At the end of June, motorcycle enthusiasts started spreading the word that the Seattle Police Department was about to crack down on sport bikes--the smaller motorcycles that cruise through Pioneer Square or along Alki Avenue, their riders revving their engines to a roar. "There is an increasing number of 'hotshots' riding around, and that's the target [the police] are looking for--folks doing stoppies, wheelies, and burnouts," one woman wrote in an e-mail to her friends. "Please be cautious and ride within the legal limits."

It seems the police action was spurred, in part, by a noisy rivalry between some sport-bike riders and Harley-Davidson fans: The sport-bike "hotshots" have taken to riding fast and loud, to show off, in front of Harley hangouts, and the ruckus is irking neighbors. "They want to make their presence known," says one Harley rider. "They are the stereotypical young males with a big ego." There are enough rowdy bikers tearing through the streets that police are taking note.

The innocent-enough standoff has been playing out on Alki Avenue, the scene of a weekly biker gathering at the Alki Tavern. Harleys line up in front of the dive bar--which boasts a bright blue tarp on its roof and a gigantic American flag tacked to the ceiling inside--and bikers crowd in for cheap eats on Taco Thursday.

"Much of this activity has been perceived by officers as competitive toward the Harley-Davidson crowd," Lt. Mike Washburn at the Southwest Precinct explained in a letter to neighbors on July 2. "Officers have been engaged in a conversation or enforcement action with a Harley rider, and one or more cafe-racer motorcycles speed by, accelerate quickly as they are leaving the area, or even do wheelies." The police have been keeping tabs on the rivalry lately, and did a one-night "emphasis patrol" around Alki on July 1.

J. D. Stevenson, a 50-year-old guy who lives in a beach house next door to the Alki Tavern, is a fan of the biker crowd that hangs out there. But he's noticed the recent surge in noisy sport bikes. "It's the damn sport-bike guys who like to show off in front of the tavern; they're the only ones disrupting the neighborhood," Stevenson says.

amy@thestranger.com

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