Biking: For the Love of Freedom and the Open Road
Marwan Tarraf, General Manager of Harley-Davidson Lebanon
November 10, 2010
Imagine the unrestrained pleasure of the wind on your face, the sun on your back, the adrenalin coursing through your veins; the open road rolling before you, and the sights and sounds of the city or the majestic mountains unfolding all around you. This is but a mere glimpse of the amazing experience of riding a motorcycle.
It’s no wonder then that for decades this activity has captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world. Many men tend to have a very particular passion for motorcycles, and many a biker will tell you that when it becomes a way of life, the experience is almost transcendental, and words often fall short of adequately describing it.
“I have always loved bikes, ever since I was a child, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have one. Even now, when I travel, my first thoughts are of acquiring one. This is a lifelong passion,” said Marwan Tarraf, General Manager of Harley-Davidson Lebanon, and Director of the Harley Owners Group, Lebanon Chapter (H.O.G).
Motorcycles have a long history, one that now spans an entire century. Men had horses as a means of transportation and as a sport, but in the early 1900s, with mechanical advancements, motorbikes were born and used as a mode of transportation, as well as in the military.
After World War I, motorbikes made for an excellent vehicle when people couldn’t afford to spend too much during the depression. In the late 40s, after World War II, many of the soldiers that came home from battle had no families, jobs, or commitments, and a lot of free time on their hands. “These soldiers bought cheap motorbikes and took to the open road to explore; this is when gangs started forming in the US,” explained Tarraf.
By the 50s, biking was becoming a popular trend made even more appealing through classic films like Rebel without a Cause. During the hippie era in the mid 60s, people became even more inspired to ride bikes, riding to no destination, the journey itself being the achievement of their dreams on their bikes.
“In the 80s, the outlaw biking gangs started to transform into groups of people from different walks of life with the love of biking being what they had in common,” said Tarraf. “They rode together and worked together in good will for charities and supported causes; today these clubs bring over a million people together worldwide, and they also actively promote road safety and focus on humanitarian causes,” he added.
The Man and the Machine
What a motorcycle offers you is total freedom. It gives you the advantage of being alone and having time to be with yourself. Being out on the open roads and physically exposed, you get the chance to fully see and enjoy the scenery around you, which is unlike being in a car where what you see is confined in a frame. You interact with the powerful machine beneath you and with the elements around you.
“It would be very hard to explain this experience to someone who can’t relate to these sensations; you really need to try it to understand. I know that bikers, and specifically Harley riders, get so attached to the whole emotion of motorcycling, that’s why once they buy it, they never stop,” said Tarraf.
According to Tarraf, the Harley-Davidson brand gained the astounding popularity it has because of its rich history, tradition and evolution in making motorcycles. “Harley makes heavyweight motorcycles – it’s not a luxury motorcycle, but it’s a premium one. All the components in Harley bikes are top of the line. When you buy a Harley bike, you are buying a piece of history and heritage.”
Loyal fans of the brand proudly display their devotion by wearing its gear and merchandise, and tattoos of the infamous logo. “You would never see any other commercial brand’s name tattooed on someone’s body, it’s always Harley,” smiles Tarraf.
Lebanon by Bike
The Lebanese have joined the ever-growing ranks of avid bikers around the world when solid interest urged Tarraf and fellow enthusiasts to work on a motorcycle and tourism club that acquired an official license from the Lebanese government, making it the only licensed motorcycle club in Lebanon.
The group received official acknowledgement from H.O.G International in 2008 and opened a chapter in Lebanon. The club now has over 150 active members and an executive committee that plans all its activities. Most important are the club’s objectives which are related to road safety; such as encouraging the use of the right protective helmets and gear, and the correct way to ride and behave on the road to avoid putting the rider and other drivers at risk.
“Some people in this part of the world may still see bikers in a negative light, and that’s what we are working on, changing this perception and presenting a new image for bikers in Lebanon. We do a lot of charities, dinners, nights out; we pick a few NGOs every year and work on supporting their causes,” said Tarraf.
The H.O.G Lebanon Chapter organizes a special event where they attract bikers from all over the region, as well as Europe, Canada and the United States. “The Lebanon tour gathers over 300 bikers riding together for three days, staying in different places around Lebanon, and we do that in October to send the message that Lebanon is not a seasonal touristic destination; you can come to Lebanon at any time of the year and do different activities,” he said.
No matter where they are in the world, bikers share an unspoken bond, a unique camaraderie and a true understanding of the riding experience, and the lifestyle that inevitably comes with it. For every lover of excitement, adventure, and freedom, the endless path of the open road could be your calling!