Brought to you by:

Motorcycle Superstitions Exposed | What Are Yours?

Motorcycle Superstitions…Ridiculous or Nay?

MotoGP Valentino Rossi Motorcycle Superstition
MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi

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.

Motorcycle Superstition Guardian Bell
Guardian Bell

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.

Crown Royal Motorcycle Superstition
Crown Royal Motorcycle Superstition

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.

More from Ron Lieback

Kawasaki ZX-10R | Wayne Rainey Tribute

1983 Superbike ChampMotorcycle racing is a brutal affair, in both the physical...
Read More
  • J.b. Spencer

    I awlays pray before taking off …( Father I thank you for wisdom to know when to get on it , when to get off it , when to give it the gas and how much , when to break and how much , I thank you that your angels are encamped around me , other drivers will see me , no animals will run out in front of me and my tires will not fail me ….
    It’s worked for well over 100,000 miles of riding , I hope someone else can benift from this as well
    Merry Christmas

    • Ron Lieback

      Merry Christmas, J.b. Many, including my father, do this. My parents are Catholics, and my dad will not ride without his crucifix necklace, which he had since graduating high school in ’72. The crucifix is marked up, also; when he was younger he wrecked a 305 Honda, and broke his shoulder. The crucifix was damaged in the same spots as my father (shoulder, leg).

  • larry cohen

    I too have had a small angel charm on my bike for the past 100,000+ miles and have promptly replaced it when it has been lost. My one true superstition is to always face my keys in the same direction. At first it was just to keep down the rattling on my Bonneville but after a while (with no major incidents) it became a superstition that has crossed over to my next ride as well.

    • Ron Lieback

      Hey Larry, we love hearing from high-mileage riders. This is a new one–never heard of facing keys in the same direction. What’s your current ride now?

      • larry cohen

        I picked up a 1996 R1100RS in 2014 and have put approx. 20,000 miles on it. I put 80,000 + on my 2001 Bonneville, which I bought new and still have.

        • Ron Lieback

          Nice! Which one is your favorite? Both are amazing motorcycles.

          • larry cohen

            The Triumph pulled me back into motorcycling and is both beautiful and incredibly reliable. I did performance upgrades galore, but over time, still found that the bike had its limits as far as long distance comfort, particularly in cold weather. The R1100RS was a revelation. More power, Brembos w/ABS, great wind and rain protection, big alternator, wonderful seat, great suspension (I upgraded), and the wonder of full hard luggage. Though it’s much trickier to ride at low speeds, the added weight is a blessing on the highway, particularly in heavy cross winds. And……I bought it w/ 49K miles for $3850. Other than rebuilding the front brake master cylinder and replacing the fuel hoses (painful) the bikes been flawless. Just like the Bonnie, I just keep changing fluids and wearing stuff out.

          • Ron Lieback

            We couldn’t agree more, Cohen! The R1000RS will take you everywhere with pure comfort and only the best in safety technology. And the bike is barely broken in–these oilhead boxers last forever.

  • Ace Look

    My wedding ring from my late wife on my key ring.

    • Ron Lieback

      Thanks for sharing Ace. That’s the most emotional one yet. Safe riding!

  • Flyin’finn

    Not sure if this actually qualifies as a superstition-maybe in the minds of skeptics it would-but every bike I’ve owned since deer whistles came on the market has had a set of them stuck on. That goes back quite a few years and I’ve had over two dozen bikes since 1974. According to Wisconsin DOT data a few years back, there were 13 vehicle vs deer crashes in the state that resulted in a fatality in one year–twelve of them were motorcyclists. Some say they don’t work, but for as cheap as they are, if they work even once, they have paid off big-time. To date, I haven’t had a deer-related crash, but I know it could still happen, deer whistles or not. I guess I see the little devices as part of doing what I can to prevent it.

    • Art Studio

      I too put deer whistles on my bikes.
      Logically I realize they don’t really do anything… from any research I’ve seen.
      Sooo… they’re my guardian bells.
      Then again I haven’t hit any critters.
      😎

      • Ron Lieback

        Thanks for the tips guys. I never used deer whistles, but know a few people who do. And Art Studio, I’m with you–no deer encounters in my riding career, though I’ve missed a few.

  • Michael Howard

    Can’t recall ever seeing “Valentino Rossi get to his knees near his MotoGP prototype”. I usually see him crouch like in the lead photo.

    • Ron Lieback

      Thanks for the suggestion Michael. Noted 😉

  • Heshian1

    Strangely enough I would consider getting any of my protective gear on would be mine. It’s the one thing that involves all of my riding, no matter what type I’m doing that day.
    There something about getting everything out to make sure It’s all in good shape and not broken that gets me in the riding zone. Everything else fades away and I start too focus on being as safe and having as much fun as possible on my machines. While still returning in one piece, even though it doesn’t always turn out like that. I love everything I am involved in so I want to make sure I can do whatever that may be tomorrow. FTW..

    • Ron Lieback

      Very cool – and very safe! I guess that’s more of a ritual for me, though if I plan to go out in plain jeans or shoes for a “quick ride” I don’t feel secure, and always end up changing. So yeah…superstition indeed!

  • Mark W

    Scuffing new leathers. No matter how fancy or expensive, put them on and wriggle a bit on the ground. Just enough for some scuffs. Same for new paintwork on a track bike. It is going to get scratched somehow so at least one part of the bodywork gets a slide across the garage floor. No severe damage, just some scuffs.

    • Ron Lieback

      Nice! My fairings always seem to naturally get scuffed before getting to the track. I replaced the left-side fairing on my 1198 (OEM), and when towing to the track, the bike shifted and there’s a nice gouge in the lower side. It’s barely noticeable, but drove me nuts–for all of five seconds. These things happen, so what can you do? I may make it a practice now like you do!

  • Andy g

    When leaving my house I have to travel down the small section of sidewalk In front of my house instead of straight down the driveway from my garage . I did once along time ago and know it’s become compulsive every time I ride so I’ll have a safe day. If a person is on the sidewalk I will wait till the path is clear!

    • Ron Lieback

      Hahaha! Unique superstition! I’ll make sure to keep off your sidewalk when I hear your bike start. What’s your ride?

  • Arjen Bootsma

    My experience in 9 years and 80,000 safe miles of riding is that “guardian angels” and other silly superstitions are no match for paying close attention to everything that is happening around you, especially cagers on their cell phones.