Don’t Call Me A Biker!

I really hate the term “biker”. It evokes so many negative connotations in my mind that I cringe whenever someone calls me one. Perhaps it is trivial and petty, but I feel like elaborating. First let me tell you the qualities that make up a biker. These qualities need not be completely present, but you need at least a couple to qualify. In the end you’ll recognize who I am talking about.

A biker is someone who:

  • owns a motorcycle and meets none or few conditions of a “motorcyclist” (see below)
  • wears motorcycle apparel while driving a car
  • hardly wears any protective riding gear
  • underestimates the skills involved in effectively controlling a motorcycle and takes no steps to improve them (an unskilled and dangerous rider)
  • drinks and rides
  • has never ridden more than 200 miles in a day or has traveled longer distances towing their bike on a trailer (This one spawns from the motorcycle touring snob inside me. Ride your ride!)
  • doesn’t acknowledge waves of other motorcyclists…ever!
  • thinks “laying ‘er down” is an effective method of stopping one’s motorcycle

Just because you might not qualify as a “biker” that doesn’t make you a “motorcyclist”. A term I think harbors more respect and which I identify myself as. Conversely…

A motorcyclist is someone who:

  • safely wields the awesome power of your motorcycles and makes a conscious effort to improve their abilities
  • is saddened by the sight of a motorcycle on a trailer and can ride more than 200 miles in a day
  • waves to other motorcyclists
  • wears a helmet (yep, I’m going there) and makes an effort to wear AGATT
  • rides for it’s own sake (not for an image, or social factors)

So there you have it. Perhaps I’m pigeonholing some respectable motorcyclists out there into the nasty portrait of bikers that I painted, but that’s what happens when you have a convoluted set of statements to categorize a person. Gotta break some eggs!

So just when you thought the minority that is made up of motorcycle owners could not be smaller, I’ve apparently split it into an even smaller amount. I’d say the ratio of bikers to motorcyclists is 4:1.

What do you think? Is this fair, or am I just being a douche?

Oh, I forgot one more…those who call me a douche are bikers.

  • Darek

    I know what you’re getting at, and I often feel the same way about being associated with motorcycles. I think your minds in the right place, but I feel that there are a lot of people out there who ride very well, not for show or recognition, who choose to do it without the helmet or gear. I don’t agree with them on that choice, and I don’t think there are many of this sort, but I don’t think you can term classify people so easily.

    As far as the gear goes I’ve got it all on every ride, and I feel that’s the way to go. I also feel that for the most part people that really are “Motorcyclists” end up this way, but some great riders just choose not too..although who can say how long that might last.

  • Jim Howard

    I’m a sport touring kind of guy. I’m not as hard on ‘bikers’ as you are, but I see where you’re coming from.

    To me most ‘bikers’ are kind of silly, but in the end they are on two wheels and we have more in common with them than most people.

    I think of myself as a motorcycle ‘rider’, because I like to ride my motorcycle because I like to ride motorcycles.

  • 909B4

    I consider myself more of a biker than a motorcyclist but not because of your narrow definitions. I’m a biker because I’m simple and think the term ‘motorcyclist’ sounds snobby.

    I ride a cruiser to work every day as long as there is no snow on the roads and do 200 mile days almost every weekend. I’m not ATGATT, but I’m never without a helmet, boots, gloves and armoured jacket. I don’t like trailer queens and am respectful of the power my bike has and the safety of others on the road. I wave to every bike I pass (I acknowledge the number of wheels, not the style of bike…OK, I might ignore the E-bikes I see) I don’t drink and ride and I take a refresher course or experienced rider course every spring. I like the twisties by myself and group ride when the opportunity arises.

    Perhaps your ideas have been marred by the people you associate with. Get out there and meet the bikers, you’ll be suprised how much you have in common with us.

    I’m a you must be a douche.

  • 909B4

    I had never read the ‘About Me’ section, you just haven’t been around long enough. Your opinions will change in a few years after you’ve done some more living. I have socks that are 26 years old…

  • Matt

    I’ve enjoyed your posts and admire your photography skills, but I must ask….Does your ‘motorcyclist’ version of ATGATT include loose fitting jeans?

  • Darek

    “I’m a you must be a douche.”

    I knew this would be a hot button…

    This guy kind of touches on the great disparities in riders that I was trying to get at. I do agree that you will probably meet a lot of people who are good riders, do it genuinely for the love of riding who can ride the tires off most bikes and know their limits but choose to wear stylish stuff more that protective gear and still do the scene and sometimes even choose to have a drink. (although I think that’s the wrong choice even with one drink)

    I feel since motorcycle riding is often looked at in the States as such a “hobby” rather than transportation or sport, lots of people get into it for the wrong reasons. But labeling someone as one or the other just further divides the sport that’s already divided. Some people who genuinely care about the sport, skills, safety, and such will still want to be called a biker or vic-versa.

  • Atlas

    I’m going to start off by saying that this whole thing was done in a kind of tongue in cheek manner. At the end I admitted to the qualifications being a “convoluted set of statements”. I don’t really take all these things that seriously, but there is some truth to them, and that what I’d like to try and clarify.

    The term “biker” has a certain perception associated with it. I’m speaking from the perspective in America (since it is the only place I can speak from). Take the FX show “Sons of Anarchy” or Tarantino’s “Hell Ride”. Granted “Hell Ride” was satirical in nature it speaks to an image that “bikers” have that “motorcyclists” don’t.

    “I don’t care how other people perceive me.” Ok that’s cool! But when you call yourself a biker, don’t think that your notion is consistent with a more widely held one in your community.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are many riders out there that may have no problem calling themselves a “biker”, but if they understood how the term is widely held (as I think it is widely held) I think they may shirk away from the term.

    One last thing:


    I’m afraid you committed the fallacy of affirming the consequent. You’ll see that I said, “If you call me a douche, then you’re a biker”. It does not follow that if you are biker, then I am a douche. Unless my statement can be taken as a bi-conditional. In order be right in this situation, I’m going to say it wasn’t. =P Maybe I should add, “Poor logic skills” to the list of bikers! lol, kidding…kidding folks!

  • Pingback: Atlas Rider- "Don't call me a biker!" - Bikes and Scooters()

  • Tarzan

    motorcyclists wear deodorant, whereas bikers reek of BO

  • co_g30

    Ich Bin Ein Motorcyclist!

    I posted the above in April of 2007, 20 months later, still living up to the ideal.

  • Atlas


    Loose fitting jeans doesn’t count as AGATT. I frequently commute without leg protection because it is such a pain. While touring it is AGATT though.


    lol, very nice!

  • Xchoppers

    I am also a Motorcyclist, not a Biker!
    I agree with your article, I have been saying the same things for over 30 years (I’ve been riding 48 years). I own and ride (daily) 5 motorcycles. I seldom drive my cars.

  • zypp33

    I am me ,and I ride a bike ,20k or more a year, what any one calls me doesn’t really matter ,depends on their perspective or lack of it. What matters is how I act or behave.
    You are right tho’, certain labels conjure certain images (secretly, for me ,’motorcyclist’ says long coat and old leatherette covered peaked helmet,in dirty white,behind tall screen on an elderly 175 etc..) Oops just fell into the trap.How wrong can I be!!!

  • atgattrat

    I think you’re right on target. Objections are raised when sweeping generalizations are made; this is no different. Of course there are exceptions to the generalizations you drew, but for the most part you’re right.

  • Oronare

    I like how the image for a “biker” is a cruiser rider with a nice motorcycle, then the “motorcyclist” is riding probably an equally modified sports bike.

    I think there ARE some people that ride a Motorcycle just for the look of it, and for them it is a toy, not a viable means of transportation or a true passion, but you seem to be getting at a point that Cruiser riders are only in it for the image, yet sports bike riders are “true” motorcyclists.

    I would actually say that a LARGER portion of the sports bike owners are in it for the image, and the mods, than the portion within the cruiser riders.

    Just because someone likes to have a NICE looking motorcycle doesn’t make them this stereotypical “biker”. I like to keep mine clean and looking good with a few mods (Cruiser) and I ride it every day to and from University, and at weekends long distance to and from events or meets or just for a ride, just because I like it to look good for me doesn’t mean I am trying to show off.

    Whichever person gets on ANY type of motorcycle without all the gear though is just an idiot.

  • AtlasRider


    I know there would be exceptions to the rule. Also, bikers are not limited to those who rider cruisers. I should have explicitly clarified that. There are plenty of sportbike riders that fall into the same category. I just happened to pick those photos.

  • Jesper Bram

    I’m not so much for labels or generalization. But there’s a perfectly good term for people who ride disregarding other peoples safety. They’re called assholes and it doesn’t matter if they ride a motorcycle, a car or a bicycle.

    I’ve had the “biker/motorcyclist” discussion with a lot of people and I’ve come to the conclusion that the ones who are very set on not being one or the other are just limiting their experience potential.

  • Kneedownandlovingit

    At the end of the day, we’re all in the one boat, you can flute around with all the semantics and two wheeled thesaurus waffle people can take, but whether you’re out on a sunny day or any day living the life you want to live, calling yourself a biker/motorcyclist/motorbiker really isnt an issue. Labelling people serves no purpose other than to hinder the bridges that can built through education on road skills, and taking the right path to a more enjoyable experience for everyone on two wheels. Its up to each individual to choose their own level of safety and reflect on the consequences of their choices. I’ve driven all types of bikes and call myself a biker. Saying that i follow through with qualifications and highest standard of safety gear. Thats my choice. So knock off the labelling, let people enjoy your site and travels without having to bother their arse convincing you to broaden your mind. Amen

  • Open Road Biker

    I have read the comments so I know you said that it was a “convoluted set of statements” but still, I think you definition of a biker is way off. Maybe the definition fits “Poseur”, “poser”, or however in the hell it is spelled. When I think of a biker, I think of;
    1. Someone who cares less about what other people think about what he wears
    2. Knows how to ride his bike and work on it
    3. All season rider, not just a fair weather rider.
    4. Doesn’t care weather you think he is a biker or not because titles mean nothing to them and they don’t need a label to define them.

    Am I a biker? Who cares, just get on the road and ride.

  • Magna

    After reading through your site i get the impression that you are a nice person but i must say i also get the idea that you are a bit of a snob and consider yourself to be better than others. If i am wrong then i apologise.
    I consider myself a biker and also do a lot of touring, it’s one of my true passions in life and i love every minute of it. Ninety percent of my friends are bikers and they know how to ride and do it safely over very long distances.
    Although if i it understand correctly, (in the US) the term ‘biker’ is used in a lot more negative way than here in Europe.
    I really don’t want to tell anyone how to think but maybe you should be a bit more open minded and be a little less critical of other bike owners/users/riders ….
    After saying this i would still like to congratulate you on your website and thank you for all your great videos.
    Ride safe ….. Magna ……. (The Netherlands)

  • Atlas


    I think I just have a more negative outlook on people, or perhaps I see more negative than good. Over the years I’ve become more jaded, more cynical, and as a result more judgmental. So yea I guess I am a bit of a snob. It’s really hard not to be from what I see though…

    I wish I could keep an open mind more often, but I see what I see in the light I set it to, and well…that’s just the way I am. At least I can say that I am better now than I was before.

    I really try not to editorialize on my blog and keep the content devoted to riding experiences and knowledge. You probably won’t see very many of these in the future.

    Anyways, thanks for your thoughts and compliments. Ride safe.

  • Anonymous


  • Hero_Wheels

    I think Altas has hit the nail on the head here (for the most part). Yes, there are absolutely exceptions with everything he’s said, but also, everything he’s said IS true 90% of the time and the only reason you might think otherwise is a matter of perception; a perception tainted by the effects of a positive experience with the American “biker” community. From the perception of a biker, their experience of motorcycles is liberating, passionate, and relatively safe, and they truly believe it because they have not been enlightened enough to know otherwise. (so you can’t blame them) For “motorcyclists,” on the other hand, they view motorcycles as a superior means of transportaion, a means that allows them to traverse the world in a quick, enjoyable, and even intimate (as in being one with one’s environment) fashion. I do agree with some of the comments saying, “We’re all on two wheels and that’s something worth sharing” (paraphrased) but where the problem begins is for motorcyclists. The fact that, especially where I live (Ontario Can.), the riding season is short and so the majority of riders (more like 100:1 instead of 4:1) are recreational riders who have little experience, ride bikes well beyond their skill level, view a full face helmet and jacket as ATGATT, and think having a higher top speed than the other guy is an accomplishment. What this leads to is a SEVERELY negative outlook on bikers (as referred to by the public oddly enough) by the public, law enforcement, politicians, and especially insurance companies. This especially true for sportbike riders who are only seen between June and August. In the end, the fact that we both like two wheels is where the similarities end. The biker community is detrimental to the motorcycling community, and although I hate making distinctions, I’m not going to sit back and be lumped in with the rest. It makes my insurance suck, even though I own a 250 dual sport, and has even lead to intentional hostility against me in traffic and off the bike as well. I think Motorcyclists should be a separate deffinition not to isolate ouselves, but to draw separate attention and perhaps raise positive awareness and change the purpose of motorcycles in North America from hazardous hobby to an advantagious alternative to cars.

    P.S. An other trait that defines a motorcyclist is someone who not only chooses to ride a motorcycle, but refuses to drive a car. I live in Canada where we have winter 6 months of the year and I refuse to drive a car because they breed incompitence, are inefficient, and most of all…Unsafe. Yeah, I said it, cars are unsafe. That little thing called a blindspot is unacceptable. For motorcyclists, cars cause accidents, motorcycles are involved in accidents. They should not even be called accidents, more like, “What happens when you put an unskilled mildly conscious vegetable in a cage and expect them to not bump into each other when more than 1 variable in their environment changes.” The logic of society is that surrounding yourself with steel makes you safe WHEN you crash. However, that steel is what will make you crash. So instead of eliminating the crash (through more intuitive and skilled drivers, or even better, “motorcyclists”) we’re endangering others for the sake of our own safety. Therefore, cars are a moraly irresponsable means of transportation.

    Well, that was a long rant and I know it is the extreme case (not all cars or car drivers are bad and they are a necessity for many things) but that’s just what I’ve noticed and trust me, I’d rather not know what I know because it would be much easier to go with the flow.

  • Big Mike

    “Bikers are not skilled”. Why don’t you try to ride side by side in tight formation 100 deep and see if YOU have what it takes!
    “Don’t wave at other bikes passing” If I don’t wave at another bike….it’s because they are on a rice burner….ride AMERICAN!!!
    I can go on and on about your dumb ass stereotypical comments that you and your “Motorcyclist” buddies have put on here. I watched your YOUTUBE video. Those skills of yours are Great seeing how you were riding 30 mph…lol!!! Being a biker is a “way of life”. And the tough guy IMAGE that we bikers worry about you speak of….YOU are the one on this website worried about YOUR image, asshole, not us. Are you that arrogant that you don’t know you are insulting the entire BIKER community that you speak down upon? Face it Atlas….Motorcyclist are pussies who can’t hack it as bikers.

  • Atlas

    @Bike Mike

    Thanks for keeping the flame war alive. It has been dying down lately.


    I really love the responses to this tongue in cheek blog post. :)

  • mike

    i dont care what you ride on or for if you disrespect me or my brothers i will fuck you up. so go a head and talk shit on the web when your on the street lets see you talk shit

  • jeff

    Hey Big Mike, I find your post to be highly trashtalk and little logic. Atlas Rider along with other motorcyclists who ride sport bikes are much more skilled, awesome, fast, and most of all, we dont bikes that are loud and look ugly and heavy.
    We are not pussies, we drive fast when we want to. Lastly, I recommend watching the South Park episode named, “The F Word”. Enjoy your bike, fag.
    Atlas, keep up the awesome work on the motorcycle vids. Thinking about a ninja 650r. Am I the only one who thinks the 06-08 style of ninja 650rs(mainly headlights) are so much cooler that the new 09-10 models? I think the 06 headlights really support the “ninja” title.
    Thanks man.

  • Davy lhua

    So great! This is good post, thank you for sharing some helpful information, I have bookmark you website.interesting ipod movie.

More in Articles, Life (15 of 20 articles)
notebook spiral