BIKERS IN THE 194Os: Made of the same cloth as us.
You may have noticed, that all of my recent writing has been on this WordPress hosting server, that I have my “BIKER SUBCULTURE” website on. I switched to WordPress a couple of years ago, when it seemed that the Tripod hosting server that I had my “GOING THE DISTANCE” website on, might go out of business. I couldn’t take the chance of losing articles beyond the articles I already had stored at Tripod, if Tripod did not survive. WordPress is a stable platform, that seems like it will survive and thrive in today’s competitive blogging world.
Just last week, all of my “GOING THE DISTANCE” articles disappeared without a trace, and without explanation! There was no notice from Tripod about the company’s disappearance from the ‘net. Chat on the internet for a couple of days after Tripod disappeared, formed the consensus opinion, that the Tripod server finally bit the dust, and suddenly went out of business.
I lamented the loss of my over two hundred GTD articles I had stored at Tripod, but what could I do? After a few days, Tripod was inexplicably restored to the internet (maybe they got bought out, or found a financial backer), along with all of my old GTD articles, which you can once again, find at “GOING THE DISTANCE”. I’m grateful for that, but am still going to err on the side of caution, by confining my writing to this WordPress site. But at least all of those old GTD articles are available for viewing.
PEOPLE LIKE ME
I give a lot of thought to the bikers who preceded us, our forebears who populated the Biker Subculture since the early 1900s. I tend to date the Biker Suculture to 1936, when the first of the “Big Three” (the Big Three being the Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead), the Knucklehead, was introduced to the world. I guess you could say that I’m an OHV chauvinist.
But to be fair, the Biker Subculture should be dated back to 1903, when The Firm first opened it’s doors, of that little Harley-Davidson shack of a factory that materialized out of nowhere. I will say this about the relative significance of brands other than Harley in the culture: I believe that Harley-Davidson motorcycles, have been the very backbone of the Biker Subculture, rendering other brands insignificant by comparison. Which is why I date the true birth year of the subculture, as 1903.
Even though I feel a more intimate familial relationship with bikers who first rode Knucklehead OHVs in the late 1930s, it is undeniable that Harley riders of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s–displayed the same type of True Biker dedication to their motorcycles, as their descendants who rode the later Big Three bikes. The punched ticket to the membership of the Biker Subculture, is a total and unyielding love, attachment to and riding of one’s bike. Who am I to say, that a Flattie rider of the early 1930s, did not demonstrate this type of dedication to his Harley?
Photo by Genghis
LOVE FOR MY SHOVEL: Replicates earlier bikers’ feelings.
A biker’s placement of his motorcycle as the epicenter of his existence, is what separates the biker from others who may ride motorcycles, but do not venerate their bikes. A biker’s motorcycle is alive in a way that is unfathomable to mere enthusiasts, who view their machines as dispensable and inanimate objects. Bikers’ naming of their motorcycles, is commensurate with how bikers perceive their bikes: as members of their human families.
Bikers of today, have a linkage to the earliest members of the Biker Subculture of the early 1900s. When I look at my venerable 1971 Super Glide “Mabel,” I see what fired up the hearts and minds of bikers who looked lovingly at the Harleys of their era. When bikers today ride their Harleys, they are experiencing the same mystical and magical emotions and thoughts, that bikers felt, when they rode their bikes in the past.
Bikers belong to a vast family, stretching back decades into the distant past. This is a past rich with superlative machinery and a strength of human character that renders bikers as a tribe apart from general society, even though bikers are a part of general society.
This is a familial linkage back to the past that you can feel, when you ride your bike. It is emotional and real. When your bike eats up the blacktop, it harkens back to a time when some Knucklhead rider of the late 1930s, might have traveled over the same territory as you, rejoicing in the sights and sounds, much as the way that you do.
I often have this fantasy, of my bike and me being transported back to 1910 in a time machine. In this fantasy, bikers of the 1910s are blown away by my 1971 Shovelhead Stroker–how she sounds, how she boogies down the roads of the era, and yet—these bikers recognize this Harley sister in a genetic way–and recognize me as a biker brother in the same way—that only a familial linkage can explain. This is because, these bikers are people like me. Later.