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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Gremlins, Gravel, and Grit Part One

Chad Brislawn
Chad Brislawn
A lifelong Muscatine resident, Chad Brislawn has a passion for motorcycles and writing. He writes No Baffles No Brakes, for Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Muscatine Living

Amidst all the shimmery, shiny chrome and flake of motorcycles, you may have missed the meaning. The big symbol, dazzle, and status of the big sparkly bike have drowned out and watered down what it all used to be about and how it started. Freedom. Freedom to ride how you want. Act how you want. Believe and dress how you want. Paint your bike and trick it out how you want. Gritty garage style with torches and spray paint. Custom culture was born and with it were born the traditions and customs of motorcycle lore.

Just a little insight into motorcycle culture. The motorcycle world is steeped in tradition. Tradition is what forged this lifestyle. It is the foundation of this movement, what we stand for, and why things are done the way they are. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to motorcycle tradition and the reason for that is the level of secrecy and privacy that has been known to occur throughout motorcycle history.

One of the longest-standing traditions, and I would even go so far as to call it a superstition, is that of the gremlin bell. Also known as the guardian bell, the gremlin bell is a motorcycle accessory that is attached to the underside of the bike somewhere along the frame. And although the story varies from biker to biker, its purpose remains altogether the same. Protection.

Protection from what? What is a gremlin? A gremlin, in motorcycle tradition, is a creature or a spirit that lives to cause mayhem and mechanical problems on your bike. Road devils. Gremlins jump up onto your bike while you are riding and like to loosen nuts or sever brake lines. They tinker with your electronics and cause the rider distress on the road.

So, for protection against these hateful little creatures, we have gremlin bells. One variation of the story is that when gremlins try to jump up onto your bike they become caught in the hollow of the bell. The incessant back-and-forth ringing of the bell drives the creature insane, causing him to lose his grip and fall to the road. And when he falls to the road and dies, his body gives birth to a pothole. Makes ya think.

Whether or not you believe in the story is of little consequence, the message still reads true. It’s dangerous out there, and we will take all the help we can get. Most riders carry the bell under their sled, and an important part of the story is that the bell must be given to you by another rider. It must be received as a gift and not purchased on your own. Also, a great way to show a fellow rider that you care and a great token of promoting safety.

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