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Are hipsters good or bad for motorcycling?

Saint Unbreakable Technical Black Denim Slim Fit Jeans hipsters

There has been no more divisive group in motorcycling since the Hells Angels of the early 1970s than the current crop of hipsters.

Motorcycle riders are a minority group, much feared, misunderstood and loathed by the public. You would think we would be an inclusive bunch, but we aren’t.

Sport bike riders hate cruiser riders hate dirt bike riders hate adventure riders, etc, and there is a lot of playful animosity between brand-loyal riders.

However, mention the term hipster to just about any other rider group and there seems universal condemnation and hatred. They will wince and whine, declaring them non-riders and much, much worse.

It’s an interesting phenomenon.THrottle Roll Street Party 2016 hipsters

On the other hand, motorcycle manufacturers see this young brigade as potential buyers and targeted them with a range of models such as BMW’s R nineT, Triumph’s Bonnevilles, the Ducati Scramblers, Harley’s Dark Customs, the Yamaha SCR900, Moto Guzzi’s V7 and more.

Some have been very successful in roping them in, but largely hipsters buy old bikes and modify them into cafe racers, street trackers, bobbers and scramblers, rather than buying expensive, shiny new motorcycles.

Hipsters definition

The online Urban Dictionary describes hipsters as a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.

They make no mention of motorcycles.

So we asked a bunch of motorcycle gurus (industry, brands, riders, rider representatives, etc) for their opinion on what constitutes a hipster and whether they are good or bad for motorcycling.

We’d also love to hear your opinions. Please leave your comments below.

Distinguished Gentleman's Ride DGR founder Mark Hawwa launches Ride Sunday hipsters
Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride DGR founder Mark Hawwa

Mark Hawwa, Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride founder

When someone can define the term hipster for me. I’ll be able to answer the question. The term is used loosely and generally used by older riders (who forgot what attracted them to bikes) to explain people who ride bikes to look cool. I don’t know anyone young or old who chooses to ride a bike to look ‘uncool’. 

Rhys Griffiths, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (motorcycles)

I think that this “new” tribe are welcome additions to the world of motorcycling. I am not sure they purchase too many new motorcycles, but growing the pool of riders is a good thing. Embrace the alternatives!

John Eacott, Victorian Motorcycle Council, BMW clubs Vic & Aust

They’re part of motorcycling these days but generally have expectations beyond their riding ability; fashion is more important (HD anyone?) and style over substance.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris, Cafe Racer and Motorcycle Trader magazines editor

The term “hipster” is a cliched pigeonhole term used only by the ignorant and the mentally aged. So News Ltd. Hippies, greenies, bikies, wannabes, what’s the difference? Must we stereotype and pigeonhole? As for the motorcycle industry, the “hipster” market introduces a new generation to bikes, most of whom would otherwise be on their phones and social media channels. Now they’re on bikes (albeit if only temporarily) and promoting motorcycling via their networks. Old bikes are getting a new lease on life, be it customised or restored, which helps prop up market values, spare parts, thus an entire industry. Heck, they might even buy a new bike. How’s Saint doing? I heard the owner recently celebrated his success with the purchase of a Ferrari. Does he ride motorcycles? There are bad apples in every cart. The trendies will always jump to the next trend, but many will stick with it and, most likely, evolve into ‘real’ (read: conventional) motorcyclists. One can only put up with clip-ons and Firestones for so long.

Roger Fance of First Aid for Motorcyclists

I think they are great for motorcycling. I believe in general there is less interest in motorbikes from newer generations, that motorcycling mainly engages baby boomers and x-gens. Hipsters bring a fresh new perspective and creativity, they engage millennials and are willing to experiment to customise bikes. Indeed their ideas feed back into mainstream models like the BMW R nineT, Ducati Scrambler, Moto Guzzi  V7 Racer and so on. That’s a great new market for bike manufacturers. 

Guy Stanford - Mobile phone while riding - darrk visor helmets filtering laws autonomous consensus hipsters
Guy and his V-Strom

Guy Stanford, Motorcycle Council of NSW member

Hipsters are what they are. It’s not about good or bad or pontificating on lifestyle. Motorcycling is tribal. Always has been. Tribalism is a strength and weakness. It’s strength is with identity of those like minds who gather together. Its weakness is disunity in addressing government, eg scooter riders see little in common with sportsbike or adventure riders. Hipsters are non-conformist. But with what? An imagined stereotype? The observer casts their opinion and round in circles we go. They are also motorcyclists, in their own way, mercurial to their own whims. Good on ’em I say! It ain’t the 1970s any more, or any fashions or attitude that’s been. They are certainly welcome at the MCC of NSW, where all tribes can gather to discuss what’s good for all tribes. It’s not the place for those with their noses so far in the air, that they are about to fall over backwards. It’s exciting to see the different tribes arrive, in their varied plumage and get down to business and get things done that incrementally, make things better for all riders Organisations like the MCCofNSW are for those with two wheels and a numberplate. It appals me to see one tribe being singled out for stereotyping. Like many riders under 40, Hipsters won’t join a club, suspicious of opinionated old farts. Just as they should be. There are things happening in the world of hipsters. I can’t tell you exactly what, but it’s taking shape with new views and opinions that we would all be wise to note. Riders have always caused discomfort to conservatives.

Throttle Roll Street Party hipsters
Throttle Roll

Stephen Broholm, organiser of Throttle Roll

The term is used so loosely in the motorcycling arena by salty riders it’s laughable. The fact that in recent years many riders choose not to wear camouflage pants, biker vests or race suits whilst they ride the latest and greatest high-powered sports bike or cruiser has dismayed the old guard that don’t get the fact that there is a big wide motorcycling community consisting of tribes outside of their own. They also don’t realise that they too confirm to a definable tribe of like-minded riders, with similar bike styles and dress codes, it’s just different to what they know, so it’s easy to take a dump on what is perceived to be the trend of ‘Hipsters’ that are taking over their precious roads. Perhaps the manufacturers can confirm if the bikes they sell in the lifestyle sector are doing well in comparison to the rest of their ranges. Most of them have an offering in this sector. Motorcycle clothing manufacturers have also expanded into fashion conscious motorcycle wear. How much do they sell compared to their traditional ranges? I think they’re good. More riders no matter how they look are a good thing. The fact that hipsters ride bikes that aren’t cookie-cutter machines is great! Motorcycling will die if new riders won’t take it up and adopt it as part of their lifestyle. Thankfully this doesn’t appear to be the case, yet.

Throttle Roll Street Party hipsters

Damien Codognotto, Independent Riders’ Group

Hipsters are good for motorcycle and scooter riding. The more riders, the more economic power and political muscle our community has. The resurrection and rise of street bicycling in the past 20 years demonstrates that. Motorcycle and Scooter riders suffer restrictive legislation and punitive taxes. The more riders putting money into our economy, getting angry about bad laws and being seen reducing traffic congestion, enjoying the open road and beating the world’s best in various two-wheeled competitions, the better off we all are. Some hipsters will get cold and quit riding. Some will get a fright and quit riding. Some will evolve as they discover this riding joy or that two-wheel satisfaction. In 1967, when I got an Enfield against the folks’ orders, motorcycling was tribal but not as divided as it is in 2017. Riders respected each other whether wearing an oilcloth touring jacket, racing leathers or a bomber jacket with cut-off.

Tim Kelly, Rider to Review, South Australia

Personally, I am entirely indifferent to all the types of groups within motorcycling as I believe everyone dresses, acts and rides in a manor reflective of their clique. Hipsters are just another group in the list and they have their own style and persona to live up to. In terms of benefits to the community, hipster is the fad of the day and they’ll bring more awareness and money into motorcycling so thats good but when hipsterism goes away, so will a majority of those people who adhere to its structure. PS: having a “manbun” in a helmet must be uncomfy as!

  1. All two wheeled rider groups have their detractors and if I generalise:
    Harley riders don’t wave
    Cyclists run red lights
    Gixxer riders wear thongs and singlets in summer
    dirt bike riders become one wheeled riders at every take off.
    vespa riders seldom wear suitable footwear- coz it clashes with the suit/tie

    but for everyone one of those statements, I know riders that don’t fit the stereotype. Hipsters are the same, in fact I have found more of them to be sociable “at the lights” than any other rider group. Those I know well, have a keen interest in motorcycling

  2. I guess I would be grouped into the “hipster” tribe for want of a better name. I have an alternative lifestyle as I’m an acupuncturist and a bellydancer and I ride a cafe racer style bike lol! ;p I like cafe racers of all genres – basically anything that has been personalised to express induvidual flair and creativity. I’ve loved bikes all my life and have been around them in some fashion and have definitely come across the negative tribalism mentioned in comments of this article. But I’ve also seen the enthusiasm expressed by riders toward other riders no matter what their style is.
    Personally my partner and I have spent quite a few thousand on a bike each, modifications, riding gear and accesories. I’m pretty sure that’s good for the industry. 🙂
    Anyway I would like to think that at the end of the day – you like bikes and ride we like bikes and ride let’s like bikes and ride together.

  3. a lot of the ones i see are happy with low budget smaller capacity bikes
    they have modified themselves. Which is the way SOME of us older riders started.
    A lot of the ones putting them down are older riders who seem to think the size of your wallet and price of your bike brings instant status Your average hog club accountant..real estate elitist type on their way to their next mid life crisis

  4. I do believe in common ground as motorcyclists, no matter what “tribal” acquired position. Anywhere I put my foot down my bike to chat with another motorcyclist about his/her machine it’s rewarding. All of us smile on and about our bikes, so let them leave the sport by crashes, another trend, whatever. Enjoy and let enjoy!

  5. John Eacott, your response.

    “They’re part of motorcycling these days but generally have expectations beyond their riding ability; fashion is more important (HD anyone?) and style over substance.”

    Proves beyond any reasonable doubt, the unsuitability of your position.

  6. I’ve come to riding late (57) and was pretty much unaware of all this tribal stuff. So I bought myself a cruiser, a full face helmet and the most flouro jacket you ever saw. It didn’t occur to me that I was “crossing tribal boundaries” as I didn’t even realise they existed. Now that I do, will it influence what I ride / wear / do? Not at all. I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my approach to motorcycling. I have a blast and do it as safely as I can. Electric bikes are going to destroy the tribes anyway soon.

  7. Speak for yourself, I don’t hate anyone because of the bike they ride, if they ride a motorcycle they are a rider. How immature to differentiate one form of riding over another. I have owned cruisers, dirt bikes & now a sports bike & cannot understand the rivalry between riders. This is the first I’ve heard of ‘hipsters’. At first I thought you meant hipster jeans (showing my age here), however if as you describe they are a subculture of more intelligent riders, hats off to them. Motorcycle riders are in the minority so why would anyone want to alienate fellow riders? It makes no sense.

  8. I don’t care if they are hipsters or not, if they are genuine motorcyclists (ie unlike typical HD drivers) I’ll wave to them weather they are on dirt bikes, sports bikes or scooters.

  9. It’s often times not the Hipster part that bothers me, but the “poser” within the hipster that strikes a nerve. If they are legit riding who cares what and how they do it. But when it’s fake posing….of any group for that matter I’m rolling my eyes.

  10. All I know is that I’m almost 60 , don’t ride baggers and was riding on a great day out of a show and shine with some 30 ish people on choppers shovels and sportsters, with their ladies on the back and a few lady riders as well. They had denim cutoffs long hair, tattoos, some beards. We were having a good time and yeah call em hipsters but I just felt I was back in the 70s again doing what we all did until it all turned commercial and stupid. I feel these people get it. They will save the culture. Don’t worry, they’ll become crusty one day too. I got some photos lately at events that you can’t tell from my old Easyriders magazines.

  11. ”There has been no more divisive group in motorcycling since the Hells Angels of the early 1970s than the current crop of hipsters.”

    Hyperbole much?

    Hipsters aren’t as prevalent as you think or as influential (or is it ”influencers”). I will give the fad credit for bringing retro helmets to the modern market, less so the bikes since most who are buying them are older riders but the fad also gets derison for bringing the ”lifestyle” over-priced business model out of Harley dealerships into the other makes (OK yes Ducati had a thing going but to Harley’s level).

    In the end these hipsters will regret these over-priced purchases as much as I regret spending my hard earned paper route cash on an Electric Boogaloo breakdancing outfit I wore once but continue to regret for nigh on 30 yrs. For the true motorcyclist, this will be like the 90s fad of sportbikes, we will reap the rewards of buyer remorse and snap up some killer deals on excellent bikes.

    Thanks Hipsters! We still loath you… 😉

  12. Just what the world needs: more stereotyping and hating. You know when a person or a group is less than satisfied with their own life: they find a target to vent on. Local and international politics will reveal many stories of scapegoating as a means to consolidate group-think and cultural superiority.

    Live and Let Live was a phrase around in my parents youth – apparently they were hippies and not to be given any acceptance or value, lest society and culture be ruined by their position and influence.

    Ride and thrive : )

  13. I’m from the so-called Gen X (how arbitrary are these labels – all that we have in common as a generation is that we played outdoors) and I think the hipster movement, which has been tailing off for quite a number of years and is now on its last legs, was a great thing for motorcycling. It showed younger people just how cool and fun the older bikes were, and how different and more visceral to ride they were than the new ones. It also stopped the calcification of the uncool “bike as toy/status symbol” trend of the somewhat confused ageing yuppies (not all yuppies were successful, but all had the same mindset) which would have killed off the entire industry. Just look around at who’s attending bike meets these days. Fewer and fewer people, all of them old, worse and worse rock “dedication” bands, very few happy and contented faces there – it’s all just “look at me, I bought something or had someone work on something for me, now please validate me and tell me that that makes me cool”. The writing was on the wall for motorcycling before the hipsters. Hipsters gave it a shot in the arm. It wasn’t enough, but trust me, it was a lot better than the sad-sack wannabe yuppy trendies (the upcoming popular trustafarian movement). We will see this, unfortunately.

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