Blog: Are labels necessary?

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. 



What type of rider are you? When I bought my first bike in 1996 – a Honda CBR600FM – I’d definitely have said I was a sportsbike rider. At the same time, my best mate lashed out on a Suzuki GSX600-F, because all of our friends had sportsbikes. Peer pressure.

Steve was never really happy with his Suzuki, but now – 21 years later – he’s bought a Ducati Scrambler, and loves it. He had the wrong label.

I’ve owned all kinds of bikes since that first CBR (including two more of them, the last of which I wish I still had). I’ve got a KTM 1050 Adventure now – along with the GSX-S750 on loan from Suzuki – but I wouldn’t say I have a label. I wouldn’t call myself an Adventure rider; I don’t cover thousands of miles on it each month, and it’s barely gone further off road than the odd fire track. An adventure to me is discovering a new place, whether it’s a café 50 miles away, or the fantastic village fete I stumbled upon while riding aimlessly through rural France. I use my KTM more for short weekend breaks with my wife. If I had to be labelled, you might call me a tourer I guess. But I love wringing the bike’s neck on quiet, bumpy back roads too. A sports-tourer? No, that doesn’t suit the orange V-twin.

I argue that we shouldn’t label each other. Doing that surely leads to rivalries, or accusations of not being a ‘proper biker’. I won’t kick off about that today…

The reason I’m thinking about this now is that I met a guy during a recent Suzuki track day at Silverstone who put it far better than I ever could…

“All bikes are fantastic,” said David Robertshaw from Essex, who bought the above 2015 Suzuki GSX-R750 when it was just a few months old. “People go on about adventure bikes, sports bikes, naked bikes, retro bikes… they’re all bikes. So many motorcycles are now built on a platform, then the manufacturer adds the cosmetics to it to make it into this bike or that bike – it proves that, at their core, they’re all basically the same. It’s all about self-image.

“I want to see myself as a sportsbike rider, and many people want to see themselves as an adventure bike rider. But it doesn’t make any difference what you ride really.

“I use my GSX-R for the road, track days, commuting, and the occasional touring trip; I love opera, so I’ll sometimes take a couple of days to ride to a performance in Germany. I have a dinner suit that can be crumpled, so squash that into my Kriega R30 tail pack.”

I couldn’t agree more – I’ve never cared what people ride, how much time they have to get out on their machine, or how far they travel. And as to what a bike’s meant to be used for… Nathan Millward rode a 105cc Australian postal bike around the world. Who needs labels?


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