A Biker’s Image – Based on Perception or Reality?

Hey guys,

Hope the ride is smooth and the sun is warm.

I debated about this piece for the last week, but we have to talk about it.

Waco.

Bike Gangs.

Our image.

Biker Image - Waco Texas Shooting

I know and you know that 99% of riders aren’t involved in organized crime. We have jobs, mortgages, investments, and no criminal record. So why aren’t more of us talking or acting about the positive things that we, as riders, are doing? Why are we trying to look like outlaws when we are accountants from 9-5 Monday through Friday?

One thing that I haven’t seen in all the reporting on the events at Twin Peaks in Waco is how many regular and independent riders were there? How can we let those folks in the SUV know that we aren’t all a bunch of hopped-up felons?

Even before Marlon Brando got on that 1953 Triumph in The Wild One, we, as riders, had an image problem. Hell, the idea of freedom as something you can live, instead of just talk about, is part of the appeal of riding. The downside? We get on our leather, fire up our cruisers with a ton of chrome, open pipes, throttling up through the neighborhood, at the streetlight we dump the clutch and roar off in a cloud of hydrocarbons … since we aren’t running emissions controls like every car built since about 1971.

No lie, I love all of that. There is nothing like taking off the beanie when I cross into Florida on a long weekend, feeling the eyes of people on you as you run down a curvy road or rumble into a parking lot. It says, “I’m a little different”.

The problem? We all look the same, and a lot of us act the same. Drinking beer at a joint with waitresses half our age who are wearing shorts two sizes too tight. Getting loud, being disrespectful. I’ve been riding a long time, and for me, I choose being independent precisely because I don’t want to have to conform to some silly group of rules that seems to absolve me of being respectful. I know guys that won’t talk to a guy because he has a Honda instead of a Harley. I know Harley guys that won’t talk to guys that have a bone-stock bike and not some crazy one-off that’s chopped.

The real losers in this gunfight among “bikers” in a beer joint in Waco is every one of us that rides. We’ve spent the last 25 years polishing an image of freedom and a sort of simple, cowboy value system, then some yahoos that look just like us go and set us back fifty years. You can bet that every poker run in Texas for the next three years is going to be chock full of undercover police and sting operations. Think you won’t be profiled in Texas? Think again. You can expect to be hassled every time you post up for a drink. Wanna smoke a cigarette in the parking lot? Better pay attention to where you through that butt. Think you can go have one beer and then ride that Super Glide home? Think again. You’re on the side of the road getting a sobriety test and having your life story checked out. So here’s my rant: Let’s all do better. Open up our eyes to all those folks that we cut off, that we rev up, and that we blow past on a double yellow line. They already don’t care about us, and now, they are sure that instead of us being “outlaws” we are all a bunch of gangsters.

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