(Originally Posted by Creeping Jennie on Monday, 05 October 2015 in Sturgis.com Blogs)
I'm old enough to remember the days when bikers were not welcome in most businesses during the first week of August anywhere in the Black Hills. They were dirty, smelly, uncouth, they stole gas, dined and dashed, drank and fought. People who enjoyed riding motorcycles, but were not part of the "biker" lifestyle distanced themselves from the "biker" title. "Oh I have a bike, but I'm not a BIKER."
As with most American icons, over the years Sturgis went from being a dirty little secret known by only the true coinsurers of the biker culture to a well-known "bucket list" item, palatable to the average Joe. Now it seems like everyone wants to be a biker.
Here in the Black Hills, bikers are not thought of as the menacing thugs that they once were. Almost everyone rides, or at least has a Harley in the garage, even if it may only see light of day a few times a year. I know this is not the case in other places, and I have seen it for myself.
For example, although many Australians enjoy riding motorcycles, and even their postmen ride around on "postie bikes," those who choose to ride Harley Davidson motorcycles are considered to be a criminal element. I will never forget the time I experienced this. I went to Australia to visit my then fiancé, now husband Gregg. It was Christmas time, and of course, since seasons are opposite to what is occurring in the northern hemisphere, it was summer. We decided to go for a ride, so we geared up and fired up Gregg's bright orange Ultra. The only way this bike could have been made to look less threatening would have been to paint it pink, not neon orange. Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful bike, but it was a cushy dresser- it did not conjure up images of a scary thug. And of course, in Australia, helmets are mandatory. As we were riding, I realized that I had forgotten to put on my usual layer after layer of sunscreen, so we stopped at a rest area. I pulled off my helmet, and started applying sunscreen just as an older couple parked near us. They were staring intently at us as they approached us, passing by to go to the rest rooms. As per my usual behavior, I smiled and greeted the couple. "Beautiful weather for a ride!" They seemed surprised that I had spoken to them, smiled uneasily, nodded, and scurried faster away. I thought, "How odd. It's like they are afraid of me." I chalked it up to me being an American, and we went on our way. As we rode through towns, I noticed something peculiar. When we stopped at a stop light, people on the sidewalks next to us pulled their children closer, clutched their bags in fear, shot us horrified looks, and moved away. What. The. Hell. We were just two people out for a ride on a FUCKING TRAFFIC CONE. I was a school teacher, for fucks sake.
At the end of the day, I shared my observations with Gregg. He told me that this was not an unusual reaction. He told me about how the police there leave the crotch rocket riders alone, but harass the Harley riders. In Australia, the police don't have to have probable cause to pull you over, search your vehicle, and make you submit to drug and alcohol testing. Harley riders have an undue reputation for being violent, drug taking and dealing degenerates, even if they look like Barbie and Ken. Even if Ken rode bitch on Barbie's pink Sporty. Even if the Pope rode bitch on Barbie's pink Sporty. I was floored. It certainly sparked a lot of thought in me, and made me all the more thankful that I am an American.
Bikers are a funny breed. Many try very hard to pare themselves down to fit into the biker box, yet post memes in social media about how society shouldn't stereotype bikers. How many people do I know, in various levels of depth, who seem to require themselves to sport some type of HD merchandise every day? Many people even craft their own custom items, ranging from clocks and calendars, hair accessories, furniture, and anything else you can imagine, all emblazoned with the Harley Davidson logos, featuring the company's trademark black and orange colors. It's now totally acceptable, and encouraged, to proclaim to the world that you ride one particular brand of motorcycle. You can even join a club devoted to the brand.
Of course, if you are active in the motorcycling community, you know that there is more than one brand of bike, and more than one "type" of biker you can be.
If you wish, you can ride a bike that LOOKS like a Harley, but it's not, smug in your own satisfaction that you did not buy into the Harley merchandising pitfall. I mean, you can make great strides and efforts to dress, sound, walk and talk just like the Harley "koolaid drinkers," but you feel secure that riding a different brand makes you superior.
You can be the type who goes out of his way to prove he's not a RUB, and "If I have to explain, then you don't belong." This guy was a biker way before it was cool, even though he was only four years old when they burned down the shitters in the park, and has only been riding for five years. His kickstart proves how old school he is, right? He wants the rally to go back to the old days. You know, when he was in diapers.
You can be the stereotypical RUB if you wish. You need a fully custom, tricked out (fill in the blank with whatever is trendy) machine, a pristine leather riding vest purchased complete with the patches already sewn on, because fuck sewing machines. This midlife crisis has your name on it! Your wife of 25 years is concerned that you will fuck everything that moves at the Rally, but hey, what happens in Sturgis stays in Sturgis, right?
You can be the type of biker who doesn't even own a bike. Many of these are over the road truckers who don't actually own a motorcycle, but one day they would like to buy one and go to Full Throttle Saloon. Biker, trucker- what's the difference?
You could be the guy who actually did witness the Honda up the tree, and the burning of the shitters in the park. You actually were there, but of course, "I didn't see nothing, hehe." Strange how many of these guys are out there. There must have been ten thousand of you guys! I have seen you everywhere on the internet! Considering that this happened over thirty years ago, and the younger of these participants would have been about twenty at the time, and the oldest in their sixties. With the average life expectancy at 78 years old, one might expect that about half of the park riot participants would have passed by now. A full quarter of those remaining would be computer illiterate, considering the age group. Yet strangely, I seem to encounter an inordinate number of you guys. How is that possible? You fuckers have found the fountain of youth!
Maybe you can be one of those guys who likes to hang out with your buddies in a pseudo club. You all run around in your club attire, frowning menacingly in bars. There's generally some middle aged hanger on following the crew around like a lost little puppy, hoping to be mistaken for one of the "bad guys." You're not really bad guys, but you do want to be seen as such.
You might be the little guy who has balls so big that he puts snow tires on his bike and rides all fucking winter. He goes to as many rallies as he can, and does volunteer work for his local ABATE chapter.
You might be the chick who didn't wait for some man to make her bitch. She got her own bike and rides the hell out of it. She's not some little Barbie, she's real woman, and she won't take shit from you.
You might be the guy who rode dirt bikes as a kid. He grew up fiddling with a broken down motorcycle, and figured out how to build them. Now that he has a wife and kids, he has given up the crotch rockets for something more relaxing- a Harley- even if he can only manage to get on the bike about once a month or so.
You might be one of those guys who has to wear his helmet all the time, you might be one who never wears one. Perhaps you are clean cut, or maybe your scruffy beard and long hair have to be tied down when you're on the scoot.
Maybe none of this shit really matters at all. In fact, I dare say none of it matters at all. Who gives a fuck what you ride, where you ride, when you ride, why you ride what you wear when you ride. It only matters that you do.
I'm not trying to fit into any particular image, type, or box. I just want to ride.