There is nowhere to hide on the open road. It’s just you, your bike and all your dirty little secrets. Long rides leave you rather exposed, they strip away all the superficial nonsense, all your polite societal veneer. If you ride long enough, every last one of your character flaws will get poured onto the pavement for inspection. Eventually, you will have to examine who you really are and if you’re riding in a group, well, they’ll see who you really are too. Simple as that. Do you find that a little to sour? Perhaps you don’t believe it, find it a bit bombastic for biker talk? Are you chuckling at the ramblings of some antiquated folklore or worn out biker code? Well, maybe you’re not a biker after all. The truth is, there ain’t no code, only open road.
What Is A Biker?
Let’s examine that. I own and ride a bike, does that make me a biker? If it does, I live in a city of a little over twenty five million people; of them, India Today reports there are 55 lakh motorcycle owners. One lakh is one hundred thousand…you do the math. Are each of them bikers as well? What exactly constitutes being a biker? Do you have to own a Harley Davidson, be in a motorcycle club, a 1%‘er motorcycle club, wear a cut, be patched? Is there a minimum amount of kilometers you need to have ridden, a minimum amount of saddle time? A thousand km, five years, fifty thousand km, ten years, a hundred thousand km, twenty years? What separates a biker from someone who owns and operates a motorcycle as a mode of transportation?
I am not by any means presenting myself as an expert here, Joe Biker with all the answers. Far from it. But I can tell you what I feel. Pass on the things I have read, share the knowledge I have gathered in conversations with people I consider to be hard core bikers.
That is this, plainly enough. Being a biker is more of a feeling than any set of written criteria; an emotion, maybe a set of values. It has little to do with being in a club, although most are. Like minded people tend to gravitate to each other. It is no secret that members of all MCs (1% or 99%) call each other ‘brother’ and that there is a very deep bond between them. It has little to do with what you ride; but again, that tends to sort itself out. Can a serious biker ride a crotch rocket? I don’t see why not; but would he? Doubtful. It is also my belief, that there is no real minimum time required or minimum distance to be travelled to qualify for the brethren. As long as you adhere to The Biker Code…this is where it gets tricky…
The Biker Code
Are you ready? There ain’t one. That’s the truth, brothers and sisters. There is no biker bible, no ancient scroll, no parchment filled with the wisdom and teachings of our supreme biker guru. It just doesn’t exist. I read a great article not too long ago (I wish I had saved it as to give him proper credit). He said,
“If you’re so sure one exists (a biker code), next time you see a 1%’r walk up, slap him on the shoulder and say ‘it’s all good brother, I’m down with the code’. He will have a great laugh while you are picking up your teeth”.
So where did it come from then? This myth, all these catchy phrases we hear like “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”? If there is no code, what governs behavior? Well, now we are at the cruxes of it, aren’t we? Maybe now my opening tirade makes a bit more sense.
In all MCs there are by-laws of course, and membership requirements. Even those are a little thin. From what I have been told, for the Hells Angels, the only membership requirement is that you’re a white male of 18 years of age. There is expected behavior in most MCs as well. We can run those down :
Be Kind to Women, Children, Animals
Don’t Take Crap (from anyone)
Your Word Is Your Bond
Don’t Steal, Lie or Cheat
Always Help A Brother
Sounds a lot like what your Dad taught you, doesn’t it? Great set of values, good way to live your life; but an official biker code? No. There are unwritten rules, like, never touch someone else’s bike or old lady. Never ask to ride someone’s bike without offering yours. In fact, don’t even ask, just offer yours. The wish for reciprocation is understood and for God’s sake, if your bike is a downgrade, don’t bring it up at all.
Let’s keep in mind here, just because you join an MC, doesn’t make you a biker. Not that you will be a member for long if you’re not. If you’re a wannabe they will sniff you out in a heartbeat. And to be a biker, you don’t have to belong to an MC. Which leads us back to the start of it all, what is a biker?
A Biker Is
For me it’s fairly simple. A biker is someone who loves to ride; who will ride at any opportunity. Someone who enjoys the experience of the pavement rolling under them to get to a destination, rather than the destination itself. You dig that? Twenty hours of riding to some mountain view, spend five minutes looking at it, and you’re itching to get back on the bike and go someplace else.
For me, it’s the feeling that fills my chest when I am on my bike, the freedom, the constant need to break free and answer to the wanderlust calling from the road. It’s the reason we call people in cars “Cagers”, the reason we don’t mind “Iron Butt”. Only true bikers get that…and this “Biker Code”…yea, well, it’s called being a man. For you women bikers out there, I suppose that translates into “be a person of substance”. But you’re a biker, you already knew that.
When I see a bike broken down on the side of the road, of course I am going to stop. If see some guy beating on a woman, or kicking a dog, of course I am going to speak up. When I need to go somewhere, anywhere, I would rather sling my leg over my bike than be in a limo. I wear leather and jean, not a suit and tie; if I get pushed, I push back. I spend more time riding my bike than polishing it and I ain’t afraid of the rain brother…
So, do all those things add up to wearing the title of ‘Biker’? I think they do.