Hipsters hijack the Harley-D ... They took tattoos, coffee and beards. Now they’re after cool motorbikes
FIRST there were the tattoos, vintage workwear, the full beard and the flat white. But now hipsters have found a new love affair and this time it’s about speed as well as style.
While motorbikes have increasingly become the preserve of middle-aged, middle-class men trying to rediscover their youth around the next bend in the road, industry experts claim a new generation of hipsters are revolutionising the scene, favouring pared-back classic and retro bikes inspired by 1950s and 1960s icons like James Dean and Steve McQueen. Sales of motorbikes have increased across the UK, with a particular rise in vintage designs and custom-built bikes, which aim to allow bikers to show off their individuality.
Hipster favourites include “bobbers” – where excess bodywork is stripped back, the front fender removed and the rear fender “bobbed” to reduce the weight – and cafe racers, another strippedback bike with low mounted handlebars and rebellious origins in rock’n’roll. Modern versions are now made by iconic brands including Harley-Davidson, Triumph and Yamaha. Lightweight scramblers based on the original Ducati design are also in demand.
This weekend the Scottish Motorcycle Show at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre is devoting a whole hall to a collection of over 700 classic bikes which, according to event director Tom Siddall, is now one of the largest show collections in northern Europe.
“The interest in classic and vintage bikes has grown massively,” said Siddall. “There is also a real trend for modern manufacturers to create new bikes in a retro fashion. The look is a strong nod to the style icons of the 1950s and 1960s. That style is carried through to the clothing and even the motorcycle safety gear.”
Glasgow’s House of Custom, which specialises in creating cus- tom-built Harley-Davidson bikes using spare parts to fashion unique creations, is also at the show this weekend
Stuart Baillie, co-owner of the 13-year-old business, agrees motorbikes are now attracting the hipster generation. “It’s similar to the way that tattoos took off, you know, that hipster thing,” he said. Popular bikes include a sporty Hot Rod series, as well as bobbers and cafe racers.
“It’s all gone very old-school,” he added. “The people into bikes are very diverse – we’re seeing people born in the 1970s. A lot of younger folk are getting into the bobber scene – there’s a cool vibe to it; you take one bike and create seven or eight different styles. Everybody can be unique.”
The trend for “new wave” custom bikes, built with a hipster aesthetic in mind, has been growing steadily in London in recent years. Organisations like the Bike Shed in Shoreditch – still the city’s hipster hub – “curates” three annual shows of customised bikes, and offers a cafe, barber and exhibition space at its 12,0002ft headquarters. Websites such as Bike EXIF also offer online “how to” guides on building cafe racers, scramblers and bobbers.
Gary Inman, editor of Sideburn magazine, which he set up in 2008 with the aim of telling the stories of “the heroes and the zeros of the motorbike world” rather than glitzy bike launches, said “a new urban crowd” was getting into biking.
“It’s changed the kind of bikes that are being bought,” he said. “The sportbike market has been replaced by a burgeoning retro and naked bike boom, for bikes like the Triumph Bonneville and Ducati Scrambler, plus a desire to modify old bikes and classics.”
Blair Willoughby, sales manager at Ducati Glasgow, said: “People are just screaming out for bikes with that retro feel. It appeals to the hipster generation. Motorcycling went through a recent period where it was uncool, but that’s changing quite dramatically.”
The interest in classic and vintage bikes has grown massively. There’s also a real trend for modern manufacturers to create new bikes in a retro fashion. The look is a strong nod to the style icons of the 1950s and 1960s, and that carries through to the clothing too
Eternal style icons like Steve McQueen are proving seductive to the new hipster bike-loving generation