The Purpose of the “Get-Back Whip”

By Bud Wilkinson of

Steve Smith and I were walking back to Grand Central Station last month after attending the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in New York City when we noticed a Harley stopped at a light on 9th Avenue. Dangling from the clutch lever was a long, braided leather cord that nearly touched the pavement. While no doubt we had seen a “get-back whip” numerous times in the past, for some reason this one caught our attention and got us wondering about its purpose.

Was it merely decorative? Was it informative? Was it useful in some other manner? The answers depend on who’s doing the explaining.

Chilhowee Motorcycle Leather in Oregon provides a little history of the get-back whip on its website, explaining that old-school bikers used them to display club colors and for use “in case of emergency,” a suggestion that it makes a great weapon.

Iron Braid, Inc. in Averill Park, N.Y. reports that a get-back whip can be used as a safety device. “Blowing in the breeze, you attract attention and catch the eye of other drivers,” the company’s website says. How an approaching driver might seen one blowing parallel to a bike escapes me, though.

Cactus and Bonnie of Cactus Leather state the purposes are “to display your motorcycle club colors, increase visibility and add to your individual style.” Ah, the get-back whip as a fashion statement. That makes sense as they do project a certain attitude, while at the same time screaming “wannabe” when employed by some riders.

Get-back whips come in various lengths and many colors, and usually cost between $40 and $55. Be aware, though, that in some places there are considered to be a deadly weapon and can get you arrested.





  1. says

    As best as I can determine, California and Illinois are states to maybe avoid as get-back whips are viewed as weapons, a version of a slung-shot. I’m guessing most riders simply use them as an ornament, though.

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