There is a dichotomy in motorcycling today. There are people that ride motorcycles and there are Harley-Davidson riders. Harley riders don’t just ride motorcycles, they ride Harleys. There are numerous stereotypes about Harley riders, and stereotypes being what they are, they generally hold true for the most part with some obvious exceptions.
For example, most Harley riders wear black leather and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing non-black textile gear. They can often be found wearing black ‘clam-shell’ half helmets rather than the more brightly painted full-face helmets favored by sport bike and dual-sport riders.
They often wear black t-shirts with their favorite company’s logo emblazoned across the back. They often wear black leather chaps instead of armored full pants (and certainly not textile!) Their bikes have more chrome than a pigeon could shit on in its entire life and they are all cruisers; there’s not a sport tourer or crotch rocket in the entire Harley rider’s line-up.
Harley riders refer to their involvement in motorcycling as a ‘lifestyle’. They don’t ride motorcycles, it’s who they are. That’s all well and good, and that attitude can be found in many aspects of life. Harley riders also have a creed, “Live free” and that’s where the dichotomy comes into play.
A more correct version should be “Live free … like the rest of us.” Harley riders are homogenous if they are anything. They’re cut from a more similar cloth than just about any other recreational group I can imagine. Again, that’s all well and good.
But I’ve noticed something as I’ve ridden around the Pacific Northwest over the past two years. Motorcyclists wave to each other as they pass, regardless of what they look like, what they’re wearing, or what bike they’re riding. I’ve noticed something consistent, though. If a motorcyclist fails to wave at me, or scowls at me, or exhibits any kind of non-friendly behavior, they’re on a Harley 100% of the time.
There have been many times when I have entered a cafe or restaurant on my travels, and upon entering get invited to join the group when other motorcyclists are already there. But that only happens with non-Harley riders.
I’d be willing to bet that if I met each Harley rider one-on-one, they’d be nice people across the board. But in a group, their personalities seem to change. “If you’re not one of Us, you’re against Us.” Or something like that.
I’m not sure where this attitude comes from or why. There are certainly numerous Harley riders that would be very offended by my observations, “What? No, you’ve got us all wrong! We’re nice people!” The fact remains that the only motorcyclists who’ve been rude or stand-offish to me have been riding Harley-Davidson. It’s not for lack of trying on my part, either. I wave at them and smile despite their scowls.