The Harley Riders With a Taste for Tea and Apple Strudel

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. This week’s issue is written by Julia Bergin, a reporter based in the Northern Territory.

Ron Noll was known for riding his Harley-Davidson motorbike in flip-flops, or thongs as they are known here, preferring the ventilation and comfort of the hassle-free footwear in the Central Australian desert heat.

But on Sunday morning, he rolled into a gas station in Alice Springs dressed in heavy-duty boots. Mr. Noll reluctantly acknowledged to an amused circle of riders that he’d made a “necessary change” in the interest of safety.

The four riders — Mr. Noll, Richard Blom, Daniel Bowman and Marcia Fels — are part of the local Harley Owners Group, whose total membership runs to about 25. They were all wearing denim, leather and, yes, boots. This loose uniform was completed with an outer leather vest emblazoned with a Harley eagle-and-wheel insignia.

Their outfits may have suggested the stereotype of a menacing bike gang. But their preference of tea and apple strudel was a sign that this club had no appetite for flouting the law.

The two patches on the back of their Harley vests confirmed this. One more patch would have signaled that they were in an outlaw gang, like the Hells Angels, Bandidos or Comancheros. In Australia, these are known as MCs, or motorcycle clubs. Mr. Noll and his fellow riders belong to a separate category: SMC, or social motorcycle club. In short, they’re simply motorcycle enthusiasts.

After covering about 130 kilometers (80 miles) in an hour, the Alice Springs H.O.G. stopped at the Kata Anga Tea Rooms in the Indigenous community of Ntaria, also known as Hermannsburg, southwest of Alice Springs. There, over a cuppa, they talked about the perils lying in wait for social clubs that don’t stay in their lanes and respect the unspoken rules of local biker culture.

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