Rebel Bikers: are they hairy chopper heads or Moto X kids?
Is there such a thing as the rebel biker?
What does the motorcycle rebel really look like?
Marlon Brando lounging sexily across his Triumph in The Wild One was the start of something. Or it could have been the end, depending on your perspective.
The motorcyclist has for the whole of the twentieth century been seen as a rebel, outside of mainstream society. In the popular imagination he has greasily staked out the edges of criminality.
‘The biker’ is therefore a cowboy hero for the new Millennium. He is commodified, over-styled. His image is so loaded with association that he doesn’t really exist.
But here’s the thing. The custom bike scene still uses the language of the beautiful, edgy loser.
The web has accelerated this process. You can dig the aesthetic of motorcycling otherness even if you’ve lived your entire life in a village in rural Uzbekistan.
As long as you’ve got a decent web hookup you can understand the language of the American highway. Who cares if you’ve never heard the oily blap of a knucklehead in the steel?
There are a ton of people still hammering home the enduring legacy of the Chopper’s outsider status.
21 Days Under The Sky was released earlier this year through a kaleidoscope of online channels. You could pay for the film by way of iTunes pre-order. The film also appears on Netflix.
The film takes the sixties counterculture and passes an updated version of it through the filter of digital tech.
It’s a nicely made movie. It certainly presses aspirational buttons. It really does make you want to take off on the highway and spend a few weeks in simple communion with machine, road and open sky.
But is there anything truly rebellious about all this? Isn’t this just a rehash of a careworn counterculture?
It got us thinking. Can the motorcycle really still be a countercultural totem?
A comment on a suitably cynical forum led us the ‘bike life’ world – and these guys from Baltimore. As you can see, they specialise in ragging motocross bikes around the streets. And therefore dangerously, illegally, spectacularly.
They use an altogether different language to the one that rides the traditional American highway. It is an unlikely demotic of hip-hop applied to dirt bikes in run-down suburban streets.
There’s a programmatic disdain for authority in these guys way of looking at the world. They intentionally wind up the cops.
They are, therefore, more rebellious, edgy and dangerous than a whole flotilla of big guys with beards on choppers. Who live in Williamsburg and Portland.
Don’t try this at home. But enjoy the way these guys feather a throttle.
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