Now that the well-publicized but rarely seen Milwaukee Lion has either left town or likely never really existed, the Milwaukee area prepares for another kind of wild life.
Yes, the bikers are coming to town from Sept. 3 through Sept. 7 for the annual Harley-Davidson Milwaukee Rally. And unlike the scarce sightings of the lion, the Harleys and other biker species will be very easy to spot around town this weekend.
Riders will be roaring into town in prides to Rally locales like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Harley-Davidson Pilgrim Road factory and to the five Harley dealers in the greater Milwaukee area. A summary of events is way too numerous to mention here, which is why we have the Internet, so just to go Milwaukee Rally's website for all the locations, entertainment line-ups and more.
Since Milwaukee has seen its share of wild animals recently, here are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with the biker in the wild, or sometimes in the not so wild.
Proceed with caution (sort of)
When encountering bikers at the Rally, remember that you are likely in their familiar territories like bars, restaurants, gas stations or hotels. However, you may also encounter them at more neutral sites like grocery stores, pharmacies or resale shops.
Either way, most bikers enjoy, or at least politely tolerate, being approached by non-bikers at events like the Milwaukee Rally. Some may appear ferocious, so watch for signs of aggression like random screaming, dancing on bars or bike burnouts. Signals of more domesticated bikers include clean shirts, cell phones and selfie sticks.
Milwaukeeans know from experience that nearly all Harley riders are generally friendly creatures who thoroughly enjoy our city. If you do come across some of the "wild ones," just ask them what they’re rebelling against and you’ll fit in just fine.
Do feed the bikers
Riding a motorcycle is strenuous activity and results in bikers working up very large appetites. While typically carnivorous, there are a few bikers who actually survive on a vegetarian diet these days. These voracious biker appetites are generally satisfied at numerous local establishments, especially those that may also bait them with adult beverages.
Another trait of the Harleys is their generosity when it comes to tipping those who choose to feed them. So, be especially nice to them if you’re waiting tables or bartending in Milwaukee this weekend.
Music soothes the savage beast
Some classic biker tunes like "Born to be Wild," "Midnight Rider," "Bat Out of Hell" and others have literally and metaphorically "gotten old." However, bikers definitely prefer their music amped up. Bands at the Milwaukee Rally include a variety of genres from Wisconsin and around the Midwest, including the Rush Tribute Project, Rocky Mountain Oyster Band, Hairball, Screamin’ Cucumbers, Chicken Wire Empire, Superfl y and Motley Brue. The only thing missing is an Elton John tribute band.
Those craving more culture can check out motorcycle artist Mathew Hintz painting in his exhibit booth at the Harley-Davidson Museum during the Rally. The Museum also has a custom bike show and bike night on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Heap with praise
Nothing perks up a biker’s ears as much as two little words: Nice bike. Just remember that unless you know something about motorcycles, don’t take it any farther than that or you lose any semblance of street cred you might have earned. Also, one way to stir some anger in a rider is to use the word "drive" when referring to riding a motorcycle.
Female of the species
It’s pretty well known that women were not always fairly respected in the biker community, as represented by some pretty offensive t-shirts and stickers over the years. While many women still prefer to enjoy the ride from the passenger seat, larger numbers are taking the handlebars and riding together or in mixed groups. Don’t be surprised to see more women riding around Milwaukee this weekend, especially during the Women’s Ride on Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Drive safely (seriously)
Some bikers seriously think that they’re invincible, while others take protective precautions against the inherent dangers of the road. If there is one thing that nobody wants at motorcycle rallies, it’s wounded bikers.
Wisconsin Harley Highlights
Our friendly Harley dealers have a ton of events. Wisconsin Harley Davidson goes big with 25 bands on two stages and four beer gardens, as well as the Drag Specialties racing trailer, the REF State of Wisconsin mobile motorcycle education simulator, live radio broadcasts including rider Elizabeth Kay from 99.1 WMYX and much more over the five-day event.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.