Discuss: celebs on bikes - how dare they?

Few things generate as much puce-faced outrage among the biking public as a celebrity biker

THE moment a man or woman is made famous by a career outside biking – say, an actor, musician, comedian, sportsperson or TV presenter – and has the breath-taking audacity to reveal yes, they ride a motorcycle and look, here’s a picture of me looking awkward doing it, a section of the motorcycling community always reacts badly. To say the least.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Pre-internet, celebrity puff-profiles of pop stars such as Biff Byford of Saxon and his Harley, Stuart Adamson from Big Country with his VFR400 or Spandau Ballet's Simon Le Bon and Ducati 851, were usually greeted in bike magazines with either blank indifference or the occasional green ink letter complaining about ‘that fat idiot, what does he know?’.

But today, forums and social media provide a platform from which irrationally irate bikers will spray a coruscating pressure-wash of super-heated bile at every pulsating celebrity cock with the temerity to call themselves a motorcyclist. Yeah, the f**king w**kers. What do they know?

Some years ago I interviewed mad-keen motorcycling pet rodent Richard Hammond, him off that Top Gear – as it happens, it was the morning of his high speed crash at Elvington (before, not after). During the interview, which was primarily about why Jeremy Clarkson hates bikes for money, I asked Hammond the usual question: why no bikes on TG? I thought I knew the answer: cars are a lingua franca linking petrolheads, housewives, office workers, dentists, plumbers, teenagers, members of the clergy and celebrities. And motorbikes, obviously, have a limited, specialist appeal.

And that’s pretty much what he said. But then, between mouthfuls of bacon bap, he gave a personal view: “If we did anything about bikes I would spend my life being told by bikers, ‘You’re not a fookin’ biker, you don’t know what you’re fookin’ doing,’. Oh God, I’ve ridden them for 22 years. But you’d spend your life justifying yourself and that would not be fun. Let’s just keep it special.”

Then he got in a car, went very fast and nearly died. Which, among other things, would’ve made repeating this anecdote poor taste. Thank Yorkshire Air Ambulance for small, perfectly groomed, mercies.

You’d think, at a time when motorcycling is under pressure from road safety campaigners, sprouts in Brussels, a quadruple-dip recession, an ageing bike population and the tendency for young people to sit on their feckless arses in front of games consoles instead of engaging with the real world, the wider motorcycling community would welcome the celebrity endorsement of motorcycling with open arms. You’d think we’d encourage high-profile role models as portraying the glamorous side of biking. You’d think we’d want to identify with popular public figures; with Ewan MacGregor, Hugh Laurie, Daniel Day-Lewis, Keith Flint, Danny John-Jules, the future king of England (maybe not Scotland; whatever). You’d think when we saw slow-mo footage of David Beckham and his attractive mates paddling a shit-box lagged-up Triumph round a muddy field while a moist-eyed Posh-a-like looks on admiringly, we’d say yes, that’s portraying a positive image of biking and therefore it’s a good thing.

But that’s not what happens. Instead the helpless millionaires are mocked, ridiculed, vilified and humiliated by the very community they’re part of. Not like I just did, but much, much worse and without the jokes.

And I’ve never understood why. Yes, it’s funny to see them trying to throw poses for the camera and yes, sometimes they ride really, really expensive shit bikes. And I’m all for a bit of good-natured piss-taking. But trust me – if you ever saw the full set of photos from a bike magazine photo shoot, you’d realise how dismally pathetic most road testers look 90% of the time as they trundle pointlessly round corner after corner, craning their necks to get their heads under the screen to make 30mph look like 100mph. Looking a dick on camera certainly isn’t the preserve of the rich and famous. And neither is riding a really expensive, shit bike come to that.

Of course the one thing worse than celeb biker is a celeb non-biker involved in bikes. That really is asking for both barrels of the bile gun. Take the recent appointment of celebrity twig and TV presenter Melanie Sykes, to host BTSport’s MotoGP coverage. She freely admits to no discernable connection to motorcycling beyond the same five letters of her surname in the same order as the current World Superbike Champion. Roundly abused by sections of the motorcycling community (“What the f**k does Melanie Sykes know about bikes???? Who makes these f***king decisions?”, and, “Who wants a bird who has no interest pretending she does for the cameras? Yeah she’s great looking, but I don’t watch bike racing to look at women!”) she took to Twitter to express her feelings (word of advice, wouldn’t always do that if I were you): “Been in the fashion industry for 8yrs TV Ent for 16yrs & have never know so much such #handbagsatdawn since being in the bike biz LMAO X”.

Welcome to biking, Ms Sykes. If you think that’s bad, wait till the first race.

And as a colleague said recently, what on earth does BTSport, a professional broadcaster, think it’s doing by hiring a professional presenter to head-up its professional TV programme? Especially when motorcycling is so well-appointed with eloquent, watchable TV personalities.

Oh, hang on. Where have they gone? There were some here a minute ago...