First published in,
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 completely 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, like it or not. If you’re riding in a group, they’ll get to see who you really are too. Truthfully, it’s as simple as that. That does sound a little harsh, perhaps you don’t believe it? Do you find my ideas a bit too bombastic for biker talk, or are you chuckling at the ramblings of some antiquated folklore or worn out biker code? Then maybe, just maybe you’re not a biker after all…because 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 alone make me a biker? 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? Do you have be in a motorcycle club? A 1%‘er motorcycle club? Do you need to wear a cut, or be patched? Is there a minimum amount of kilometers you need to have ridden, a minimum amount of saddle time?
So what is it that 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 like Joe Biker with all the answers. But I can tell you what I feel. I can pass on the things I have read, share the knowledge 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 bikers are. Like minded people tend to gravitate to each other. In addition, 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 once again, that tends to sort itself out. Can a serious biker ride a crotch rocket or racing bike? Sure, I don’t see why not; but would he? It is also my belief, that there is no real minimum time required or minimum distance to be travelled to qualify for the brethren.
The desire to ride, to be free, to live by your rules. Not shun society necessarily, but at the very least, to question it. It’s about respect. For your brothers, your bike, your beliefs….as long as you adhere to The Biker Code…and this is where it gets tricky…
The Biker Code
Here is the legendary biker code in a nutshell,…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. There is a shit tonne of talk about it, all sorts of references to it, hell it even gets quoted! But facts are facts, it just plain 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”. That pretty much sums up how every hard core biker I know feels about “The Code”.
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” or one of my favorites “your family will help you move, your brothers will help you move a body.” All very catchy and inspiring, but again, we are faced with the fact that these are concepts. They are feelings. Loyalty, respect, these are things that are expected from bikers as individuals, not demanded. So if there is no code, what governs a bikers behavior? Well, now we are at the cruxes of it aren’t we?
In all MCs (Motorcycle Clubs) there are by-laws of course, and membership requirements. Yet 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. The rules and bylaws vary from club to club, family to outlaw, brand specific to consortiums, weekend warriors to full time wanderers. As stated however, there is expected behavior in most MCs. We can run those down simply enough:
Never Take Shit (from anyone) (ever)
Be Kind to Women, Children, Animals
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 as well like, never touch someone else’s bike or old lady. If your brother tells you something in private, keep it private. 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 a biker in your guts. They will sniff you out in a heartbeat. Most clubs I know have zero tolerance for wanna be’s or posers. Yet to be a biker, you don’t have to belong to an MC. There are plenty of lone wolf, no club no rules types out there who are honest to goodness bikers. Which leads us back to the start of it all, what is a biker really?
A Biker Is
For me it’s simple. A biker is someone who loves to ride; who will ride at any opportunity. Every 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. We are the first person to remove our tie at a wedding, (if we wore one at all), also it’s the reason we call people in cars “Cagers” and 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 I see some guy beating on a woman, or kicking a dog, of course I am going to speak up. If I need to go somewhere, anywhere, I would rather sling my leg over my bike than be in a car or truck. Furthermore I wear leather and jean, not a suit and tie; if I get pushed, I push back twice as *%$# hard. I give respect when I receive respect, if it ain’t my business, I stay out, 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 me wearing the title of ‘biker’? Ya bro, I believe they do.