Born to be Wild: Inside the Secret World of Motorcycles at Brooklyn College

2J Riders (left) and The Illestrator, two motorcyclists who park their bikes outside the West Quad. / Richard John

Early in the morning, Brooklyn College students and staff get to behold the fierce competition between motorists who fight to find parking around the campus grounds. Brooklyn College, a mostly commuter school is seeing the gradual rise of a peculiar set of people with their unique vehicles. These are the riders and their motorcycles: seamlessly traversing through the early chaos, parking up neatly outside the West Quad gates, and not worrying whether they’ll be ticketed or if they’ll be late for class.

This type of transport seems to be the best option for the inner-city commuter, yet many steer clear from vehicles with anything less than four wheels. This might be due to the many beliefs held by non-riders that continually hold others and themselves back from attempting to ride and appreciate motorcycles for what they are and how they shape life on a daily basis. The most notorious of these beliefs is the stigma that death is assured after taking up riding a motorcycle.

This is just a taste of the landscape that non-riders might hold of motorcycling, its community, and the act of riding. But as you acquire more information from riders or enthusiasts, it becomes clear that riding can be fun, enjoyable, exciting, and/or relaxing. The negative stereotypes don’t hold up to the amount of actual good things that come from learning to ride and exercising that newly acquired skill.

With the aid of two YouTube motovloggers, motorcycle riders who capture their day-to-day experiences through a video medium, they chose to openly share their valuable insight about riding, disclosing pros, cons, and personal stories to provide honest opinions about riding motorcycles.

Enter motovlogger 2J Riders. After three years of riding, only close friends know his true identity behind the black tint of his helmet visor. He rides a Yellow FZ-09, 115 HP, 65 ft/lbs of torque, weighing 400lbs after his modifications and sports a tubeless 180 rear and 120 front. 2J loves riding in the fall, especially under the autumn leaves. He commutes to Brooklyn College from Staten Island, and riding has become more than just a mode of transport for him: it is his passion.

2J involved himself in motovlogging after watching another YouTube motovlogger, realizing he could tie his love of motorcycles with his open and enthusiastic personality to spread positive messages revolving around riding. He started his own YouTube channel, where he posts on a monthly-to-weekly basis as the mysteriously chill character his YouTube is built around.  In the past year and a half, he’s accumulated a YouTube subscriber count of 848.

His commute from SI to BC clocks in at 40 minutes, but can be cut in half with low traffic, affirming that it’s faster on a motorcycle than commuting by car due to maneuverability, low weight, and the smaller size of the motorcycle.

2J reflected on the idea of death caused by riding a motorcycle being a prominent aspect of the motorcycle world. He wants to reverse this notion, saying, “riding is more than death… it’s a negative stigma.” For him, the probability of actually getting into a fatal accident, or any accident, is very rare. “Close calls are very very close,” said 2J, but they almost never happen. More important while riding is awareness of surrounding drivers.

When asked about the worst thing to happen while riding, he responded simply by saying “pulled over”. Additionally, he says, “being exposed to the elements” is one of the costs of riding. But the benefits of becoming a better car driver, freedom from the rigidity of the car, and having the chance to “experience the environment” in its beauty far outweighs said costs.

He continues that motovlogging hasn’t changed much of his lifestyle other than receiving recognition. In his opinion, motovlogging is “95% spreading a message”, and 2J is doing just that. He also mentioned that he would like to see more women riders instead of passengers.

Another rider on campus is affectionately known as The Illestrator. The Illestrator has two and three quarters years of riding experience under his belt. Commuting from East New York to Brooklyn College, his motorcycle has racked up over 2,000 miles traveling around the city and parts of Long Island. He is a very active city rider who has attained 10,000 subscribers on YouTube posting strong on a monthly-to-weekly basis.

His main mode of transportation is his black 2005 SV1000, which weighs in at 443 lbs with a V-twin engine build, R6 brakes, and a Yoshimura exhaust that shoots flames.

He’s taken careful notice of how riding, and subsequently motovlogging, has molded his lifestyle. Not only has motorcycle ownership affected him, but it has translated itself onto his family in a fun and proactive way.

Every ride he takes dictates the way he dresses and how he styles his hair. As a black rider he is conscious about how his hair and helmet will coincide, and how to ensure symbiosis with rider, machine, and most importantly, gear.

The Illestrator poses with his motorcycle. / Instagram @TheIllestrator_NYC

Illestrator shared his immediate family’s reaction when he first purchased a motorcycle. Other than his mother, who was reluctant at first, his family members were accepting of his decision. He told the story of his mother’s reaction to the purchase through a conversation he had with a friend. The friend asked if he told his mother about the new bike. The Illestrator replied, “she doesn’t know.” When he does reveal the bike to her, he says “she nearly loses it.” But after some time, his mother warmed up to the thought of the motorcycle. Now she sometimes helps him style his hair before riding, and even “sends pics of bikes” that she likes to her son.

For the Illestrator and his family, his connection with the motorcycle and riding culture has turned into something the entire family can participate in and enjoy.

Motovlogging was the effect of getting into a small accident where he wished that he “got it on video.” From then on, he’s been making videos and acquired a following. In continuation, Illestrator describes how motovlogging allows him to see how he has progressed as a rider over the years and likes to share his experiences with viewers.

The worst that has happened to him on a motorcycle was riding in the heat and being “swarmed by police” which are discussed in detail on his channel. He believes that driving a car can be the “most mindless thing” and that if he wanted to spread a certain message it would be for car drivers to give “the same amount of respect for cars” to motorcyclists.

Currently, driving a car in the US is the common mode of transport for citizens who do not or cannot utilize public transportation, but the confined space and detachment of the environment from the driver erases that element of freedom and excitement that riding provides. The smaller size of motorcycles makes it especially easy to find parking in crowded urban areas such as New York City. With this point, Brooklyn College allows bikes to park up on their property outside the gates of West Quad with no penalty, a security guard explained.

Stigmas surrounding riding, especially stereotypes that perpetuate the image of the riding community as outlaws, are very common in mainstream culture, but they should be viewed through a cautious lens.

For example, one rider who bucks the stereotype on campus is Frederick Polizzi, a 64-year-old Vietnam War veteran who says he’s “been a motorcyclist since 15 years old.” He went on to tell how he can’t find the words to describe how much riding means to him. In addition to this, he is a very strong advocate of safety and really cares for other riders around him. He is a prime example that represents the best and majority of the rider world.

Finally, the simple head nods and waves that unacquainted riders give each other is enough to make any new rider feel that they have become part of a larger, fun, and friendly community.

Motovloggers take to social media to counteract the negative perceptions mainstream society has of motorcyclists. / Instagram @TheIllestrator_NYC

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