Motorcycle culture picks up speed among students

Hannah Walker|Graphic Artist Now that winter has released its icy grip on Spokane, motorcycle enthusiasts are coming alive. Whether they slowly rumble past or scream by in a flash of color, motorcyclists are a culture all unto themselves and they all ride for a variety of reasons.

“I’d have to say there is a more intimate relationship between the man and the machine — where every hand is doing something, where every foot is doing something — you’re in control and I like that idea,” senior Joshua Warren said. “It’s also fun. You’re out there with the wind in your face out there enjoying the sun.”

Warren rides a 1000cc Honda Super Hawk. Students and faculty interviewed tend to mirror Warren’s thoughts on why they ride.

“I’d say part of it is adrenaline, part of it is the freedom of being outside a caged car. Love having the wind and all that stuff. It’s just fun,” senior Ryan Johnson said.

Johnson rides a Yamaha FZ8 and is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding motorcycle culture.

“Growing up I had this kind of stereotypical idea where the people who rode cruisers were outlaw badass dudes, the people who rode street bikes were douchebags, and dirt bikes were just kind of whatever,” Johnson said.

Now, Johnson owns a street bike and said he realizes that those stereotypes don’t always hold true.

Other stereotypes have inspired those interested to get on a motorcycle.

“My best friend in high school had a Kawasaki 90 when we were juniors; he rode it all the way back from South Dakota,” said James Uhlenkott, visiting assistant professor of education. “This was the era of Peter Fonda and Easy Rider, so we all wanted to be that. This was our very weak attempt to be that.”

Uhlenkott rides a 2003 Harley Davidson Soft Tail Standard and has been riding since 1971.

Others have been inspired to ride because of family’s or friends’ encouragement.

“My dad rode; it’s always been something I wanted to do just because I knew he had,” Warren said.

The experience of riding is unique for each person. For some, it is the speed that draws them.

“Whenever I’m on the road, it’s different than being in a car,” sophomore Avery Smetana said.  “It’s open, just turning with the road and going fast. It’s hard to put into words.”

Smetana has been riding a Honda XR650R Enduro for the last year.

For some riders, just being outside is what drives them on two wheels instead of four.

“You pack all your stuff, get on the road, go down two lane roads into the middle of nowhere, come across a small town, find a place to camp,” Uhlenkott said. “My wife and I really love that. So it’s that kind of adventure of ‘let’s just see where we end up.’”

Motorcycle enthusiasts vary in style and method, but are united by one common action.

“There’s the motorcycle wave that’s unique to motorcycle riders,” Johnson said.

The wave is a common salutation between all motorcyclists who pass each other while riding.

“Everyone is very, very accepting,” Uhlenkott said. “No matter where we go if there’s another biker we are a part of the group instantly. You instantly have this connection.”

Getting into the sport takes training and commitment just like any other sport.

“It’s something you have to take the time to get into,” Smetana said. “It’s something you have to take the time and really enjoy what’s going on around you.”

Meeting someone who rides is different from meeting any other sport enthusiast.

“The culture is pretty inviting compared to say other generic groups,” Johnson said. “You are put into a group by something you own. It’s like when parents talk about their kids, you meet someone who has a motorcycle and they will tell you the story of their bike.”

Motorcycles and the people who ride them are able to transcend a generational gap that no other sport can.

“My dad had a Harley already and I wanted to be able to ride that as well,” Smetana said.  “It’s something I looked in on growing up and it was something cool to be a part of.”

The culture of motorcycles is many things, but it’s the attitude people have that make it a group activity.

“It’s people who pursue the sport of it, doing it together,” Johnson said.  “It’s people who have motorcycles and love riding together.”

Stuart Hopson Staff Writer