Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

The Jacobson Effect

We all have something.mThat is what my friend Dee Dee told me. It’s true. So, in a very Fred Rau-esque way I need to vent. Here is my issue.

Over the last winter we have been told what we, Backroads, are. Or, what we are not.

We’re not enough biker, too ADV, not ADV enough, too cruiser, not Harley enough… See what I mean?

Some readers sniff through the pages, like circling puppies, and if what they are specifically into is not as well represented to them – well, we are not their cup of tea.

We are too much Jersey.

We are not Jersey enough (really?)

We are too much north.

We are too much south.

And, the standard - we are not “biker” enough.

And, of course, according to many, we are a BMW rag…

(Sorry, I own one and it gets into a lot of images - I am trying to wean myself from this habit)

The fact of the matter is that Backroads is a riding publication. Places to go, things to see, restaurants, inns, and the occasional ice cream stop.

With all that being said – I really want to talk about a habit that, as an owner of a BMW GS, I have noticed and commented on for years.

See, Brian – here you go saying GS again! Yeah, well… for you see – we do all have something.

I have Jacobson Effect. Let me explain.

I got to thinking about this the other day when Shira and I were heading north along the Delaware River on the PA-side. Riding through Portland I spied another R1200GS, parked in front of a number of shops. Immediately I began to look around – where was he? Was there a restaurant I am not seeing, maybe a shop? Where’d the other GS come from? Where is he going?

My head zipped from left to right and back again.

“Are you looking for the GS rider?” Shira asked over the communicators.

“Yep,” I replied as I continued my search.

I realized I was reacting like one dog barking at another while driving by in the back of a pick-up truck.

Even though we are really not a BMW magazine (regardless of what some have recently said) and I am sure what I am talking about here can apply to many owners who ride machines similar to other riders - but GS owners seem to take this habit to extreme.

When GS owners, and Adventure Riders in general, run into each other there is usually a circle around each others bikes – like butt sniffing dogs.

What ya got? What it this? What tires are you riding?

Unless they are factory stock machines, almost all GS machines evolve with personal taste and flair, probably more than any other machine; and the owners almost always act much like dogs sniffing each other’s butts.

Running around each others’ bikes to see who has what and why.

I now call it the Jacobson Effect.

Dogs have a second olfactory system that's known as the Jacobson's organ. Its nerves direct the chemical information it detects directly to the brain so there's no interference from other odors.

Dogs smell butts – we walk around other rider’s machines and examine, compare and learn, for many of us are “bling” aficionados.

If there is room for it and a need – we’ll mount it.

Radar detectors, Spot GPS trackers, heated gear, passive deer alerts and usually more auxiliary lights than a Hollywood film set. And, that is just the electric crap.

Moving onto hardware there will always be crash bars, tire selection, handlebar risers, peg lowerers, additional fairings and some things and product that simply are eluding me right now.

But, I know they are out there, and I probably will want it as well…

It doesn’t seem to end. Such is the life of a GS and ADV rider.

As I said this sort of thing is not just unique to the owners of large German adventure machines.

Get owners of any particular Harley-Davidson together and the conversation rides into the same place.

I guess it is a motorcyclist thing in the end.

I just can’t fathom Toyota Camry owners bonded this way. Could you imagine? What scent do they use at the car wash? What shade of beige do they call that?

Ugg – I’ll stick with the dogs of riding, thank you.

Have you ever found yourself circling others machines just to see what they and you might need?

It’s okay, friend, it is just the Jacobson Effect in full swing.

Think of it as the call of the wild!