Subcultures associated with motorcycles are as fascinating as they are numerous. While owning a motorcycle was, before the 1950s, a symbol of class and wealth, it became much more affordable and popular afterwards, giving rise to many subcultures sharing this new interest.
Subcultures have formed around almost any aspect of motorcycling. Indeed, whether it was because of an interest in a particular motorcycle brand, or the pleasure of riding as fast as possible in a group or a thirst for exercising extreme sports on a bike, motorcycling subcultures mushroomed in the early 1960s. The interest was new but plenty.
However, one kind of subculture emerging right after World War II and spreading across continents went beyond the simple joy of using a particular aspect of a motorcycle. For this group, motorcycles were adopted not as a style of transport but as a style of life. They represented a perspective, a way of living, a conviction - an alternative to mainstream society.
Whether it was in the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy or in other parts of the world, the memory of recent war had united these minds into living life in a risk-taking fashion, thinking that it was too short to be taken seriously. Their motto, 'too fast to live, too young to die,' symbolized this view. Rockers, Ton-up boys, Bikers and other names were chosen to designate this backpacking motorcycle culture that refused to settle like others, i.e. to get a job, get married, have children and buy a house.
They re-assessed social norms and created their own. Hygiene, for example, was not a necessity anymore and being dirty was instead normal for riders. Tattoos, which were essentially against societal values, became a must. It was their statement to say that they would never come back to mainstream life. Extreme groups within that non-conformist subculture, such as the one-percenters, even engaged in criminal activities.
By adopting motorcycles, these groups managed to resist to social hierarchy and conventional rules - riding on motorcycles from place to place was their way to say no and to look for independence and thrill instead.
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gareth bowen, gower, swansea.
1 December 2011, 06:00PM
Dear Farah, your obviously not an investergative jurno. Rockers are bikers, greasers are bikers, ton up boys, what ordinary people called bikers, motorcyclists are bikers, I am a biker for 34 years, all these are different groups of people, either by fashion, music or nessecity but with one thing in common the love of bikes,which I may say you cannot cure..EVER!! As for the hells angels they were formed after the first world war, the name comes from the fighter squadron the bike club was formed by.
Hooter, Rocky Mts
24 January 2013, 06:27PM
Hell's Angels: light bomber squadron WWII, the term 1% coined by the AMA in reference to Hollister 1947
15 February 2013, 06:51PM
very interesting article! really like it!
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