Kulture Clash: If only bikers ruled

By Bob Kay

I would like define “biker” first. When I was growing up bikers rode Harleys, wore jeans and were more or less society’s outcasts. As the popularity of the iconic American motorcycle grew so did the definition of biker broaden to include anyone riding Harleys and then to the point of anyone riding any motorcycle.

One of my favorite jobs is being the North American director for the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. It has opened doors to some wonderful relationships with bikers from all over the world. One thing I have learned is that language is not a barrier when one shares the same passion (custom bike building) with another. Bikers are able to focus on common ground and working out solutions rather than disrespecting people of other opinions and losing sight of the end game. The world has become much too divisive and the biker population is not growing fast enough to overrule the current party structure but we have always been great at supporting candidates that represent freedom and the American way.

Overall the broader definition of a biker has benefited us all mostly because the wider popularity allowed motorcycle companies to invest in new technologies and more relevant models. Being one of those greybeard bikers, I would have been fine with updates for Shovelheads and maybe an Evo crate motor program for builders. But the world is changing and that broader definition of biker requires new models and new technologies including fuel injection, traction control and smaller, more agile, more efficient bikes.

However broad the biker definition gets the market is dependent on us lifelong enthusiasts to spread the word by example about the attributes of motorcycling and its related lifestyle. Sure the crazy parties, late-night builds and fast rides that defined us may not create the same motivation for the new genre of bikers but it is the stuff of lore and legend. Most important is the beginnings of the biker movement at the end of World War II all started as a breakaway from the establishment in search of a new freedom.

As the American biker scene developed the rest of the world was pretty much in a rebuilding mode. The European biker scene had not only caught on but in some aspects surpassed us. For years the two-wheel scene in the rest of the world was pretty much focused around light, cheap alternative transportation. The custom market developed fast, dealt with the TUV (our equivalent to CARB) and our now-focused maintaining the right to modify with some government support.

One of the accomplishments included Intermot Customized which is an entire hall dedicated to custom bikes and the associated lifestyle. It is in one of six halls that house the Intermot Motorcycle Show which draws 150,000 enthusiasts and is bigger than most entire shows in the USA. It is also the home of the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. I have many friends in Europe that go back to the day when Nempco sold upgrades for Harleys to European dealers.

More recently a dedicated biker from Russia, Dimitri, became a good friend. He is a builder and promoter of the Russian custom bike scene. His dream to have a Russian win the World Championship was accomplished this year by a young man from Ziller Customs. On the Friday night of the show all the builders usually get together at a local pub. I sat with the Russians this year and we celebrated with many toasts of Makers Mark. For those who know me that is my drink of choice. These guys were as much biker as any of my brothers of the wind. The language barrier just didn’t matter and we had a great night. This brings me to my point of contention: if we got rid of all the politicians and let bikers run all the governments around the world there would be more partying and all issues would be dealt with in a straightforward manner according to the Biker Code.

This is not likely to happen in my lifetime but it sure sounds sweet. Could you handle no bullshit and rules that lead you to travel your own path as long as it didn’t interfere with someone else’s life? Any government is a self-sustaining organism with self-sustaining being the key rather than looking out for anyone’s good other than its own existence. This is why it is so important to write your Congresspersons and vote for the politicians that at least share your vision of freedom. I voted and I am proud of it. The political landscape is so confusing but that is no excuse to sit by and do nothing. I don’t expect all the changes I want to happen in one term but if I did not vote I would be part of the problem and as a biker I am more concerned about being part of the solution. The midterm elections will be history when you read this and I really don’t believe the major two parties even have bikers’ concerns on their radar. What that means is that it is time for us to be heard again and get politicians to forget about the minimal carbon print that motorcycles contribute and focus on protecting the freedoms that let us all work and play together no matter where in the world we are. Governments don’t get along; people do!

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