The motorcycle, since its inception, has always been more than transportation. Because it takes place in public space, and because, in developed nations, it’s no longer essential as an economic form of transportation, it’s become a sport as well. As a result, it’s always been iconic, even over-encoded, so the mere fact of riding is at once an activity and a performance.
Its essence is speed in a world in which time itself seems to have increased its velocity. In riding, the motorcyclist becomes one with his/her machine, an image of a cyborgian unity that can only become more central to our daily existence as we walk about with machines embedded in our bodies, from pacemakers to insulin dispensers. It’s an economical internal combustion machine, embodying the contradiction between love of engines and the recognition that our profligate use of them is destroying the planet. The motorcycle embodies a double nostalgia, a looking-backward toward the American West, and a looking-forward toward a time when all people can unite in a brotherhood modeled on the motorcycle club. It exemplifies modern engineering excellence, yet an owner can’t wait to modify it to make it his/her own. Its birth is coincident with the modern world, and in late modernity it came to symbolize the psychic fruits of modernism: alienation and opposition to authority. The motorcycle allows riders to flaunt a lack of concern with the constraints of society, while adhering to a de rigueur code of dress and behavior. The sensation of being on a motorcycle embodies what we’re all seeking in life. Freedom. a. Who is a motorcyclist? Why motorcycle?
In 2000, a little network called the Discovery Channel produced a show that aired right between shark attacks and the secrets of the pyramids called Motorcycle Mania and starred a guy named Jesse James. This was the great grandson of the famous Wild West outlaw Jesse James, legendary member of Hell’s Angels. What did this guy do? He built motorcycles—big custom motorcycles, or as most people call them, choppers. For the first time, millions of God-fearing people who subscribed to a channel devoted to learning and higher education got a glimpse into a lifestyle that for years was regarded as taboo. The Discovery Channel was determined to re-educate people and tell them how wrong the American people, were about bikers. All the moms across America were saying to their kids: “Now watch closely and go get your father.” Suddenly, a generation of baby boomers and their children, sitting comfortably on their couches with enough money to afford cable television, were able to confess their secret desire to be a biker: “If it’s on Discovery it must be OK!” (Barbieri 9)For the first time ever, women and children watched a well-produced, beautifully filmed show and learned something about men, motorcycles, and, more important, about bikers. They discovered that bikers were generous, interesting people and there was nothing better than that feeling of the wind in your face on a beautiful sun-drenched afternoon. The Everyman fantasy was validated. The scary outlaw biker raping and pillaging was wiped out in one 90-minute Discovery program, and a new generation of bikers was born.
The last published, by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), statistic says there are over 7million motorcycles registered in 2007 in the United States; that’s nearly 3% of all registered vehicles in United States. (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data, Motorcycles.)
It is barely possible to estimate this number worldwide. The owners, who are they? Why they chose motorcycles?
Motorcycles bring people together. Motorcycles are like being naked. Just as everyone exists on the same level naked, riding one unites you with other riders, whether they be mechanics or stock brokers, professors...