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I've got your Brotherhood right here

Once upon a time (that’s always been a good way to start a story, hasn’t it?), motorcyclists held firmly to the belief that they were a fraternity.

A brotherhood, as it were. Of the handlebars, no less. I was one of those believers. My belief was grounded in my experiences, which admittedly were rather limited at the time. I rode a bike and viewed others who rode bikes as my kinsmen. Certainly, were you to wander around Mt Panorama during the Easter races, or attend a rally, this belief would be bolstered. The majority of my fellow bikers were welcoming and friendly.

But there were sections of the riding community that were not at all “Hail and well met, fellow rider!” The outlaws for one.

Them weirdly aloof BMW touring chieftains for another. And men who rode Moto Guzzis. They were the submariners of the motorcycle world – deranged, desperate and smelling strongly of pig-headedness.

But everyone else seemed to be of a mind. As I got older – and boy, that sure happened in a hurry – I came to realise I had been fooling myself. The brotherhood I had imagined I was a part of was entirely illusory and largely a product of my naïve desires to belong – even though I did not take up riding for that reason. I imagined that I wanted there to be a brotherhood and had therefore convinced myself there was such a thing.

But it was a lie. And as the years wore on and the miles passed, it became ever more evident that I had been bullshitting myself. And with that realisation, I finally admitted to myself that I actually didn’t much like most of my fellow riders.

Yes, I am somewhat of a misanthrope in any case. Molière had the absolute right of it when he stated: “We ought to punish pitilessly that shameful pretence of friendly intercourse. I like a man to be a man, and to show on all occasions the bottom of his heart in his discourse. Let that be the thing to speak, and never let our feelings be beneath vain compliments.”

So that is how I roll. You don’t like it? Scroll on. Shit’s only gonna get worse. But my misanthropy is irrelevant to the fact that in this day and age, the vast majority of motorcycle riders are bone-deep knob-ends. I once imagined that the ratio of dipshit-to-decent bloke within motorcycling was about the same as for general society – perhaps even weighted a little further towards the decent-bloke end.

I am now convinced it is the other way around. This does not mean that I live in a cave like some piss-stained curmudgeon and throw rocks at each rider that passes. But that might well be the next stage.

For as surely as chrome sparkles in the sun, so many of you are a disgrace to motorcycling. You ride like shit, you whine like curs and you’re deranged enough to think we’re all one big, happy two-wheeled family. Far too many of you like to play dress-ups and ride in parades. What’s left seems to spend its time bemoaning what other riders wear or what speed limits are being ignored.

Such creatures are certainly not my comrades. I have a large and wonderful circle of great friends. I have never lacked in that regard. All of them ride. I have no business or any friendship with people who don’t ride bikes. And all my friends don’t consider other motorcyclists ‘brothers of the handlebars’. That’s probably why we’re friends.

After all, true friendship is based upon shared politics, passions, needs and hatreds. It is strengthened by mutual experiences. It’s not based on simply owning a bike. Or even the same brand of bike. That’s just a marketing exercise.

Now calm down. If you’re broken down on the side of the road, I will stop and render assistance if I can. Not because you’re a fellow rider, but because you need help. My misanthropy does not extend to leaving you for the vultures.

But let’s just be clear on this; just because you’re on a bike does not make us mates, or brothers. I got over nodding at other motorcyclists decades ago. I will certainly acknowledge you if our paths cross on some outback road, but you need to stop bobbing your head at me around town like we share some special secret.

We don’t. We never will. My motorcycling truth is not yours, nor is yours mine. That is the searing solitary glory of motorcycling. We all ride alone. Even in a group, we are alone.
I have all the mates I’ll ever need and I require no-one’s affirmation or approval – and in fact I am much happier if you don’t approve of what I do and how I ride.

I didn’t take up motorcycling to make friends, or join a fellowship. I was never that socially needy or inept. I took it up to ride bloody motorcycles.
I love motorcycling. I love it like a shark loves blood. Motorcyclists? Not so much.


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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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