By BEN NEWMAN and ERIN BRADY
None of us were bikers, but suddenly we were inside the world of street stunt biking as most people will never experience it. Our cameras were mounted on the helmets and handlebars. Our correspondent carried a GoPro camera on the back of a motorcycle, her other arm wrapped around a two-time national road racing champion, flying down the highway.
We were spending four days with them as hundreds of bikers gathered in Charleston, S.C., for a big ride. They popped wheelies on the highway and ran some red lights. It was cops versus bikers playing cat and mouse through the streets of one laid back southern city.
The bikers were wary of us at first. We had arrived in their midst just weeks after an incident in New York City captured national attention, when a group of stunt bikers had an altercation with a young father in an SUV, leaving one biker hospitalized and the man dragged from his car and beaten by angry bikers in front of his wife and toddler.
“Now everybody across the nation thinks when there’s a pack of bikes it’s a bunch of freakin’ hooligans looking to beat up freakin’ women and rape children and crazy s— like that, and it’s nothing like that,” said Chad Walton, who had agreed to let us embed with his group as he was organizing an annual event he calls “The Chuckdown Shutdown.”
Walton had a point to prove. He believes bikers are no danger to motorists and to the contrary, it is the motorists who are a danger to bikers. He and his pals tell us that their sport is a harmless way to blow off steam. What they do on the open road looks scary but they maintain it is actually safer than “someone driving down the road putting on lipstick, texting and driving,” and that too much money and time is spent harassing them. The cops beg to differ.
Their target the week we were there was the Ravenel Bridge, an icon of Charleston, and turn it into a stage for stunt rides. But the police, were determined to stop them.
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