Us Motorcyclists And Our Weird Superstitions

Brent Jaswinski
by Brent Jaswinski

So we're weird. deal with it

Superstitions are a funny thing. Whether they actually have an effect on an outcome or not is still up in the air, but then again there’s no real way to prove or disprove they don’t, so I might as well keep on practicing mine because, well… because. That’s just what I do! Call it what you want to call it, but I like to think superstition works for me, mostly…

Merriam-Webster defines superstition as “a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck, a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck, a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary.”

Over the years I’ve somehow, somewhere picked up and created a bunch of different superstitions and rituals I do before getting on the bike, and I’m sure many of you probably have your own checklists and habits too. A lot of my routines transfer over to my regular day-to-day life as well. Probably my biggest one, or rather the one that happens most often, is that I always put my left shoe, boot, slipper, sneaker, any sort of footwear on first, followed by the right. Every time. Same goes for my socks and gloves. Why? I have no idea, but I’ve been doing it this way ever since I can remember – and so far so good, I haven’t died yet. It must be working…

Valentino Rossi has many pre-ride rituals. Perhaps his most commonly known is when crouches besides his bike, always on the right hand side, holds the foot peg and bows his head. (See lead photo) The second most common is while leaving pit lane, where he stands on his pegs and adjusts himself, both front and rear.

Maybe it’s because we read from left to right? I don’t know – your guess is as good as mine. But that’s just the way I do it. There have even been times when I’ve put my right shoe on first, in a hurry or something, only to realize my mistake. So I took it off, started over and made sure the left one went on first. That’s probably pretty weird, right?

Probably, but I bet some of you are thinking to yourselves, “ehhh, that’s not thaaat weird, because I do ________.” At the end of the day, we’re motorcyclists – we’re all­ weird somehow. Take it as a compliment. Another thing I do whenever I get a new helmet, (manufacturers will probably hate me for this) is purposely drop it on the ground before I take it on its first ride, so we can get that initial scratch or chip out of the way up front. We all know that won’t be the last time your helmet falls or gets knocked off of something like your bars, seat or mirrors. And it’s just a gentle drop, nothing that’s going to do the helmet any real damage.

I have others too. When I put my deodorant on, it’s seven swipes per arm – down is one, up is two, and so on… Ten if I’m going on a date. If a girl compliments you for smelling good, you’ve already won half the battle, fellas. Ladies, tell me I’m wrong…

Don’t walk under a ladder. I don’t know how or why exactly, but that one just seems to make sense. Or, don’t open an umbrella inside. Well, why would you? You’re already inside… There’s plenty more obviously, but I’m quickly veering off on a tangent.

Colin Edwards says that his most public superstition involved his leathers. “I didn’t believe in introducing my leathers to the ground in a crash. I would walk out to the front of the garage, lie down, dig in my shoulders, roll around and get a little scuff on them. Then we were good.”

One more? Okay, sure. If I ever get called out for jinxing something, I’ll repeat the same line again to cancel-out said jinx, or rather, “un-jinx” it. I usually get strange looks and rolled eyes whenever this happens, but whatever, I deal. Anyway, back to motorcycles. I can’t be giving away all my secrets, I already did that here.

Whenever getting on or off the bike, I always do it from the left, mostly because it’s just plain awkward to get on or off from the right (because of the kickstand), but I make it a point to do it every single time so as not to disturb the universe, Motorcycle Gods, or my own quirky internal pre-ride checklist. Us motorcyclists need all the help we can get.

Fortunately, that help comes in the form of throttle therapy. Now, if we could only get doctors and therapists to start encouraging motorcycle riding as quickly and enthusiastically as they’ve recommended medical marijuana… Damn near everybody would be on a bike and all the world’s problems would melt away. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but like I said, us motorcyclists are weird and crazy, and living in even stranger times. Weird or not, we do what we do and we all have our own superstitions and habits, whether it’s motorcycle related or not.

Kevin Schwantz never believed in any superstitions, however he confesses that he once thought he came across a lucky pair of underwear. “Then I crashed the next race weekend. I said, ‘Those things aren’t lucky. Throw ’em away.’” I once thought I had a lucky pair of underwear too. I’ll never forget them, because they were the boxers I was wearing the day I lost my V-card, and they may or may not have had flames on them… Hey now!

Like us, the top pros have theirs as well. Racing Together: Superstition, an article by Matthew Miles that investigates many of the top racers’ superstitions, is what sparked this discussion of mine, and you can read it here. And you should, because there’s some pretty interesting things that certain MotoGP racers do that might make you scratch your head.

Though, in the end, we’re all crazy in one way or another – motorcyclists maybe more than most. With the help of Waylon Jennings, to that I say, “I’ve always been crazy, but it’s kept me from going insane.”

We’d love to hear about your superstitions and what you guys do before, after or while riding your motorcycle(s). Who’s got the weirdest quirk of them all?

Brent Jaswinski
Brent Jaswinski

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  • John B John B on Jan 23, 2018

    Superstitions are innocuous in situations where you have no influence over outcomes (e.g., while watching a ballgame on television). In situations where one's performance has a direct impact on outcomes (a player in a sporting event, or a person riding a motorcycle), superstitions serve no good purpose. Time wasted on superstitions would be better used contemplating one's game plan, analyzing conditions, and/or reviewing fundamentals among other things.

    Human beings do not like being out of control. So we create superstitions as a means to beguile ourselves into thinking we have influence in situations where we have none. It's a curse to have the ability to contemplate one's precarious existence in this world.

  • Steve Slaughter Steve Slaughter on Jan 26, 2018

    My second season of racing, I switched from old 3rd-hand Syed leathers to new Z-Custom. When I picked them up, Adolf told me to throw them down on the pavement. It neutralizes the gravity magnet. It worked for a little while.

    After leaving the pits, I'd always stand on the pegs and shake/wiggle. It kinda made the leathers fall more into place. It became more a habit than superstition.