Are Get Back Whips Legal: ALL You Need To Know
There are a lot of motorcycle accessories that you may run across with long histories and traditions attached to them, such as the “gremlin bell,” which non-bikers will not be familiar with.
While there are many of these trinkets to talk about, we will be looking at “get back whips” specifically in this article.
There’s a good chance that you’ve seen these braided lengths of leather hanging off of a brake or clutch lever at your local biker bar, or at a large motorcycle rally, but never known what they are, what they signify, or if they have any purpose besides adding a little visual flair to the bike.
As it turns out, “get back whips” are accessories with several different meanings that vary depending on what you’ve heard and even where you ride.
There are even some places in America where having these trinkets attached to your bike can lead to serious consequences. Let’s dive into what “get back whips” are and whether they are a simple visual accessory or an illegal item that can get you in trouble with the law.
Table of Contents
What is a Get-Back Whip?
A “Get Back Whip” is a length of leather or paracord that hangs from the brake or clutch lever of a motorcycle, ranging from about two to four feet long.
These straps will usually be dyed to match the colours of a motorcycle club, or more recently, to match the visual aesthetic of the bike, and attached by either braiding them to the lever or with a metal clip.
What, exactly, they are for is less clear. There are a few accepted versions of what “Get Back Whips” were originally intended for. The first is that they were meant to represent a motorcycle club’s colors, being dyed to correspond to whatever club the rider was a part of.
A second interpretation is that they were used as weapons back in the heyday of motorcycle gangs when violent confrontations were common. This specific version actually informs the law in several states, including California, where having one attached to your bike can result in legal trouble.
As a visual accessory, there is nothing wrong with having a whip attached to your bike, however it is important to remember that the moment one is used as a weapon, whether to cause damage to a living thing or to private property, then you are breaking the law.
This is why you can be fined or even jailed for having one in the state of California in the right circumstances.
How to use Get-Back Whips
Considering that these accessories should only ever be used as decoration, we will specifically share in detail how to install them, and there are two main methods for doing this.
This is the most common way that you will see whips attached to a bike. Most of the whips you can buy will be attached to a metal clip that latches on to the lever and can be quickly released if need be.
Note that a lot of the marketing information you will find online will say that the quick-release function is to be used “in case of emergency.”
This is purely a marketing tactic, as there are very few emergency circumstances where detaching the whip would be necessary. A properly attached whip will not interfere with the controls or operation of the motorcycle.
Having a whip with this method of mounting is also where legal issues may occur.
The heavy metal attachment can act as a weapon, specifically viewed as a “slungshot” by law. Having an easily detached whip on your bike with a heavy object on end, even if that heavy object happens to be the attachment clip, can land you with a fine in several states.
This is an old-school method and one that works best with a homemade whip.
Attaching a whip in this way means that you will not be able to quickly or easily remove it from the bike, making it clear that it is only meant as an aesthetic choice and not for the purpose of using it as a weapon.
When braiding your whip, you can loop the straps around the lever that you will be attaching it to. Alternatively, you can incorporate several extra straps into the whip that can be tied to the lever, thus allowing a less permanent attachment while still avoiding metal components that would make the whip qualify as a weapon under the law.
While this is a better way to install a whip on your motorcycle from a legal perspective, it is also much more complex, and most of the whips you can buy will not be able to be attached this way.
If you see a whip attached like this, there’s a very good chance that the rider made it themselves.
A Word on Length
Several states will have a limit to how long your whip can be. Some states have no limitations related to whips at all, while others are very strict in regard to them.
These laws came into effect because of bikers who would use the whips as weapons, and while they are typically only used as decoration today, the laws remain in effect in order to keep riders from emulating this behaviour on the road.
Two examples of the maximum allowed length according to the law are in Texas, where a whip cannot exceed 12 inches, and California, where a whip cannot exceed 18 inches.
As previously pointed out, each state will have its own laws and regulations.
Check with a local law office for any state-specific information you may need before purchasing or making your own whip.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do Riders Use Get-Back Whips?
As decoration only, get Back Whips can be dyed in the colours of a motorcycle club or to match the visual aesthetic of the bike and will usually be a common sight at biker bars or at motorcycle rallies.
How Long Should a Get-Back Whip Be?
A typical example of a whip will be between 2 and 4 feet, but there are some considerations, both legal and practical to keep in mind.
Some states will have limits on how long a whip can be. If that is the case, your whip should be no longer than the maximum allowable length.
In a practical sense, the whip should be short enough that it does not interfere with the operation of the bike, and does not get near moving parts, such as the wheels.
In this article, we’ve taken a look at one of the classic motorcycle trinkets and explored some valuable information about their use.
Having one of these accessories on your bike is a great way to project a little style and personality, but it should always be done the right way.
While these whips were once used as weapons by criminal biker gangs, nowadays, they are simply decorative.
The stigma around get-back whips, at least legally, still remains, though, and any rider that chooses to have them on their bike should be mindful of the law.
With the information here, you will have a head start on making sure your whip is perfectly legal to have on your bike.