Biker children are different from other kids. It’s a known fact. Raised in a world unlike that of their classmates and reared with strict rules that citizen darlings are completely oblivious to, biker kids grow up keenly aware that they are different and I’ve never met one that isn’t proud of the fact. Exposed to the life-and-death realities that their riding parents live daily, biker kids tend to have a sense of community that citizen kids don’t. Our children live beyond themselves and know that families aren’t just about blood.
Though my babies were still in diapers for their first bike rides, a pretty standard rule for most biker kids is to never get on the back of anyone’s motorcycle. SoCal Katie shares that she’s adhered to that rule all her life to the degree that, to this day, she’s never ridden with anyone other than her father, though her husband entertains the idea of buying a motorcycle. Her memories of growing up biker include holidays infused with drop-ins from all walks of the motorcycle community, and that hasn’t changed.
Kristen, who at 11 years old was kickstarting and riding her father’s 1955 H-D Hydra Glide, beamed over the memory that she was paid handsomely for the chore of polishing motorcycles. Still, she shrank with embarrassment when her father pulled up on a bright yellow Yamaha to pick her up from middle school. I giggled at the memory that my girls were subjected to similar experiences except I was on a chopped Sportster, which was also yellow. Eventually my eldest curtly rebuked me with, “Mothers don’t ride Harleys!” Thereafter, she politely asked if she could ride the bus for school.
Like my girls, the SoCal gals grew up riding in the dirt, camping and attending races. They’re familiar with personalities like Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott and Gene Romero. The family garage was always full of motorcycles, and they grew accustomed to the odd animals that dropped by to visit. Both girls cracked up as they reminded each other of the “unsavory character” they knew as Devil Dog and shared that he was just one of many colorful folks they knew to be welcome at the family compound. The constant stream of visitors, however, was nothing they considered unusual, and both girls feel that contributes to their accepting nature since neither tends to stereotype. To this day, people like me still roll in and out of her parents’ home where we’re met with open arms.
Biker kids grow up with minds of their own, capable of independent thought regardless of the popular opinion. A prime example would be a Midwest friend’s son who sold the chopped Shovelhead his dad built as his first bike, deciding girls like sportbikes better. Today, much to his father’s head-shaking, he still rides a rice rocket. And he’s still single.
My kids grew up pitching in at ABATE runs, learned about club colors and bickered over who got to wear the cool helmet with the metal flake stars when tucked in behind a parent. They had a metric-riding dad living in a neighboring state and a Harley-riding stepfather who tended to the daily duties of raising daughters. During summer visits their dad would buy each of them Honda support gear to send home, and by the next visit the step would deck the girls out in Harley duds. The good-natured men enjoyed torturing each other and the kids made out like bandits. As adults, both are Harley devotees, though they do still enjoy watching their dad race his vintage BSA.
Darryl Bassani, who spends his workdays building custom-made exhaust systems for bikers everywhere, opines that biker kids make for better adults. With a more rounded perspective on life, he thinks our children aren’t as apt to throw a tantrum because they don’t get their way. Instead, they figure out how to get what they want and set about making it happen. Our kids are resourceful and resilient and they push societal boundaries.
Biker babies are programmed towards reasoning and learn early on to avoid a hot engine, how to start a motorcycle and to keep their paws off the chrome unless they want to spend Saturdays with a jar of Mother’s and a polishing rag. Dipsticks and pressure gauges are familiar items and strapping down gear is an early lesson in mechanical reasoning.
I watched recently as my eldest, who has two teen boys with dirt bikes, rummaged the garage for cables to jump her Sportster’s dead battery. Her husband shouted at the football game on TV in the house. As we rolled off for our afternoon cruise, I couldn’t help but notice the wave of pride I felt for having raised such an independent and determined woman. I restrained from reminding her, however, that, “Mothers don’t ride Harleys.”