Green motorcycles are often said to be bad luck. Why? By whom? And what's the story?
Many long time motorcycle riders seem to have explanations that have been passed down to them. A Google search reveals several dozen forum posts about the subject alone.
One rider explained that the olive-green painted WWII-era Harley-Davidson WLA bikes that were refurbished from wartime use to domestic use, were so worn out that they easily broke down on the road.
Another rider believed it was because the same WLAs were used by messengers, and that German snipers made a specific point to shoot these riders, who became easy targets.
There was also a rider who was told that it goes back to before WWII, when many British-made racing motorcycles were painted green, and often beat Harleys on the track. The bad luck somehow stuck to Harleys.
One person had heard that a green motorcycle could easily blend into the landscape and make it difficult to see.
As it turns out, the color green has been associated with bad luck and misfortune for centuries, way back before motorcycles and automobiles.
Green has long been associated with unripen fruit, translating into youth and inexperience among popular culture. Words and phrases like "greenhorn" and "green around the edges" are used to refer to someone as unskilled or unprepared.
The color also symbolizes jealousy and envy. The phrase, "green with envy" is common today, but hundreds of years ago, William Shakespeare used the expression, "green-eyed monster" to refer to the same thing.
Green is also used to illustrate sickness. "Green around the gills" is said to describe someone who looks nauseated. It's also used to describe spoiled food, in reference to mold. In another example, green swimming pools are avoided like the plague.
As it turns out, the bad luck extended to green motorcycles is also there with green automobiles. According to Snopes.com, green cars have hit a string of bad luck for as long as there have been cars.
To those of a superstitious bent, green cars seem far more prone than those of other hue to develop mysterious ailments and proclivities: strange rattles, odd knocks, and abrupt pulls towards the road's edge (especially when there are concrete bridge abutments such vehicles might be drawn into).
Snopes goes on to illustrate the superstition of green in auto racing, pointing out that Mario Andretti never signs autographs with green ink, and that Joe Weatherly once removed his socks for a race because rain had changed their color from blue to green.
The bad luck of green motorcycles is really just an extension of the bad luck of green-hued automobiles, which is likely an extension of green as a unlucky color throughout history.