“A lot of people have stereotypical images of what a biker is. A lot of that is perpetuated by television and movies like ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ That’s not really the majority of people who ride motorcycles. You’re looking at people now who are business professionals, people who have other things they do but are motorcycle enthusiasts.
When you talk about bikers, and events, your mind is automatically drawn towards those negative images, and while there are some people in violent, criminal biker organizations, we have never had any problems with those types of individuals.
Bikes, Blues, and BBQ has taken a proactive stance to keep it a family-friendly environment. A prime example was two officers from Daytona, Fla., came to Fayetteville to give us tips because as the event started growing, we knew we needed to turn to them because they’ve had rallies for years. One of the things they were surprised by was the number of baby strollers and children. In Daytona you don’t see that. It’s just a different environment,” said Sgt. Craig Stout of the Fayetteville Police Department.
Special Contribution By Patrick Rippy
For decades the image of leather clad, tattooed, spiked helmet wearing caricatures has pervaded the notion that all bikers are either suicidal speed freaks or lawless kings of the road. Despite their demonization, however, the type of person who claims to be a motorcycle enthusiast has broadened beyond the borders of gangland.
Today, many new to the motorcycle culture in East Texas are embracing hogs and contributing to a more respectable motorcycle community. In the last 10 years alone, the face of biking has changed dramatically. According to a survey performed by the Media Audit, the majority of motorcycle owners are married with an average age of 41 years old.
Similarly, the percentage of people who are age 50 and older has increased from 8 percent to a whopping 25 percent of total motorcycle owners since 2003. With the average annual income for owners being projected at around $77,714 ($12,000 higher than the national average), it can be seen how people from rather successful walks of life have taken up recreational biking.
“A person’s perception of motorcycling can be a funny thing” says Earl Coppinger, the President of Motorsports Training Center which offers courses in motorcycle safety in Texas. In addition to being the president, Coppinger is also a certified instructor, teaching motorcycle safety classes for students 18 and older. “Most people seem to draw their opinions about motorcycling based on their most recent encounter with a motorcyclist, or the most recent horror story they have heard. The overall perception about riding a motorcycle has improved in the last 20 years, but the typical motorcycling stereotypes still exist for most people.”
Peter Mauk, the owner of Scooter Pete’s motorcycle dealership, also in Texas, is another voice who advocates motorcycle riding as a recreational activity as well as having a positive impact on the community: “Today it’s the ‘in’ thing to do… Now, riders ride for causes to help others. That, in the public’s eye, has [broadened] awareness that not all bikers are ‘bad.’ You would even be surprised to find out the ‘bad boy’ clubs do their fair share of helping those in need!”
Some ways bikers are helping in NWA is through groups like Christian Bikers Alliance, Armed Forces Benefit rides, Riding for a Reason poker runs and of course Bikes, Blues and BBQ. Find more events focused around NWA bikers by visiting, steelhorseshades.com/Arkansas_8K7P.html.
As co-owner of a Harley Shop, it is safe to say that Gail Calhoun has seen more than her fair share of riders. “Bikers are some of the most generous people I know,” states Gail. “They will give the last dollar in their pocket to buy a toy to see a child smile at Christmas. They will be the [ones] to stop on the side of road to help someone who has [a] broke down [car]. A biker will never leave another biker stranded.”
From this description, it is clear that the Southern genteel nature so common in Arkansas and other Southern states is prevalent even from the back of a Harley.
“Motorcycling is a sense of freedom that you will never regret getting into,” continued Gail, who has herself been riding for over 20 years. “It’s the only way to see this country, [while] being part of the elements of nature and the environment. The camaraderie you will find in the motorcycling community is like no other sport. It doesn’t matter who you are, you will always feel welcomed by another biker.”
This compelling testimony attributes much in the way of revamping the motorcycle rider’s self-image. No longer is there an exclusionary “brotherhood” required for people to feel welcome, but rather by virtue of simply being a courteous rider makes it so anyone can be apart of the motorcycle community.
Inevitably, this sense of riding free with the wind has a positive impact on the lives of people who appreciate motorcycling recreationally. “I wake up in the morning and I am thinking about ‘how long it will be till I can get on a bike,’ as my wife would say” explains Coppinger. “I ride every day and when I don’t get to ride, it is not a very good day. For me, it is motorcycling 24/7! I only wish everyone could enjoy the thrill of the sport as much as I do.”
As enjoyable as it can be, riding a motorcycle is not the safest mode of transportation and includes some occupational hazards that require the attention of both the rider as well as those around him/her. “The public needs to be aware of motorcycles,” notes Mauk. “Really, it’s more than that, sometimes they see us but some think, ‘I am bigger than them, they’ll stop, they don’t want to get hit.’ Sometimes we can’t stop fast enough and we are the ones who lose. I have lost too many friends to the carelessness of people, and death is not the worst thing that can happen to you either.”
Most multiple vehicle accidents result from the driver of another vehicle failing to recognize a motorcycle’s right of way with a significant number of these accidents resulting in the motorcyclist’s death. It is the responsibility of all Arkansans to prevent these accidents by driving defensively and ultimately sharing the road.
Anyone interested in riding should take into consideration the skill and safety required to operate a motorcycle, but by no means should it stop them from pursuing this endeavor. The exhilarating rush and local camaraderie that comes with being a biker is sure to sate anyone’s appetite for excitement. Whether a day-in-day-out kind of rider or just a weekend warrior, there are many ways in which motorcyclists give back to Arkansas. To these benevolent thrill seekers, while four wheels may move the body, two wheels are what move the soul.
Courtesy of BSCENE Magazine, BSCENEMAG.COM, writer Patrick Rippy