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San Francisco, CA
United States was created to share my continuing adventure and love addiction to all things involving motorcycles. 

Ridin Posts

Wheelies, Cops, & Lessons

Bryan Burnett

Most days always start the same don't they? Getting up in the morning, putting on the gear, the frantic last swig of coffee before making the commute to work. The start of many days might begin same, but you never know how it'll end.  

Heading out on my workday commute, weather was nice, traffic was light, typical for a late morning. But this day i decided rather then take the shorter distance to work, i choose to take an early exit and ride the boulevard into town. Recently on my short route there has been a lot of new construction in the area, leaving the streets a mess with gravel and metal plates. As i rode down the blvd i also was on the phone, i wasn't holding the phone up to my helmet, i was using the SENA SMH10 to talk to my girlfriend about plans after work. My philosophy is the less distractions while you ride the better, but on this day i figured i would be taking a leisurely commute to work and might as well knock out the time by talking to the GF. 

While at droning freeway driving might be ok for phone calls, i would not recommend making calls in congested city traffic. 

Typical Route


Alternate Route

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View from intersection

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The recipe for a perfect storm of decisions and miscalculations was brewing. Where it all began was at an intersection just near the outskirts of downtown Petaluma. At this stop light intersection on my right is the Petaluma Police Department, to my left an old restaurant i've never felt the need to visit, maybe when i turn 65 and want the early bird special… When I pulled up to the intersection there was line of cars, deciding that i did not want to sit in slow traffic in the 95+ degree heat, i split the lane and rolled up to the crosswalk. On my right a red 4 door saloon was pulled halfway into the crosswalk, great. I decided that rather then pull further into the crosswalk and block any pedestrian traffic, i would just have to give it a little extra when the light turned green. Just as my GF was telling me what beer to get that night the light flashed green. I rolled on the throttle and started to slip the clutch, now being distracted as i was, i let out the clutch a little faster then i typically would, and rolled on the throttle more as well… Well you can imagine i pulled clear away from traffic with a little more speed then i had been expecting. To be perfectly honest it was probably the best launch i've ever done in my life, but unfortunately i wasn't on the drag strip i was across from Police headquarters… The front lofted about a foot into the air and it held as i opened the throttle, more out of second nature habit then stunt riding prowess. The front gently came down as i continued down the road and shifted to 2nd gear. As i was still on the phone my GF, she questioned "What was that?!" Apparently she had heard me go "Woohoo!" and the roaring engine noise in the background. I explained to her what i'd done and that being on the phone while riding through town was not the best idea. Not more then a second after that i see a motorcycle cop going the other direction, as he goes by he looks right at me… Does a u-turn and get behind me. Ok maybe it's just coincidence, then the lights came on… Maybe he just needs to get by, there is a lot of construction going on in the area. I slowly move to the right of the lane in case he is looking to pass. *Boop Boop* Nope he's coming for me alright, i then looked around for a place to pull over.

Downtown Petaluma boulevard is a two lane street with cars parked on either side so there's not a lot of room. I came across a gravel parking lot and pointed at it to indicate my intentions. It was hard to hear what the officer said over his loud speaker, but i sounded like "Go ahead and stop."

I turned off the bike and put my hands on the tank, as the officer approached i asked if i could remove my helmet and gloves. His reply was a curt "Yes." After removing my gear. He asks the usual "License, and registration." While i he looked over my information, he tells me he got a call over the radio saying I'd been spotted pulling a wheelie in front of the Police station. I answered as calmly as i could, saying "Yes it was me, but it was kind of an accident." He raised an eyebrow on that note, but before he could respond another motorcycle cop pulled up. This was the officer that witnessed my crime, as he approached he said "That was some reckless driving son" I admitted it was, but also mentioned it was a mistake "Honestly officer I'm not a good enough rider to do that on purpose" he looked me in the eye and said "Should you be riding a motorcycle then?" Good point, i thought. "Well what i mean to say is, I'm not good at showing off and doing wheelies and stuff like that" Which is partly the truth, i do know how clutch up wheelie and i'm comfortable with the front getting light, but i can't do 12 o'clocks down the road all day. I explained how i was nervous after pulling up to the light and having a car in the crosswalk. In my attempt to get ahead of the car i slipped the clutch a little too fast. 

"Well i think we know the lesson is not to split lanes if your going to be nervous." I smiled and said "Yeah that was my mistake. Also officers, i've lived in Petaluma my whole life i know the Department is right there, why would someone do wheelie there on purpose?" They both look at me and one of the officers cracks a smile "Some people like to show off." I gave a nervous chuckle.

I wasn't going to argue, or tell him i had been distracted by being on the phone, at this point all i was going to do was what they asked and hope for the best. The first officer got on his bike to leave, and as he did he looked over at me and said "Thanks for being cool." I waved and told him to have a good one. Now for my sentence, officer #2 had his pad out and was writing down my information. Not being good with awkward silence i asked the officer a little about his bike and what kind of training they do. He didn't look up from the pad of paper but he did mention that his bike doesn't wheelie. 

 People slowly driving by were goose necking to get a look at my bike and the officer, I could hear their voices in my head "hooligan, jerk, getting what he deserves" That's when the officer pointed at me and laid down the law "I'm cutting you a break kid, I could write you up for reckless riding" I sighed in relief "I appreciate it officer" "I am however writing you a fix it ticket, you've got an aftermarket exhaust, and you need to do something about your front blinkers they aren't spaced far enough apart." I sign the ticket and as he hands me the paper i make sure to say "I appreciate it officer" and shake his hand. When he started walking back to his bike he grumbled "Ride safe, remember you can't turn if your front wheel is off the ground, and get that stuff taken care of." 

At that point i wasn't sure if i was still sweating from the 95* heat or what i had gone through but i was thanking my lucky stars that both officers had really cool, professional and over all really good guys. They probably also took mercy on me cause they were both motorcycle brethren but they didn't have to cut me any slack. Even though what i did was and accident, a very cool accident, i still did something stupid in congested traffic and to top it off right in front of Police Headquarters.

Nine times out of ten, if you're respectful and polite even if you're not in the wrong i believe the vast majority of cops will return the favor. That doesn't mean it will get you out of a ticket, or that there aren't bad cops. But officers put their life on the line everyday and it doesn't hurt to be polite and respectful, don't give them a reason to be a jerk.

As i rolled away i gave the wave to the officer and sighed a breath of relief as i finished my commute to work without pulling any wheelies, lesson learned.