Thursday, June 21, 2007

Does Riding A Motorcycle Make You A Biker?

Pee soaked jeans. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about "real bikers". You see it's all a matter of perspective. You ask different people and you are likely to get different answers. I did just that.

My wife who is in her 40s originally came to the U.S. from Mexico. When I asked her what a "real biker" was she said "Ladies who like to ride bicycles!" I know some people that are not going to like that! I asked my 12 year old son the same question and he said "guys who like to go off jumps with their bikes." I am 50 and have been riding motorcycles since I was a kid. People I know of my age and generation refer to bikers as members of a motorcycle gang. They ride an old Harley, are tough, like to fight and want to be feared. They wear black leather jackets, sometimes with a patch on the back (colors), they drink plenty of beer and smoke lots of pot. They live on the very fringe of society but are not interested in hiding who they are. In fact they make every effort to call attention to themselves sometimes with their extremely loud exhaust pipes, ape hanger handlebars and their rough look. One story that comes to mind that I heard in my younger days was that part of the initiation to be accepted into one of our local gangs was to have all the members urinate on the prospective members jeans. They then had to wear those jeans for two weeks without taking them off or showering. Urban legend? I don't know but I imagine it's not all that easy to get into an outlaw biker gang either.

I ride a Harley but have an appreciation for all makes. I have been riding most of
my life and I welcome newcomers to the road. I'm pretty domesticated and am not "real biker" material by my own definition. "Real bikers" would call me a wannabe. If that's what they want to call people who ride Harley's and don't belong to a gang that's fine by me. Many people not familiar with the motorcycle culture would lump together all motorcycle riders and Harley riders in particular as hooligans. That would be a wrong assumption. There are a lot of people who ride and belong to different motorcycle groups and organizations that are not gangs. They make a tremendous amount of charitable contributions especially for children and are making a very positive difference in society. They should be admired and not feared.

To learn more about motorcycle culture I recommend the excellent book "She's A Bad Motorcycle: Writers On Riding," edited by Geno Zanetti and published by Thunder's Mouth Press. There is plenty of stories in the book about bikers, motorcyclists and motorcycling. There is even stories written by Ralph "Sonny" Barger, the founder of the Hell's Angels in Oakland, California. He does a great job of writing from his perspective about "real bikers."** This blog entry is from an article I published at


Steve Williams said...

Being of similar vintage as you are our perspective of biker is the same. I've read Sonny Barger's "Freedom" book and I'm just not a biker.

I try to focus more on riding than any particular connection to a machine based style.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Rick said...

Well good to see some of us old folks still out there. Good post and should make one think. Riding a motorcycle does not make a biker. I know why to many fair weather riders out there that try to look the part. Got caught in the rain once on my why home from work. Rode the bike to work the next day with a 30 % chance of rain and one guys says " you didn't learn anything yesterday did you." well i told him if I sit home wacthing the weather will never ride the bike. I bought it to ride not look at or to say I own one.I do belong to a small club but we do not go out looking for trouble.Hope you all are well and Keep the rubber side down

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