Ask any member of the general public to describe a typical ‘biker’ and their answer will almost certainly involve an unshaven man in an open-face helmet, wearing a classic black leather jacket and sitting astride a Harley-Davidson. As seen in just about every TV series, movie or advert where a generic ‘biker’ stereotype is required.
Which is odd, because less than one in ten new bikes sold in the UK is a custom/cruiser style machine. Scooters outnumber them by more than two to one, as do adventure-sport bikes. Way more full-face and flip-front helmets are sold than open-face designs and textile clothing is far more popular than leather, probably thanks to its ability to cope with the ever-unpredictable British weather.
Come to one of the popular Bristol Bike Nights, held at Fowlers from May-September, and what strikes you is the sheer variety of motorcycles crowding the car park. You’ll see superbikes and scooters, classic British thumpers alongside old-school Japanese 2-strokes, and customised rat bikes, choppers and bobbers too. And much more besides.
It isn’t only the machines that look different – their riders do too. Sure, some are wearing black leather jackets, but others are dressed in more colourful modern designs, technical fabrics or even traditional waxed-cotton.
In fact, you’d struggle to find a ‘typical biker’ among them and perhaps that’s because one of the main reasons that people ride motorcycles, is because they don’t feel a need to conform. Unlike sports fans, who will tend to wear their team’s colours at a match to demonstrate their allegiance, it’s the bikes that unite motorcyclists. Anyone who has broken down at the side of the road will tell you tales of passing motorcyclists who stop to offer help, regardless of whether they’re riding similar machines or dressed the same way.
Here’s a fun game to play to prove there’s no such thing as a ‘typical biker’. Come along to the next Bristol Bike Night, or go along to any place where motorcyclists gather, and award yourself a point for every stereotype ‘biker’ you see, on a big V-twin cruiser, in a black leather jacket, unshaven and wearing an open-face helmet. If you get to ten, start counting the number of other motorcyclists present and see if you get past 100. Or just have a mug of tea and chat to everyone about their bikes!