Motorcycle marketing 2019. The rise and fall of the adventure trouser

Steve Rose
By Steve Rose

BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’. 

Steve Rose THUMBNAIL

 

A genuine ad seen on Gumtree last night. ‘For Sale, RST Adventure Trousers, Size; large, worn twice.’ It’s still making me chuckle every time I think of it. Adventure trousers…really? Am I missing something or are there actually serious-faced riders gathering the family together on a Sunday morning to inform them, ‘Children, you will have noticed that I am wearing my adventure trousers because I am going outside to have an adventure. Today I will be mostly adventuring between Pickering, Hawes and Kendal, I expect to have finished adventuring by teatime. Goodbye darlings, I love you all.’

What I love most about this is the thought of what happens next. On returning from the adventure do I then have to choose between ‘doing-the-housework’ overalls and ‘walking-the-dog’ plus-fours? And what if I get flashed by an average-trouser-camera wearing sports-touring bell-bottoms in a retro-cruiser zone?

You might laugh (I know I still am), but one of the things I loved so much about biking when I first started was the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling. Back then there weren’t really any sports bikes, adventure bikes, cruisers or retros. Instead there were just road bikes, trail bikes and scooters. Even Harleys were just slower, more vibey versions of the same things we all rode around on.

It bugs me that someone is subconsciously promoting the message that I need a 160bhp, 250kg, high-rise motorcycle bristling with ‘the-full-Amstrad’ electronic options if I want to have an adventure. Not forgetting the correct trousers, of course. And it bugs me even more that biking has become this pumped-up lee-zure activity where people spend thousands of pounds for a machine that will genuinely change their life, bring them more adventures in a single journey than most non-riders experience in a lifetime and then park it in the garage for 40 weeks each year and struggle to wear out a set of tyres in 12 months.

What if we chose our pets in the same fashion? How do I explain to the family that we’ve upgraded our sassy old Staffie to an adventure dog or a sports cat?

Walking round the London Motorcycle Show at Excel was inspiring because London is a place where motorcycles still matter as daily transport. The place was packed and it was noticeable what a broad cross-section of humanity it was and not just middle-aged, white men – very different to Motorcycle Live at the NEC.

The older and grumpier I get the more it bugs me that biking is niching and cliquing its way into oblivion. The power rangers laugh at the hipsters, who in turn poke fun at the adventurers, who have little time for the commuters and less for the scooters. The only thing everyone agrees on is a mutual look-down at Harley riders unless they are actual outlaws, in which case there’s a secret ‘wanna-be-like-you’ clumsy respect born out of middle-aged fear and too much Netflix.

Would now be the time to mention that a motorcycle is simply a thing for getting from one place to another? For me, that’s the thing that matters most. I know I’m lucky in that my job can have me riding a Harley one week, a Ducati the next and all manner of cool classics by Friday. I get paid to be impartial and I’ve never found it difficult. The best bike in the world is usually the last one I rode - it’s motorcycling, not any one specific motorcycle that I’m obsessed with because it makes me feel this good, every time.

Forgive me if I’ve said this before but anything that has the capacity to turn mumbling, stumbling middle-aged, blokes like me into someone who feels more wired, fired and frothy beyond any other experience I’ve ever encountered (including that one, the other one and even, that one too) within half a mile of leaving my house, definitely does not need the involvement of any smart-alec marketeers to point me to adventure trousers, touring stockings or cruiser cardigans. Bike kit should be fit for purpose, easy to use, dependable and affordable. Beyond that, I really don’t care.

Sorry, was that a rant? Must get out on the bike.

 

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