Last month, Editor-in-Chief Kevin Duke opined on his fear for the future of motorcycling because kids weren’t growing up on two wheels the way previous generations have. The crux of his argument was “the kids of today find adventures in a virtual world rather than immersing themselves in the real one.” This past Friday night, as I waited between performances at my daughter’s ballet school fundraising gala, I was struck with an idea (and surprisingly, all that thinking didn’t set off any smoke alarms). Kids need motorcycles as much – if not more – than the motorcycle industry needs kids. I’ve told friends for years that my misspent youth might have been invested more wisely had I been bitten by the motorcycle bug before I was 26. However, now the draw for teenagers is much more complex than the sex and drugs and rock and roll of the past.

Snow White on a motorcycle

Support any interest your children have in motorcycles, no matter how small.

While the risk of teens baking their brain cells and damaging their hearing while simultaneously copulating is probably the same as it ever was, we’re currently seeing a generation of still-eyed, quick-fingered, sedentary kids who are setting themselves up for a lifetime of battling obesity and the associated health consequences. In short, kids – and especially teenagers – need a thing that gives focus to their lives, preferably an activity that hooks them into their physicality during the time of their lives when their bodies and brains are undergoing their biggest changes since infancy. If we want them to live vibrant lives (meaning dynamic, healthy, and happy), we need for them to be actively participating in their existence – not watching it go by on a screen.

My belief is that motorcycling is just as valid a choice as any of the traditional activities parents and educators use to attract kids to a positive lifestyle. We’re accustomed to the use of team sports, like football, soccer, baseball, track, basketball, hockey and gymnastics, to turn young lives around. We’ve even got labels, such as soccer moms, for the parents that make it possible for those kids to take part in the activities. (I happily count myself among dance dads and AYSO coaches.)

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Motorcycling develops the same hand-eye coordination as any other sport. It also teaches decision making and that actions have consequences – sometimes painful ones. Riders learn balance and, depending on the kind of riding, get a pretty serious workout – just ask anyone who’s spent the day riding on a motocross track or at a track day on a road course. Most importantly, kids, as new riders, get to see immediately and first-hand how they can grow their skills through hard work and focus. Success is an intoxicating drug, as evidenced by the treasured plastic trophies won by club racers everywhere.

ballerina on pointe

The joy of experiencing success at a difficult task teaches perseverance in an age of instant gratification.

Parents of these kids also gain a powerful carrot and stick to guide their kids towards desired behavior. Reward for hard effort towards a school assignment is all that much more sweet when it involves riding or wrenching on motorcycles. The potential loss of a day’s – or a weekend’s – riding can be a powerful motivator for a stubborn kid. Organizations similar to Helping with Horsepower are teaming with shops, like Lloyds Motor Works, and helping at risk teens with good results.

What if we didn’t wait until kids were going down the wrong path? What if we started kids out, experiencing life in the real world rather than watching it on a screen? The dirt-biking community is pretty strong in this regard. In fact, a large portion of the motorcycle documentary Why We Ride was devoted to the extended family of riding. As moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, and just family friends, we as motorcyclists owe it to kids – and to the sport – to help them discover the joys of motorcycling.

If, after all our efforts, our offspring don’t choose motorcycling but some other activity, support them with the same fervor you would if they were on two wheels. My oldest enjoys riding on the back of my bike, but I don’t know if the passion is deep enough to transfer over to riding motorcycles on her own. And that’s okay. I’ve exposed her to motorcycles, and she understands my love of them. We have a place of understanding and shared experience.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

In recent weeks I’ve had the opportunity to witness the benefits of her passion. After months of hard work, she’s just tested into the American Ballet Theater student level which allows her to begin dancing on pointe. The joy evidenced in my house as she and her closest friends talk nonstop and send each other links to YouTube videos about exercises and the best way to sew on the ribbons to their shoes has been a sight to behold, reminding me of when I discovered motorcycling and a circle of like-minded friends.

A child who has found her passion is almost unstoppable. In a world full of distractions and temptations, a parent couldn’t ask for more.

  • Campisi

    A skewed public understanding of the dangers of motorcycling isn’t helping on this front. Motorcycles are death traps! Precious Kaydyn and Khrystina should play it safe, like “normal” children: getting concussions playing football and slipping a disk at cheerleading practice.

  • Guest

    This is a pretty weak rebuttal to Duke’s concerns. Your premise that kids need motorcycling more than motorcycling needs kids is patently false. First, it provides no proof for “why kids need motorcycling more than motorcycling needs kids”. As the author correctly states, there are other “real” avenues that enrich kids and people that are similar to motorcycling. But it’s not just sports. There’s the outdoors, traveling/exploring, music playing, acting, film making, dancing, singing, painting, photography, sculpting, reading/writing, cooking, gardening, etc. Duke’s premise was how do you get more young people into the world of motorcycling if they’re not even bicycling (an activity as much fun but a lot safer than motorcycling). If I was struck with some ailment that only allowed me to do 1 activity, it would not be motorcycling (it would be cooking). Thankfully, I can choose to do more than 1 activity that I truly love (and some at the same time).

    The better answer to Duke’s concerns is providing real solutions to get more young (and “old”) people into motorcycling. Here are some ideas.

    (1) Have after-school programs focused on bicycling and motorcycling (dirt bike riding in particular). Or treat bicycling/dirt bike riding as a sport.

    (2) Have ambassadors/evangelists that will go to schools, youth programs, etc to promote two wheel

    (3) Make scooter rentals as affordable as bicycle rentals.

    (4) As part of all driver ed courses, have students learn to ride and experience a scooter. This will have the additional benefit that they will better understand what it means to a motorcyclist on the road and therefore be more aware and respectful of them than any moto safety ad could ever hope to accomplish.

    (5) Push makers to produce motorcycles focused on the safety and ease of maintenance of the bike rather then their “awesomeness”. For example, it needs to be light, it should never stall and require little maintenance but it should look like a “real” motorcycle and not a scooter.

    (6) Have a motorcycle simulator that feels as close as possible to what it would feel like being on a real motorcycle on the road.

    (7) Motorcyclists need to stop bashing scooters and mopeds and any two wheel vehicles. This has been one of the most disappointing experiences in my 2+ years as a “newbie”. I love scooters (my first ever motorized two wheel experience) and I LOVE mountain biking. It puzzles me why any rider thinks it’s cool or okay to bash these forms of two wheel fun.

  • Guest

    This is a pretty weak rebuttal to Duke’s concerns. Your premise that kids need motorcycling more than motorcycling needs kids is patently false nor does the author provide any proof that it is true. As the author correctly states, there are other “real” avenues that enrich kids and people that are similar to motorcycling. But it’s not just sports. There’s the outdoors, traveling/exploring, music playing, acting, film making, dancing, singing, painting, photography, sculpting, reading/writing, cooking, gardening, etc. Duke’s premise was how do you get more young people into the world of motorcycling if they’re not even bicycling (an activity as much fun but a lot safer than motorcycling). If I was struck with some ailment that only allowed me to do 1 activity, it would not be motorcycling (it would be cooking). Thankfully, I can choose to do more than 1 activity that I truly love (and some at the same time).

    The better answer to Duke’s concerns is providing real solutions to get more young (and “old”) people into motorcycling. Here are some ideas.

    (1) Have after-school programs focused on bicycling and motorcycling (dirt bike riding in particular). Or treat bicycling/dirt bike riding as a sport.

    (2) Have ambassadors/evangelists that will go to schools, youth programs, etc to promote the two wheel lifestyle.

    (3) Make scooter rentals as affordable as bicycle rentals.

    (4) As part of all driver ed courses, have students learn to ride and experience a scooter. This will have the additional benefit that they will better understand what it means to a motorcyclist on the road and therefore be more aware and respectful of them than any moto safety advertisement could ever hope to accomplish.

    (5) Push makers to produce motorcycles focused on the safety and ease of maintenance of the bike rather then their “awesomeness”. For example, it needs to be light, it should never stall and require little maintenance but it should look like a “real” motorcycle and not a scooter.

    (6) Have a motorcycle simulator that feels as close as possible to what it would feel like being on a real motorcycle on the road.

    (7) Motorcyclists need to stop bashing scooters and mopeds and any two wheel vehicles. This has been one of the most disappointing experiences in my 2+ years as a “newbie”. I love scooters (my first ever motorized two wheel experience) and I LOVE mountain biking. It puzzles me why any rider thinks it’s cool or okay to bash these forms of two wheel fun.

  • Carlos Fernandez

    This is a pretty weak rebuttal to Duke’s concerns. Your premise that kids need motorcycling more than motorcycling needs kids is patently false nor does the author provide any proof that it is true. As the author correctly states, there are other “real” avenues that enrich kids and people that are similar to motorcycling. But it’s not just sports. There’s the outdoors, traveling/exploring, music playing, acting, film making, dancing, singing, painting, photography, sculpting, reading/writing, cooking, gardening, etc. Duke’s premise was how do you get more young people into the world of motorcycling if they’re not even bicycling (an activity as much fun but a lot safer than motorcycling). If I was struck with some ailment that only allowed me to do 1 activity, it would not be motorcycling (it would be cooking). Thankfully, I can choose to do more than 1 activity that I truly love (and some at the same time).

    The better answer to Duke’s concerns is providing real solutions to get more young (and “old”) people into motorcycling. Here are some ideas.

    (1) Have after-school programs focused on bicycling and motorcycling (dirt bike riding in particular). Or treat bicycling/dirt bike riding as a sport.

    (2) Have ambassadors/evangelists that will go to schools, youth programs, etc to promote the two wheel lifestyle.

    (3) Make scooter rentals as affordable as bicycle rentals.

    (4) As part of all driver ed courses, have students learn to ride and experience a scooter. This will have the additional benefit that they will better understand what it means to a motorcyclist on the road and therefore be more aware and respectful of them than any moto safety advertisement could ever hope to accomplish.

    (5) Push makers to produce motorcycles focused on the safety and ease of maintenance of the bike rather then their “awesomeness”. For example, it needs to be light, it should never stall and require little maintenance but it should look like a “real” motorcycle and not a scooter.

    (6) Have a motorcycle simulator that feels as close as possible to what it would feel like being on a real motorcycle on the road.

    (7) Motorcyclists need to stop bashing scooters and mopeds and any two wheel vehicles. This has been one of the most disappointing experiences in my 2+ years as a “newbie”. I love scooters (my first ever motorized two wheel experience) and I LOVE mountain biking. It puzzles me why any rider thinks it’s cool or okay to bash these forms of two wheel fun.

    • Old MOron

      Well, you flexed a lot of rhetorical muscle there, but I don’t think this was really intended as a rebuttal to Duke’s piece.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I’ve been meaning to get back to this comment, and Old MOron reminded me that I hadn’t. First, you make a ton of valid points. Thanks for adding them to the discussion since any and all of them could help to grow the ranks of motorcyclists – which would be a Good Thing.

      As far as it being a rebuttal of Duke’s piece, that was never my intention. The title may give that impression, but it is the portion of this piece that I’m least happy with. (Sometimes the well just runs dry.) This editorial was more me mulling over in text what currently happens to be echoing around the empty recesses of my mind on the subject of motorcycling. Passion is a good thing to have in one’s life, and since I’ve devoted the bulk of my life to motorcycling, naturally I think it’s a good means to connect to that passion.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Carlos Fernandez

    Sorry, I don’t know how my comments appear multiple times as “Guest”. I can’t delete them either.

  • Uncommon Sense

    I grew up in the early 80s and all the kids in my neighborhood had 50 – 125cc motorbikes along with go-karts. The crazy thing was there was no dirt to be found for miles. We’d just ride our xr80s, Mb5s, cr80s, etc all over the subdivision much to the chagrin of the adults looking for a quite Sunday evening. However, this was during the period when kids could jump on trampolines, ride bikes and skateboards with no helmets, scrape a knee, shoot BB guns, carry Rambo knives, etc. I’m sure my Mom and other parents worried, but some how we all made it to adulthood despite a few wrecks here and there.
    Nowadays, I see parents worrying too much about safety for motorcycling to be popular with kids.

  • IslandTosh

    “A child who has found her passion is almost unstoppable. In a world full of distractions and temptations, a parent couldn’t ask for more.” Completely agree, and great close to the article. Congrats to your daughter!

    As much as I enjoy reading about the bikes themselves, this article was a good read on something beyond the machines.

  • Craig Hoffman

    An interesting and timely article. Participating in life is much different than passively watching it on a screen. Cell phones in the hands of young people are the worst thing that has ever happened to human development. Their heavy use leads to social isolation, a view that relationships are disposable and a distorted view of the world.

    Compound this by the overuse of praise and telling kids they are “exceptional”. I have two teen girls and am around families that spend tens of thousands on whatever sport or skill so they can be seen as an “exceptional kid” and a point of pride, like some sort of living trophy.

    The kind of pressure the current enviroment of social isolation and “exceptionalism” adds on a person is immense. Being told all the time that you are special, or exceptional, or really smart. Eventually it all comes crashing down. The expectations become too high. Kids are feeling that pressure and many suffer depression and anxiety because the expectations were always so high.

    It would be so much healthier for our kids if they could just be kids – participating in physical activities and in person social interactions and not told how “exceptional” they are by well meaning parents. The reality is kids are not exceptional, they are kids. One has to pay their dues and actually accomplish something to be exceptional, and, by definition, exceptional people are the exception…