Unspoken Rules of the Road

Sep 2, 2021

Welcome to the Fearless Innovator Podcast, my name is Mechiel Kopaska and I am your host.

Ok, I’m going to switch gears this week, literally and talk about the Unspoken Rules of the Road.

If you all have been listening to my Podcast you should have learned that I’ve been riding a motorcycle since I was 9 years old.  Most of the early years was dirt bike riding, but when I got my license at age 16, my dad let me drive my mom’s Honda 500 with a stationery fairing.  After teaching me a few rules of his road – like wear a Lid (which is a helmet) wear the proper gear, never ride after dark, always make sure you’re flat footed, always be alert and make sure when you’re crossing through an intersection with a car at a stop sign – be sure to watch the wheels of the car and not the person in the car, dad allowed me to go downtown and pick up Sheila and we’d scoop the loop for hours downtown.  Sheila was my first bitch ever!  Bitch today – mean’s passenger and it’s usually a female although I have seen male bitches!  I’d always have to be home before dusk – because riding at dusk or after dark was an absolute NO because the DEER in Iowa are huge and will definitely kill you.  Even today, I have to stop and think twice about riding after dusk.

Needless to say, that over the years I’ve put a lot of miles under this ass and I believe I’m very qualified to help those less experienced bikers with the unspoken rules of the road.

For the sake of this podcast, let’s assume that before you just went and took the motorcycle course that you actually have riding experience. I think I gave you a great example in an earlier podcast that just because you want to “ride” a bike – doesn’t mean you know how to ride. Taking  the motorcycle course wasn’t designed to teach you how to ride – it’s to prove you have the knowledge and skill on a bike to get your license.

So, please for the sake of yourself and others – go ride a dirt bike, ride out in the country away from traffic and gain the riding experience first! 

I’ve always  told people there are 3 components when you’re first learning to ride.

  1. Gain experience – I know a lot of people that practice in parking lots.  The biggest fear everyone has are going around curves!  Practice sharp turns! Practice, practice, practice.  I know a female that had just got her license and because she was “trying to stay up with the rest of the group after just getting her license” – she hit a car in a sharp turn and ended up in the swamp!  She lived and her brand new bike had serious water damage!
  2. Know how to handle your bike without thinking about it.  Don’t get the clutch and front brake mixed up or you’ll end up going over the top of your bike.  I saw a guy do this at 20mph and he was pretty beat up at just 20 mph.  Luckily, he had on leather!
  3. Once you’ve mastered those above  – now insert cagers (traffic – cars, trucks and other vehicles) by getting out on the road.  This takes riding to a whole new level!  Your skill needs to be such that you do not have to look at your bike to operate it. You are now focused on everything around you.  You are constantly scanning and watching out for yourself.  You do NOT want to be figuring out what to do with your bike when the guy in front of you just slammed on his brakes. Your eyes should be focused away from your bike.  You need the ability to react without thinking about your hands need to do!  

Now that you’ve got the experience and your license, here are the basics I’ve learned from my dad and from riding throughout the years.  

1).  First and foremost, bikers are family – being a biker, you belong to a group of people that not many understand or take the time to understand.  Bikers get a bad name because we look tough decked out in leather and we seem non-approachable.  Did you know bikers come in all shapes, sizes and different professions?  I was in IT for 25 years.  I have friends that are Doctors, nurses, truck drivers, Correctional Officers, Lawyers, Police Officers, self-employed business owners, farmers, musicians, Developers and the list goes on.

There’s also a difference between motorcyclists, Squids and Bikers.

Motorcyclists – just a buy a bike, may ride with a Hawaiian shirt with flip flops

Squid – (Stupidly Quick, Underdressed, Imminently Dead) Overconfident rider underestimating their riding skills.

Biker – Is a way of life

2).  What to wear and what not to wear!  This was a big one for my dad. ALWAYS wear a helmet, riding jeans and boots.  Helmet’s today are not required in all states and its typically your choice if you want to wear one.  Riders always carry gear with them  for the environment you’re riding in.  Heat, cold, rain, snow – you’ll need gear for all three if you ever head to Sturgis, Colorado or Laconia.

Jeans/Chaps pants – Wearing anything less than something that does not cover your whole leg will cause you pain!  I don’t care how hot it is out, jeans/chaps are a must!  Just getting hit with a bug on your leg wearing jeans  causes enough pain for you to react, when you react you could cause an accident.  Have you ever seen road rash? If you go down, guess what part of your body takes the brunt besides your head? Your legs?  If you’re wearing shorts you have absolutely no protection!

Boots – And I don’t mean stilettos for your ladies – I’m talking flat footed rubber soled or leather soled boots.  Boots are used for two things – protecting your feet and your footing.  Ladies if you’re wearing stiletto’s and your foot falls off the peddle and gets caught on the peddle, now your whole body moves forward, and you lose your grip on the handlebars.  This causes you to take your eyes off the road or the biker in front you and now you’ve just caused an accident due to not wearing the proper gear.  I’ve seen this happen!

Same goes for you flip flop wearers.  When your flip flop falls off or gets stuck on the foot peg – you to take your eyes off the road and create an accident.   When I see this – I know you’re a RUB – Rich Urban Biker – or an inexperienced rider and you’ve just rented a bike just so you can SAY you went to Sturgis.  Bikers unlike motorcyclists dress the part because we want to be safe.  I watched a guy in flip flops attempt to back his bike up into a spot – First, he must have never parallel parked a car – because he didn’t know how to back up a biker either – his flip flop got caught on his foot-peg and over he went.  Good thing he didn’t make it into the parking spot because he would have caused the domino effect with the other bikes that were lined up.  Which leads me to another rule.

3).  Never touch another biker’s bike – You can bet the owner is nearby and his eye is on his bike.  Bikers are respectful until they’ve been disrespected.  And when one biker has been disrespected the whole group will follow. Bikers respect all people and in general will not cause problems.

4).  Never leave a biker behind – This one is very personal to me.  Let’s be clear on this definition.  

1). If you see a biker on the side of the road and he appears to be having issues with his bike or maybe he’s not feeling well, whether you are on your bike or not (you’re still a biker) – you always stop to offer him assistance.  Maybe he needs to phone a friend and he doesn’t have a phone.  Maybe he needs towed somewhere and you have a trailer and offer to help him. It doesn’t matter what it is, and it doesn’t matter what he’s riding either.  Shoot I’d stop for a moped!  He’s on two wheels!  Bikers are family! 

2).  If you’re riding with a group of 10 and you all have pulled over to do some sightseeing and you agree to be back at the bikes by 4pm and then leave.  That means that at 4pm all 10 bikers need to be back at the bikes.  If one or two are missing – you call them, look for them – do everything possible to locate them and never leave them until you know they are ok and that they choose to stay back.  Leaving them behind is a break in the respect you have for one another.  

Real story – I was leading a group of 10 in Deadwood, SD we agreed to be back at the bikes at 4pm.  At 3pm, I witnessed my group of 8 following the Ex-Marine in our group outta town.  They got the ass end of me.  They had left us because they said they couldn’t reach us.  They never even waited until the designated 4pm time!  My response – Marines don’t even leave their dead behind and we were alive and kicking mad!  Never rode with them again!

  1. Communication while riding.  If you ride solo this still pertains to you but especially when riding in a group – how you communicate with traffic and the other bikers in the group is critical!  The hand signals on a motorcycle are very similar to those on a bicycle.  I use hand signals and the turn signals on my bike whether I’m solo or riding in a group.  If I’m solo, I want to be sure that guy behind me in the 3-quarter ton truck knows I’m turning left.  He can see my left arm extend out and it’s confirmed with my turn signal.  Let’s face it some of those turn signals are so small not all drivers can see them!  Be consistent in your hand signals – if you don’t know what they are….learn them!  Just google Motorcycle Riding Hand Signals – you’ll find all sorts of charts out there.  Learn them and use them consistently.  If I’m riding behind you and you use your right hand/arm to make a right turn gesture– I’ll think you’re pointing at something and I’d hit you! The proper right-hand turn is using your left harm at a 90-degree angle – just like on a bicycle. When I’m leading and turning right, I’m looking for the guy behind me to turn on his right turn signal – indicating to me, he got my message.  Now I’ll know he’s slowing down with me.  Safety is always first!


Two Finger Wave  – When bikers meet other bikers on the road you will see them make a peace sign down low under the handlebars.  This means we are saying to keep two tires on the ground or the rubber down. It also means we’re telling the riders to be safe.  Trikes will stick out three fingers.

6).  Bikers are givers and we love helping others!  Hard to believe right?  When you see a large bad ass looking group riding together it could be one of two kinds of groups.  It could be the affiliated MC’s (Motorcycle Clubs) or Independents (bikers with no club affiliation) riding for a charity event.  Yes, even the MC’s ride for charitable causes.  Everyone, unless you live under a rock have heard of or seen the very large Toy Runs during Christmas.  We will ride and contribute for St. Jude, cancer events, abused women and children and not only give money but time.  I tend to collect for specific people that I know are in need.  One year at my Mystery Ride we collected for a grandpa and grandma that had recently adopted their 3 grandchildren and they were strapped with living in an RV and needed money and food over Christmas.  We made that Christmas a blessing for them.

Bikers will usually ride on charity events on Saturdays and Sundays an usually on holidays.  One day a FB friend went online to bitch about the bikers he heard while attending church over Labor Day– said he couldn’t hear the preacher.  I engaged and attempted to explain that the group was on a charity run for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.  All that did was opened me up for more crap from his other FB friends.  We have a long road ahead of us to explain to non-biking people who we are and what we do for the community. In the meantime – keep doing it!  Ride on!

Here are a couple of disclaimers!

**Riding a motorcycle is mentally exhausting because you’re constantly on the defense looking for exit strategies.     

**Do not attempt group riding until you’ve mastered solo riding. 

*Bikers often refer to their women as Ole Lady’s – ah, yeah never call me that!

Thank you for listening,  I hope you were inspired, entertained or you learned something new!

In a couple of weeks, I’m off to the Bikefest in Laconia, NH to scratch off another bucket list item!  I hear the riding is fantastic and I can’t wait to go!

While I’m gone to Laconia my real estate, business is doing really well.  My personal residence is producing income while I’m out riding around looking at the countryside!  If you want to know how, reach me at www.fearlessinnovator.com!

Catch me later…