Why do motorcycles have whips? The Full Explanation

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While you’re driving the down the road, you may notice a motorcycle that has something similar to a whip hanging from the handlebars. For those who aren’t familiar with what these are, it may seem a bit strange seeing them. There are many reasons motorcyclists use whips to control their bikes.

These are the 6 main reasons motorcycle riders hang a whip on their handlebars:

  • Quickly identify the Motorcycle Club from which the Rider is a member
  • As a self-defense mechanism
  • To make it easier for other motorcyclists to see you
  • In Memory of Lost Friends or Family
  • For a glimpse into the past
  • Purely for Aesthetics

These whips can be referred to as “Getback” whips and became famous in the United States in the 1970’s and 80’s when motorcycle clubs and gangs were becoming more prevalent.  They’re not as common as they used to be but every once in a while you’ll still pass one on the highway.

Biker Club Colors

In large cities, it’s common to find motorcycle clubs or groups of people who like to ride together.  These clubs can even be organized into democratically elected positions, such as treasurer, president, or treasurer. Many clubs participate in charity events, motorbike shows, rallies, and help their local communities.

The members of these clubs are proud to be a part of that organization and to show off their membership they’ll get specifically colored leather whips. These multi-colored whips, which are often the same color for all club members, will be given to every new member upon payment of their entry fee.

Some clubs are so big that there are many chapters across the country and around the globe.  So if you’re going on a road trip and pass someone with the same colors as you there’s a good chance you’re in the same club.  You might meet other members who could offer you useful tips for riding in your area.

If you’re buying a getback whip just because you like it, be sure to do some research first.  If there’s a certain club associated with those colors you could make someone mad. It’s probably best just to buy a full black one if you’re unsure.

Self Defense

Getback whips were used for self defense a lot more in the 70’s and 80’s than they are now.  Compared to the following decades, those 20 years saw an increase in violence by motorcycle gangs, particularly against police.

Getback whips come with a quick release handle that attaches to your handlebars and clutch levers. This handle is quick to release and allows users to quickly take the whip off as they need it. You can also use the quick release handle to provide a hard surface for blunt impacts.

Leather whips are strong and flexible because they are made of leather.  You can easily conceal the whip by winding it up and hiding it somewhere. If you’ve ever been hit with a leather whip, you know that it’s certainly an unpleasant experience.

It is also handy for riders to keep it in their hands so they can use it while riding.  That’s obviously not a good idea.

California law makes getback whips illegal if they are equipped with a quick release latch.  If they’re permanently attached to the motorcycle for purely looks then you’re allowed to have it.  The police in California will pull you over for it, confiscate the whip, and give you a ticket if it’s not permanently attached.

Before you buy one, call local law enforcement and see if they’re legal in your state. California has yet to publish its laws on motorcycle whips.

Makes it easier for other drivers to spot motorcycles

The greatest annoyance to motorcycle riders is cars cutting them off and swerving into them because they don’t look before they merge lanes. Motorcycle riders must be vigilant and look out for their safety. Any way to make their motorcycles more visible will improve safety.

When I first saw a motorcycle that had a whip attached to it, I was so curious as to what purpose it was serving.  It was definitely a great way to grab my attention. Motorcycle riders are at great risk. I recommend that they get a whip to ensure other drivers see them.

Some motorcycles even have two whips, one hanging off each side of the motorcycle just to really get people’s attention.  If you feel secure, do whatever you can.

In Memory of Lost Friends or Family

Many online shops that sell getback whips offer customizable options for colors or hard surfaces at their bottom.  Some whips have an Indian or Harley logo on the ends. As a token of remembrance of a lost friend or family member who also rode a motorcycle, motorcyclists will have the person’s name at the end of the whip.

You could attach a photo or quote from the person at the whip to make it feel like they are always there with you.  Anybody who has been riding motorcycles for a while has likely lost a friend. I lost my cousin and a friend in highschool to motorcycle accidents. This could be a great way to remember them if they were fond of getback whips.

You can even make the whip with your favorite colors or the logo for their favorite team.  Online suppliers offer many options.

For a glimpse into the past

Many people feel they were born in the wrong time.  My wife often talks about how she wishes that she could have lived to the roaring 20s. And my dad always spoke of being a cowboy in the Wild West.

If you’re one of those people whose style comes from the 70’s and 80’s then this might be a good option for customizing your motorcycle a little bit. Most people who have whips tend to like big bobbers, choppers, and big cruisers because that’s the style of that generation.

A few people use small link chains as their getback whip, which is strongly discouraged.  It could prove fatal if the chain comes off your bike and gets wrapped around your back tire or chain. If you’re going to get one, then get leather or vinyl.

Purely Aesthetics

There are many people who just like getting back whips.  Everyone has their style and that’s what makes this world interesting and colorful. If you are looking to buy one for your personal taste, you can do so.

Old school motorcycle clubs may not approve of people buying getback whips because they like them. But who cares? If you like it, then buy it. It won’t be a problem if you don’t like it. A splash of leather or color to your motorcycle might be just what you’re looking for.

If you’re buying one purely for aesthetics then I would recommend buying one that is not removable. Get a permanent one so if a police officer ever pulls you over and asks about it you can prove that it’s just for looks.

Similar Questions

What do you do if your dog chases after you on a motorbike? To avoid collision with a dog, you should slow down if you’re being chased by one while you ride a motorcycle. If it looks like the dog is going to intercept with you, speed up just before interception to throw off the dog’s timing. For more information, click here.

Are motorcycle clubs and motorcycle gangs one and the same thing? A motorcycle club is an organization that promotes riding in the spirit and companionship of others. They are also involved in community activities and events.  Any motorcycle club that is called a gang has a common philosophy of violence.

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