Is there even a difference? I think there is. To me, the two words have wildly different connotations. And if you ride a motorbike, you’ll be somewhere on the biker vs motorcyclist spectrum. There’s no right or wrong side and many people might consider themselves to be just either side of centre, rather than at either of the extreme ends; which is also fine. You might already know exactly where you are on the spectrum. But if you don’t, then this might help you determine where you are, should anyone ever ask*.
Get your chopper out
Do you own a Harley Davidson? Are your handlebars higher than your head? If they are, that’s absolutely fine, and you probably already know this, but you’re right at the ‘biker’ end of the spectrum. Those amongst us who are predisposed to prejudice would expect people like you to enjoy getting tattoos, drinking too much beer and beating people up. But I’m sure that’s not the case for the vast majority of you.
It is possible to be a biker, or certainly on the biker side of the spectrum, without having a beard, numerous tattoos, or a knuckle-duster. You might just like Harley Davidsons, or like the idea of being in a club with matching jackets.
Tassels or textiles?
It’s not just the chopper-holics that constitute the biker fraternity. You can get away with riding quite a variety of bikes, and still be considered a biker, rather than a motorcyclist. Especially if you know what to wear. Beards, leather jackets and oil stained jeans are definitely in. And if you’ve got anything with tassels fastened to it, even better.
But not everybody wants to be seen as a biker. For others, the designation ‘motorcyclist’ is more appropriate. If you want to know which of your friends are motorcyclists, this is a very crude rule of thumb: if they wear textiles when riding their bike (even if their bike is a bit ‘biker-y’), they’re probably a motorcyclist. Likewise, a flip-up helmet is a dead giveaway.
Sit up and beg
But the most important thing you need to do is look at the bike they’re riding. Essentially, the more practical the bike is, the closer to the motorcyclist end of the spectrum they’re likely to be. I’m talking about luggage carrying capability, electronic aids, does it have a centre stand? That kind of thing. It’s things like BMW GSs, Honda Gold Wings, bikes of that ilk.
But it’s certainly not limited to that kind of bike. Because being a motorcyclist isn’t just about the kind of bike you ride, or the kind of gear you wear; it’s a way of life. And you don’t ride to look cool, or hard, you ride because you absolutely love it. You’re idea of a holiday isn’t sunning yourself on an Ibiza beach for a fortnight, it’s packing a week’s worth of pants and socks into your paniers and heading for the hills.
None of the above
As I said, most of us are neither at the biker nor the motorcyclist end of the spectrum, we are somewhere in the middle. In fact most of the people I know are fairly fluid with it all, one day planning a route, double checking they’ve got a pressure gauge in one of the many pockets in their textile jacket, and heading out on an adventure; the next day swinging their legs over a hog and rumbling down to the strip club. Ok, maybe that’s not what everyone does, but the point is that if you want, you can do both. Because both are absolutely fine.
And you can also do neither. I don’t really do any of that stuff (for the most part) and I consider myself right in the middle of the spectrum. I wouldn’t describe myself as a biker or a motorcyclist. I’m just a bloke who likes riding bikes. And that’s absolutely fine too.
*Spoiler alert, they probably won’t.