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Photo by Genghis

"BIKER:" Loves riding and loves his Harley.

"Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I studied the art, a punch is no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick is just like a kick."

Bruce Lee


These people ar trying too hard.

That was the thought I had, when leafing through one of the more popular biker rags on the magazine stands. Then again, the term "biker rag" may be a misnomer, for I had to search the entire magazine for the appearance of the word, "biker." The term biker, seems to have disappeared from the vast number of what used to be biker magazines, along with the supression of the biker persona. What seems to have replaced the term "biker," is "builder." When I started riding 42 years ago, the persona of the biker was well defined. A biker was just a rider who loved to ride and loved his Harley. The bloated persona of the "builder" in the chopper media, but not in real life, has become a larger than life billboard of someone who has striven to become a hero of sorts, existing above the fray of the average street biker, who collects all the laurels of the subculture, using his "creations" as instruments of ego.

There are of course, two strata of "builders" (who used to be "bikers"). There is the Chopper God, an all-conquering Homecoming King who in the words of one magazine, "....was living the life many of us dreamt of. He had talent, popularity, more women than most of us can dream of...." Now, I don't know about you, but I find this "Big Man on Campus" characterization of shop builders, exaggerated. Such an embarrassment of riches, for the "builder" (not "biker"). It sounds more like a Hollywood publicist's PR for a teeny-bopper singer client. I'll tell ya what, man. All I ever dreamt of as a biker (not "builder"), was my righteous Harley 74, my loyal old lady, good health and a sufficient amount of money for the rent and food. Okay, with maybe a little left over for books, CDs and movie DVDs.

This blatant heroization of builders (not "bikers") by the chopper media, had to have unintended consequences. The primary unintended consequence and dilemma for the chopper media had to be, What do we call our regular readers, the ones who don't have professional bike shops? The answer was obvious, and further drove contemporary chopper media from the use of the word "biker" in their content. Call it a fortuitous accident. Why, we'll call 'em "home builders" (not bikers who have homes) or "garage builders" (not bikers who have garages), but not bikers. These "home builders" became the second strata of "builders" by default, since the top-slot was already occupied by commercial shop owners.

This effort created the two-tier system of builders (not bikers), and worked nicely into the way that magazines had evolved using their "builder system." Just coincidentally, these were the times before the recession, when "builders" were being heroized in the vast wasteland of TV. Millionaire celebs spent money on builders' gaudy creations, then. Hollywood and the NBA came calling, at the front gates of bike shops. Magazines and television worked hand in glove, on elevating the superhuman status of pro builders. An Occupy the Pedestals movement was under way, headlined by Mr. Sandra Bullock. . The accelerated selling rate of gaudy shop-built customs, encouraged the home-building of amateur gaudy chops, in all of their ugly excess-glory. It was pedal to the metal for weirdly geometrized and wildly flexing rigid-framed Yamahas, stretched two extra feet. Boing-boing they went down the road, supremely happy to be kept on straightaways, with a fear and loathing of right and left turns, never mind u-turns.

Certain trends became heroized by the chopper media, such as eliminating hand controls and replacing them with inferiorly functioning foot clutches and hand-shifts. Changing out serviceable OEM equipment for what chopper media deemed "cool stuff," motivated home builders to blindly embrace these trends of changing stuff out for changing's sake. Why think about it, if you have someone to tell you what to do? It's the path of least resistance. Then, magazines focused attention in their their letters section, not on bikers who wrote in, or critiques of the said magazines as true chronicles of the biker subculture, but on how home builders (not bikers) built their bikes, and how the direction of the magazines had "inspired" 'em to find the nearest Yamaha wreck to "build" a chopper with. Of course, each letter now was accompanied by thumbnail-like photos of the "finished products." Here's a quote from a letters section:

"This is my '78 Suzuki GS 550. I sold my Superglide for an engagement ring (I know what your thinking....) and then I bought this nightmare."

Hey man, I don't think you really want to know what I'm thinking, but I'll tell you anyway. I think you're a moron with zero biker principles. Then again, you're not a biker, but a "builder." Being a builder does take riders off the hook for selling their Harleys to later "build" Japanese Junque, but that's acceptable in a world where being a "biker" is less important, than hacking up any piece of junk you can find in the local junkyard, all in the name of "being a builder" (not a biker). What the editor of this magazine should've done, was to chew you out for, was submitting your resignation as a biker, for selling out when you should've kept the Harley and married the girl anyway. Does she like the Suzuki better?

In this brave new world of "builders," writers prattle on endlessly about "building trends." About who among the Builder Elite, is hot or not. The coin of the realm for relative human value in this brave new world of builders, is the success of your "builds" at motorcycle rallies and "build-offs". Now, there's terminology worthy of the television and chopper media age: Build-Offs. How artificial can ya get? Of course, its ego-driven, but from the viewpoint of chopper media, it does promote the rider as "builder" instead of "biker." Used to be bikers rode and loved their Harleys. Nowadays, builders (not bikers) have to aspire to be artistes, Maestros in Metal. Yeccch.

What's interesting is that magazine writers consider 'emselves trendsetters, movers and shakers in the culture. The egotism is amusing to watch. Check out this quote: "But trends come and go, and we've been guilty here....for helping propagate them." I'll tell ya what. Arrogance comes and goes in our culture, and the championing of "trends" like exhaust wrap, is but an infinitesmal blip on the radar of an eighty year old biker subculture.

Have you seen some of these home-built late term abortions, that appear in magazines? How about having an "Ugly-Off" contest? Half a century ago, real bikers (not "builders") stripped-down their FL models, and this resulted in real and righteous machines to ride and cherish. That's what being a biker (not "builder") was about. In fact, that's what it's still about, except that these bikes are deemed "boring" by the Chopper Cognoscenti. These conoisseurs of chopper taste, will tell you what's hot, what's cold, what's new and what's old, and what's more, will tell you how to achieve true Builderhood, never mind being a "biker." Me, I've got my righetous Harley 74, loyal old lady, and enough bread for rent, food, books, CDs and movie DVDs. That's enough for this biker (not builder). A biker is just a biker, and his Harley is just a Harley. Later.