By Jeff Najar
David “Dave” Mann (September 10, 1940 – September 11, 2004) was a California graphic artist whose paintings celebrated biker culture, and choppers.
Called “the biker world’s artist-in-residence,” his images are ubiquitous in biker clubhouses and garages, on motorcycle gas tanks, tattoos, and on t-shirts and other memorabilia associated with biker culture.
Choppers have been built based on the bikes first imagined in a David Mann painting.
Back in the day…
David Mann stopped in to chat with his Easyriders’ editor, Keith “Bandit” Ball, (Now of Bikernet.com) to discuss the next month’s illustration. As the story goes Bandit was talking about the “Code of the West” and what internal rules guys need to have in order to live their life. Mann came up with Ghost Rider after hearing his friend talk about freedom and responsibility.
About the Code of the West…
It used to be that all bikers shared a common bond, an unspoken code of ethics and behavior, that transcended words and was built on actions. There was never a bible written on this Biker’s Code and there was no need. But the times are a-changin’ and there seems to be a lot of new riders out there. These days the riders you see blastin’ down the tarmac are just as likely to be clad in shorts and sneakers as jeans and engineer boots. And the roughest, toughest-looking biker you pull up next to could be your doctor or lawyer and may be wearin’ a Rolex watch under his leathers. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as these new riders learn the Code of the West just as we old-timers did.
The Biker Commandants
Don’t take any shit, Be kind to woman, children and animals, but don’t take any bullshit. This is an essential part of being a biker. It has to do with respect and honor. Anyone can be a brash, quick-tempered lout. Be cool, stand tall and backup what you say with action.
Never lie, cheat or steal, Another way of saying this is to always tell the truth. Bikers are always the greasy bad guys in the movies, but every real biker knows that his word is his bond. Your word is all you have in life that is truly yours. Guard it carefully and be about something noble, for you are a true knight of the road.
Don’t snitch, If you see a wrong, fight it yourself, If you are about anything. You’ll take care if problems yourself and never feel the need to snitch someone off. Snitches are the lowest life forms on earth, right up there with biker thieves. This rule goes hand in hand with the next one.
Don’t Snivel, Absolutely no one likes or respects a sniveler. Another way to say this is hold your mud. Still another way to think of it is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” Most of life’s little inconveniences work themselves out whether you snivel or not. Keep your chin up, dammit! You’re a biker, not some lowly mollusk.
Never say die and never give up, Whether it’s in a fight, a debate, or a business deal, no matter how bad it gets, a biker never gives up. That’s why you see a lot of wealthy bikers these days, ’cause they don’t know how to quit in an element of their lives. In the biker world of rugged individualists, only the strong survive.
Help others, When a brother or sister is broken down by the side of the road, stop and help them. Even moral support, it that is all you can give, is better than riding on by. Remember life is about the journey, the ride, not getting there. You already are there. And don’t just help bikers, show the world that we are better than our image portrays us. Courtesy costs you nothing and gives you everything.
Stick to your guns, Do what you say you’ll do, be there when yo say you will. This is called integrity. This also goes back to standing for something. Like the song says, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
Life is not a drill, Yeah, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. This is life-go out and take big bites of it. You’ve got no time to lose and bikers don’t stand around waiting for the party to come to them. You only go around once. Tomorrow you could be road kill, thanks to a chain smoker asleep at the wheel of his Caddy. Live life now, make the most of each moment. This is not a drill. All right, now let’s review. You are a biker, a modern-day knight of the road. Protect the weak, walk tall and stand proud. Your word is your bond. Stick to your guns. Don’t take any shit. Life is not a drill. Now go forth and ride When in doubt, ride. That’s what we do…ride. If you want to ride around in a Day-Glo Hawaiian shirt and sandals, go for it, but if you intend to look like a goof, at least don’t act like a goof. These commandments are just a few of the broad strokes, there is a lot more to being a biker than buying a bike. If you just buy a bike, you are a motorcyclist. Being a biker is a way of life, a proud way
Now ride, dammit.
More David Mann Illustrations