If you attend enough motorcycle rallies, you may have noticed vendors offering custom-made braided leather or paracord whip-like objects that attach to the clutch or brake levers of motorcycles. You may even have considered adding one or two of them to customize your motorcycle, but you may want to take a moment to learn a little about their history.
As it turns out, those leather decorations serve a purpose other than making your motorcycle stand out as they flutter in the breeze when you ride. The braided leather cords also served as weapons when detached and used as a whip, which may have given rise to their being referred to as “get-back whips” or “get back whips.”
Some of the dealers at rallies or motorcycle shows offering customized get-back whips attach them by wrapping leather strands around the brake or clutch levers. Other retailers, including those found on Amazon, offer get-back whips for sale that attach to brake or clutch levers by means of clips that allow you to quickly detach them.
Included in this article about get back whips is a brief history of how bikers made them be detachable, so they could be used as weapons. When used as anything other than for customization, the devices may get you arrested for violating state or local laws banning certain types of weapons.
Our primary focus will be on the decorative use of get-back whips along with a discussion of how they can contribute to making your motorcycle more noticeable to other motorists. As we’ve done with articles about wheelies and lane splitting, our aim is for you to become a safer rider by being aware of things that could get you into trouble with the law.
What is a Get-back Whip?
Chances are fairly good that you have seen motorcycles on the road without realizing there was a name for the braided leather straps hanging from their handlebars. Typically made of strands of leather or paracord that are braided together into whatever length a person desires although they generally range from two to four feet in length.
Traditionally, the braids were attached to a motorcycle by braiding the leather or paracord strands around the brake or clutch lever for a relatively permanent installation that did not allow a rider to easily remove it. Another installation method involves the use of a metal panic or quick-release snap that allows you to quickly release it from the motorcycle in case of what manufacturers of get back whips refer to as “emergencies.”
The history of get back whips depends on the source of the story. The generally accepted history has them starting in the 1970s when members of motorcycle clubs made them from leather that was dyed to correspond to their club’s colors. Other versions of the history of wind whips, which is another name used for them, lean toward the more violent side of motorcycle clubs back in the ’70s.
Why Do Riders Use Get-back Whips?
The braided leather whips, according to companies that manufacture and sell them, were made to be quickly removed in case of an “emergency.” The use of quotation marks by the companies in their advertising and description of their products apparently serves as a sly reference to the use of the whips as weapons during the heyday of motorcycle gangs.
Violent confrontations were common occurrences between members of rival motorcycle gangs. The get-back whips apparently proved to be an effective weapon particularly when metal lugs were attached on the ends.
The whip could be swung to repel an attack from another person or used to cause damage to motorcycles and vehicles.
Now that motorcycle gangs have largely disappeared, some of the non-violent reasons for adding one or two get back whips without turning them into weapons include:
- Braided leather or multi-colored paracord add a decorative and customized look to an otherwise-stock motorcycle.
- An opportunity to display a club’s colors by using dyed leather or paracord.
- Fringes blowing in the breeze as motorcycles travel along the road attract the attention of motorists, which could improve safety by making a motorcycle rider more visible to them.
- A symbolic way to honor the memory of a departed friend or family member.
The decline of motorcycle gangs and the questionable safety value of a thin strand of braided leather improving visibility leaves aesthetics as the primary reason for adding a get-back whip to a motorcycle. However, you may wish to check to make certain that having a get back whip will not violate any laws where you expect to ride.
Are Get Back Whips Illegal?
Research for this article, including an effort to find out what states are get back whips illegal in, did not reveal the existence of state or local laws specifically mentioning get back whips as weapons or devices that are illegal to own or possess. However, that may not keep you out of trouble should you remove the braided leather strap dangling from your clutch lever and use it to beat up a motorist who cut you off.
It’s complicated, but we’ll try to explain how criminal laws frequently focus more on how something is used or capable of being used rather than what it happens to be. For example, a screwdriver is a common tool when used to tighten a part on your motorcycle, but it becomes a weapon when used to inflict injuries on another person. person. Braided leather attached to a motorcycle is a decoration until you remove it and begin swinging it at another person.
Some state and local laws classify whips as weapons and make their use and possession of them illegal.
That does not, necessarily, mean that a get-back whip attached to the brake lever of your motorcycle will result in a police officer placing you in handcuffs for possession of a weapon unless it can be detached and used as a whip or is designed for use as a slungshot.
California makes it unlawful to make or possess a slungshot. The dictionary definition of slungshot is a striking weapon consisting of a piece of metal or other weighted objects at the end of a strap.
If you have a braided leather strap attached to the handlebar of your motorcycle using a metal clip, a police officer may see it as a piece of metal attached to a leather strap that fits the description of a slungshot. A better way to display the get-back whip, at least in California, would be by having it braided onto the brake or clutch lever to make it a permanently attached decoration and eliminating any metal that could cause it to be classified as a slungshot.
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How Much Paracord Do You Need to Make a Get back Whip?
If the laws in your state and local municipality do not prohibit adding a get-back whip to your motorcycle, there is a safety issue to keep in mind regardless of whether you decide to buy one or attempt to braid your own leather or paracord. Measure carefully to make certain that the length you choose does not interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle.
The last thing you need is to have a strand of braided leather or paracord caught in your chain or wheel. Companies advertising customized or stock get back whips typically offer them in 24-, 36- and 48-inch lengths.
There are many videos available offering detailed instructions about how to make a get back whip. As far as materials that you need, the general consensus among the various instructional videos and websites is to have 27 to 50 feet of paracord or leather depending on the desired finished length.
Get Back Whip Recommendations
Based on our research and experience, these are the best get back whip you can get at a great price:
So… Are Get Back Whips Legal?
Although the laws do not specifically prohibit using braided paracord or leather as a decoration for your motorcycle, get back whips that are detachable could cause them to be classified as whips or slungshots in states where those types of devices are illegal.
Assuming that you do the research and conclude that legality is not an issue where you reside, there remains a safety issue about riding with a length of braided leather or paracord flapping around and possibly interfering with the control or operation of your motorcycle.
If the decorative allure of a get-back whip outweighs other concerns, including safety, you should consider shortening it to a length that cannot interfere with your motorcycle or serve as a distraction while you are riding. A customized get-back whip can be made to whatever length you want, so go with a shorter length that offers the least distraction as you ride.