Bike = Bad? Get Over it Already!

    Posted In:
    icon Jul 13, 2006
    icon 0 Comments
Is it me, or is it somewhat surprising to see a river of bikes overtake Bay City? It's about to happen again soon, and I consider it a phenomenal step forward.
I mean, think about this for a minute:
Just a few decades ago, when my in-laws were Bay City residents, a steady stream of thousands of bikers would have been met with nothing less than cringing horror. They would be viewed as a scourge upon the earth that must be cast down with great haste.
After all, these were more innocent times. Back then, a wet T-shirt meant someone got thrown in the pool. In this not-so-distant-past, a rodeo meant horses, not "Hogs".
Back then, if any bikes ascended on any town, the Feds would have been at Defcon 1, the air raid sirens would have been sounded, and J. Edgar Hoover would have soiled his pretty pink tu-tu.
Nowadays, we know that the bad reputation of cycle enthusiasts was short lived and little deserved. It all started in 1947, you see, when a bunch of liquored up ruffians bullied a small Californian town for a fourth of July weekend of very bad behavior. The result of the Hollister Incident, as it is called, was the just the beginning. These bad boy biker exploits made big press and were eventually encapsulated in 1953 film, "The Wild Ones". 
Seeping slowly into the American subconscious as an enigmatic threat, the biker was well on its way to becoming public enemy number one. Before long, the nastiness of biker groups like The Hells Angels were splashed on front pages across the country. ..and, unfortunately, taken to be the norm.
It was patently ridiculous. Senior citizens were driving off the road in panicked reaction to the site of a few motorcyclists riding in tandem. Neighborhood rednecks, apparently hopped up on the KKK potluck dinners, were forming posses and actively seeking out lone bikers to do them some damage. There were two TV channels, Hitler was dead, the Russians had not stormed the border, and mini skirts had yet to be invented.
America was bored.
In the 1960's, a movie producer-type recognized all of this, and, after reading a story in Life Magazine about a Hell's Angels funeral, declared aloud:  "A HAH! Me thinks I have discovered a way to turn a buck!" (or some such other expression of mindless greed.)
And so, the B-movie onslaught against bikers had begun.
Drive in theatres played off-the-rack movies with titles like "Cycle Savages!", "The Hellcats!!", "Savages from Hell!!!, "Werewolves on Wheels!!!!" and "The Rebel Rousers!!!!!"
And who can forget the ever so the subtly titled: "And Then You Die"?
They are laughable now, and some of them are worth watching just to see the paste-on goatees and bad camera angles, but back then? It was some scary stuff.
With all this fabulous money to be made, the media did a real number on the average bike enthusiast, and the friends with whom he shared his interest. Local-yokel law enforcers got a chance to Barney Fife themselves every time some poor schmuck rode through town on two wheels. Dad had yet another excuse to keep his daughter locked down on a Saturday night. And if grandma saw you within a thousand feet of a motorcycle, you were subjected to a full interrogation as to whether or not you had smoked "The Pot".
Never mind that motorcycling, in its many forms, was a legitimate and lucrative sport.
That the original bikers, (not the Hollister-types), were World War II veterans who had served their country well. Never mind that motorized 2 wheelers were originally a whimsical plaything of the social elite.
Set aside the reality of the fact that, during the very same decades of the biker scare, there were still church goin', short haired choir boys stringing people up because they looked or worshipped differentlyŠdoing so in far greater numbers than bikers took to the streets.
Sure, there were rotten apples in the bunch. It's true that the "No Girls Allowed, Boys will be boys, lets-raise-some-hell" mentality overtook a few clubs and led to some truly awful behavior. It's true that clubs like this stillexist. With a broad base of personalities, there always will be the ones who live on the rockier end of the spectrum.
There certainly are the "bad people".
But not all of them ride around on motorcycles.
In my experience, most real bikers, in clubs or not, have a code of ethics to which a few of our "upstanding" American citizens could stand to adhere. Guys like Jimmy Swaggart, for example. Or that Catholic Priest who admitted to the 'you-know-what' with the young you-know-who's? How about that Jackson guy, the one-gloved freak with the pet monkey, and the mummy in his closet?     
How about Ken Lay?
In the real biker culture, guys like this are dealt with.

The majority of bikers I know, who live the lifestyle on more than just the weekend, have specifically defined set of rules to live by. They are family oriented and truly patriotic. They respect one another within their clubs and amongst other clubs. Bikers work, pay taxes, support the economy, and help out their neighbors. They even help little old ladies across the street.
More importantly, and here's the thing that's gonna shock ya folks: Bikers, in the true sense, may not even necessarily feel the need to belong to a "club" or "gang" at all.
As the B-movies fade into distant memory, the American Public has bigger things to concern itself with. While our government trained FBI agents to infiltrate the Hell's Angels, Osama Bin Laden taught a few radicals how to land a plane on a skyscraper.
The big wake up call has changed a lot of things. Now, the perspective on the average rider is seeing a weird metamorphosis. While some of the stigma remains, some seemingly unlikely characters are kicking a Hog. In truth, nothing has changed. It's simply a matter of the public's perception.
The biker of today, much like it has been over many years and despite the bad press, is your dentist, your doctor, your boss and even your pastor. Many are well educated and highly devoted to the public good. Though, as in all cultures, there are still tough guys out there stirring up trouble, the majority of riders marauding the streets and cities of America include senior citizens, soccer moms and, (I still get a giggle out of this, though I shouldn't): Chemists.
Chemists for cryin' out loud!
How exactly, can one picture a chemistŠahŠ pilliaging?
To someone who has met good and bad bikers, (most of them good), this is great news:
The biker has lost his fear factor. He may still be burly, leather clad and long haired, but you may be surprised to know that he is glad to hear that the public no longer fears him. He, and SHE (thank you very much), are just happy to take a bike, Harley or Honda, down any street in the Tri Cities without harassment.
So let me humbly suggest to those of you still veering your car off the road when you see a chopper:
You're missing the point.
In today's biker culture, diversity has made some strange bedfellows. Stop in to this year's Graff Bike Bash in Bay City, and you'll see what I mean. Check out any bike festival, for that matter. Aside from funerals and weddings, in no other social environment will you see the long-haired mechanic break bread with a six figure CEO.
Open mindedness, and an ability to work hard to have their fun, has earned the biker better respect than has been historically given.
So what the hell! Let em' have their boobies, beer, and Blue Oyster Cult.
After all, bikers would just as soon leave the pilliaging to the experts:
The IRS.
That pimply faced, pre-pubescent, no good hacker that keeps hijacking my computer.
Now pass the beer nuts.

Share on:

Comments (0)

icon Login to comment