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Why Do Motorcyclists Have Whips?

Why Do Motorcyclists Have Whips?

While cruising down any sunlit highway or open road, there are high chances that you will see an old-fashioned biker with a long, fringed accessory hanging from their handlebars. That’s a motorcycle whip, also known by the slightly more intimidating name: the “Get Back Whip”.

These leather accessories were not designed to display masculinity; they have a rich history that revealed how practical they were, how they were used for self-defense, and how they connected bikers to the culture that they belonged to.

This article focuses on the evolution of motorcycle whips, their use as a defense tool, and how they have been transformed into an icon of heritage and individuality in the world of motorcycling. Along the way, this article also answers the question: “Why do motorcyclists have whips?”

1. Motorcycle Whips and the Get Back Mystery

Motorcycle Whips and the Get Back Mystery
Photo Credit: Dot Motorcycle Helmets 

The leather whip or get-back whip is a motorcycle attachment used for decorative or functional purposes and is usually fastened to handlebars. It can be a strand or a braid and may have fringes or tassels for decoration.

To your surprise, motorcycle whips have an efficient origin. In the good old days, when turn signals were not yet widely installed on motorcycles, it is said that a good flick to the whip could let drivers behind know the intentions of the rider. It was an essential safety feature in an era when motorcycles often weren't visible enough.

The "Get Back" in the name indicates a slight shift to a more defensive strategy. As an example, the whip can be the last resort in case of fending off unwanted attention while riding. A short snap of the whip will inform anybody around you who is trying to intrude into your personal space.

2. Are Get Back Whips All Flash and No Function?

Not necessarily. The get-back whips may not be used for safety signals any longer, but they can still be a great topic to start a conversation. A biker with a whip on his motorcycle is certain to garner attention, and it may become a point of interesting discussion about the history and the folklore of the motorcycle world.

It is not just about safety and self-defense, but motorcycle whips are also used as an individual style statement and thus hold a unique place in the biker culture. Thus, when you see one on the street, you will remember that it is not only a decorative piece but a symbol of heritage and a reminder of the open road.

There are other motorcycle parts and accessories that may not be as flashy as a get-back whip but they surely add to the aesthetics, safety, and value of your bike. You can find these purposeful attachments by visiting the Viking Bags ’ online store. These include sissy bars , backrests , crash bars , fairings , and new handlebars . For improved touring performance, the company also makes the best-in-town luggage bags for your specific make and model, including saddlebags , backpacks , tank bags , sissy bar bags , tour packs , and much more.

3. Get Back Whip Options

3.1 Get Back Whip Paracord

Pocket-friendly and lightweight options, paracord get-back whips are generally colorful, and customized, and are perfect for a casual look.

3.2 Leather Get Back Whip

The ultimate old-school pick, leather whips are a classic, rugged piece. They are offered in different styles and are more expensive than paracord.

4. Why Do Motorcyclists Have Whips?

As you ride down the freeway, there are chances that you may see a glimmer of polished and high-grade leather of a snake-like whip gushing in the wind, attached to a motorcycle. This is something that is accompanied by feelings of curiosity, and even a hint of fear. But why do motorcycles have whips? The answer to this question lies in the history of the motorcycle world and tradition. A get back whip attached to the bike is a combination of function, tradition, and symbolism.

4.1 A Touch of History

The mythological history of motorcycle whips, commonly known as "Get Back whips", is somewhat mythical. Some riders consider them as the first line of defense to be carried on the road, utilized to ward off stray animals or keep the bugs at bay during long trips. Some say they were a way for motorcyclists to communicate with each other on the road to indicate their intentions and moves.

4.2 Safety in Visibility: Standing Out From the Crowd

Motorcycles are less bulky than cars, thus they tend to be neglected and overlooked on the road. Another theory says that get back whips are used by riders to stand out, especially on the highways. It is the way the get back whip moves when attached to the handlebars, making motorcycles more visible and catching the attention of other riders and drivers on open roads and highways, preventing possible accidents.

4.3 Beyond Visibility: A Badge of Brotherhood

Nevertheless, the whips in modern motorcycling are not purely functional but are quite symbolic. To a lot of riders, especially those in motorcycle clubs, whips mean much more than just a means of visualization. They may symbolize a rite of passage, a sign of experience, or a particular rank or identity within the group. How the whip is worn, the colors it displays, and any additional embellishments have their particular significance within the distinct culture of a motorcycle club.

4.4 Courtesy on the Road: Respecting the Whip

If you ever cross a path with a motorcycle with a whip, you should always respect it from a distance. These are not only stylish add-ons but also part of the culture of bikers. Give them the same attention and regard that you would give to any other cultural symbol.

4.5 Motorcycle Whip as a Fashion Statement

Motorcycle Whip as a Fashion Statement
Photo Credit: Dot Motorcycle Helmets 

Nowadays, motorcycle whips are generally a fashion accessory. Being a part of the biker culture, they bring a timeless, rebellious look to the biker's style. The sound of the leather straps whipping in the wind is equally cool. Secondly, with fringes and braided designs, it is an easy way to give your bike a personal touch.

5. The Evolving Image of the Motorcycle Whip

As you must have seen on open roads and streets, get back whips are not embraced by most riders. For some motorcyclists, they are the remnants of the past or even a threat to their safety. It is because bikers with whips are represented by the media as hostile or intimidating. For most riders, a get-back whip is about respect for tradition.

A whip is a tool that enables a person to be a part of motorcycling history and which the rider can use to show their individuality in the biker community. It’s a symbol of belonging, a symbol of the old times when whips were used for a prosaic purpose.

6. Get Back Whip Laws

6.1 Are Motorcycle Whips Legal?

The legal status of get back whips falls somewhere between the gray area. One cannot find a single, all-encompassing rule addressing the whip culture on motorbikes across the United States. Here's what you need to know about the get back whip rules:

No Specific Laws: There are no regulations outlaw get back whips.

State-by-State: Nevertheless, some states might have rules on objects hanging from the handlebars that may be a hazard for others. Such laws may not be specifically about get back Whips, but they cover anything that can interfere with the motorcycle’s control and stability.

Safety First: In addition to being illegal in certain states, get back whips can be considered a safety hazard if they are too long, heavy, or get themselves tangled with the controls.

Insurance Considerations: The insurers can classify the get back whips as a potential risk that can affect your coverage in the case of an accident (whether or not it occurred due to the whip).

Here's what you can do to stay safe and legal: 

Check Your State Laws: Refer to your state laws regarding the whips and other such objects attached to motorcycles for decoration purposes.

Choose Wisely: Choose the shorter and lightweight get back whips that do not interfere with the control and stability of a motorbike.

Ride Responsibly: Make no use of the whip in a manner that can have an impact on your own or others' safety.

7. What States Are Get Back Whips Illegal in?

What States Are Get Back Whips Illegal in?
Photo Credit: Dot Motorcycle Helmets 

The legal status of get back whips varies enormously from one state to another in the United States. Since there is no federal law in the country that directly addresses the usage of get back whips, the legality of these accessories largely depends on the individual laws and regulations of each state.

Get back whips are banned in many states of the U.S. such as New York, Alaska, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. These states have regulations that either specially prohibit the use of get back whips or treat them as weapons.

8. How Long Should a Get Back Whip Be?

8.1 State-Specific Laws


California law allows get back whips if they are 18 inches or less in length. Nevertheless, selling or manufacturing "slungshots", which is defined as a weapon consisting of straps and a piece of metal or other weighted object attached at the end is illegal. To legally attach the get back whip in California, the whip can be braided onto the brake or clutch lever with the intention of it being a permanent ornament as long as it does not contain any metal that would make it a slungshot.


The get back whips are legal in Texas as long as they are no longer than 12 inches in length.

8.2 Restrictions and Exceptions

Some states such as Florida, Indiana, and Louisiana restrict the get back whips to be used by bikers but with conditions. These restrictions typically include:

  • Whip must be under the maximum length specified for motorcycles as mentioned in the local laws.
  • The get-back whip must be fixed on the motorcycle as it must not hang.
  • The whip must not have any metallic or heavy hazardous objects attached to its end.

9. Takeaway

The next time you look at a motorcyclist having a snake-like fashionable whip attached to the handlebars, remember it is not only a fashion accessory but a tradition. It is an emblem that connects old-fashioned craftsmanship and modern-day expressions.

A whip is a symbol of the biker community's deep roots and a tribute to their unwavering passion for riding. While whips can help you add a touch of flair to your bike, safety is the key. Select the light materials, use the reasonable length, and also ensure good visibility for you and others.

Remember, the coolest thing you can wear is a helmet and protective riding gear to stay safe on the road while riding a motorcycle. There is nothing wrong with embracing the biker culture but always put safety first and don't forget to become familiar with the laws in your area before you go on a ride with your get-back whip.

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