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Photo by Genghis

Can't be done without peering into the past.

"The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn."

H.G. Wells


The beginnings of the biker subculture germinated in the beginning of the last century, long before outlaw clubs became organized by young men who returned from World War II to dedicate themselves to a collective life on two wheels. While the creation of motorcycle clubs was a social phenomenon later in the game, the actual start of motorcycle culture began when the First Biker purchased the very first motorcycle to ride. Today on the Eve of the New Year of 2013, it is worthwhile to peer into the past, in order to appreciate our future.The very first day that the First Biker rolled his motorcycle onto the open road, is like the beginning of the alley you see in the photo above. In anthropological terms, the First Biker was the Serial Number One Homo Sapiens of our species. It was he, who stood at the mouth of the alley, ready to kickstart his way into the future.

The mouth of the biker subculture alley represents the day that the First Biker hit the road, Jack. That alley has been an elongated period of time lasting at least 80 years, from its inception at the dawn of the biker era, to the dusk which is the present. There is another short-term dawn on the horizon, in sight. The stroke of midnight tonight, is the twilight of the new dawn of 2013. Think of each passing year as a five yard, short-term increment in that symbolic alley of ours. But just remember, it was that First Biker who glimpsed the twilight of the First Dawn that was the beginning of the alley. The beginning of that alley, is where we all came from. Outlaw clubs may have been galvanized into the culture a few yards from the start of that alley, but it was the First Biker at the mouth of the alley, that began the biker subculture.

Young ( yeah, sure) whippersnapper modernists like me (I'm 65) would like to believe, that the mouth of the biker subculture alley began with the introduction of the overhead valve era, when the Harley-Davidson knucklehead was unleashed on an unsuspecting but appreciative public. OHV rules! Then again, there may be true whippersnapper bikers in their twenties, who believe that the mouth of that alley began with the Aluminum Era of H-D, beginning with the Evolution motor, and who are convinced that the iron motors born south of 1984 belong to the neanderthal age. There may even be old whippersnappers of my age who've been converted to the aluminum camp. You've seen 'em and you've ridden with 'em. I guess it's all a matter of perspective based on personal biases.

However, for us Harley-Davidson purists, if we truly believe that the mouth of the alley began when The Firm produced the First Harley sold to the First Biker, then the significant bike would have to be the very first Harley-Davidson introduced in 1903, with it's seven cubic inch three horse motor. But, wait a minute. Will we be admirers and adherents of logic, or will we be Harley Brand Loyalists to the end? If the definition of a biker is one who rides a motorcycle, then we have to move further back in time with our Going The Distance Time Machine to 1885. This was the year when Gottlieb Daimler produced the very first gasoline-powered motorcycle. Is it "Harley's best, screw the rest" or are we purveyors of logic? Okay, maybe the former. Personally, I'd like to believe that the mouth of the alley began in 1966, when the finest motor that The Firm ever made, the venerable shovelhead, was gifted to the world, but that would be unrealistic. As much as I would want this to be true, it goes against the objective nature of how we are trying to define the mouth of our highly symbolic alley: Where the biker subculture began.

Would I be on safe ground to say that the mouth of the alley began in 1903 when Harley-Davidson's illustrious run kicked off? I don't know. Probably in the V-Twin powered minds of Harley Loyalists, who no doubt make up the majority in the biker subculture. My guess is that bikers in their most objective moments, would technically agree. But would these same bikers feel that this is realistic? What's more, would they concede the point to technically include other brands other than Harleys? Let's examine another opinion for clarification on how an objective opinion about a situation, may not coincide with the reality of the situation: Sonny Barger had this comment to make regarding his club's prerequisite for membership.

THE REQUIREMENT: "All members must have their own motorcycles."

BARGER'S COMMENT: ".....there's no rule that says it has to be a Harley...."

That's self-explanatory. However, I'd like someone, anyone, who can point out even one club member of any outlaw motorcycle club, who doesn't ride a Harley. Is this a case of "do as I say and not as I do?" Who will do that? What hardcore biker's gonna ride anything, but a Harley? That's my point. In the spirit of rules, bikers can have the choice of any bike from any manufacturer, and still technically be a biker, and even fulfill that requirement for a motorcycle club. But what about the reality of the situation, and how people behave when influenced by the massive steamrolling effect of the culture's likes and dislikes?

In the end, it's going to be a Harley, period. Something may be constitutionalized in black and white print, but reality bites, man. Reality in bikers' case, is that the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, is the instrument of choice for meaningful and magical mayhem. The Harley motorcycle is the Big Biter in real-life. The Harley-Davidson will open its maw and take off yer head. All other brands of bike are ankle biters, like Chihauhaus on a fat-free diet. Let me also point out, that modern bikers may ride knuckles, pans, shovels, Sportsters and any of their Aluminum Sisters from the Evo on, but they wouldn't be caught dead on a seven cubic inch three horsepower Harley.

So, reality being the most weighted factor, let me conclude that with a few odd exceptions where bikers may ride the odd 45, flathead big twin Harley or V-Rod, that the mouth of the alley of our subculture began in 1936 with the knucklehead. Historically, this can't be effectively argued against. Pre-knuckle Harleys have never been big with bikers, on any significant scale. I recently viewed a YouTube video of the London chapter of the HAMC in 1969, where it seemed that all the members were on Britbikes, but that was then and this is now. I'm confident that all the present members of that club are on Harley-Davidsons. It just took 'em time to catch up to American bikers. There were a dearth of Harleys in England in '69. How ironic is it that my old Sportster "Sally The Bitch" ended up in England, where she's bonded with a BritBiker as we speak. Limey bikes are marginal in this discussion, and Yamaha XS 650s and their like are for fakers and fools. On this Eve of the New Year of 2013, looking back to the mouth of the alley, beginning (realistically) 77 years ago, at the stroke of midnight tonight. Happy New Year! later.