When you think of a motorcycle rider, an image of a man with torn jeans and ‘Mom’ tattooed on his bicep flashes through your mind. But “you can throw that out the window,” says Dennis Denny, owner of Denny & Associates insurance and an avid rider. “I’ve ridden with attorneys, business owners and doctors,” he says. “I think the biker stereotype is a very small percentage of the riders actually out there, especially recreational riders. I can’t go out without seeing 10 or 11 guys with their wives, and I’ve never had a problem with a biker I met anywhere.”
There’s a kind of camaraderie among riders, he says, which manifests itself in the charitable events they often participate in. Denny has been a part of several such motorcycle charities, including a poker run in Illinois for Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) and rallies for pets. “It’s just a good time to get out; you meet all kinds of different people,” he says. “Everyone is extremely friendly and sometimes there are as many as 2,000 people.”
Denny had a Harley Davidson when he was 22, but sold it after he got married and had a daughter. Now his children are grown, and he returned to the hobby about five years ago when he got a bike from his son. “Now he’s married and has three little girls, and I guess he’ll ride again in another 30 or 40 years if he’s anything like me,” Denny says.
Now Denny’s bike is a Honda VTX 1800, which he rides mainly on the weekends with his wife or friends, but also on weeklong trips and occasionally to work. He enjoys seeing the countryside on the bike, and has ridden around Reno, Nev., Lake Tahoe, Mt. Whitney, the Grand Canyon and even to New Orleans after Hurricaine Katrina. “I look forward to it,” he says. “It’s a way to clear your mind. A lot of people ride with iPods, but I just pay attention to what’s going on around me. You see a lot more on a motorcycle than you do behind the wheel of a car. You get on country roads, and it’s beautiful. Especially this time of year.”
Frank Babcock, national sales manager for Charter Media, says the camaraderie is one of the things he enjoys most about motorcycle riding. Many of Charter’s executives ride together recreationally on a regular basis, Babcock says. “It is a passion. You get a bunch of riders together and they’re of the same ilk because they like bikes,” he says. “You wind up talking, not about business, but about bikes.”
He also uses his Harley Davidson as an opportunity to bond with his 14-year-old daughter, Alex. “When she was about 5 years old she had a Harley leather jacket, but I didn’t put her on a motorcycle for a long time,” he says. Now, he finally feels she is old enough to ride, since his bike has a partially enclosed rear seat. “She was about 13 when she got on the first time. We’ve done a lot of riding together. If she’s available on the weekend and wants to ride, everything else drops and we go.”
Babcock got his first motorcycle as a teenager, and rode it from his home in South St. Louis to Clayton, where he worked as a lifeguard. Since then, he has had five other bikes and ridden thousands of miles. He has been involved in many organized rides, ranging from St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras parades to fundraisers for nonprofits, including the Children’s Miracle Network. “Some of the kids come and it’s a heartwarming thing to be around, yet you’ve had a great day.”
One of his favorite events, however, is the nation’s largest annual motorcycle rally, which takes place in August in Sturgis, S.D. Between 400,000 and 600,000 riders attend the rally each year, so Babcock avoids the crowds by going the week before opening day, and returning as the festivities start. The event is a 3,500 mile round-trip ride from St. Louis, and Babcock says it takes him a day and a half to two days, driving the back roads through Nebraska, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore National Park. “It’s a gorgeous ride through some fabulous country that changes immensely, depending on the elevation,” he says.
Babcock says riding is a way to clear his mind. “It’s my relaxation; I get everything from the day off my mind.” In his office, he has a large poster of himself that was taken several years ago in the Smoky Mountains. It was on a stretch of road called Tail of the Dragon, thanks to its 318 curves in 11 miles. “When my head is completely full I look at it and say, I think I’ll ride a little bit this weekend.”