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Gaijin Bikers in Japan
The continuing adventures of a couple of American bikers
in the Land of the Rising Sun

The Long Version

The Stinger once asked bikers on a BBS to define what being a biker means. This is what they had to say:

To ride a motorcycle means to me the following: A way to perceive nature at its best, right there live. A way to release daily stress by conquering the odds. A way to experience vibrating power and be part of it...becoming one...body and machine. A way to share adventuring with other people. A state of mind based on freedom, thoughts, and acts. An excellent way to think about your reality in a focused manner and make decisions about things...that time alone is precious to me....the prairie...the machine...the mind.. A way to meet and exchange experiences with others. A way to express my thanks for being alive and kicking.

Biker, Rider, or Whatever Label that gravitates folks to the Two Wheel thing --- a lot more definition to that as well .... Motorcycling means getting a Rush from the Risks, and Taking that Rush and Naked Exposure to the lethal World together with Heightened/Alerted Senses of Sight, Smell, and Touch which all Wrapped in My Mind equals PURE, Crisp, RAW, Wild, Vibrating FUN!!!!!!

Guess I've been riding so long I've forgotten why I love it so. I tired of four wheelers years ago, never motorcycles. It's not the power, though I do love the power. It's not the handling, sports cars have much higher cornering speeds. I think it's just the experience, the freedom it gives you, the challenge of the long ride, the feeling of no schedule when your out on the road. I hate driving somewhere, I love riding there. I prefer the company of other bikers to non-bikers. When I think of a biker I know, it's usually a guy with an old truck that gets him there and a really nice, well maintained motorcycle for everyday transport. A motorcyclist will have a nice bike, but can't survive without a nice, fairly new four wheeler. I biker rarely has a shop do his maintenance, a motorcyclist knows nothing and cares to know nothing inside the cases. A biker takes a long ride to a run for the sake of the ride as much as the run or the party itself. A motorcyclist trailers his ride to the run, rides the run, and parties, but wouldn't think of riding a hundred miles without a stereo or AC/heat. I know what a biker is, I just can't put my finger on a simple definition. I think bikers appreciate freedom and the outdoors and display a certain self-reliance more so than most others. I often think of the old west and the freedom that the cowboys once knew on the back of a horse in the open spaces, when I'm riding.

Good question. I'll have to find a biker and ask him...if'n I can figure out just what the heck a biker is or if I can find a real one...whatever that is. I still haven't figured it out......but to get back to the topic...gosh, I tend to look at bikers as those who are committed to the entire lifestyle and the philosophy...I don't think I fit that mold...I would consider myself somewhere between a motorcyclist and an enthusiast...I don't wrench near enough, and with the job and weather etc I don't ride near enough but I'll tell you what a bike does for me...it is one of the reasons I put up with a pile of crap at work a lot of days...when I feel the world closing in I get on it and ride...it sure beats going to a shrink or taking stress management courses...my vacations are taken on the bike. I don't really look at it from a rebellious point of view, but those committed to biking are a special breed...risk-takers...a little out of the mainstream…hell, I can't explain it but when you drive your car to work and back home after the work day ends when you're home…when you ride the bike...the workday ends when you thumb the starter...I can't think of anything smart to say right now…too tired from some long hours…a car is transportation...a bike is a BIKE and hopefully I'll be riding them until I can't swing a leg over the saddle.

When I think of what a Biker is, I get confused. Guess it's from seeing so many who want to be, so many that are, so many that don't know who or what they are. The few things that I look for in someone are simple. A biker respects himself and others. He is there for others of his ilk regardless of the circumstances. He doesn't take "back wash" from anybody. For the most part, he fixes his own or has networked friends that help him with what he can't do. He is less worried about his appearance than the functionality of his dress and appearance. The ride *IS* the thing, not the event itself. What it boils down to is simple: a "biker" is the guy you want next to you when the crap is in the fan. They are real, not fakes.

My name is Biker. I chew snuff, share my woman, and beat non-believers of the HD emblem. I eat what I want & drink what I want when I want it. My leathers are black & my vest is faded. My hair & beard are long and grey. I ride my bike to church, and I carry the USA flag with me. I work on my bike with my tools, and help others. I work at my friends bike shop. I am armed and ready to protect if need be. Don't mess with me and I don't mess with you. Biker life is my philosophy and my country is my religion. My HD is the next best thing to sex. Got it?

You know the only thing I don't like about defining the "Biker" is when someone insists their way is "the" way. Personally, if you love the rush of the wind, the smells, the sounds then your a breed apart. If you have the guts to get on one in the first place then you are special. Biker, Motorcyclist, what's the difference. We all appreciate the same things, we just have different "favorites".

Illogical is the key. Nothing logical about this "biker" thing. It's a state of mind, an emotional state. Anyone who would get on a bike and ride to work and leave the truck at home when it's 35 degrees F is not logical. He/she must be doing it for emotional reasons, whatever they may be for him/her. As to the lifestyle, I don't know how things are in other parts of the country, but around here there are lots of stereotypical "bikers" most of whom are good people. I never really fit with many of them, having a wider interest in motorcycles than is the norm. I've been more performance minded in my youth and competition oriented, but that said, I've still been accepted by what I consider "bikers" as an equal and a friend. Like I said before, I can't put my finger on a simple definition. I liked the mention of the practical clothing. I think most "bikers" and other motorcyclists like me are more practical than many about a lot of things. Of course, that thought can be shot to hell at a custom bike show! SEE, just when you think you've got it down, you realize something in the definition is missing.

To me being a biker means taking the challenge of a long ride, valuing freedom and individual expression, respecting others opinions and ways of life, helping out others in need ('cause you never know when you might be in need yourself someday), enjoying the fresh smell of the country side when you ride through it(something you can't do in a cage), respecting the environment(yes I sometimes smoke when I camping on a long ride, but I never throw my cigarette butts on the ground), and overall being a good person, and believing in "live and let live". And of course I love the romance of the road with no particular set destination in mind, having my journey BE my destination. Etc, etc, etc,.

I've been thinking about what constitutes a biker for most of the day, and one thing (hardly a definition) kept popping into my mind. I've met many different types of riders (bikers) and the one characteristic I've noticed in the ones that I consider "Bikers", no matter what they are riding, and in all kinds of conditions, i.e. weather, they always seem to have a look about them, an expression, i.e. a shit-eating grin, so to speak, and when they look at you when riding by and waving or refueling, they have a look that says," yeah, you ride, and you know what the hell I'm smiling about". I don't see it in all riders, but a fair percentage have the "look". Does this make sense to anyone?

There you have it, straight from the horses' mouths. Did you notice that no individual poster was able to produce a definition of "biker" that was pinpoint accurate, even in their own opinion? And these are all genuine bikers. Some ride sport bikes and some ride cruisers. Some ride HD's and some do not. But they're all bikers. And not one of them could precisely define what it means to be a biker. They had to use examples of personal experiences in an attempt to relate their perceptions of what being a biker is all about.

There are, however, striking similarities in each one's perception of "bikerness". Each entry contains allusions to freedom, individuality, heightened senses and an enhanced sense of being alive, appreciation for nature and scenic beauty, self-confidence and contentedness, peace of mind, self-respect and respect for others, epicureanism, adventurousness, frugality, and a semi-mystical sense of unity with one's motorcycle.

So what does that really mean? What is being a biker all about? Well…


Becoming a biker has affected my life in numerous, extremely positive ways. First and foremost is humanitarianism. I cannot count the times a fellow biker and complete stranger has stopped for me on the road to offer assistance, rescue, advice, or simply greetings. And presented with the opportunity, I find myself returning the favor to other fellow bikers, or anyone in need for that matter. Why do we bikers go out our way to help others? Because we never know when we ourselves will be in need someday. Bikers make look scary, but they're really the nicest people on earth.


Another positive effect has been a heightened respect for nature and sense of environmentalism. Haven ridden through raw, untamed nature, and loved every minute of it, bikers know from first hand experience exactly what will be destroyed by corrupt industry and excessive capitalism. I find myself naturally more cautious of my own impact on the environment. I always make sure to take all of my trash from a campground, to be properly disposed of later; I never litter, and often find myself cleaning up other people's cigarette butts, etc.


Being a biker has also given me a tremendous sense of self-respect and self-confidence. Motorcycling is what I live for, and it motivates me to work hard so I can keep on motorcycling. It instils respect in me for differing ways of life and opinions of others. Being a biker makes it easier to strike up conversations and acquaintances with others in a relaxed and honest manner.


Motorcycling also lends certain immunity from trends and a sense of frugality. A motorcycle, having little storage capacity, allows for only the bare essentials when traveling, so we bikers tend to bring with us only what we need, and desire little more. Biker attire is chiefly a question of form over function. The leathers and jeans we wear are born of necessity (though perhaps not the colorful patches and accessories that also adorn us). That our clothes are in style with the latest fashion trend matters little to us. The leather jackets we wear today will be the leather jackets we wear decades from now.


Best of all, being a biker gives one the opportunity and the motivation to get out there and see more the country, witness the land in its beautiful natural form, and meet people from other walks of life. It allows the freedom and leisure of choosing where and when to go. And it's not just the destination that's important. The journey there is as equally enjoyable, if not more so than the destination. To quote Warren Belasco, "You are your own master, the road is ahead; you eat as you please, cooking your own meals over an open fire; sleeping when you will under the stars, waking with the dawn; swim in a mountain lake when you will, and always the road ahead."

The Road

This subject almost deserves an entire thesis for itself. Suffice to say that the biker's romance with the road is something truly remarkable. These two quotes sun up these feelings nicely:

Cruising on a motorcycle is a way to feel and receive visual data without having to process it. The film privileges the idea that raw, unfiltered life is superior to the life that is abstracted and filtered through the mind. The road is an arena upon which to live out this ideal of immediate, sensory experience.

- Michael Agger on the film "Easy Rider"
"Route 66: Cruising the American Dream"

We traveled on foot over rough paths and dangerously unpredictable roads, not simply as peddlers or commuters or tourists, but as men and women for whom the path or road stood for some intense experience: freedom, new human relationships, a new awareness of the landscape. The road offered a journey into the unknown that could end up allowing us to discover who we were and where we belonged.

- J.B. Jackson, A Sense of Time, A Sense of Place

City Life

Being a biker is not all positive. On the negative side, it instils a certain amount of disdain for cities and mainstream life. From a biker's point of view, what could be so great about the city? A concrete jungle full of traffic jams and tall buildings filled with uniformed office workers putting in long hours. What's so great about having a ridiculously expensive luxury automobile or sportscar if you're just going to end up stuck in bumper to bumper traffic? What's so great about putting in those long hours of overtime to make loads of money if you'll never have time do anything meaningful with it? A quote from Patrick Swayze's character in the (otherwise shallow) film "Point Break" nicely sums up this feeling: "It's about us against the system, the system that destroys the human spirit. We show those dead souls, inching along the highway in their metal coffins, that the human spirit survives, survives in us."

Being Alive

Riding a motorcycle gives the biker a very acute sense of being alive and of physical presence equal to almost no other experience. I think Robert Pirsig sums this feeling up nicely:

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.


And of course motorcycling is just plain fun!