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How Others See Us

October 26, 2009

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Wells, England – News that the UK remains in economic recession while other EU countries are returning to growth has only deepened the gloom pervading parts of the UK motorcycle industry. The good news is that the downward trend in sales is slowing, but the question is how long before sales bottom out and we return to growth?

The UK Motorcycle Industry Associations (MCIA) Get-On Campaign is one small shaft of light penetrating the overcast of slow sales. Get-On, aimed at getting current non-users onto a motorcycle or scooter, is proving to be successful with over 1000 rides booked in the first 15 weeks of the campaign. Although it could do with more support from some of ‘the trades’ committed sceptics.

Whether by design of coincidence, hopefully the latter, a number of large circulation UK regional daily newspapers have been carrying anti motorcycle content. This takes the form of articles written by diarists or social commentators which include comments like:-

“In the early hours of a warm night, with the window open for a breath of air. I could hear a motorcycle approaching on the main road from a mile away. It sounded like a demented bluebottle heading my way at a fast and furious pace. The bike slowed as it crossed a roundabout then roared away, the rider taking each gear to full throttle as it hurtled out of what had been until then a sleepy village”.

“In a steady stream of traffic there was a roar as a motorcycle appeared in my mirror and overtook before darting in front to avoid an oncoming lorry. The bike leapfrogged to the front of the traffic stream, studiously avoiding any caution, consideration for other road users or the national speed limit”.

“As I waited at traffic lights a putt-putt of a motorcycle, which I had overtaken minutes earlier, chugged past to the front of the queue – so we all had to overtake it again”.

“Motorbike riders just seem oblivious to speed limits and oncoming traffic”.

“Too often motorcycles are ridden dangerously and noisily with little regard for other road users, all of whom are repeatedly urged to “Think Bike” “.

It may well be true that these purple prose are written by old geezers and geezettes who’s only experience of biking was meeting a rocker in a Belstaff, watching the great Barry Sheene in black and white on Sports Night or having a clandestine bedroom bopping session to the Shangri-Las, Leader of the Pack, or even Twinkle’s epic Terry played on a Dansette. OMG even sneaking into the local Odeon to watch Marianne Faithful as every school boys dream “girl on a motorcycle”. Stop it at the back you’re go blind. Yep all of that. But the problem arises that people, the general public, read this apparently innocuous anti bike stuff and believes it.

This isn’t one of those only to often seen bleating calls for sensible biking, lets face it that’s never going to happen. Despite the millions spent and efforts of numerous worthy’s the bottom line of getting on a motorcycle is that it’s a rush, an adrenaline fix, and guys and girls of all ages like it. As much fun as being in the army and no one shoots back sort of thing. No the problem bikings got is simple bad public relations. We need to capture public sentiment just like the cyclists have. You know about cycling, nice ‘safe’ transport, green, touchy- feely, you meet such nice people doing it, no one gets killed, Government approved etc etc. Complete downside denial.

So what about MCIA’s Get-On jobby branching out a bit and planting some nice biking stories in the local and regional press. Professional journo, bit of research, spread a few quid round, soon turn up some nice stuff besides the usual charity runs, and local man rides Honda 50 up Kilimanjaro. What about “biking hero delivers transplant kidney to save dying teenager’ or ‘motorcycle paramedic saves heart attack D-Day pensioner’ get the idea, nice steady human interest stuff that is bread and butter to the local news papers and websites. Why we could even have a website that promoted anything and everything that’s positive about motorcycles and scooters. Hey what about the return of Biker of the Year and the Biking Hall of Fame.

Yep we need up beat positive propaganda that banishes negative bikeophobia and emphasises the upside. Lets stop talking about and do it, happy shiny biking here we come.

Right I’m off for a blast. Marianne where did you hang my Belstaff.

© Back Roads Rider 2009

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    October 27, 2009 1:06 pm

    Don’t bother. Most people don’t want to accept that bikers are anything but the antisocial, dangerous leather clad heathens that we are painted to be. They do not want to accept that the bloke they’ve just seen wazz past on the bypass at 120mph on a bike that sounds like thunder might actually be Colin from accounting on the 3rd floor who wears beige monday to friday. They need to have a reason not to join our number other than admitting that once they try it they’re terrified they might like it… And really, do we want every to know that most of us are just nice guys and gals? Then where would we be?! If people realise that you can get 8000 bikers drunk in a field for a whole weekend and not need any police or have any trouble they might worry that we’re the only people who are actually civilised and then all the Daily Mail readers would explode and who would clean up the mess?

  2. Steve permalink
    November 4, 2009 3:05 am

    Most of those people belting past a 120 mph on a saterday afternoon are the collins of the world. But what about the Schooby and Impretza drivers of the world who I can haar comming from two miles away, and are drinking or natural fuel resers as if thre shandy, driven by wanaby rally drivers on daddys insurance.

    Most people hear a loud engine and assume its a nutter on a bike, when it may be a nutter in a car. with just a much recless abbandon and driving skill as a kiddy in a toy car, with less regard for the outside world (Il’e be alright in my safety cell mentalaty)

    I have been riding for over twenty years, only been knocked off by car drivers, never killed anyone, and also stop to help people if thay look in trouble (some time geting abuse thrown back at me for my trouble)

    I think I’m a nice guy going about my business. Hopefully one day others may see the bike and think the same (but I dont hold my breath)
    It is an old sterio type, and that’s the problem.

    Quadrophenia, and the wild one have a lot to answer for (But thay are only films)

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