Juli Oates published an article on the Thrillist, which outlined some really great suggestions for all newbies to the biker lifestyle that could help a lot of you stay out of trouble. If you haven’t read it head to the full article here. I’m not really going to copy it word for word, but the general recommendations that she made are as follows.
Rule #1: Be on the bartender’s good side
Generally speaking, bikers respect bartenders. If it’s clear that the bartender thinks you’re an all right guy, they’ll assume you’re okay too. If the bartender can’t stand you, they’ll sense that too.
Rule #2: Follow the bartender’s cues If the bartender doesn’t look concerned over a group of bikers’ impending arrival (and this will almost always be the case), you shouldn’t either. If the bartender looks nervous, consider paying your tab and leaving. If the bartender locks the doors, they know something bad is about to happen, and you should consider cowering behind the bar.
Rule #3: Recognize who’s in charge
This new crowd won’t rush the bar until after the proper members have been served. It’s an unspoken show of respect for their role in the pack.
Rule #4: Learn to read patches
The patches on a biker’s jacket tell a story — among other things, what club the wearer’s part of, whether it’s a Motorcycle Club or Riding Club, what city he’s from, what territory his club claims (MCs only; RCs don’t claim territory), and whether he’s a prospect or a member. You’ll also be able to tell if there are multiple MCs present. Even if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of which clubs are friendly and which hate each other’s guts, you’ll at least be aware of the potential for trouble.
Rule #5: Assuming a biker is going to hurt you might get you hurt
If you overcompensate by trying to look tough, they’ll mess with you — usually in good humor, but you will be made a fool of, and not everyone can handle that kind of humor. If you look terrified, they’ll feed off that too, but not necessarily because they’re bullies. When people assume you’re dangerous to mess with, it’s a compliment; but when they assume you’re prone to senseless, unprovoked violence, it’s an insult. So, take it on faith that despite the intimidating looks these are all decent people, and (probably) nothing will happen to you.
Rule #6: Don’t expect to impress anybody with your shiny hog
If you bought something just to show it off in your driveway, you are a “waxer”, and it won’t matter what kind of bike you own. On the other hand, if your helmet shows signs of scuffing — or, better, you’re able to convincingly talk about how you do your own wrenching — you’ll find that guys won’t disrespect you for riding a bike you’re comfortable with (versus riding a bike you think you should be riding). In the end, what you ride is not as important as the fact that you do ride.
Rule #7: Don’t overdress the part As with motorcycles, bikers can tell when your gear is lightly used. If your chaps still squeak, it means they spend most of their time hanging in the closet. If your black jacket hasn’t been grayed out from exposure, same thing. Again, it’s not a show, it’s a lifestyle.
Rule #7: Assume every woman is somebody’s old lady
If a woman who looks like a cross between Pink and Joan Jett cozies up to the jukebox and asks what you’re playing, just step away and let her play her songs with your money. (Note: bikers only say the term “old lady” if the lady in question is still young; but if an older woman pulls this move, you should still assume she’s dating someone who wears a jacket that you’re not allowed to wear.)
Rule #8: Don’t drop names*
If you actually know a biker in a casual way (i.e., you don’t know a single thing about his allegiances), don’t mention it — you might accidentally compliment someone’s enemy or insult someone’s friend. Even if someone asks you, leave it at “yeah, I know him”, and don’t get into it any further.
Now I’m going to add some additional rules that I’ve come to learn over time. These aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules, but if you follow them, they might help keep you out of trouble.
Don’t call anyone you don’t know ‘bro’… ever. I am not and probably never will be your “bro”. You have not earned the right. Just because you read in your copy of (insert magazine name here) that “bikers” call each other bro’ does NOT mean you have to run out and find somebody with a Harley and call him bro’ so you can be a biker too.
You have never pulled an all nighter with me.
You have never helped me fix my bike on the side of the road. (in the rain)
You have never wasted your weekend helping me dig through a junk pile looking for that one little part that is just the thing I need to get my bike running.
You have never loaned me the tool that I didn’t have so I could put that part on.
Are you starting to get the picture? Just remove the word bro’ from your vocabulary. Trust me on this one.
Having a fancy custom bike that somebody else built for you or having a brand new bike with only 3 digits on the odometer does NOT make you a biker. You may be a biker and own one of the above but that is not what made you a biker.
In my mind a biker is a person who loves to ride their bike just for the pure fun of riding it. Getting out in the air and seeing the world in person and not through a window. Or hell, maybe you just have a thing for getting popped in the face by bugs at 60mph.
A biker, to me is NOT someone who got a bike just so they can look cool or because the guy down the road has one and you need a bigger/prettier one to prove you are somebody important. If this sounds like you, sell your bike. You’ll never make it.
If you have ever been depressed because you rode your bike and nobody saw you, hang it up. Don’t try to pretend like you’re a biker, because more than likely, he real bikers will be able to see right through you, with your shiny boots that have no scuffs on them and your brand new leathers etc. Most of us can take one look at you and know that you’re a weekend rider. Nothing wrong with it. If thats what you are, then good for you. Just don’t pretend to be a hard core biker because to the ones who are, you’ll just be looked at as a poser and a joke. As one of my friends once said. “you do you” That means be who you are, don’t pretend to be what you’re not.
Sell your trailer and RIDE YOUR BIKE. It’s as simple as that. That bike you bought has wheels on it for a reason. If you want to be a real biker you can’t do it driving your “Good Times” van with the bike being towed behind like some kind of midlife crisis pull toy.
Rule #4, the big one
NEVER ride on past a person on the side of the road with a broken down bike. Even if you haven’t got a clue how to fix a loose mirror on your best day. At least stop and see if you can call somebody for them from the next gas station. Who knows they may stop for you some day. Pass ’em by and I promise they won’t.
Rule #5 PAY ATTENTION TO THIS ONE
If you see a 1% club member, this goes with the previous rule about learning how to read and recognize patches. Basically though, the rule of thumb is, if you see the letters MC on their back anywhere, or a Diamond symbol with the number 1% written in it, don’t go up to them asking stupid questions, or touching them without permission, or interrupt them if they’re talking to one of the club brothers, because thats just rude.
If you want to show respect and introduce yourself, wait patiently for an opportunity to introduce yourself, and then, introduce yourself and shake their hand like a man. Don’t try to give them a hug, because they don’t know you, and its usually an honor reserved for a brother. But if they do pull you in for a hug, DON’T reach around and pat them on their back, because thats where their patch is, and touching their patch without permission is a BIG NO NO.
And for GODS SAKE. NEVER, EVER, EVER go up to a member of an MC, touch any part of their vest, and ask “Whats that patch” or “whats that for” Because you just disrespected them, and you showed just how stupid and inexperienced you really are.
Basically treat them with the same respect you would expect, and don’t hang around without being invited to do so first.