Recently, I rode my Harley-Davidson to an outdoor festival. For these events, the parking lot is often a large field with hidden land mines for bikes. Waiting in line to park, I watched people march toward the festival’s front gate from their cars after parking a long ways away. They walked slowly, heads hanging, shuffling their feet through Arizona dust and brown grass.
But when I turned my bike toward the parking lot, the festival’s parking security stopped me and said, “Why don’t you park over there next to the Hummer.” I took an immediate sharp left and found my place right next to the front gate. For bikers, this kind of thing happens a lot.
I parked my bike, walked over the security guard and said, Thanks brother. I appreciate it.
“No problem,” he said. “I’ve got you over there by my Hummer. I’ll keep an eye on it for ya. No need to park out there and get your bike all scratched up.”
Damn straight. Thanks again, I said, and walked across the street to the festivals entry gates.
Many of us have this experience. Hotel desk clerks will suggest we park our bikes up front under the lights so they can keep an eye on them. As riders, we like “Motorcycle Only” parking signs and they’re often in a good location. And while Harley-Davidson is in negotiation with the Milwaukee Brewers over an expired contract, the Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer used to have a special Harley-Davidson seating section in Miller Park’s left field. The game ticket included a buffet, two-beers, and – of course – parking for bikes in the front row.
Parking well as a motorcyclist is an art-form. People in cages are watching us – many of them wish they were us – and that’s when it’s a good idea to take advice from veteran elk hunters. They say, as you approach an elk, the excitement builds and it’s hard to keep from going faster. But the key is to move in a counter intuitive way; the closer you get, the slower you go. And if we’re parking our bikes it’s time take this advice and transfer it to parking: be cool, relax, and move the opposite way from what we do as when we hit the road and open the throat.
There are practical reasons for going slow when parking too, because we never know where a pebble hides that will cause our foot to slide. It’s good to move with caution on those occasions when we don’t get front row parking.
At a large outdoor car festival, I once parked in a field with ruts and uneven ground. It rained and the ground was slippery and muddy. In this situation, it’s easy to slip and go down, riders must proceed with caution. And in cases where we are left to drive on a gravel road, keep a light grip on the handlebars and go slow. All of these situations require patience and deliberate pacing so that we don’t tip our ride.
We ride well, so why not park well. In order to do so, it’s a good idea keep a pair of tennis shoes in the saddle bags. Once, I had to park a long way from the front gate in a freshly-cut hay field. It was not easy, but I found a small slice of shade on the field’s edge, and slid into that spot, a long walk back to the front gate.
In cases like these, if we’re prepared with walking shoes, we’re following the first Boy Scout rule but we’re also making it better for ourselves as we spend time and put the miles on our shoes rather than our tires.
So when you’re out on the road, you may be the object of someone’s misdirected aggression, but remember they’re only wishing they had our parking privileges. Go slow when you put the kick stand down; tell someone thanks for the VIP parking, and line-em up well.
In the parking lot, there’s a special place for the 3 percent on two wheels, and usually that’s in front. It’s just the way we roll and its also the way we stop rolling behind the windshield, on the saddle, and between the wheels.
Gregory Ormson is a former MSF Rider Coach. He lives in Arizona, visiting his home state of Wisconsin only when its warm.