On a Tuesday night in October, Thayer Street is quiet, interrupted only by a sound that has become a staple around campus: motorcycles.
The bikers, who hail from across Providence and nearby towns, park $20,000 motorcycles on the curb in front of an abandoned Thayer storefront. The older Harley riders look at some of the ramshackle bikes that roll through.
The Thayer Street bikers are one of the many groups of locals that students often come across at Brown but don’t bother talking to.
Though many students consider Thayer an extension of campus, the bikers treat Thayer as their own.
“Mostly, it’s a place to hang out, look at bikes, talk about bikes and get a bite to eat,” said Sonny, a lifelong Providence resident who grew up coming to Thayer Street to skateboard. The bikers declined to give their last names — some cited previous arrest records.
On warm fall evenings, up to a dozen motorcyclists can be found with their bikes at the corner of Thayer Street and Euclid Street.
Students often refer to these bikers as the “Thayer Street motorcycle gang,” but the bikers say there is no set crew. It is a rotating slew of bikers, some who know each other well and others who are just meeting for the first time.
It’s a mix of older riders with laid-back Harleys, optimal for cruising, and younger riders with loud sports bikes, fast for racing, Sonny said. One of the oldest of his comrades at 42, Sonny still hasn’t traded in his racing bike for a Harley.
The bikers are mostly men, with a few exceptions.
Tammy and Maggie are two female bikers from Fall River, Mass. They come to Thayer because it’s warmer than their home just 15 miles away.
Tammy said she was in a motorcycle accident 15 years ago and has only recently gotten back into biking.
When she re-entered the world of motorcycles, she brought her neighbor Maggie along with her. The two venture to Thayer Street together to hang out with other riders and people-watch.
“You see some crazy sights around here,” Tammy said.
And the culinary attractions are undeniable.
“I’ll put it this way: My father owns a pizza place, and I still come here,” said Omar, a motorcycle rider in his twenties, as he stood next to his bike outside of Antonio’s.
Other popular late night favorites include Baja’s, Mike’s Calzones and East Side Pockets, said Chris, Omar’s friend and fellow motorcycle rider. They come to Thayer “whenever hunger strikes,” he said.
Bobby and Steve, both motorcycle riders from Warwick, reminisced over Nice Slice as the former pizza alternative to Antonio’s. But they are thankful for the late hours kept by Thayer eateries, which are a step up from the late-night fast food options in their neighborhood. “At least here you can get a decent bite after hours,” Steve said.