Duke on a motorcycle

Freedom is likely the most oft-used word to describe the feeling of riding a motorcycle. For most, the first real taste of that sense of freedom was experienced while riding a bicycle, which, almost universally, was as a child. I loved the feeling of taking off on my bicycle to see and experience new things as I explored the exciting sensations of freedom on two wheels.

I worry about the future of motorcycling. The decision to purchase and ride a streetbike is a big hurdle to make, especially if a person has never honed riding skills on an off-road bike. Just as dirt riding builds skills for street riding, bicycles give kids the fundamental understanding of two-wheel vehicle dynamics that transfer over to minibikes and dirtbikes. At least we can all rely on children riding bicycles, easing the transition to powered two-wheelers. Or can we?

Today’s world isn’t what it was when I was a kid. The number of kids younger than 11 who bicycled fell by 21% over the decade spanning 2001 to 2011, this according to the Bicycle Retailer Industry Directory, 2013 Statistical Review. Another study, by Elsevier Ltd., found the share of all bike trips made by persons younger than 16 fell from 56% in 2001 to 39% in 2009.

Duke on a bicycle

A hand-me-down bike from my sister surely cost me style points, but I was thrilled at having my own set of wheels and soon set off exploring my neighborhood for new adventures.

So, with fewer kids riding bicycles, surely there’s a detrimental effect on youngsters who might want to step up to a powered two-wheeler. And, if contemporary children aren’t riding minibikes and dirtbikes as much as they did in generations past, this is essentially thinning the feeder system to the streetbike market.

It seems as if the kids of today find adventures in a virtual world rather than immersing themselves in the real one. The breadth of social-media options, video games and YouTube videos keep many children from venturing outside, keeping them safely away from UV rays, let alone potential vehicular hazards. These distractions also have an effect on adolescents rejecting  drivers licenses and car ownership. If kids can safely interact with peers online, there’s less a need to ever leave the comfy confines of their houses.

The baby boomers have girded the moto market for decades, but their collective influence is dying off, quite literally. For the motorcycle industry to maintain its current volume, especially here in North America, we need an influx from younger generations.

Encouraging youngsters in your family to ride bicycles is the least you can do. If kids can’t ride pedal bikes, there will be little chance of getting them on a Yamaha YZF-R3 or a KTM 390 Duke.