Are You A Stereotypical Motorcyclist?

Stereotypical BikerMOTORCYCLISTS ARE A MINORITY ON THE ROAD.  And amongst the majority of motorists who view motorcycles from inside their cars, there seems to be a few stereotypes accorded those of us on two wheels.  What stereotypes have you been labeled? But first, let’s visit the dictionary.

Stereotype from the American Heritage Dictionary is defined as such:

1) A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.
2) One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.

Over the years, I’ve heard non-riders refer to motorcyclists via a variety of stereotypical categories.

CRIMINAL: Going back several decades to my earliest recollections, I recall when it was not uncommon for non-riders to consider that if you ride a motorcycle you must be a criminal. Regardless of the notion that only a small percentage of bikers engage in truly illegal behavior (excepting traffic violations, since they are not limited to two-wheels), there existed a stereotypical undercurrent that a “normal” law-abiding citizen would not ride a motorcycle, for no more reason than the reputation established by movies and media portrayals. This was the first time I realized (as a teenager) how far afield ignorance can lead otherwise seemingly rational humans. I don’t think that idea is as prevalent nowadays, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still a few that hold that belief.

CRAZY: This might embrace a whole lot of other related and apparently unflattering depictions, but I have found it to be a common way non-riders describe us (or maybe just me?), epitomized by the simple exclamation: “You’re crazy!” I usually just smile and agree. If “crazy” might be characterized as the opposite of “normal,” than I’m pleased to accept such as a badge of honor.

DEATH WISH: I’m not sure if all nurses and medical personnel view motorcyclists as crazy or simply desirous of a dramatic death; but some do. Now granted, if I were an ambulance driver or any other professional who was charged with scraping motorcyclists off the pavement, I might think the same way — as long as I had never ridden a motorcycle myself or did not know someone who was a passionate rider. For more info, visit Motorcycle Death Wish.

ADVENTUROUS: Not all the stereotypes I’ve heard are negative. But if it weren’t for non-riders making comments, I wouldn’t necessarily have considered motorcycling to be adventurous at all, at least compared to wingsuit flying, BASE jumping, free soloing (single-person rock climbing without the use of any rope or protection system whatsoever) and dating. Although when viewed from the perspective of someone who lives a modern and relatively “safe” lifestyle, I can appreciate the appellation.

What stereotypes have others attributed to you and/or motorcyclists in general?

38 thoughts on “Are You A Stereotypical Motorcyclist?

  • I’m 79 and most call me crazy to be riding a bike; strangely enough many of those that label me as crazy express the wish that they could be crazy too.

  • I’m lee
    Riding since 18, next year turn 40.
    Got hooked on the beautiful smell of a two stroke suzuki rg gamma, and haven’t looked back since.
    Never drove a car, never wanted to!
    For me motorcycling is freedom.
    Nothing better than donning your gear just to pop to the shops, then taking a 30 mile short cut on the way back.
    I seem to have spiderman senses when riding and always seem to see things happening before they do.
    Only 2 minor accidents. One at slow speed on black ice…..travelled about 100 yards at 5mph hahaha.
    Second, rear ended at a junction by a Mercedes doing about 60 in a 30, young lad in his dad’s car…… Car came off worse as my footpeg can opened the entire length of his car.
    Will ride until I can’t lift my leg over the bike…and even then will probably still find a way.
    At the moment I’m riding a yamaha midnight star 1300….. Enjoying the relaxed riding style.

  • Well being a 1st time motorcyclist for about 2 years experience I try to stay away from the Criminal, Biker Gang Related “Hell’s Angel’s” image. I ride a Harley Davidson myself and hate to associate that image which is so typical and bad such as Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. Not sure if being in your 40’s makes me middle age since that is what Harley Davidson rider demographics are. My image I love to portray is the Fonz from Happy Days or James Dean. Even Marlon Brando. 40’s and 50’s motorcyclist where portrayed rebellious but clean cut and conservative in some ways. LOL.

  • There have been many stereotypes associated with motorcyclists in my lifetime (I’m 61). In the early and mid-60s, it was HA, clubs, movies, criminals. Then with the advent of Easy Rider, it started to have a hippie vibe. Now, it is completely different. The younger males (and a few females) ride the “crotch rocket” metric bikes, with a Eurocentric racer look. The Harley riders nowadays are largely middle aged and older men and some women who have the green cheese to afford it. There are all kinds of people who ride. I have a friend who would almost just as soon ride a trike or a Can-Am instead of a bike. I don’t understand that. To me, two wheels are required to have the motorcycle freedom rush. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t care how I look or what people think of me when they see me, but that’s not why I ride. I ride for the pure enjoyment. Of course it has an element of real risk. I don’t think I’m crazy to ride. I started on a minibike as a kid, and naturally graduated to a motorcycle. It was so gradual, it didn’t feel crazy at all. I have taken two rider education classes, and I always wear a DOT helmet, gloves, and motorcycle boots. Always. I can’t see the future, but it feels like an acceptable risk.

  • I think the stereotype might be a little of “wealthy, older with mid-life crisis”

  • I kiddingly tell people, “it’s a disease and in 50 or 60 years it may be terminal.” I’m 70 so it’s more likely than not I won’t make another 50 years, but I’ll go another 200K.

  • I’ve been riding for decades now. I’ve had 2 major accidents, but the first one was a hit and run. The second was because I bought a Dunlop Elite 3 tire and it hydroplaned on dry pavement and had the back tire swing around in front of me. Lost the bike and was paralized for 6 weeks, but I’m still riding. I’ll ride till I can’t move any more. I had one guy looking at my Goldwing and then drove into my lane, on purpose. When I had some words with him, he said that, :”You’re a biker. Bikers don’t have any road rights.” I’ve found a lot of car drivers think that same way.

  • Chrisj192, I reckon there is a tinge of adventure (i.e., being so exposed to real danger by the lack of an enclosed structure, the elements, the wind in your face, and the gear to protect you, etc.) that both sparks the imagination of those who don’t ride and which endears those who do. While those who don’t ride may call it brave, those who do ride know that the risks are tolerable. When I was younger, I associated the act of motorcycle riding as masculine, e.g., the act of kickstarting the thing, pushing it when out of gas, and with no emergency pickup number if it broke down hauling around tools to fix it. Nowadays, tho’, I’m amused at how the masculine aura has persisted (in dress, actions of stereotypicals, etc.), though the conditions that (to me) made it a masculine endeavor are missing. What is so meritorious about hopping on a bike that you can’t fix (they’ve become so complex), where you push a button to kickstart it, and if it breaks down, you call a number on your insurance card to fill it up or haul it off?

    Nevertheless, there are some men and women (especially when attempting to describe the love of riding) who would never set foot upon a motorcycle due to their sensitive sense of security. So, yeah, I reckon you are brave.

  • I’m a 66 year old woman who rides a Harley Sportster 1200…only because my ex-boyfriend rode a Harley and I happened to go with him to the Harley dealer all the time. If he had ridden a Honda, I’d probably be riding a Honda! I don’t give a flip about what kind of bike I ride…all I care about is affordability and ease of getting it serviced. Anyhow, I’ve been riding just 7 years now and am constantly told, by other women, that I’m ‘brave’. I don’t see myself as ‘brave’ at all…I’ve just found a pastime that I love. Men who ride are not impressed and men who don’t ride are either impressed, annoyed, jealous or just think I’m crazy. They are free to think what they like…and I am free to ride 🙂

  • What the public perceives as stereotypes is what they’ve got from the media or personal experience. This goes for the motorcyclists/bikers themselves attempting to represent or gravitating to a particular culture they do or want to be associated with. Most folks that I’ve observed on motorcycles have a zest for life, after that, the individual preferences come out in what they ride, what they wear, and how they ride. It’s a pretty diverse crowd.

    I have no idea of what stereotype I project as the subject has never come up and as a crusty old retired Marine, frankly I don’t care (but admit, now that the subject’s been brought up, I’d be curious).

    From my old Triumph and Harley beginnings, the two main groups I notice are sports bikes and cruisers/baggers. Culturally, the sports bike riders appear to be younger (and ride like I did at their age), Then, there’s the geezers like me, who switches between a Bonneville and HD Deluxe. Again, our inclination to stereotype (to make sense of the world) must be conditioned with a healthy amount of caution on lumping people in the same category.

    Case in point: ‘Had a Gold Wing friend stop by to assist me with a fence. The radio was on a classical music station, to which he remarked, “No, no. You ain’t authorized to listen to classical music since you ride a Harley.” Whatever!

  • I ride for pleasure and relaxation. I agree with those of who said it is the wind and the wide open freedom that you feel that gets me. Im not one to blaze down the highway at 80 mph or higher, but do hit those speeds once in a while, but most I ride at the speed limit or lower and constantly try to improve my skills and handling of my cycle. BTW I have a 97 Honda Goldwing, purchased used 2 years ago and only had 17000 miles on it, but now has 39000. Have a lot more time, and hope to hit 50000 this riding season. Yippee!!!!!!!!!

  • dr miguel padilla. i am 62 years old bedgan riding in 2006, i live in mexico ride a lot in california, its beautiful, riding a motorc ycle is a therapy you cant miss, it gives you freedom , riding with my girlfriend always has been a wonderful experience, y will ride my motorcycle as many years as i can.

  • Toally agree with you all, been riding myself since 17 now 74 no intention of stoppimg anytime soon, here in uk weather rules waiting for sunny days can be tediuos (and im not the patient type) you guys in us are lucky, more sun wider roads, but soon as sun’s out here in blighty i’m out in the welsh counrtyside fast winding roads wide bends and the feeling of freedom is incredible. riding two bikes at moment Thundercat and SV650 one for speed one for cruising enjoy the comments thanks for an interesting site.

  • I’m a 73 year old retired veteran. I started riding 50 years ago and my first bike was a step through Honda 50cc. I rode all over the Island of Okinawa back in the early sixties. I presently ride a Yamaha 950 which I’ve had less than a year. Previously I rode a 650 Yamaha which I bought new in 2005 and rode twice across country. My last trip was to Oregon in August of 2014. I ride alone and feel my best when I’m cresting new vistas. I am very fortunate as I am retired and have enough of my health and mental faculities to be able to ride as much as I want (with the blessings of my wife). I have always enjoyed adventures and made 13 sport parachute jumps back in 1963 at Enumclaw Washington. But my true love is motorcycles. Mr. Doug says he has 24 months to live but none of us know when out gig is up. I wish him well and hope I would have such a positive attitude. If you can’t enjoy your life, what’s it worth? I’ll ride till I can’t anymore. I think most of us will.

  • I’m 65 (but most people think me younger) and have owned many metric bikes since I started riding in 1965. In 2008 my wife bought me my first Harley and we started touring together. I’m now on my second Harley, a 2011 Ultra Classic. (I have nothing whatsoever against any other brand of motorcycle. Everyone should ride what they love.) We’ve been in all 48 of the lower states and every Canadian province from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. I have been called adventurous, and now and then crazy, but the one I agree with the most is LUCKY. People often tell me how lucky I am to be able to travel all over North America like I do. They are right.

  • I have been riding since I was about 18, I am NOT a biker but a guy that like to ride motorcycles. I do not ride in groups or even with other bikes as I like the solitary nature of riding and am happiest when alone. I find it therapeutic to just go off and ride where ever I end up a lot of times as it is what I enjoy doing…No phones….music ,,,,No conversation. I wear a Safety Neon Yellow tourmaster jacket so am NOT hiding and stand out so much it keeps me from doing stupid things on the bike as I am too easily seen. I have had three accidents (One really nasty and two not so nasty) none of which were of my own doing. I get called every stereotypical thing out there and feel I fit into none of them and do not care! ! ! Funny how as soon as a non enthusiast hears you ride a bike they feel the need to tell you how a very good friend of theirs was dismembered or disemboweled or killed in a most gruesome manner ! Its kind of funny how you never turn to a car driver and tell them of the goriest car death imaginable. Mmmm different standards I guess? I am 62 years young ride a Yamaha FJR and still LOVE to ride !

  • Been riding since 06, 9 years so far. Still love riding as much as I did since I got on the bike for the first time. I’ve already put over 65,000 miles on my bike. I ride in groups with two clubs that I belong to, charity runs, alone and with several friends. I consider it the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’m also from Jersey. Remember it’s the mostly densely populated state in the nation, so it’s certainly no picnic riding here but it’s fine as long as you ride fully awake, and fully alert. I guess I’m used to it since I rode my bicycle all over the place for over 30 years so I’m used to looking out for everything trying to cut me off from that experience. It has certainly made me a much better Biker. Haven’t been down or in any accidents so far. Ride safe all, and keep the shiny side up.
    Peace, Machine

  • I’ve definitely gotten the crazy and the death wish stereotypes… I usually just laugh, smile and say something like “at least I’ll die doing something I really love.” I’ve also been taken to the hospital after an accident and you really feel like the center of attention once all the doctors and nurses find out you were on a bike and you get the standard lecture about how dangerous it is. There was never any doubt I’d get back on after that though. Which people have called me stupid and insane for. I’m okay with it though. They call me insane; I call it living 🙂

  • I see 3 categories of riders …
    1/ The inexperienced plodding riders who get in the way and paddle along with their feet in slow traffic.
    2/ The hooligans who tear around at ridiculous speeds with no respect for their or others lives.
    3/ Me, in between, with the correct balance of enthusiasm and discretion.



  • You know after yhour first couple of rides that you are hooked, once you are you will never willingly leave it alone. After starting on a 2 stroke moped (still love that smell mmmmm), 42 years later I am on a Yamaha Super Tenere and riding more than ever I have had accidents through other peoples negligence but don’t think I will ever be able to stop, I love it too much.

  • Been riding since I was 16. Rode a little fast when I was in my teens a 20·s .I’m 63 now still love it. I live in NM people here drive a little crazy. I still ride.

  • My first set of wheels was a Honda 50. I’ve had 52 years’ worth of different bikes. All of them have put a smile on my face. Now that I’m downsizing, I ride a Piaggio MP3 250.

  • Rode for 15 years. Quit for 15 and been riding for the last 10. I am asked why i don’t ride a Harley, the only bike my ass has ever sat on is a Honda. Presently i have an old 04 1800 VTX. Am 68 and have no intention of quitting any time soon!

    Jonny Mac

  • I’m Bob I been riding for years and love riding I’m a careful rider but watch for everyone some people in cars just don’t Carr about riders

  • I’m 59 and I’ve been riding for 13 years. it’s been a lifelong passion but I was a little more reckless in my youth and at the advice of some family and a dear friend I waited until my kids were grown to pursue it. Which is probably a good thing.

    That being said – since I’m a female- the most common reactions I get when people find out that I am a motorcyclist are ” what kind of a Harley do you ride?” The assumption of course is that it’s a midlife crisis and I bought a Harley.

    In fact my first bike was a Harley only because it was a good deal from a friend. I kept it about a year and a half and upgraded to a dual sport bike. it was so tall I had to lower it. Then I took up touring and bought a sport touring Yamaha FJR 1300. And then stripped it down to take to the racetrack. I’m not reckless but I am aggressive and I drive my car now from a motorcyclist’s perspective. I don’t like riding in groups unless it’s very selectively people I know their riding styles. And not in large groups it’s just too dangerous.

    So I don’t fit in with any stereotype. The highest compliment I’ve ever gotten while riding is from men: who’ve offered to loan me their bike, or let me test ride them.


  • Oh BTW Jimbo Ive jumped out of an airoplane twice (with a parachute of course lol) but if I had to choose Id choose the bike every time

  • Ridden bikes since age 14 now 56 like taking the long way home after teaching eigthth graders all day. Clears the mind and calms the soul. In a way most people who don`t ride will never understand . Yes I have had long hair have piercings and tattoos. But I am a product of my generation more than trying to be an MC biker, have many that are as friend and parents of kids I teach. Going for a ride now.

  • I bought a Vespa scooter the summer of 1962. Two weeks later I was in the Hospital with a badly broke left leg. A lady made a left turn in to me. It took most of two years to recover, I walk with a limp and suffer with arthritis. Ten years later I got a dirt bike and learned how to crash without get hurt to bad. Now 53 years and 400,000 + miles later I crashed a few times, one broken arm,
    I still LOVE to Ride. I can’t even imagine not riding. The feeling of FREEDOM and being one with the machine is indescribable. I ride to live. I have two bikes, one is sport/touring and I pull a trailer called a Kwick Kamp and I go to Rallies and camp out 30 to 40 nights per Year. My other bike is a Dual/Sport which I ride in the back country to enjoy Gods Magnificent handy work. Oh by the way my Father and Step brother were both Killed while riding motorcycles before I bought my first two wheeler. My wife is does not like to ride with me, she says it is boring, being a passenger. But she encourages me to ride when ever I want, because I come home refreshed and relaxed. God has blessed me. I’m 70 and I’ll be a Great Grandfather in October.

  • Stereotypically. some say to me they would never ride a motorbike because they’re dangerous. Im 64 and been riding since I was 16. As most bikers know, its not the bikes that are dangerous. If an accident happens its usually not the fault of the biker but the driver who isnt looking carefully enough. Ive had a lot of “close calls”, but the only serious one was around five years ago when a woman didnt stop at a side road when I was passing it and she came out into the side of me. I was unfit to ride for quite a few weeks but bought an identical bike a few weeks later as soon as I was fit enough to ride and all was back to normal. As long as Im fit enough to ride Ill ride till I die 🙂

  • Been riding since 16, am now 71. Father, two brothers and two sisters rode. Never paid any attention to being stereotyped or listened to others categorizing riders. Would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane, swim with sharks, do extreme X-cross or ride extreme roller coasters. Now those people that do are really crazy.

  • Have been riding 45 years. Great to be at an age where enjoying activities is thought of as a bucket list instead of mid age crisis. Yes, there have been a few mishaps over the years – but I had more in the 9 months I drove a Lotus (people stared at it and missed stopping traffic!). The only time I was in a hospital after a bike mishap was when I was 19 and truly stupid. I tell people I am a motorcyclist, not a biker. I travel alone – even when traversing from CA to FL back to CA. There is no better experience in the world than hearing the bike fire up and feeling that surge of power as you pull out among the crazy people who will never get to smell the nuances of the areas we pass through and never understand microclimates to know how cold air settles in some pockets and not in others.

  • I rode motorcycles from age 16. Then I was crazy! Probably a fair observation. I learnt better but then got “why ride that when you have a nice car?” Nobody understood that I might actually like riding and that I would choose between the two according to the weather forecast. I stopped riding when the children came along, more through cost and the need to re-direct my very modest wage in the direction of the mortgage and bringing up the children with a Dad who was in one piece. Children grew up and I taught them how to ride. What was a chap to do? Got another motorcycle so i could ride with my boys. Then I was crazy again, having a mid-life crisis and going through the male menopause. Can’t win. Yes I’ve been called some things, but in all fairness, mostly by my family rather than others.

  • I am 67 and have been riding since I was 22 yrs old. I have owned over 20 motorcycles, ( one at the time..). I now ride a Triumph Speed triple.

    I still love riding as much as back in 1970 when I rode my Yamaha XS650 .

  • It’s hard not to categorize things in your mind, it’s how humans are wired. I do it with cars and cyclists, mostly out of boredom (and realizing it’s mostly meaningless). But, if i see 4 or 5 Harleys outside a Bud Lite one window cube shaped bar, I ain’t goin in.

  • I suppose at the beginning in my early twenties I fancied the sport as adventurous, fun, and risky. Since then and after a decade or more of insurance risk management work I have become more aware of the potentials of injury, and simply dress accordingly as well as reduced the amount of riding I do. Here in Oregon, the weather does a fair job of that anyway.

    However, the psychological benefits to riding keeps one feeling younger and more alive To me, anyway.

  • My mother and both of my sisters are nurses. One of the sisters is an ER nurse the other works ind ICU. My mom is retired now. They all are convinced that I am going to die while riding my MC, I have been riding for many years and have well over 300K miles and have never been in a serious accident yet every time they see me, we have THE TALK. “you’re getting too old for this, it’s too dangerous, think about your family” etc, etc, etc. And then there is my Doctor. I have been seeing the same DR for many years and he always want to give me THE TALK when I go in for my yearly physical. My only response to all of them is, I’m not gonna quit riding. I ride as safe as I can and I know that the worst could happen and I get taken out by some yokel who was texting and ran through a stop sign…But at least I was doing something that I loved.

  • Fun ! & the best thing next to flying. (Something new to add) The Dr. says I have about 20/24 months to live. I’am going to ride as much as I can in the next few months. I don’t think about death when I’am out for a rid!e

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