The lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary must have been worried when they were confronted by a group of angry bikers.
According to the OED definition of the breed, they turn up in gangs with ‘long hair’ and ‘dirty denims’.
And Britain’s two most famous bikers, TV cooks David Myers and Simon King are so long-haired they frequently need ponytails.
However, the two-wheeled community has become fed up with the stereotype being perpetuated by the dictionary entry, which fell somewhere between the words ‘bijou’ and ‘bikini’.
They reasoned that the likes of Prince William, David Beckham and George Clooney also ride motorcycles and they could hardly be described as shaggy and unkempt.
In fact, a survey had shown that only nine percent of male bikers had long hair.
Faced with such evidence, the Oxford University Press, which publishes the OED, has decided to alter its definition.
The online version previously defined a biker as: ‘A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.”It now reads: ‘”A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car.”
Almost three-quarters of 524 bikers polled over the old definition found it inaccurate. One in five were ‘outraged and offended’ by it.
Furthermore, 65 percent said they spent most of their time riding alone - and were not in a gang.
The study, by insurance firm Bennetts, found today’s biker is most likely to be over 35, middle class, working in IT or telecoms and likely to ride a Honda. When the term ‘biker’ came into common usage 50 years ago, it often described gangs of leather-clad troublemakers.
And when the American Motorcylists Association insisted that only one percent of riders were outlaws, one gang promptly (and proudly) renamed themselves ‘The One Percenters’.
Hannah Squirrell, from Bennetts, said: “In the early 60s, biker was a relatively new term which provoked fear among many, partly due to their image portrayed in the media.
“Fortunately, since then, bikers have grown away from the cliched stereotype.”
“They now encompass all sectors of society.”
Oxford University Press spokeswoman Nicola Burton said: “This change has been made to reflect a shift in use of the word ‘biker’. Our research suggests biker is now more closely aligned with “motorcyclist” than words such as ‘Hell’s Angel’.”
Myers and King could not be contacted on Sunday but a spokesman said: ‘They will be amused by this.’ - Daily Mail