Get-back whips are leather or paracord whips bike riders use on their motorcycles.
They are most commonly attached to the front brake or clutch levers or the mirrors.
These whips have a quick-release buckle at one end to tie to the motorcycle. And fringes on the other end with leather balls or even ball bearings.
Here are the main reasons why bikers use get back whips on their motorcycles:
- To identify with their motorcycle club
- Self-defense and to fight back
- For aesthetics – to look cool and intimidating
- For safety – to get noticed on the road
That’s the gist. But let’s dig into the details, history, legalities, and reasons for using get back whips.
Get back whips – what are these
Get back whips are long braids of chord made of paracord or leather, and bikers hang them on the motorcycle handlebars.
How long do these whips hang? Usually a few inches away from the ground. Almost touching the ground but not quite. You can say at the footpeg level.
The whips are easy to take off from the bike. They have a quick-release buckle at one end. You can detach the whip from the handlebar whenever you need.
The whips can be attached anywhere on the handlebars. The two most common places are – the handlebar ends (the front brake lever and the clutch lever) and the mirrors.
The other end has fringe. But there are edgy riders who use sharp or lethal objects at the whip end. Typically a ball bearing.
Of course, these riders have an explanation for why they use ball bearings or worse, metal ends. And the reason?
The get back whips without a heavy end fly as you ride because of the wind. With a metal object at the end, the get back whips hang down.
What do we think? Let’s get honest. The weighted end is a weapon. And that’s exactly why they are used.
There is a reason why these whips are called get back whips. The bikers of the 70s used these whips (are they really whips when the end of the fringe has ball bearings) to “get back” at cagers (car drivers) who didn’t see them or fight them on the road.
Why bikers use get-back whips on motorcycles
Here are a few reasons why many bikers use get back whips on their motorcycles. (For me #3 followed by #1 makes the most sense).
#1. To identify with their motorcycle club
Many old-time bikers use get back whips to associate and identify with a motorcycle club.
This identifying with biker clubs was a more common thing in the 70s. When motorcycling was still a small niche community with a hippie culture.
But over the decades, things have changed. Motorcycles are mainstream now. You see all types of riders.
The motorcycle clubs still exist. But the number has increased a lot since the 70s.
Also, bikers no longer use get back whips to identify with their clubs. Today, jackets and vests are the most common forms.
Apart from that, some clubs have their style of saddlebags, engine guards or crash bars, and backrests (sissy bars).
Get back whips though? Rarely few clubs use it.
#2. Self-defense and to fight back
This is an overrated (and dare I say ridiculous) reason. But many old bikers still defend using getback whips as a form of self-defense.
I don’t really get it. But I can only take this explanation at its face value.
Can get back whips be used for self-defense? Yes. But should people use it? No.
If you look up YouTube for get back whips, you would actually think these whips are not used for self-defense but to attack someone.
And many bikers do that. (Not cool).
Those who do it justify their actions by saying they are getting back at the cager (a derogatory term for car riders who don’t see motorcycles on the road).
While many car drivers don’t see motorcycles, using get back whips on them or their cars makes it worse. That’s not the way.
Using get back whips on others is not cool. Also punishable by law.
For riders still defending the use, give me loud pipes over these whips any day.
#3. For aesthetics – to look cool and intimidating
Many bikers believe get back whips gives you badass points.
These riders believe having get back whips makes their motorcycle look cool and intimidating. It increases the aesthetic appeal.
But do they?
Umm, here is what the majority of new-age riders believe:
Are get back whips intimidating? Kinda yes.
Are get back whips cool? Nope.
But still, a good chunk of motorcycle riders think get back whips are badass. And that’s an accessory one should have on their motorcycle.
#4. For safety – to get noticed on the road
Lastly, some riders believe get back whips helps you to get noticed on the road.
Car drivers can spot the get back whips and be aware (and beware) of the motorcycle riders.
I am not sold on this though.
Careless car drivers who have blindspots against motorcycles will have it no matter what. Don’t think get back whips are gonna change that.
Unless you gonna have pink color whips. 😉
It’s the weakest argument to have get back whips if you ask me. I believe whips look cool over whips get you noticed on the road any day.
And I am gonna say it again. Give me loud pipes over these whips.
History of biker whips
Whips on motorcycles became popular in the 70s when bikers used them to identify with their motorcycle clubs.
But soon enough these colorful harmless whips paved the way for the get-back whips on the motorcycles.
By the late 70s and early 80s, many motorcycle clubs were outlawed. And these outlaw motorcycle club riders were constantly getting into brawls with other outlaw biker clubs, cagers (derogatory term for car drivers), and law enforcement.
As a means to fight back and one-up in these brawls, bikers started weaponizing the whips. The fringe end went from having harmless frills to leather balls to ball bearings to even sharp objects like blades.
For these outlaw clubs, the whips were a form of getting back at others in brawls and fights. And that’s how get back whips became a thing.
Today, weaponized get-back whips are illegal. And heavily frowned upon.
But harmless getback whips with fringes and leather balls are seen as an okay thing.
But on the whole, the popularity of get back whips has reduced a LOT over the decades.
You will still see some riders using it though to identify with their motorcycle clubs.
Are get back whips legal?
Get back whips are illegal in many states and regions.
States like California have banned using get back whips on motorcycles.
Even if it is legal in your region, you need to make sure they look non-threatening. Some riders have chains instead of ropes as the whip. Sharp claws instead of the leather ball at the end of the rope. That’s a no-go.
If it’s lethal, police and law enforcement can cause you problems even if it is legal.
Should you get back whips for your motorcycle?
Get back whips are an old trend. Suited for the 70s and the 80s. Maybe if you are an old biker who loves these whips and have always had them on your motorcycle, maybe yes.
In all other cases, no point getting these get back whips. There are so many other accessories that you can add to your motorcycles.
So skip on get back whips.
Before you go…
Here are a few more motorcycle culture related posts for you: