Top 10 Hipster Motorcycles
Caution: Swarming Hipsters
From Silver Lake to Wicker Park, from Williamsburg to the Mission District, from Portlandia to Austin and on the industrial outskirts of every college town in between, these annoying hipsters are everywhere you turn. You stand by and sigh as they slouch and smirk in their skinny jeans and perfectly tousled hair, grilling the barista on whether or not their $4.50 coffee is Certified Fair Trade (meanwhile, they have no problem paying $5 for a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon).
You can’t escape their entitled whines: guys with scarves and designer sneakers grumble about the infrequency of their unemployment checks as they tap furiously on $2,000 MacBook Pros; girls with shaved temples and tattooed sleeves loudly mock their boss’ fashion sense in one breath and wail that no one takes them seriously in the next. Their haughty blogs clutter the internet, their bumptious mugs crop up on TV.
And now the gnats have infested our passion.
On pre-fab café racers they zip around, oblivious and/or indifferent. They race through parking lots, pass on the right, split lanes perilously and make rights on reds without envisioning a stop, all the while checking themselves out in rearview mirrors and storefront windows. Taunting their parents’ insurance deductibles is sport to these insufferable imps. It used to be that biker gangs gave motorcyclists a bad name. These days, it’s all we can do to keep from swatting at the maddening horde.
The hipsters’ rides of choice are an eclectic mix, as it’s almost impossible to be cool if you’re on the same bike as thousands of other riders. Our informal polling brought up dozens of bikes appreciated by hipsters, and we’ve distilled them down to an easy-to-digest 10 choices. Plus a bonus pick, as we can’t be hip if we just stick to the rules.
#10 – Grandpa’s Old Wing
Hipsters love anything vintage. If someone’s grandpa wore it, read it, used it or rode it, a hipster’s gotta have it. For that fact alone, Honda’s venerable Gold Wing, and even the original, pre-scootered GL500 Silver Wing, are faves in downtown Hipsterville. They’re fairly easy to work on, look great stripped as seen here on Pipeburn, and it’s no secret that a properly maintained Wing should hum forever. It takes a seasoned rider to handle a bike so hefty, though, and it’s about as hard to find a hipster who’s a seasoned rider as it is to find one who has a full-time job.
#9 – Old Mopeds
My suburban colleagues claim not to have seen many around, but moped counter-culture is alive and well in the concrete jungle, as evidenced on MopedArmy.com. A lot of guys are even souping them up, with café paint and hi-po upgrades. And that demands a certain amount of genuine DIY respect, as just getting an old Motobecane or Puch running takes some level of mechanical inclination. Not necessarily “know-how,” mind you – god knows there’s no problem a hipster’s hefty trust fund can’t solve – but just the desire to get one of these buzzers in running order deserves props. But just a little.
#8 – Ural
From an aggressive social media marketing campaign (What, you weren’t aware? Congratulations, you’re not a hipster) to last year’s appearance on the cover of a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog to last month’s announcement of a third consecutive year of sales growth, Ural is poised to make a soviet-sized splash in the hipster gene pool. Still, there are those who argue the Russian marque’s too authentically cool to be a true hipster tool, as we found out during our review. But the same could be said for a few of the bikes on this list. It just proves the adage, “Hip is in the eye of the behipster.”
#7 – Motorized Bicycles
What do you get the hipster who has everything except a motorcycle endorsement? That’s right — a motor for his bicycle! Available from numerous sources ( just Google it already), these tiny two-stroke kits turn any beach cruiser into a street-legal-ish rider that does about 35 mph and claims an average of 150 mpg – a good thing, because their peanut(-sized) tanks usually hold less than that. Hipsters get extra cool points by racing these fearsome monsters as seen here.
#6 – Royal Enfield
The “Hennai Harley” might be, like the Ural, too truly cool to be derided as a hipster bike, but it’s blowing up on the hipster blogosphere. And why not? As we found out in our review of the Bullet, its retro presentation and manageable price point put it right in the sweet spot of the tragically hip and perpetually unemployed. Real riders know its reputation is iffy, but the brand’s trustworthiness has improved over the last few years. And besides, what does a hipster care for dependability when daddy’s got a sky-high credit limit?
#5 – Triumph Bonneville
Most anything that associates one with the King of Cool, be it a Great Escape-era bomber jacket, Towering Inferno-era sideburns, or the Scene That Launched A Thousand Schwinns, is hipster gold, baby. The iconic Bonnie was never the smoothest or the most reliable, but few motorcycles have aged this gracefully, recently re-confirmed in our review of the latest Thruxton. Real enthusiasts know that much of that reverence is due to the brand’s new-millennium renaissance. After all, without Triumph’s rebirth, the Bonneville’s reputation would still be buried in the same time capsule as BSAs and Arthur Fonzarelli. Sure, it’s tremendously easy to poke fun at hipsters, but we can’t fault fair-weathered fans for loving an old-school Trumpet, be it a McQueen-era TT or any of the Bonnie’s current forms. To see the breadth of the hipster movement associated with Bonnevilles, we heartily encourage a Google image search for “Triumph hipsters.”
#4 – Honda Ruckus
With its fat tires and brawny frame it’s no wonder Honda’s beefy scooter is a favorite in hipster-friendly urban neighborhoods with their crazy cabbies, crappy pavement, incalculable potholes, and texting pedestrians. But surely the Ruckus (and its Big Ruckus brother) qualifies as multi-purpose beyond getting hipsters to the coffee house. Websites such asTotal Ruckus and blogs likeRuckus Riders demonstrate sincere devotion beyond hipsterians, and YouTube is brimming with videos of guys burning them out, boring them out and riding them off-road. So here’s hoping the distinctive Ruckus continues to prove its worth to real riders besides hipsters. If the hipsters love it too, well, at least they’re using their college degree somehow.
#3 – Vintage Vespas
The venerable Vespa is the most obvious entry on this list, as they’ve been cool from the day they were introduced. Unfortunately, and understandably, hipsters have embraced vintage Vespas as their mode d’emploi for years now – in fact, in a recent photo feature entitled the “ Evolution of the Hipster,” Paste Magazine asserts the Vespa was intrinsic in hipster development. Whether a vintage two-stroker or a modern fuel-injected four-stroke, Vespas offer charismatic charm that endears them to hipsters and regular scooter aficionados alike. (Bonus hipster scooter points for selecting a vintage Lambretta to be more different, thus more hip.). Be that as it may, here’s hoping that the Vespa survives long after the hipster’s demise.
#2 – Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two
It started with the bobbed Nightster we reviewed in 2007 and edged a little closer to center with the Forty-Eight. But the Motor Company nailed the Hipster’s bull’s-eye with the 2012 release of the Seventy-Two. Need evidence? Admire the hand-held cinematography, the plaintive music and the flannel-clad actors in H-D’s official marketing video, here.). The chopper-esque XL was such a demographic hit that in 2013 the entire H-D line is now available with the same Hard Candy metal-flake paint option. Nothing says “hipster” like having someone else do the work for you.
#1 – Any 1970s-era Honda CB
Leading the charge in the fashion-focused hipster moto-infestation are inexpensive little beater bikes that are easy to find, simple to work on, and a kick to ride. Yes, friends, “rat style” has given way to “brat style.” We chose the Honda for this list because it’s clearly the most popular, but any UJM from the 70s and early 80s surely qualifies. In fact, any CB will do. It doesn’t matter if it’s 350 or the 750, the ’71 or the ’82; as long as it’s been rebuilt (usually by someone else) and restored (even hipsters know how to buy a replacement part) to either cherry original or blacked-out in checkered Ace Café homage, brat bikes are all the rage among the occupationally-challenged. Initially, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; brat bikes turned authentic but small-time shops like Dime City Cycles into big-time parts houses and brought a measure of notoriety to hardcore café aficionados like Steve “Carpy” Carpenter. But the downside is that the prevalence of these affordable brats has given even the lowliest of hipster midges the economic freedom to bug us from all sides. And until someone invents a repellent (or a hipster swatter), there’s nothing to do but ignore them and hope they go away.
Bonus Selection – BMW R Series
It’s horrifying but true: Trust fund hipsters look down on other hipsters. They’re just better than those wannabes. Need proof? Much like GS devotees, hipsters who can afford 70s-era R series Boxer cafes have their own websites like Café Boxer, their own exclusive rallies, their own mechanics. “Don’t bring that UJM crap in here!” they shout. R65, R75, R90, R100 – doesn’t matter, you and your CB aren’t welcome in this club. Motorrad is so excited for this exclusivity it’s jumped on the neo-retro bandwagon, announcing plans to release a retro 90th Anniversary Edition throwback standard. Giggles and sneers welcome, and heartily encouraged.
More by Jon Langston