As a marketing rep for the top motorcycle accident lawyers in the Nation, I get to meet a lot of great people and some of the best of the best are in New York. I met Lisa Petrocelli, editor of New York Rider Magazine, in Washington, DC, at the infamous Rolling Thunder’s Ride To The Wall. Lisa is a talented and passionate writer and I am sharing one of her articles with you here.
Peace and ride safe!
Biker Red
NEVER JUDGE A COVER, by Lisa Petrocelli
Since I’ve been involved with bikers and New York Rider Magazine, there are many things I’ve learned that have  shattered every perception I ever held true in my mind regarding bikers, outlaw and otherwise.
As a kid I used to watch the bikers ride by and wish I was one of them, but at the same time I was intimidated by them, at least most of them. But I think the intimidation factor is part of the attraction for me too (hey at least I admit it!) Naturally, I thought those guys were tougher, more street-smart, rough (in and around the edges), big, burly, unfriendly, and most likely all working as mechanics or something at gas stations around the world. Dear readers, I have graduated from being totally intimidated to feeling totally comfortable around bikers. Years ago, I would never have considered approaching a biker to make conversation or walking into a biker bar on my own, now I actually prefer biker bars over other bars, and of course the company of bikers around me has somehow become a requirement for me to be happy these days!
Perception  – Bikers are rough, tough, and mean!
Rough? There may be some truth to this perception, but it’s really a matter of opinion. What makes a person rough and tough may actually be just a personality trait. Sure, the black leather makes anyone look a little tough (and yes it really does make us feel tough), in fact wearing black all the time does seem to send some kind of signal to society that you are in cahoots with “the dark side,” but really it’s all just part of the culture. It’s our way of categorizing ourselves into a special “club” that isn’t really a club but another small world within our own universe. Feels good too, doesn’t it, when we meet up with people so compatible with us, others who feel exactly the same way we do about riding and why we love it? It’s like meeting your match over and over again and sharing the fires that spark!
Tough? Maybe – but I’ve found more often that the toughness is revealed only when necessary. Bikers can be defensive creatures, mostly out of habit since it goes with the territory on the road, after all. Of course a biker will always be ready for the unexpected, including conflicts, and I have yet to meet a biker who will not fight fiercely for someone or something he believes in. Resilient, though, is a better adverb for bikers. Try to find a biker who has survived a crash and spends the rest of his life wallowing in pity. He will do everything in his power to get back on his bike and live his life with pride and dignity. Against all odds, his heart continues to beat fast and furiously for freedom in the wind.
Mean? This perception couldn’t be further from the truth. Over and over I have been proven wrong on the rare occasions that I’ve let myself judge a man by the length of his beard or how grungy he appears.  In fact, contrary to what I might originally think, I find these men so endearing after talking a while, that I start to see the messy hair and worn-out jeans as a costume that someone might don for a special occasion, only in this case, the costume becomes part of the essence that sets them apart. I love the unspoken biker attitude of “take me as I am,” with no need to impress each other, no need to boast of your latest business deal or how much money you made this year. All of that information is irrelevant. Bikers seek and usually find the person under the surface. Why? Maybe because every biker knows that he/she is gambling everytime they hop on the bike – we know we are more vulnerable to the elements, to accidents – and we appreciate our time together that much more. For these same reasons, most of us embrace each other upon meeting and saying goodbye. Bikers cut through the everyday, mundane issues that plague all of us, at least during the RIDE, because we know the passage of time is so inevitable. We want to KNOW each other NOW – and to do that we must be REAL. Which is exactly the point I am trying to make – bikers will be some of the most honest, hard-working, and loyal people you will ever meet if you are lucky enough. Honorable people, and far, far from mean.
Perception: Bikers are all mechanics or gas station attendants!
First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with mechanics or gas-station attendants.  I state this only as an example of what *I* preconceived in my mind about bikers (just as someone might assume I was a professional writer).  Imagine my surprise to learn that after meeting hundreds of bikers, I still haven’t met one who works as a mechanic or gas-station attendant!  Instead, I know biker doctors, biker lawyers, biker cops, biker truck drivers, biker office workers, you get the idea.  Here’s an analogy:  bikers are like ice cream – they come in all different flavors and varieties – small, medium, large, hard, soft, low-fat, high-fat – and their occupations follow suit.  In the biker world, you never know whether you’re talking to a convenience store clerk or a rocket scientist.
Perception:  Bikers have no heart!
Newsflash: Bikers have bigger hearts than anyone I know! Consider that they spend a lot of their time on the weekends attending charity functions (READ contributing money to charities), and the other part of their week either at their daily occupation, or most likely helping out a brother or sister, or visiting someone in a hospital, and maybe you will realize the truth of this revelation! The most wonderful people who work for Hospice here in Albany are biker friends of ours (has anyone ever met people with more compassion than Hospice angels?), and not only “introduced” us to the Rolling Thunder Ride to the Wall, but watched over Dino and I on our first trip down to Washington, always making sure we stayed with the pack and didn’t fall behind. I cannot begin to count the many bikers, men and women, I have interviewed who at first struck me as rough around the edges and unapproachable, only to learn fairly quickly that I was so utterly mistaken. And it’s not as though they are trying to hide their hearts, rather, I believe it is the public’s eternal perception that bikers are cold, heartless people who only want to cause all kinds of trouble, make lots of noise, and wreck havoc on everyone’s lives. This was the one perception I was absolutely delighted to have shattered. Still, so many times I invite friends of mine who are not bikers to attend a biker event and they always have some excuse not to go, or they tell me they would never “fit in.”  This cracks me up – if there is any arena in this world where you don’t have to worry about “fitting in” it is undoubtedly a public biker event. I have seen all ages, all sizes, all colors, at biker events. There is no end to the diversity you will see, among those brave souls who do venture out into the biker community for a few hours! It’s like a whole village of people standing in the direct path of a rainbow. Perhaps if my friends read this, they will make an attempt to join me one of these days.
Perception: They’re all gang members and they only hang out with their own kind!
One of the very first lessons I learned was to never, never, never refer to a biker, especially one who is also a club member, as a GANG member. Bikers do know the difference between the word “club” and “gang” and definitely do not care to be charged with having a gang mentality. Any links that people see between gangs and biker clubs are totally off base. Bikers are not West Side Story wannabes looking for a rumble on every corner. Club Members are people who choose to join and belong to a particular club (or brotherhood, or “family”), like-minded individuals with their own talents to bring to the family. They are like branches on a tree, together they make up a strong united force and when one breaks, the others feel the pain. Gangs, on the other hand, are usually more inclined toward inciting violence and perpetuating that reputation. Of course there are criminal elements in every society. I do not believe there are more or less in the biker culture. Human nature does not change, whether you’re a biker club member or a librarian. We are all vulnerable to crime and our own temperament determines our reactions. While it may be true that bikers tend to hang out with their own kind more often than not, and that would be a normal, instinctive thing to do, it is not true that bikers segregate themselves from non bikers. Remember, opposites attract, and I have witnessed many biker couples who were not really biker couples! The husband might ride but the wife may be terrified to ever get on a Harley. The wife may be a “woman in the wind” but her husband might be content to spend his weekends playing golf. I wish more people would attend biker events and so they would see for themselves how welcome and accepted they would be.
Perception: They all have long hair, tattoos, and piercings!
OK, a lot of bikers do have long hair, tattoos and piercings, and it does make for a colorful range of diversity. But there are some bikers who will never be tattooed, like to wear their hair in crew cuts and despise piercings of any kind. All of these elements, however, make a statement – it can be some sort of declaration or just a glimpse into a person’s soul. We all express ourselves in different ways. Mine happens to be writing and music. My husband’s is through photography. Yes, many of our friends choose to talk through their tattoos! Finding your own passion is absolutely essential in this life!
That’s from Lisa Petrocelli of New York Rider Magazine. A great mag and they are huge supporters of our motorcycle community. They are based out of Syracuse but cover all of New York and surrounding states.