Living Off the Slab Blog
Why Do We Brand Ourselves? | Traveling This Road Together

I have a confession to make. Those that know me well will not be surprised at this admission, but I am a bit of a contrarian. I have never been drawn to the things or activities that most people consider to be cool, or hip.

Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Pet Rocks, Jordache Jeans and Disco were never my thing. I know these references reveal my advanced age, so for you younger viewers, think X-Box, iPhones and Aeropostale.

Part of this mindset came from the fact that my parents moved me around during my formative years, causing me to be placed in the position of "outsider" in both 6th and 10th grades. These experiences caused me to turn inward, as I was not immediately accepted into the established cliques making up the high school social hierarchy.

While difficult at the time, looking back on these experiences, I realize that this forced introspection led me to explore more solitary forms of expression and enjoyment, such as martial arts, bicycling and motorcycling. All activities, I loved and benefited greatly from.

But the biggest thing I learned was that it is not important to be accepted by the "in crowd." Walking my own path regardless of where societal pressures have tried to push me, has led to a far more interesting and full life.

We motorcyclists pride ourselves in living this individualistic lifestyle, enjoying a pastime that is not accepted or at least understood by the vast majority. Yet, there is a dichotomy in our behavior as we also tend to group ourselves based on the "brand" of motorcycle we choose to purchase with our hard-earned money.

There have been no other activities in my life, where I can recall the purchase of a tool leading to induction into the social order of that brand. And of course, once in, you are in for life!

Flopping down $25,000 for a new motorcycle, not only requires that sizable amount of funds, it also requires your loyalty and allegiance to the heritage of the brand.

Really? When I buy a new drill, am I required to "brand" myself as a lifelong Craftsmen owner? Or is it ok that I also own a DeWalt?

Of course, I get it…when I bought my Victory, I sought out others who owned the same bike(s) in an effort to meet people and find riding partners. I eventually became the president of our riding group and served in that position for almost 10 years. But it was never truly about the brand, it was about the people.

In 2017 we had the chance to test our loyalty, not to the brand but to each other, as Victory went out of business and ceased production. During the years that followed many of our members continued riding their Victories while others moved on to other manufactures such as Honda and in my case BMW. As a group, we had a choice to make, do we stay together as friends, or given our now diverse choices in bikes, are we required to move our loyalty to the new corporate entity?

Because, let’s be honest, that is exactly what Harley Davidson, BMW or Honda really are. They are huge multinational corporations with boards of directors and shareholders. They create a product that we purchase because we find it meets our needs and makes us feel good.

We do not owe these corporate entities our loyalty or admiration. They owe us. If they want to gain our next purchase, it is they that need to be loyal to us, correcting issues that arise, providing great service and of course continuing to produce products we find enjoyable.

I know this will not be popular, but here is a little bit of tough love. Blind loyalty to a corporate brand, political party, religion, or individual is foolhardy. Each of these entities in our lives should be continually examined and if any of them ceases to fill our needs or work toward your highest good, they should be jettisoned and replaced with those that do.

Look around. Is our society served well by those that declare themselves loyal to one cause, immovable and unable to listen or respect opposing points of view?

Personally, I think what we need are more individuals who walk their own paths regardless of where the masses lead. We need to demand the right to make our own choices and in return, we need to respect and even fight for the rights of others to do the same, regardless of whether they make different choices than we might like.

We motorcyclists pride ourselves on our individuality and talk about the freedom that rolling on two wheels brings into our lives. These emotions are not bound up in a hunk of metal, plastic and rubber, they exist inside each of us, regardless of what corporate logo is emblazed on our tanks.

The love we share for the open road is far more powerful than a fad or marketing slogan and we would be wise to remember that we all are traveling this road together.

If you want to learn to be more independent in designing and creating your tours and adventures, please check out my website at where you can find my in-depth course on how to "Creating Epic Road Trips." You can also sign up for my email list, to get notified about new videos and travel information.

In my last email, I updated everyone on a trip we are taking at the end of May, visiting the 6 New England States over a ten-day period.

I am also working on a second class covering "Shooting and Editing Videos for the Motorcyclist." Sign up for the email list to be among the first to learn when it becomes available.

Ride Safe!
--Craig Ripley

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