WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Are you a biker?

By James - 8/8/2005

Wikipedia defines a biker as:

A biker is someone who rides a motorcycle (motorbike). Bikers are sometimes members of a motorcycle club or motorcycle gang. . . Bikers tend to associate with others that share their enthusiasm, and congregate at biker events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or the Daytona Beach Rally.

As I rode away from lunch at Alice’s Restaurant, a popular biker hangout up in Woodside CA, I wondered if you could quantify the neccessary components to becoming a biker. Waving to sportbikes, cruisers and everything in between I tried to figure out which of them were bikers and which were motorcyclists.

There is a Geico motorcycle insurance commercial running on the radio that starts out,
“Hi, I’m Blade and I’m a hardcore biker . . .”
The voice is gruff, as if he smoked too many cigarettes or inhaled too much exhaust. The tone is deep. I get the impression that he weighs 225-250 lbs. From that I immediately picture the guy in leather chaps and a vest, black denim jeans underneath and a black long-sleave HD shirt, black engineer boots, and a bandana. His shades and half-helmet hanging off the throttle on his Harley parked in the alley. He is definately no sissy, objecting to the soothing harp background music. The voice talent that they hired for this spot is probably nothing like this image but playing into the biker stereotype is too easy in our culture.

So what is the difference between a biker and a motorcyclist?
First things first. A motorcycle is needed to be a biker. Now I know that just because you own a motorcycle, that alone does not make you a biker, but a biker is not a biker without a motorcycle. Motorcyclists also own motorcycles but here is where attitude comes in. A motorcyclist rides his bike because of the thrill, rush, relaxation, etc. A biker will ride for the same reasons, but will do so even when it is inconvienent, illogical, or frowned upon. The biker places the ride above all else; even society’s conventions, personal stigmas, and prejudice.

This is my view of what makes a biker but this view varies between people and is most different between poeple who ride. Whenever this topic comes up in the forums I frequent it can be a heated debate. Feel free to list your criteria of what makes a biker below. . .



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  1. The reason why this debate exists at all, isn’t that because some people who don’t ride motorcycles have(or used to have) a prejudice opinion on some of the people who do? Most people don’t like to be disliked, and if riding a motorcycle makes you disliked with some people, you will naturally try to change it. Some by saying they are not “bikers” they are “motorcyclists”. Some by trying to erase the negativity other people ties with the term “biker”. To me, what I am called is not important. Riding is; and meeting new people; and seeing new places.

    Comment by Jesper — 8/9/2005 @ 3:13 pm

  2. I have often given this some thought of whether or not I am a ‘biker’. My conclusion is that regardless of the love, I may not be one. I have a trailer that I use often to move around my bikes…even street bikes.

    I towed from Phoenix to LA for my recent MotoGP trip. Why? I do not enjoy 118F degree rides fir any amount of time.

    I only started commuting this year because the route is easy (36 miles of country road with 2 red lights and two stop signs).

    In many ways I envy true bikers. In others, I don’t. I have several freinds who are fanatics, and wouldn’t likely consider marriage/kids/etc. because it would interrupt the ride. Those are the bikers I’m talking about.

    I love my wife and kids and find my fair weather habit(s) a very sufficient balance.

    So I don’t consider myself a true biker in that context…and I’m cool with it.

    Comment by angrybob - motorcyclebloggers.com — 8/13/2005 @ 6:59 pm

  3. Years ago the Stinger and I put up our definitions of “biker” on our site but it’s been a while since we revised that page.

    I’m personallly not really into restrictive definitions and rules about what qualifies someone as a biker. After all, freedom is a major part of why we’re out there on the road in the first place.

    As far as I’m concerned, if riding a motorcycle is an important part of your lifestyle or your identity, you’re a biker. I think we all recognize the look in each other’s eyes when we pass on the road. Whether you choose to use the word “biker” to express that is secondary.

    Comment by Big Ben — 8/14/2005 @ 5:13 am

  4. Am I a ‘Biker’? Hmmm…I’ve always loved the feel of the wind in my face, hanging my head out the car window like my German Shepard when I was a kid. I enjoyed riding in the back of my uncle’s pick-up with my cousins, hair flying and eyes stinging. Over the years I’ve ridden on the back of my Dad’s, Step-dad’s, boyfriend’s, ex-husband’s and now fiance’s bikes. I believe it was inevitable that I got one of my own last year. From my south-eastern NC location I’ve ridden to the beach 4 times, the mountains twice, and take day trips almost every weekend. I ride to work when the weather permits - although the coldest was 36 degrees F, donning leathers, gloves and face mask. I won’t start out in it for safety’s sake, but I have occasionally ridden in the rain and in the dark. I’ve now put 10,108 miles on my ‘05 Honda Shadow Spirit 750 since purchasing it new last Aug. 28th. I’m not a beer drinker; I smoke only occasionally. I almost always wear my helmet (just not at the beach going 25mph down the strip). I’m a 5′, 1″ tall, 120# soon-to-be grandmother. Professionally I’m a Research Project Mgr. A ‘biker’? You betcha. Just not the sterotypical kind that comes to mind when you hear the word. Sorry, Steve McQueen. It’s a new day.

    Comment by Anonymous — 8/18/2005 @ 1:45 am

  5. You are a biker if you think you are. That is the beauty of the biker community, it is about freedom, celebrates diversity, and respects difference. These are all things that all Americans are supposed to be, but are usually found lacking.

    I was in Sturgis last week and was amused by the lack of diversity in dress. Everyone was wearing black leather, black T shirts and black levis regardless of the heat, usually above 90 and sometimes above 100. While waiting to have my bike washed for free at a church in Sturgis, the guy behind me commented that I didn’t look like I fit with my bike. I was wearing tan shorts, a grey T shirt that said “Its all good” and black low top hiking shoes. My bike is a black and silver Harley Davidson Road Glide. I just said with a smile, “Don’t bikers get to wear what they want?” He just grunted. We are both bikers, but he seemed to need external hints to identify others.

    Later I noticed a twentys something in the line next to mine at the church bike wash wearing a black T shirt that said F*** you, you f****** f***. Again with a smile I asked him if he thought his shirt was appropriate attair at a church that was about to give him a free bike wash (and a really good one at that). He said that he didn’t care what they thought, which was certainly his right. The church people didn’t seem to mind, although they prayed over him longer than the rest of us.

    I’ve seen articles in biker magazines that say to be a biker one must pay ones dues. I’ve never understood that as every moment I’ve spent on a bike over that last 35 years have been pure pleasure, even when my butt hurt. I don’t know where I need to go to pay those dues.

    Ride safe.

    Comment by Michael — 8/23/2005 @ 12:20 pm

  6. Bikers do have their own community with their very own culture. That would include all about attitude, style, fashion and most of all norms about biking and motorcycles.

    I own a motorycle, though I have it for purely practical reasons. I get impractical when it comes to riding it. I really love riding a bike. There’s a certain power in being in it and commandeering it through the open road. It’s the euphoria in biking I would not care to miss. Though I admire biker’s fashion sense, I’d say that having the right clothes and apparel for motorcycling should be had for the safety of riding. I’m not ‘that’ crazy about motocross and other biking issues - but i do keep tabs on what’s happening.

    Does that make me not a true-blooded biker? Whatever category I would be in, as long as I love riding my bike and would continue on loving it!

    Comment by Cons — 9/6/2005 @ 5:42 am

  7. I think of myself as a biker. I have never been in a bike gang or club but I have ridden for nearly twenty years and I still love the feeling of the road and wind in the face (through a full face helmet these days). me and my mates get together occasionally for weekend rides but really its about enjoying being on two wheels anywhere, anytime. thats me.

    I have made a website on the bikes I have owned. I would appreciate any feedback form real bike people if you get a chance to have a look.
    It is at http://www.pva68.com/Motorbikes/Bikes.html


    Comment by paul — 10/15/2005 @ 3:52 pm

  8. There’s always an article from a restaurant critic in our local paper – the Oxford Times. I always thoroughly enjoy his column. I’ve had some memorable meals at his recommendation. But there’s one restaurant he’s unlikely to visit – Foxes Diner in Berinsfield. And that’s a real shame, as not only do they do the finest bacon and egg bap since Frome’s Wallbridge Caf? closed in 1989, but he could meet a few bikers who could tell him about the reasons they ride motorcycles.

    The Oxford Times’ restaurant reviewer doesn’t like bikes, it seems. Fair enough – there’s no reason why he should. He makes the perfectly valid point that riding one puts you at risk. And it’s not just the risk of dying, but the risk of ending up eating through a tube for the rest of your days. He’s dead right. Every motorcyclist knows this when they swing a leg over the saddle. But there’s more to it. Much more. And it’s almost impossibly hard to explain to non-bikers, let alone bike-haters.

    His argument revolves around the sort of “what if?” so beloved of the people who like to tell others what to do, for their own good of course. “What if…” they ask with horror, as they pull the lever that sends another new law descending to smother us in more cottonwool. There are many, many “what ifs” in this life, and I’m not going to spend my time not doing things simply because of them. Good food is about risk – from the stomach-clutching risk of a bad mussel to the reek of a good unpasteurised cheese. It’s the same in life.

    But the real truth is that there is a great deal more to biking than bikes. Riding a motorcycle gets you instantly proposed for membership in one of the best clubs there is. Whether you become a member is down to you, but the door is always open. You’ll never see a biker broken down by the side of the road alone for long. One of the Rules of Membership (all unwritten of course – why do you think bureaucrats dislike us so much?) means that the next passing biker will stop and help. Sometimes it’ll be a pillion ride home, sometimes nothing more than a bit of sympathy – or more like good natured gyp for buying a lump of British/Italian/German/Italian (delete as applicable) iron that breaks down.

    Pull into a biker’s caf? in a car and you’ll be invisible. Ride in, and you’re welcomed with a warmth that puts most formal clubs to shame. I was in Foxes Diner a few weekends ago, ordered my customary bacon and egg bap, and promptly discovered I’d left my wallet at home. The rider behind me reached round and paid for me, with the appropriate ribbing of course. I’d never met him before. But we both know that wherever we catch up with each other again, the tea and baps are on me. Accountants, truckers, PRs, welders, brickies and bankers mix in together – there’s no snobbery, no class divide and no colour bar.

    But there’s no political correctness either – perhaps because bikers don’t need it. All bikers are equal, all that sets you apart is your riding ability and how decent a human being you are. Someone looking in from the outside would find it hard to believe the amount of abuse that goes on – all with a (usually) perfectly straight face. But it’s a case of “give as good as you get”, and I’ve seldom seen anyone take offence.

    Sit at a set of traffic lights with another biker, and the conversation flows until the lights change. Park your bike up on the Broad in Oxford and you’ll need to add ten minutes onto your shopping time while you pass the time of day, swap stories and phone numbers with other riders. No charge for parking either…

    It’s not all a friendly front with no substance either. The lengths to which one rider will go to help another out can be incredible. Three weeks ago, the UK GS club (for riders of BMW GS bikes, of course) heard that a GS-riding biker from Estonia had been knocked off by an uninsured car driver. He and his girlfriend walked away, although his bike was totalled. Because Margus is a student, it looked like the end of his riding days. The UK GS club posted a note on its internet bulletin board, and in just under a week more than ?3,500 was raised to help Margus buy a new bike. But it didn’t stop there. More money was raised to fly him and his girlfriend over to the UK to present the cash – and the GS Club rolled out for his arrival. All this for a fellow rider none of us had ever met. But he’s a rider who needed help – that’s enough.

    Last year, in February, I had a meeting in London. Of course, I rode up – I can’t be bothered with cars in London. But as the meeting finished and I looked out of the window, the road was covered in snow, with more pouring from the sky. I got as far as Ealing before the road was so slippery as to be impassable. I rang a riding mate and asked if I could leave the bike at his place and get the train home. “Don’t be bloody daft, you’ll leave yourself here as well – the key’s under the mat and there’s beer in the fridge” was his reply. That sort of generosity is far from unusual.

    There was a rider who was approached in a shop by a be-tweeded elderly gentleman. “Is that your BMW outside?” he asked. When the biker confirmed it was indeed his, the older man wrote his phone number on a card, explained that he had given up riding and wanted to see his collection of spares go to a good home. The fact that the younger rider rode a BMW – as he had – was good enough.

    There are as many stories like these as there are riders. Yes, riding’s a risk and we all know it, acknowledge it and do what we can to mitigate it. But perhaps a life with no risks isn’t really a life at all.

    Comment by Mark McArthur-Christie — 12/31/2005 @ 10:10 am

  9. Biker or motorcyclist? Well, I ride practically everyday. Rain, snow (like it snows here in N TX), hail, sun, whatever…I still ride. Why? Well, it’s simple I like the wind, the open face helmet, the freedom of being out there, and I don’t have a car.

    Want to end the stereotyping…drop the labels…

    Comment by Navar — 4/28/2006 @ 11:33 pm

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