The groups that make up the world of motorcycling are notorious for not getting along. The Loud Pipes crowd doesn’t trust the stock exhaust types and off-road sneers at Street. Experienced riders astride big rides ask, “When are you going to get a real bike?” Membership in the American Motorcyclist Association is flat, even among long-time riders. Don’t get us started on how three-wheelers are treated. The noise made Gildshire that much more interested in a report released this week by Ride Apart. It dealt with the shrinking number of bikers and the industry-wide sales slowdown. While not every group will agree with every point (Are you surprised?) Ride Apart’s thoughts are interesting. The report focuses on four areas.
Improving Desirability With Millennials: Everyone can agree on one thing. The Millennial Generation is staying away from bike dealerships in droves. Part of the reason is this Gen’s ambivalence to vehicle ownership of any kind. The first population group to “call an Uber” isn’t sure it wants to own anything with an engine. However, it goes beyond that simplistic answer. Student debt load is a real thing and a motorcycle is a luxury Millennials can forego, instead concentrating on, you know, rent! Obviously, the student loan will eventually shrink. Will the Millennial with salt and pepper in his/her hair discover a love for motorcycling?
The Dangerous Spectre of Self Drive: We know the long-term future of cars is a driverless one. Some folks welcome the idea, while others rue the day. Truthfully, though, driverless will be, on average, a good thing. The actuarial tables have long told us drivers over the age of 75 are more dangerous than teens behind the wheel. However, there is one glaring problem, at least so far, in driverless tech. The AI pilots struggle to see motorcycles. The last thing we need is for motorcycling to suddenly increase its danger quotient! Until driverless tech becomes more visually acute, expect bike ridership to underwhelm.
Attracting Female Riders: In this area, the motorcycling world is tone-deaf. Society’s attitude toward women is changing, almost by the minute. Meanwhile, contributors to biking forums say things like, “I’ll be sad if Ducati ads stop draping half-naked women over their bikes.” (That was a real quote.) The Ride Apart report had no answers for this portion of the problem. Is there a silver lining? One may be provided by the women themselves. Anya Violet and Ashmore Ellis started “Babes Ride Out” a few years ago. The response has been great! Could this sorority on two wheels be the future of motorcycling?
Improved Dealership Experience: Too many and too much! That’s what Ride Apart determined about the dealership experience. Potential buyers ignored or sold up. If ignored, faced with too much product and little idea of how to navigate the showroom. If sold up, made to feel inadequate if the potential buyer wasn’t interested in 1100ccs. A new rider ought to be a cherished customer and not someone to be brushed aside or bullied.
The industry must search for solutions, and the solutions must become a priority. Or else, biking will become a true niche activity. That would be a shame. That’s our opinion, and Ride Apart’s, as well.