November 22, 2017
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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. i am very surprised to see all of these posts. Makes me feel old. Truth is my first bike was a HD and I was 15. The damn thing was held together with wire hangers and if you didn’t have good dental work you were going to loose it. I paid 1200 bucks for it and it was a 1200 – fitting. I got it from Rick who was a Free Soul in Kansas City. Ahhhh the good old days. Except if you rode HD it was associated with being a thug or drug addict and a serious trouble maker. Today. Well… I’m sure glad all you doctors and lawyers and what-not get to experience the sensation and the ride but be sure to be respectful of broke ass bikers and the old school clubs. Man they earned it the hard way. Being persecuted, prosecuted, beat to wholly bejesus and a lot of other injustices. The biker of the 70’s had it rough.

    Anyway, the leather string hanging from the clutch is called a speedometer if properly made. There you have it. That’s as ’bout as old school as it gets for the hard core biker. It may have been a Wind Tramp (big love brother Tommy) invention but I’m not positive on that.

  2. 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.

  3. Charles (Gator) Hill

    Are these get back whips illegal is some states? If so which states are they?