1. Intro. The motorbike, because its creation, has always been more than transport. Since it occurs in public area, and because, in developed countries, it’s no longer necessary as an economic form of transport, it’s ended up being a sport as well. As an outcome, it’s always been iconic, even over-encoded, so the mere reality of riding is at once an activity and a performance. Its essence is speed in a world in which time itself appears to have actually increased its velocity.
In riding, the motorcyclist ends up being one with his/her maker, an image of a cyborgian unity that can just become more main to our daily presence as we perambulate with machines embedded in our bodies, from pacemakers to insulin dispensers. It’s an affordable internal combustion machine, embodying the contradiction in between love of engines and the recognition that our profligate use of them is ruining the planet. The bike embodies a double nostalgia, a looking-backward towards the American West, and a looking-forward towards a time when all people can unite in a brotherhood modeled on the bike club.
It exemplifies modern-day engineering quality, yet an owner can’t wait to modify it to make it his/her own. Its birth is coincident with the modern-day world, and in late modernity it pertained to symbolize the psychic fruits of modernism: alienation and opposition to authority. The bike allows riders to flaunt a lack of concern with the constraints of society, while adhering to a de rigueur code of gown and habits.
The sensation of being on a motorbike embodies what we’re all looking for in life. Liberty. a. Who is a motorcyclist? Why motorcycle?
In 2000, a little network called the Discovery Channel produced a show that aired right in between shark attacks and the secrets of the pyramids called Motorbike Mania and starred a person named Jesse James. This was the fantastic grand son of the well-known Wild West outlaw Jesse James, legendary member of Hell’s Angels. What did this person do? He developed motorbikes– big custom bikes, or as many people call them, choppers. For the first time, countless God-fearing individuals who subscribed to a channel devoted to knowing and college got a glimpse into a lifestyle that for many years was concerned 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 or construction workers.
Motorcycles highlight the essential and significant tacit dimension of our lives, revealing to us the limits of language in expressing what’s most important to us. Like conveying the taste of a fine wine to a teetotaler, or the experience of sex to a virgin, language experiences its limits in trying to describe what it’s like to ride on a motorcycle. Why ride a motorcycle? Riding is something most people don’t have to do, but rather feel compelled to-for a wide variety of reasons ranging from passion to practicality.
One of the most distinct things about riding is that nothing feels quite like a motorcycle; the thrill of being at one with a two-wheeled machine that weighs only a few hundred pounds is one of the purest ways to get from point A to B, and the risks involve sometimes even heighten that enjoyment. Perhaps Robert Pirsig said it best in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”: “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. ”(27)
The motorcyclist is not at an end of any process, but a moment in a continual process of production, and a process that is not linear but multi-layered and multi-faceted—a truly complex process—and the motorcyclist is a multi-“talented” performer in it. Thus a new construction of the motorcyclist as producer/performer is afforded. As a producer of life experiences, identities, and meanings, the motorcyclist/ performer becomes a constructor, a signifier of what is to become, of the potentials, and is no longer simply a reproducer of the past or present experiences and conditions of consumption.
Postmodern bikers as performers, therefore, need props and a stage that enables and empowers the communities they belong to, and thereby they produce/construct what is imaginable in terms of life experiences, meanings and identities more than research that reifies or reconstructs that which is. (Schouten 47-48) b. History – where and how motorcyclists became noticed? It is undeniably true that in United States the birth for spreading the motorcycle trend gave Sonny Berger founding the first chapter of The Hell’s Angels club in Oakland California in 1948.
Nowadays, The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide one-percenter motorcycle club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is considered an organized crime syndicate by the US Department of Justice. (Randy) Despite the group’s fame and long history, there is much about the Angels that remains shrouded in mystery. The history of the gang and its current membership are murky topics, and what goes on inside its secretive clubhouses tends to stays there — just as the bikers want it.
For years, the HAMC, as members refer to the group, remained a California organization; the first chapter to open outside the state started in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1961. Eventually the club grew to most states and 30 or more countries, fueled by the alluring imagery of devil-may-care outlaws making their own rules. Pop culture helped buttress that iconic image, especially the 1954 Marlon Brando film “The Wild One”. The group says a typical member rides 20,000 miles a year, usually on the Angels’ preferred machines, Harley-Davidsons.
And members still refer to themselves as “one percenters” — half-century-old boast playing off the saying that 1% of troublemakers give a bad name to 99% of respectable bikers. (Barger, R. 37-38) We all like to know our roots. The genealogy of the “bad biker” starts loosely after World War II, when U. S. servicemen returned home after taking part in a conflagration that saw over 50 million people slaughtered. It was a good war, very black-and-white, they were all considered heroes, and phrases like post-traumatic stress disorder did not exist.
Yet the soldiers, after leaving their Thompson submachine guns and Mustang P-51 fighters behind and donning their civvies, were not the same guys who’d left home to see war up close and personal in the European and Pacific theaters. Upon returning home, they found it wasn’t the same. Some of them climbed on motorcycles and wandered the byways and highways of America looking for answers to unanswerable questions or teamed up with their war buddies because either they felt safer in the company of their brothers-under-arms or they didn’t quite fit back into the relatively low ebb of civilian life.
(Garson 21) Motorcycles maybe gave them back the edge they needed, the adrenaline rush they had experienced so often in combat. In any case, they were not riding into towns and burning them to the ground. Throughout the centuries man has striven to expand his capabilities through the use of machines. His ever inventive mind has constantly devised ways to use tools to increase his abilities to explore the world around him, to go faster, deeper, higher and further than before. Coupled with his need to find new thrills, new adventures and new modes of transportation, the invention and refinement of the motorcycle seems an inevitable outcome.
Motorcycles are descended from the “safety” bicycle, bicycles with front and rear wheels of the same size, with a pedal crank mechanism to drive the rear wheel. The first motorbike was built in 1868. It was not powered by a gasoline engine, but by a steam engine. Its builder was Sylvester Howard Roper. His steam-powered bike was demonstrated at fairs and circuses in the eastern US in 1867 and did not catch on, but it anticipated many modern motorbike features, including the twisting-handgrip throttle control. (Lyon 77) The motorcycle market was timed spot on for the baby boomer generation.
In 1944-46, servicemen (and women) were returning from World War II and has a thirst for life and living and wanted to do more than settle down. Motorcycles were popular in WWII and people wanted to try them, and they did and they sold in good numbers. But it was not until the 1960’s when their kids grew up that motorcycling took off like a rocket. (McDonald- Walker 93-94) To fully understand the BUST we need to understand the BOOM. For argument sake the average motorcycle buyer in 1962 was 16-18 years old, they were happy with the cheap 50-450cc motorcycles of the time.
(McDonald – Walter 97) Roads were being expanded on a massive scale across North America as years progressed. Since them, the expansion of motorcycles, not only in United States, but worldwide did not stop. 2. Culture identity. “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets” Hells’ Angels motto Riding a motorcycle is one of the most liberating and freeing things that someone can do. The feel of the wind in face and the road at your feet is one of the best feelings in the world. This chapter explains a little bit about motorcycle culture and why people love it so much.
First of all, in order to understand motorcycle culture it is necessary to understand Harley Davidson. This is the original American motorcycle manufacturer that started the image of the American biker. People who ride on Harley Davidson motorcycles are usually diehard fans of the brand, and to them, if you don’t ride a Harley you are not part of the group. But, in reality, it does not mean you are not a biker. Part of what it means to ride a motorcycle is to have a disregard for normality. Most bikers pride themselves on being a little rough on the edges and being seen as a little scary once and a while.
Biker culture has its own distinct clothing style consisting of a lot of black leather, bandanas, and blue jeans. “One Percenters” have been here since man learned to walk upright, maybe longer. This number is being used symbolically, not for its numeric value. They are the restless ones, those who can never find peace or love for any length of time. In that respect, there is never any consistency in their lives. They are the Cowboys and the Loners, wildly drifting in and out of history . They are the Pirates sailing free, and they are Bikers riding free. (Reynolds 60) Not everyone in America rides a Harley.
To many people this part of motorcycle culture is too harsh and abrasive. There are large groups of people who enjoy riding foreign motorcycles and touring the country on more modern bikes that are known for reliability and performance. Harley Davidson is known as a loud bike that has a very distinctive rumble. Whatever group biker is identifying with, riding a motorcycle can be fun and rewarding. The motorcycle’s cultural significance is tied up with complex issues of history, consumerism, psychology, design, aesthetics, gender and sexuality.
It is particularly intrigue by the ways motorcycling culture has either reinforced or subverted traditional assumptions about masculinity and femininity. Academics, on the other hand, may find motorcycles to be too declasse for serious study—except, of course, the occasional thesis on, ho-hum, yet another aspect of outlaw motorcycle clubs. Yet, to dismiss motorcycling is to disregard a very real and important roles sub-cultures play in any society or culture. Motorcycling also can throw the issues of class, race and gender into a new and valuable light by examining, at any given time, who is riding and why they ride and to what degree society approves it. a.
Characteristics of motorcyclist’s culture. Rules. Values. Habits. Most motorcycle owners really aren’t serious riders. They ride maybe once or twice on a weekend and only when the sun is out. They don’t get up in the morning and ride to work in the cold or rain. More often than not they get in their cars instead of on their bikes. Riding a motorcycle is easier said than done. As soon as you tell people you’re interested in riding motorcycles, you’ll start to hear an endless stream of warnings, mostly some variation of “Motorcycles are dangerous! ” This is true—motorcycles are dangerous, but life itself is dangerous.
Everything you ever do will be a risk to some degree. Only biker can decide if the freedom and excitement a motorcycle can provide is worth the level of risk. When people hear that you want to ride a motorcycle, they’ll use every argument they can think of to try to talk you out of it, but they won’t be able to argue with the fact that motorcycles are economical to own and operate. For starters, motorcycles are cheaper to buy than cars; the most expensive motorcycles cost about as much as the average family sedan and the least expensive new motorcycles are cheaper than a used subcompact car.
They are fuel efficient as well. Another way to save money on a bike is in parking costs. Parking lots often charge less for motorcycles than they do for cars, which make sense since motorcycles take up less space. If you’re resourceful enough, you can even find places that let motorcycles park for free. For example, if you find a restaurant or other place of business owned by a motorcycle rider, he or she might let you park your bike in the alley or loading area behind the building. This brings up another benefit of motorcycling: a brotherhood exists among motorcycle riders.
As soon as people start riding a motorcycle, they will find they are part of a larger community of motorcycle riders. The first thing they’ll notice is that other motorcycle riders wave at them, even if they don’t know them. Here’s a word of advice—wave back. It doesn’t matter if the other rider is some kid on a sport bike, some adventure-tourer traveling the globe on a big dual-purpose bike, or a member of a one-percenter club; that rider waving at you is acknowledging that the two of you are in this together.
The least you could do is let the other rider know you get the message. At least in part this brotherhood came about as the result of the antimotorcycle hysteria that infected the United States in the years after World War II. With communism spreading around the world and the Soviet Union getting an atomic bomb, you can’t blame people for being scared of just about anything out of the ordinary, and back in those days riding a motorcycle was definitely unusual. (McDonald- Walker 102) Back around the turn of the twentieth century, people formed clubs around just about anything.
There were clubs devoted to collecting butterflies, clubs devoted to examining dinosaur fossils, and clubs devoted to studying electricity. It only made sense that people would start forming motorcycle clubs almost as soon as Gottlieb Daimler first bolted a gasoline engine to his two-wheeled wooden Einspur to create the original motorcycle in 1885. (Lyon 90) Motorcycle clubs remained popular throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but after World War II they became even more popular.
Most able-bodied American men had served in the military during the war, and many of them missed the brotherhood they had shared with their fellow soldiers. Motorcycle clubs offered these veterans a way to re-create that camaraderie. (Garson 96) Riding alone is fun, but being part of a group provides advantages. With a group, you’ll have someone to watch your back if something happens or help you if you go down. Plus it’s nice to have someone to share the ride with.
Clubs offer camaraderie and brotherhood. They provide social outlets, places where we can gather with our own kind and talk about our passion—motorcycles and riding—without boring non-motorcyclists. A motorcycle club is a nexus where the motorcycling community can come together. No club is for everybody, but no matter what kind of riding biker is interested in, he or she can find a motorcycle club that focuses on it. Because riding is such an intense activity, it demands a full attention. On a bike you’re bombarded with all kinds of stuff coming at you, and it is not just traffic.
Riding reveals so many raw sights, sounds, and smells that they can overwhelm you. It can be a little intimidating at first, but eventually riding will ultimately produce an amplified sense of being alive. Once you let the experience of riding consume you and drive all the useless thoughts from your head, that’s when you really start to enjoy the freedom of riding a bike. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding five miles or five hundred miles; time has little meaning when your head is in the act of riding and it’s just you, your bike, and the road.b. Stereotyping and generalizations about motorcyclists.
The civil rights road is a long one. It is, invariably, a history of unjust actions by one group against another leading to a growing consciousness that injustice exists, followed by the oppressed group’s struggle for equality. Like other groups, motorcyclists in America have been victims of oppression from many sources for over a century. In response, an organized riders’ rights movement has struggled for justice, dignity, and equal rights under the law.
Although Harley-Davidson bikers in particular have been castigated by society with a stereotype and imagined to be noisy, rebellious, antisocial, criminal and dangerous, the motorcyclists’ rights movement recognizes its own diversity—riding all kinds of bikes—as well as its similarities with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, women’s liberation in the 1970s, and advances by other oppressed minorities. In 1969, there was a stabbing in Altamont, California, by a Hell’s Angel at a Rolling Stones concert. (The Rolling Stones allegedly hired the Angels as security, something that, to this day, cannot be verified.
) Regardless, the stabbing incident sealed the fate of bikers as outlaws until that fateful year when the Discovery Channel aired the first Motorcycle Mania. Because the general population really didn’t know the difference between a Harley and a Honda, all motorcycle riders were labeled as bad guys and movies such as “Easy Rider”, and “The Wild One” fueled the public’s imagination. (Randy, A Brief History…) Because of this stigma, Honda and other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers feared that sales would decline, so they launched an advertising campaign that attempted to clean up the biker image.
These ads included young, clean-cut couples in white or light colors, unlike the image of the bearded, black-leather-jacket-wearing Harley riders, and slogans like: “Some people have all the fun. ” This ad campaign immediately defined the two sides of the American motorcycle culture, and for 30 years it was a turf war. The American-made motorcycle rider was an outlaw. The Japanese motorcycle rider was a well-respected, clean-cut, law-abiding citizen. “The American-made motorcycle rider was an outlaw. The Japanese motorcycle rider was a well-respected, clean-cut, law-abiding citizen.
” As the two sides became more and more defined and the two cultures grew further and further apart, a Japanese-made cafe-style racing bike began winning all of the major motorcycle races in the United States, making the situation even worse. ( Reynolds 99- 102) This war between the two cultures was so real and lasted so long that even into the early 1990s, bar owners at rallies such as Sturgis and Daytona would hoist Japanese bikes up into trees and set them on fire as a symbol against the import motorcycle scene.
The American-made motorcycle, primarily the Harley-Davidson, soon became synonymous with patriotism: “Buy American, support America. ” This, of course, was all kept highly charged by Harley’s marketing strategies. The American bald eagle and American flag practically became trademarks for the company. So associating one’s self with a Japanese product implied that you weren’t a true American. Long story short, there were us, the Harley riders, and them, the Japanese motorcyclists. (107)
Another reason that mainstream American citizens began to fear motorcycles was because of the press. As long as there have been newspapers, there’ve been newspaper publishers who’ve realized that fear sells newspapers. In the strange days following the Second World War, journalists had more fear to exploit than ever before. It didn’t take much to scare the average American in the late 1940s; anything that represented the unknown was frightening, and people who rode motorcycles represented an unknown quantity.
Being quick to pick up on anything that exploited the average American’s fear of the unknown, the magazines and newspapers of the published stories on anything and everything that frightened people, whether it was Communist infiltrators, unidentified flying objects, or a bunch of guys out having a good time on their motorcycles. If something wasn’t scary enough to sell newspapers and magazines, the newspapers and magazines would just stretch the truth until it was more sensational.
There are questions of identity, of class, of gender, of the making and attributing of both meanings and values, of the creation and embodiment of community, of a subculture formed from and around agents whose interactions with the dominant culture take multifarious forms. Gender politics was an issue since early decade of motorcycles. A female rider sexual orientation was questioned, and they were often treated condescendingly or ignored. “Dykes on bikes” was the moniker frequently given to women who piloted their own bike, and many people automatically assumed that she must be gay.
For a woman to want to climb off the back of the bike and grab the handlebars herself, something must be terribly wrong. ( Joans 42) This was evident not only from negative attitudes within the riding community, but also from mainstream print and film media depictions of women riders, contributing to a double whammy of misunderstanding and outlandish presumptions. A woman on a bike is quite intriguing to the modern male rider. It was far more likely to hear, “But you can’t ride a bike—you’re a girl! ” Feminism argues that when an inanimate object takes on a gender identity, it also takes on a certain political meaning.
The media’s treatment of men on bikes is obviously compelling to the general public. But those who ride question the reliability of these accounts, because they so rarely describe our reality of the sport. Bikers are exoticized, vilified, and portrayed as monstrous, becoming examples of the literary “Other. ” Themes of female predation, sexual license, animalistic behavior, and sexual perversity, usually of a sadomasochistic nature between the gang members and their girlfriends (referred to as “mamas”), are remarkable.
No examples of “good” bikers are evident, and no guidelines are offered to differentiate between “good” bikers and “bad” bikers. Portrayed as enjoying endless promiscuous sex on demand, the biker can be deconstructed to the ultimate chick magnet, apparently without having to be clean, well-behaved, or attractive to woo his sexual partners: the bike is the bait! Ironically the implied warnings against the licentious biker actually become a siren song to younger generations: “Ride a bike and get laid!
” (Joans 60-65) This perception slowly changes throughout time, because more and more women become bikers and more and more knowledge about this distinguished culture is spread out all over the world. c. Fear. Controversies. Provocations. Actions. The mixed emotions surrounding motorcycle events and the controversy it provoked not only provide considerable insight into the development of motorcycle culture but also the larger history of the United States as men and women from all walks of life struggled to come to terms with the motorcyclist and all that he or she stood for.
Police bias against motorcyclists can be traced back to the late nineteenth century—years before Harley-Davidson was founded—even though journalists routinely cite the phenomenon’s origin as the West Coast after World War II. They have a valid point, as current stereotypes and cultural baggage have largely evolved from late 1940s imagery, resulting in widespread societal prejudice against riders. Although popular myth tends to associate bikers with criminality and violence, the reality is quite different.
Moreover, aggressive police activity is not restricted to the targeting of only patch-holding motorcycle club members. In 1998, for example, after the police in Arizona completed their profiling of clubs, they began to harass and profile Harley Owners Group (HOG) members. They then went after Japanese-brand riders in January of 2001, issuing traffic tickets while detaining, harassing, and compiling information about individuals who ride.
After a Texas police sensitivity training law—designed to curb police harassment or profiling of motorcycle operators—went into effect, officers changed tactics and conducted fewer traffic stops of the more politically aware, typically Harley-riding population and instead harassed younger, often politically inept, sport bike riders. (Kieffner) Yet, the singling out of people according to their personal transportation is a violation of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Current patterns of police discriminatory practice against bikers thus emerged in the ’60s.
After the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts became law, police turned from overt harassment of racial minorities and started to concentrate their attention on other scapegoats including immigrants, young drug users, and Harley riders. Detentions, beatings while handcuffed or in custody, false arrests, expulsions from towns and from states when crossing boundaries, routine failures to cite car drivers who injured bikers or violated the right-of-way, and even murders were committed by police officers, so great was their individual and collective prejudice against bikers.
Altercations between police and bikers continued into the 1980s. (Kieffner) In response to police harassment, a sometimes-unfriendly legislative and juridical environment, and perceived infringements upon their constitutional and civil rights, more Harley riders started to organize politically and were joined by countless motorcyclists riding other brands as the movement progressed. In 1972, a motorcycle magazine published an article asking readers to join new motorcyclists’ rights organization (MRO) called “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments” (ABATE).
The primary reason for forming this grassroots political network was to organize and affect legislation that was unrelated to police issues. Yet, the riders also sought ways to curb harassment. Riding in a large, or even small, group was considered safer than riding alone during those turbulent years. (Kieffner) d. Different but equal. Differences between motorcyclists. An equally essential reason for motorcycles is that there is no motorcyclist without the motorcycle. In this way, the identity of the performer cannot be separated from technology.
Examining the often passionate relationship between the rider and machine, the interplay of technology, experience and community; the different demands at different times and situations we require of design and performance; and other aspects of this dynamic can inform the greater human-machine conundrum in the past and present and perhaps suggest future ramifications. Probably the most basic division between types of motorcycles is on-road versus off-road. “Off-road” means any motorcycle you can’t license for use on public highways; this includes all racing motorcycles, whether those motorcycles are meant for racing on dirt or pavement.
Customized bikes don’t really have a name. According to the stories in the press, people called this type of bike a “bobber” or a “bob job,” because some people called taking off parts “bobbing” back then. They’re still called “bobbers” today, but names like “bobber” and “chopper” came from the motorcycle industry and not the people out there customizing bikes. By the time the industry types started calling our custom bikes “choppers,” we’d begun to focus more on style. This happened during a wild time in our country’s history.
A lot of craziness was happening, and bikers were young and a little wild themselves. Their bikes reflected that. People started chopping and rewelding frames to increase the rake of the bike (the angle at which the fork extends away from the frame). They also made forks longer and handlebars higher. Every year people made their forks longer, their handlebars higher, and their rakes more extreme until it got so out of control that the bikes became just about impossible to ride. (Ebert 132) Choppers and bobbers may look cool, but they’re better to look at than they are to ride.
They’re homemade bikes, and as such they’re prone to all sorts of oddball failures that people never encounter on a well-engineered, mass-produced motorcycle. Even if these bikes were reliable enough to use for everyday transportation, they’re too uncomfortable to ride for more than half-hour to forty-five-minute stretches. The riding position is designed to make you look cool rather than to make you comfortable. Choppers are more uncomfortable than bobbers because a proper bobber will put you in a slight forward lean, taking a little pressure off your lower back.
It will handle better, too, because a bobber doesn’t have the long, kicked-out fork that a chopper has. People most likely end up with a “cruiser,” as the magazines call them. This is an odd name for a poorly defined style of motorcycle. The cruiser came into existence as a response to the custom bobbers and choppers we built in the 1950s and 1960s. For the most part, cruisers make good motorcycles for beginners. (Ebert 140)They are relatively light, compared with full-boat touring bikes. At the same time they are full-sized motorcycles with plenty of room for a rider and a passenger.
Though they can sometimes put arms and legs in awkward positions, cruisers are generally comfortable enough for the long haul, especially when fitted with good saddles and windshields. Plus most of them have tractable engines that help newer riders develop smooth throttle control. Cruisers in general are more practical. Back in the 1950s and 1960s Americans weren’t the only people modifying their motorcycles; Europeans were doing the same thing, only they had a different aim in mind when they started customizing their bikes.
Compared with America’s long stretches of straight, wide-open highways, Europe is much more condensed, with narrow, twisting streets, crowded high-speed freeways, and winding mountain passes. Americans need bikes that are stable in a crosswind on an open road, so we tend to go for motorcycles that are long and low; Europeans have to dodge fast-moving traffic on streets that often are older than the oldest American city. The different needs of American riders and European riders go back so far that you can see them reflected in the types of saddles.
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