Original article The Guardian, 2nd May 2017

   Photographer Spencer Murphy headed to the abandoned airstrips and industrial estates where Britain’s dirt bikers meet up to burn rubber   


Photographer Spencer Murphy headed to the abandoned airstrips and industrial estates where Britain’s dirt bikers meet up to burn rubber



Mr Figo wheelie-ing his quad in Croydon, eating a 99 ice-cream

Photographer Spencer Murphy has documented a proud and noisy subculture: BikeLife, where riders congregate to pull tricks and indulge their need for speed. He introduces each of the images: ‘What drew me to this unique subculture was the dynamism and the style. It seemed to reflect the rebellious draw that skateboarding had for me as a teenager. The people and the sense of community held my interest and kept me going back.’ Urban Dirt Bikers by Spencer Murphy is published by Hoxton Mini Press. All photographs: Spencer Murphy


Mickey Raptor of the Super Dupa Moto’s


‘BikeLife is most commonly associated with motocross bikes or dirt bikes, but on an average Sunday you will see almost every kind of motorbike – from scooters through to quad bikes and everything in between performing stunts’


In Da Air Berry


‘Anonymity is important to a lot of the participants of BikeLife, not because they are engaged in the types of criminality that people often associate them with (which in my experience is a misconception) but because the act of performing stunts on public roads is considered dangerous driving and can lead to their bikes being seized and destroyed, loss of a driving licence and in some extreme cases, imprisonment’




Izzy of the Super Dupa Moto’s

‘Riders tend to mainly meet up on a Sunday and repurpose disused airstrips and out of the way industrial estates, hidden away from unwanted attention from the public and police’


Born to Ride tattoos

‘Riders told me it was like a drug, that despite the potential risk to life and liberty, the pull was too great. As one of their Instagram account descriptions read: “It’s not a hobby it’s a lifestyle"'


LB Looney wheelies along an industrial estate road, NE London

‘There’s seemingly a right of passage within the community that starts with kids on pushbikes spectating and emulating their elders by doing pedal wheelies, then once they come of age they will put an L plate on a scooter, and then finally graduate to the more powerful motorbikes’



‘There is generally a masculine atmosphere at the meet-ups. Other than the rider’s girlfriends spectating or riding pillion, Naomi was one of very few women that I met during my time within the community that participated’


Naomi, Zeus and Izzy of the Super Dupa Moto’s

‘As someone who grew up in the countryside and has never ridden a motorbike on the roads, it’s hard to be a voice for the inner-city men and women who ride bikes in these pictures, but I wanted to celebrate them as daredevils rather than demonise them as lawless gangs


Man Like YG

‘Despite the appearance of its masked participants, rather than being a breeding ground for gang activity, which might be the perception of an outsider, BikeLife offers an escape from the drudgery of inner-city living and an alternative to those less healthy outlets. I met people from the age of eight to 34, many of them family men with nine to five jobs. What seemed universal was that this was a release from modern day life, something that kept the youth out of trouble and helped the elders forget theirs’


Burnout Marks, Croydon, SE London

‘I loved the idea that the riders were leaving a mark behind but it didn’t always just represent the fun they had had on a weekend. Quite often these were a form of memorial to fallen riders. The majority of these particular marks were left to remember Carlton, a rider who sadly lost his life at the strip in Croydon one Sunday in 2016’