Oh, What a Beautiful Time It Is to Be a Motorcyclist

Brent Jaswinski
by Brent Jaswinski

The times and tribulations of the motorcycle industry

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.

oh what a beautiful time it is to be a motorcyclist, Look at those three bikes sitting there in the sun somewhere up in the mountains Doesn t that look fun
Look at those three bikes sitting there in the sun, somewhere up in the mountains. Doesn’t that look fun?

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.

2017 Lightweight ADV Shootout

2017 KTM 390 Duke Review

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!

oh what a beautiful time it is to be a motorcyclist, Beginner bike or not the 390 Duke is one good looking machine And for only 5 299 C mon now
Beginner bike or not, the 390 Duke is one good looking machine. And for only $5,299? C’mon now…

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!

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Beginner-ish Sportbike Shootout

Begin AMA Article:

Advocating For Motorcycling’s Future

Saving Our Passion, One New Rider At A Time

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?

Join the conversation
2 of 54 comments
  • Byron Maier Byron Maier on Dec 27, 2017

    Interesting articles and commentS

    I'm a younger guy. Got into motorcycles from the Mod/Ska scene. Exposed through music culture in the 90's. Got my first vintage Vespa. Then got a Norton to be a rocker. Rode both. As being in that scene I could not get enough of vintage bikes.. saw a Ducati single at a meet and been in love since. Lucky to own many vintage bikes. My own tale Leeds to a point. Young people being exposed to motorcycles in such a way that they want one. I remember how amped I was seeing lambrettas and Vespa at ska/Reggae gigs. Quadraphenia got all the older people into the scene with the mod revival two tone era in the early 80's. Movie makers.. tv shows.. more cool bikes

    Other point about being exposed which I have not read much of on this thread is racing. Here in Canada MOTO GP AND WORLD SUPERBIKE are not on tv! It does not exist. No kid, young adult etc will ever see how awesome racing it is or the bikes. Racing and super bikes have no relevance to young people. Why are not the big 4 plus big two in Europe getting together and getting racing on tv. Race on Sunday sell on Monday. I pay for a subscription right from Moto GP. No problem for me. But racing does not really exist on tv. Or is this Dorna. USA may be different
    Correct me if I am wrong but why does AMA not adopt world superbike rules. Wild card riders right.

    Motorcycles are my passion. Always selling how cool they are even if the are old and Italian leaving my wrenching on the side of the road. Ps. When ever my best mate and I see kids we always try to get a little wheelie action and wave in. A 7 year old seeing a monster guy waving wheeling a superduke. Scared for life in a two wheeled way

    Cheers and Gears

  • Octodad Octodad on Dec 28, 2017

    when cars started using automatic transmissions, more people began driving. they love that PRNDL .want more riders? make operating a bike easier. motorcycle technology appears to lag behind. time to catch up....