After riding your motorcycle for any extended period, have you noticed that you smell like a diesel mechanic’s pocket rag?
Have you gone to kiss your sweety on the cheek only to be turned away with a look of revilement and horror?
If you’ve ever gotten the stink eye at any rest stop or roadside diner like you’re a pack of lumberjacks in town on leave after 5 months of cutting sumac, we’ll go ahead and tell you why!
Road Warriors Get the Funk
Although there may be no more romantic ideal than hitching up your saddlebags, gear, pup tent, and tools to set out on the road for a few days, or even weeks, you might end up giving yourself a whiff at the end of the day and realizing you could wilt flowers faster than Pepe Le Pew!
The thing is, motorcycling leaves you exposed to all elements that traveling safely in an enclosed automobile wouldn’t.
And while the wind in your hair and the sun on your face might be the greater of these elements, there are some other things you’ve been exposing yourself to that make you less than pleasant to encounter along the way.
If you’re a new rider or maybe you have a new lady friend who isn’t quite accustomed to the famous odors of motorcycle enthusiasts, we’ll let you know why you stink! Read on below to hear about 7 reasons you smell after riding a motorcycle!
1. Your Own Exhaust Fumes
One common reason that motorcyclists have a certain common odor to them is exhaust. All motorcycle engines produce exhaust, which is the byproduct of combustion.
The air/fuel mixture atomizes into a vapor that is sparked inside the engine, creating the thousands of tiny explosions that propel you forward in mean grunts and spurts of speed.
When these explosions have occurred, the fumes are released through your exhaust pipes. Sportbikes are notorious for providing riders with that je ne sai quoi because often the tailpipes are pointed at an upward angle.
As you ride, minimal amounts of the exhaust are circulating around your bike and your body, clinging to your outerwear and leaving their residue and stench on you.
Many a day I’ve smirked to myself seeing someone in their office wear heading down the road during their morning commute-they’re gonna be stinking up the conference room whether they like it or not.
One way to alleviate the exhaust fume smell would be to wear a removable layer of clothing that you can remove once you get to where you are headed. That way you’ll turn heads when you jump off the motorcycle in a good way!
2. The Stank of the Road
As I stated previously, there’s no better way for a lone wolf or pack of moto-jackals to experience the wonderful, wild expanses of America than on a motorcycle trip that lasts days or even weeks. This, of course, comes with some caveats that may or may not be forefront in the personal hygiene department!
After any extended stretch of living with your bum in the seat, sleeping in your tent, and taking hobo baths in a gas station sink while you fuel up, you’re going to smell like the aforementioned hobo more than you think.
Even if you smell like a restaurant dumpster on fire after all of it, relish it! You earned it and should wear it proudly!
3. You Smell Anyways
My guy, is it really the motorcycling that makes you stink, or do you need a good hosing, a shave, and some Old Spice?
Ask a trusted friend who will let you down lightly, or guffaw at you for never noticing in the first place. In my experience within the motorcycle community, there aren’t a lot of pampered male models who smell like roses and riesling.
4. Concentration Sweats Are a Real Thing
We’ve gone back and forth on this for a while now, but I swear that concentrating or anything that makes a person anxious makes them smell to high Heaven.
When I was first saddling up on my little baby bike, I was so excited but anxious about riding around other people, in groups, or in heavy traffic. And my sweat stank.
There are various hormonal reasons for this, but truth be told, new riders that spend so much time concentrating on not falling off their bikes like a dufus are going to have a special sickly sweet smell.
Don’t sweat it, once you get the hang of it, you’ll stop dripping like a glass of ice tea on a hot summer day!
5. Passing Through Chemical Or Exhaust Clouds
If you didn’t know, odors are tied to particulate matter in the air. When you breathe them in, you are having an olfactory reaction to the bits of whatever it is you are smelling in the air.
Passing through a yellow gaseous cloud blowing across the road from a petrochemical plant in West Texas? You might spend the next 48 hours convinced someone put rotten eggs in your riding jacket as a joke.
And it’s not just your motorcycle’s exhaust that stinks.
You inevitably spend time on your motorcycle surrounded and preceded by all sorts of exhaust-emitting vehicles like big rigs, work trucks, and soccer mom vans.
They produce more exhaust than you do, and you’ll find yourself smelling like it at the end of any ride, especially if you’re a daily commuter in a jam-packed city!
6. Did You Hit A Skunk?
Seriously, I’ve had it happen. Much like a much-too-curious dog that gets sprayed right in the face, a skunk will expel when it expires.
The oily spray can soak you right down to the skin and it’s impossible to get rid of the skunk funk, at least for a couple of days.
You’ll end up with everyone at the roadside attractions along the way giving you the side-eye because you smell like you just stepped out of an airbrushed van with Tommy Chong. I know all too well; I have the receipts.
7. Rain Will Make a Wet Dog Of Us All
We’ve all had a dog day or two riding in the rain. And sometimes it happens when you least expect it. When you left the house, the blue sky was bright and the sun was shining. Suddenly, a dark bulwark of clouds rushed towards the horizon and the sky goes gray.
Getting stuck in the rain is a good reason to always keep some waterproof riding pants and a shell jacket in your bags, but sometimes it can be easy to forget.
You’re gonna end up smelling like a pup who jumped in the lake while their human was fishing. Chances are, any of that delicious-smelling exhaust, chemical, and natural particulate is going to soak into every inch of your clothes, compounding your rich odor!
Some Simple Tips for Clearing the Air
At the basic level, a motorcycle rider is always going to smell a little like my dad’s mechanic shop on emissions-testing day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mitigate at least a good portion of that. Here are some ideas to keep your sweety leaning in for a post-ride embrace instead of shrinking away in horror!
- Wear a removable outer layer. When I head into the writing workspace, I remove my outer riding pants and jacket and stow them in my saddlebags. That way, I don’t fumigate the content creators and software engineers with my glorious road scent.
- Make sure to keep waterproof layers stowed away for the occasional, freak thunderstorm that’s always just over the horizon. You won’t smell like a wet dog and people will thank you for it, in general.
- Keep a spare deodorant in your bag for times when you have to be in proximity to other people. You don’t need to overdo it with a Costco-sized bottle of aftershave, but it’s a nice touch.
- When you’re on a long road trip with your fellas, be sure to grace a local laundromat with your presence at least once a week. Packing light is the goal, but you’ll really get your money’s worth out of your clothes if they smell a little better.
- To all my Hell-raising, beer-swilling, rat-ripping buddies-take more showers. The world will look more kindly on motorcyclists if less of us smell like unwashed longshoremen in a sauna.