It was a group ride to the North East of Turkey to visit (and for many revisit) historical places. More a ride concerned with the destinations than the roads to use. It was a matter of motorways and well serviced national highways very convenient to cover many kilometers in reasonable time. Inevitably, on the first group dinner, some riders expressed boredom and dissatisfaction: “not roads for real bikers, not enough corners, too much of the straights and of the traffic”
Often the Dancers (riders who like to cover no more than 200K per day in narrow, twisty, country style roads) debate with the Truckers (riders who can ride much more than 500K a day if there is a good reason to go there) and dispute the competence of the latter.
Dancers are not happy if a stretch of roads covers more than 200 meters between corners, Truckers look for the fastest, relaxed and serviced way to reach destinations far away. So truckers see the world and Dancers see the art of cornering: two good sightseeing’s that may improve personal culture.
There is obviously a category in between: riders who choose the itinerary according to the reason of the ride: for fun at speed and lean they select Dancers roads without complaining, if the objective is clear, to cover long distances with the Truckers.
These hybrid bikers may sometime cover long distances on twisty roads or select a motorway for a visit to grandmother 50K away.
And so the discussion went on around the table, nothing new but quite entertaining that was till we touched the “competence on riding” subject.
At that point few Truckers (and some Dancers) casted the gauntlet: promotion of competent riding is “elitism” a wicked word one of the mortal sins in a society where inequality grows but “we are all equal” is the popular creed.
Accusing somebody of ELITISM achieves at the same time several objectives all very much “liked” by the egotistic social community:
- “You consider yourself to be above all others”
- “You strive for a level of perfection not reachable by all”
- “You set yourself apart and do not want to share”
- “You are a privileged out of touch with the interests of average people and out of connection with new generation”
Motorcyclists, we know, are a strange breed: on one side we represent the extreme of individualism in a mass oriented society. We ride alone, outside the square protective box, we ride when other humans stay put at home, we travel isolated in our helmets.
On the other hand, we are a community animal: although my father told me not to speak with people I have not been properly introduced to, I do not mind to start chatting with a perfectly unknown person if he/she is on a bike.
Group riding is very common and if you cross a bike travelling on the opposite line you better look for the group to follow.
So, lonely wolf living in pack. Some of them love acquiring new knowledge, learning new techniques, sharing the result for better hunting.
These are the ELITE: “a choice or select body, the best part. From Latin eligere “choose” (see ELECTION). Borrowed in Middle English as “chosen person”
Nothing bad in a community selecting good people for a specific role: nothing wrong till we look at the elections that are taking part all around the five continents and the corruption associated inevitably with the process of choosing.
And we call democracy the power of money because we have no better alternatives. And you can enter the elite of “real bikers” just by spending the annual salary of a worker for the acquisition of the latest big-bike-model-cum-bags.
When the process of selecting and therefore the position of “selected” (elite) goes wrong: not an easy analysis and one that we leave to more qualified (selected) pens. What we can do here is to go back to the biker’s dinner and to the “accusation” of elitism.
The riders that promote competent riding, that want to distribute knowledge (as most of the teachers and masters in any craft) are they elitists in the negative sense of this word?
Mastering a skill and then sharing what learned makes one person Elite, as in “separated by normal folks” “crème de la crème” among us, simple milk?
While listening I remembered the words of Joe Glydon I reproduced on Bulletin 107.
“Like any other broad-based avocation, motorcycling has its share of irritating assholes. One group that never fails to give me the pip is the brotherhood of self-righteous safety mongers I like to call the boy scouts.
They’re easy to spot. They favor big adventure-touring- oriented bikes. They waddle off these bikes, so swaddled in compound layers of synthetic armor that their movements conjure images of tragic birth defects lurking beneath the foam and Cordura. …
Like pulpit-less fanatics of motorcycling religious right, they bellow from the phantom altars that they occupy on curbs and in parking lots…They call for the redemption of misguided youth who ride in shorts and tank tops. … Boy scouts love attending, and discussing at length, riding classes conducted at racetracks. The racetrack aura seems to give them a sense of manly daring while the rigid rules and protocols provide a sense of security”
And, while the dinner was coming to end and the discussion, fuelled by abundant libations, moved to more male oriented subjects I felt Joe’s words hitting me personally: how many times I used the “role” of instructor just to spoil the pleasure that novices were taking from biking?
How many time the welcome of a new person in the group was “Do you really want to ride with those jeans?” instead of “let us have some fun and ride”?
It all depends where the source of power is based: if the source is “in the position” (being trainer, being a director, being a boss) then the sharing is just a show off of presumed competence, a way to put people down and a call for the burning of white T- shirted pagans with dirty jeans and Malboro’s rolled in their sleeves (Joes words).
A way to pretend to be in the ELITE without doing any of the service that an elected person is expected to do for the community (being bikers or citizens or team peers)
When the source of power is based on knowledge and the sharing is done in full appreciation of the participants, then the “elected” serves the community, move ahead with the team show kindness in understanding and equality in the search.
The role of a knowledge based “elite” is to serve the group, the team, the community without taking any leading position.
Then the Elite move the community one step ahead to create students that will beat the teacher at the same game; with the full joy of the Elected.
The “elite” gives service and work hard to make itself over time useless. True in competent biking and true in any serious transmission of knowledge.
To quote one of the spiritual master of our times, Kahlil Gibran “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”