The Oxford English Dictionary has changed the old definition, which read: ‘motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang’, with the example ‘a long-haired biker in dirty denim’.
The new entry has dropped the references to long hair and dirty denim, but to general dismay the publishers of the dictionary, the Oxford University Press, have maintained the reference to gangs.
A poll by Bennetts Insurance found that among 500 ‘bikers’ nearly three quarters (74%) believe that the old dictionary definition is outdated and inaccurate, with 21% saying they were “outraged and offended” by the description.
Less than one in 10 male riders in the poll (9%) had long hair, and 42% were completely free of any tattoos, piercings, facial hair or gang markings. Almost two thirds (65%) say they spend the majority of their time on the bike riding alone, dealing another blow to the gang stereotype.
Three in five of those surveyed (60%) said they felt the dictionary definition was outdated and irrelevant. Bennetts’ data shows 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, Bennetts’ Director of Marketing and Ecommerce, added: ‘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 clichéd stereotype and now encompass all sectors of society, which is evident by the recent popularity growth of adventure-bikes and scooter sales.
‘It’s clear from the research that the image of a biker in 2013 is not the same as 50 years ago, and we’re pleased that the Oxford English Dictionary definition has finally been updated – although it’s worth pointing out that not every person who rides a motorcycle describes themselves as ‘biker’ and we’re not all members of gangs, so there is still some way to go.”