STAR Touring And Riding Association
Chapter 363 Lake Champlain NY

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Are you a biker?

After riding for some 35 years and owning more bikes than I can count, I am still a little confused when someone asks me the question, "Are you a biker?"

Do I ride? Yes. Do I own a motorcycle? Yes. Do I saddle up often? Yes, usually daily. Is riding a motorcycle the most important thing I do? Yes, right behind being with my family and making a living.

There are many definitions for real biker. Many riders think being a biker means that you ride a scooter constantly and probably don't even own a car. Some think that only Harley riders are real bikers, while others believe that being a club "1%'er" is the key to the biker title.

I've also heard guys say things like, "Real bikers ride in the rain." Well, I guess I'm not a real biker because I drive my cage when it's raining. But I consider that an intelligence issue.

I also hear conversations that if you have a good job and make great money, somehow you have been disqualified from being a real biker because you are now a yuppie or a R.U.B. (rich urban biker). Well, I plead guilty again because I have a pretty good job, and I do okay. I guess I've lost points again on the real biker scale.

Do tattoos, outrageous haircuts or earrings get you closer to the Holy Grail of real bikerhood? How about the folks who ride sport bikes, Gold Wings or trikes? Are they real bikers? Can a Gold Winger ever become a real biker? According to many so-called experts, once you get a Gold Wing, you get busted back down to Private. Zero points on the real biker scale. What happens to a real biker if he suddenly loses his mind and -- God forbid --buys a British bike?

I'm sure many of you are a little like me and wonder what makes a biker and whether or not we qualify. Do I think like a biker? Do I look like a biker? Do I have to dress for work like I dress when I'm riding my scoot to be a real biker? Do I make too much money to be a real biker? Do I have to put bike parts into the dishwasher to be a real biker? Can I take my scoot to the dealership for an oil change and still keep my Real Biker Card?

Recently, as I drove home from work, I came across a young guy pushing his Honda cruiser down a country road. After stopping to investigate, I went home and got my trailer and some tie-downs and came back to help this guy get his scooter home in one piece. It was apparent early on that he wasn't a "true biker," that is, an experienced biker. I didn't know the exact definition of true biker, but I knew he somehow didn't qualify. He would need to serve some time before applying for his Real Biker Membership Card.

After we got to his house and unloaded his bike, he offered payment for my services, and I refused. He thanked me and then proceeded to tell me how he had bought the Honda to go to Sturgis with friends and how wonderful the experience had been. He went into his house and got some photos of his trip to show me. He explained how exciting the whole biker experience had been, how friendly the biker community was, and how surprised he was to feel so welcome. He said he had recently gone through a divorce and the Sturgis experience had rejuvenated him, served as a sort of therapy.

As he explained what had apparently been a life-changing experience, it occurred to me that he was putting into words the whole biker experience from the fresh point of view of someone who had just arrived. He was so excited, it almost made me laugh out loud.

I realized he was describing what being around bikers was all about. It was like he was re-introducing me to an old friend, a friend I had almost forgotten about and was very happy to re-discover. I'd been around bikers for so long I'd forgotten what gives our lifestyle such appeal. I had taken for granted the essence of the experience that had super-charged my Honda-riding friend.

Then he asked me if I was a biker.

Taken off guard but also responding very quickly, I said, "Yes, I am a biker."

For the first time in my life I didn't have a problem understanding the definition of biker. I didn't question my qualifications, brand, style or dress. I'm not even sure I had a Harley T-Shirt on (yes, I own a Harley as well as a Sabre).

It doesn't matter. At that moment, I understood that being a biker was that feeling of comfort you have when enjoying a sport that celebrates the outdoors and a free spirit. It's the feeling you get when you ride alone or the thrill you feel when you hear 100 bikes rumble down the road. It's also the feeling you have when you sit around the fire at night planning the adventure for the next day. It's like those T-shirts that say, "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand."

The experience I had helping a newcomer to the biker world is also a part of the real biker definition. It hit me like some sort of religious epiphany that being a biker was not really what you looked like or what you ride or how often you ride. It was the inner peace that you achieve when you are on that scooter and you're a million miles from work, worry and pressure.

Real bikers are all members of a kinship with no concern for status or wealth. Instead, they have a "Live and Let Live" philosophy, while still watching each others' backs.

After all these years, I've finally discovered the answer to the real biker question. If you get a shiver up your spine when a good sounding scoot goes by, have ever stopped to help another rider in distress, or can't sleep because you're thinking about the morning adventure, don't worry, you're a real biker. It doesn't matter if it's a sport bike, a cruiser, or a dirt bike. If it's got two wheels and you get that special feeling when you saddle up, you get the membership card for life, no questions asked.

Somehow, this two-wheeled piece of steel has become a catalyst for bringing out realness in people. So the next time you see a Gold Wing or a sport bike go by, or you run across a broken down Honda, give the rider the respect he or she deserves, because they probably are a real biker. My Honda friend was. He was a real biker the minute he pulled into Sturgis and got that special feeling.

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Last updated: March 26th, 2011