Nationality: Mexican, Scandinavian, French Canadian
Residence: Beaumont, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 28, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
Informant: “Its bad luck to paint your bike green”
The informant is a female student at USC. She is from Beaumont, California and lives in a family where motorcycles are very common, “everybody in my family, especially my dad and my grandfather, are bikers.” Moreover, the informant said, “I like grew up in a garage pretty much. That’s what my dad does and my dad’s dad. My dad, he’s a welder, and he builds and rides his own bikes and he has a lot, I don’t know how many he has. He does old ones though, like the ones from the 30s and 40s, and then my grandpa was the leader of the Vagos when biker gangs were huge.”
She remembers this belief because she said “I remember when he built his 1936 Knucklehead, which is just like a really rare motorcycle. It was the first uh motorcycle that the Harley Davidson’s built out. It was like the premise of the engine that they use now in V-twins and whatnot. But um he painted it green and he was like I know you are not supposed to do this but I’m going to do it anyways. He like acknowledged that you are not supposed to do that, and if you pay attention most motorcycles aren’t green unless there’s like a yuppie riding it.” The informant is not sure why painting a motorcycle green is bad luck, but “among bikers that is just something you don’t do.”
To answer this question, I conducted research on several sites and people responded that “legend has it that the Harleys used in World War II were painted an olive color. The story goes that the bikes with this color were targets for snipers on the front as they were generally carrying important dissipates for the U.S. and others high command. Since then, it eventually translated into modern folklore and is now bad luck to ride a green painted bike.” There also seems to be a strong superstition in the race car industry that cars painted green are bad luck. Apparently, no one who ever drove a green painted car won until Jim Clark with his British Green race cars.
While looking online, I found that a popular race motorbike called the Kawisaki is painted a bright green. There is a legend circulating that the curse (of painting a motorcycle green) is the very reason that the Kawisaki race bikes were painted green. The engineers wanted to prove that their designs were superior to any possible curse, and they chose lime green, since it was the most green in their opinion.
Clearly, this belief is not central to where the informant lives and many people have heard of this belief to the point that new legends are circulating that a major motorcycle racing company chose to paint their motorcycles green to disprove the curse.