Thursday, March 21, 2013

Motorcyclist, Biker or Rider - what do you prefer to be called

Apparently the Oxford dictionary had a less than flattering description of a biker and changed it to motorcyclist.  It involved someone who had long hair, dirty jeans and belonged to a gang.  Pfffft Oxford you have no idea what a motorcyclist is.  I heard about this a couple of days ago, so thought I would investigate it for myself and low and behold when you go to the Oxford Online dictionary and search motorcyclist it doesn't have a definition anymore, just states it is a noun.  Hmmm I wonder if one of the dirty jean wearing long haired bikers paid them a visit and erased their data base.

I have had a few experiences, albeit minor where someone has judged me because I ride a motorcycle.  The other day whilst out riding with my Moto Mama friends we met at a local Timmies before we went off riding.  I was starving so I went in and was standing in a long line waiting to order a breaky sandwich. I am pretty undertall so I tend to blend in with the crowd in the line even wearing my hi viz traffic vest and moto gear.  Anyway a few people back there were two women standing there chatting about this and that and one of them looks out the window where all my friends were gathered and gave a snort and said in a rather derisive tone "The bikers are out."  Well I don't know about you, but I know a snide comment when I hear one.  So after I got my lovely little snacky I walked by and gave her a nod and said, "Yes we are, have a nice day."  She didn't quite know what to do when I said that, I chuckled to myself as I walked away.  She was left there gawping as I strolled out of Timmies. 

I personally like to be referred to as a motorcyclist.  I am definitely not a RUB (rich urban biker) in fact I would call myself a PUB (poor urban biker) .  We also face stereotyping and judgement from other motorcyclists because of the types of bike ridden or the type of gear worn, belonging to a club or not.  Also coming from the perspective of a female motorcyclist at times some of the comments  that are made are so off the wall that you are left looking at the person as if they have been dropped from the mother ship and you are shaking your head thinking "Really?!"

Frankly, I could care less what someone rides whether it be a Japanese bike, cruiser, sport bike, adventure bike or scooter.  What I do care about is how well a person rides and how much pride they take in their road craft. 

Here are my questions to all of you:

1) What do you prefer to be called?  Motorcyclist? Biker? Rider?

2)  Do you associate any negative connotations to the words motorcyclist or biker?

3)  Have you had experiences where you have been stereotyped or character judged because you ride?

19 comments:

Richard Machida said...

1: No preference

2: Maybe "biker" has some negative connotations from the media.

3: I've heard the word "crazy" lately. But, no I haven't run into that.

bob skoot said...

Dar:

when I first started riding back around 1965, bikers were "Rebels", nonconformists from society and Feared . . . it made this weakling feel good.

Now I prefer the term Motorcyclist, or course Rider is also less threatening than it was before

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

bluekat said...


I have no preference. If someone has a prejudice/stereotype of "bikers" it's probably not going to matter what word is used.

Love your response to the ladies in line though! Good one!!


Dar said...


Richard - I think you are a pretty kickass 'biker' because you are riding up in temps and snow that most of would faint at! I think you are 'hardcore'.

Bob - I kind of like the rebel thing, because having started late in life I am definitely rebelling against societal standards for a middle aged woman. I think you were cooler than you think you were.

Bluekat - Agreed, I find it heats up particularly if a motorcyclist does something stupid and causes publicity i.e. the dude who did 299 down the Island HWY a last summer, he really made it hard for the rest of us here on the island who are law abiding motorcyclists. The lady in Timmies didn't know what to do and I got a chuckle.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

My favorite label would be "Rider" because it best encapsulates the part I like best. The others all work though the "Biker" level of acceptance might depend on who was offering it.

I do my best to present 'responsible' when I can, a far easier task when I'm alone than when I'm in a group, if for no other reason than it seems less intimidating.

There is truly a different perception by the public depending on what I'm riding; a generalization but then so many things are. I can think of so many examples; I'm harmless on a bright yellow scooter and harmful on the Ducati. I sometimes wear an open face helmet and I'm convinced that having my smiling mug visible presents a far more pleasant impression than hiding behind a smoky or reflective shield. Crouched over on my sport bikes doesn't help, at least it seems that way to me.

Circle Blue said...

I'm drawn more to Rider than the others. Perhaps because there seems to be some doubt whether I ride a motorcycle or a moped or a scooter or a whatever...

I think Biker has some negative connotations left over from the past.

I've had occasions when people have called me stupid for riding because it is "dangerous and irresponsible" to quote one woman when she found out it was my bike, scooter, moped, motorcycle, etc. setting in the Church parking lot. On the other hand, since I've been riding I've met more strangers when I've been stopped for gasoline or food. I agree with Coop I experience this more when I'm riding alone.

SonjaM said...

1. I consider myself a rider when on my bike and a scooterist when on my Vespa. Vespa riders are elitist ;-)

2. A biker is no longer the greasy long-haired one percenter, it is rather a RUB.

3. In my early riding days we female black leather clad motorcyclists were often called lesbians... people can be mighty stupid.

Deb said...

I. "Rider" is my preference because in my mind I'd be riding for the same reasons whether it was a scooter or a motorcycle, i.e., the love of the road and the feeling of freedom and adventure.

2. No. It's all I've wanted to be since my high school years when I saw a TV show about a guy who "dropped out" of society and rode his motorcycle across the country seekinga adventure.

3.I once commuted to a job on my Ruckus and everyone at the job site ignored that fact except for one old guy who was an ex-Goldwing rider. He loved it and wanted one. The "ol' biddies" in the office never acknowledged that I strode into the place with my helmet, boots, and jacket on. Probably jealous or afraid of anyone different. Typical, I'd say.

Andrew Thomson said...

1. Motorcyclist, although I like rider as it describes what I like to do...

2. Biker (it used to be bikee here) has negative connotations here too due to it being applied to motorcycle gangs who somehow are still in existence here.

3. Normally only from Harley riders who don't understand real motorcycles. Although have had the "temporary kiwi" label from unenlightened car drivers...

Dar said...

Coop - I know what you mean about bike vs scooter, too totally different attitudes towards me when I on the scooter than on the bike. General public people were friendlier to me, but on the bike people see a little hesitant. I did feel disrespected by some motorcyclists when I was riding my scooter and the attitude was that I wasn't a 'real' rider. Very irritating at times. I would deliberately wave at motorcyclists when I was on my scooter. I always think be a dual rider of scoot and motorcycle you never know who you are waving at and that scooter rider might ride something else.

Circle Blue/Keith - funny you mention theirs dangerous argument, I've heard it a lot and recently when I was on the radio talking about distracted car drivers that fact was brought up by a listener and suggested that motorcycling should be banned. Let's just say I handily shut down that argument. I rode my bike to church last weekend and it was quite funny the ruckus I stirred up, most thought it was pretty cool.

Sonja - I feel the same when I am on the scoot. I am a PUB more than anything. It's crazy the stereotypes that people make and it blows my mind.

Deb - I have experienced the ole bitty factor. I think people are so confused about riding and the kinds f people that do it. I just do it because of the empowerment and sense of freedom.

Dar said...

Andrew - Brenda from White Shadow was telling us about Bikie. I still cringe when someone calls me a biker, I would rather be called an old lady on a bike :)

Brenda said...

Hmm .. I'm with you Dar, I love riding because of the freedom and thrill, I dont care what you call me as long as there's no swearing involved :)

I have noticed that it's like a lot of minority groups, it's OK to call someone a bikie/biker if you are one of them but if someone else does it ... ugh.

I get called a bikie chick all the time by my mates but it's cause they think I'm kinda cool and different and who wouldn't love that!

I found that while I was organising venues and the like for the Riders group that was here last weekend, even if I pulled up on the bike in full gear, I got a good response. Because people could see me and see that I wasn't threatening, I thought that if I had've done it over the phone I may not have got the same reception when I told people I wanted a venue for a bunch of bike riders.

There is a stereotype. And with bike gangs being in the news quite often associated with violence or drugs it's not getting any better. People find it deifficult to differentiate the difference between gangs or groups. In my opinion though that's not just the gangs to blame, the media blows everything they get their hands on out of proportion, anything for a story and never mind who they hurt along the way. So public perception is always going to be based on the media's veiwpoints.

I loved your response to the lady .. classic, wish I could've seen her face ;-D

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

I struggled to be home every Wed evening to watch that TV show :)

Shybiker said...

Good questions. While I don't care what people call me (because that's their view, which is of no concern to me), Americans associate "biker" with Harley-riding, hairy, anti-social behavior. To apply that word to me is a joke. I describe myself as a motorcyclist, which is always followed by people asking if I "ride a Harley." I explain to them the diversity of motorcycles, the different types of riding (e.g., touring, sportriding) and the wide range of subcultures in our activity.

If people are ignorant of something (like motorcycling), I consider that their problem, not mine.

Trobairitz said...

Yes, I am one of those that do not like to be called a biker. I prefer "Motorcycle enthusiast" because of what the word biker connotes.

Whenever someone calls me I biker I correct them by letting them know I am not riding a Harley or wearing leather. I just like to see the weird look on their faces.

Robert Wilson said...

1) What do you prefer to be called? Motorcyclist? Biker? Rider?

How about "Scooterist"? After all that is what I ride, although my maxi-scooter pretty much acts and works like a motorcycle. At one time trying to determine what I was called or what others thought of me on my bike bothered me. Not so much anymore.

2) Do you associate any negative connotations to the words motorcyclist or biker?

In a forum I belong to this was being discussed. For me, the only difference is style. For example, bikers seem more interested in the look. The lifestyle of being a "biker". They seem more willing to go to bike nights to see and to be seen.

The Motorcyclist however seems more interested in the sport. Is more likely to be ATGATT and more likely to put hard miles on their choosen ride. They are also more likely to be out in less than optional conditions.

3) Have you had experiences where you have been stereotyped or character judged because you ride?

Not really. Although I think people don't consider a maxi-scooter a "real bike" like a Harley or a Triumph.

My $0.02 at least.

Patricia Carpenter said...

Hi Dar,

I'm with Rob on this one since I ride a scooter as well. I have experienced people judging me because of what I ride. They have even made it clear that they would NEVER ride a scooter. Funny that they don't even have a single mode of transportation at the the present. In the United States which is where I originated from, the word "biker" is often associated with The Hell's Angels or some other group or club with known ties to organized crime. And the Word motorcyclist tends to bring to mind those who ride for "sport" and ego rather than power and control.

I think the difference between motorcyclist and bikers is probably more attitude and motive for riding or owning a bike. There can be negative on both sides of that camp.

George Ferreira said...

Rider out of your options but "Adventurer" is what I like to be called :-)

Suzu Gladi said...

1) Rider - there's still plenty to re-learn. I'm not trying to prove anything except have a bit of freedom at the end of a work week.

2) Biker does bring up the stereotype of gangs and everything that goes with it.

3) I've had lots of people on cruisers not wave at me because I ride a sport bike.