When we were kids, bikers were cool. Unless you’re over 50, you didn’t see hippie odyssey Easy Rider when it came out, and you almost certainly weren’t around when outlaw Marlon Brando terrorised small-town America in The Wild One – but these big-screen biking icons influenced a generation.
Bikes were still the epitome of bad boy style in the 1970s, when the easiest way to show The Fonz had a bit of an edge was to dress him in a black leather jacket and stick him on a modified Triumph Speed Twin.
But then motorcycling seemed to lose its way for a while. Suddenly, we found ourselves more likely to be associated with Sam Browne belts and Haynes manuals than designer stubble and rebellion.
Now, though, things seem to have gone full circle. Top designer labels are unveiling new collections inspired by biker style, and more celebrities seem to be riding bikes than ever. In fact, bikes and everything to do with them are so cool even style chameleon Posh Spice now has a biker jacket.
We’ve pulled together all the reasons we think motorcycling has become more fashionable than it’s ever been before – and named a few of the things that are still tarnishing our image…
WHY BIKES ARE COOL: 1: VALENTINO ROSSI: Nothing is cooler than a champion with charisma, and this man has the kind of charisma not commonly found in motorcycle champions – or, for that matter, any other sportsmen. Rossi’s male fans are probably outnumbered only by adoring females. He’s from the most stylish country in the world – Italy – and lives in the most stylish city – London. He’s young, controversial, talented and good-looking. We’d like to hate him, but we can’t. 2. FASHION Biker jackets have become such a ubiquitous fashion accessory for the rich and famous that the trend has even been satirised in TV’s Absolutely Fabulous, with Jennifer Saunders’ character Eddie sporting exactly the same Dolce & Gabbana designer biker jacket as worn by Victoria Beckham. And the best part is, most of these people would probably need extra sessions with their counsellors if they spent half an hour on a bike on a cold day. They’re not really like us at all. They just want to be. 3. POP STARS From Liam Gallagher to Ian Brown, bushy-eyebrowed indie pop stars everywhere are poncing around on scooters like extras from cult mod flick Quadrophenia. This endorsement of scooter culture by modern pop icons has helped the popularity of the miniature Mondeo-botherers to soar among spotty teenagers who’d otherwise be driving around in body-kitted Vauxhall Novas.
But it’s not just scooters that have been given a credibility boost. An array of pop stars has also promoted superbikes, most notably The Prodigy’s Keith Flint, who even put his money where his mouth is by racing a Red Bull Ducati 996 at club level. He head-butted a tyre wall, but still managed to do quite well. 4. POP VIDEOS Such is the kudos currently surrounding motorcycles that pop stars aren’t happy with merely riding them in their private lives. They want them in their videos, too. It’s a trend which perhaps started in 1997 with the then-called Puff Daddy binning his Suzuki GSX-R1100 in the video to I’ll Be Missing You. Now, from Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me to Independent Woman by Destiny’s Child, it seems pop stars don’t feel a video is complete unless they’re pretending to ride a superbike. 5. FILMS Pop stars may have started the modern trend of pretending to ride bikes, but movie-makers don’t know when to stop. In Mission Impossible II, a Triumph Speed Triple-mounted Tom Cruise not only performs perfect one-handed stoppies, but also manages to change from road tyres to knobblies and make repairs to bodywork without even slowing down. But realism aside, it’s clear from this and the presence of bikes in other films such as The Fast and the Furious and The World is Not Enough that a growing number of film-makers are realising how cool we are. 6. FILM STARS Like pop stars, film stars want to be riders in real life as well as on the screen. And with superstars like Ewan McGregor nursing a genuine passion for two-wheeled transport, it’s good news for the profile of bikers. As well as owning a FireBlade, McGregor has actively helped to promote race teams. 7. JAMIE OLIVER You’d have to live in a flotation tank, deprived of all information about the outside world, to avoid seeing this wok-wielding mockney mincing around the streets of London on his Sainsbury’s-sponsored step-thru. We may not like him, but in the eyes of middle-aged women at least, he’s made two wheels the coolest way to get from A to B.
AND WHY THEY’RE NOT: 1. JAMIE OLIVER: You can’t fool all the people all of the time – and not everyone in the UK is fooled by the vowel-torturing potato-peeler. And sadly, to a more discerning audience, the granny-fixated barrow boy will have done more harm to the image of two-wheelers than good. 2. POP STARS: The term " pop stars " encompasses anyone who’s ever got their mugs on Top of the Pops, irrespective of talent. And unfortunately, stars of more questionable credibility than Oasis are just as keen to jump on the biking bandwagon if it means getting their pictures in Smash Hits. Whether or not they actually own one is of little consequence. That means for every Liam Gallagher, there’s a Danny from Hear’Say. And for every Keith Flint, there’s Thundercat-riding Boyzone pin-up Keith Duffy. 3. CHRIS EUBANK: It’s difficult to know where to start with this speech-impaired pugilitht. When he’s not sitting proudly astride his Harley dressed like an extra from a period drama, he’s getting nicked for not wearing a lid. Suffice it to say that the dandyish boxer is biking’s worst PR nightmare. 4. STEVE BERRY: Biking may be cool, but it’s no thanks to this man. To many motorcyclists, he’s simply an irritant. But tragically, to non-bikers Berry is the public face of motorcycling. That is his crime. And our problem.