Bike capitals of Britain

Row of motorcycles on London street

2021 saw 3.6 million licensed motorcyclists ride across Britain. Our nation’s bikers travel a staggering 4.4 billion miles across the country on two wheels each year.

The unwavering enthusiasm for biking is clear, but where are the most popular places to ride or take a holiday? We wanted to find out. Using government data, we’ve assessed which areas of the country have the most bikes and which have a growing number of new riders taking to the roads.

Let’s take a look at the bike capitals across the country:

Motorcyclists across Britain: a run down

When it comes to age, older generations are dominating the roads. Of the 3.6 million riders across the country, almost half (48%) are over 60 and only 10% are under 39 – a mere 0.01% are under 20. However, Scotland and the South West lead the way for the nation’s younger rider demographic. In the two areas, which have some of the largest biking populations, a fifth (20%) of motorcyclists were under 20.

From the millions of riders, the largest demographic (19%) live in the South East, followed by Scotland (16%) and the South West (15%). While the official data would suggest these are the best spots for bikers, we’ve done our own analysis to find Britain’s best locations for riding on your two wheels.

Let’s take a look…

Motorcyclist ‘hotspots’ based on population

RegionsNumber of motorcyclistsNumber of motorcyclists per 100,000 people
North East311,40311,616
South West537,9389,506
South East689,4947,480
East England285,2084,549
North West296,1504,020
West Midlands224,6043,767
Yorkshire and Humber151,5602,742
East Midlands95,1841,956
Greater London161,1561,790

We’ve looked at the areas with the most riders, but it is also important to consider the general population in each area. While the South East has the largest population of motorcyclists, it is also the most populous region of Britain – it’s hardly surprising to find that more riders live there than anywhere else. When looking in relation to the population, we see the area drop down to fifth.

On the other hand, the North East ranked in fourth place for how many riders live there. The region is home to 311,403 motorcyclists, less than half the South East’s figure of 689,494. However, this area of Britain has the highest number of motorcyclists among its population, with 11,616 people per 100,000 riding motorcycles compared to 7,480 per 100,000 people in the South East.

Scotland is the region with the second-largest bike riders per 100,000 people, at 10,249. This places Scotland consistently in second place for both the number of motorcyclists and motorcyclists per 100,000. In third spot is Wales – which previously ranked fifth – with the 301,543 riders amounting to 9,514 per 100,000 people.

Unsurprisingly, Greater London has the lowest number of riders due to its booming population, wide range of public transport and ULEZ restrictions. There are only 1,790 motorcycle riders per 100,000 people – almost 10,000 less than in the North East.

City hotspots: Swansea accelerates to number one 

For the urban explorers among you, we’ve identified the country’s bike capital cities and towns, including the surrounding areas under the postcode. Get ready to be welcomed with open arms to these two-wheeling hotspots.

3.92% of the nation’s motorcyclists have settled in Swansea, making it Britain’s number one biker spot. Located on the South Wales coast, Swansea offers both shoreline and lush, green scenic routes – it’s hardly surprising the city hosts 141,781 riders.

Swansea isn’t the only Welsh city to make the top 10 list, with Llandudno ranking seventh. 77,803 motorcyclists are located in the North Welsh city, known best for its beaches and cliffs, meaning 6.07% ​of motorcyclists in the top 10 cities are from Wales.

Oxford is the second most populous motorcycle city, with 127,773 riders making up 2.54% of the nation’s biking population. With easy entry to the Cotswolds, this historic city offers easy access to beautiful countryside.

The third most popular city is Motherwell, with 119,780 motorcyclists. Situated on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, rides from Motherwell can easily take you into the metropolis or tour further afield. Read our guide on what to look out for when touring.

Novice nation: who’s new to the road? 

While it’s interesting to know the cities and regions with the most motorcyclists, we also wanted to find the up-and-coming areas with the largest growing rider demographics. If you’re a new biker yourself, it can be reassuring to find areas with others just finding their passion for two-wheels.

In 2021, there were 38,593 new motorcyclists in Britain, representing 1.06% of all the motorcyclists that year. Unsurprisingly, as it’s the region with the larger rider population, the South East also had the most novice motorcyclists. The 7,103 bikers accounted for 18% of all new riders in Britain – of this total, 731 were located in Reading and 681 were situated in Guildford.

The South West followed suit, with 5,023 riders, and the East of England was next in line, with 3,579 people.

Here are the areas with the most (and least) motorcycle rookies.

New motorcyclists based on population

RegionNumber of novice motorcyclistsNumber of novice motorcyclists per 100,000 people
North East2,56996
South West5,02389
South East7,10377
East Midlands3,35269
East of England3,57957
West Midlands3,27955
Yorkshire and Humber2,90253
North West3,41446
Greater London2,82431

Once again, it is the South East and North East that rank top of our leaderboards. While the South East had the most new motorcyclists in 2021, the North East had the most riders per 100,000 people at 96.

The South West was the second most popular area for new bikers, with 89 newbies per 100,000 people, and the South East ranking in third spot, with 77 motorcyclists per 100,000 people.

Once again, Greater London found itself in last place – contending with the huge and constantly growing population. Only 31 new riders per 100,000 people could be found in London in 2021.

Of the three countries in Britain, Scotland had the fewest new motorcyclists, with only 47 new bikers per 100,000 people. However, despite ranking lower when taking population into consideration, Scotland still had more new riders in total than Wales. Wales saw only 1,965 new bikers in 2021, compared to Scotland’s 2,582.

New motorcyclist hot spots 

CityNumber of new motorcyclists in 2020​Number of motorcyclists in 2021​
Nottingham​7 ​875 ​
Peterborough​16 ​838 ​
Sheffield​8 ​838 ​
Leicester​12 ​814 ​
Reading​12 ​731 ​
Birmingham​14 ​724 ​
Guildford​24 ​681 ​
Derby​11 ​656 ​
Bristol​7 ​646 ​
Cardiff​21 ​633 ​

When we look at cities home to the greatest number of new motorcyclists in 2021, Nottingham ranks in first place. 875 new bikers lived in Nottingham during the period – 2.27% of the total new rider population. Not only did the city have the highest number of new riders, it’s grown from one of the smallest numbers in the previous year, with only 7 new bikers in 2020. It’s hardly surprising so few people started riding in 2020, though, when considering the impact the pandemic had on people’s schedules – not to mention the lack of motorcycle tests!

Peterborough, another East Midlands city, made it to the second spot. In fact, the East Midlands accounted for 30% of the top 10 rankings, with Nottingham, Peterborough and Leicester all featuring in the top four. These cities represent 6% (2,527 in total) of the country’s new motorcyclists and 34% of the total motorcyclists living within our top 10 newcomer cities. 

Despite ranking in the top 10 not-spots for all bikers, Peterborough shares joint-second with Sheffield on our list of most popular cities for new motorcyclists. However, Sheffield saw a larger year-on-year increase with only 8 new motorcyclists in 2020 compared to Peterborough’s 16.

The best places to go

The distribution of bikers across Britain is a useful indication of where you might find like-minded people ready to take to the road on two wheels. If you’re after a long break, why not take a ride to the North East, where you can trail along the coast, spot sights like the Angel of the North and visit cities like Newcastle. Scotland offers the North Coast 500 (where we can recommend biker-friendly accommodation) while Wales is home to the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia mountain ranges – as featured in our favourite UK road trip destinations.

It might be worth doing your research before visiting Leeds, South East or East London. With so few riders in these locations, you might find your needs better catered for in biking hotspots like Swansea, Oxford, Motherwell and Newcastle.

As for the biking cities on the rise – that is, locations with the most rookie riders – we’ve found that the East Midlands biker community is really growing, with Nottingham, Peterborough and Leicester all making the grade. If you’re looking for a growing community to join, perhaps avoid Central London or the remote areas of Scotland. 

Insure your ride with Bikesure

Whether you’re new to the road or have been riding for decades, it’s important to get the right motorcycle insurance policy for your bike. Ride with confidence knowing your motorbike is covered with Bikesure.

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August 8, 2023