At any given moment, you can turn on the news or social media and find a new reason to be outraged. Recently, the biker community in Colorado had its turn to be furious and they drew a line in the sand against discrimination. Within 36 hours, they collectively managed to shut down Pikes Peak Bike Bash after announcements that “colors” and “clubs” would not be allowed to attend their motorcycle event.
Pikes Peak Bike Week (PPBW) debuted at Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) last summer with lukewarm results. Leading up to, and during the event itself, rumors raced through the riding community that colors were not allowed, but that was not the case. Vendors and sponsors were met with weak attendance and left with the hope they played an important part in an inaugural event that, next year, might grow and flourish.
In 2018, after firing last year’s promoters, PPIR rebranded the event Pikes Peak Bike Bash (PPBB) and scheduled it for June 29-July 1. It was over the Memorial Day weekend that ownership at PPIR, apparently, made the decision to officially ban clubs/colors from PPBB. While the decision was certainly more controversial than they could have imagined, they made the additional mistake of not alerting vendors and sponsors. So, on May 31st, when one biker went straight to the PPBB Facebook page to ask directly if Clubs/Colors were allowed and was told, “no” — the shit really hit the fan.
Social Media Backlash
Riders blasted social media with the news and it spread like wildfire across private and public motorcycle forums. Most rallied their people with the hope of boycotting the event itself based on bias and discrimination. Some wanted to organize a competitive event to cause financial pain to PPIR. Others went further and went directly to vendors and sponsors to voice their displeasure saying that they would not support a business that supports (by association) discrimination.
Once informed of the no club/colors policy, vendors and sponsors, including Colorado Rider News, BikerDown, and The O’Sullivan Law Firm, withdrew their support of this event.
What’s the Big Deal?
For the benefit of new or independent riders who may not have considered the club/colors ban to be any big deal, we assure you, it is. Any member will tell you that most motorcycle clubs (MCs) spend an enormous amount of time with charitable causes and good deeds for their community. Being in an MC is not the same as being in a gang, even if TV and movies would have you believe so.
What does it mean when you see a sign at a business that says NO COLORS or CLUBS allowed?
- It means no veterans biker groups may enter. Veterans, who have served their country, come home, and joined a Veteran or military motorcycle club should not be discriminated because they found a new place of brotherhood.
- It means no Christian bikers may enter. Those who love the Lord and want to spread the message of God to other riders are not a threat to anyone.
- It means no law enforcement bikers may enter. LEOs, who protect and serve our community, do not deserve to be discriminated against because they have a patch on their off-duty jacket.
- It means no first responders who happen to be in a motorcycle club may enter. These people who protect us from fires and in other emergencies are pretty much the people we should want to have around us all the time.
- It means if you are in any other type of women’s motorcycle club, heritage motorcycle club and yes, even a 1% motorcycle club, you cannot enter that business.
- It means if you are a mother, father, doctor, lawyer, nurse, manager or any other type of law abiding employee or business owner that happens to be in a motorcycle club, you cannot enter that business.
Bar owners and other event promoters will say “that isn’t what the sign really means, and all are welcome.” But the fact is that is exactly what the sign means. We firmly believe, no business has the right to discriminate and refuse service against a motorcycle rider for the simple fact of a patch they are wearing on their vest or leather cut.
Colorado Rider News spoke with several MC members about the topic of banning clubs/colors. “I shouldn’t have to take off my vest, to go into an establishment,” one said. “I’m the same person with or without that vest.”
We have also spoken to several businesses who cater to the biker community but are reluctant to comment on the general policy. It was clear the ban is not based on a specific threat or incident. Rather, it was based on the stereotypical belief that club members were prone to violence when they gather in the same place.
Unified Motorcycle Community Can Affect Change
The motorcycle community comes together in times of tragedy and charity, but I believe that if our riding community had a better understanding of what a no club/colors policy really means, maybe it would change the business owner’s minds who currently enforce them.
While it is certainly their right to serve whomever they like, it is our right as a community of riders not to patronize establishments that discriminate against colors or clubs.
Legislative relief is ultimately the best way to protect motorcycle rights, but grassroots protests can be important for two reasons. First, successful protests generated more support and participation from the motorcycle club community because success instills hope and empowerment. Second, protests can change the perception and mindset of business owners and event organizers one establishment at a time. Grassroots political movements are proving to be the best mechanism motorcyclists must protect our civil liberties and our culture going forward.