When biker Robert Swidersky learned about BikerOrNot.com from his son a few years ago, he decided he’d give it a shot.
“The more I used it, the more I found things I liked,” Swidersky told TechNewsWorld. “I was informed about rides and events around me, and I could also inform others about rides and events, meet people, and create a fan page as to where I can share my hobbies or interests, or join other peoples’ fan pages. The best way to describe it is it’s like Facebook for bikers.”
Swidersky’s not alone. The site has 540,000 registered users and around 100,000 active users, according to James Plouf, whose company, Marco Polo Publications, started BikerOrNot.
“It was a natural for bikers to have a social network dedicated to them,” Plouf told TechNewsWorld. “The tools on the site are designed with them in mind — what they want and their lifestyle.”
Those tools include a traditional social networking newsfeed, as well as a number of biker-specific features such as tools for creating rides, a bike album called a “garage,” and the ability to search for someone to sit on the backseat.
“The world’s full of lonely people,” said Plouf. “Bikers never had an online platform that was dedicated to their lifestyle. This has fulfilled that need. They’re very passionate about that lifestyle, but it’s not so easy to find people when you live out in the middle of nowhere.”
Good, Clean Fun
Another social networking site, CycleFish, focuses on the entire motorcycle community, not just “bikers,” per se. It appeals to people who simply love motorcycles, founder Ron Schaefer emphasized.
“I started it because I was looking to meet other motorcycle enthusiasts,” Schaefer told TechNewsWorld. “Motorcycles have always been a major part of my life, and I really couldn’t find anything that was focused on bringing riders together in a friendly atmosphere.”
Unlike BikerOrNot, CycleFish doesn’t require registration to access much of its content, and Schaefer says about 80 percent of the users aren’t registered. The site has 20,000 registered users, but it claims 500,000 monthly visitors, 180,000 of which are unique visitors.
The site’s features include an event calendar, a motorcycle news section, technical forums, blogs and photo albums. It also has a vendor section, where businesses selling motorcycle-related gear can post items for sale.
“It’s kind of like a shopping mall,” said Schaefer. “Those products are put out there by retailers who pay a flat fee for their storefront.”
Sites like CycleFish have changed the dynamic within motorcycle communities, which used to have — by necessity — a more local focus, Schaefer observed.
“People used to communicate on a lot more local level,” he explained. “You’d have to meet other bikers at local hangouts. This gives you an opportunity to meet bikers in other parts of the country and around the world.”
While any social networking site can be used for dating, some focus specifically on that. Niche dating sites are the specialty of Passions Network, which runs, in addition to many other specialty sites, Biker Passions.
“I decided to build out a network of sites that could each work as a standalone niche site, but that would all be connected by an underlying engine, allowing members to pick and choose all the sites that matched who they were as a person,” Michael Carter, president of Passions Network, told TechNewsWorld. “The idea [was] that it would combine the benefits of the larger sites and the benefits of the niche sites.”
The sites each have their own unique features that appeal to their target audience.
“While all the sites in the network have all the features found on mainstream online dating and social networking sites, one of the strengths of the sites in Passions Network is that each site has unique features specific to the theme of the site,” said Carter.
On BikerPassions, for instance, users can join specific groups based on the brand and type of motorcycle they ride. And they don’t have to limit themselves to bikes, either; they can register other identities as well.
“In Passions Network, a member on Biker Passions might also add Christian Passions and Trucking Passions into their account,” said Carter. “Or a different member might add Tattoo Passions, Pierced Passions, Punk Passions and Nerd Passions into their account, along with Biker Passions. The beauty of it all is that it is up to each individual to decide which sites match who they are.”
Some sites, such as MotoZania, are blurring the line between social networking and entertainment. Founded by Tim Kuglin, the CEO and executive producer of TKTV, MotoZania has many of the features of other motorcycle social networking sites, but it also has a broader goal of creating motorcycle-related television content.
“It was created to be an online television network for motorcycle shows,” Kuglin told TechNewsWorld. “We activated the social side of the site to start generating an audience, so we have a large enough audience for the content.”
The site has eclectic users from across the spectrum of motorcycling, Kuglin emphasized.
“We go after everything from minibikes to custom choppers,” he noted. “We have 13-year-old girls just starting out racing dirtbikes to Hell’s Angels.”
So far, the site has primarily user photos and videos, but Kuglin wants to expand.
“In the future we’ll add professional content,” he said. “The users come to be entertained.”