“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”


I’ve lost my mind many times on a motorcycle. And so have you.

There were the milder times when I was just riding with friends. You’ve done this, don’t lie: the guy in front of you passes a slow-moving car on a twisty stretch of road, and you don’t want to be left behind, so you make a risky pass to keep up, the kind of pass you would not tell your mom or significant other about, but it was still in the gray area between smart and stupid.

Another kind of crazy, more extreme, is when that red mist soaks our brains while racing or during a trackday, or if we’re really listening to our lizard brains, on a street or trail ride. “I’m not letting that [fill in please: backmarker/chick/Harley guy/squid/scooter/new guy from Ride Apart] get in front of me!” You start hyperventilating, pushing past what’s comfortable, spraying snot on your visor and taking chances you wouldn’t take after chasing one margarita with another margarita.

Most of the time, you get away with it. Sometimes, you don’t. Was it your fault? Sure. Does it happen to everybody? You bet!

I’m not crazy, institutionalized/You’re the one who’s crazy, institutionalized/You’re driving me crazy, institutionalized. Photo by Phonzie.

One early morning a couple of years ago, I was riding across the San Mateo bridge on the way to instructing at an MSF range. It was pouring down rain and I was riding a bike we called “Frankenstrada,” a cool-looking but harrowing-to-ride victim of my friends Mark and Jessie’s beer-fuelled late-night modification sessions. Working tailights were outside their engineering capabilities, as were decent headlights. Not a big deal on a sunny Sunday morning, but an issue on a dark and rainy oh-dark-thirty ride across a bridge.

A dude in an Acura buzzed past me at a 30 mph speed differential, passing me by what seemed like inches. Predictably, I went into Lost Damn Mind (LDM) mode and roared after him – suddenly the rain, low visibility and high winds didn’t seem so harrowing. After giving him chase (he tried to escape to avoid a confrontation, which sent my LDM index past 10), I caught up to him in a residential neighborhood. He lowered his window to receive a great amount of verbal abuse. I think I called him a fat f-ck a dozen times. You’d think I’d show more creativity.

Like a Chihuahua* in an Aerostich, I just wouldn’t back down or let it go. He pulled into a grocery store parking lot, and I got off my bike and he got out of his car. I yelled at him for a few more minutes until he punched me in the face, knocking me backwards over my much-abused Ducati, sending me and motorcycle down in a heap.

Frankenstrada started life as a 2006 Multistrada S, and then things went downhill from there. That’s not a muffler, it’s a middle finger.

I self-righteously called 911, which led to a short, unsatisfying interview with a slightly bored officer from the San Mateo police department. Apparently, you can punch somebody in the face if they’re being an asshole, because much like kindergarten teachers, cops don’t care who started it. It’s not like he or she will get bonus pay for cracking the case of which middle-aged dipshit started a fight. If one party wants to press charges for battery, everybody goes to jail.

Not my proudest moment, and if Acura guy is reading this, I am sorry for my behavior and calling you fat, and I want to thank you for punching me in the face. I firmly believe that guys like me need to be periodically punched in the face, if only to be reminded of our place in the world. I was so ashamed of this incident (yes, I do feel shame, which may surprise regular readers of my column) I didn’t tell anybody what actually happened for a good long time, though I did vaguely refer to getting punched in the face because it has a weird way of discouraging further questions.

Is this guy a cause or a symptom? Does it matter? I hope you’re happy, America.

It’s been a couple of years since my face-punching, and now there’s a coast-to-coast trend of middle-aged people yelling and then punching each other in the face. Please note I am the elder statesman of yelling and getting my face punched, the Brooklyn hipster who was totally into that before anyone, man, so I know what’s going on.

Our country is out of its damn collective mind, is what’s going on.

I’m not going to go into detail. There will be plenty of comments below blaming one side, and maybe some more blaming the other, but what is quite clear is the United States of America is in LDM mode. And I’m not blaming – or judging – anyone for the hysteria and stupidity we’ve seen in the past year, because as a motorcyclist, I’ve been there way more times than I like to admit. I’ll bet you’ve been on that choo-choo to Crazytown more than once as well. So let’s sit back and watch as the rest of the country continues to lose its mind in slow motion, because we know it’ll pass – hopefully sooner rather than later.

And then we’ll be ready for the next ride.


Gabe Ets-Hokin was cheerful whipping boy for the mayor of Crazytown from 2005 to 2007. He now manages public relations for the Happy Time Piña Colada company.

*Seriously, who first wrote the word “Chihuahua” in English? An actual Chihuahua? Who puts three H’s into a nine-letter word?

  • BDan75

    Been there, haven’t taken it to the extended stalk-and-confront, but have definitely lost my temper on a bike and felt ashamed of myself afterwards.

    The idea of punching somebody who doesn’t pose a direct threat to my physical well-being is scary. For one thing, I’m fond of my teeth and jaw, and you never know when the other guy’s a better fighter, or has a higher pain threshold, or is on drugs. For another–maybe our resident attorney can speak to this?–I think there’s a legal concept called the eggshell rule…basically, if you haul off and hit somebody, you don’t get to make assumptions about how much/little they’ll be hurt. I.e., their skull could crack like an eggshell.

    (I’ve probably got that screwed up ten different ways.)

    Anyway, I just think of my cousin, a quiet guy who somehow got involved in a bar fight in college and was punched in the face. He fell backward, hit his head on a concrete step, and was never quite the same after. And there have been plenty of guys who’ve sent people to the emergency room with shattered facial bones, etc.

    • The eggshell doctrine is a civil-law thing, but it’s still a good point.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Nowadays you don’t know if they carry a gun. Road rage never ends well.

  • Jack Meoph

    I’ve made a few questionable passes, and I usually question them right after I’ve done them, because I’m still alive to question them. So far, so good. I don’t chase cars when I’m on my motorcycle, because cars will always win. I don’t chase cars when I’m in my car, because you don’t know who has a gun. Best to just finish your ride/trip, go home and play internet tough guy for a few hours until you can find some sort of catharsis.

    • Jon Jones

      Nice!

    • Sayyed Bashir

      In traffic in CA, a car can never win against a motorcycle (due to lane splitting, lane sharing and easier lane changing). In less traffic the car will gain so much momentum and it is so big that it will definitely get a speeding ticket (especially on heavily patrolled I-80). The bike can speed up and slow down instantly.

  • JMDGT

    Keep your heads up and helmets on. We are very much living in interesting times. I grew up in a township that demanded that you pick your battles. All the fights were real ones. I missed a couple of days riding and on my early Sunday morning traditional ride. I thought it funny that I did not ride like I did in the 70’s. I ride more on the roads less travelled and the speed is what is the most enjoyable. If the speedy boys want to go by fast I let them. I ride for the pleasure more now than I used to.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      I usually don’t let cars go faster than me.

      • JMDGT

        I am a lot faster in a car. A lot quicker on my bike.

  • Roy

    On July 31st the DOW closed above 20,000 for the first time, unemployment is 4.4 percent – lowest since May 2007 and illegal immigration is down 67%. I am happy. You just lost a reader, I hope you’re happy.

    • I don’t understand why I’ve lost a reader, but I’m sad to see you go.

      • HazardtoMyself

        Some people just have a fear of clowns. That 3rd picture probably scared him away.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          You mean the last picture?

          • HazardtoMyself

            Might have been. My irrational fear of clowns took over and I had to turn away.

      • Jon Jones

        Many of us come to these sites to escape the relentless political nonsense that pistol-whips us daily.

        But I still think you’re OK, Gabe.

        • HazardtoMyself

          I’m with you, but at the same time it is these over sensitive over reactions like Mr. Roy’s that adds fuel to the fire.

          Nobody can joke around anymore or make the slightest off handed comment without some else having a two year old meltdown and crying they are not going to play with you anymore.

          I like to poke at both sides a bit, because to me the over reactions over minuscule things are funny. Hence the clown comment. Don’t normally do it online, it’s more fun in person.

          While maybe not the right site for these types of discussions, if someone is going to ditch one of the best motorcycle sites around over one photo or a few sly comments, then maybe they should lock their doors and never stick their head out again.

          Sorry guys but what the hell has happened to us that nobody can disagree with one another without one side or the other throwing a tantrum?

          Ok, back to motorcycles. Anyone have any more insight on the new Yamaha? Oops wrong post

          • Jon Jones

            OK.

            Great post.

          • vastickel@gmail.com

            I “second” the great post. If that sent him packing, good riddance.

      • Campisi

        Sounds like we won’t be missing out on too much.

      • Buzz

        Don’t worry Gabe. I have multiple personality disorder so you picked up several more readers!

        And heck, Obama invented vapid sloganeering. Hope and Change in 2020!

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Good job taking credit for everything, but I agree, many motorcyclists are in it to get away from the irrationality of real life.

    • kenneth_moore

      Tovarishch Trump sdelayet nas bogatymi i dast nam zhen s bol’shoy grud’yu!

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Used Google Translate, did you? “Comrade Trump will make us rich and give us wives with big breasts!” Saving some trouble for the other readers.

        • kenneth_moore

          I left out “kotoryye sostavlyayut polovinu nashego vozrasta”

          • Sayyed Bashir

            “which are half our age”.

    • MyName

      The stock market was around 6000 when Obama took office. It was over 18,000 when he left. Give credit where it’s deserved… I don’t care if you are pro or anti Trump, he can’t take credit for TRIPLING the DOW or our current unemployment… Chill out, Snowflake.

      • c w

        Nor can Obama.

        Presidents don’t control markets.

    • c w

      you’ve been lied to. it seems that is when people are happiest.

    • hipsabad

      Obama was doing a good job, eh?

  • john burns

    is there a waiting list i can get on to punch you in the face? Can I substitute a Dutch rub?

  • Jon Jones

    Sometimes you just have to confront an asshole.

    It’s a bit scary, but I just have to call assholes. It’s my legacy.

    • Mahatma

      What good can come out of it other than ego-rubbing? I just say what the fuck,and move on.The crazies never wear a bell.

      • 12er

        “The crazies never wear a bell.” <<< Love it

  • john phyyt

    No Arguments from me ; A punch is better than a 9mm from that dudes Glock: It just seems that Kim Jong Un is so “out there” that the insanity you talk about is actually rational.

  • Campisi

    That Frankenstrada looks like the supermotard version of the Mad Max version of the Rallye version of the regular version.

  • Starmag

    Brave to admit a mistake.

  • Mahatma

    Thanks for being honest.As you said,we’ve all been there.Sometimes when I go off the chart I’d wish there was a time-out function in my body to contemplate if my current LDM moment could be.resolved in a slightly…strike slightly,better way.Usually I feel like an idiot afterwards.

  • allworld

    This is a painfully realistic article. As of late the LDM mechanism I share with most humans, is something I have been working on. By watching Trump in action, it’s easier to recognize poor judgement and lack of integrity.
    Still there are moments when I am convinced the world is wrong and I am the only intelligent person operating a motor vehicle.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      While riding, you have to think that anyone on the road can do anything at any time and you have to react to it. Keep plenty of margin and be ready to use brakes or throttle to get out of a dangerous situation. People can suddenly change lanes without any signal or warning.

  • Obdurate Verity

    Why is that little girl spanking a grown man in a leather outfit?

    • Born to Ride

      You have to stretch the definition of “grown” to include that particular man in the category. Love you Gabe!

  • sgray44444

    I’ve been there. Ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. Thanks for the honesty.

  • Gee S

    Ahh, the Red Mist of The Lizard Brain. Not a pretty picture.

    In my younger and more hormonal days, I was more prone to acting out. Many road users got lessons in Filthy Brooklynese. More still recieved one fifth of a friendly wave. A few deserving souls even had customizations provided courtesy of my punk rocker engineer’s boot steel toes.

    Nowdays, since everybody is losing their damn minds, people are more prone to shooting back and asking questions later.

    So my on-road manners have moved away from the Sid Vicious end of the spectrum more towards the Dali Lama end.

    Serenity Now.

    Seriously though. Gabe’s core thesis is fundamentally correct. Back in October of last year I actually wrote a piece on how our national fractured psyche was observably showing up on our highways in the form of unspeakably agressive and dangerous driving behavior. The urge to violate and hurt people using cars was noticable then, and I hoped it was a temporary thing that would eventually heal.

    It has not.

    I’ll leave you to ponder the reason, but I think Gabe here has nailed it.

    I ride every day. I have learned to use whatever tools are necessary to remove myself from the presence of an offender. If the throttle will do it, I use that. If that makes it worse — and in the presense of LDM Agression, if often does — I yield, slow down and let em go.

    I want to live to be old enough to have to decide whether to take to a scooter or a sidecar. 😉

    • Prakasit

      The older I get, the easier I can resist having The Lizard Brain take over.

  • schizuki

    Here in Maine, passing someone safely in a legal passing zone is considered an affront as egregious as pissing on their children. They’ll speed up to prevent the pass and then slow down to 10 mph below the speed limit to teach you a lesson about safe passing attempts in legal passing zones.

  • 12er

    All I wanted was a Pepsi…

  • Mad4TheCrest

    I haven’t gone into LDM mode in years, but it used to happen all too often during commute time. But only when I was using my car, never the bike (ok, once, on Santa Monica Blvd, but just once. I think). Anyway, in LDM mode your empathy goes out the window and the whole universe revolves around just you, making logical rational objective thinking just about impossible.

  • TC

    I worked for 32 years as a fireman, and had to treat everyone I was called to help with a detached element of respect, aka ‘professional demeanor’, no matter how much of a drunken, raving, ash hole they were. Getting mad at someone, particularly road raging,is a sure fire ticket to disaster. IMO, if you can’t control your emotions, you probably shouldn’t be riding a motorcycle, or probably even leaving your house. Just read of a road rage incident here is sunny SoCal that escalated into a car to car shooting, and then a ramming, followed by a knife fight, with both participants going to the hospital and then jail. I doubt these people were lashing out at each other as much at the frenetic society we live in.

  • Douglas

    This whole thing is just nuts…..and it ain’t gonna git any better, no matter who zass sits in your Offal Office…..they don’t call the tune. And people on the road are getting more and more self-important….won’t change. So steel yourselves….

  • therr850

    Going to instruct a MSF class? MSF instructors should not be held to a higher standard. Maybe they should. I understand all too well. Last night we were coming home from a nice dinner. The road was about to narrow from four lanes to two. I saw someone coming up behind me doing maybe seventy mph. I figured to let him past and then move over only he came up beside me and matched my pace, forcing me to run down the shoulder of the road. It has been fifeen or more years since my last LDM but,,,,. I am so pissed at myself.

  • No cambelt covers on a street Ducati? Insane!

  • SRMark

    Back in my bicycle road riding days, I was cut off by a driver in a coal truck. Red misted, I sprinted up a long side the truck, called the guy every name I could think of and dropped back behind him. He stopped, rolled out of his truck and blocked out the sun. I’m 6’1″ and was 230 at the time. He was about 6’7″ and 400. Never mind.