If there’s one thing that’s nearly universal about motorcycle riders, it’s the shared sense of camaraderie and community. The practice of riding motorcycles has created fellowship among those who do own bikes and also many subcultures that center on a range of different riding experiences. That’s because motorcycle culture isn’t made up of just one group but instead of many diverse groups that share a common theme. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in New Orleans where the bike scene takes on a life all its own.
If we get a day of nice weather and you ride anywhere in the city or neighboring parishes, you’ll likely see a group of 20 young riders on 50cc Honda Ruckuses or 125cc Groms. Elsewhere, you’ll see a group of older riders on fully chromed Harleys with radios and ice chests. The sport bike scene gets even more diverse, from riders fully outfitted with race-style leathers and boots on visibly modified bikes to female riders like the Caramel Curves and Queen of Spades who barely wear any clothing at all when riding their super bikes.
New Orleans & Motorcycle Culture 101
Some people ride because they find it relaxing, others love to tinkering and customizing, and others still just love going fast. On the whole, though, bikers generally display something of a duality in their nature. Their bikes are “sacred,” for lack of a better term. They put care and diligence into maintaining and upgrading them and get annoyed if you touch or sit on their ride without permission. At the same time, many bikers are exceedingly friendly people. They’re more than willing to share their stories along with whatever they know about life, the road and, of course, motorcycles.
In groups, riders might rally around a particular style of bike. Vintage-bike aficionados, for instance, generally gravitate toward custom-style bikes, heavily modified to enhance their appearance. The classic bike scene has a deep history in the United States, as they were instrumental in further popularizing motorcycle culture from the 1960s onward. Vintage-bike lovers have seen fads and trends come and go and some remain strong to this day. In New Orleans, they’re represented by groups like the New Orleans Custom Motorcycle Enthusiasts & Pleasure Club. True to the ethos of camaraderie, they gather, share a good time and organize group rides to further build the biker spirit among their group members.
Alternatively, motorcyclists might declare the performance bike or “super bike” their ride of choice and place emphasis on tuning that ride for optimized stats using a slew of aftermarket parts. They’ll converse on Internet forums and in real life about the best bike upgrades and proper riding form, and they might even hurl a few friendly barbs at their chopper-riding cousins for good measure. The Ducati Owners Club New Orleans (DOCNOLA) embodies some of these facets. In particular, this club has a deep love for the Ducati brand and “Ducatisti” are very passionate about the look and style of their beautiful Italian rides. In addition to taking great pride in keeping their bikes in peak operating condition, members love sharing stories about riding and tearing up the track to keep their skills at their best.
Motorcycle clubs have become a large part of the overall motorcycle “hive” mind, with a proud and rich history being written about their mystique. Though some might emphasize the “outlaw” aspects of a few of these organizations, the truth is that just as many clubs are dedicated to shared culture and respect and donate their time generously to charitable causes and fundraisers. The Annual Poker Run, hosted by the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club Louisiana II, is a prime example, as all proceeds from the event go to police-oriented and other charitable organizations. Other area organizations dedicated to charity include the Eagle Riders 518 New Orleans, who recently hosted their own benefit to raise money for Leukemia treatments. In fact, the New Orleans Mission in conjunction with MotoJustice and several riding clubs hosted for a fundraiser to benefit Homeless Veterans of War. It was a great event for a great cause, and many of the various local bike communities were present.
Some groups even center on breaking through the barriers of what is traditionally considered to be a male-dominated sphere. Here, New Orleans is leading the charge with organizations like Caramel Curves Motorcycle Club. These ladies buck the trends and have been featured in numerous articles for the passion they bring to the hobby along with their one-of-a-kind sense of style and elegance. They’re a testament to the fact that New Orleans bike culture is about as diverse as it gets, but the connection the area has to motorcycling goes even further still.
Motorcycling In & Around New Orleans
Since it opened in 2012, a CenterPoint of local motorcycle culture has been Nola Motorsports Park. With 700 acres on the West Bank, this facility hosts track days where motorcycle owners can ride their vehicles as fast they were meant to be ridden. The park also holds safety classes, races, and other events, not to mention an atmosphere where motorcycle enthusiasts can get to know each other.
When you want to get on the open road, New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana shine with some of the richest motorcycle roads in the country — scenic routes that cover cherished historic sites, vast stretches of coast and dense woodlands in equal measure. Many have enjoyed the tranquility of riding through highways surrounded by cypress trees and swamp with only the occasional alligator crossing the road to break up the ride.
Bikers can see the Gulf and its beaches by riding up to Gulfport or Biloxi, or you can venture north to Baton Rouge or one of our state’s several wildlife areas. Or take a relaxing jaunt out to Lafayette or Lake Charles and enjoy smooth straight highway while stopping at plantations or to simply get some hot pork cracklings. If you’re a rider, no matter your individual tastes, the depth of choice offered by New Orleans and the Gulf makes it possible to experience the best of what the motorcycle community has to offer.
Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0