Motorcycle Superstitions…Ridiculous or Nay?
From guardian bells on cruisers to nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi bending down before a race near his MotoGP prototype, superstitions are common across motorcycle culture–but what does it all mean?
At its core, superstition is irrational fear of the unknown, and humans have embraced these types of fears since cavemen were figuring out fire. Because many already associate motorcycles with fear and danger–even seasoned riders–superstitions are naturally spread throughout all types of motorcycling.
There are the usual motorcycle superstitions, such as that iconic guardian bell. But, most of the riders I know, including me, have a few unusual ones. You likely have developed a few of your own, as I have over the years.
As long as you aren’t overly conscious of motorcycle superstitions, I see nothing wrong with them. As Dostoyevsky said, “To be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness.”
Let’s start with the universal ones, led by the thing you can likely find at any meet-up of cruisers–the guardian bell. My dad and uncles have used guardian bells on their Harley-Davidsons since the 1960s. The concept is to ward off any evil road spirits–those pesky bastards that cause breakdowns, crashes, or other forms of bad luck while riding.
These spirits become trapped in the guardian bell, and the constant ringing drives them berserk. Eventually, it is said, that these spirits eventually lose their grip in that bell and fall back to the ground just to get sucked up into another bike’s bell. I never used a bell, and never will; it’s just not my thing. I’ll also never got, or will get, any of my bikes blessed.
Another superstitious device is the motorcycle angel, of which I have not one, but two. They were not my intention, as neither was purchased by me. When I bought my first new street bike back in 2001–a Kawasaki ZR-7S with consistent carb issues–my then-girlfriend’s mother bought me a motorcycle angel.
I first used it for a trip to the now-defunct Honda Hoot, and it has been with me ever since. I actually turned around about 20 miles into a trip to Mississippi blues country to retrieve it.
The second one was given to me a few years back from my parents, who are rooted in Catholicism. It currently resides under the seat of my Ducati Multistrada 1200–my all-time favorite motorcycle that will remain with me for this life.
I don’t like to consider myself superstitious, but rather nostalgic because these items symbolize something else. It’s not like I won’t ride a green motorcycle because it’s bad luck; I’ve ridden many Kawasakis in my life without issue!
My other motorcycle superstition has roots in Crown Royal. My grandfather owned a bar/restaurant for 38 years, and that’s where I learned the basics of hard work in my early teens. I also got some cool swag from distributors and liquor stores, such as a purple Crown Royal wristband. I will not ride a track day on a personal bike without it zip-tied upside down over my front-brake reservoir. It currently resides on my Ducati 1198, but finds its way to whatever bike I bring to the track. The same one. All the time.
I’ve had that wristband for over 25 years, and it provides quick mental flashes of the teenager years when I dreamed about racing on a circuit. Of course, it also reminds me of my grandfather and his crazy white hair, an image that holds more value than anything tangible.
As I said, I like attributing these riding rituals to nostalgia over superstition, though that’s just comfortable mental syntax for my brain. I should admit that I have multiple motorcycle superstitions, just as I have to wear the same watch my wife gave me years ago on every single flight.
My motorcycle superstitions are nothing compared to others. Every time I see Valentino Rossi crouch near his MotoGP prototype and adjust his leathers while standing as he exits down pit lane, I am always reminded of my less noticeable riding quirks, or, um, superstitions.
Do you have any unique motorcycle superstitions or rituals? Please share some below so we can all take comfort in knowing we’re not alone when it comes to irrational fears.