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
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
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
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
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
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
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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