Few things are as awe-inspiring as the thunderous rumbling and pulsating roar of a horde of bikers.
Stereotyped with long hair, shaggy beards, tattoos and head-to-toe leather garb, bikers can seem dark and dangerous to those outside their culture.
But as the Kenai Peninsula ABATE (Alaskan Bikers Advo-cating Training and Education) proved this past weekend at the Peninsula Center Mall the "rebel without a cause" misconception couldn't be further from the truth.
"Some people are scared of bikers, but there's really no reason to be," said ABATE member Melinda Carlyle. "Some of the biggest, scariest looking bikers I've known have been teddy bears on the inside, and guys so nice that they would literally give you the shirt off their back if you needed it."
Breaking the stigma that all bikers are "bad dudes" was really just a small part of the Kenai Peninsula ABATE's annual bike show. The charity event also was a forum for bikers to interact with the community.
"Some people are curious, but hesitant to come up and ask questions on the street," said Rick "Shorty" Carlyle, vice president of the Kenai Peninsula ABATE. "This event allows people to really see the bikes, get close to them and ask questions."
The event wasn't just for curious passers-by or those thinking about getting into motorcycles though. It also allowed bikers to show off their iron horses to each other. Fat boys, custom choppers, hawgs and several others were represented in the "Best Bike" contest.
"We're non-denominational," said Shorty Carlyle, referring to the fact that there are no prejudices about what one rides in the 100-plus member bike club.
"Some groups are Harley exclusive or just for Gold Wingers, but we all ride together. We've even got members that don't ride, but still support us because of all the good things we do."
Shorty Carlyle was referring to the numerous charity events the bike club sponsors. The event over the weekend had two fund-raising raffles one with the prize of a fishing charter for six people, the other was for a Smith and Wesson .44 magnum. They also were selling shirts with the "ABC" logo which stands for Alaskan Bikers for Children to raise money for charity.
Proceeds from the fund-raisers go the the Shriner's Children's Outreach Clinic, the Toys for Tots program and to purchase food for needy families.
"We do this every year," said member Bud Ashby. "We raise a lot of money through these events and we like to put that back into the community."
May is also Biker Awareness Month, and so several motorcycle dealerships were out to not only promote what's new and hot, but to promote biker safety as well.
Renegade Custom Cycle Supply, Victory A-1 Enterprises, Honda and Harley-Davidson were all represented at the event. Employees from each organization answered questions and spread the gospel of motorcycle safety to bikers and nonbikers alike.
"People don't see motorcycles all winter, so they're not used to looking for them," said Steve Phipps, in regard to how many motorcycle accidents are caused.
"That and they're so much smaller than cars," which makes bikers more difficult to spot when looking for them in a car's mirrors, he said.
Despite the potential dangers, in the eyes of the Kenai Peninsula ABATE members, Alaska is still a pretty good place to be a biker.
The only downfall, according to Shorty Carlyle, is "the riding season is just too short."
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