By Mark “Llama” Vickers Insane Throttle Asian Freelance Writer
THEY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY OUT THERE
– – A Deeper Understanding, maybe!
“Hollywood’s” article about the so-called “Outlaw Motorcycle Club” in Taiwan made me chuckle! I think the “m” and “c” should be in small letters because to my knowledge there are no real (capital letters) MCs in Taiwan, but plenty of wannabes.
Nevertheless, I think it is worthy of slightly more comment to explain why it is as it is. One word: “naivety”. If you are bored already with this, then read no further – the answer is “naivety”!
There are a couple of different factors. Firstly, the lack of English language in Taiwan. Maybe that sounds pompous – why should they speak English? Well, this goes some way to explain why they are just naïve about many things. If they have no chance to read what a real MC is, or about MC protocol, or why a respected MC might be offended at them using the name “Outlaw” (admittedly without the “s”, but a bit too close in my humble opinion, although I am not in a MC, let alone a member of the respected Outlaws MC, so it is not for me to judge how this might be taken), or how MC members behave, nor how a Club portrays itself to the wider world, you can start to see the problem. What they can see are photos. So they see what “big, bad, American bikers” look like and copy that image with three-piece patches, with bottom rockers declaring “Taiwan” or in this case the whole of “Asia” for frigs sake! My army career took me all over the world from Hong Kong to Bosnia, from Norway to Turkey, Nepal to Albania, Kosovo to Denmark, Lithuania to Afghanistan (ok, forget Afghanistan – I wasn’t chatting to locals sufficiently to judge their linguistic skills!), and the average Joe’s ability to speak or read English is much lower in Taiwan than any of those places.
And naivety in general. I genuinely don’t mean that offensively – of all the places I have lived I have never seen more people just having “fun” than in Taiwan. But their idea of “fun” is a very naïve “fun”… so be it, good for them. And actually I hate to generalize – of course this doesn’t apply to everyone. But it is not unusual to see guys my age, nearer 60 than 50, dressing like teenagers, or women of a similar age dressing in miniskirts with 60 denier tights to cover their varicose veins but still thinking they look cool and sexy, or middle aged and elderly citizens singing non-stop karaoke for hour after friggin hour! Also, they love dressing the part. I spent three years living in Nepal and wore less professional stuff when I was trekking in the Himalayas than most Taiwanese wear to have a ½ hour walk around a gently undulating hill! And cyclists – they look like they are on the Tour de France even when just having a 20-minute ride around their neighbourhood. Hence the motorbike gear you see people wearing too. Honestly, I am not being critical – as “Hollywood” said – they just do things differently, and they think this is “fun”, and they laugh and joke, and have no concept that anyone else might think it looks crazy. So good on them – why not!
The thing is though, when everyone is doing it, it becomes the norm. And there is very little tourist business here to expose them to anything else. Some tourists come from Mainland China in recent years, a few from Japan, but it is rare to see western tourists. So again, there is not much cross-cultural understanding.
Now about the motorcycle scene here – well, there are no real MCs as I have already said. There seem to be plenty of these small local clubs, and to be fair some of them do seem to ride frequently, usually on Sundays, but hey, work gets in the way. But I have never seen a club riding as a pack. Again there is a sort of naivety. They just shoot off to a destination, overtaking each other, closing up when they decide to stop, or maybe in a city, and then off they go again, every man (or woman) for themselves. And they have a great time. That makes them happy – good for them. They pose for photos, eat, get their club banner out, more photos, and off they go again, overtaking, stopping, shooting ahead, whatever they feel like doing, and it makes them happy. I ride alone as a result. I know of a couple of more international groups, not clubs as such, but they seem to be more into the adventure bike scene – not my bag, but again I must say that certainly one of those that I know is incredibly active, riding most weekends, and often during the week after work, or a few of them meeting up before work somewhere for a coffee. Good stuff.
So, when I saw those photos “Hollywood” plucked out of that Taiwanese group I was less surprised than someone who has never been here. 50-year old guys with baseball hats on sideways, and pulling funny postures for photos is quite normal in Taiwan, let alone younger kids. They think it is funny, nothing more than that. I am not saying I didn’t cringe, I certainly did, but then I also cringed at their “mean and moody” photos with captions like “eating meat and drinking – real men” or of a group of them killing an emu or ostrich or whatever the heck it was, as if that made them “real men”. Hey, if they want to see “real men” I will suggest they spend 6 months in Helmand Province in Afghanistan when the war was raging, or 3 years in the Balkans, or living, training and fighting alongside Gurkha soldiers. Maybe not – they would probably go dressed as Rambo and laugh and giggle, or look fierce for the sake of the camera, until the reality set in and it really got heated, and then they would fly home to their karaoke and proving their manliness by 6 of them killing an innocent ostrich. What did surprise me was that there was hardly a photo of a motorcycle, just tattooed men, sometimes with knives, or eating meat and drinking like real men (!), or younger guys making heart shapes with their inter-twined arms. But almost no motorcyles. Hey ho! But for them this is “fun”, so ok! I just struggle with the MC bit.
But, here we go, this is what I really wanted to say, and I am not defending them – I have no doubt at all that they don’t mean any offence – they just don’t know any different. They wouldn’t think for a minute that anyone might take offence. It is just naïve “fun”. And the photos are just them doing what they think is “normal” with no thought that anyone else might think otherwise.
What shocked me more than the photos was the name “Outlaw” and bottom rocker “Asia” – the rest is just “they do things differently over there”!
Mark “Llama” Vickers
Mark “Llama” Vickers is a British Army veteran of 33 years service. He has lived 11 years in Asia and 3 years in the Balkans. He’s been riding motorcycles since 1980 and now owns a Victory and is currently writing/compiling a book of tales from Victory owners around the world. Since retiring from the army in 2012 he spends his time riding his motorcycle, painting (art..not the decorating type!) and writing. He hopes to bring you more news of the Asian biker world in future…..if invited so to do!