Whose Angels?

Move over, Hells Angels. A new breed of biker is taking to the
road, and they don’t always fit the stereotypes perpetuated in
films like Easy Rider. Take Ken Shapiro, the
‘self-proclaimed king’ of the Jewish-themed motorcycle crew SOBs,
short for Semites on Bikes. As Steve Fink of
Dragonfire reports, Shapiro isn’t your
typical biker. He’s a 53-year-old kindergarten teacher with a
penchant for telling Jewish jokes. But Shapiro hints at the wild
streak that led him to found his own motorcycle gang: ‘I think all
stereotypes come from some basis in fact.’

The SOBs are one of a handful of biker gangs who have taken the
motorcycle culture and appropriated it as their own. One such group
has turned the open highway into the path for spreading the word of
Jesus. Cathy Resmer of
Seven Days, a Vermont alt-weekly,
reports on Motorcyclists for Jesus Ministries, a group whose
purpose, according to its
website, ‘is to lead and guide motorcyclists
in the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ The group is
split up into TEAMs (Telling Everyone About the Messiah) who
troll the country, preaching to those who will listen.

Bikers also have been showing up to combat religious
fundamentalism. According to Kara Platoni of
Mother Jones, when Topeka Pastor Fred
Phelps and his followers, who view US soldiers’ deaths as
rightful punishment for the country’s purported tolerance of
homosexuality, began picketing military funerals with signs
reading ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers’ and ‘God Hates America,’ a
biker gang called the Patriot Guard Riders was born. The Riders
form convoys at military funerals, shielding mourners from the
onslaughts of hateful protests. Said the group’s spokesman, Kurt
Mayer, ‘There is something bigger going on here.’

And it’s bigger than macho bikes and wrap-around sunglasses.
There’s also a group proving that women on motorcycles don’t need
to be relegated to the back seat. Barbara Raab of
In These Times reports on the recent
legal troubles of the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Club, also
known as the Dykes on Bikes. When the group applied for a federal
trademark on the catchier version of the name, the application ran
into a wall of legal problems. Most recently, a man challenged the
application claiming that the word ‘dyke’ is a ‘symbol of hate’
toward men. But the group insists that the movement is about pride,
not hate, and members say they’re near victory. As their president,
Vick Germany, signs an open letter on the
group’s website,
‘Ride safe. Ride Proud.’

Go there >>

Semites on
Bikes

Go there too >>

Born Again to Be Wild
The Hogs of War
Sticks & Stones ? and Dykes

Related Links:
Could This Be Kosher HOG Heaven?
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Related Links from the Utne Archive:

Short Takes: Trademark Office OKs ‘Dykes on Bikes’


Speaking a Word for Success

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