(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #291, July 21, 2006)
PHOTO: Members of the Twin City Riders at this year’s Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade.
Every year, what group gets the Twin Cities Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade off to a roaring start? The famous and beloved Dykes on Bikes, of course. But this year there was another group of gay motorcycle riders in the parade, revving their engines and getting cheers from the crowd: The Twin City Riders, or TCRiders for short. They were the guys on motorbikes following the 75-foot-long rainbow and leather-pride flags.
The Twin City Riders is a group of GLBT motorcyclists living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, and in outstate Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota. The mission of the group, as stated on their web site (<groups.yahoo.com/group/twincityriders>, is simple: to build friendship and camaraderie through group rides.
Last summer the Twin City Riders experienced their first full summer of riding (although their Yahoo! group dates back to 2003), and their second season of weekly rides is going strong. Every Sunday during riding season as many as twelve to fifteen riders make their weekend trek.
Riders are mostly gay men, but women and non-gay men ride too. Riders sometimes bring friends as passengers on their bike, or friends who have their own bike. Everyone is welcome, as long as you have a passion for motorbikes.
Every kind of cycle is welcome, too, from touring bikes to cruisers to sport bikes (also known as crotch rockets). Harley-Davidson, Honda, Yamaha and BMW are just some of the makes represented by current riders.
How is the group organized? Very loosely. There is an internet presence in the form of their Yahoo! group, but there are no bylaws, officers or dues. They don’t have back patches on their vests—they haven’t even talked about it. According to group member Ed Skjaret, “People who have belonged to clubs sometimes get burned out on politics. This isn’t that—this is just a Sunday ride.”
Riders meet at The Minneapolis Eagle at noon Sunday for brunch and to decide where they’re going to ride that day. They leave about 1 PM and return to the Eagle about 6 PM. (Some of them stay for the Eagle’s Sunday beer bust.)
The group might decide to ride from Hastings to Red Wing and then to Prescott, Wis. before grabbing a burger at Dick’s Bar & Grill in Hudson, Wis. or in Stillwater. Or they may ride west to Buffalo or north to Taylor’s Falls. Last year they rode to Madison, Wis. for the Madison GLBT Pride celebration, and this year they plan to ride to Duluth for their GLBT Pride celebration.
Sometimes during the week riders meet at Betty’s Bikes & Buns in northeast Minneapolis, or they may join the big biker gathering on the first Thursday of each month at Dulono’s Pizza on Lake St.
Members of the group take their riding, their cycles and their safety seriously. On the road they ride “in formation.” That means they alternate where in the traffic lane they ride—one rides on the side of the center line, while riders before and after ride on the “ditch side.” This enhances safety by providing better vision and a further view down the road for riders in the group (because they don’t have another rider directly in front of them). Also, riding in formation separates riders from each other by a distance of about fifteen feet in all directions, which also enhances safety.
Several riders have taken or are taking advanced motorcycle safety courses offered by the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Association. These courses help riders be prepared for emergencies when they happen—say, when a car pulls out in front of a cycle, or when a car makes a left turn into the path of a cycle behind them. If the car had seen the motorcycle they wouldn’t have created such an unsafe situation—that’s what all those “Start Seeing Motorcycles” bumper stickers are about.
The Twin City Riders carry on a long tradition. Old-guard gay leather culture started with bikers in the 1950s who would cruise through Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The Satyrs of Los Angeles (< www.satyrsmc.org>) recently celebrated their 50th anniversary and have the distinction of being the oldest continually operating GLBT club/organization (not just biker club, but any kind of GLBT club or organization) in the country.
If you want to join the Twin City Riders for a ride, check out their Yahoo! group, or just show up at The Minneapolis Eagle on Sunday at noon. The group will be riding through October.