And now for my next complaint. The topic keeps coming up: Why aren’t more people buying motorcycles? When applied to Millennials, we conjectured a few Whatevers ago – after minutes of careful thought and some research including opening our eyeballs – that they’re not buying more motorcycles because they have no money. I’ll add to that today: In addition to not having any money, riders are also not buying more motorcycles because they simply have no damn time to ride them.
Is it because they’re all playing video games all day? No. It’s because those who are working enough to afford a new motorcycle are working more than ever. (I exclude anyone who is working two jobs but still can’t afford a new motorcycle.) If the sacred millennial every seller of goods wants to attract has his or her face buried in their “handheld device,” it’s more likely because they’re working than because they’re playing Angry Birds. This is the first generation that grew up with the cell phone, and therefore the first without the option of clocking out at 5.
From this Harvard Business Review article, we get the phrase “work martyr,” and the theory that millennials identify themselves as such more than any other age cohort. It’s the atavistic pattern from my Depression-era parents repeating itself: “The first Millennials came of working age amid the wreckage of the dot-com bubble, and many younger Millennials were searching for jobs during the Great Recession. In other words, to Millennials, a weak economy is the norm. Since this generation also faces historically high levels of student debt, it makes a certain amount of sense that they wouldn’t want to jeopardize their jobs.”
People don’t just have that sense of insecurity for no reason. I stumbled upon “All Work and No Pay: The Great American Speed-up” in the left-leaning but right-on-the-money Mother Jones: “To understand how we got here, first let’s consider the Ben Franklin-Horatio Alger-Henry Ford ur-myth: To balk at working hard—really, really hard—brands you as profoundly un-American. Who besides the archetypical Japanese salaryman derives so much of his self-image from self-sacrifice on the job? Slacker is one of the most biting insults available in polite company.”
The good news is U.S. productivity is way up! The bad news is it’s not really benefiting most of the worker bees, many of whom are squeezing more honey out of the same pollen – and it certainly doesn’t seem to be benefiting the U.S. motorcycle market.
I bring this all up also because I think this is the first month I can remember when I really haven’t been on at least one good, fog-clearing butt-clenching extended motorcycle blast since my last column four weeks ago, wherein I was able to go on about our big four-bike super-naked shootout (which should be posted soon) and contemplate Death.
Motorcycle sales are down again through 3Q of 2017, but I wouldn’t say, like some observers, that it’s the manufacturer’s’ fault for not coming up with new models to lure buyers in; in fact that’s preposterous. There’s been a veritable avalanche of new models across the entire motorcycling price gamut, with truly great models from the $5k new KTM Duke 390 for penurious youth to an all-new Gold Wing, and everything in between including such choice morsels as a new six-cylinder BMW bagger, eight (8!) new H-D Softails, a slew of Ducati Scramblers and your choice of RSV4 Aprilia superbikes that’ll knock your socks off around a racetrack, then let you ride home with the cruise control set. Maybe you’re holding out for a new Husqvarna Vitpilen or Indian FTR750 Street? (I made that last one up, but you know something’s coming.) The smorgasbord is spread as never before.
When I think of the boring old formulaic stuff we rode in the old days, when business was booming and the big OEMs really had little incentive to innovate, I feel a little sorry for all the Conestoga wagons I wrote glowing reviews of.
The downside of this fall’s explosion of new models is that I now spend more time sitting on my patio writing about first looks of new bikes than I do actually riding them; In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re posting a lot more content on MO lately.
One of those nearly innumerable recent MO stories, talks about bike sales being also down in Europe by 5.1% for the first nine months of 2017. But wait! Motorcycle sales are actually up by 6.4% in Italy and by 2.4% in France. Those two are Europe’s two slackerest big countries, and the frequent butts of uncounted socialism slams. According to Wikipedia, they work 1,730 hours per year in Italy to the U.S.’s 1,783, and in France they have chilled it down to working just 1,472 hours per year. Pass the vin rouge, mon ami…. So what the economy’s crumbling? At least the Italians and Frogs have time to go for a nice ride on a new bike. And never mind that the Germans, working a mere 1,363 hours, had their new-bike market tank 11.7% so far this year; they’re the exception that proves the rule. And, 64% of all statistics are made up by people like me. (As an ironic aside, Mexicans actually do lead the not-slackers race, working a crushing average of 2,228 hours per year.)
Okay, well, sorry I don’t have a better Whatever for today, but I’ve got a helluva lot to do before heading off to the big international EICMA show in Milan on Sunday, where I’ll spend three days traipsing about a huge, 3,710,000-square foot convention hall with a million other motojournalists to bring you the scoops on approximately 9,746 new motorcycles. How many of them will I be riding while I’m in Milan, you ask? Zero. None. Neechevo. Nada.
Whatever. I can’t wait.