Biker Cliques – How Did We Get Here?

Waxers. One Percenters. Citizens. Weekend Warriors. You name it, we’ve made up a term to describe it. From Panheads to Crotch Rockets, bikers may not have done too much, but we’ve damn sure got a label for everyone and we don’t do a good job of mixing with others.

You don’t see street bikes rolling with Harleys. Unless there is a reason, in my part of the country, you really don’t even see clubs mixing it up.

Those of you that have read these posts over the years know that I really don’t care what you ride or what you look like – if you’re on a bike, I show you respect until I deem you unworthy of it. I don’t do this out of some misguided philanthropy, just a lifetime spent meeting people of all walks of life. I also don’t really care what other folks do – they have their own crosses to bear and it’s not my job to second-guess how they came up with their own moral compass.

I told you all that to tell you this – last month, Memorial Day here in the States – I decided to ride a few hours northeast of the house and see one of my first COs from when I first got out of the Academy. Now, Captain Gunn was a badass, but after a career in the Navy and a second one turning recruits into cops, he lives outside of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and spends his days fishing and reading. As far as I know, he’s never been on a bike and it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that, either. At any rate, I rode up to see him and ran smack into something I’d forgotten about – Black Bike Week.

It was Bike Week, but for riders who are African-American. Now, I won’t get into all the ways that it’s different from Daytona, or Sturgis, and even though my allegiance was to go and spend time with the Captain, the lure of 100,000 bikes was strong, so I eased over to check it out.

You guessed it – a lot of black folks. What struck me as so cool was one blatantly obvious thing – these riders were on bikes of all shapes and sizes. Road Kings parked by what I think was a new Ducati 1200S (or a regular 1200, who knows?), Crotch rockets riding beside – not screaming by – an old Shovelhead that was in the process of restoration.

Whereas motorcycling in the white world seems to be about finding some little clique you can join – even at the biggest rallies – this one was all about simply riding and having a good time.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of folks have forgotten about that. Brand loyalty, age, skill, even the gear we wear all seems – if you look at it objectively – to be how we judge the content of a rider.

I didn’t see any of that in Myrtle Beach over the weekend. I saw guys riding and having a good time, laughing and joking with other men that may never have been their social equals in other places, all democratized into friends because of their love of bikes.

I enjoyed my visit with the Captain, but I enjoyed the chance to be reminded of one thing that even I forget sometimes – if you ride, you are my friend.

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