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GOING THE DISTANCE
"WHO'S HARDCORE NOW, MAN?"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
Don't you get the uneasy feeling as you read today's biker rags that there's something missing from today's biker journalism? Do you know what it is? You should. It's the proverbial white elephant in the room. What is this completely ignored element of the biker subculture in today's biker rags? Two words: The Biker. Doesn't it seem strange to you now that I've got you actively thinking about it? Doesn't it seem to you that the people that are being described in articles found in biker magazines have no real depth, have no real personalities as bikers, but as merely bike owners who sheparded the completion of bike projects?
Don't they---intentionally by the way---appear to be defined by their bikes, instead of their bikes being a simple byproduct of their biker lives? Old school bikers were toughs who rode bikes. These hardcores didn't depend on magazines to tell 'em if they were hardcore based on their participation in magazine-sponsored social events and rides, or on whether their bikes had a hardtail or a Softail.
Such a true biker on a Softail wouldn't give a second thought about a magazine's opinion about the "acceptability" of his bike.
True bikers ride where, when and what they like, and screw ya if ya don't like it, man. They didn't allow their identities as bikers to be defined by keyboard commando control freaks, like many lames do today.
This is especially true for the past decade where bikers in these publications are defined by the bike building process, as well as a code of conduct and activity dictated by rules and regulations set forth by magazine moguls and editorial control freaks. Gone from the scene---the scene being self-importantly circumscribed by the rigid parameters of magazines---are the strong personality of bikers of conviction who just happen to ride a particular style of motorcycle. If Magazine Page Bikers don't conform to editorial guidelines, then they ain't bikers, baby---according to Magazine Rules & Regulations 101. There was a time when bikers were covered by magazines, not created by magazines in the editors' own images.
Let me say it straight up: A biker isn't defined by the construction process of a custom motorcycle. A biker is who he is by the sheer strength of his personality, his rugged individualism, his core of beliefs and his absolute steel will to stay in the saddle of a bike.
The incidentals of how his bike came to be are insignificant, compared to the man himself---it's The Biker, stupid. A one-off fat rear wheel, a flashy paint job or a handmade mirror don't make a biker, or give him his biker bona fides. If this were indeed the case, then every shop class whiz would be instant "bikers."
I have to laugh when self-proclaimed experts on who or what is considered hardcore in the subculture spew their tin eared opinions to the eagerly receiving corps of Magazine Page Bikers.
This brings to mind a scene that Snow related to me once. The scene was at a bike shop here in the Lower East Side of NYC where Indian Larry worked at the time. A late night bull session at this shop had the shop regulars discussing how a certain local NYC club were no longer "hardcore" because many of the club members' bikes were swingarm shovels and FXRs. I guess that the lack of rigids parked in front of the clubhouse somehow offended these chopper enthusiasts' delicate aesthetic sensibilities. Their mistake was confusing the men, who are definitely hardcore---with their bikes. It is not the bike that defines the man. The bike is merely an extension of the man's biker life.
I said to Snow....
"Man, these guys in the shop don't know the meaning of hardcore, but would learn real quick what hardcore is if they ever said this crap to the clubbers' faces..."
Sure as the sun rises in the east, the shop regulars' big mouths got 'em into trouble with this club soon after that. Their arrogance and self-appointed expertise on defining "hardcore" bit 'em in the end.
Larry entered his bike in a custom bike contest sponsored by, you guessed it.....this club. After his bike lost the contest, Larry loudly proclaimed the winning bike---which was owned by a club member---as not worthy of the winning prize. Under such circumstances, diss at your own peril.
Unlike a comment uttered with bravado in private to your shopmates with no unfamiliar ears around, such a comment made in public does not go unnoticed. More importantly, such a comment doesn't go unanswered.....for long.
A few days later, three of the clubbers strolled into Larry's shop carrying baseball bats and took Larry's prized custom bike. Yup, just walked off with the motorcycle like they didn't have a care in the world,
without any of the shop's regulars lifting a finger to stop 'em, or even a whispered-under-the-breath word of protest. Who's hardcore now, man? There's nothing hardcore about today's round of biker magazines. Sometimes ball-peen hammers and baseball bats are better arbiters of what's "hardcore" than bloated opinions.
Today's biker journalism reeks of artificiality. That's what happens when a multidimensional culture is distilled down to a single shallow dimension. That single dimension translates narrowly as..."It's hardtails or nuthin'...."
If that shallow dimension consists of a cookie cutter definition of "hardcore" based on magazine-prescribed codes of behavior and narrowly ordained acceptable bike styles, then it isn't very interesting to read about. When publications skim the surface of a subculture, then plumbing the depths which would really interest readers, is out of the question. For this shallow end of the bay, scuba airtanks aren't needed. Just a dinky snorkel.