Having just returned from Daytona, and while I’m still reeling in all that is, was and shall be in the cockles of “Chopperdom,” my head swims with the many observations from the week. For many of us motorcycle people, the oldest rallies in the country, like Daytona, Laconia and Sturgis, are the hallowed halls of time-honored traditions. For some, however, it seems as if these gatherings have lost their street cred. What’s particularly odd about this is that a lot of the new guys are looking for the “real deal” or want things to be “like they were back in the day” but when faced with hassles from the cops, inadequate accommodations and some of the same bullshit that has always gone along with this lifestyle, they’re the first to bitch.
Daytona is a crazy melting pot of moto- culture. Every corner of it contains a different niche of the whole of who we are today from the rubs and the riches to the hipsters and the tramps, it’s all going on in Daytona. On one end of town, they’re raising tens of thousands of dollars at a high end gala while on the other, cats sit around a burn barrel drinking half warm beer from the can. Some are in tent cities, and some are in penthouse apartments. You’ll see some stock bikes, some vintage, some chopped, bobbed and otherwise modified. There are the ultra young who could care less, the ultra old who stopped giving a rat’s ass, the racers, the heads, the vendors, the strippers, weekend warriors, and Joe citizen who is out to prove that his two-day-old “Ride Free” tattoo was earned. No matter what part of all this chaos you fit into, if any, it’s all there during bike week.
Why have we become so critical of each other and who is it that holds this great rule book of how it’s supposed to be? I mean, if there’s a part of the country that has tons of bike people getting together, then more than likely I want to check it out. I never really stop and think of whether or not it holds to any criteria of “vintage period correctness” as Groovy put it, or if the other socialites of the scene will see me there. So, what is it that others from our group are looking to do here?
Take a look at the guys who started some of these events. They weren’t trying to set a tone of how they thought the scene should be; they just loved bikes. They took one week out of the year and raced, raised hell, told stories, (probably a lot of lies) and almost definitely drank too much. Since I wasn’t there personally, and can only assess things from the stories I have been given, I’m pretty sure the cops and the locals have never been big fans of everything they did. This was all at a time when riding a motorcycle was far from gentlemanly behavior.
As motorcycling came through the hippy years, it was less popular to be a biker than any other walk of life on the planet. I don’t mean the “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” type of biker. I mean the wild, dirt bag, born loser breed that many of us emulate today. To ride a bike back then you had to be willing to take shit from most of the people you would run across, but still they rode.
Today, we’ve reached a place where it’s socially acceptable to ride, party, race, and raise hell for a ten day event. Everywhere you look there are signs that read “Welcome Bikers” and the cops are way less critical of us. So what do we do now that there is no “them” in the “us vs. them” war? Well, we turn on each other, of course. Those guys are too fake, those ones are too commercial; we’re the real deal and they’re too rich; those guys don’t wear the right gear or they talk funny; this is how it really was back in the day and of course no one can rock a Pan like we do… Really dude? I often wonder if the bikers from the ever mystical “back in the day” were here with us now, what would they say? Well, some of them still are and they laugh a lot. You see, our glorified versions of how it used to be only contain the good parts, and the pictures we paint of times and faces are only shadows of how it really was, just ask cats like Rogue for some real stories of that period, man. One thing’s for sure, they didn’t argue over who got “prime real-estate” or the most retail frontage. They were too damn busy living the life to look for labels, put up barriers or try and redefine who they were every couple of years. Oh they did set the tone for all of this free lovin’, tramp livin’, good times we share today, but I bet many of them wouldn’t admit to it, not a damn one.
The point is, many of the men I speak of would be considered the bagger crowd today or too old to dig what’s going on. Some of them have made a good living over the years and might not fit into the circles that are being laid out now. They might dress funny compared to your group, they might talk funny, walk slower or be less apt to throw down a jug of whiskey but don’t mistake where you are today with where they may have been. All I’m saying is just try to be a little less critical of the other people in this culture of ours. You might not realize that the cat you’re giving a hard time is one of those responsible for you getting to do your thing today.