Cavaliers are the wandering adventurers of the GearHead universe. The only things you need to join their ranks are a mecha and a blatant disregard for your own personal safety. Being a cavalier is more than simply being a pilot; it is a way of life, a statement of personal freedom, and quite often a cause of long term unemployment. Those who excel at the job can look forward to riches and glory. The most successful cavaliers are as famous as pop stars. In fact, some of them are pop stars.
Most cavaliers are fairly young. 16 is the youngest age for getting a mecha operating license in most jurisdictions. By age 30 or so, most cavaliers have either earned enough to retire or have gotten into a safer line of work. A small but growing number of cavaliers do things the opposite way, and take up adventuring after they retire.
Cavaliers come from all walks of life. Among their ranks you can find soldiers, truckers, doctors, and monks. For the downtrodden this job offers a chance to change the world, or at least their own personal situation. For the wealthy and privileged it can be a chance to prove themselves. For the solidly middle class, becoming a cavalier might be their one shot at an interesting life… or in the worst case scenario an interesting death.
The first modern cavaliers appeared right after the Night of Fire. As civilization broke down, so too did what was left of the military. Many units refused to acknowledge that the war was over and just kept on fighting. Some built strongholds which would become the first fortress-cities, while others abandoned their post altogether and became wandering marauders. The common people were left to the mercy of whatever mecha-equipped bandits happened to be passing through their refugee camp on any given day. Not all mecha pilots took advantage of the chaos to enrich themselves. The first cavaliers were those who wandered the wastes, helping people and righting wrongs. They defended villages from marauders, rebuilt homes and power plants, and helped establish communication between the settlements. When a problem was solved they moved on to the next town.
Note that according to modern historians, there probably wasn’t as much difference between the cavaliers and the marauders as people would like to believe.
On Earth, cavalier culture is strongly associated with the Pro Duelist Association. Although cavaliers have existed in the space colonies for decades, it wasn’t until the 50s that Earth-style Cavalier Mode was popularized by the pop band Love Magnet. Even on Luna a small number of cavaliers are allowed to operate, so long as they pass a test of ideological purity first.