Biker Identity Crisis – What Am I?


While visiting the Road Runner forum I happened upon a discussion about biker identity. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I’m not the only one to ponder this topic. On the other hand I was surprised at the amount of prejudice against Harley riding “bikers” by self proclaimed “motorcyclists”. Then I visited the HD Forum and found out HOG members like me are ridiculed by most “bikers”. They don’t consider us “real bikers”. Reminds me of the recent hit comedy Wild Hogs!

Do you suffer from a biker identity crisis? Do you consider yourself a biker? Maybe you consider yourself a motorcyclist. Maybe you don’t give it much thought at all.

I started the year of 2007 wanting to be a biker.  I thought riding to bars like The Union Hotel in Port Deposit, Maryland was what riding Harleys was all about. Once I got to these bars I felt something was missing. I just wasn’t getting it. I would buy a beer and look at the other bikes. Then I would get another beer and look at the bikes again. After two beers I had seen all the bikes twice and wasn’t sure what I was missing out on. Everyone else seemed to be having a good time drinking, talking and hanging out. I sadly thought that I just wasn’t meant to be a biker.

Motorcycling didn’t click for me until I joined The First State Harley Owners Group. As a HOG member I got a taste of touring. Seeing the country on two wheels! That’s what it’s all about! Now I lay awake at night thinking of all the great places I want to ride to. I let my subscription to Easyriders expire and started reading touring magazines like American Rider.

Does this make me a motorcyclist? Probably not, I’m still a slave to Harley culture. If it’s not “cool” I can’t wear it! I’m all about denim and leather! Cool patches with skulls, flames, and screaming eagles rule. Tattoos are even better!

Unlike many of my biker brethren, I’m concerned with safety and respect for community. I always wear protective gear, even during hot summer days. Keep in mind helmets are optional in Delaware, so wearing a helmet already makes me the Harley geek. On top of that, I’m sporting stock pipes that hardly make a sound. No rumble, no thunder! I support the AMA’s position “Loud Pipes Risk Rights”, but don’t tell my friends. They’re still making fun of my new quiet bike! I admit I can’t fix my bike if it breaks down. If that keeps me from being a real biker, then so be it.

Where does that leave me regarding my biker identity crisis? Old school hard core bikers will consider me a white collar biker, a credit card cowboy or a biker wanna be. I know I belong to a different breed than the import riders who consider themselves motorcyclists. I’m not about to ride around town on a Gold Wing wearing a fluorescent yellow synthetic jacket and white full face helmet. That might be the safest most visible get up, but that’s not me. I guess I’m some kind of hybrid; half way between biker and motorcyclist.

So what am I?! I declare to you with the whole Internet as my witness that I, Jay Green, am a Harley Davidson Enthusiast! A Harley Davidson Enthusiast has a passion for Harley Davidson motorcycles and everything related to them. I enjoy riding my Harley, talking about Harleys and collecting Harley stuff as much as any old school biker. I like all motorcycles old and new. I respect most motorcyclists regardless of the bike they ride; but Harleys have a special place in my life. They represent more to me than two wheels and an engine. They connect me with America, counter culture and other riders with the same passion!

I value your oppinion, please leave a comment.

19 Responses to “Biker Identity Crisis – What Am I?”

  1. Dave over at Road Grits Cafe had a similar post a few days back, where we discussed how others perceive us as bikers. It’s one thing to get dissed by someone who doesn’t ride, they just don’t understand us, but it’s sad to have it come from another rider.

    Recently, Clutch & Chrome honored me by adding a few of my favorite definitions to their “Biker Dictionary.” The terms I defined were Poser/Biker Wannabe and Garage Jewelry. Check them out to see how I stand on who’s a “real” biker and who is not.

    Since you’ve read my blog, you know how strongly I feel about HOG. I’m saddened to think that any biker would look down on us. I can’t figure any reason for it other than petty jealousy. There are some folks out there who just don’t work and play well with others. I have no problem at all with the “loner” on two wheels, but I do feel sorry for anyone out there who can’t or won’t embrace the true joy of group riding. It doesn’t even have to be HOG. We just had the Iron Indians M/C at our Chili Cook-Off. Sometimes we ride with the Ruptured Ducks. We’re not stuck-up. We’re bikers.

    If you’ve owned a Harley and just didn’t like it, then fine. That definitely gives you the right to be anti H-D. I’d be willing to bet though that 95% of these forum jockeys out there who put down the Bar and Shield have never owned or ridden one. What they say is unimportant, and I do not hear their words.

    Deciding on a whim to dress up like Little Bo Peep in 6″ heeled whore-shoes and thigh-highs is definitely a reason to question your identity. Dressing in leather and Levis and climbing aboard America’s motorcycle is not.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  2. “Deciding on a whim to dress up like Little Bo Peep in 6″ heeled whore-shoes and thigh-highs …” — now that’s a scary image! 😮

  3. I have the unique (or maybe not so unique) ability to argue either side of any agument. This either makes me a master debater or just indecisive. In this case I can relate to many of the offhand comments I have read regarding HOG. Each HOG chapter is different ranging in character to being very much like an MC to some that are run entirely by Rich Urban Bikers (RUBS). My beloved chapter for example is considered “The Ladies Bridge Club” by other clubs in the area because we have alot of female leaders in our organization including our Director (who does a great job). I do think we spend a little too much time discussing menu selection and christmas party decorations rather than riding. I also believe we have a good number of members that might cry if their bikes got dirty. God forbid you take it out and ride it after cleaning it. Chrome is nice, but does it always have to be shiney? I would rather have dead bug guts on mine. Steve Johnson at Motorcycle Philosophy has some very strong feelings about clubs like ours. Since we have no standards for membership and anyone can instantly become a member by paying dues we really aren’t much of a club. Some dealerships give free one year membership to anyone who buys a new bike. This can lead to a club full of first timers suffering from midlife crisis who have no idea about biker etiquette or even how to ride. This can also lead to a very open and welcome experience that gives everyone an equal chance to enjoy our sport. Personally, I love HOG (especially my chapter). But, yes we have Posers giving us a bad name and there is nothing we can do about it. Everyone is welcome and it’s my job as an officer of the club to keep it that way. Just bring your Harley, pay twenty bucks, and we will welcome you with open arms!

  4. I find it sad that we feel it necessary to categorize and stereotype individuals. For each of us is, just that, an individual. I am a girl who teaches math, rides a Harley, hates shopping, is good at laying ceramic tile, likes to get my nails done to match my purple Chuck Taylors, and who thinks it’s great that my hubby got his picture taken with Michelle Smith! How many people do you know like that?

    That being said, if we are going to categorize…a “motorcyclist” in my book is anyone who rides. Whether you pack your saddlebags and take off for a weekend trip a few states away, take your bike to the track and race all afternoon, or gather a few friends and head down-state for lunch at some out of the way café and take the scenic route back home…you are a motorcyclist. I believe that motorcyclists are generally hobbyists. They have a day job, and riding is something that they do in their spare time. They may use vacation time from work to enjoy their hobby a little more than their regular schedule usually allows, but riding does not consume their entire world. Motorcyclists come in all different shapes and sizes—they are young or old, men or women, accountants or electricians. Some wear full-faced helmets and Kevlar gear; others prefer to bare it all to the elements. They ride Harleys, Gold Wings, BMWs, and Hayabusas. They share one thing in common—the joy that comes from riding on two wheels. As far as I am concerned, it is all good as long as it makes you happy.

    A “biker” on the other hand is someone who subscribes to the motorcycle lifestyle 24/7. Their bike is their primary form of transportation. They have a greater bond with the brothers in their club (or “gang”) than their wives and children. Motorcycles consume their entire world. The true “biker” is somewhat of an anomaly.

    The other large subsection of our brothers and sisters on two wheels are in my humble opinion the red-headed stepchildren. (You know, the ones that are technically related to us but we try like hell not to admit it.) These are the “posers.” They spend all of their money fixing up their bikes to be the most beautiful, shiniest, chrome-iest, spectacular works of art that ever dazzled a driveway. They may take a ride to the corner bar or the local bike night so that everyone can gawk at how amazing their bike looks, but posers spend more time cleaning their bikes than getting them dirty!

  5. Steve Johnson’s philosophies on “membership standards” come directly from the Hells Angels. Look here under “How Do I Start a Hells Angels Charter” : I have found that everyone is all for setting “standards,” until they find themselves being the one who doesn’t meet them. I know what you mean about the RUBS and the Mid-Lifes. I probably fit into the Mid-Lifes.

    I have noticed that in our Chapter, the new bikers who just don’t take to it, don’t stay in the club. Those who do, quickly learn biker etiquette, as I did. Those who protest the open, welcoming experience that HOG offers just don’t get it. The very people whom they feel should be excluded don’t end up hanging around too long anyway. Posers fade away and bikers stay, for the most part. Sure, we have a few that hardly ever show up on club rides, but pay their dues every year so they can ride down to the bar on Friday night wearing their rockers and try to “look cool.” Good luck to them, they’ll be with us always, like bad weather.

    Di, sorry if I weirded you out with the Little Bo Peep line, but I did think it was pretty funny!

  6. All good points Joker, thank you for your insightful comment. I see myself as a RUB. Speaking of cross dressing… my teenage idol was Dee Schneider of Twisted Sister. Their song SMF was important to me growing up as I felt it meant that if you are going to label me or blackball me, so what! I would rather be myself, wear that label and be proud of it than conform to the norm. So yes, I might be a RUB and you might be a Mid Lifer. However, I find it ironic that alot of the so called real bikers don’t ride very far. Regarding the Little Bo Peep outfit with 6″ heels and theigh high stockings. That look might not be all bad on the right person in the right place. It might be a close second to a French Maid outfit.

  7. OK, baby…you can stop shopping in the Fredericks of Hollywood catalog now 😉

  8. Doesn’t matter what you ride, as long as you enjoy riding, just as I and many others do. Don’t worry about people classifying you – just enjoy!!

  9. Thanks Beaker. Good to hear from you. Hope you are released from your work assignment soon and can go home and cruise down under.

  10. I commented on my blog. I tried to write my views here but it turned into an essay. heh. I agree with what you said and believe me, I meet people every day seem to be suffering on this subject. All I can do is offer some humble offerings from my pie-hole. I like the last paragraph that Princess Di wrote. They will fade away. Hopefully the rest of us will still be here.

  11. Click on “I commented on my blog” in the above comment by Dave to read his essay on this subject. Dave’s essay touches on biker identity but also answers my previous post on “Why Do We Love Harley Davidson?”

  12. One more thought on this:
    Riding in the frigid cold does not make you a “real biker.” It just means that you are a little crazy! Some of us don’t mind cold, others don’t mind heat, others don’t mind dark, others don’t mind rain. It doesn’t make us any better than any of our brothers and sisters on two wheels. It just makes us all individuals. 🙂

  13. I personally ride for myself. What anyone thinks of what I ride or when or how I ride doesn’t matter to me. Am I a biker? Am I a motorcyclist? I don’t really know or care for that matter. What I do know is that I’ve owned several brands of bikes over the years and have enjoyed all of them.
    Granted my riding style has changed in that time frame as well. Currentyl I enjoy an Electraglide Standard and do some fairly long rides. I also commute, go grocery shopping, and just tool around town on her.
    My point is this, don’t get all tied up with lables so much that you miss the pleasure of the journey. I rode just under 17,000 miles last year but even so I don’t concider myself hard core. I’ve had others call me that.
    My bike will never be the cleanest ride around. I went through that stage back when I had my 97 Road King. Now a days I’d rather ride her than rub on her.
    I could care less wether you ride a V-Rod or a Vespa. Ride because it’s what you ejoy.

    Ride Safe


  14. I have to agree to some points. It’s all about riding! Bike the story started off by Jay saying he wanted to be a biker. That is a label and there are things that come with that label that he wants put on him. I have been riding for 37 years. I am a hardcore rider, a Biker and a biker chick too boot. It’s not about the chrome or how pretty the bike is. Its how you see yourself inside. Bikers breath and live Bikes. Ride to Live and Live to Ride is just not a patch that you got from the Bike Rally you attended. You ahve to have motorycle oil instead of blood cells. you live and breath motorcycles (mainly your own). Your vehicle becomes secondary as was mentioned or sold and only the motorcyle is your only mode of transportation. Bikers are a certain breed of people and the word is used too much on people who are not bikers. If your a weekend rider only then a label can be put on you as a “wannabe”. Do you take off your suit at the end of the day and put on your riding gear to come home from work?
    It’s not about bars or clubs that makes you a biker. Attitude is what it is about. Do you think about how you look when you get to your destination? Do you wear the latest garb to look cool? Because you have a Harley does not mean your a biker either. A motorcycle is a motorcycle and the one who lives and breath his or her motorcycle is on their way to being a biker. Its easy to see where your at in this label that so many people want. Basically you have to change your ideas on how you ride. Are you ready to do a tranfusion of your blood to motocycle oil? Are you ready to let your Levi jacket get so dirty and oily that it is now water proof? If all those simple criteria isn’t met, then you either have a way to go or you can be a Motorcycle Enthusiast. But do yourself a favor. if you find yourself the latter, dont try to be what your not because that brings on the negative labels. The bikers will see this right away and the last thing you want to be is a wanabe or a poser. Jay needs to re-evaluate that word, “BIker” and make some adjustments to it.

    Live to Ride and Ride to Live – Ride Safe,


  15. Thanks for your comment Candy, or Gale. I checked out your website and it is very interesting.
    It seems like February was a long time ago when I wrote this post and I have since come to the same conclusion you have. I think you and I agree on what a true “biker” is. I think you and I agree, I don’t live “the lifestyle” and therefore I am a motorcycle enthusiast and not a biker. By our terms I will never be a biker. I just got back from a 700 mile Labor Day weekend trip and I know I’m not a wanabe or a poser. I put on way too many miles for that, but my miles are well planned recreational trips. You are right, I need to just be myself and not try to be something else. I have become alot less biker fashion conscience since last year. I no longer where the cool wanabe Harley boots. I just wear my workboots… because they work. I know now that the bikers and everyone else will respect me more if I just be myself and don’t try to be a imitation biker.
    Thanks again for your comment, I hope you come by more often and share your insights on our more recent posts.

  16. I have been on a harley since 1973,yeah life was differant back then,I was and still am a Hardcore motorcyclist,been there done that,one of my brothers is suck like you guy’s Want to be “bikers” dress up one the week-ends,like halloween,and thinking your your the thoughest thing that hit the assphalt, It’s your gig you turned being a real biker into a joke,Have fun ,and enjoy riding,99%ers

  17. Thanks Monk.

  18. I think the problem here is similar to what a lot of military guys are feeling about letting openly gay people into their ranks. The perception, in both the case of the military and the biker community, seems to be that all these new ‘undesirables’ will water down their tough guy image in the eyes of John Q. Public. As a retired military member I can totally understand and empathize with this attitude, as I admittedly shared the same belief. So I have no issues with MC members looking down on us lowly HOG members and our ilk. They share a level of commitment to the lifestyle way beyond our own and have my respect for that.

    Personally, I don’t care what anyone thinks I am. I am admittedly not committed enough to the lifestyle to join a MC. However, my bike is my primary transportation. I ride every day and I do it because I enjoy it. I wear my HOG vest on HOG rides and am not ashamed of it. If all of that makes me a poser or wannabe in some people’s eyes so be it. It’s my life and I live it for me, not to impress other people.

  19. Good comment Rob. I hope you come back and comment some more.

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