Common Tread

A custom builder's guide to dealing with internet trolls

Oct 12, 2017

Welcome to my tutorial on dealing with mean old meanies online. Over the years, I’ve encountered most species of web troll, and this document aims to help you neutralize them.

But before we begin, here are some things to consider...

John Ryland founded the Richmond, Virginia, custom shop Classified Moto in 2010. His signature style has been inspiring and enraging the public ever since. Here, he shares a builder’s point of view on web critics.

First, as an aspiring motorcycle builder, you have two jobs — build motorcycles and serve as human piñata for internet critics. It’s just the way it is. Accept it and remember all those kind, generous, souls out there who appreciate what you do. If you only focus on the trolls, you’re likely to become one, yourself.

Second, not everyone who raises an objection to your work is a troll. Some are well-intentioned folks. But today, we’re talking about trolls and haters, playa.

Third, you might in fact be troll-worthy. If you constantly rip off other people’s work, beat your chest and declare your supreme awesomeness to the world, etc., then you’re a troll target and for good reason.

Don’t be that person.

Enough setup.

Frank custom bike
Here’s our Triumph Speed Triple that ended a trend, evidently. Classified Moto photo.

Tip one: Ignore the troll

Tell yourself their tantrums have more to do with personal angst than with your decision to put knobby tires on a street bike. Pity them briefly then move on.

Tip two: Respond offline and keep it light

Trolls are people too, and chances are if they have lots of time to give unsolicited opinions, they’re just feeling lonely. They want to feel connected to a world that seems to be humming along just fine without them. Send them a note. “Hi (troll’s name here). I saw your comment about my latest bike not having fenders and how dumb that is. Just wanted to let you know I hear you, and I’ll consider putting them on the next one. Thanks for the input!”

What you’ve done here is create confusion and diffusion — with the illusion — that you care about the troll’s definitively meaningless opinion. You’ve gone and spoiled the fun of ranting for the poor soul. Chances are they’ll look for another target.

Classified Moto custom XV920R
Here’s an XV920R we should have left stock. Stock Viragos are dope. Classified Moto photo.

Tip three: The longer the troll’s attack, the shorter your counter shall be

Example: A troll posts a lengthy comment using words like hideous and idiotic to bash your work. He implies that he wants to see physical harm come to you when you attempt to ride the bike you’ve built. He ends the essay by suggesting that you should quit and close up shop. The recommended response? “Your mama should close up shop.” The troll will call you immature, but I think we know who won this round.

Classified Moto custom motorcycle
Here’s one of our favorite XR builds. It’s probably dumb. Classified Moto photo.

Tip four: “What?”

Simply reply to the troll with, “What?” The longer the troll’s rant, the better this one works. Forced to wonder what part you didn’t grasp, they will likely respond with a disorganized, half-hearted recap of their original comment. You will respond with — you guessed it — “What?” Every time.

Classified Moto custom motorcycle
Here’s a Honda we ruined for The Walking Dead. Classified Moto photo.

Tip five: It’s never worth it, but sometimes you are compelled to engage

When you do, remember this — you are out there “doing” while the trolls are looking at a screen “reacting” like it was their job. They’re competing for the “sickest burn” prize, and really, there’s no changing that kind of mindset. Let that knowledge guide your futile reply.

Society is different today, and online, anyway, the golden rule has all but ceased to exist. So, stay true to your style. Be positive. Lead by example.

And when the flames come — from loudmouths on their dad’s data plan, or from respected editors at — don’t get mad. Just ask yourself… “What would your mama do?”