Riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle used to come with negative stigma. Leather saddle bags, fringe trimmings, the retro bad-boy look, and an attitude of disdain for authority figures. Even Singaporeans who did not grow up riding the American Harley Rider wave, had a certain tendency to regard these riders in a negative connotation.
InstaScram gets into the saddle of a Harley Rider this episode to find out that the culture of ostracising other bikers who ride different kinds of bikes is long gone. We ride with the Street Coyotes Motorcycle Club, a family of Harley-Davidson bikers, established in 2004.
Just like all groups with a shared passion, they head off for frequent adventures to Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, and even as far as Kerala in India. Even their supper or breakfast rides go a bit further than your neighbourhood kopitiam. Try Port Dickson or Desaru for starters.
This brotherhood of bikers participate in numerous charity rides as well: Nurses' Day, Hari Raya rides, and even teaming up with a 148-rider group of Harley-Davidson bikers travelling to Kota Tinggi, Malaysia, to present an orphanage with $11,000 in cash donations. Some of the other Singapore groups involved in the charity ride included the Harley Owners Group - Singapore Chapter, Bandidos Singapore and Mad Dog Motorcycle Club.
To gain a sense of just how such a convoy would travel long distances, the InstaScram team rode all around Singapore with the Street Coyotes. What struck us most about riding with them, is their innate road discipline and constant lookout for the safety of other road users. Harley riders might get a lot of flack for being a rambunctious, arrogant bunch to the uninitiated. But, after riding through streets and expressways with them, the allure of being a part of such a prominent and seasoned group of riders became simple to comprehend.
This week, I rode an Indian, which is a brand that has long been a direct competitor to Harley-Davidson. But, as I rode through the streets of Singapore, the fraternity of the low-riders recognised all bikers as one.
And there's another place in Singapore that stands with all bikers - the only bar in Singapore that's run by bikers, for bikers, Handlebar.
Handlebar was established in 1999 as Singapore's first biker bar and serves American cuisine. Some will remember the first outlet in Jalan Mempurong, Sembawang, which closed in late 2016. The new premises, ensconced near the entrance of Gillman Barracks, is proving to be hit, with indoor and outdoor seating, and retaining the biker charm of the original. You must check out the bathroom mirror shards taken from motorcycles, the skeletons posing with cigars and biker memorabilia used as furniture.
The owners are motorcyclists as well, and their love for the ride comes across in the biker den they have "recklessly kick started", serving up excellent food with great ambience.
Handlebar was also one of the venues used to film an episode in Season 2 of Gangland Undercover, a History Channel show based on the documentation of the outlaw biker culture in the United States.
In 2017, Harley-Davidson Inc. celebrates its 114th year of producing iconic motorcycles. Its reputation and timeline of manufacturing some of the best American muscle machines remain undisputed. And here in sunny Singapore, the brand remains celebrated too, in the good company of the Harley Riders of Singapore.