“JUNK BIKE LITES”
Photo by Genghis
CURRENT MAGAZINE CONTENT: Building junk customs.
EXCERPT FROM A RECENT MAGAZINE:
“I built this from scratch…..Original bike was a junked Honda…”
This excerpt tells you all you need to know about the state of biker magazines these days. Mainly, that magazines that purport to be about the biker subculture, have ceased to be about the culture. Instead, these rags have morphed into specialty magazines about bike building, not about biker culture and philosophy. Today’s pseudo-biker magazines have gravitated from the sociological study of the biker subculture, to a clinical look at the mechanics of building bikes from junk. The cogent question of “Who’s a biker?” is now “Who can build the best junk custom?”
Upon first inspection, these magazines might still appear to the naive, to be about bikers, but they’re not. After all, you’re still seeing pictures of “choppers” and their builders congregating at magazine-sponsored rallies and events. You can’t blame the naive non-bikers who now form the majority of the readership of these rags–what do they know? However, when you carefully examine each issue of these pseudo-biker magazines, you’d be hard-pressed to find even the occasional mention of the term “biker.” Don’t believe me? Just pick up a random issue of a magazine and find the term “biker.” Quite a challenge, isn’t it? You might find an occasional stray “biker” here or there, but that’s about it. Make no mistake about it, this is no mere unintentional oversight. It’s not about the “biker subculture” anymore, but about “junk bike culture.”
This shift away from true biker philosophy to the purely mechanical, allows magazines to tacitly approve junk bikes made from Hondas and Yamahas, and other assorted junk brands that were heretofore shunned by the biker subculture. This has the obvious effect of luring to the readership rolls, non-bikers who don’t have a clue regarding biker subculture history and traditions. These types of riders from outside the biker subculture, are open to junk bike trends, makin’ em “Junk Bike Lites.” No self-respecting biker worth his 60 weight before this shift in emphasis from true biker philosophy to the emotionless, clinical building of junk customs, would’ve been caught dead on such bikes.
This is a shift to an artificially created state, known as the “junk bike culture.” This junk bike culture is frequented by Junk Bike Lites, who’re happy to assume an-all-of-a-sudden tough image, as a result of building junk bike customs–an image sponsored by junk bike magazines. “Hey, if the magazine sez we’re righteous on our Hondas, then I guess we are!” To the naive non-biker, such approval passed on by their favorite magazine is a powerful ego-boost.
No self-respecting biker of the present day, would be caught dead on a hacked-up Honda. These are not true bikers who build these scrapheaps. They’re the Junk Bike Lites with one foot in the junkyard and the other foot in the magazine, staddling a Junk Bike Culture that’s a collaborative effort of magazine and Lites. What has changed is not the biker subculture, but the way that it is distortedly represented by these magazines. Previously, the gold standard for finding the basis for a righteous bike, were barn finds, the discovery of unadulterated Knucks or Pans for the price of a song, nestled in some rural citadel. Now, the false depiction of the culture revolves around finding dilapidated junk in a junkyard, so that the “builder” can slap together a faker’s monstrosity and submit it to a magazine’s letters section, for the glorification of the junk bike and its Junk Bike Lite builder.
This shift to Japanese junque customs, is accompanied by an overall deterioration of the condition of the bikes seen in these magazines, even Harleys. You see it in the popular acceptance by these magazines’ readers, of the lower standard for the conditions of the motorcycles featured. It is now acceptable and “normal” to have grossly chipped paint, ratty looking exhaust wrap, and rusted out hunks of the majority of the bikes’ components. The glib answer when a biker who takes pride in the condition of his Harley asks, “What’s up with this junk?” is…“Hey man, it’s a rat bike, whaddya think it is…what’s your problem?”….as if that explanation makes it allright for ratbikes to be a majority trend in the biker subculture. I’ll tell ya what: It isn’t.
It used to be that righteous biker rags would show the occasional rat bike as an anomaly. Now, rat bike philosophy is being sold to the naive public, as the norm. Rat bikes in these magazines seem to be the rule rather than the anomalous exception. This shows not only a deterioration of motorcycle magazines, but also in the nature of their readership as well. There has been a massive influx of readers who are not bikers. These people who have such a low standard for their bikes, that they resort to looking for their potential customs in junkyards.
In the 1990s, we had the invasion of the Biker Lites, YUPs who had too much money and too much time, who invested in a short-term interest in motorcycles. They soon faded into obscurity, and retreated back into their country clubs to play golf instead of playing biker. Now, we have an unflux of Junk Bike Lites, outsiders to the biker subculture, who’ve adopted as their temporary mission in life, building hacked-up Japanese junque customs to augment their collective image. Other hangaround Junk Bike Lites are along for the ride, who make sure that their Harleys are rusted enough, paint-chipped enough and adorned with enough rat bike paraphernalia, to qualify ’em for magazine covers. Gotta have a 50/50 rust/motorcycle ratio, man. Can’t have too much motorcycle, that wouldn’t be cool! The remedy: Strip the paint and chrome away, and let ‘er rust! Rest assured though, that these magazines are not biker magazines. They’re junk bike magazines meant for the Junk Bike Lites that read ’em. Later.