machine out of necessity, planning ahead, or flying by the seat of their pants are all common facets of the traveler. Some of these motorcyclists are highly detailed map and planning experts, while others are frighteningly spontaneous. In either case, these people are a wealth of information for the run-of-the-mill motorcyclists as they have real-world experience when it comes to packing for a weekend camping trip, dealing with border crossings, or roadside calamity.
Often confused with FOMO bro, the postulant is also on a journey of experiencing “all things motorcycle”. The key difference is that for the “student”, the postulant is on a path to learn everything there is to know about each motorcycle discipline. It may appear that this person is buying one bike after another to just “have” a new one, but in reality, as the postulant approaches (perceived) mastery of one segment of motorcycles, they have purchased another motorcycle in attempt to begin a new challenge and learn new skills in a different segment. From the outside, it may appear they’ve gone from street bikes to dirt bikes, from dirt bikes to trials riding with an insatiable appetite. While this may be true to some extent, the obsession is with learning new things and mastering new skills; new motorcycles are simply a vehicle to accomplish this goal. The Postulant may have a favorite motorcycle or a favorite riding segment, but they’ll tell you, they’ve never met a motorcycle they didn’t like, and they’ve never had a bad day on a motorcycle. For the Postulant, motorcycles are a religion.