I am not even sure where to start the story. I really want to figure out how to base it on race, without sounding like a racist. The majority of white bikers that I have met aren’t really down with black dudes. The history of American bike culture has been ruled by honkeys. Toph loves to get me into crazy situations. When Toph pitched me the idea of hanging out with a black biker gang (club, gang just sounds cooler), he was excited and hoped that I would get beat up or something.
An entire paragraph devoted to Mike’s genital inferiority, homoeroticism, and stereotypes portrayed in black pornography have been edited and saved for future extortion. I’m sure you can find the photos on the internet. Toph
I know I shouldn’t make comments about race. At this day and age, Americans should be over the whole black versus white thing, right? Well, let’s face it: there is still a lot of hostility and ignorance in the world. I don’t like to perpetuate either, but I have no way of knowing how the other guy feels, let alone a whole group. The stereotype of tough bikers combined with the outdated fear of the black man makes for one scary cerebral image. I am imagining the look on Archie Bunker’s face as a large negro (Archie’s words, not mine) shows up on a chopper to pick up Gloria on prom night.
BJ, founder of Klutch N Khrome (KNK) motorcycle club, just finished a documentary about black biker culture and is trying to change that notion and responded to my Facebook request for an interview. Toph (Bossman at Baggers mag) enthusiastically agreed and sent me on my shaky little way to Chicago’s South Side.
I’ve got to be honest. I was actually a little nervous and excited. I had no clue what kind of guys I was going to meet. Of course, I imagined the worse situation. Fuck man. The race war ended way too long ago to still have fear of the black man. But modern culture has still embedded it into my noodle. I worried whether I would be accepted by them or shot on sight. As you can see, as the minutes passed my brain fell prey to many stupid racial stereotypes.
I heard the deep bass of Easy-E at a faint distance even before I heard the roar of the bored-out baggers. I figured it was coming from a souped-up ghetto-mobile rollin’ on a set of 22-inch rims. I was in the hood after all. The bass thumped louder and louder. I looked up and saw what was approachinga mob of leather vests with patches navigating an armada of Harleys. They were not your typical Midwest weekend-warrior clones of honky biker tradition! I felt like a white, nerdier version of Steve Urkel while they pulled up. Luckily I still had an ’11 Victory Vision 8-Ball on loan instead of my embarrassingly scooter-like 11-year-old PC 800; on my petty journalist pay, that’s all I can afford. They stopped dead in front of me, gave me the lookover and smiled with a friendly curiosity that made my nervously puckered ass a bit more relaxed.
KNK gave me a tour of the South Side neighborhoods that few whites frequent. About 10 guys showed up. Well, not just guys. A handful of females showed up on baggers as well. The women here certainly boost the overall biker image here, too, said BJ, explaining the difference between the Chicago biker community and others. We have some of the most independent, creative, stylish, hardworking non-backseat-riding women that I’ve ever seen with their own bikes, clubs, etc.
We met at Rainbow Beach for a meet and greet and to take photos. We took South Shore Drive to Lake Shore Drive north to 39 Street and rode to Chicago Chicken & Waffle on 42nd and Martin Luther King Dr. We ate, laughed, took pictures, shared stories, and BJ shot some video. Everyone was impressed that I ordered catfish and eggs with grits. I never seen a white guy that eats grits! said BJ. After that, in my mind, I was made an honorary brother.
From there we went to the Republic, a.k.a. Golden Lady statue on 63rd street. (The statue is a replica of the 65-foot-high gold leaf on plaster statue, which stood in the central focus Grand Basin gateway Court of Honor at the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893.) From there we rode south on Stoney Island to the Bishop Ford, exited on 103rd to Doty Road for more pictures.
I have never really enjoyed riding with a bunch of people. I have mostly ridden solo since my Sears 10-speed days. Without a doubt, I had the most fun with this crew. What makes the Chicago black biker scene different from all others would have to be our camaraderie, unity, support, clubs, personalities, events, road trips, style, and swagger across the board for both genders, all ages, clubs, and non-club riders, says BJ, sensing my surprise at how well everyone got along. Regardless of the limited riding season here, we max our bikes out custom-wise, we party and hang out together all year long. All throughout the winter when the temps are unbearably low, parties, anniversary events, Toys for Tots, trips, charity causes, you name it, continue strong.
The camaraderie was even extended to the newbie white guy. There was no attitude at all. Not from anyone. I felt completely at home. We cruised down the Edens Expressway, heading to an abandoned road farther south to get some photos. People gave us the thumbs-up at stoplights, and even old ladies waved, which made me smile.
On the highways, gas stations, and such, the reaction of passers-by is always like we’re rock stars, BJ tells me later. Like where the hell did all of these young black riders come from with these fancy slick-ass bikes? It continues to be fun because everywhere we have been (off-the-beaten-path-type destinations that we would have never have traveled to back in the day on our sportbikes) people have always greeted us with respect, hospitality, directions, and plenty of friendly questions regarding our bikes.
The shift from sportbikes to slower cruiser bikes took place after the dawn of the new millennium. He explains, Not that we were done with going fast, but more so because the Harleys represented the type of status that sportbikes simply could never providethat status being one of success and accomplishmentI would say that baggers are most definitely a huge part of the black biker community, he continues. More so now than ever before, especially with my generation. I call it the ’70s babies! Both genders have made the switch. Women once started off with the 883 and maybe the 1200 Sportsters but now have upgraded to the Street Glides. A lot of us crossed over from sportbikes too, so that we would be in familiar company as well as in the company of new alliances.
The KNK guys aren’t affiliated with any outlaw clubs, but some of the members have some serious history with them. BJ has done his time. He’s left the days of former gang involvement and drug dealing behind him and has served in the Navy then the Army. Now BJ simply enjoys the fun aspects of club activity like the roller-skating parties, one of which he says I can participate in the future. Yes. I said roller-skating. That shit is freaking huge with the black bike clubs in Chicago. As for roller-skating and the different skating parties that clubs throw, skating in Chicago predates any type of club involvement for a large percentage of damn near every black biker, explains BJ. Skating (JB skating) just as well as Stepping (a form of dance) originated here in Chicago. We grew up on the stuff basically because our parents most likely were jamming to it and ultimately influenced us. JB skating is short for James Brown. This is a very distinctive style of skating influenced by all James Brown music back in the day. So in Chicago, by right of passage, you are either a JB skater, a stepper, or both. Skating and stepping are two of the biggest urban pastime recreational activities in the black community, which makes them both so popular when it comes to throwing a club party.
So there you have it my dear editor, friend, and riding partner. I emerged from the ghetto unscathed, with my underwear still clean and with an invitation to a roller-skating party. How do you like that? Send me my money. Papa needs some new pipes and a 300-rear wheel for his PC 800. B
History of KNK M.C.
The history of KNK stemmed from BJ working on a motorcycling documentary called Throttle & Chrome for the past three years with Big Gig. BJ came up with the name Throttle & Chrome for the movie and both Gig and BJ had become inspired while filming to start their own traditional M.C. club. Since the name Throttle & Chrome had grown on them, they decided to call the club the same name. However, for creative purposes along with not wanting to have any confusion with another club with a similar name, they decided to call it Klutch N Khrome M.C. Using the two K’s just looked better creatively for the logo, rather than using T and C.
The documentary covers everything from what an M.C. is and means, 1 percent, the importance of unity, riding safe, what custom is, how much, the first club that influenced the younger generation of Harley riders, the female independent rider, bragging rights, black history, motorcycle history, and the forming of Klutch N Khrome. BJ made the documentary because of his love for motorcycles, his city, heritage, and passion for telling stories. A story of this magnitude had not been done on the Chicago black bike culture and BJ wanted to tell the story.
Get a Taste of Real Flava
What do you get when you cross hip-hop flava with the African-American biker culture? That’s right, you get an edgy, swagger-filled, insightful, humorous, and vivid look into their world. You can buy the Throttle & Chrome DVD at realflavaproductions.com.
Throttle & Chrome II concentrating on African-American custom bike shops, award-winning bikes, start-to-finish bike projects, and more will be out soon.