Interview - Keith R. Ball

Interview: Keith R. Ball, Founder, Bikernet & Author: 2nd June 2004

Media Man Australia explores the often misunderstood world of biker culture.

In this revealing interview, we ask the hard questions, and get the real answers, from a leading authority on the biker scene.

Keith Ball takes us on a journey from when he first got involved with bikes, all the way up to how the Internet creation, Bikernet, came about.

How, when and why did you get involved in the bike business?

I loved motorcycles since I was 15 1/2, 40 years ago. As soon as I came back from Vietnam and was discharged from the Navy I dove into bikes. I bought and sold used police bikes, helped friends build
bikes and learned how to rebuild engines while going to college on the G.I. bill.

What is it that attracts people to the bike culture, be it, casually or "hard core"?

That's a good question and I'm sure answers run the gamut. To me it's all about freedom. Bikers are like flying along the pavement dodging the world. Plus there's unlimited freedom to be creative with
our machines.

How did Bikernet start and what's the response been like? began when the Internet was set free to roam the world commercially. In 1996 a web master wanted the Easyriders account and was turned down. He felt that the next best alternative
was to work with me on a site. The ER publisher didn't like fiction so I devoted the site to biker fiction and my books as a promotional device.

What do you consider to be the highlights of your career?

Everyday that I can create, touch a woman and ride is a highlight and I've had many.

Dave holds the Guinness World Record for a bike trip. Tell us about how that came about?

You'll have to ask Dave. He's written several books on his riding adventures.

What are your favorite bikes and why?

That's a tough one. To me bikes are like paintings you can ride. Many are so inspiring, so intriguing or so fast. It's difficult to pick a favorite. Besides there's always a new one, a new builder out there endeavoring to rock the world with a new fandangled contraption.

What are your top few biker films / docos and why?

Wild One and Easy Rider. That's it. I'm waiting for someone to do it again. Maybe with one of my books like Orwell.

Has the bike business became over commercialized? explain.

To the old school perception, yes. Bikers lived a life untouched by mainstream society. It's as if they've been violated. To the business side of the industry the answer is, no. Television shows have opened the market to a much larger, excited, active audience.

Except for bikes, what else are you into?

Romance, working out, sailing and writing.

What was the best thing about 'Easyriders'?

In a sense it broke the industry wide open in the early '70s.

How do you express your creatively and what makes you tick?

The desire to accomplish and enjoy every second of life through creativity, makes me tick 24/7.

This may be an obvious question to some, but tell us the relationship between tattoos and bikers? (clubs and chapters etc), but I would like to hear the full and real explanation in your own words?

This is another element of society tipped upside down. My answer won't apply today. Tattoos were once middle-class insignias for sailors, truckers, soldiers, bikers and oil industry workers. It was a way for a man to say, "I do what I do, and fuck anyone who doesn't like it." Now it's a whole different world. Hell, some fans are art collectors now.

How have you found the (traditional) media to be both a positive thing, and a pain in the butt?

For years the media wouldn't cover anything to do with bikers. We were second class citizens. Bikers fought tooth and nail for respect and recognition. I'm not a big fan of the general media. It's livid
with hypocrisy in the USA. I could beat on them for hours.

Have the biker films and docos to date done the culture justice? explain...

Yes and no. It depends on how you looks at it. To many hard-core ruffians the violent edge maintains the fear factor level, and that's a good thing. Some, who want to be accepted by the world at large, prefer that all bikers be portrayed as good citizens.

What level of interest and success have your biker novels reached in the film world?

That varies from day to day. One day they're hot with a movie deal fast approaching. The next day nobody's interested.

What sparked your interest in writing?

Again, it's a freedom issue. Like a painter, a writer can create on his own. The expression is solitary and unlimited. A man can write or paint almost anywhere at any time. There's a vast sense of freedom
There. The key is to prevent starvation while creating.

What is the biggest misconception about both yourself and the biker culture and business in general?

I'm not sure there are any misconception about myself. I'm sure some or many people view me, my life and my accomplishment different than I would. I would need to evaluate an individual's concept of me to
tell you whether I disagreed with his summation or not.

Regarding the biker culture and business there are many misconceptions and generalizations that apply today, but not tomorrow, apply to one man and not another. There's one deadly misconception that should be address for all riders. For decades police accepted the motorist's excuse, "I didn't see him," and riders lost their lives. If that same motorist ran over a toddler in the street, that excuse wouldn't hold water and he or she would face manslaughter charges. In the United States some states are endeavoring to pass Right-Of-Way laws to recognize that bikers are highly vulnerable.

What can motorists do to help stop the carnage on the roads?

Pay attention, be considerate and allow the mad men bikers to scream and yell and rev their loud pipes. In a sense bikers are men with a warrior spirit and motorcycles allow them to vent their rage or violent tendencies. Let 'em be. It's a much more positive release than violence.

What's the fastest speed you have even ridden (and you don't need to tell us where you did it, unless you care to : )

I've probably been 130 mph in the desert, flying passed jack rabbits and tarantulas.

Many "alternative" lifestyles and cultures seem to attract an element of booze and drugs. In the biker scene, how much "stuff" goes on, and how much is "talked up" and exaggerated?

I have a crazed notion or formula regarding this question. First, I don't think drinking and drugs are solely used by bikers. Getting high is a man thing. You could ask that question of men who attend major league baseball games. Men have spirit, desire, ambition, goals and drives. When some elements are out of reach, other elements fall to favor. Think about it. If you can't play major league baseball, you can drink beer and watch it. I lived through the '60s and '70s and tried my share of drugs. I fortunately avoided addiction or mental destruction. It didn't have anything to do with motorcycles or rock and roll, it was just a searching era.

What is it that attracts "hot" and "wild" woman to the biker club culture?

The attraction is the excitement, the flash, the non-stop, never-a-dull-moment attitude. Some of it revolves around power, creativity and risk. The same formula applies to any man who races cars, boats, planes, is involved in sports, rock and roll, acting or climbing mountains.

Tell us of some of the perks of being a "wheeler and dealer" in the biker world?

There are perks and responsibilities. It's always a blast to be on the cutting edge of any industry.

What do you think about the biker scene and business in Australia? (I know it's a broad question)

I'm not that familiar with the Australian action. Can't answer that one.

What are your current projects?

I'm currently working on two fiction book projects, writing for five different motorcycle magazines, rebuilding a 1923 hotel into my dream shop/study, building the ultimate chopper (in my humble
opinion), building a ground-up Sportster, modifying a 100th anniversary Road King, and looking for a Harley-Davidson Peashooter from the '30s to restore.

What motivates you?

The answer involves upbringing. I also covered it above in the, "What makes you tick question." It's all about drive and accomplishment. One of my adages is, "No time to lose." Life is short, make the most out of every minute.

What other important information should we know about you and the Bike business?

I'm a man who has made many mistakes in my life. I've been married five times. I've walked on a couple of wild sides, through dark alleys and deadly situations. Can't believe I'm still alive. The bike business mirrors my life in many respects, still it keeps growing and flourishing like a bad weed. We won't give up, hide or go away. It's all about survival at 100 mph on a street named treachery.

What's your motto?

No Time to lose and never a dull moment.


Editors note: "KRB" told it straight. An amazing interview that will have them talking from LA to Sydney to beyond. It's no wonder folks go for the biker way of life. We feel honored that Keith has shared his thoughts with us, and Media Man Australia looks forward to a great deal more collaborating with Bikernet and the good folks behind it. Never a dull moment indeed.


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