Blog: How different are we?

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

biker gang club different

 

This year, thousands of visitors to Motorcycle Live will gaze longingly at the latest bikes, fantasize about the incredible adventures they could experience in 2018, the new personal-best lap records they’ll set on track days, or the bespoke machine they’ll pour hours of time into while sat in their garages. As they rightly dream of the great times ahead, they’ll stalk the show in everything from race-team branded body-warmers to one-piece leathers made of kangaroo skin. They might be wearing a leather vest with their biking group’s name sewn to it, or a uniform of skinny jeans with the bottoms turned up and a chequered shirt. Maybe even a rag hanging out of their back pocket.

They’ll be enjoying everything that the brilliant event – at Birmingham’s NEC on the 18th to 26th November – has to offer, from the chance to sit on the hottest new bikes, or actually ride some of them, to getting great bargains of essential riding kit, or talking to the biggest stars in biking. They’ll be united by their passion for motorcycling.

During the opening weekend, there’ll be another show at the NEC – the MCM Birmingham Comic Con. Bikers shuffling out of their event, weighed down with new purchases of brightly-coloured helmets and armoured boots, may well come face-to-face with a garrison of Stormtroopers, like hundreds of extras from Star Wars. It happened last year, and my Facebook feed, which is an echo-chamber of motorcycle-related chat, was awash with posts of ‘look at these saddos’ and ‘what a bunch of freaks’. The brotherhood of bikers claim to be a charitable, sociable lot, but these comments weren’t very open-minded.

I see it as something akin to religion – a self-righteousness attitude that promises love to all, as long as they conform. I wonder what the cosplayers (noun: the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or videogame) thought of the bikers, clumping along in their heavy, squeaky boots.

The thing is, that divisive attitude too often applies inside biking too. As much as one rider might claim to be tied by blood to their two-wheel-riding brethren, they’ll often turn their back on someone riding something they don’t like.

How many times has social media hosted the statements of “I’ll wave at everyone, except scooter riders”? Or “Anything under 1000cc is a waste of time”? Or “<Insert brand here> riders are all idiots”?

Are we really any different? Regardless of whether we ride all-year-round, commute, cross continents, or simply pop out for a Sunday blast once in a blue-moon, we all know the thrill of riding. We all share a passion for something that, ultimately, has its own impracticalities. An outsider could ask why we bother spending fifteen minutes getting all that gear on to ride ten miles to work. But we understand why.

I spent two full days at Motorcycle Live last year and loved it. I went back a third day too, with my daughter. We sat on the bikes, we basked in the brilliant atmosphere. But we also went to Comic Con. It was great. Okay, I’m a Star Wars fan – I have been since the first film (the real first one, episode IV; we won’t talk about episodes I, II and III), but it was experiencing something different that my little girl enjoyed, as did I. Why not give it a go while you’re there this year?

At the very least, if you think cruisers are crap, or sportsbikes are stupid, take the opportunity to try something new. When your mates aren’t looking, why not have a sit on that bike they sneer at – there’s potentially a whole world of new experiences out there …

 

biker gang club different

What? I told you I’d been a fan of Star Wars for a long time… I’m still a biker though!

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