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Rider, driver, biker, bikie or motorcyclist?

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Rider, driver, biker, bikie, motorcyclist or even cyclist are used for the person who sits in the front seat of a motorcycle, holds the handlebars and operates the throttle, brake and clutch.

But what is the correct term?

Rider

I usually used the term “rider” which seems to be the most popular here in Australia and many other countries.

However, anyone in or on any vehicle or on an animal is riding. That doesn’t suggest they are in control.

In fact, the pillion could be a rider was well. (Or is that passenger?)

To indicate that the person is actually in control of the motorcycle, they surely have to be driving it.

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How about the term “Wild Hogs”?

Driver

So are they really a driver?

I see this a lot in mainstream media, particularly in the US.

Perhaps it is a misnomer, or maybe it is more correct than calling them the rider.

After all, the term “drive” can refer to urge or motivation, operating and controlling the direction and speed of a motor vehicle, travelling on wheels, and propelling or carrying by force in a specified direction.

Bikie and biker

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New York Redrum motorcycle club

Then there are the terms “biker” and “bikie”.

In the US, a member of an outlawed motorcycle club such as the notorious Hell’s Angels is referred to as a biker. In Australia, they are bikies.

But these terms are also misused by the general public to refer to anyone who rides/drives a motorcycle.

Some riders in Australia, particularly cruiser riders, can refer to themselves as bikers which would give the totally wrong impression to visiting Americans.

Meanwhile, Yanks think bikie sounds ridiculous and a little childish when referring to big, tough motorcycle club members.

Motorcyclist

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Then there is the term “motorcyclist” which just seems twee, nerdy, scientific or technical.

The “ist” ending can also make a word derogatory.

The official meaning of “ist” is a follower of a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement.

So we have an artist, communist, capitalist, socialist, etc.

Does a motorcyclist really fit in with that crowd?

Motorcyclist is also a term used in official documents, research papers, etc.

We often hear from police, the government and other safety Nazis about how motorcyclists are more likely to die in crashes.

I don’t particularly like the term as it is sounds too much like “cyclist” which is a term most people use for someone who rides a bicycle.

In the US, a cyclist can also be the person who rides/drives a motorcycle!

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Is this also a scooterist?

The term is also too close to scooterist which is a whole other debate as is the correct term for our vehicle: “motorcycle”, “bike” or “motorbike”?

How do you refer to motorcycle riders? Leave your comments below.

  1. I would refer to anyone who owns and rides a motorcycle as a ‘Motorcyclist’. I treat this term as if it is an objective title like other Authoritative Agencies do. I don’t find this term derogatory at all since the term defines a clear and concise image of who it is describing without a second definition.

    What about for people who ride Bicycles? Well, simply ‘Bicyclist’ for me.

    To the person who is in control of the motorcycle, I would call them as the ‘Rider’ of the motorcycle.

    The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘Driver’ as a person who drives *a vehicle*. So technically a person who is in control of the motorcycle can be correctly described as a driver. On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘Driver’ as a person who drives a car or truck.

    Another fun word is ‘Motorist’. The Oxford Languages, Collins Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘Motorist’ as a person who drives a car; while Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com defines ‘Motorist’ as a person who travels by automobile.

    To any persons who is accompanying the rider as a passenger on the same motorcycle, I would call them ‘Pillion’ or ‘Pillion Passenger’ or ‘Side Car Passenger’ (where a side car is present).

    I think the term ‘Biker’ was solidified in our minds as a rebellious individual who rides a *specifically* Harley Davidson motorcycle because of the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and ‘The Wild One’ movie. Harley Davidson was pushing strongly for this specific market years ago when Honda was entering the US market. I’m sure that when someone mentions the word ‘Biker’; almost certainly the next word that would come to your mind is ‘gang’ which I think assists in framing the word to its correct meaning. I mean, I could also be horribly wrong.

    ‘Bikies’ though, I think is an Australian slang of the word ‘Biker’. Shortening words and adding -ie or -y is a very *Aussie* thing to do. Aussies, Pokies, Sparky, Junkies, Footy, Dunny, Barbie, Chrissy and Mozzie are just to name a few.

    Funny thing of Scooters, the word that comes to mind for me is ‘Scootist’. There’s no definition for ‘Scootist’ on the internet it seems.

  2. I agree with your thoughts Mark. After my mother got dementia and forgot that I was her son. I would turn up on my motorbike and she’d scurry inside to tell my father that: “the motorbike man is here again”. So, I am ‘the motorbike man’ – none of your fuller descriptions. Patched members -bikers/bikies are specific categories of what I see as one greater category – motorbike riders. Don’t you agree, ‘MotorbikeWriter’?

  3. I prefer ‘motorcyclist’ but sometimes use ‘biker’ as well. ‘Motorcyclist’ clearly defines us as riders of motorcycles and doesn’t apply to any other type of vehicle. I tend to agree with the Yanks about ‘bikie’ that sounds a bit diminutive for a big tough hairy outlaw biker (but I’d never say it to their face!); but the Australian press and public seem to like it.

  4. Well, I actually like to be called a motorcyclist…someone that rides a motorcycle…
    I’ve never liked the term “biker”… and I’m certainly not a “bikie”!

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