Duke's Den – Kids On Bikes

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Averting the Lost (to motorcycling) Generation

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.

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.

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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  • Shawn B Shawn B on Mar 18, 2015

    I'm only 27, and have seen a major shift as well. Growing up my friends, and well everyone in the neighborhood had bikes. My girlfriend always points out how no children are ever outside. In my area you cannot ride on the sidewalks anymore, and I admit I wouldn't want my child in the street at a young age if I had one. I remember being outside as long as my parents would allow and then some. Obviously the virtual world. And parenting are to blame for this home body generation. The virtual world isn't all bad, none of my friends where I live have motorcycles so I taught myself with the help of reading many articles and watching YouTube videos. My first bike was dropped off at my house as I had no idea how to even ride it, that same day on a lunch break I was cruising around my development and have been hooked since!

  • Joe LaPadula Joe LaPadula on Mar 18, 2015

    I'm 23 and grew up as a Millennial. Let's be honest - we've been raised to fear microwaving plastic. When I got my first bike in college, I had just enough money for a beautiful red 1974 Kz400 and now I could never imagine life without a motorcylce or two. I took the safety course, but my parents still tell me I have a death wish. I try to convince them by letting them know I wear all the protection and don't ride like an idiot - but their fear is unwavering.

    We're sold stories of adventure and danger - of successes and failures - but like Duke wrote - we're expected to live lives vicariously through the stories of others.The thing I love so much about motorcycles -and the whole culture associated- is that it defies that exact sentiment. Motorcycles are intrinsically stories of adventure and danger, and every time the engine comes to life, I lean over the tank and have that connection with my machine - it's crystal clear that I can't read or watch what I feel in that moment.

    I'm glad to watch the whole industry shift to welcome new riders and change with the new times so other can experience those moments of clarity too.

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    • John phyyt John phyyt on Mar 22, 2015

      Amen Craig;