Bikers Gear Up at the International Motorcycle Show

Comedian Dan Aykroyd, a proud Harley-Davidson owner, once said that you don’t need a therapist if you own a motorcycle.

Hundreds of people, most presumably with no need for professional psychological support, inspected new releases, tested  models, perused gear, considered insurance options, and otherwise indulged in one of America’s loudest hobbies at the Javits Center on Sunday. It was the last day of Progressive Insurance’s three-day International Motorcycle Show.

Zach Emig, 40, approached the Harley-Davidson booth with two of his children in tow. Emig is a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s 11th District. He said he’s new to the motorcycle community but enjoys riding his 1982 Yamaha across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, which unites the two parts of the district.

He added that his interest in motorcycles helps him appeal to voters he might not otherwise connect with. Many of his campaign materials and advertisements feature Emig on his motorcycle beneath the epithet “Fearless.”

“I think if Hillary Clinton had ridden a motorcycle across Wisconsin 15 months ago, she would have won the race hands down,” Emig said. “I talk to Hillary voters; I talk to Trump voters. People love it.”

If nominated in June, Emig will oppose Dan Donovan, the only Republican currently representing New York City in Congress. Emig is betting that Donovan’s vote last week in favor of the Republican tax bill will work in his favor. “There are a lot of workers, a lot of union members, in Staten Island and South Brooklyn,” he said.

Others said their love of bikes provided a sense of community. Elise Barnaby, 51, of upstate Dutchess County, has been riding motorcycles for about 10 years. She works in a prison but serves as a state coordinator for Christian Motorcyclists’ Association in her spare time. She chafes against assumptions people make about bikers and faith. “A lot of people don’t think you can be a Christian and ride a motorcycle at the same time,” Barnaby said. “I find it amusing.”


Progressive Insurance showcased vintage motorcycle models. (The Ink/Eliza Carter).

Many attendees wore clothing that advertised affiliation with various clubs, including Hell’s Angels, which the U.S. Justice Department has called an organized crime network.

But other club members say being in a club is more about camaraderie and getting together to enjoy a shared hobby. Anthony Skoda, 29, has a Harley-Davidson cruiser and is a member of a club called Untamed Ryderz. Skoda lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, and works for NJ Transit. He said his group primarily organizes rides to Pennsylvania. “It’s a hobby, like a therapy, keeps your mind off of things,” Skoda said.

Josualdo Mendoza, 40, started a South Bronx bike club eight months ago called the Aztec Rebels. He said all 50 members are of Mexican descent and meet on the first Sunday of the month to plan trips around the city and to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

A motorcycle manufacturer imposed strict controls on interaction with his models. (The Ink/Eliza Carter).

Across the cavernous event space, a man who said he goes by the name Telly the Greek, 40, enjoyed a beer with Kip Collard, 61. “Telly” had entered his bike into the competition for “Best Freestyle ” and wore a shirt honoring “Indian Larry,” a pioneer of New York bike culture, stunt rider and artist. “There’s so many of us in the same mental space all over the place, but it’s great to get like-minded people under the same roof,” Telly said.

 Collard said getting to see mechanics showcase their craftsmanship was the best part of the event. He said that there is a growing interest in bikes manufactured on a smaller scale than those Yamaha and Suzuki showcased. “It’s like microbreweries,” he said. “They’re everywhere now. You didn’t see that 20 years ago.”