Retro Viral: Bikers Then, Bikers Now

Retro Viral: Bikers Then, Bikers Now

Posted by Team Motorcycle on Feb 2nd 2016

The 1960’s and 1970’s was fraught with mixed emotions. A horrific war raged in Vietnam while peace and love were preached by John Lennon in the states. Gay Liberation Day put gay rights in the lime light while Nixon visited China and Disney World was erected. In the meantime, motorcyclists gathered from two opposing sides of the tracks, which generally ended badly. If you weren’t racing on the track or off, chances are you were fighting with someone. If was a lifestyle that resulted in bikers been banned from certain cities and in some cases, motorcycle races being cancelled for fear the two-wheeled trouble makers might show up.

But in all that chaos, something amazing happened.

A motorcycling culture flourished aboard machines that were built all across the globe. Once in the safety of their respective garages, these vintage machines transformed into individualistic semblances of their owners. Now more than thirty years later, the rip-roarious culture of the Nixon years has spawned a new age of retro machines and wistful riders.

If you’ve ever been to events like the Born Free Motorcycle Show or Babes Ride Out, chances are you’ve noticed the prevalent theme of nostalgic ambiance at the camp site, bar or bike night. Whether it’s the vintage bikes and café racers, or the gold speckled helmets with bulbous astronaut visors, the motorcycles crowds of late are looking a bit different, yet familiar at the same time.

This is the age of the vintage revival. Three decades of volatile history have been combined to create the alternative motorcycle scene of today. Bell has reintroduced the Bullitt helmet with all the styling cues of the 70’s, but with the safety of the 2000’s to create an affluent meld of old and new. The helmet’s designer, Chad Hodge, said, “the Bullitt came about from going out and looking to buy a motorcycle helmet and not really seeing anything that fit my style.”

Joe Kagerer, the founder of, has been hanging with the vintage crowd for the better part of two decades and during that time, he’s come across quite a few faces on all kinds of revamped two-wheeled machines. “The hot rod custom culture has always been popular; everyone wants a unique vehicle,” he says. “I see all types at our meets, including the young person who needs transportation, but can only afford an old motorcycle, or the middle-aged guy who was a young person and could only afford his motorcycle, and still has it, or the hipster, who for some reason, thinks living in the current century is wrong.”

Joe attributes the new fascination with vintage to be more out of convenience than mere infatuation, as many people in their early 20’s simply can’t afford new bikes, and are more apt to purchase an old machine and restore it. On the flip side, the older generation is drawn to the vintage-style because they want to relive that time in their youth where they rode around on motorcycles with unencumbered abandon.

In fact, author Doug Barber, a.k.a. Q-Ball, created a book of photographs called “Living the Life” in which his photos, accompanied with poems by Sorez the Scribe, showcase just that with a migrant lifestyle of riding old bikes to new places. The adventures to be enjoyed when traveling cross country with only the unknown ahead, are bountiful and fulfilling, albeit a bit scandalous. But isn’t that what living is all about?

“In general, it is a different demographic interest than anything we've seen before in the custom genre,” says Eric Bess, owner of the vintage motorcycle shop, Flying Tiger Motorcycles. “Folks interested in vintage bikes are typically younger and more attracted to the older style of things. Bikes from the 70's and 80's are currently more prominent because that is what most of these people remember their dads having in the garage when they were kids.”

Whatever the reason for the newly popular nostalgic taste in motorcycles and gear, the motorcycle manufacturers are also recognizing the need to cater to the throwback crowd. With Ducati’s Scrambler, Triumph’s Bonneville or Honda’s CB1100, you can purchase a new bike with old school flavor. This means the infectious way of life first seen in the original On Any Sunday motorcycle documentary has come full circle. Only instead of Steve McQueen rolling up to bike night on a Triumph TR6 Trophy, it’s Brad Pitt aboard an Indian Scout.

No longer do we have to reminisce about the good ole days when motorcycles were simple and all it took was a little sweat and some spit shining to ride a new-to-you machine. If you wear cuffed jeans or leather pants and have a penchant for Sex Pistols songs, you can be sure you’re not alone as vintage is here to stay.