Get Off My Bike, Please — Motorcycle Etiquette

Hell For Leather, HFL -



Sometimes I really struggle with my fellow man. A few weeks ago, after a long ride, I came out of a coffee shop to find a tall, very good looking woman sitting in the saddle of my motorcycle surrounded by a group of her friends taking photographs. Why do people feel free to touch another person’s motorcycle?

I was astonished. Or, as we say in England my gob was well and truly smacked. I asked her what she was doing and warned her that the bike’s pipes were still hot from riding and she should be careful not to burn herself.

The woman looked at me, flicked her long hair away from her face, and told me she was a fashion model from L.A. reeling off a long list of fashion names and magazines that I have never heard of. She said my bike would make a great prop for a shoot she had coming up. She smiled at me again, twisted the throttle and squeezed the brake lever and then swung a long beautiful leg over my bike dragging a heel across the rear fender.

I just didn’t get it. Her friends, meantime, just stood there looking adoringly at her and continued to take photographs of this ‘fashion model’ standing alongside my motorcycle.

So, I asked her for her keys and where her car was parked and told her I was going to now go and sit in the driver’s seat and push all of the buttons I could find and fiddle with the radio for a while. I said I’d let her know when I was finished.

“You’re funny,” she told me. “Why would you want to go and do that?”

And that to my mind summed up this entire situation. What on earth possesses people that, when they see a motorcycle parked, they have the right to get on it, touch it and mess around with the controls?

I promise I am not that precious about my motorcycle. It’s a bike and its sole purpose is to be ridden. It’s no garage queen. It’s often dirty and carries numerous scars that underline my lack of ability on two wheels. I’ll talk to you about my bike. Heck if you ask me I’ll let you sit on it, providing you know what you’re doing and that you watch out for things like a hot engine or exhaust pipes that will leave a mark on your hide.

I once watched from inside a store a man lifting his young son on to my bike after carefully checking that the owner was not around and he wasn’t being watched. I like kids and nothing makes me smile more when they wave at me as I pass them on my bike. I always wave back. Who knows? One day they might be fellow motorcyclists too.

On this occasion, I really struggled not to rush out of the store and start yelling. But, I had to see how this was going to turn out and bit my tongue. The kid couldn’t have been more than three-years-old and his bare legs dangled each side of my bike, dangerously close to really hot engine cylinders. His father looked pretty confident. The child, though, didn’t look too sure. He couldn’t reach the bars and he wriggled around uncomfortably in the saddle.

I always leave my open-face helmet on the bike’s tank. It’s crappy and nobody’s going to steal it and I don’t like carrying it around with me. But dad had spotted that, too, and had taken it off and plonked it down on the kid’s head. It was so large that most of the boy’s head and face disappeared inside it. With one hand trying to support the kid’s back, the man whipped out his camera phone and tried to get a picture of a small, very confused boy balancing on the seat of a stranger’s motorcycle, wearing a stranger’s helmet.

It was at that point I decided I’d walk out of the store and ask the man what he thought he was doing. His initial reaction was surprise and then he became defensive.

I explained that my bike was still hot from riding and he stood a good chance of burning his son’s legs if he wasn’t careful. And, why hadn’t he waited to ask me, the owner, if he could do this? He mumbled something about not doing any harm and said that his son had wanted to do it. He yanked the boy off my bike, handed me my helmet and walked away giving me angry looks over his shoulder as they left. The child seemed quietly relieved.

Some of this is my fault perhaps. I have stupidly tall ape hanger bars on my bike that make me laugh at how preposterous they are. It seems members of the public think so, too. They will walk up to my bike while I am standing alongside it and try the bars for size (admittedly they don’t actually get on my bike) and ask me, “How do you ride with these things?” All while twisting the front wheel from left to right making the entire bike wobble around on its kick stand. Often I just shake my head and say, “I don’t know.”

I have, though, worked out a sort of solution. When I can remember, I place the sign in the above photograph on the top of my tank. So far, it seems to have worked. I have not come round a corner for some weeks now to find anyone sitting on my bike.

Maybe I am turning into the grouchy old man that my friends always said I would be. But, as I said at the outset of this piece, there are some days when I really struggle with my fellow man, especially when they’re sitting on my bike without asking me first.

More From Tim Watson:
Liquid-Cooled Potatoes: 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring Range Review

The Other American Cruiser: What The New Chief Means For Indian

Why Tim’s Our Cruiser Editor: Why I Ride A Slow, Uncomfortable, Unreliable, Noisy Motorcycle

  • Mr.Paynter

    People are useless.

    A colleague just told me that last week whilst I was away, he came out of his local pub to find his Daytona on top of a very scared, very upset young lady who had tried to sit astride it so her friend could take a photo.

    Yes, in this case she wasn’t hurt, yes she is paying for the insuance excess/claim for the new tail cowling but his bike looks like a mess in the interim and he had to restrain himself from being decidedly more angry when pulling the bike off her.

    I find it astounding that people arent more aware of these sorts of things.

    • Pablo Perez

      I had this happen to me at a gas station in Honduras. Chick must have weighed 250 pounds. I was on the phone when I heard a crash and a girl screaming. I ran over to find her drunk and trapped under my bike. It was an older tube frame Buell and she busted the tail-section and turn signals. Not cool.

      • Paolo

        Honduras! That’s my crib!

  • kpfaaland

    As you wrote, I don’t really mind people sitting on my bike – as long as they know what they’re doing. I really cannot express how much I hate it when people bump their shoes, boots, flip-flops, jesus-sandals and what not on the back fender, leaving marks.

  • Michael Howard

    When did you put apehangers and an H-D tank on your bike, Wes? ;)

    • Mykola

      One of the nice features of the transformation from HFL to RideApart was the relocation of article bylines from the bottom of the article to the top. It’s right there under the title and date.

      • Michael Howard

        So glad you could join us. While we were waiting for you, the byline had originally listed Wes Siler as the author of this piece. As you so helpfully pointed out after you arrived, it now correctly lists Tim Watson as the author. Thanks for your contribution and have a wonderful day.

  • kcavaliere

    I use an Abus disk lock/alarm if my motorcycle is out of my line of sight. I don’t mind if someone wants to take a picture with my motorcycle – so long as they ask first.

    • Mykola

      Xena Alarm user here. Nobody messes with my bike.

  • Core

    I could probably go on some rant about this is the problem with our country, that the majority of people don’t seem to have any respect for other’s private property..but I won’t.
    Pisses me off and didn’t even happy to me.

    At least she didn’t dump it over on herself accidentally, or worse yet her friends.

    • carbureted

      It’s not just The U.S. Most of the people in the world have the same lack of respect others’ property. People are stupid wherever you go.

  • gaudette

    problem solved

    • Kr Tong

      Pretty much. Dropping your bike a few times works just as well.

  • Paul Brown

    So you came out to find an attractive model on your bike, how awful. Maybe you could have, erm, I don’t know, offered her a ride? :-)

    • Matthew Mason

      Yea make sure to keep the rev’s high and not upshift too :)

      • Paul Brown

        Has happened to me, but only once as far as I know (and neither attractive nor female) Came out of a shop, the bloke was very apologetic, I wasn’t too bothered.
        Was pretty much my own fault though. It was a bike shop and I’d parked on the pavement next to their demos.

    • E Brown

      Yeah, ’cause there’s no better pillion than a clueless half-wit.

    • Piglet2010

      What type of ride? ;)

  • Stephen Mears

    Byline says Wes. Content says Tim. I am confuse. Attractive or not, there is no problem calling someone an idiot for doing something stupid. I never would have given her the chance to feel justified.

    • TP

      When I got to “my open-face helmet” I knew something was up.

  • Motorcycle Extremist

    And this is why I’ve installed a remote controlled stiletto facing upward under my seat…

  • FreeFrog

    Stupid monkeys.

  • jonoabq

    to my knowledge this has not happened to me yet, which is good, I doubt I would have handled the situation as diplomatically as you did.

    • bossross

      I’m with you Jonobq. “Get the F**k off my bike” is likely to slip through my lips. Hot chick I might be a little nicer, but kid, dude, or ugly woman is risking a black eye.

  • minnjohn.advrider

    I love seeing Wes Siler’s byline over an article featuring a bike with “ape hangers.” Tim Watson, we see, has a keen sense of humor.

  • Robert Glover

    Thankfully I haven’t yet experienced this in my nearly-four-years of riding. But I don’t ride a Harley, or even a cruiser. Maybe it’s a cruiser thing? Except for the Daytona mentioned in the comments, below. The closest I’ve come was at a Subway restaurant recently when a very odd, mentally-disabled fellow probably in his 50′s, who hung out near the store, asked me (quite politely) if I minded if he looked over my motorcycle as long as he promised not to touch it. I said sure, but I had to get going, so some other time. He was very polite again, with, “okay, see you later.” And that bike was an old, somewhat beat-up 2001 FZ1 with 75k miles that’s been dropped at least a half dozen times (two times by me, the rest by the PO).. so really, if it got scratched, I don’t much care. :)

    Nevertheless, yeah, I do wonder what people are thinking when they do that? Do you think they’d do that if you parked your Aventador or Cobra Replica out front and left the windows down and the door unlocked?

  • Khali

    I am getting more and more curious about Tim Watson’s motorcycle. Time to see it in “Real Rides”?

  • roma258

    I think it’s a Harley thing (at least here in the states). If I ever saw someone sitting on my bike uninvited, I’d probably lose it, and I’m a pretty mild mannered dude.

  • grb

    I know! this is one thing a struggle so much with, it has to stop. Sometimes I come to my bike and the turn signal is switched on, the high beams are on, the bike is in 5th gear and the front wheel is turned to the other direction from where I left it… It is ridiculous how some people think it is correct to mess with someone else’s property without respect.. The sign seems like and interesting idea, but Im thinking a motion sensor alarm or even a proximity alarm might be the best solution

  • John

    Good thing that no one needs to read this will ever see it. Status quo achieved!

  • Cheeseville Husker

    It isn’t just a cruiser thing. I came out of work to find some dork sitting on my MV Agusta F4RR. Needless to say, I wasn’t kind. No yelling or anything, but I quickly pointed out the scuff on the rear tail section. Then I proceeded to ask him for his car keys – at which point, he got the point and quickly apologized.

    I would never dream of doing such a thing without permission. People…

    • Ricky Dhillon

      If I had that bike I’d definitely be passed at a sitter

  • Bram

    Could have been worse. I’ve had a prostitute get on the back of my bike at a set of lights in Bucharest.

    • Tim Watson

      Why did you let him do that?

      • Bram

        HA! I’m not kidding when I say I was distracted by the dog chasing a policeman around a car.

  • Aakash

    She gave you an opening to get her number AND possibly ask her out on a date. I’d call that divine intervention.

  • akvamme

    i think sons of anarchy did a piece on this. i don’t think i’d react quite so severly, but it’d be sitting there in the back of my mind.

  • Flaks redder også liv
  • Flaks redder også liv

    If you put my helmet on your head without asking, you better be prepared to pay my next helmet.

  • Zac Hunter

    One day while working the door at a local bar, a drunk patron hopped on my bike despite my protestations to the contrary. She and the little beater gixxer fell right over snapping off the brake lever. Why do people think this is OK?

  • Joe Bielski

    I came out of a shop once and there was a fracking cat just laying there on my tank!!! WTF, So I came over and pet the cat, talked to her and played with her ears and then she left….I don’t think I’d take it so well if it was a person. Well unless it was a model because I’m a big loser…And I’d say really awkward stuff and she would leave quickly…. I really want a sandwich.

    • Piglet2010

      I would not mind a cat. However, I was not at all pleased with the bird that crapped on my seat.

      • Joe Bielski

        LOL, Yeah I park my junk outside in a neighborhood known for it’s pigeon population, and I don’t mean broke girls. My bike is disgusting to get on every morning!! But no one’s touching it, sitting on it or stealing it.

        • Piglet2010

          When possible, I avoid parking under trees. Especially trees occupied by hundreds of migrating crows.

  • gregory

    No one has ever sat on my KLR.

    • Michael Howard

      Don’t your legs get tired? ;)

      • Piglet2010

        Like doing the transit sections on multi-stage trials rides, eh?

  • E Brown

    What’s hilarious about this is you are literally saying we can’t have nice things. :)

  • Maymar

    To the best of my knowledge, my bike gets left alone (wouldn’t expect anyone to try sitting on it either). I wasn’t pleased last week though, coming out somewhere last week to find a bike wedged between mine and the one that parked directly beside me, and one of my turn signals hanging off at a 45 degree angle. You’d think you can expect a little more of fellow riders.

    • Scott Otte

      I have this problem a lot lately, someone parking their Ninja 250 so close to my bike that I can’t move mine with out moving theirs. I keep meaning to leave a note, but I don’t carry pens and paper with me. I stay sane by telling myself that they’re most likely a new rider and don’t know better.

  • Piglet2010

    These people need to go sit on the bike of a 1% MC member – they will be “educated” in proper etiquette.

  • Corey Cook

    that’s pretty accurate haha.

  • Matt

    I feel a persons property, especially their Motorcycle or Car is and extension of themselves. So unless you want to sit directly on the owners lap, there is no reason to sit on their bike. Now I might be up for a negotiation when a model is involved, but people really need to have some respect and ask permission first.

  • Benji

    I made a sign
    “Loud, hot and might hurt you. Just like my gun”
    going to see if that works.

  • aircraftmech

    I’m pretty sure I’d respond by saying ‘what the f are you doing?’ or something along those lines….

  • Paolo

    “Why do people feel free to touch another person’s motorcycle?”


  • Stewart

    The twits who have damaged my various Ducatis while parked (usually by clipping the tail sections getting on or off without permission) have all paid for new tail sections. Hand them a $700 bill and I guaranfuckingtee that they won’t do it again. A then brand-new 1098 and two Sport 1000S models, if you were wondering.

  • David

    Many years ago, a co-worker had just installed new mufflers on his pristine BMW R69, and walked outside our shop to see two guys talking, with one of them using a muffler as a footrest. From inside the shop, I could clearly hear him say “Get your f***ing foot off my motorcycle.” Not something one would expect from a BMW owner.

  • Michael R.

    I agree that it’s not okay to climb up on a stranger’s bike without permission, just the same is it is not okay to sit on the hood of another’s car or climb into the bed of a truck that is not yours. However, I understand the urge to do so.

    Imagine getting out of your cramped sedan or soul-crushing minivan and seeing an emblem of freedom and coolness just sitting there, unattended in front of a store. The jealousy kicks in and the impulse to become someone else, someone freer, takes over. You could steal a few seconds on the bike and escape for moment.

    I’m not saying this justifies anything, I’m just trying to make the case for empathy since most bike-sitters are sad and frustrated escapists. Next time, give them a knowing pat on the shoulder before sending them back to their cage.

  • Errol Glenn

    I have this sticker on my tank yet it still doesn’t stop some people from sitting or touching my bike when they think no one is looking.

    • Matt

      That sticker’s awesome! Would it be possible to post a link on where to get it?

      • Errol Glenn

        I got it free from my friend when he sold me some parts but unfortunately I’ve lost contact with him :(

        • Matt

          Awwww dangit. No worries though! I’m sure I can find an online print-shop to print up a bunch of them.

          • Gerig Huggins

            Order something from Summit racing and they send you free stickers with it ^ included

            • Matt

              YOU, sir, are a prince! Thanks!

  • Heather Robinson

    My bike is my baby. I get defensive enough when people even /look/ like they’re going to touch my bike. I’m not sure what I would do if I came out of the store to find someone sitting on it, or playing with my things, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be nice or pretty. I don’t spend money so that other people get a kick out of playing with my things, they can buy their own.

    Plus my bike is a rust bucket, so I don’t think people will play with it anyway.

  • Thomas R Brennan

    Next fashion model that’s gets on your bike, tell her if she wants something really exciting between her legs, try you!

  • clint

    Take the amount of times that this has happened to you and multiply it by 20 and you will understand what a Ural owner feels. Something about a camo replica of a war machine says “let’s pile 4 or 5 people on here for a cute picture”

  • Jack

    The last guy I caught sitting on my bike left with a few missing teeth. I had one guy ask to ride my bike. I said, “can I fuck your wife”? They left without a word.