On community and inclusion

Communities have values, whether written down, or embodied by their members. What if you don't vibe with those values? Can you improve them?

Photo of five couples in matching clothes next to their parked blue mopeds.

I ride a motorcycle. I like riding that motorcycle. I also don’t ride like an absolute idiot. And this causes friction.

So a while ago I went and did the IAM Advanced Motorcycle Training because when I first started riding motorbikes, I was super wobbly, didn’t trust the machine I had at the time, and just generally did not know what to look for in traffic, and how to keep myself safe. The IAM course was a huge help in acquiring the technical know-how.

The IAM also comes with local chapters – essentially groups in whatever geographical area you happen to be. You’re assigned to the closest one, and they will do the training and evaluation when the time comes. There are also social group rides. The cool thing about those rides is that everyone rides to “The System,” the same principles and technical knowledge that I learned, because we all learned it and passed. It’s nice.

There’s also a non-IAM group I’m a part of that’s more of a loose group of bikers around roughly the same geographical area. People get added to this because they’re a neighbour of someone, or they go to the same gym, or they met at the biker cafe.

They also have social rideouts. The vibe is incredibly different though.

The local group

Both of these groups have some sort of a group chat. The IAM one is on Telegram, the other is on WhatsApp. Recently I caught a very short conversation on the local groups chat. It went something like this:

<someone links an event for a rideout organised by a different group>
<they include a screenshot of the registration form where the event states “we will be riding our own ride”>

Member: What does “riding our own ride” mean lol
Other member: Catch-all arse covering speak for don't be pressured to go fast to catch up I assume

The thing about motorcycling and rideouts is that they tend to be done on public roads. You can go on track days, but those are rare (and expensive). This one is on public roads. Where other people are. That have rules and regulations and a road code and pesky things like no overtaking road markings and speed limits.

I’m one of the people who will keep to the speed limits unless in an absolute emergency. This group feels like speed limits are an inconvenience and something that needs to be broken because “well the road was clear, send it!”

I don’t want to be the annoying guy who holds everyone up because he actually rides at 30mph on a road that has 30mph speed limits. I like to not pay fines.

Don’t get caught!

You are very wise and smart, indeed, but how about we make the speeding the issue and not the getting caught part?

The IAM one

This group is a majority of old white men with its old white men boomer culture. Jokes about “haha I hate my wife” knee-slappers, general misogyny are super common. Hating EVs, cyclists is the norm, and god forbid you try to point out that the arguments they have for either are utter bullshit.

Then there’s the online harassment by IAM instructors towards one of the women youtubers I follow who made the mistake of documenting her IAM course for all to see.

Speaking up only gets me ostracised, so I don’t.

What next

There are a lot of communities where I want to speak up because members are being dicks, whether it’s derogatory talk towards a group of people, or normalising and encouraging breaking the law because why do you have a motorcycle if you aren’t going to have fun, but I won’t, because in the overwhelming majority of past cases the problem was that I pointed out the problems. Not the problems themselves.

It’s just easier for me to disengage. It sucks for me, because I do like group activities, but only with people I actually share values with.

Not sure where this blog post is going. I guess if you’re an organiser, maybe find the members who are on the brink of disengaging and ask them why, and then take their feedback seriously. Ya might learn something.

Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash