I’m always giddy when we learn things we don’t know because we never knew we ought to know. And it’s especially cool when the new knowledge destroys all we assumed.
Like, do you know:
▪ Raleigh’s first motorcycle club started in 1916?
▪ The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Raleigh is named in honor of African-American Army Cavalry soldiers compared to buffalo by their Native-American enemy for their curly hair and tenacious fight during service from 1866 to 1944, when the military was integrated?
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▪ Raleigh is home to two superstars of motorcycle racing – drag racing champ Ray Price and endurance champ Bob Steinbugler – who owned their first shops next door to each other and shared tools?
Shucks, don’t rely on me. Go visit the City of Raleigh Museum’s “Baggers, Bobbers & Bikers” exhibit to delve into the past and present culture of the city’s motorcycling community.
Exhibit curators also hope you’ll leave knowing our neighbors who ride motorcycles are as kind, gentle, nurturing, and important contributors to our community as you and I.
“We are busting the myth that those who ride motorcycles are all Sons of Anarchy,” said David Chatham, who curated the exhibit with colleague and fellow motorcyclist Scott Misner. “The truth is that those who ride are more like your or your neighbor’s sons and daughters, likely to be professors, pastors, engineers, doctors, tech execs and business owners who all share passion for the freedom and experience of riding motorcycles and improving the community.”
In addition to a line-up of motorcycles on loan from as far away as Asheville, the exhibit also features life-sized profiles of bikers, types of bikes, and archived newspaper stories and other artifacts, including a vintage video of motorcycle races when the State Fairgrounds were located where Cameron Village is now.
Among featured bikers – in addition to Price, Steinbugler and Cornell “Cobra” Chandler, a founder of the Raleigh Buffalo Soldiers – is Dr. Robin Dail, an associate professor at Duke University School of Nursing who teaches a graduate program and does research with premature infants. She also restores and rides Triumphs and encourages female ridership through www.motogirlcafe.com.
There’s also Pastor Mike Beasley and his wife, Charlene, founders of Freedom Biker Church, which opened its doors to bikers and everyone else in 2006. Now, there are 11 churches across the state. And there’s Johann Keyser, a sought-after custom builder and owner of Moto Motivo.
“We’re part of a family of riders; it doesn’t matter what our age or race, the cultures we come from all add to the tapestry of motorcycling,” said Misner, who called motorcycles “art on two wheels,” meshing Raleigh’s brand of innovation and art appeal. “Part of getting along in a community is appreciating other people’s interests.”
Misner notes, as an influx of bikers converge on the city during Bikefest next month, “We hope you’ll give them a thumb up and not stereotype them. You can only do that if you know the history.”
Consider Raleigh’s Buffalo Soldiers. Peeled-away leather and stereotypes introduce an organization steeped in traditions of fellowship, family and preserving history, “a group trying to get things done in the community and give back,” said Chandler, who is featured in the museum exhibit.
The 25-member Raleigh chapter is one of 100 chapters nationwide. Each year, the club awards scholarships and hosts or contributes to food drives and back-to-school giveaways. The group also reaches out to elementary students to share the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, and supports veterans with visits and gifts of toiletries.
“We get out in the community to show we’re not mean bikers in leather trying to steal and rob,” Chandler said. “We keep the Buffalo Soldiers’ history alive, provide good role models and give back.
“We’re just riding iron horses.”