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Two-Wheels Gone Tribal

Study puts motorcycle riders in a tribe of their own

Australian motorbike riders fall into one of six tribes, ranging from adrenalin-seeking 'performers', to economically-focussed scooter riding 'commuters', to safe and conservative 'drifters', according to a ground-breaking study conducted by InsureMyRide.

The research comes as Australians are using motorcycles in record numbers. In the five years to March, 2008, motorcycle registrations experienced the largest rate of growth of all vehicle types in Australia (from 377,271 in 2003 to 567,569 in 2008)*. And last year saw new records set for motorcycle sales with 134,112 bikes sold, an increase of 3.2 per cent on the previous year*.

"We've long suspected that different types of riders share a range of attitudes and behaviours, but for the first time research has shown that most riders fall into one of six unique classifications or, as we are calling them, tribes," said InsureMyRide Executive Manager Graeme Browne.

"The tribes the research has uncovered helps us to understand why motorcycle riders behave the way they do, from their choice and frequency of riding a bike, their propensity to take risks while driving, and their motivations for choosing two-wheels over four.

"Through this research we're hoping to draw riders' attention to all aspects of their riding behaviours and characteristics with the intention of making conditions safer and even more enjoyable for all road users."

Most riders are 'Specialists'

Of the six classifications identified by InsureMyRide's research, the Specialists tribe is the one most riders are likely to fall into; three-quarters of riders 34 and older (74 per cent) exhibit seasoned riding behaviours and characteristics that make them a Specialist rider.

"Specialist riders tend to be more experienced than other riders, which isn't to say they are older - they simply have spent more time on the bike," Mr Browne said.

"As a consequence they are less nervous and stressed while riding, and are less competitive in comparison to other tribes that have a compulsion for being first and winning."

Two-thirds of Specialists (64 per cent) have 10 or more years riding experience and almost half (48 per cent) have more than 20 years experience. Such experience is a likely factor in three in five Specialist riders (58 per cent) wearing protective safety gear even on short trips.

Performance riders exude confidence

In contrast to the conservative profile of the typical Specialist, riders in the Performer tribe are typically less experienced because of their age, but have a confidence about them that sees them taking more risks.

"The confidence that four in five Performer tribe members have in their riding ability (78 per cent) might explain why most ride for the adrenaline rush they get from riding (64 per cent).

"It's little wonder around two-thirds of Performers (64 per cent) think it's OK to speed if you are a good rider, and more than half (56 per cent) say they love to race their bikes. Notwithstanding their confidence in their riding ability, Performers could learn much from other tribes, particularly when it comes to following road rules and regulations," Mr Browne said.

Sport tribe comprised of riding purists

Like Performer tribe members, most Sport riders (58 per cent) can't live without the adrenaline rush that comes with riding. However, Sport riders prefer the controlled environment of a riding circuit to the open roads that Performers have a passion for.

"Sport riders are bike riding purists," Mr Browne said. "While they appreciate the sporting aspect of riding, they very much value safety, which may explain why four in five (78 per cent) always wear their full protective gear whenever they get on the bike."

Riding a Lifestyle choice for some

For one in six motorcycle riders (16 per cent), riding a bike is a Lifestyle choice.

"Our research shows that for many riders, motorcycles are an entrenched part of their lifestyle, so the Lifestyle tribe is home for those classic enthusiasts who choose to ride a bike over driving," Mr Browne said.

While passionate, Lifestyle tribe members are conservative in how they ride; 85 per cent never split lanes and 95 per cent never lose concentration riding, which is testament to their adherence to road rules and the premium they attach to safety.

"Interestingly, one-quarter of all female riders are part of the Lifestyle tribe which says a lot about the passion of riding bikes among women," Mr Browne said.

Two wheels better for the Commuter

With fuel costs and increasingly congested roads on the rise in most major cities, more and more riders are falling into the Commuter tribe, characterised by riders who value practicality, saving money and safe riding.

"The high cost of petrol and driver frustrations with busy roads has sparked a new tribe of riders called Commuters," Mr Browne said. "These are people who are fed up with wasting time and money sitting in traffic; three in five (58 per cent) ride for commuting only, three-quarters (75 per cent) ride because it's economical and one-third of them (34 per cent) ride scooters."

Commuters have a high regard for the law and road safety with three-quarters rarely or never speeding to beat a red light (74 per cent) and 83 per cent always wearing full protective gear.

Drifting on and off the bike

Rounding out the six tribes are the Drifters, those one in five riders that don't own a bike, and if they do use it for less than an hour a week.

"Drifters are a very noncommittal riding tribe, as evidenced by just 18 per cent riding daily and 22 per cent not even owning a bike at all," Mr Browne said. "Almost half (46 per cent) have more than 20 years riding experience, but a neither-here-nor-there attitude about riding suggests they either never had or have lost their passion for riding."

Profiles of the typical tribes:*


Forty-year-old Shane rides a Honda ST1100. A self-employed barrister, Shane has been riding for nearly 20 years, and sees it as an escape as well as a mode of transport. While mostly a recreational or weekend rider, he does use his bike for general transport as well. Shane is the classic Specialist rider: "Riding is a communion between me, machine and the elements. I can get up early and beat the traffic, or go later and wait for the traffic to pass. Shane isn't daunted by traffic because his riding passion isn't about speed he is never in a hurry. "I see my bike and every ride as an opportunity to gain another memory," Shane said.


Gary loves the thrill and adrenalin rush of riding - it's simply why he does it. An engineer by trade, Gary grew up on a farm and said riding was just a part of life: the older he got the more he rode, the bigger the thrills, and all of a sudden riding was a part of him. He's been riding on roads for about 27 years and has lost count of how many bikes he has owned. A member of the Ducati Owners Club, Gary tries to ride his Ducati 1098S at least once a week, and prefers quiet country roads for the freedom and space. According to Gary: "Riding in heavy traffic and city areas is frustrating. It has become more about survival and not about the bike. Riding, for me, is a sanity check."


Ducati 848 owner Melissa has a passion for riding and for her bike, but is at a loss to explain where it comes from. "I just saw the bike and knew I had to have it," she says. A native of Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, Melissa grew up on dirt bikes, but it wasn't until four years ago that she started road riding with some encouragement from friends. While Melissa rides in the city when necessary, she finds it dangerous, and prefers tracks and open spaces where she can really get some speed up - particularly special track open days at circuits like Philip Island. Her passion extends to her job at Ducati City as an adviser: "For me, it really is about the bike!"


Commuter Jeremy rides a Bolwell Fireze scooter to and from professional appointments every day. He finds riding a scooter to be a great benefit to his time management and efficiency. "I attend meetings in various locations every day, many of them in the CBD. On the scooter I can park on the front doorstep and save countless hours overall," he says. For Jeremy, riding is all about functionality. He feels comfortable riding in the city. "I'm used to it. Riders have a better awareness of road rules and traffic than they are given credit for."


John, a firefighter, fits into the drifter tribe, having been riding a Suzuki C50 for about three years. John likes to ride socially, such as riding to the football in winter to watch his beloved Melbourne play. He also enjoys the camaraderie with work mates who also ride. While riding is not John's main mode of transport, he likes to try and ride whenever he has the time, generally around 2-3 times a week, when the weather is good and he can enjoy the freedom riding gives him. Like other drifters, John is wary of busy roads, preferring less-congested roads as he thinks the city is a dangerous place to ride.

* Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008 Motor Vehicle Census
* Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries half-yearly motorcycle sales
* Based on conversations with actual InsureMyRide customers

About the research

InsureMyRide commissioned Ipsos Eureka for its inaugural study about motorcycle tribes. Ipsos Eureka surveyed 600 motorcycle riders around Australia by telephone with the study completed by July, 2009.

For further information contact Kirsten McLennan, InsureMyRide, on 03 8520 1895 / 0466130046 or Brian O'Neil, PRX, on 03 9607 4500.

InsureMyRide, specialist in Bike and Motorcycle Insurance, for road bikes, sports bikes, scooters, nakeds and classic bikes. Motorcycle Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 trading as InsureMyRide. Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO Insurance. Registered Office, Level 28, 266 George Street, Brisbane QLD 4000. InsureMyRide is a brand of AAI Limited. Please read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance and consider whether it is right for you.