American Stereotypes
Author: B. Miller

Chapter 11
American Harley riders

Harley Riders

In recent years, America has seen a staggering number ‘bad boy’ posers purchasing $30,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles and choppers and then parading about the town in their contrived elaborate bad-ass biker costumes. Basically, these posers have high-jacked the imagery and attitude of the various biker gangs in America including the Hell's Angels, Banditos and others for their own glory and staring admiration of a passing car. As a part of this new club, every weekend is Halloween to these guys considering they’re wearing costumes. In fact, riding a Harley has gone from a lifestyle to a status symbol for some people in America, like a fancy suit or a nice sports car. It’s like this, “Hey honey, I’m going to mow the lawn, wash my Porsche, clean my golf clubs and then put my ‘bad boy’ biker gang outfit on and ride my bike around town with a scowl on my face.”

Now I don't want to rip these people too much because I think riding Harley’s would be fun. However, if you do begin to ride a Harley don't be so cliché about it. There’s a stark difference between the safety gear that most motorcyclists wear and the costumes that Harley Davidson riders wear. I'm pretty sure the Harley motorcycle is sold separately from the Harley rider outfit starter kit. These days, I compare the guys riding their Harleys on a Saturday afternoon all decked out in their bad-ass costumes to a civil war re-enactor all geared up in a confederate uniform ready to do for battle against the loathed Union soldiers.

The large crowds at Sturgis and other biker rallies attest to our nation’s current obsession based upon the romanticized imagery that Harley Davidson started back in the 1920's. Today, the Harley Davidson name is worth millions and has become part of a multi-million dollar industry that has the old biker and current biker gangs to thank. Fortunately for the posers, the Harley Davidson image is for sale at retailers nationwide. An individual new to the scene can leave a Harley dealership with a bike and a costume to make them look like they’re a veteran of riding Harleys. That’s why I feel riding Harley’s has become way too much of, “Look at me and my bike” and by the way “it’s rare and costs a lot of money.” Oh and look at my costume it makes me look really tough, dangerous and you can see this because look I don't wear a helmet and my leather jacket has patches all over it.

The problem is that in America nothing really stay's original for too long once it has become successful and commercialized. Similar to Starbucks for example; Harley Davidson motorcycle’s and Starbuck’s were both once small companies that have now become commercialized and mainstream losing their once cherished authenticity and charm. That is why I’m being a little on the critical side in concerns to Harley riders today. I just get sick of seeing these guys trying to act all bad ass with their all to standard outfits they wear from head to toe. It has gotten to the point that a guy would get laughed at if he was riding a Harley with a helmet on, proper protection, no leather chaps, no Sturgis T-shirt, no facial hair or no leather vest with lots of patches all over it.

In terms of stereotypes associated with American Harley riders, I would like to begin to go into the specifics of what I have observed. One way to show commitment and validity to being a Harley to your new image is to attend biker events established long before you ever got interested in riding Harley’s after your friends went out and bought one. Sturgis is the holy land of bikers, and is a perfect example of an event for poser Harley riders to attend and then go home and tell all their friends about who couldn’t go and prove their allegiance to being a Harley rider. Some folks will actually ride their Harley’s their no matter the distance helping to solidify and their image and commitment to the hobby. However I’m talking about the guy who has his bikes shipped their and flies into town on airplane. These guys fly into town and put on their expensive leather Harley costumes at their hotel, grow a beard or mustache in the weeks following up to Sturgis then put their $60,000 dollar bike on display for all the other patrons to gawk at and admire. And of course all your friends when you get home will be able to see all your pictures in your office, on your fridge and the Sturgis t-shirts that you bought to wear while you ride your Harley.

Once an American has gone out and purchased a Harley Davidson or a custom chopper, they need to adhere to a strict dress code and other stereotypical traits that go along with riding one of these motorcycles. Working from the head down and depending on the state you are in a Harley rider has the option of wearing a helmet. To the uncoordinated new guy riding motorcycles I highly recommend that you wear a helmet, your new tough guy image may suffer a little bit but you can make up for that with a leather jacket, big belt buckle and fingerless leather gloves. For the experienced rider willing to have his brains splattered all over the concrete upon a collision with a motor vehicle or the pavement; it is essential that you replace the helmet with a bandanna or if you have long hair you can simply put it in a ponytail this seems to portray the Harley rider as even more tuff and rebellious. I know some might think, why wouldn't you just wear a normal helmet with a face mask to protect a rider from giant bugs or rocks? It makes sense to protect yourself from flying bugs and rocks, after all getting hit by a rock in the face or a large bug might make you steer into oncoming traffic, resulting in certain death. I wouldn’t want my obituary to say I was killed by a giant June bug that hit me in the face causing me to lose control of my bike and crash into oncoming traffic. Guys who ride crotch rockets typically wear leather protection and a helmet in most cases, however Harley riders wear little symbolic helmet’s when the law requires them too and no helmet if the law doesn’t require a Harley rider to wear a helmet all for the sake of being bad ass. It leaves me to conclude that riding a Harley today is all about your image. A Harley rider wants to be seen riding his Harley, and relishes all too much being noticed by someone he knows them when riding a Harley; god forbid the rider of such a nice expensive Harley go un noticed by shielding his identity behind a helmet. Not wearing a helmet is all part of the tough guy imagery that laughs at danger.

Another all too common trait among Harley riders is the near necessary sporting of some form of facial hair. A Harley rider has to have a beard, mustache or goat tee. A Harley rider without his facial hair is like Magnum PI without his mustache, he wouldn't be able to solve any mysteries or be an 80's sex symbol. Beards are the pinnacle of facial hair, and those Harley riders who sport them are highly respected and admired. I would state that a beard is really what brings a Harley Riders costume full circle to execute the desired bad ass rebel look that is so prized among their peers.

Next the Harley rider must wear some kind of jacket, however in the summer months to gain any real respect a Harley rider must wear a leather vest adorned with patches stating your U.S. military veteran status, trendy biker club you belong too or some fun biker rally's you have been too. Real tough guys like to wear a leather vest and no shirt underneath so that they can show their shaven fake tanned arms sculpted at the local Gold’s Gym. Just think of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Those who belong to none of the latter groups wear a very expensive leather jacket they bought from the Harley Davidson store. Adorning a Harley riders 501 Levi jeans will be a large Harley Davidson belt buckle. Over the top of a Harley Riders 501 Levi's, you will notice leather chaps, those who have leather chaps with tassels and shiny metal adornments are highly prized. For manly footwear a Harley rider must wear black boots, Alligator or Rattle Snake skin cowboy boots and spurs are a nice effect for the bold.

Now some Harley riders prefer to ride the open road alone it goes along with their loner rebel image they like to try and harness. However, some are forced to bring their wives or girlfriends with them. Those who are forced into this predicament are by some looked down upon, however if your lady does ride on the back of your Harley she must be dressed in a slutty outfit and not be fat to gain any respect from other Harley riders. However, thanks to the ample power that a Harley motor brings, those who have to tote their overweight wives around can speed away quickly from on lookers who mock them. Some women are forced to not come at all or simply follow behind them in a minivan with heavily tinted windows. Bikers also never drink their beer a night club, disco tech or lounge they only consume alcoholic beverages at seedy saloon or tavern.


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