THOUGHTS ON MOTORCYCLES
I stumbled across a link to your site,
which has been keeping me laughing for the better part
of the last hour or so. So I thought I
might try to return the favor with a little humor of my own. I
originally posted this on Hayabusa.Org where I
frequently discuss bikes and such. It's not so much a
Harley bashing rant as a (hopefully) amusing look at
the factions in motorcycle culture today.
I've been thinking about motorcycle culture a little bit recently.
With all the TV shows and increased public awareness, bikes and bikers
have certainly been approaching the mainstream in the last few years.
One of the most profitable companies in America is Harley-Davidson
these days. Riding is a popular and increasingly acceptable way to
spend a weekend (or a paycheck.) And with all the charity rides and
good public relations, it is getting so that you really can meet the
nicest people on a Harley-Davidson. Wind in the hair and through the
fringe of leather chaps on Sunday. Responsible parent and coworker on
every other day.
All of which seems to fly in the face of the rebel attitude and culture
that used to be associated with motorcycles and especially Harleys.
How many motorcycle purchases were inspired by the image of James Dean
or Marlon Brando sporting black leathers and an anti-social attitude?
How many riders are trying create a sense that they are part of a
devil-may-care lifestyle -- young, angry, and out of control?
This lifestyle image is rapidly becoming just that, an image. One that
is purchased almost like buying a membership to a country club and for
some of the same reasons. So common is this trend that it has even
coined a term: RUB or Rich Urban Biker. Doesn't exactly have the same
ring or dangerous connotation as Hell's Angel, does it? But the ever
growing popularity and social acceptance of motorcycling is fueled by
its mainstream participants. They might be trying to buy an
anti-social image, but the most anti-social thing they are likely to do
with it is mount some loud pipes on that Hog.
Of course there is a segment of bikers that remains a target of rebel
labels and bad press. The sight of their bikes or clothes will
immediately single them out as hooligans, punks, and dangerous people.
Oh, they aren't likely to take over a town and terrorize the locals.
But they do ride the twisty roads like each was built for their own
personal enjoyment, drag race on city streets, dart in and out of
traffic at frightening speeds, and generally ride as though traffic
laws don't apply to them. They can be seen on only one of their two
wheels with regularity, as often the front wheel as the rear. When
Americans rally around the slogan, "Buy American," these bikers buy
foreign (usually Japanese.) Their bikes and attitudes are as colorful
as they are loud. They are sport bikers.
Or at least that is a common perception of sport bikers. And it is
often undeserved. Yet it is an image automatically assigned to those
riding plastic covered, pseudo race machines. In much the same way as
the Hell's Angel image used to be assigned to those on cruisers. But
unlike our cruiser brethren, we don't generally enjoy the good press of
charity rides and TV shows. So our image and reputation have become
the dumping grounds for much of the anti-social expectations other
people have of motorcyclists.
Of course some of that negative perception is deserved. And because of
that, sport bikers sometimes have to explain to people that although
some of us do dangerous things on public streets, we don't all do it.
I wonder if the early mainstream Harley guys had to explain to people
that they weren't Hell's Angels; that they just liked to ride? I
wonder if some part of them liked the fact that they had to make that
clarification once in a while?
As a sport bike rider, I'll admit I do sometimes like that I am
automatically labeled a dangerous hooligan by some people. I like
tapping into that bit of anti-social image that accompanies being seen
on a sport bike. And truthfully, some of that prejudice does
accurately apply to me. And to some other riders, it applies even more
accurately. Many of us are rebels who refuse to force-fit ourselves
into mainstream society. Our bikes and our attitudes become outward
signs of the potential to break traffic laws and the willingness to
enjoy it. Because of that we do get bad press and we do have a public
relations image problem with the rest of society.
As Harley and cruiser riders approach the mainstream, we are either
purposely or accidentally not joining them. We are becoming the
inheritors of the bad-biker lifestyle. We are the rebels with the
devil-may-care attitude. Well... not all of us, of course. But that
is the perception, whether it fits the individual or not. And maybe
that is why some cruiser riders don't wave to us. They have become so
mainstream that they are The Man. And The Man doesn't approve of us.