A Biker Regrets the Bawdy Women Tattooed on his Legs

After our 3:30 am wake-up call in Medellin, we’re finally on the last leg of our long voyage home, aboard a 737 bound for Hartford from Miami. In the seat pocket of the jet I picked up a copy of Mountain Biker and read about a tattooed biker who regretted his tats when he traveled to China. It was a column written by Dan Koepell called “Bad Ink.”

He was out fetching bread one morning during a bike trip in faraway Xinjiang China, and his calf length pants rose up just enough to expose the ‘bawdy ladies” he had tattooed on each lower leg. As he picked out the delicious fresh bread that’s roasted in a clay oven in every town in the region, Koepel could feel a chill, and sensed that people were looking at him when he continued on his way, munching the bread in big hunks.

A man tracked him down, he was wearing the traditional square Turkic squared hat, and he did not look pleased. This is a very traditional Muslim region, where headscarves are worn and prayers are said thrice daily facing Mecca. The man was upset with Koepell, and his look, while not understood in words, asked a question: how could he depict a mother, a sister, or his wife like that?

For the first time, he said, he felt ashamed of his tattoos. I am surprised this was the first time he’s ever thought this, since nearly every time I have seen a person who has huge tats on his legs, I’ve always shook my head and wondered: “Why? Why would you indelibly mark yourself, like a little kid might do with a magic marker, with unremovable ink?”

Koepell admitted that for a moment, he wondered the same thing.