‘Biker’ definition changed, but what’s accurate?

12.00 | 26 February 2013 | | 1 comment

The Oxford English Dictionary has dropped its references to ‘long hair’ and ‘dirty denims’ in its definition of ‘bikers’ after complaints from motorcyclists (Telegraph).

Oxford University Press (OUP), which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, bowed to pressure from Britain’s two-wheeled community, who claimed the description was outdated.

The online version previously defined biker as: “A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.”

However, figures show that fewer than one in 10 male bikers now has long hair. Furthermore, almost half of British bikers are totally free of tattoos, piercings, facial hair, or gang markings.

OUP has now changed the Oxford Dictionaries Online definition of biker to: “A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car.”

74% believe the old definition was inaccurate, with 21% saying they are “outraged and offended” by it. And 65% of motorcyclists also spend the majority of their time riding alone – and not as a “member of a gang”, a study by insurance firm Bennetts found.

Bennetts poll of 524 bikers found that today’s biker is most likely to be aged over 35, middle class, working in IT or telecoms, and likely to ride a Honda.

Hannah Squirrell, from Bennetts, said: “In the early 60s, ‘biker’ was a relatively new term which provoked fear among many, partly due to their image portrayed in the media.

“Fortunately, since then, bikers have grown away from the cliched stereotype and now encompass all sectors of society. That is evident by the recent popularity growth of adventure-bikes and scooter sales.

“We are pleased the Oxford Dictionary definition has finally been updated. However, it’s worth pointing out that not every person who rides a motorcycle describes themselves as a ‘biker’ and we’re not all members of gangs – so there is still some way to go.”

Nicola Burton, OUP spokeswoman, said: “This change has been made to reflect a minor shift in contemporary use of the word ‘biker’.

“Our research suggests ‘biker’ is now more closely aligned with ‘motorcyclist’ than words such as ‘hell’s angel’.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.


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    This term came from the Americas in films in the 1950/60s. Films such as Easy Rider etc. James Dean and Marlon Brando riding bikes etc. It is to my mind a general colloquialism and that is all it is. A motorcyclist is a Biker.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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