You can watch them show up to rides and events. There are two extremes. The first guy looks like an HD poster child. He has it all. Everything from an HD helmet to HD boots. He bought it all from the dealership, right after he signed the loan for his first bike. His wife is pissed because she found out how much the payment is actually going to be, and the fact that he bought the "biker action package" for himself. After all, was easy with a little friendly help from the staff. He tried to calm the waters by having her take him to drop him off at the dealership to pick up his beloved. He even got her a helmet, even though she told him she is not gonna get on that "thing".
Then there is the guy who finally was able get a used bike. Usually from a male family member. He is probably middle aged and can just now afford one now that the kids are getting older. He hopes Momma will be into it so they can get some time away. Being old enough to have self awareness, he really tries not to stand out for the wrong reasons. He might go overboard to appear that he was conceived in a 1%er club house between a whore and a motorcycle mechanic. You can also bet that he learned a lot of what he thinks he knows from watching Sons of Anarchy. I guess I was kind of in the middle.
My whole life I never fit in. I have no problem getting along with people when I have to, but they always seem to want to talk to me about things that I don't care about. I want to talk about faith, family, friends, our country, and the way it was when I was a kid.
My old man has always loved motorcycles. He had a police turn in when I was a kid, then a Fatboy as I got older, and eventually the Streetglide he has now.. There was a stretch of time though that he didn't have one at all because him and Mom needed the money to raise me and my sister, so it got sold. Senior spent 43 years in the same factory working as a mechanic and boiler man doing swing shift and busting his ass. Lots of his friends had bikes and some were in clubs. Most of his friends did not wear a shirt and tie to work. They wore pocket t-shirts to carry their smokes, and for many of them that pocket now only holds reading glasses. The shirts went well with their ripped and stained jeans and steel toed boots. When I was a kid, that was their riding gear with the addition of maybe their colors and a brain bucket the government forced on them. The motorcycle was part of their authentic lifestyle. They were who they were, and did what they did. A handshake meant something, and so did your word. If you borrowed something, you gave it back. If a friend would not take money for doing you a favor, you got him a bottle of Jack or a case of beer...usually Budweiser.
Fast forward to 2013 and Senior finally gets the money he is owed for all the damage that 43 years of walking on concrete floor in work boots will do to a man's body. He had been talking about it for years, so I knew it was coming. For the first time in his life he was gonna buy a brand spanking new Harley Davidson, a Streetglide to be exact. He had no need for two motorcycles. He still had his 92 Fatboy with 13XXXX miles that him and Mom had put on it over the years. He was gonna sell it to me, but he also knew with three kids, two out of the three being special needs requiring my wife to stay at home, leaving me the only one working, I couldn't afford it. So he blessed me with it. My life changed. You see I always wanted to be around the types of guys that Dad hung around, not the types of guys who give you the empty illusion of Brotherly love by saying "if you need anything.....". Well at the age of 40 I had a motorcycle that I could use to catch up with those types of guys from my childhood. I was a biker...yeah right.
Not only did I not have the money for new gear, I despise anything new. I like mismatched and hobbled together things....with character.. So putting on my Doc Martins and BDU pants I wear everyday, I added a helmet and gloves and was on my way to find those guys. Real authentic people in a country full of false, shallow, plastic assholes. Eventually I did find em. The advice of many a wise man in my life always echoed in my ears "keep your mouth shut and your ears open". I spent time with these men and women. I became their Brother. Eventually I figured it out. They are all riding to get away from something. For some it is addiction. For some it is financial and family problems, or its their job (or lack there of). For many it is the loss of a loved one where memories can only comfort them at 70 MPH. More importantly I saw what they will slam on their brakes and turn around for, a Brother or Sister in need. Because when you are a true "Biker" you drop what you're doing for another "Biker" who is in need, whether it be a broken down bike, or a broken down life. You realize that in helping others you help yourself. That is where Brotherhood comes from.
So whether you have been riding for 30 days or 30 years, listen more than you talk, and be authentic. Because real "bikers" are authentic, and that is all they look for in each other. Not what you ride, not what you wear, not how much money you make, but that you are willing to be your Brothers keeper.
This post is dedicated to the American Legion Riders Chapter 543. I love you guys and count you in my prayers every night. And also to Senior, who I hope can comprehend how much he changed my life and my perspective. - Sloth.