Research project on bikers in London


I’m currently in my final year studying Anthropology and as my final project I have to do a 12,000 word research project. Since I spend all my time riding, looking at and talking about bikes I figured it’d be an interesting topic for my project.

I’m going to need a few people to interview over the next month or two so if you fancy volunteering then I’ll probably be at BM a few times and will supply drinks/food. For now I’m just looking for some general feedback and ideas on my plan.

So far the planned question/topic is: How have media representations of motorcyclists affected identity and community formation amongst motorcyclists in London?

The draft chapter outline is:
-Anthropological perspectives on community and marginal identities/communities
-How have motorcycles been represented in the media? Put into historical context.
-Mods & Rockers – associations with youth culture and moral panic
-Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs – history and affect on perceptions of motorcyclists
-Current day perceptions of ‘biker’ image/community amongst motorcyclists
-Romanticism and Disgust – how risk, freedom and existing in the margins has affected identity & community

My main argument is going to be that representations of biker in the media/films etc affect real, everyday bikers in the way they create a biker identity and relate to each other as bikers. This happens in two ways. Firstly representations of bikers have created a strong visual identity (riding bike, wearing helmet/jacket/boots etc) which is reinforced through use of special ‘biker’ language (often technical in nature but also terms like ‘ton up’, ‘biker’ or ‘bikie’ in Australia). Secondly the association of bikes with danger in the media and the actual experience of risk in riding a bike strengthens biking communities in two ways - either through shared risk (in riding fast, racing or doing stunts) or through mutual concern for other bikers safety - bikers often give each other riding/safety gear advice.

Also I’m thinking of trying to argue that custom or modded bikes represent a visual expression of identity which is informed by the ideas of risk/freedom/marginal existence from media/films.

What do you think? Any feedback or ideas would be massively helpful.

most of its a bit above me but like the sound of this! But dont listen to me - i did my dissertation on video games and only got 46%!

Sounds like you’ve been watching too much TV. Most of us just enjoy motorcycles;)

Great project with tons of scope… If you ask 10 “bikers” to define a “biker” you will get 20 answers.

It’s a broad church not only in types of machines ( cruisers, sports, motos etc etc ) but in background, reason and use.

For instance a 17 year old on a Yam 125, Prince William on his £17k Duke, a 40 year old courier on his Rat bike, a millionaire with a garage full of Harleys, Augustas, race preped Gixxers, a 60 year old commuting on his 20 year old CB250, a 25 year old with his R6 and Poweranger suit, a 75 year old with his Vincent used only for shows … who is a real biker? who is and is not influenced by “biker” culture …You decide.

Good luck!

Of course whilst I was writing the last bit Me Learned Friend Jetstream hit the nail on the head…:slight_smile:

Thank you sir. Any ideas on our combined authorship of “The Book” yet?:wink:

Ha well I don’t actually own a TV but in many ways what you’re saying is exactly the point (intentionally obviously :wink: ), whether you like it or not, you weren’t born knowing about bikes, most of us anyway, so most people learnt about bikes, and bikers, from films, the news, parents, friends, books, magazines and the internet.

Obviously people’s reasons for using bikes will vary enormously, but it’s undeniable that for a lot of bikers, riding a bike is part of their identity in a way which I would suggest for most people, for example, owning a car is not. Similarly I’ve experienced a lot more friendliness, helpfulness and camaraderie as a biker than you do just as any old person on the street, so there is clearly some kind of ‘bond’ between bikers. I think I’m less trying to define the true meaning of a ‘biker’ and more trying to see how individuals use media to inform and reinforce their identity as a biker. I suppose this must sound a bit stupid but when you’re trying to write anthropology you have say things like ‘inform and reinforce identity’.

But I think you are right, maybe it would be worth me specifically trying to consider one ‘type’ of biker, for example, sportsbike riders?

Oh and if you fancy being interviewed then I’ll happily give you all a mention.

You bet - for a start the hero will a) Ride a Triumph … and b) Wear a Triumph jacket…

Jury is out on whether he has a beard BUT he is irresistible to women natch;)

What do you think of the plot so far ?:w00t:

It’s a winner:D Looking forward to the photoshoot for the cover already;)

You should definitely consult our most learned friend, The Smiled. He is truly a wonder.

Some say… (no, I mustn’t say) :smiley:

I don’t know how you’re going to frame these questions but the best of luck.

Representation in the media? …hmmm. I think the media is stuck with stereo types that were formed over 30 years ago - mostly not very flattering to those of us who ride bikes…Apart from the odd Tom Cruise/ Richard Gere / Arnie hero ( and notice they never wear biking gear or helmets - the bike is more of an accessory than a lifestyle) you get the standard bandana and fingerless glove wearing bearded Hells Angel depiction.

The third media sterotype seems to be the slightly thicko ‘plonker’ bloke ( Barry from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Niel Morrisey in Boon , Eric in Lovejoy )

Ok you get the odd supermodel posing on a sportsbike in a basque… but that’s fantasy land ( well it is mine anyway :D:P:))

Something that really sticks out is the way biking breaks down social divide. For example, I’ve met Smiled through biking, but I wouldn’t normally dream of associating with such riff-raff:P

If you can, interview Terry-moto, WASP and Elad (all members of LB); they are real bikers IMO (I’m not saying that others aren’t).

Have you read the article on Harley-Davidson motorcycle ‘tribes’? Might be interesting to you… I think it was in the journal of consumer behaviour - I’ll try and dig it up amongst my files and see if I still have it though after my recent format debacle I doubt it very much :frowning:

There was also a ‘Biker Tribes’ show at the Science Museum last year IIRC.
Didn’t get off my arse to see it though :frowning:

Perhaps they (the organisers) could help you with some leads etc.

Thanks for the advice. I’ll check out that article, my university gives me access to most journals so hopefully I can get it at the library. I’ll PM those guys see if they’re up for being interviewed.

Stereotypes in the media are fairly varied although it’s a good point that many of them simply own motorbikes as accessories and when there is a character who is portrayed as living a ‘biker lifestyle’ they are usually hell’s angel types or a cafe racer menace (my favourite being Psychomania). Also another recent bike reference - Hagrid in Harry Potter - seen riding what is presumably a massive Triumph Bonnie, or so I’m told by small children who watch such films.

True but Psychomania was made what, 40 years ago??? I can’t think of recent stereotypes apart fron the ‘Hells Angels’ one - certainly I can’t think of sportsbike riders being portrayed at all - so most of the images are from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s ( 80’s & 90’s seem to portray bikers as slightly dim:angry: )

Below - Kenny Everet’s Sid Snot and Dick Emery’s “Ton up boy”




You’re right, although there are many recent good portrayal’s of bikers, they aren’t involved in a ‘biker lifestyle’. Do you think maybe that it’s biker lifestyles that are portrayed as bad as opposed to simply riding a bike? The only vaguely positive lifestyle movies I can think of are Easy Rider and Wild Hogs (as rubbish as it was), although easy rider was more about a journey than the lifestyle I think and wild hogs did have a group of hardcore hells angels types who were supposed to be living the real biker lifestyle as opposed to the ‘poser’ bikers.

Er they tend to get nixed in some peoples minds ( ie to have a bike means you are sympathetic to a sociopathic lifestyle - raping granniesand smashing up places and that )

Prince William, Lord Litchfield, Nigel Havers etc seem to get away with it ( seen as ‘eccentrics’ I suppose)

Of course there have been some granny friendly portrayals recently…

ye gods…



I did my master’s thesis on tribal marketing for p2p filesharers so had to read quite a bit onto the anthroposociological aspect of modern ‘tribes’… In honesty I can’t be bothered to type my ideas on a forum (I hate long posts) but if you want to have a chat about it, pop down to BMM and we can do it over a coffee while I chainsmoke (as these discussions are meant to take place) :slight_smile:

Right had a quick look on google to find the title and I think this one is the one: Schouten, J. W. and McAlexander, J. H. (1993), „Market impact of a consumption subculture: the Harley-Davidson mystique‟, European Advances in Consumer Research, 1,

Will double check and post back if I find something different…