Reining in the Bikers

For decades the Myrtle Beach area has been plagued by two major motorcycle rallies in the month of May. Together the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Rally and the Atlantic Beach Bike Festival filled the Grand Strand with noise, litter, violence, and gridlocked traffic over the course of three weeks.


After years of rising anger and complaints, the city of Myrtle Beach took action last year, passing a raft of ordinances designed to keep the bikers under control. These included new laws limiting exhaust noise and requiring riders to wear helmets and goggles. Bikers wailed and whined; some of them went to court to fight the new rules. But last week an impasse was broken when the Harley-Davidson group announced that they were pulling out of Myrtle Beach after more than 60 years and moving their annual rally to New Bern, N.C.

It will be interesting to observe how long the Harley crowd remains in New Bern before the town fathers pull in the welcome mat. But for now Myrtle Beach is done with them, and that is all that matters.


Myrtle Beach is one of a number of American cities that have struggled in recent years to control motorcycle rallies and motorcycle noise. They are part of a larger movement to create more livable cities in a time when cities are becoming more important than ever to the American way of life.

With the end of the fossil fuel age, scholars tell us that urban sprawl may have reached its apogee. In the future, cities will be denser and taller. With more people living closer together than ever before, a lot of the obnoxious, antisocial behavior that has been grudgingly tolerated for a long time may soon be verboten.


The noise abatement movement is in its infancy — about where the movement to ban indoor smoking was 10 years ago — but it already has several advocacy groups, most notably Noise Free America. And it has tens of thousands of adherents, pushing for noise control in cities around the country. These activists are much like non-smokers of a generation ago. They are beginning to discover that they are not alone in their anger and they do have legal recourse.


There are other noisemakers, of course. "Boom cars" and glass-pack mufflers are two of the most obnoxious. But they are not as numerous, and their riders are not as antisocial as motorcyclists. And that brings us to the other problem with motorcycles — violence.


Now, I am not saying that all bikers are violent, but the image is there and it is well earned and even celebrated in some quarters. And if you don't believe there is a violent subtext to biker culture, check out the letters to the editor next week in response to this column.


Indeed, the incident which finally forced Myrtle Beach to take action against the biker rallies was the shooting death last year of a Coastal Carolina University student in a dispute over a parking space. A short-lived motorcycle rally in Charleston earlier in the decade was shut down after three years in part because violence among some of the participants made it impossible for the organizers to buy insurance.


I have been writing about motorcycles and motorcycle culture for years in this column and in my 2003 book, Banana Republic: A Year in the Heart of Myrtle Beach. I witnessed and lived through three annual cycles of biker rallies, when it was impossible to sleep for days, when traffic crept along U.S. 17 at 10 mph, when many residents simply packed up and fled, as if they were evacuating for a hurricane.


Of course, the good folks at Myrtle Beach and Atlantic Beach never planned it this way. It all started out as good fun and brought a lot of money to the area. But the biker culture conflicted with the "family fun" image that Myrtle Beach built its reputation on. Bikers drove away a more lucrative and desirable tourist segment. And finally, enough was enough. After last spring's violence, Myrtle Beach leaders went to work to shut down the biker rallies. So far, they are 1-for-2.


I hope Mayor Joe Riley and city council are paying attention to what is happening on the Grand Strand. I have seen increasing numbers of bikers on Charleston streets during the tourist season in recent years. As I have written here before, motorcycles are completely out of place in our historic district. City leaders would be smart to learn from Myrtle Beach's example and start cracking down on noise violations. Bikers must learn to obey the law like the rest of us.

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I ride a Goldwing. It's one of the quietest non electric bikes in production. It will ride away from any HD out there (except the V-Rod which, as the die hards say, is not a real Harley) When we travel, we are some times refused accomodation because of the inconsiderate "bikers" who think their "loud pipes save lives" and therefore make it bad for the rest of us. Eventually the weekend warrior badassed biker thing will die off as the demographics change and the young people aren't into "the life style".
Till then, kudos to the good folks at Myrtle Beach for taking their town back. Sometimes the $ aren't worth the image or trouble.

Maybe you and the "good" folks of Myrtle Beach could impose laws discouraging other "life styles." Maybe the "good" folks of NYC could take Manhattan back from the Jews... Atlanta from the Blacks... Key West from the Gays?

I LOVE motorcycles of all shapes, sizes and makes. My bike is also my car Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall, so I am disqualified from "weekend warrior" status. There is a big difference between bikers and weekend warriors, but it has little to do with make and model. I say let weekenders have their fun. They are risking their lives on the road just like you and me. Their riding is just a less integral part of their lives.

I have a blast hanging with other bikers, even though I am often on the opposite side of the philosophical, religious and political fence from most of them. The diversity of the folks I ride with sounds like a bad joke... "A Southern Baptist, a Mormon, an Atheist, a black woman, and a Jew walk in to a biker bar..."

I am a Harley rider. I love the history, the sound, the old fashioned technology.

I was asked, "Why ride a Harley? Are they faster?"

"More reliable?"

"More fuel efficient?"

"Cheaper to purchase?"
"Hell nope!"

"Then why?"

For the same reason people get a live x-mas tree, even though an artificial one is more economical, more symmetrical, no watering, no vacuuming up pine needles, no struggling to get it in the stand...

I am simply nostalgic and old fashioned in my preferences. I like biker mythology, viking mythology, tribal mythology of all sorts. I don't mistake the mythology of biker culture for any kind of "truth." I just choose it because it clicks with me.

I ride a Harley, but I would love an Indian, a Norton, a Royal Enfield...

I learned to ride on a Goldwing, but I would never want one or any of those other big touring bikes with all the fairing... They look too much like cars... Get yourself a Volkswagen Beetle and you won't be turned away from motels.
In this age of political correctness (PC), how do writers constantly get away with posting articles applauding blatant discrimination against motorcyclists? If the NAACP, ADL, GLAAD, Nontheists, or any other “common interests” group held annual gatherings at Myrtle Beach, writers would have to bite their tongues clean off before uttering a single discriminatory word against them. Imagine if Will Mordock's article started off: For decades the Myrtle Beach area has been plagued by Nontheists.... HA! Now THAT would be a horse of a different color eh? All of a sudden it's unfair and discriminatory.

These misguided writers often refer back to the shooting over a parking space as a last straw and evidence of biker behavior. I find it revealing how these uninformed, research challenged hacks fail to include the fact that the murder was committed by a 17 year old Myrtle Beach High School (“local”) student during the height of the newer Atlantic Beach Bikefest (ABB), also known as Black Bike Week - and NOT during the traditional Bike Week ( ). Ask any motorcyclist, ABB is known as Black Bike Week. In their haste for political correctness, authors call it Atlantic Beach Bikefest. Too bad during their flash of PC, they can still find it quite acceptable to single out “bikers” (another term for white male, mostly Harley riding motorcyclists) for blatant discrimination – and get away with it.

Be careful how you bandwagon and applaud the blatant discriminatory actions by the MB city council. Next time, it could be you!
These were my comments:

Wow, what a disturbing article! Change the words "biker, Harley rider and motorcyclist" in this article to "Jew, nigger or wet back" and it will help readers better understand Mr. Murdock's mentality.
Get over the discrimination thing. It's about noise. Lot's of it. It's about behavior, alot of it bad. It's getting to a point where the money spent is not worth the loss of tourism for the rest of the season. I'm getting so tired of the poor down trodden biker being shat on by the clean cut folk of Smallville story. Show some respect for the people who have to get up and work or take a walk downtown or use a campsite etc. It happens where I live too. Too much noise, too much idiocy.
Tone it down some and maybe the welcome mat will roll out again. Keep it up and you'll meeting in cow pastures.
I have stock pipes and can also get annoyed by pipes that are too loud. But, what really annoys me is the electric church bells of Smallville blaring out tacky hymns every hour, 24/7.

I'm getting so tired of the poor down trodden biker being shat on by the clean cut folk of Smallville story.

I show respect until it is not returned. I'm tired of whiny pussies who require the safety of the internet to vent. I have ridden forever and have never been refused lodging, ever. And, I sure as hell would never allow some bigot motel clerk to refuse lodging to my wife!

Take a random biker and a random "clean cut citizen of Smallville" and see what kinds of skeletons are in their closets (Hint: The biker's closet will have been left wide open. The clean cut citizen's closet will be hidden behind sheet rock and secured with 5 dead bolts.).

Get over the discrimination thing.

You have stereotyped bikers as obnoxious, poorly behaved and deserving of discrimination. This has never been my experience. However, having grown up on the sea islands of South Carolina, I am extremely familiar with bigotry and discrimination. Go down the MB and talk to some locals. You'll hear over and over again that the real motivation behind the biker unfriendly laws was spawned by Black Bike week. There was never a major issue until a whole lot of black people started coming to the "good people's" town.

I've never met a biker who doesn't support other bikers. This is a biker group. Why did you join? You should be in the "Bikers Are Annoying" group down the hall.

Dude, get that VW, roll up the windows and protect those sensitive ears. Also, stay away from folks who don't look or act like you. They deserve what they get.

Ride silently off into the sunset with ear plugs, chap stick, hand warmers, stereo and blankey.

Buh bye Pete
Both mine and my wife's Harleys have performance (yes loud) pipes. Like the T-Shirt says, "I hope my loud pipes don't disturb your phone conversation." The day I can commute to work without getting cut off is the day I might consider buying quieter pipes. Loud pipes save lives. Motorists notice me (and I don't even have to wear a goofy orange vest). On a motorcycle , being conspicuous can be the difference between life and becoming a hood ornament.

Something that I've noticed about people who ride non-Harley touring bikes: they often try to legitimize their decision in the public forum. Gold Wings are fantastic motorcycles - maybe the most reliable two wheel touring machines out there. Pete, you don't have to convince others of your decision. It's your choice how you want to spend your money.

Here's another thing that I've noticed about the biker community: it's easy to blame different types of riders. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that the sport bike riders are ruining it for the rest of us, I'd be ready to retire. Now this author and Pete are telling us that loud pipes are ruining it for the Gold Wing riders of the world. Each biker is an individual with his/her own thoughts. No one is ruining it for the rest of us. If someone has an issue with me about my pipes, they can take it up with me personally. Those rare Harley riders with stock pipes have their reason for riding quiet and I doubt that many of them would accuse me of "ruining it" for them. I'm sure those quiet Harley riders enjoy their ride just as much whether mine has quiet or loud pipes. I have traveled all over central Europe and the Southern US and have never felt discriminated against because I was a biker. Usually, I'm met with a very warm welcome. The businesses like my money and people like to hear and see my bike. Pete, maybe they just don't like your Gold Wing!

I'm not surprised that the author of this article focuses on violence at motorcycle rallies. He's doing what he can in this article to sell his book about violence; his plug for the book is not exactly subtle. I'd be interested to see scientific studies show how much more or less violent motorcycle rallies are than at concerts and major sporting events. But since concerts are loud, they should probably be outlawed too.

Myrtle Beach might miss out on the money that these rallies bring in. They will definitely miss our on the biker generosity if, for instance, the city gets wiped out by a hurricane. I say who cares about Myrtle Beach? Let the city rebel against the rebels. Let them close their doors to outsiders. There's no shortage of places to rally; just move to the next town up the strand.
Well said Christopher. You have crafted unique and convincing arguments. I found your observation about riders blaming other riders for ruining "it" for others interesting. and spot on.

Oh, because of the loud pipes you may not need to wear one of those goofy orange vests to be noticed, but what's with the goofy yellow towel (your profile pic)? ;-)

Thanks JJ. My Towel is a memorial for Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My slow internet connection makes changing my profile pic a bitch, so it's been up longer than I had planned.
I stand by my original point. Keep moving the rallies. A long way from me and those who believe you are a guest in our towns and cities, not a $ sign. We will eventually win the battle of the ears.

Don't even attempt to convince me that loud bikes save lives. $40+ years of street riding have convinced me otherwise. Be seen, stay alive. It's a no brainer. Hot weather, rolled up windows, stereos and air conditioners mean your pipes mean nothing to a cager.

Over and over and over, the phrase is, "Oh my God! I didn't see him!" I don't wear a "goofy vest" but I do have 280 watts of lights that are always lit approaching any intersection. Rarely does anyone turn left in my path and I never ride blind spots hoping noise will save my ass.

"Myrtle Beach might miss out on the money that these rallies bring in. They will definitely miss our on the biker generosity if, for instance, the city gets wiped out by a hurricane"

Wow! That's more than sad. The newly homeless children will wonder why the bikers hate them so. Moving on......

"Well said Christopher. You have crafted unique and convincing arguments. I found your observation about riders blaming other riders for ruining "it" for others interesting. and spot on."

And the whole "bad apples" saying was derived from what? Sorry, no interest or spot on merit to that arguement. Some DO make it bad for the rest.

90 db at idle is the new bylaw in my city. $250 fine. Don't like it, don't ride here.

Buh Bye............
If loud pipes do not alert people to my presence (making me more conspicuous), then who is doing all of the bitching about loud pipes? Maybe SUV driving soccer/hockey moms on cell phones?

I'm OK with noise ordinances. I'll just avoid those areas or may get some convertible (loud to quiet) pipes. Luckily for me, though, I live in Texas and TX is one of the last places in the US where the gov't will move to quiet motorcycles. There are some perks to living in a red state.

Pete - I'm interested in your justification for stereotypes. You elude to it with your "bad apples" statement. How are other bikers making it bad for you? What do you consider bad? Should everyone ride a bike that sounds like a sewing machine in order to meet your approval? Maybe your standards are just a tad bot too high.

I see my share of stereotyping in my home state, the very right-winged Texas. I do my best to see through all of that stuff. After all, I'm a godless atheist and if I can't look past the stereotypes and show compassion for fellow bikers, then I'm doing very little to prove the "good without god" concept. (Well, that and all the homeless children hating that I do). I wave at all bikers I see on the street. I always carry a first aid kit, and tools and I do my best to stop and lend a hand - yes, even if they're on quiet Gold Wings or sport bikes (although I usually don't carry many metric wrenches).


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