The history of dirt biking explained

Dirt biking started in 1920s England when people began riding perfectly good road motorcycles on dirt just for fun.

By the 1960s purpose-built dirt bikes were born, made by companies like BSA, Yamaha and Honda.

Since the end of World War II, motorcycle gangs have always been a thing.

They've always been about brotherhood, freedom, rebellion and excitement. 

Dirt bikes became a worldwide craze in the 1960s and '70s - as a sport and as a hobby.

They were soon adopted by young people in low-income communities in the US as a cheap and exciting upgrade from pushbikes. Riders hit car parks and streets in packs, doing tricks.

"Bike Life" was born and, in 1998, the hit music video 'Ruff Ryders' Anthem' by rapper DMX brought global eyes to it.

Today, clips of the subculture can be seen all over the world on TikTok and Instagram. 

And just like other US culture, young people in Aotearoa quickly caught on.

"Bike Life" made its way to New Zealand, kicking off in Ōtara at least 20 years ago and has been spreading across the country ever since.

But what are they doing wrong?  

Riders are driving dangerously, often into oncoming traffic and doing wheelies. They don't wear helmets. And they don't have a license, registration or warrant of fitness for their bikes.

In 2018 there were, on average, 18 police callouts to dirt bike incidents every week, one intelligence report said.

By 2021, this had reached 68 weekly callouts. That same year, it peaked at 80 incidents in just one week.

Police said recruitment into gangs like the Killer Beez is "part of" the "Bike Life" picture. 

Bikes are sometimes supplied by the Killer Beez gang to young riders who prove themselves, police said.

And all this exploded one afternoon in Auckland on King's Birthday weekend where one rider lost their life following a police sting operation.

Patrick Gower is the host of Paddy Gower Has Issues on Three and ThreeNow.