American motorcyclists have a drinking problem. We drink too much Haterade and not enough Kool-Aid.

Haterade is a heady brew that makes you feel so good bashing away at your keyboard, but, like an actual sports drink, the rush quickly wears off and leaves you feeling sad and empty inside. Kool-Aid, at least the allegorical kind, just makes you feel better and better. The longer you believe something is true, patterns form in your brain to reinforce those beliefs. And faith is comforting, we all know.

The problem is that Kool-Aid sometimes tastes bitter, especially at first. I, like many of you, was once dismissive of the powered two-wheelers that often garner online ire. And then I got to ride them around a lot for free. Since the number-one rule of American motojournalism is to work from the positive, I had to make my own Kool-Aid for each one and drink it copiously. But I’m glad I did.



New or old, Harleys are fun to ride. Face it. Photo: Bob Stokstad.

The MoCo is the motorcycling equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys — almost universally hated outside groups of the faithful, yet somehow monstrously successful. Hating successful and popular things is a certain road to frustration and sorrow. If McDonalds wants to move in next to your house, it will, so learn to love the smell of French fries and overcooked meat. Though the Internet peanut gallery has been singing songs of Harley-Davidson’s imminent doom for decades, the company is about as healthy as a big corporation can be.

Yes, it’s true. The Haterade-swillers love to type stuff like “When the brain-washed Baby-Boomers die off, nobody will buy Harleys anymore.” Yet, here we are, with Boomer ranks shrinking and Harley still outselling any other brand by at least two to one in the USA. And when it comes to the under-35 market, H-D claims it’s numero uno. No, it isn’t doing as well as it was in the cheap-credit frenzy of 2000-2008, but other brands have seen much sharper declines.

So, are you ready for some tasty black-and-orange Kool-Aid? I wasn’t either. But then I went on some extended trips and learned that, given the right conditions, Harleys really do provide a unique, yet practical and reliable experience. That’s because these motorcycles now offer the reliability and performance of their cruiser competition. They don’t leak oil, they don’t break down, they’re cheap to service and repair and take to performance upgrades like a duck (no, not that kind of duck) to water. Some of the models are actually fun to ride, and the touring bikes offer class-leading comfort, luggage capacity and range. Really.

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

You know you want to ride a Harley. So why don’t you? Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

But the best part of Harley ownership is the almost-guaranteed positive social experience. To the general public, “Harley” is to “Motorcycle” as “Microsoft” is to “aneurysm-inducing frustration.” People smile and nod at you and give you envious glances and cheery thumbs-ups. You can join in almost any of the thousands of organized Harley-only rides and events that happen around the country each weekend, and be eligible to join one of the hundreds of Harley-only clubs. If you crave scraping knees and footpegs, just wash some Paxils down with that Kool-Aid, and you’ll live a happy, crash-and-ticket-free life with your new friends. And what’s wrong with that?


Scooter Riding

If you’re not having fun riding a scooter, you’re doing it wrong. Brasfield wasn’t having fun. Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

The anti-scooter Haterade is harder to understand than the anti-Harley stuff. Americans like practical yet unsexy things — pickup trucks, jeans, Rachel Maddow — so it’s hard to understand why scooters draw so much ire. Usually, the comments are something like, “I don’t care how great that scooter is, I could just never ride one and keep my manhood.” Did I miss the chapter of The Kinsey Report where the researchers gauged sexuality by vehicle type? “Though the subject only has sex with women, we categorized him as homosexual because of his light-blue Mazda Miata.”

Still, I get it. I started out on scooters and even did a cross-country trip on an old Vespa, but after that stuck to motorcycles and never looked back — until we bought a Derbi Atlantis 50 for my wife to ride to work. That flavor of Kool-Aid was particularly refreshing and delicious.

Scooter Wedding

Try that on a GSX-R…Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

For a dense urban jungle, a small scooter is not just a good way to get around, it’s the absolute best way to get around short of a jet pack. In a big city, speed limits are almost never over 30 mph and there are stop signs or traffic lights practically every block. That means you’ll shift a motorcycle about 60 times on a 3-mile trip. A scooter? You just twist and go. You can ride, text and drink a cup of coffee at the same time, if you want.* And they’re so light that even 5 or 6 horsepower is enough to beat most traffic off the line, so long as they don’t know you’re racing them. Oh, and how are you going to fit two six-packs, a bag of pork rinds, a watermelon, a large deep-dish pizza and a jumbo bottle of Maalox on your Panigale? Good luck with that — I’ll be at home pretending I’m heterosexual enough to care about the football game, eating pork rinds.

Electric Motorcycles

Electric Motorcycle Burnout

Ha, ha, ha! This is fun! Does anybody have a 60-mile-long extension cord? Anyone? Photo: Bob Stokstad.

Anti-electric Haterade is a particularly popular flavor right now, but the weird thing is that when you mix it with anti-Harley Haterade, it turns into a weird kind of pro-electric-Harley Kool Aid. Anyway, before the Live Wire came along, any electric motorcycle story was sure to elicit Haterade-fuelled rants that often mentioned Al Gore.

I never drank any anti-electric Haterade, though. I was keenly interested in driving or owning an electric vehicle, as my downstairs neighbor pays for the power outlet in my garage. The problem was, I wanted to drink some electric Kool-Aid, but the ridiculously short range and low performance of e-motos made it too thin and weak to be interesting.

And then Zero and Brammo came out with some very tasty flavors. Suddenly, I could ride an e-moto the way I ride my gas bikes (like an a-hole, if you’re wondering) without range anxiety. Most of my trips are less than 20 miles, and what I started to realize is that electric motorcycles shouldn’t be judged by gas-motorcycle standards because they offer things — silent operation, perfect throttle response, total lack of vibration and very low maintenance requirements, to name a few — no gas moto will be able to offer. Ever.

Harley-Davidson Livewire

Captain Duke mixing electric motorcycle Kool-Aid with Harley-Davidson Kool-Aid and somehow staying upright.

Remember when the delicious Ducati Desmosedici RR came out? Here was a motorcycle with a very short range, solo seat, race-focused riding position and maintenance costs more appropriate for an F-16. Oh, and it was over $70,000. Did anybody say, “Ducati won’t ever sell a single one,” or “Only Tom Cruise would buy that?” No way. You wanted one, you dreamed of riding one just one lap around a racetrack and if you’ve seen one in person, you know you considered licking it. Ducati sold 1500 of these, and probably could have sold many more. You will go thirsty if you’re looking for a glass of Desmosedici Haterade.

So why do most Internet forums offer unlimited electric-moto Haterade on tap? After all, an e-moto is a lot like an exotic sportbike — impractical, narrowly focused, technically fascinating and available in small quantities. But like a D16RR, it offers a unique riding experience you can’t get anywhere else. Book a test ride on a Zero or a Brammo and you’ll find a tasty drink indeed.


Honda CBR650F

Brasfield riding a standard in a standard fashion. Fun fact: the $8,499 CBR650F represents 11 years of income for Mr. Brasfield.

Finally, Standards. Every time a factory releases a standard motorcycle, the Haterade-swiggers start beating their poor keyboards to death. “Give me FULL PERFORMANCE!” some of them might yell, not noticing the caps lock key is on. They think moto-nirvana is a souped-up literbike, but made more comfy for our creaky middle-aged bodies. Such bikes exist, but since they have the same running gear as a sportbike, they’re just as expensive, which enrages the All-Caps brigade. I guess they think deleting bodywork and a few brackets should cut the MSRP in half, not realizing sportbike plastic is expensive because it’s usually insurance companies who pay to replace it.

So they look to the budget-priced standard bikes and complain about the measures the OEMs take to keep the price down. Steel frames, non-radial-mount calipers and shocks seemingly sourced at Pep Boys keep the hangtags to four digits, and offer ample performance for 99% of just about anybody’s daily ride, but you can’t see that when you’re drunk on Haterade.

Try the standard-bike Kool-Aid. I’m rolling on a new CBR650F. Sure, it’s pretty much like paying $8,499 for a brand-new CBR600F2 (almost exactly the F2’s price in 2014 dollars), but is that a bad thing? It’s fast, nimble, comfortable and gets almost 50 mpg. It’s well-suspended and good-handling enough for a fast B-group trackday pace, but also has bungee hooks and a comfy seat if you want to tour or commute. It seems like almost every Japanese factory offers something similar (or better).

You starting to get it? Pour out your Haterade. We’re pretty much in the best of times for motorcycling. You just have to drink a little Kool-Aid to appreciate it.

*Yes, I know that’s a bad idea, BMW guy. Now go back to ADV rider to post engine-oil recommendations and stop bothering me. Oops! Someone must have spiked my coffee with anti-BMW Haterade. Sean!

  • JMDonald

    I don’t hate electric motorcycles. I am just tired of being told they are something they are not. HD’s scooters and standards are fine by me. I worship at the church of ride what you like. The emperor’s new clothes are the emperor’s new clothes. Electric or not.

  • Ben Mintz

    Great article! Just wanted to say I wish there was one of these for every one of my hobbies (cars, music, tech, etc) so I had a good link to point the trolls to.

  • DavidyArica Freire

    Yep I agree with everything said here. While a HD is not my coup of coffee, their bikes are pretty well made, engineered for it’s intended purpose.

  • Sean Alexander

    Anti-BMW, my ass! I like good BMWs, when I find them. I’ve even owned several, none of them motorcycles.

    • Oslo Norway

      (Makes ya just want to smoke him in an old 396 Nova out of the stop light…Doesn’t it?)

      • Oslo Norway

        Oh sure, he’s back there with his heated seats, and tender vitals heaters, but you are LAYING DOWN pure unadulterated horsepower and torque!

        Crack the wing window, toss the Marlboro, another one bites the dust…

        • Sean Alexander

          Your fascination with 14 second cars is quaint, maybe even a little endearing. But they are still 14 second cars, on a good day. “Fast” has moved-on a bit, unless you are talking about a drag car built under an old SS 396 body. Is that what you were referring to?

          • Oslo Norway

            You don’t always have to win to be sexy Sean, that old Chevy II?

            An M3? Kinda light in the loafers man…Light in the loafers…Guys on Wall Street, hedge fund pukes, drive those things, guys in Peoria drive Chevy IIs, just sayin’…

          • Oslo Norway

            ‘Sides, built right that thing would clean your clock…

          • Sean Alexander

            Coulda, woulda, shoulda… reality is what matters.

          • Sean Alexander

            Call me light in the loafers, hell go all the way and call me a degenerate sodomite if it makes you feel like more of a man. I’m still going to win, my girlfriends were all still hot before I got married and my wife is still loving, supportive and beyond beautiful. IDGAF, I’m so much faster and will be so far down the road that your weak excuses and compensatory statements will all be lost in the wind. You sir are weak-sauce dribbled from a tarnished tureen.

          • Sean Alexander

            (DISCLAIMER: Oslo and I actually love each other like brothers.)

          • Kevin

            Even with porcupine heads there were no fast 396s

      • Sean Alexander

        Bring it sucker!

        • Oslo Norway

          BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…You and those damn M5s…

    • fastfreddie

      Is it because they are such a rare find you’ve never owned ’em (the real deal,that is)?

      • Sean Alexander

        They are excellent motorcycles and I actually love many of them. Gabe and I are just playing.

        • fastfreddie

          Roger.Gonna study up on american riffing-etiquette;)

        • Gabe Ets-Hokin

          I was more playing on the idea of Sean spiking my coffee with unknown substances. It’s usually roofies.

  • Kevin

    What, no paragraph for Trike “Haterade?”

  • Oslo Norway

    Stay tuned for next week when Gabe tests the new electric Harley Scooter on the way to an inevitable Dallas Cowboys loss…

  • fastfreddie

    Love that line from scooters “If you don’t have fun on scooters,you’re doing it wrong’:D

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Steven Holmes

    AAAHH HA HA HA!!! I like this one. Great read.

    I’m not a huge Harley fan, but i got a chance to ride a “Dyna Super Glide” something or other and I really thought it was cool. comfy, like sitting on a couch, with mid controls…like a standard (heh heh). if I had the money, It would be a hard choice between that, and an Indian Scout.

    Again funds permitting, I’d buy just about anything in Zero’s lineup, but I’m partial to the FX *daydreams of assassin quiet rides to my favorite campground*
    I’d also not hesitate to spoil myself with a new CB1100 (i love the “retro” style with modern tech), or a Burgman, if it’s got 2 wheels and an engine…I’ll ride it!

  • artist_formally_known_as_cWj

    Mr. Ets-Hokin,

    Search “Jim Jones Guyana Kool-Aid” and understand why your analogy doesn’t work.

    • Sean Alexander

      I’ll bet you are tons of fun at parties! I’m sorry perhaps a little context would help: Parties are social gatherings designed to let people relax and have fun while communicating with each other.

      • Gabe Ets-Hokin

        You don’t mean the Nazi Party?

    • Gabe Ets-Hokin

      Yeah, I grew up in San Francisco in the 70s and have a deep understanding of that horrific tragedy. They actually used a drink mix called Flavor-Aid, not Kool Aid. “Drinking the Kool Aid” has now morphed into a more kindly metaphor and I don’t think reasonable people would interpret it as a call to mass suicide.

      • artist_formally_known_as_cWj

        I guess it’s regional, or generational, or some other -al, but that phrase means nothing positive where I come from. And that’s now. At the least negative, it means “accepting malarky”.

        You go ahead. I’ll just have water, with bubble if possible.

        • Oslo Norway

          I loved Kool-Aid as a small lad…Ohhhh, it was great, tear open the tiny packet, dump it in, dump some sugar in, throw water on it and stir and chill?

          It was the best!

          Kool-Aid doesn’t kill people, morons kill people….

          • Piglet2010

            But repairing siding and drywall all the time got old really quick.

        • Sean Alexander

          Lighten up, Francis.

  • john burns

    haters gotta hate

    • Oslo Norway

      …and Tony Romo never lets me down…I LOVE that MAN!

      • fastfreddie

        Who is he?

        • Oslo Norway

          Tony Romo? He’s a comedic act that plays under center for the Dallas Cowboys…I love him from afar every autumn…

        • Kevin

          He used to be an American football player, but after an unfortunate injury to his thumb he went on to become an over paid figurehead:

  • Evans Brasfield

    I’m deeply hurt that my badassed, scooter-ridin’ mofo expression was confused for unhappiness. I guess I’ll need to spend more hours in front of the mirror practicing…

    • Gabe Ets-Hokin

      Ha! I was riding behind you, remember?

      • Evans Brasfield

        Now, if you said I was unhappy with my dopey open face helmet, you’d be right…

        • Kevin

          But Evans, if you had been wearing anything else you wouldn’t have been able to admire yourself in those dorkey mirrors

  • Piglet2010

    “But the best part of Harley ownership is the almost-guaranteed positive social experience.”

    Sorry, buy I do not want to be mistaken for an overpaid white collar professional playing 1%MC member. If I want to ride something heavy with my feet forward, I will get a Burgman 650.

  • Piglet2010

    The biggest issue with electrical motorcycles is similar to H-D: both are over-hyped and faddish.

    On the other hand, a KTM Freeride E would be tempting if imported, as the worst thing about most off-road bikes is the horrible amount of noise they make.

    • papabear13

      H-D may be over-hyped….but it’s hard to call them a fad considering how log they’ve been around selling basically the same bikes they were selling 20 years ago. They may not be innovative, but they have a timeless design that remains popular….even if they’re not your thing.

      Electric motorcycles may be a fad, and they may not.

  • mudgun

    Hey Gabe, leave us haters alone. What else we got to do?



  • Buzzsaw52

    Yeah I wanted a Kawasaki Z1000 until l saw the insurance bill, now drive a Kawasaki ER-6n and still have tons of fun!

  • mydogfarted

    As a recent convert to a Harley, I understand some of the hate. I love the fact that my Sportster is easy to customize and is a fun ride around town. However, I recently did my first local bike rally, and realized that I really dislike Harley people – especially the RUBs.

  • michael jackson

    AARP will be building a trike