The “Biker” Stigma
Wherein our man across the pond asks 100 innocent bystanders about bikers.
By Clive Denby
Being born in 1950 on Britain’s east coast my formative years coincided first with the advent of Teddy Boys and Tun-up boys and of course Hell’s Angels. Mods and Rockers came later and of which I was a part. I was a Mod and my pride and throbbing joy was a metallic blue and white Vespa GS160 scooter fully emblazoned with chrome embellishments including 6 totally unnecessary lights. I myself came fashionably emblazoned in a badge-covered, greenish brown, thigh length Parka jacket. Do you recall that gory melodramatic single ‘Leader of the Pack’ made in the 60s by the Shangri- La’s in which Tun-up Terry ends up messily spreading himself and his not so trusty steed over a very large area, despite the girls’ urgent, morbid and heart-wrenching pleas – “Look out, Look-out”. This alone must surely have gone some way in painting all bikers as hell-bent on self-destruction and as people not to be of your daughter’s choice of marriage partner (on both sides of The Pond).
As far as I remember, bikers en masse in those days came to be feared by many, probably most notably ‘sensible’ grown-ups, who just did not understand hormonal confused sulky young men rebelling against…well, just about everything. The zealous British media coverage of the fights (notably the 1964 beach riots) between The Mods who rode Vespa and Lambretta scooters and The Rockers who rode ‘real’ motorbikes did a great deal to freshly imprint or reinforce existing widespread national hatred of both tribes.
Having written two articles for this splendid magazine during the last year I thought I’d try one on perceptions of bikers here in the U.K. My researches included interviewing randomly picked people in two Midlands shopping centres. Notwithstanding quite a few rebuffs from people fearing I was going to mug them, sell them a cordless vacuum or thrust my religion upon them I came up with a little under a hundred very varied responses.
I topped this up to a mathematically convenient 100, forcing my attentions on my audiologist, a taxi-driver and two post-office workers. I asked three questions followed by an invitation to add a more open comment if they so wished. Fortunately, many really did so wish. Let me be straight with you here. I was never was an avid biker and my experience of biking in the U.K. is limited to a one year period riding on the smallest bike on the market with a single piston about the size of a small kiwi fruit. My other 2 biking chapters covering around 6 years were in Ethiopia and Botswana with a Russian Ural 650 and a Honda Goldwing respectively.
Those who spat venom and cursed bikers as unwashed demons (a saddening 19%) came largely from male car-drivers who felt bikers should drive hard up against the kerb and not ‘hog the road’ creating a danger to all law-abiding upstanding four-wheeled drivers. One question was “If you were in a motorway café and a load of leather-clad bikers drove in, would you be afraid of trouble?” One third said they would be anxious with four of these implying they would abandon their breakfasts and get out before the cruet sets and toast-racks started flying. Just a few did add the comforting proviso that if there were girls present, their fears may be abated. Three self-righteous folk said that bikers in groups should be illegal and one (a man in his 70’s) said motorbikes should be banned – period. There seemed no appreciable difference between those supportive men and women saying they regarded biking groups as part of the driving fraternity posing no threat to others. One middle-aged lady said, rather condescendingly I feel, that even vicars ride bikes these days. Fifteen out of all 100 said they had a bike owner in their immediate family and most of these went on occasional bike runs with others. 21% said that most British bikers today are middle aged/elderly men some using affectionate terms such as ‘crinkly old men’ or ‘old-timers’ and three referring to mid-life crises. It is true indeed that the average age for British bikers was 47 in 2017 and doubtless this figure is rising with our ageing population. Five men (2 of them pensioners) and one young lady interviewed had bikes themselves, but only one of the men went on group breakfast runs.
When asked whether they were aware of any collectively positive deeds undertaken by bikers, a pleasing 46% knew of the blood-delivery and fast dispatch of other bodily fluids, X-rays and various medical items to hospitals. Many of these went on to mention the Toy Runs to children’s hospitals and Teddy Bear Runs for kids at Christmas , one expressing this as proof that there actually were ‘nice’ bikers. Such noble annual deeds continue but are strongly police regulated and limited to 160 machines per event.
There were just over a million bike owners registered in the U.K. in 2016. Sadly, nearly 20,000 riders were injured or worse in that same year, mostly those of middle -age.
Gregarious British bikers may elect to converge on regular venues, usually pubs and cafes large enough and astute enough to welcome their custom. The Ace Café in London started in 1938 became famous for this spectacle and still fulfils this function hosting studded leathery bikers alongside vintage cars with their neckerchiefed and moustached payloads – an unlikely mix indeed. By extreme contrast, Samuel Smith’s breweries of N. Yorkshire bans to this day all bikers including individuals from all 300 of its pubs. Not surprisingly, this ‘enlightened’ management has banned the use of cell phones in its outlets and shows zero tolerance to even the mildest of swearing.
Interestingly, during my biking periods in Ethiopia and Botswana when I was living and teaching in Africa, many students thought that people had bikes because they could not afford cars. I readily pointed out the dizzying prices one can pay for a bike which was generally met with disbelief. Some students suggested it was because bikers did not know how to drive cars. I countered this by pointing out that a few of their teachers had both cars and bikes, something that rather perplexed some of my otherwise smart students who saw only the practicality of driving and not the exhilaration of cruising in the great openness of wonderful Africa.
A great boon for the image of bikers came in 2004 when the highly respected BBC started broadcasting Hairy Bikers, featuring two late middle-aged food gurus displaying their cooking expertise as they travelogued their way round Britain. Another leg-up arose when certain biking clubs arose specifically for the clergy and bearing pithy ecclesiastical names. So…far removed from hell-bent self-destruction, some bikers can now opt for total salvation on two wheels.
From the K&N Website, Norm McDonald talks about the early days. You’ll learn a lot.
What Happens if Dirt Gets In Your Engine?
Ask the Experts at K&N
Very informative article in plain English.
DUNLOP AND AFT EXPAND PARTNERSHIP AND REVEAL NEW DT4 TIRE
2020 will mark Dunlop’s fourth year as American Flat Track’s Official Tire
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.: (December 10, 2019) – American Flat Track and Dunlop Motorcycle Tires announced today another multi-year renewal to the longterm partnership between America’s Original Extreme Sport and the premier manufacturer of motorcycle tires in North America.
Continuing on as the Official Tire of American Flat Track, Dunlop also announced the development of the first new flat track tire in 40 years – the DT4. The new spec tire for the series, all riders in all three AFT classes will be competing on the DT4 in 2020.
“We are delighted to continue our association with Dunlop,” said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track. “Their R&D and manufacturing here in the USA is an important advantage for us and has resulted in a brand new tire for our sport. Better durability, more rider confidence and a superior performance envelope give the promise of even better racing in AFT in 2020.”
The DT3 has long been the benchmark for professional and amateur flat track racing alike, but the DT4 will feature all new tread patterns for both front and rear tires. The DT4 is also engineered to be used without tubes. The DT4 will be made available in all current DT3 tire compounds, allowing racers to match tire setup to specific track conditions on race day.
In coordination with Dunlop, American Flat Track held off-season testing sessions during which riders were invited to test the new DT4.
“I did some testing early on with the new compounds,” said multi-time champion and member of the Indian Motorcycle Wrecking Crew Jared Mees. “I liked what I felt…they felt good, really consistent.”
“We cannot be more excited to be extending our partnership with AFT,” said Mike Buckley, Senior VP of Sales/Marketing of Dunlop Motorcycle Tires. “The sport is poised to reach new levels and we hope that America’s Original Extreme Sport will attract many new riders to our industry. To be bringing a new product for the first time in over 40 years, one fully designed by the same R&D unit that has brought legendary tires like our Q4 and Q3+ ranges, is particularly gratifying. We believe AFT competitors will appreciate these new tires and we look forward to working with AFT and the competitors to continue to innovate in the area of tire development in the future”
American Flat Track will roar into its 2020 season with its first-ever doubleheader — DAYTONA 200 and DAYTONA TT — at the legendary Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, March 14. Get discounted advance tickets now at www.americanflattrack.com.
For more information on American Flat Track visit www.americanflattrack.com.
To get the latest American Flat Track clothing and merchandise visit www.americanflattracker.com.
How to Watch
NBCSN and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold are the official homes for coverage of American Flat Track. For the 2020 season, NBCSN’s coverage of AFT moves to highly-coveted, weekend afternoon programming slots within two weeks of each event. The complete schedule for AFT on NBCSN can be viewed at http://www.americanflattrack.com/events-nbcsn/. TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold — the largest motorsports offering in the digital marketplace — is a cornerstone of AFT’s digital strategy, providing live streaming coverage of every event on AFT’s live page while previous events and exclusive features are available on AFT’s VOD page.
About American Flat Track
American Flat Track is the world’s premier dirt track motorcycle racing series and one of the longest-running championships in the history of motorsports. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing in Daytona Beach, Fla., the series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track motorcycle racing on the globe. For more information on American Flat Track, please visit http://www.americanflattrack.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check us out on Instagram, live stream the events at TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and catch all the American Flat Track racing action on NBCSN.
Editor’s Note: this is a direct copy of a press release from Dunlop Tires.