By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
MacDonald is sympathetic to most of the riders ("I tell my friends I can't go through my midlife crisis because my wife won't let me buy a Harley," he says) and recognizes they don't have any tracks nearby to race or stunt on. But the main drag in Corpus is not acceptable, he says. Different from the speeders are the stunt riders, who can cause their own problems, popping wheelies ("12 o'clocks") by accelerating quickly, or pulling "endos" by stomping on their front brakes and sending the back wheel into the air. "The Kawasaki ST is so well engineered and balanced, it is so easy for an amateur rider to do wheelies it gives them a false sense of security," causing many riders to overestimate their skill, MacDonald says. One death involved a rider who was tearing down Saratoga Boulevard popping a wheelie when a car pulled out in front of him. "The person pulling out didn't see the motorcyclist because the headlight was pointed up at the sky."
Chris Junemann's father was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was three years old. Even so, he's always been drawn to bikes. "My whole family on my father's side always told me that if I ever got a bike they'd kill me. My grandfather still doesn't know," he says. The threat obviously didn't do much good. Today Junemann, 26, rides a GSXR 750 and runs MotoHouston.com, a local Web site where riders can talk bikes or meet up for rides.
Junemann got in his own wreck out on FM 1458 near Brookshire on a curvy section known as Racer Road. Coming around a turn on his bike, he hit a patch of mud while doing 90 in a 30 mile-per-hour zone and broke his ankle. Riders say the cops out there will sometimes pull them over, but they almost never write tickets. The police tell them that business owners like the money riders bring to the community when they get lunch or buy gas. Junemann says he's never gotten a ticket, but has gotten his bike up to 135 miles per hour on public streets. "After 100 miles per hour, all you see are higher numbers on your speedometer," he says.
Riders who speed or stunt in public don't engender much love from the rest of Houston's motorcycle community when they get caught on camera and make the nightly news. "When you see these idiots doing tricks down the freeway, it makes everyone look bad," says Louis Spahni, a motorcycle safety instructor and former Harris Country sheriff who often responded to motorcycle accidents on the beltway. "Every accident that I had ever worked, without fail, without question, the motorcyclist was doing something stupid," he says. Experienced riders like Spahni have a name for these squirrelly kids: squids. Squids are the poseurs who strut around on their bikes without helmets or safety gear. They're the ones likely to be doing wheelies in the HOV lane. On another message board, Houston Sportbike Network, posters often chew out kids who brag about speeding and deride bikers who end up in news stories for acting like squids.
Junemann started his message board because he felt HSN wasn't welcoming to younger riders. "They're kind of set in their ways," he says. He doesn't police the posts as rigorously as HSN, and posters can often be found venting about the police. Junemann says a lot of sport bike riders think the cops are after them. "If they are, it's because the sport bike community has brought it upon themselves," he says. "You never see a Harley speeding down the freeway at 150 miles per hour." A recent post on MotoHouston found one rider recruiting for a high-speed run around the beltway, promising speeds of 185 miles per hour. Junemann posted a reply, saying, "While this board is a bit more laid back most of us aren't THAT laid back." The poster didn't find many takers, but rather than attack his plan, most made fun of his wanting to go in a straight line. "What a waste of expensive gas," wrote one.
It's Wednesday night at Poseur Point 1, and the parking lot is beginning to hum as about a dozen and a half sport bikers show up for a ride. Better known to the public as the Starbucks at Post Oak and Westheimer, the Galleria-area hangout is a favorite starting point for riders because of its central location. It's called Poseur Point 1 because it's where dudes will go to show off. There's no point in wearing helmets, because then the ladies couldn't see their faces.
"You got plenty of squids out here," says Brandon Enos, a 29-year-old rider who just happened to be meeting a girl for coffee when the bigger group of younger riders showed up. "They're the ones and the reason I pay out the ass for insurance," he says. Enos rides with a group called 10 West that, he says, is selective about its membership. On weekend nights, he and other members will sometimes come up to the 24-hour Starbucks to watch the kids and "bozos" in their wife beaters and tennis shoes hang out and pose in front of their bikes. He notes that 30 years ago cops would hassle guys on Harleys. Today the guy on a Harley is a doctor or a lawyer, so the police hassle sport bikers because they don't know the difference between a law-abiding rider and a squid, he says.