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A Guide to Bikers

By Noah W. Gorin

Ah, the two-wheeled community. 'A more wretched hive of scum and villainy…' Or so the conventional wisdom would have it. The truth of the matter is far more involved. In an attempt to correct some stereotypes, reinforce others, and generally speaking impose my will on the Zeitgeist, may I present Noah's Arbitrary, Yet Incisive, Guide To Bikers:

The Supercategory: Urban Bikers

This Guide will concentrate primarily on the varieties of rider commonly encountered at gatherings in the population centers of the United States. I'm not all that concerned with rural motorcycle riders, who, unless they're attending a small, exclusive liberal arts college, tend to be just like rural pickup-truck drivers.

Harley Riders:

Easily discernible by their dress (jeans jacket and leather vest, long beard, tattoos, beer gut), grooming (last bathed during the Carter Administration), and attitude (kill kill kill). Actually, this is a famous (and typically inaccurate) stereotype, the "bad 1%" spoken of during what I will refer to as the Hell's Publicists period of bikerdom, circa the 1960's. Think Roger Corman, "Easy Rider," stars-and-stripes paint jobs. The reality, of course, is quite different. Most Harleys these days cost anywhere between $12,000 and $25,000, not including an oil pan to catch the drips, which is also a no-longer-accurate stereotype (most HDs now sell with a four-year warranty). You know that old Arab proverb "It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven?" Well, in a similar vein, it ain't exactly cake to be a true American rebel who also has twenty grand in disposable income. Which brings us to our Harley rider categories:
RUBs: Rich Urban Bikers
By far the most common variety of HD enthusiast, RUBs are well represented at such gatherings as Sturgis and the Love Ride. They often emulate or imitate the Real Thing (see next category), the primary difference being that RUBs are typically highly educated professionals, with enough disposable income to afford a disposable identity. RUB wives can usually be categorized into two camps: 1) the Witch/Harpy/Shrew, fountainhead of the cold, clear, pure waters of Mid-Life Crisis, which seep longingly into hubby's mind and fill him with dreams of unreachable freedom, or 2) the Complicit Accomplice, she who, stuck with the Good Provider, wishes deep in her heart of hearts that she had married the penniless-but-passionate artist (rode a vintage, lovingly restored Norton) she dumped when she graduated from a small, exclusive liberal-arts college.

RUBs can be roughly subdivided into Club RUBs, who are typically members of Harley Owner's Group (HOG) chapters such as the (no ****) Hell's Accountants, and the non-affiliated RUBs I classify as Independents. It's important to differentiate here between RUBs and not-RUBs. The primary divider is whether the bike is earned. As far as I'm concerned, if they either A) built it themselves, B) inherited it from their father after he passed away in the slammer, or C) look big enough, mean enough, and inclined to violence enough to kick my ass, then it's an earned machine and they are exempted from RUB status.

This also applies to trike (three-wheeled motorcycle) riders, incidentally, except that RUB trike riders aren't even bikers; they're some kind of mutant half-breed and belong to the final note at the bottom of this guide. However, it's vital to discern the difference between some weird trike-enthusiast loser, and the handicapped past president of an outlaw motorcycle chapter recently indicted en-mass for its involvement in a large-scale crystal methamphetamine production and distribution concern. I mean, for your safety and all.

The Real Thing: Non-RUB HOGs, Indies, and Outlaw Bikers
The best way to know whether someone is The Real Thing is to call them a RUB. If they kill you, they're outlaw. If they just permanently maim you, they're a club rider or an independent. If they squeal, look to companions for support, or push over your bike in retaliation, they're RUBs, and it's OK to set fire to their house. However, if you're not willing to lose your life in order to determine the pecking order at your local dive bar, then look at the patches. Although you can't miss a Hell's Angel (and you can't dress like one if you want to live out your life in peace), there are other 'outlaw' motorcycle clubs that are less familiar names to the uninitiated, and the one thing they seem to have in common is patches. Members get patches for all kinds of stuff: killing, raping, going to Sturgis, bathing monthly for a year, raising bail for a fellow member, donating a toy to the Toys for Tots program. Patches mean business.

Important note: Club RUBs also have patches, which are distributed by HOG chapters, and it's crucial to differentiate between HOG patches worn by the supplicant children of the Harley-Davidson corporate juggernaut, and the kind of patch that an Outlaw might earn by, say, fucking your old lady. If you find yourself in a 'situation,' and you're not sure which of the two types you're faced with, just slink away and buy a freakin Toyota already, you sad, bloated, pathetic excuse for a man.
Of course, there are a lot of other biker categories as well.

Non-Harley Riders:
Non-Harley RUBs: Almost There
Non-Harley RUBs just don't feel quite financially secure enough yet to afford that Harley they can't admit to wanting in their heart of hearts. Either that, or they somehow think that the simple fact of owning a motorcycle that isn't Mach-1 capable (see Squids, below), a babe magnet (see Harleys, above), or some other expression of their personality (see Brand Name Bikers, next) still elevates them above the riff-raff and hoi-polloi of modern urban America. I kind of agree with them, actually, but they should just go ahead and bite the bullet. That's what financing is for.

Brand-Name Bikers:
These are the designer label bikes: BMW, Ducati, Triumph, others. These riders wouldn't be caught dead on any other kind of bike, or in any other tax bracket, for that matter, which is all you need to know. I'm less critical of the BMW riders, but I still can't afford one, so **** 'em, they're in here too.

Biker Mamas: Girls With Attitude
Girls who ride, no matter whether it's a Honda or a Harley, get their own separate category. That's because they are unquestionably at the top of the food chain. Even Outlaw Bikers give way to their whim. Adam Smith's concept of supply and demand finds its fullest expression here, as bikers outnumber biker babes by, like, a thousand to one. If you meet one, give her my number.

Biker babes can be defined by the fact that they are fucking some biker other than you. In fact, they almost always come to riding by way of a boyfriend / husband / absentee father / strip club client, and are RUBs unless proven otherwise by extenuating circumstances, like this outlaw Harley biker-babe club in San Francisco I read about once. By the end of the article I felt like a weak, twee girly-man, and had a throbbing erection besides. That said, biker-babes are usually RUBs by default, since sex is one of the four primary social currencies (the other three are fame, success quotient, and one's actual personality), and it paid for their training.

Squids: Captain Crotch-Rocket Sails the Testosterone Sea
Squids ride those jarringly-colored, spine-jerkingly fast racebikes, which most commonly end their time by landing in a ravine somewhere off the Mulholland Highway. Squids are even more macho than Harley riders, but they usually don't produce offspring. In that way, they resemble gay men: pretty, but in the Darwinian scheme of things, useless. The parallel extends further – squids are also all about who's got the best equipment.

Squids are basically speed junkies, and tend to measure worth as a numerical function, be it top speed, RPM redline, speeding tickets issued yearly, months in the hospital after that unfortunate canyoning incident, or total dollars spent race-modifying a stock CBR900RR. They tend to be unmarried engineers with few social skills and a secret, desperate yearning to be taller.

There is a small subset of squids who do not have the Latest Model and do not own an alternate form of transportation. They're OK.

Goldwing riders: The RV-ers of Bikerdom
Goldwings and their ilk are those huge, lumbering, luggage rack + fairing + passenger armrests jobbies, often with CB radios and full sound systems. This category is exemplified by motorcycles so heavy that, in order to park and unpark, they require an electric motor for reverse gear. These bikers are retirees, mostly, and the hopelessly married. If a candidate qualifies for the Goldwing designation, any other designations – RUB, Harley rider, Brand-Name Biker – are superseded. Except patch-laden Outlaws, who are too frightening for ridicule.

Enduro Riders: Those Dirt Bike Things
First cousins to the Boat People on I-5, lugging satellite dishes and trailers to some remote lakeside location where they can suck down Coors by the case and have sex with roadkill. Doesn't matter if they own a house in Modesto or Marina Del Rey – dirt bike riders are hillbillies and ******** all.

Rat-bike Riders: Spit and Baling Wire
This is my category, if you can't already tell: we the brotherhood of the early-Eighties Honda. Rat-bike riders are defined by their wallets; we're too poor to afford anything better. My bike, bought in close-to-mint condition five years ago for less than the exhaust system of a Harley-Davidson, has lasted me through 40,000 miles and all the daily tragedies that accompany any life in Los Angeles. It breaks down, gets fixed, breaks down again, its parts are scratched, worn, occasionally broken away from constant use and as often duct-taped back on, and it suffers rain, heat, emergency braking maneuvers, high-speed pursuit by the local five-oh, and redlining first gear while lane-splitting the 405 at rush hour with nary a qualm or complaint. I like to believe that my bike is like me: a survivor, not real pretty, but tough where it matters.

Rat-bike riders usually don't own cars. We live our lives on the back of a bike; some of our brothers are messengers and work on the back of a bike as well. We're the guys with old, scratched, paint-flaked, decal-covered, sun-faded, sometimes visor-less helmets, riding on pre-1996 Japanese rice-burners with names like Kawasaki or Suzuki or Yamaha, belching burnt oil fumes and CFCs from dented, pitted exhaust pipes whose chrome hasn't seen sunlight since the Reagan Years. We're a proud bunch. It's the pride of those who've found a harder way to live a better life.

It's also the pride of a bunch of guys who were told by the Conventional Wisdom when they were of an impressionable age (say, 30) that "chicks dig bikes," and found out too late that the Conventional Wisdom is a giant billowing turd.

Allow me to digress for a moment, and elaborate more fully on the appalling misconception that having a bike is girl bait. Women are not attracted to bikes or bikers. Women are attracted to pretty, shiny, expensive things that vibrate a lot. Women put up with bikers, when the biker has a pretty, shiny, expensive thing that vibrates a lot, and when the biker also has a car to take them out to dinner when it's cold at night. Most women are afraid of motorcycles, and even the ones who aren't afraid of them are dismayed at the prospect of trying to negotiate the back of a motorcycle while wearing stilettos and a slit-backed micro-mini, freezing in the cold winter air, and have I mentioned what the helmet does to the hair?

Let's take the set of all the women you know, and remove all the ones who think that motorcycles are dangerous, scary, or otherwise off-putting (in my experience, at least two out of three). Drop too the ones who think it's dirty, not having a windshield or doors. Exclude any woman who's uncomfortable just rolling out of bed, throwing on some jeans, and going out on a date. Divide out all the girls who care about how wealthy their date is, and who are particularly sensitive to heat or cold or noise or dislike open spaces. This tiny remaining subset is what we the Brotherhood have to choose from, if we're in the market for a companion. If you further reduce the dating pool by restricting it to smokers or the smoker-friendly, then you have a fair gauge of my own personal range of choices. When I first began riding, I thought, "chicks will dig me." Now I know the truth: chicks dig me despite the bike, not because of it.

But in the meantime, it becomes a part of your brain, your identity, the fabric of your daily life. It gets in your blood. My mom gave me a car, years ago, and after a while I gave it back. I could listen to the radio, I was never too hot or too cold (on a bike, there are no choices other than too hot or too cold), I could do laundry and dry cleaning and shopping all in the same run – and I started to forget that I'm different. I started to forget that I have distinguished myself by my willingness to take greater risks for a greater reward. I became distanced from a crucial fact: I am willing to sacrifice things others take for granted, in favor of pleasures whose existence others are unaware of – the feel of leaning into a curve and pulling around a corner, the paltry $185 check I write once year for insurance, the satisfaction of passing people prettier than me as I speed between lanes on the freeway.

I am a rat-bike rider. I'm poor. I keep my bike running on the Honda Wing logo and a prayer. I'm always freezing or sweating, I can only go 115 miles on a tank, I have to go to a special store to buy motor oil, I have to beg a lift to pick up my dry cleaning, I have to JB Weld my front engine casing twice a year and it still leaks oil, I wear the same beat up jacket and the same pair of boots every day, I'm late to work every time it rains, I get wet every time it rains, I can't ever listen to music or books on tape or talk on a cell phone during my morning commute, and if I make a mistake on the road, odds are pretty good I'm going to wind up maimed, paraplegic, or dead. I am a rat-bike rider, and proud.

That's why We The Brotherhood don't wave when we pass each other. That's dangerous, and cheesy in the manner of RUBs. No, we just lift four fingers off the clutch, a few inches of acknowledgment, a secret handshake for the dedicated few. We are a club, too: the best kind, one whose membership is limited only to those who make the necessary sacrifices, every day.
Oh, and one final note:

Scooter Geeks, Mods, Vespa collectors, minibike aficionados, unaffiliated trike riders, etc.:
Even if it has two wheels and a standard transmission, it won't necessarily qualify you for bikerhood. Handicapped trikers, and any guy whose arm was shot off in the war and has to ride that automatic-shift monstrosity BMW manufactured for a few years: you I anoint honorary members of the Brotherhood of the Rat-bike, with all the privileges and responsibilities thereto pertaining, and no higher compliment can I pay. As for the rest of above-noted, well, you get this addendum instead of a real big-person category.

So there you have it, folks. There are a few hybrids I didn't bother with, but I trust you to make the necessary generalizations. Bleating and carping can be directed to [email protected], and hey – thanks for taking the time.

Premium Member
4,914 Posts
Yup - I really enjoyed that.


Premium Member
4,501 Posts
Well, the Patroit Guard Riders gave me a Scooter Sissy patch, & I wear it proudly. :salute: And every time that I make a Mission, I am greeted with a welcoming handshake & a "Glad you could make it".
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