Costumed bikers rev up smiles during Pittsburgh ride

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As 40 motorcycles pulled out Sunday afternoon onto Washington Boulevard, the man in the purple topcoat and striped pants stood out, his brassy blond wig blowing in the breeze. He was The Joker, and he was joined by motorcyclists dressed as Superman, a bun-wrapped hot dog, a red devil and a gorilla. Many wore scary full-faced masks, and almost all of them wore helmets. Most wore more traditional riding garb, including black leather pants and jackets or jeans and sweatshirts.

They were off and riding for the Third Annual Pittsburgh Street Team Halloween Ride. It started in East Liberty, but riders were vague about where they were headed from there. Perhaps out the Parkway East to Monroeville, some suggested.

"It's just something that's fun to do. The kids enjoy it in the neighborhoods where we ride through. It's nice to see smiles on faces," said a man clad in long shaggy black fur and a gorilla mask.

"RJ or Bad To The Bone," he answered, when asked his name. Like many of the riders, he declined to give his full name, perhaps because of the fallout and publicity from last year's ride. Videos posted on the Internet show some of the riders doing "wheelies" and "burning rubber" while interfering with the ability of motorists to travel on what appears to be the Parkway East and parts of Pittsburgh. It appears that the riders doing the wheelies and stunts knew they were being photographed and cooperated with the videographer. Some talk directly into the camera.

"A few bad apples spoil it for the whole bunch," RJ said.

The Joker is Dave Hudson of McKees Rocks. He says he loves the Batman movies and he loves Halloween. Last year he rode as a vampire.

Some motorcycles were black, but a broad array of colors was represented, including purple and yellow, lime green silver, orange, royal blue and red. Kawasaki's Ninja model was well-represented.

The Pittsburgh Street Team Facebook page told riders to meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at 1351 Washington Blvd. in East Liberty. Riders said the page is for a loose-knit group of people who like to ride motorcycles. None of them would admit to being the team leader or a member of an organized group or club.

"Last year, information" about the Halloween ride "went out by text message," Mr. Hudson said. The Facebook page this year made it easier for riders to get information, but it also attracted media attention.

There probably would have been more participants this year, Mr. Hudson said, but comments made on the Internet were seen as threatening.

On Thursday, KDKA posted a story on its website about last year's ride. The story quoted a police officer saying the stunts were dangerous and endangered the motorcycle operators as well as the public.

The story was followed by comments critical of motorcycle riders in general and the Pittsburgh Street Team in particular. Some suggested people in the ride should be shot or run over if they cause any "trouble."

Pittsburgh police spokesman Diane Richard said she had not received reports of "issues" about the ride.

"Why does the media portray motorcycles so negatively?" said "just Mike" from Penn Hills. Many people "like to do things with like-minded people, including veterans," he said, and many motorcycle riders are military veterans. He left the Army last February after nine years, including service in Iraq.

"I'm being a dad today" instead of riding, "Mike" said Sunday. A handful of people also brought children and young teenagers to see the send-off of the Halloween riders.

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-722-0087. First Published October 20, 2013 8:00 PM


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