What is a ‘Biker’? A good and sometimes confusing question. Is a ‘biker’ a Harley rider with a leather vest and a pudding pot helmet, or is it someone who simply rides a motorcycle?
The other evening, over green chile crab enchiladas and cold beers my friend Rob Dale from Canada and I pondered the question. Rob is spending a month riding around the US visiting friends and taking in the sights. Rob is Senior Pastor at the Bikers Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and by his own description, a ‘biker’. Rob does ride a Harley, and yeah he wears a leather vest and a pudding pot helmet, but his description of a biker is quite different than what most people would think.
When I told someone once that I rode motorcycles, the first comment was “So, you’re a biker,” followed by the question, “Do you have a Harley?” My response to both was “No, I do ride motorcycles but I’m not a ‘biker’ and no, I don’t own a Harley, I ride a Honda.” I remember the look on the person’s face as almost disappointment.
Back to the question of what is a biker? Most of us equate ‘biker’ with the Marlon Brando character in the ‘Wild One’, or Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in ‘Easy Rider’, the guy…or gal, that rides past you on a very loud Harley Davidson scaring the bejeebers out of you. Big boots, lots of leather, tattoos and attitude…that’s a biker. Well, maybe not.
Years back, I was riding a little Triumph Daytona 500 up in the Los Padres National Forrest and wouldn’t you know it, just as I was about ready to turn around and head home..it quit. English hunk o’ junk. There I was on the side of the road with a dead bike, wonderful, just freakin’ wonderful. Now this was in the days before cell phones; hell…this was still in the days of rotary dial phones..so I am stranded. Then the road started to rumble.
Earthquake? Well, sort of… a group of riders heading up the road on big bikes and wearing jackets that I recognized from a rather well known and not necessarily well liked motorcycle club. A few went by then a couple stopped a ways ahead of me and then a few more and I was surrounded. As you can imagine, I was a little more than nervous. One rather large guy came up and asked if I was Ok and what was the problem? I wasn’t sure of the problem. Another equally large guy came up and said he worked on Triumph. To make a long story short, within about twenty minutes my little Triumph was running great, I mean better than it had for a long time. After thank you’s were said and well wishes for a good ride the ‘bikers’ headed on and I headed home.
Rob and I talked about ‘bikers’ for quite a while. He called me a ‘biker.’ Me? I ride an old BMW, a kind of old Triumph and a little old Honda 350. Marlon Brando or Peter Fonda I’m not. I’m not even Rob..but in his eyes, I’m a biker. But why? Well, we came to the conclusion that the motorcycling community is a big family if you want it to be. I was helped on the side of the road by motorcyclists I didn’t know. I invited a fellow rider I didn’t really know into my home for the night. Riders often wave at each other on the road and non riders ask why? My answer is, well, we’re a small part of society and we have a unique bond.
So, if waving at each other on the road, helping some poor guy stuck on the side of the road or inviting a fellow rider over for supper makes me or you a ‘biker’..I’m proud to be a ‘biker’.