Will the Real Bikers Please Stand Up
By Walter F. Kern
Part 1: On the Road with Real Bikers
NOTE: May 23, 2015 - This is yet another update to a story I wrote many years ago and appears below. The latest, as almost everyone has heard about by now, involves the arrest of about 170 bikers in Waco, TX after a horrific shootout between rival groups of bikers. See 1 and 2 for some background. Almost 15 years ago I wrote this article to try to define Real Bikers. At that time an incident in Nevada resulted in a nation-wide reaction against all motorcyclists. I tried to better define what makes the vast majority of motorcyclists and bikers different from the "biker" image being written about and televised about in the media. It would appear that not much as changed in the image of the biker or motorcyclist.
This weekend, is the 28th annual Rolling Thunder® Rally in Washington, D.C. It brings the image of the biker also to the forefront but in a manner for good in both supporting our troops and trying to keep a strong public focus on the need to account for our Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA). Television screens and cellphone smartphones and tablets are filled with new images of men and women on motorcycles riding cross-country to converge on Washington, D. C. in support of the POW/MIA cause. This is a good image. I and my wife have ridden in Rolling Thunder® and found the same kinds of good people who ride motorcycles that we have known over the years in various motorcycling groups.
NOTE: October 8, 2013 - 12 years ago I wrote the following article to try to define Real Bikers. At that time an incident in Nevada resulted in a nation-wide reaction against all motorcyclists. In the following I tried to better define what makes the vast majority of motorcyclists and bikers different from the "biker" image being written about and televised about in the media.
Now, motorcyclists and bikers have been subjected to intense media strutiny for the actions of a swarm of riders in NYC who saw fit to engage a young family in an SUV. Already, we are hearing that legislators want to crack down on riders so this doesn't happen again ... Here we go again.
On a personal note, I was once made aware of a swarm of bikers as they sped toward me in my rear view mirror at speeds well above the 65 mph limit I was traveling. There was no attempt to travel in staggered formation. Bikes took up all three lanes and then passed me. One rider pulled directly in front of my motorcycle trike about a car length in front of me and leaned around to look at me and my trike. Perhaps he had never seen a trike before. I don't know. But the experience was unnerving since I didn't know what his intention was. Finally, he faced forward and sped away from me chasing the swarm and riding came back to normal for me.
We have all seen riders weaving in and out of traffic, doing stunts, and causing problems. Again, these are the tiny minority of riders who are not real motorcyclists or real bikers. Let's try to separate out the outlaw elements from the real riders.
Now read my article from almost 15 years ago:
From time to time, an event or two involving outlaws who ride motorcycles is publicized in the press and on TV. "Bikers Brawl with Ballbats" or "Bikers Battle in Casinos," the TV promos ring out during the commercial breaks. "More at 11." Who are these bikers?
I've been riding for 12 years, not as many as a lot of riders but I do get around. Three of those years have been spent right here reporting about the things that are going on in the motorcycling world. Yes, the public mostly knows us as "Bikers," those tough looking bearded riders clad all in black and bent on destroying the next town and kidnapping all their young women... I think it's time for a reality check. Where are the real bikers?
I went out among about 5000 real bikers this weekend at two events here in New Jersey. I did a lot of listening and kept hearing things like, "Did you hear they canceled the charity run? Too much bad publicity lately from outlaw elements 2000 miles away."
Yeah, that makes sense. We have a lot to worry about if those outlaws decide to ride 2000 miles to tear up a local event.
Others were saying, "Events about bad bikers are making it tough for the rest of us. No one even wants to come out to a charity event for fear that rival motorcycle 'gangs' will converge on the scene and kill us all."
Give me a break!
The bikers we are all hearing about make up less than 1/100 of one percent of all motorcyclists. They are a tiny minority of the so-called one-percenters that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) once defined as the outlaw element in motorcycling.
I've even heard riders say that they were scared to go to certain biker rallies because violence might occur. Even the big, well managed touring rallies may be hurt by this misguided opinion.
So, what is really going on out there? This weekend my wife, Jane, and I attended an open house held by my local Honda motorcycle dealer here in New Jersey. It was a great event with pinstriping, demo rides, a free band, food, extreme motocross jumping, a fashion show of motorcycle apparel, and a chance for whole families to bring the kids and look at bikes. The town supplied one policeman to handle the 2000 people attending the event. Everyone had a great time. Guess what? That's what happens at almost every other motorcycle event held in the USA and there are thousands yearly.
I took some pictures of this event. They appear in a link at the bottom of this page. You might notice that these real bikers are having a good time and not one fight broke out.
The next day, Jane and I rode over to the PNC Arts Center where several thousand real bikers gathered for an annual run sponsored by the Blue Knights law enforcement motorcycle club. This run is escorted so the entire trip is made without paying tolls or stopping for any red lights. The complete complex of parking lots was soon filled with bikes.
I noticed many press members there. In fact, one photographer singled out Jane and me on our twin his-and-hers Gold Wing trikes and began snapping pictures. He came over and asked our names and said that he wanted to show that bikers do not all fit the image normally projected in the media. Maybe I found a convert.
The ride got underway after a bike blessing ceremony and the police worked their magic to keep cars off the roadway until all 2000 bikes had passed. The destination was a popular shore attraction in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. Proceeds from the ride will benefit the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation and the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation.
I took some pictures at the starting and end points. Click the link at the bottom of this article to see them. Again, a great ride with no problems at all. In fact, the local residents along the route were out sitting in their lawn chairs and waving madly as we passed. It felt good to be participating in an event that everyone was enjoying and which would help support two charities.
When I returned home and thumbed through the local paper, I was brought back to the non-biker's version of reality. Three more local biker events had been canceled because local officials felt there was too great a risk of gang violence just because a few hundred real bikers would be gathering together to have fun and donate funds to local charities. Quite sickening.
The next page talks about "bikers" vs "motorcyclists" and the public's perception that we are all "outlaw" bikers.