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History of Skulls, Wings, and Motorcycling - YouMotorcycle
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Pic courtesy of Wobblycat Photography. A handful of our beautiful motorcycle riding friends.

History of Skulls, Wings, and Motorcycling

A quote from Life, America, and the Road by Jefe Smith:

At the end of WWII the U.S. saw the influx of nearly a half million young, recently discharged and disoriented war vets who were experiencing the aftermath of the horrors of war, well before someone coined the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Simultaneously the Army was cheaply ridding itself of thousands of surplus Harley Davidson motorcycles for which it now had no use. The surplus men and machines formed a bond that began the biker movement, saving the U.S. Military from a pile of therapy expense. There is a saying, “You never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office.” That saying is largely true.

Generally we get great feedback. Unfortunately, we get some strange ones sometimes. Michael K. has a website dedicated to bicycle riding. Isn’t that nice? He can’t seem to understand what skulls and wings have to do with motorcycling, and implied that the use of skulls and wings in the YouMotorcycle logo was “for your blog to appear “bad ass” enough to entice the “tattoo crowd”?”

Michael, the truth is about to set you free.

Skulls and wings have as much to do with motorcycling, as squished manhood and one piece spandex unitards have to do with bicycling.

Allow me to explain… but first…

Here’s Michael K.’s email – so you can read it in his own words:

From: Michael K****

<bike@*********************.com>

Subject: YM logo Message Body: Hello, I find your blog informative. At the same time I wonder about your choice of the logo – winged skulls. Your writing looks reasonable, yet you chose low energy (read: fairly negative) symbols to represent you. Is it perhaps for your blog to appear “bad ass” enough to entice the “tattoo crowd”? I find this seeming incongruence fascinating.

Cheers,

Micheal

 

What do skulls and wings have to do with motorcycling?

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the email. It’s not every day I get one like that, and it seems pretty damn subjective. Winged skulls are low energy, and  fairly negativeIncongruent to motorcycling? Really? To who?

Wings and skulls and motorcycles have gone hand in hand for over half a century. Many World War II veterans took up motorcycling after the war. They formed their own clubs and some clubs used insignias from their military divisions. Skulls began to pop up on motorcycles and motorcycle clothing because military divisions discovered that painting daisies on fighters wasn’t the most effective way of intimidating the enemy.

Motorcycle Girls Attack Bicycle

Pic courtesy of Wobblycat Photography. How our beautiful motorcycle riding friends feel about your bicycle.

Honda Wing LogoFast forward to the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Through cutting edge research and development, Japanese motorcycles had pushed the limits and become the dominant breed of motorcycles. Honda was arguably the leader of the pack and Honda’s logo throughout this era was winged.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many Hondas came from factory with large painted wings incorporated in the design of the motorcycles. Today, over 50 years later, a winged logo still represents Honda’s Powersports division and manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson have invoked the skull as part of their marketing.

Harley-Davidson Skull Logo

If you’re telling me skulls and wings are “incongruent” with motorcycling, and that YouMotorcycle only uses them in the logo to appear “bad ass” so as to appeal to the “tattoo crowd” you must be right. What the hell do I know? I’m just the guy who worked in the motorcycle industry for a few years and gets 80,000 monthly visitors on his motorcycle blogs.

You’re the expert, right? I mean, you’re not just jumping to assumptions or anything… are you?

Because I noticed something a little peculiar in Photoshop today…

See I was playing around with the images used in this post…

When I realized something…

Remember when I said the truth will set you free? Well…

Harley-Davidson Honda YouMotorcycle Logo

Motorcycles, wings, and skulls, all go hand in hand. They have for the better half a century. That’s not going to change.

This site isn’t about appearing bad ass, or enticing a “tattoo crowd.” This site is dedicated to motorcycling as a way of life. If you don’t like it, pedal yourself out.

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional.
Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world’s greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more.
We motorcycle, do You?

15 comments

  1. I enjoy my Mt Bike as well as my ’38 Knuckle (Winner Harley Homecoming, H/FL, 1986 ) if you want to ride a big m-c as you age , get on a Mt- bike by 40, it keeps your legs strong.. Oh that bicycle guy, well……

    • Good point, Mark. I visit Fuzzygalore.com’s blog and Facebook feed on occasion. Lately she’s been all about her fat bike. Definitely considering the splurge as soon as a new toy is in the budget… But I won’t pretend to know the first thing about bicycling. Would love to see your Knucklehead though!

  2. You spelled “pedal” wrong. It’s bad enough that we’re bad ass. Let’s not look like bad spellers.

  3. Michael,

    I am an avid reader and sometimes commenter to YouMotorcyle and I would hardly call myself part of the “bad ass, tattooed” crowd. I am 65 years young and a retired CEO of a mid-sized organization. I ride for my own pleasure, not for what others might think of me. You enjoy your bicycle and I’ll love my motorbike.

  4. I’m a long time motorcycle and bicycle rider. Love both. Anyway, I am a little mystified by the whole skull thing as well but I figured maybe it had something to do with some of the veteran’s, the stuff that those guys went through in WWI, WWII and Vietnam and of course many of them became bikers. I thought it might also go back much further than that. With respect to the prevalence of current day use of skulls on just about everything to do with motorcycles, it seems a little overused, especially when you consider that many bikers today are doctors, lawyers, engineers, social workers etc., that have no ties to the military or outlaw biker gangs. I do kind of understand that the bike can give us a sense of our own mortality. It is a dangerous thing to do after all. Does the use of skulls have something to do with that?

  5. RT @YouMotorcycle: What do skulls and wings have to do with motorcycling? http://t.co/e62Aq4hlzA

  6. Rob – I think you are right and funny that these weekend someone asked me why Skulls and Motorcycles are associated so much these days – I believe that when we ride we enjoy playing with the physics of motion / momentum – but the reality of physics can be very cruel and unforgiving! – But the iconography of skulls goes way back to pre – history. Did you know that a signet ring was found in Jamestown that was of a skull and the motto “Memento Mori” or “Remember your Death” – Meaning to remind yourself that Life is Short! Life is Short and that is why we ride!

    • BINGO….

      You nailed it, Tim. I have proud passenger status on my Hubbies ’13’ model Tri-Glide. There is a verse in the Bible that says “In the midst of life, we are in death”. It is a gentle reminder that we are fallible human beings, and we will eventually grow old and die.

      So we Riders and Passengers try and live a good, honest life, having fun along the way without hurting anyone else. And I appreciate these sentiments more and more as each year passing goes faster and faster. Will be 56 years young in 8 days…..

      P.S. – I do sport tattoos, but I never felt the need to “rumble”. I’d rather ride for charity.

  7. Here’s an old post I found that I think does a good job in connecting the skulls with motorcycling…

  8. Great to know, both my folks are folks are WW2 veterans. I’m a veteran also. I’ve been riding for my whole life, yes it’s true, it’s a life still I will live. To ride is a different road to follow. Just wanted to know.

What do you think?