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Gettysburg Bike Week attracts fringe and bling

Bling, for motorcycle enthusiasts, is as functional as it is aesthetic.

"It's better for visibility, right?"

Cindy Werp posed the rhetorical question Thursday amidst the head scarves, sunglasses and bike chain bracelets for sale in her apparel booth at the 2016 Gettysburg Bike Week.

Among the usual crowd of motorcycle part dealers, Gettysburg Bike Week hosts a growing group of niche vendors that market to bikers' needs to look just as good as their rides.

This year, event coordinator Kelly Shue said the number of vendors at Gettysburg Bike Week has risen significantly, with more than 30 percent dedicated to biker clothing and accessories.

Werp, who operates Rider Styles by Bad Attitudes in Florida, sells "the look" at her booth. This year, fringe and bling are the hottest things, she said.

"You want to look classy, not trashy," Werp said with a smile. She herself was decked out in strategically ripped jeans, a modest shirt and a sparkling choker necklace.

Werp believes the recent interest in biker-specific clothes and accessories came about in part because of the growing popularity in touring bikes, as well as from the motorcycle behemoth Harley Davidson's apparel lines.

"With old school bikers, the last thing they want to see is bling," Werp said. "But the new thing is pleasure riders, and they're all about the looks."

There are also more women riding motorcycles these days, she said.

"It get's boring just riding on the back," Werp said.

Even the trinkets that adorn a bike can now come in a variety of styles to appeal to biker fashion. Doug Lehn sells more than 80 styles of Gremlin bells, a superstitious doodad bikers attach to their motorcycles to ward away evil road spirits that cause mechanical problems and bad luck along a journey.

Lehn's bells bore a myriad of decorations, including Celtic crosses, military sayings and breast cancer awareness signs.

Recently, Werp noticed a crossover in styles between western wear and bikers.

"Whether you are riding a horse or riding a bike, it's the same thing," Werp said.

Sure enough, amid the leather vests and grommet-bedazzled bags, a handful of people walked around the Gettysburg Bike Week grounds in cowboy boots and hats.

"Captain" Mick Clements, a vendor at Gettysburg Bike Week, specializes in making custom bounty hunter hats. The hats, which are waterproof and crushable, come decorated with rattlesnake skins, buffalo nickels and other trappings of the American West.

Clements was not sure whether the style was actually trending in the biker culture. Nonetheless, each of the past three years has been more successful for selling his merchandise than the last, he said.

Whether it's the result of a new trends, or simply the way motorcycle culture has always been, more than a few Gettysburg Bike Week visitors may ride into the sunset this weekend a little more stylish than they came.

If you go

Gettysburg Bike Week concludes Sunday at the Allstar Events Complex, 2638 Emmitsburg Road, Cumberland Township. Events are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.