Why is the motorcycle industry in a rut? I understand that consumer demographics are changing as baby boomers are aging and aren’t really buying motorcycles anymore. Gen-Xers? Well, as the last of the analog generations, you guys have basically been passed over in light of rapid advances in technology over the last 20 years – consider yourselves lucky. Which leaves a large part of the burden to us millennials bailing our asses out.
Sure, everyone likes to bash millennials – it’s easy. We’ve all heard the punchlines: We’re entitled, spoiled and hopelessly addicted to our smartphones. We’re lazy, easily offended, can’t find jobs and live in our parents’ basements – ha! The reality of the current situation though, is that millennials have the purchasing power to turn our industry around, which is why so many manufacturers are investing millions of dollars to design and engineer motorcycles that should (and hopefully will) appeal to younger and/or prospective riders. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic time to be a budding motorcyclist.
Just look at the current offerings from any of the Big Four, and even KTM for that matter. There’s an invasion of sub-500cc models storming our shores. From standards, to sportbikes to ADVs, there are numerous options in every category, and for the most part, they’re all very reasonably priced – just ask Kevin how he feels about the 390 Duke. Additionally, Royal Enfield has based its entire business model around the 250-750cc middleweight segment in an effort to get more people on low-cost, accessible bikes.
But millennials suffer from exorbitant amounts of student debt, more than any previous generation. Well, you could certainly fool me by the amount of 20-somethings racking up $50+ tabs at the local bar or club each Friday and Saturday night. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against drinking – I bartended for four years – but you can’t tell me there aren’t better ways to spend your money. Especially since financing a new bike can potentially cost someone as little as a hundred bucks a month, or less!
In one shape or another, I think we can all agree that motorcycling enrichens our lives – more so than any hangover ever will, but I digress. The bottom line is, we all need to help grow our sport in one way or another so we can continue to enjoy it. Scot Harden, a Baja off-road racing legend and industry executive, has proposed a number of different methods to pique potential riders’ interests in the AMA article below.
So, encourage a friend / co-worker / family member / neighbor / person sitting next to you at the bar (haha) to give motorcycling a shot… pun intended. Because a flourishing motorcycling industry is something we can all benefit from, regardless of our riding abilities or preferred disciplines.
Now, that’s something we can all raise a glass to. Cheers!
Begin AMA Article:
The news isn’t good. The motorcycle business is in a rut.
New motorcycle sales are down. The industry is suffering at almost every level. The current demographic is aging. We aren’t attracting new blood to the sport like we used to and, in many areas of popular culture and modern life, we are becoming less relevant.
You might ask, “So what does it matter to me? Why should I care? I still ride and enjoy it.”
That’s understandable. After all, most motorcyclists are individualists. Given the current state of technology and great new OEM product offerings—as well as the wide range of racing activities going on around the world and the competition in the marketplace competing for your consumer dollars — there’s probably never been a better time to be a motorcycling enthusiast. It’s supply and demand, and with less demand and more supply, the consumers have the edge.
So why, then, should you care if the industry is experiencing a downturn?
Here’s why: The future of motorcycling depends on numbers.
Without new buyers, there is no reason for OEMs to continue to sink millions of dollars into research and development to build better motorcycles.
Without new riders—and new members—our voice through organizations like the AMA diminishes and loses importance, reducing our ability to affect legislative issues and address regulatory threats to our sport. OEM marketing programs, owner’s groups, clubs and racing become less relevant.
Most importantly, we have fewer friends to share the open road and trail with. At the end of the day, what makes our sport so great is having fellow motorcycle enthusiasts to share the experience with. Most of my friends are motorcyclists, each one a cherished treasure and blessing because—as motorcyclists—we are unique, special people who add a lot to each other’s lives.
Businesses and organizations whose existence depends on the growth of motorcycling understand this and are making efforts to promote motorcycling. Yes, we have issues attracting young people to recreational riding and cost is a barrier to entry, as is image. So, manufacturers are undertaking programs and campaigns to attract new consumers, especially millennials.
This effort is bringing new, lower-cost, small-displacement models to market. From Harley Davidson’s initiative to bring two million new motorcyclists into the fold by 2020, to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Ride program, there are efforts to combat the trend. Great ideas all the way around.
But why stop there?
I suggest we take this personally and, as motorcycle enthusiasts, each of us should—and can—do more to inspire new riders. Who better to influence a non-motorcyclist’s perception of motorcycling than current motorcyclists?
I’m advocating for a grassroots evangelism on a one-to-one basis across the nation. It really won’t take much. All we need to do is share our passion with our non-motorcycling friends. Here are just a few things we can do as motorcyclists to turn people onto motorcycling and perhaps convince them to give it a try:
1. Share your passion with others. Expose non-motorcycle friends to the sport by inviting them to your house to catch the Sunday game on TV. Entertain in your garage. Use your motorcycle(s) as props to promote discussion about motorcycles. Let them touch, feel, even sit on your bike. I would argue that every motorcyclist started a love affair with motorcycling after first sitting on someone else’s bike.
2. Attend an event. Invite your non-motorcyclist friends to a motorcycle show, race or rally. Take time to explain what is going on, introduce them to your motorcycling friends, and share the experience with them like you would anyone else.
3. Take a friend for a ride. It doesn’t have to be all day. Take them to lunch or for coffee. Let them experience the fun and enjoyment of riding.
4. Teach someone how to ride. I know this raises all sorts of issues, but many enthusiasts—like myself—have enough property and small-displacement bikes to teach people how to ride off road. Get them over their initial fears. Show them it isn’t as complicated as it looks. Encourage them to take a rider-training course.
5. Invite your non-motorcycle friends for dinner and a movie. I suggest a motorcycle movie, such as “The World’s Fastest Indian,” the “Long Way Around,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “On Any Sunday” or “Take it to the Limit.” Anything to inspire them to want to give motorcycling a try.
6. Share the experience. Tell your co-workers about your latest motorcycle trip or adventure. Sure, they probably already know you’re a motorcyclist. But have you ever shared exactly what that means and how it enriches your life? This would work well in any other groups or associations you are already involved in.
7. Invite non-motorcycle friends to go camping with you and experience the outdoors. Find a place where you can all enjoy the surroundings and make sure you have your motorcycle available, as well. My first motorcycle riding experience took place on just such a trip.
8. Visit your local motorcycle dealer and invite your non-motorcycling buddy to tag along. Show off the great product offerings. Make the point that motorcycles exist in all shapes and sizes.
9. Target social media. Share pictures of yourself enjoying the sport. Share posts you come across that are inspiring and show just how much fun motorcycling is.
10. Reach out to millennials. For all you baby boomers out there, make an effort to reach out to your children’s friends and acquaintances. Show an interest in what they are doing. Ask them if they’ve ever thought of going riding. If you can, provide an opportunity for them to experience the sense of freedom, adventure and excitement that motorcycling offers.
These are just a few of the ways we, as enthusiasts, can have a positive impact on the sport and drive the next generation of enthusiasts forward.
It is going to take a collective effort of everyone involved in motorcycling to turn around the current trend—manufacturers, aftermarket, dealers, clubs, the AMA and, last, but not least, each of us, working one-to-one with non-motorcyclists.
We can get this done. Motorcyclists are passionate, life affirming people. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with that?