Biker to English Translation For New Motorcycle Riders

As a general rule, a low side is better than a high side. And if you do either, you’ll end up in better shape if you’re an ATGATT kind of guy. Not so much road rash, you know? Now, what did he just say?

Actually, if you’ve been riding motorcycles for long at all you know exactly what I just said. If you haven’t, it’s time for a little education. As with any special interest, there is a unique and very specific vocabulary that has built up around motorcycling. An exhaustive listing of these terms would go on for hundreds of entries. We’ll just look at a dozen or so of the more common and colorful ones.

So what is a high side, and a low side? They are the ways you can fall off a motorcycle. In a low side, you might be coming around a curve, leaned way over, and hit some gravel that causes your tire to lose traction. You’re already leaned over and that back wheel just slides free and all of a sudden you’re sliding yourself. On a high side it’s likely that you’ve locked up your rear brake and the tail end of the bike has started sliding. If you release that brake your tire can regain traction, but at that point you’re not pointed in the direction you’re actually moving. As the tire grabs the bike stands up abruptly and momentum carries you right on over the other side, flinging you off through the air. In general, it’s better to drop just a few extra inches and slide than to be thrown through the air.

If you could know in advance when you’re going to crash then you could be sure to wear all your riding gear that day and leave it at home on the other days. We can’t know that, however, so we wear protective gear just in case. Some folks are really serious about it, wearing all the gear all the time (ATGATT) while others are less cautious. Because most rides end safely, the non-ATGATT folks are comfortable with their choices most of the time.

And many of them, even if they don’t wear any other gear, will wear their brain buckets. That is to say, skid lids. You know what I mean: helmets. They may end up with some road rash (abrasions) that could have been avoided if they’d worn their leathers (protective leather pants, jackets, and gloves), but with luck they’ve avoided serious brain injury.

But enough with the nasty stuff. You didn’t buy that hot little Suzuki GSX-R600 to spend all your time contemplating disaster. You bought it to ride! And if you really want to ride it, you’re not about to make a trailer queen out of it. Leave that to those guys who go to rallies pulling their bike on a trailer. You’re the kind of guy with the patch that reads “I rode mine,” aren’t you?

Of course, if you’re serious about riding you do your best to avoid the super slab (interstate highway). Two lanes are the way to go. But if you have no choice but to do the slab, lane-splitting can get you through it faster. Legal only in California (in the U.S.), lane-splitting is the practice of riding your bike between the lines of cars, along the lane divider strip. Do it only when traffic is slow or stopped and be very careful.

Once you’re free of that mess again, it’s time to kick up the speed. Canyon carving is always fun, whipping along the twisty roads that follow the terrain, and if you’re on a cruiser, like maybe a Suzuki Boulevard C109RT, you might even scrape some hard parts. You know you’re moving when those floor boards touch the road surface. You’ll never do that on that GSX, however, because it’s got way more ground clearance than the Boulevard. Whatever you do, just don’t be a squid. Those guys go way too fast for their skill level and are an accident waiting to happen.

Whatever you’re riding, and whatever kind of riding you do, the best ride is always the one that leaves you and the bike in one piece and rarin’ to head out again.