BIKER SUBCULTURE: “RIDE TO WORK M.C.”

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Photo by Genghis

DISQUALIFIED AS BIKERS?:
In NYC we walk or take mass transit to work.

lit-mus test


: a test that relies on a single indicator

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I work as a practice manager of an ophthalmology office at the edge of Greenwich Village in NYC, just where the East Village–which is really a subsection of the Lower East Side—hands the ball off to Greenwich Village (often referred to as the West Village). My office is approximately two miles north of where I live. I live right next to the East River and the FDR Drive. The FDR Drive is the main highway in Manhattan, which unwinds along Manhattan’s east coast. The FDR Drive’s old name was the East River Drive. Yesterday, when both my boss and our secretary Doris were on vacation, I rode my Harley 74, Mabel to work. A heavy downpour had just receded, and the streets were still drying. Mabel and I blasted through and around traffic, which was moderately heavy. We blasted through and around, and it was a blast. I got to the office around 8:00 AM, and finished some paperwork before I closed the office early, and rode home. Needless to say, the highlight of the day, was riding my bike.

Let me be perfectly clear on this (don’t ya hate it when Professor Obama says that?): Riding to work is a pure pleasure, and a privilege. That being said, yesterday was one of only two times that I rode my motorcycle to my office in the West Village. The time before yesterday, was 20 years ago.

After I got to within a block of my office yesterday, I parked Mabel and walked to the parking slip dispenser (the slip shows the time it was issued and the expiration time, and one displays this on a car’s dashboard) at the middle of the block. NYC used to have parking meters for each space, but has recently transitioned to these parking slip dispensers. These dispensers, called “Muni-Meters” take coins, dollar bills or credit cards. I put three bucks worth of quarters into the Muni-Meter, and the machine spit out my slip for one hour. Ya see, there’s a one hour limit per vehicle, so if ya want to park for more than the one hour max, then you have to repeat this drill every hour. Since my Harley doesn’t have a dashboard, I Scotch-taped the parking slip to Mabel’s gas cap.

Lessee, there must’ve been a reason I never joined the Mathematicians M.C. Three bucks an hour times eight hours, that comes to $24 a day, a hundred and twenty bucks a week. Who can afford that? Not to mention that you’d have to run out to the Muni-Meter to get a new slip every hour. After the initial hour, that’s seven trips the Muni-Meter a day? You gotta be kidding me. That’s too hassle-intensive fer me, man. Is it any wonder that bikers in NYC don’t ride to work?

There was a campaign a few years ago whose slogan was “Ride to work, work to ride.” Cute slogan, man–but it is a denial of urban reality. Let me state the obvious: The ability of a biker to ride to work depends on logistics. If I lived in a suburban or rural area, there’s no doubt that I’d be riding to work. The great distances between homes and jobs, and the lack of mass transit in these locales, would necessitate riding (or driving) to work. Besides denying urban realities, “Ride to work, work to ride” implies that bikers who don’t ride to their jobs, aren’t worthy bikers. Besides the implication, many commentators of that time editorialized just that contention: That any biker who didn’t ride to work, wasn’t a real biker. I call these people the Ride To Work M.C.—which were absorbed into the larger Litmus Testers M.C.

You’re all familiar with the Litmus Testers M.C. The Litmus Testers M.C. have a whole list of “litmus tests” that must be passed in order for candidates to be considered bikers. Prospects beware. You know the list: Gotta ride every day, gotta ride hundreds of miles a day, gotta wear the approved uniform, ad nauseum. Bikers, who are supposed to be free spirited, have assessed an encyclopedia’s worth of rules, regulations and prerequisites to prospects for the Litmus Testers M.C. The Ride To Work M.C. is merely their nomad arm, attempting to enforce “riding to work” as the chief indicator, of whether you’re a real biker or not.

I once wrote a column for Snow’s Iron Horse, stating that in my case and situation, my Harley was more of a leisure vehicle, a recreational vehicle, than a necessity. I was roasted in the Back Talk section of IH in letters from readers, who felt that it was blasphemy to call a righteous Harley a recreational vehicle. Guess they didn’t want their Harleys lumped in with Winebagos and Airstreams. But the truth has a way of turning out to be the obvious: In NYC, nobody needs a Harley, or a car. Proximity to work and the availability of subways and buses means that a New Yorker can go through an entire lifetime without a drivers license.

Now, I need my Harley, but in a spiritual sense. My Harley 74 Mabel, is the centerpiece of my existence, and I would never be without a Harley—but that is an entirely different issue. In NYC, all one needs is food, water, a roof over one’s head, and the means to get to work. Nowhere in that description of absolute necessities, is a motorcycle. The people that criticized me for calling my Harley a recreational vehicle, were just reacting badly to the connotation of “RV” and ignoring the reality of urban life. These people, were charter members of the Litmus Testers M.C.

There were other times when I did ride to work. There was the time that my good and departed friend Tony DiBartolo got me a one day gig at a construction job on Long Island. I rode my ’68 XLCH “Sally The Bitch” to that job. Tony was my sister Dottie’s boyfriend. When I worked for the Quick Trip Messenger Service in the late ’60s, not only did I ride Sally to work every day, I rode her for work every day. Gotta admit, it wasn’t fun to use her in the grueling tangle of NYC traffic. I did get to ride out of state, to Pennsylvania , Jersey and New England occasionally.

Bikers live in many geographical areas, where each location dictates the practicality of riding to work. In my case, walking the two miles each way is the way to go. Besides, if I didn’t walk that 20 miles a week, I’d need a gift certificate for a Jenny Craig program. Now, which of you bikers readin’ this, isn’t wearing a leather vest? Raise your hands, boys. Who’s not wearing boots? Who didn’t ride today? And did you ride less than 700 miles? Nah, just kidding. Later.

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