Ride fast take chances has been a part of CityBike since the early Nineties, coined by the original paperboy himself, Brian Halton. It’s a simple phrase with a complex meaning behind it, one that we’ve defended against milquetoast moto-mediocrity. It’s our way.
Recently, I’ve been made aware of two companies using our motto. Not just in passing sense, a hashtag or a shout-out, but on products they’re selling.
One of these companies, Lowbrow Customs, specializes in—you guessed it—“custom” parts for the new breed of chopper enthusiasts, the ones that whisper “built not bought” with a strange kind of reverence, even though all the parts on the bike were bought at online retailers like the shop in question, making it more of a “bought then built” scenario. These guys are selling ride fast take chances t-shirts and stickers with stereotypical hot rod skull art on ‘em, complete with goggles. Because authentic riders wear goggles. Never mind that the typical new school chopper isn’t even capable of fast, and the only chances you’re taking are due to the lack of front brake, which is required for the bike to be a “real” chopper.
The second company is Roland Sands Designs, a brand that is everywhere right now—the darling of the scene, working with multiple OEMs on “factory custom” projects to pimp new models and selling things like vintage-y looking riding jackets that mysteriously don’t include armor. Ride fast take chances has shown up on at least one of their custom bikes, and their van showed up at the Santa Rosa Mile with our motto emblazoned on its tires. Most recently, RSD bandanas with our world-famous raison d’être on them showed up at a local shop.
This isn’t a company I had much love for anyway—it’s just not my thing—but then I’m also known for being a hater—and legitimately so.
One of the many things I do hate is how straight-up theft of ideas and designs has become de rigueur. I’ve lost track of all the moto-clothing companies whose entire thing is based on swapping their name into someone else’s logo or graphics, and that’s not even touching on things like the major brand essentially reproducing the iconic metal-shin Hi-Point boots with a couple extra buckles or the overpriced, not-so-well-built Bell Star knockoffs.
The retro market segment is arguably the worst offender, cribbing from a variety of themes in a Sailor Jerry-inked attempt to create a sense of real-ness, because if you’re gonna ride a vintage-looking bike, you’d better be dressed “right”—even if your idea of right is actually wrong, a marketing persona foisted upon you to drive maximum revenue from young white dudes that think it’s cool to play dress-up with motorcycles in this particular way.
Built not bought is actually relevant here, but not in the way these wannabe Easy Riders would like. Authenticity, street cred, and let’s not forget actual riding skills—these are things that are built over time, not bought, not trappings to be donned for a Saturday morning ride. Imitation is often called flattery, but I call it uninspired, disingenuous bullshit.
This kind of thievery has been going on forever, and of course it’s not just the motorcycling world—from clothing to furniture, popular design has long been about ripping off someone else’s work in hope of stealing a piece of market share, assembling borrowed pieces instead of creating something new. But anecdotally, it seems that the rip-off rate has increased in recent years, and I knew we’d jumped the shark when knockoffs of Poll Brown’s iconic Dirtbag Challenge sweater started showing up in hipster havens like See See Motor Coffee.
If you know Poll, you know he’s the real deal, and attempts to buy into his level of cool are laughably misdirected. There’s just no costume you can put on that’ll get you there, but years of doing your own thing might.
Similarly, ride fast take chances is an ethos, a belief inherent to CityBike and its readers, people who responded passionately last year when we opened up discussions about the meaning of the phrase. It’s not a product slogan, it’s not even relevant to companies that are more about fashion than function, and it’s ours.