Help, motorcyclists have fallen and they can’t get up!

Dailies -



According to the annual “JD Power US Motorcycle Competitive Information Study,” the population of motorcycle buyers has aged from 40 to 49 years old since 2001. That may not sound terribly shocking as that aging is in proportion to time, but it does indicate that the audience for motorcycles in this country is essentially stagnant. With US sales down 40 percent in 2009 and decreasing a further 18.3 percent through Q3 2010, a smaller overall population of riders that are also older logically indicates a decreasing percentage of young bikers. In 2007, it was estimated that motorcycle buyers 30 and under made up only 17 percent of the market. As JD Power concludes, “many owners may soon exit the market” due to aging. What is the motorcycle industry doing to reverse this trend? Essentially nothing.

At a meeting with Honda last fall, Grant and I urged the manufacturer to import or develop models capable of appealing to riders under the age of 49, as well as overhaul its dated marketing to be relevant to today’s potential riders. In response, we were told, “Honda sees Baby Boomers bankrolling the motorcycle industry for the foreseeable future.” It was made clear that we were essentially ridiculous for suggesting otherwise.

Of course, since that time, Honda has taken one step towards making its brand relevant to the under-49 crowd: the CBR250R. But that’s not to say the bike doesn’t have its problems. Retailing for exactly the same price as the Kawasaki Ninja 250, the single-cylinder Honda lacks performance in comparison, making only 26bhp to the Ninja’s 31, a crucial deficit when you’re using every one of those ponies simply to keep up with highway traffic.

Full Disclosure: this rant is partially motivated by the fact that Honda is currently holding a media launch for the CBR250R in LA, yet failed to invite any publications that reach that under-49 audience, including Hell For Leather. Sure, we fail to toe the corporate line, but we do so because reprinting press releases fails to appeal to young readers, of which we can boast more than 400,000 a month. Taking a look at the demographics of the usual motorcycle media suspects, we can see that a magazine like Motorcyclist boasts a circulation of 217,848 and the largest demographic it reaches is 55+. Great for bikes like the VFR1200, not so much for bikes like the CBR250R. This kind of myopic marketing is pervasive in an industry that’s more about doing favors for friends than it is actually trying to sell bikes.

Enough with the navel gazing, let’s look at the major new bikes released for 2011 and their ability to shirk the geriatric trend. There’s the Ducati Diavel, which we learned is mostly selling to 50+ men even if it is attracting more women than usual. The Aprilia Tuono V4R? When it goes on sale late next year it’s likely to command a price similar to that of the $15,999 RSV4 R as well as insurance and running costs similar to those of the exotic superbike. The Triumph Tiger 800’s capacity is heading in the right direction, but starting at $9,999 it remains a premium product competing in an already bloated segment. Other bikes we’ve seen released for 2011 include the BMW K1600GT/L — an old man’s bike if we’ve ever seen one — and the MV Agusta F3 — sexy as all hell, but yet another exotic in a world of recession.

In his article, Motorcyling’s Missing Link, noted motorcycle designer Michael Uhlarik identified sexy, accessible, small- and mid-capacity motorcycles as what’s need to convert young people into motorcycling.

In addition to the CBR250R, the only other youth-oriented product from a relatively major manufacturer entering the North American market in 2011 is the Aprilia RS4 125. Wonderful, but a four-stroke 125 is mostly applicable to European age-related licensing tiers and Americans are likely to find 15bhp inadequate and the presumably $4k+ price tag unpalatable.

The one shining light in all this is Cleveland CycleWerks, a company that was thwarted in all its attempts to manufacture small-capacity motorcycles in America. Now selling bikes designed by and for young riders in America, but made in China, the brand hopes to sell 3,000 bikes per-model by the end of next year. Sure, 12,000+ sales is a relatively large drop in a bucket that will likely manage less than 500,000 total, but it’s hardly more than a baby step in the right direction and that baby step is coming from an outsider, not an established player.

Looking at the CCW Misfit, we see a 250cc cafe racer/standard that’s far more credible to people our age than the fully-faired, Shamu-alike CBR250R, a bike that would also be far more practical for learners and for urban commuters. $800 cheaper too.

Suzuki does sell a bike in a similar vein, the TU250X, but in this country its received virtually zero marketing and, as a result, many dealers don’t even stock it. Tales in forums of buyers who want one, but are unable to find a dealer that carries one, abound.

Of course, it’s not like there’s a nascent market simply waiting for the motorcycle industry to cater to it. At 30 years old, most of my contemporaries have no interest in riding motorcycles, even if bikes were made that appeal to them. Today’s young motorcycle buyers all seem to have one thing in common: dads that ride too. I’m sure you can see the limitations of relying on families to pass riding down through the generations. It relies on quality parenting, not reality. What we lack as a nation is a coherent argument for motorcycling.

Why should a 30-year-old working in advertising and equipped with plenty of disposable income take up riding? It’s dangerous, it’s inconvenient and it’d make him look like a redneck. Yet look at any ad or in any publication targeting that demographic and you’ll see men wearing dirty jeans and t-shirts, leather jacket and boots; men working with their hands. That’s motorcycling, yet the motorcycle industry is absent from these media channels. Why?

While young people are busy turning away, motorcycle manufacturers are spending their budgets chasing a piece of an ever-decreasing pie, spending money on things like racing, which we love, yet we must admit is utterly irrelevant to our peers, even the ones that ride. Why is Triumph attempting to steal sales away from the F800GS when the number of sales it can steal are decreasing each year. Why isn’t it instead focussing on opening up new markets among new riders?

Look, we don’t claim to have all the answers and would be wary of anyone that claims to. But, we can’t sit back and observe from the outside as motorcycling ages out of relevance. It might be ironic, but one day, we want our kids to ride too. What we’re looking for is at least some indication that somewhere, someone at a major motorcycle company is looking for a way to make sure that happens. In the shorter term, we’d simple like to see less emphasis on the grey hairs and more on the long hairs. Our peers might not be buying bikes now, but, with the right kind of persuasion, someday they could.

We’re not the only ones saying this. JD Power concludes by saying, “[it’s] more critical now than ever for manufacturers to focus on attracting new customers.” Let’s make that happen.

via JD Power

  • Vinicio

    I started riding when I was 38 and not because of anyone’s marketing or romantic ideal. I started riding entirely for practical reasons: I lived in a city where owning a car was an expensive pain in the ass and public transit was unreliable. My only option was a motorized two-wheeler. Maybe part of the answer also lies in promoting motorcycles and scooters as not simply toys, but practical, every day transportation. The funny thing is that I no longer need to ride for transportation, but I fell in love with motorcycling and continue to ride for fun.

    • UrbanRider

      I don’t know whether this article is aimed at motorcycling worldwide or the US market. Threads within it can be applied to the UK market, but as you say most people are drawn to wheels for practical reasons hence the growth of the scooter market.

      It seems to me that urbanites love the idea of owning a motorcycle but when there is bugger all in the 200-500cc market outside of supermotos, what are these people meant to ride in town?

  • Holden

    I get the impression — and maybe, somewhere, someone has stats to back this assertion up — that fewer children ride bicycles than a generation or two ago. That’s bad news for motorcycling, and there is zero chance that motorcycle manufacturers will do anything about it. Wouldn’t it make sense for moto manufacturers to team up with bicycle manufacturers to get more children to ride bikes? Here’s what I would like to see: “effective cycling” courses taught in middle school, in which kids are taught how to ride bicycles safely on suburban and city streets.

    I’m 47. When I was a kid, I and my friends rode bikes on roads. We thought nothing of it. Today, the dominant form of parenthood is The Helicopter, and parents and their kids think riding a bicycle in the street is evidence of a death wish. When young people are afraid to ride a bicycle in the street, when they have no experience doing so, they won’t be interested in riding a motorcycle on the street.

    On another subject, I don’t pay attention to motorcycle models sold abroad. But, c’mon, the Big Four (and maybe some European brands, too) must make medium-displacement (350-500cc or so) bikes with storage capacity and low prices. Bring those models Stateside, and sell motorcycles as a fun way to commute. Note the mention of storage capacity in the previous sentence. Make a deal with Shad to equip medium-displacement bikes with unpainted, Shad-logoed, simple, waterproof storage cases. Why unpainted and Shad-logoed? Because the cases will be cheaper that way. Make storage a standard feature, not an added item.

    Back to my original point: Somehow, we need to reverse this country’s devolution into Scaredy-Cat America. Maybe the solution is to market motorcycles as environmentally friendly. In other words, replace fear with pride. Grant and Wes are huge proponents of electric motorcycles, and they’re on the right track.

    • Wes Siler

      Oh, the increasing risk-averseness of American society is a major issue, but not one that can’t be tackled. The MSF’s new Schwantz-designed courses are a significant step in the right direction, now motorcycling just needs an image overhaul.

      That’s not to say we should present an image that ignores risk (which is what they try to do now), but instead embrace it and have an honest discussion about what that risk level is and how individuals can take steps to reduce theirs.

    • slowtire

      “I’m 47. When I was a kid, I and my friends rode bikes on roads. We thought nothing of it. Today, the dominant form of parenthood is The Helicopter, and parents and their kids think riding a bicycle in the street is evidence of a death wish. When young people are afraid to ride a bicycle in the street, when they have no experience doing so, they won’t be interested in riding a motorcycle on the street.”

      This is unfortunate, but true. Kids today don’t need to ride bikes to see or talk to friends, thanks to the cell phone. Kids rarely even walk places(at least in the suburbs) because of the paranoia. When I was a kid, your bicycle was your ticket to independence. You dreamed of the day you were allowed to cross the next big street and have a new world open up to you. You would see a motorcycle and wonder what it would be like to cruise down the road without pedaling and listen to the cool sound, no matter what motor it came from. For many, it was the obvious next step before getting 4 wheels.
      Todays world is just different. In addition, your bike has to be registered, you have to where a helmet( no,I’m not against wearing a helmet) and a blinking light, etc. Everything is so over regulated that it turns kids off. I agree with Holden, it’s a big part of the problem. I don’t know how you fix that.

      • slowtire

        I wish I still had those 50′s and 60′s era baseball cards that we used to used a clothes pin to fasten them to our forks and let them beat up against the spokes. They were good for about ten minutes, then you had to put new ones on.
        There was one company (probably Mattel) that made a plastic motor that you clamped to the downtube, stuck in 3 or 4 D cells, and got got a cool engine sound. I had one until I got my ass kicked for having it. Thats how much kids back then wanted motorcycles. You may have been too young, but you could at least think you were sounding like one.

  • Peter

    “this country’s devolution into Scaredy-Cat America” big time man, it sucks young kids are force fed this bull. I know there’s a lot of kids out playing and being ‘rebels’ essentially to the hermetically sealed youth that is growing in petri dish townhouses in over crowded towns. But we can always use more badasses with grit and vinegar to pull the lot.

    I will say my younger brother did actually ride with his young friends in a moped ‘gang’.. there was quite a lot of that in my area.

    The best would be nice 350′s and 400′s around, these kids def would have slide right in. . I know they are unimpressed by the Ninja250 since they’ll get bored fast, and the 500 kinda intimidates them. to quote what i’ve heard.

    Big up to cleveland C W, and what an awsome article.. love it.

  • Deltablues

    The Motorcycling population may shrink, but will not die off completely. In my youth, the late 70′s to late 80′s, almost all my friends had 3-wheelers or small displacement dirtbikes/minibikes. But things have changed since then. Motorcycling got taken over by the ‘Grey Beards’ and the motorcycle manufacturers followed the money trail. The Grey Beards are on their way out though. Those riders who were in their early fifties a decade ago and who helped Harley and the Big Four sells an amazing amount of cruisers are now in their early Sixties. They are selling off the bikes and getting out of motorcycling altogether. There definately needs to be a focus on bringing younger riders back into motorcycling. Motorcycling is raw, exciting, sometimes dangerous, but never boring. Riding a motorcycle is pure. Riding a motorcycle blows any PS3, PC, or XBOX game off the map. Motorcycling requires physical effort. In an age when many schools don’t even have PE or recess, how are we going to get our youngsters involved in something so physical as motorcycling? Also, it would be nice if motorcycling was portayed realistically in the media. These days, if you see a motorcycle in a movie, it is usually a prop in a Rom-Com for the leading man. You never see the leading man go get groceries or ride in traffic or rain, ect. You know, actually USE the motorcycle.

  • CG

    Had the misfortune to actually pay to go see the Seattle Cycle show last weekend. Nice to see that about 5 mfrs. bothered to show up. Obviously BMW has enough 60 year old rich dudes buying GS1200s that they didn’t need to bother. Been in a bike shop recently? Watch salesmen look the other way to avoid eye contact. It sure would be nice if the players in the industry were a bit hungry and desperate. Kawasaki has come out with a real world sportsbike, the Z1000SX, but here in Amurika we don’t get it in green. Because? What? It would mess up the ZX10 market? For the eight people who bought one, and got to return it? What’s the chances that the new Ninja will be in an ad rather than their superbike? Zip. Nada. None.

    I hate to tell these guys but the market appetite for a series of $20K bikes, no matter how nice, is actually fairly limited these days. In other words, the bike business is damned hard these days and they better start trying to find some new buyers rather than relying on us old farts to keep them going for another 20 years. Nice looking custom Honda 750s you got there. But wouldn’t it be better if they just keep making them in the cruiser look forever? Sheesh.

    The weird part is that the current crop of bikes are fabulous in the mechanical sense, it just seems that they have decided to let 15 year old marketing ideas dominate. In other words, the mfrs. can DO anything, they just aren’t. To steal another (car) websites idea, do we need a Death Watch series for assorted bike mfrs?

  • pinkyracer

    “What we lack as a nation is a coherent argument for motorcycling.”

    which is exactly why I shoot helmet cam videos that bore me so much I don’t bother editing & posting them. My intention with is to show non-riders & new riders what it’s like (through short youtube videos), what sort of decisions a seasoned rider makes in LA traffic. Now if I only had the money to hire one of the many editors I know…

    there’s loads of hipsters here in LA getting into riding. they’re on the cutting edge, and regardless of what & how they ride, I’m ecstatic to see them out there.

    Let’s just hope it crosses over into the mainstream at least half as easily as those damn windowshade glasses.

  • scottydigital

    It is all about accessibility: CCW just launched our consumer financing for all our bikes, making them even more accessible to even more people. We are committed to making cool bikes currently at 250cc, and in the next year we are getting our 450cc and 500cc motors get to a point where they are clean enough to pass EPA and EEC regulations. We stated looking for government grants to help us establish our production facility here in the USA!! Hey Wes, we are trying, you have seen the designs, you know we have some cool products launching in the next 2 years!

  • Trev

    I think the Big4 (and the other, smaller companies) should just focus on making good, quality bikes, that have EFI and are in the sub $5k range new. Leave it to the aftermarket to bring the bike or sink the bike (or offer performance goodies for those who want it).

    I wish there was more EFI 250-450 singles/twins on the market, which are liquid cooled and “cheap”.

  • rohorn

    Quantcast has interesting demographic stats – especially when comparing blogs, magazines, and manufacturers. How accurate are they – and what to they really mean?

    • Grant Ray

      Actually, their stats are incredibly skewed according to who pays them. If you want an idea of who really uses what and goes where online, use Google’s various tools.

      • rohorn

        Always wondered about that – thanks.

        • Wes Siler

          Yeah, it’s annoying but the simple truth is that there’s no external way to accurately or fully evaluate a website’s traffic, anyone who tells you otherwise is ill-informed or lying.

          Quantcast, Alexa et al are essentially bullies. If you don’t pay them they dramatically under report your traffic. Some people do pay, but as they don’t offer any tools that surpass what we already have and because we think bullying is bad business, we don’t.

          There’s a couple others that rely on a nielson rating-like system, but their sample sizes are wayyyyy too small to offer any meaningful results, particularly in a tiny niche like motorcycles.

          The only accurate way to evaluate your own traffic is to install systems like google analytics, site meter and now WordPress’s own system. We use all three and they actually deliver great data that helps us do what we do.

          The way to look at traffic as an outsider is to look at who’s linking in and what audience interaction is like. Technorati used to offer a great tool to allow you to see inbound links to any website, but they let that fall by the wayside.

  • Core

    “This kind of myopic marketing is pervasive in an industry that’s more about doing favors for friends than it is actually trying to sell bikes.”

    I think that’s how the WHOLE industry is doing things now… at least in the US. I would call it corruption in a way, but its.. like a sugary coated corruption, or maybe rot?

    Also, good jobs pay good money. I am twenty five and .. definitely am not in a good job, or able to find one where I live. Even going to college… there were a ton of unemployed people there going back to school to try and find jobs. *Sighs* I guess where I am going with this is, these business are following the money.

    They probably feel its just not worth it to go after younger people now or in the foreseeable future. And keeping up with peter schiff and a ton of other business men and entrepreneurs I watch… well there saying the future in this country at least short term… 5 years is not looking so hot for young people trying to claw there way up, thanks to some rather stupid decisions our politicians are making…

    On that note though, I am seriously am thinking about picking up a minimum wage job for the weekends if I can actually find some place hiring, and use it to pay for a KLR650… Because I really want a motorcycle. ( I know its probably odd I read a motorcycle site and don’t own a bike…)

  • Sam

    You know Wes, you brought a lot of heat on the “hipster motorcyclist” a while back, but as the owner of a rattle can black, clubman bar-ed ’81 XS400, we’re on the same page. The reason I bought a oil-burning, clutch slipping UJM was because it was about two grand cheaper than anything else on the market. Motorcycling is one of the single most liberating and enjoyable things I have ever done, and I’ve been doing it cheap because that’s the only thing that makes sense.

    Nobody of my generation (~21) wants to ride something from the Fast and the Furious that only has a 250cc motor and tops out at 80mph and costs $3,500. I know it’s all good sport, and that the DIY aesthetic of young, first-motorcycle owners is certainly fraught with horrific design choices and a sense of un-earned entitlement, but if you can find a better first motorcycle than a decently maintained mid-size UJM, I’d love to hear it from you.

    These companies just aren’t making the cheap, knockaround, easy to fix, easy to customize, easy to ride first motorcycles people need, and they’ll pay for it.

    • Wes Siler

      Ha, well the point of those illustrations was as much to mock the stereotypes as it was to mock the stereotypees.

      I agree with your assessment of the market, we need more appealing, affordable, standard motorcycles. Witness our enthusiasm for CCW.

  • Myles

    It’s simple. Most people are pussies. The sports car scene is alive and kicking (arguably the best for-the-money performance in history) and kids are still sinking dollars into parking lot racers making jokes of themselves “auto-crossing”. They do this because they are literally too afraid to ride on two. People like the idea of fast, the idea of fun, the idea of edgy, etc. – but they’d rather spend 60k on a fat pig m3 than 12k (even only 5k used!) on a bike that murders everything on four wheels. It’s disgusting – we’re all glad you stepped away from Jalopnik and the rest of the people who destroy America.


    The reek of nostalgia permeates most of the motorcycle press. When all the columns are about how great things were in the 50′s and 60′s no wonder the kids aren’t interested. To 99% of people under 40 even the 60′s are ancient history.

  • Your_Mom

    I surely don’t know the answer but I do have some questions.

    1) What is the modern equivalent of the “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign?

    2) What is the modern equivalent of a CB350/360/400 – or CB400F?

    Honda created their market; there was no market for the Cub but they used mainstream print media to create one and built an empire. I see the market as too fragmented and polarized. And, as you said, the executives now have no leadership as they must answer to corporate directors.

    I guess back then Soichiro Honda was in charge and had a vision of what he wanted and how to get there. He probably got some great marketing/advertising advice to buy space in Life, Saturday Evening Post, etc. And he followed that advice.

    Once a corporation “matures” it loses it’s spine and becomes inherently conservative. Some don’t – but most do. I worked for BMW for decades and – in spite of their bikes for older buyers – they had the vision to build the S100RR and the K1200/1300R. They know who they are and where they’re going. In that corporation, you had the notion that it was based upon product, product, product.

    I see some based on marketing as opposed to product. If you don’t have a vision of who you are, and what you build – you’ll withdraw and go into bunker mode. Look at H-D. They can see only what they have been. They lack vision.

    Sorry – I’m rambling. It is doable to me if whatever a company has a vision and the leaders to execute that vision. John Bloor is an example of that sort of thing. I hope the guys/gals at CCW do the same thing.

    By the way, I’m 56 and have ridden for over thirty years. I have encouraged my kids to ride but none have so far. Who knows – maybe it is dying? As some one said, the scooter thing may save the industry. I honestly don’t know.


    • Ducky

      You forgot to note that until very recently, BMW was the builder of either really shitty bikes, or things that would be more suited for farmers (durable but completely boring). You can even argue that the K and the S are just new bikes for the same old moulds already established over several years by other makers.

      If you are talking about innovative companies that are not inherently conservative, that means different things to different people. The S1000RR is not innovative to me, because I think it’s just another litre bike. This is not vision. This is just benchmarking and beating those by a slight amount.

      Making something new and different (that creates its own market segment), or attacks a certain segment in a new way is vision. In that regard, I think bikes like the Aprilia RSV-4 and Honda CBR250R fits in the “attack segment” category; something like the VFR1200R (like it or not) fits in the “innovative” category with its DSG transmission and V4 design.

      In today’s motorcycle market it is harder to attack a segment or create one, now that most categories are established and only small niches remain, but you still see new innovative bikes come out once in a while.

  • Your_Mom

    Sorry – a couple of additional comments. The buff books are not doing the industry any favors. As much as I love Pete Egan, what about some young blood? (Yeah, yeah, there’s Ari Henning at “Motorcyclist” but his writing is rather unimpressive.)

    Secondly, why does the press continually praise more and more horsepower as though that was the be all and end all of motorcycling? I mean, there’s crying about how the new ZX10 is down some HP as compared to Euro versions. So friggin’ what? Is the difference between 160 and 180 HP really significant?

    I had a blast on 40 HP bikes in the seventies. Earlier I asked where’s the CB350? I guess the Kawasaki Versys is the closest thing. And as much as I love the new Triumph 675R – especially for the money – the Versys would be a much more practical bike for me.


  • Daniel

    This is my first time commenting here, but I found this article particularly close to home. I’m exactly the guy you’re talking about… I’m 30 and an exec at a software firm. I’d always wanted to ride, but never did. No one in my family or my circle of friends rides, or would even consider it. I went out and took a MSF class, which was inexpensive, convenient and easy to do. The problem was finding a motorcycle.

    I’m neither skilled enough nor particularly inclined to ride a repli-racer, and I don’t fancy myself a pirate. It sounds ridiculous, but I really had a difficult time finding a inexpensive, reliable motorcycle to commute on. I ended up settling on a Versys 650, and just upgraded to a used 1150GS this weekend.

    There is no coherent story from the motorcycle industry (that I see) about why you’d want to ride, apart from looking cool. I am asked every day why I started riding, don’t I realize it’s inconvenient and dangerous and foolhardy, etc. I really just enjoy riding, and hope to continue doing so, but the number of bikes on the market I’d ever consider buying is honestly less than 5. I’m stubborn as hell and I’m more likely to do it because there aren’t a lot of options and it’s difficult, but if my demographic is the “future of motorcycling” things are dire indeed.

  • Roman

    A couple of thoughts. I’m 29, I’ve been riding for 5 years, got my 22 year-old brother riding, so I feel like this is in my wheelhouse. First of all, I don’t think people who want motorcycling to thrive have the luxury of turning their back on the “fast and furious” crowd. My perception might be skewed by living in a big city, but it seems that most bikers under thirty are into that scene (stretched swingarm, stupid graphics, light kits, etc…) Whether we like it or not, faired sportbikes are a big attraction for many younger riders and bikes like the Honda CBR250R are a great way to get new riders into the fold.

    The other thing that’s kind of maddening is AMA myopic obsession with fighting helmet laws. If you really want to grow motorcycling and make it a viable, even attractive to non-hobbyists, focus on legalized lane splitting. You’re telling me a young guy stuck on DC’s beltway isn’t going to go at least consider getting a bike when he sees one wiz by him between two lanes of barely moving car traffic? Also, free or discounted parking in city centers for bikes and scooters. I know some cities already have it, but it would be a huge boost and make the two wheel option that much more attractive. Motorcycle companies and AMA should be lobbying for these changes in the halls of power, but I am not aware of any concerted effort taking places.

    One last thing, and this is more wishful thinking than anything, but can we figure out a way to get more female riders out there? You can’t just ignore 50 percent of the population and in case y’all haven’t noticed, women are graduation college in higher numbers and have plenty of their own disposable income these days. And yes, a girl who knows how to ride is pretty damn attractive.

    • Mark D

      These are all FANTASTIC ideas for growing motorcyclings; things like marketing towards females, legalizing lane-splitting, and shedding the outlaw/badass/pirate/leatherdaddy image will create enough market for manufactures to profitably sell the type of small-displacement, fun, cool bikes we all want.

      • slowtire

        I would love to see lane-splitting legalized. There would have to be a massive education campaign before and after it’s introduction, at least in my state (NJ). In the last ten years or so, it seems as though people have gotten so territorial with their cars that it’s almost impossible to get someone to yield and let you in traffic switch lanes, etc. It’s out of control. They feel they own the road and they stand their ground. I have seen people many times pull over, out of their lane, to block a bike going down the shoulder in a traffic jam. Unbelievable!

        • Roman

          I lane-split in and around Philly on occasion. Never had any issues (knock on wood), but I try not to ride on the shoulder. Can kind of see where a motorist would perceive that to be a dick move, since a car could do that just as easily. Splitting between lanes though, all you’re actually doing is reducing congestion while still using a part of the motorway that is intended for moving traffic.

          • slowtire

            I hear ya and in some cases you’re right. But I’ve seen it on the left side shoulder in stand still traffic on the GSP. They were actually run into the grass. I can’t imagine what might happen with lane splitting. It’s a great idea as long as people are educated about it. I believe it is currently illegal. We’re dealing with a pedestrian crossing issue in this state right now that is pretty tricky. Basically, if a person steps in a non controlled(stoplights, cop, etc.) crosswalk, you have to stop, or risk a ticket. The problem isn’t with stopping for someone, it’s with people knowing the law. It was never really enforced before, but now they’re cracking down. All kinds of rear end collisons have happened. In some towns, they actuall have plain clothes cops purposely steping out in oncoming traffic. It’s like a sting operation and you get a ticket with a fine. There is so much confusion about it, that I actually keep a copy of the law in my truck.
            It comes down to changing what people are used to doing, and that ain’t easy.

    • Myles

      I know you’re talking about the beltway, but just a heads up – you can legally lane split within the district. There are no laws on the books against lane splitting. Be careful, I like to be standing on my pegs for visibility.

      • Roman

        Heh, did not know that. I lived in DC (ok College Park, PG County) while at college and just used the beltway example simply because that is my idea of traffic hell. Driving around DC isn’t any better as far as I remember. To me, it’s a great example of a place that would be much easier to get around on two wheels.

        • Myles

          It is, besides lane-splitting in the district we have the HOV lanes. If you’re on two you can always take HOV. You’d be surprised how many klr650′s are out there, especially in the comfortable (weather) months.

          Unfortunately it’s all old dudes.

    • Wes Siler

      Things like legalized lane splitting, designated and free city-center parking and improved rider education would go an awful long way to making motorcycling more appealing to mainstream America.

      It sort of kills me that the AMA is busy fighting for illegal exhausts and against healthcare reform when it could be fighting for an expanded role for motorcycles in American society. All the fuel economy and congestion-decreasing benefits are virtually unknown in this country.

      • contender

        Maybe HFL should have a campaign to get the AMA’s ear. AMA makes it easy to contact your leaders to raise an issue. There are probably many AMA members that read HFL, maybe we should all start to bombard the AMA with these thoughts.

        • Roman

          Maybe there needs to be a more progressive counterweight to AMA. Not saying HFL should do it, just saying I think there are a lot of riders whose interests are not represented by the AMA. Those riders deserve a voice too. Easier said than done obviously, but it’s just a thought.

          • Wes Siler

            Yeah, I know the guy to do just that, but he’s rapidly losing faith in the motorcycle industry altogether. I’ll see if I can twist his arm if I ever get home from Charles De Gaulle.

            • Charles

              You want a useful progressive force for motorcycling and motorcyclists?

              The clue’s in the name. Progressive Insurance and their chairman Peter B. Lewis would absolutely LOVE to have the left 50% of the motorcycle market. Lewis has been very politically active in the past and I see no reason he wouldn’t go to bat for us.

      • Mark D

        Maybe a signed letter to the AMA, sponsored by HFL? A manifesto of progressive causes that actually help motorcycling stay vibrant and relevant in the US?

        I’m an AMA member, though at times I definitely feel out of place. There’s nothing inherently “conservative” about the AMA, despite their occasional knuckle-dragging op-eds, so its simply a matter of interested people changing its direction slightly.

      • Charles

        Why does the AMA lobby against helmet laws? Isn’t the main external criticism against motorcycling that it’s too dangerous? I have certainly faced enough resistance from my family about it.

        Surely they want more motorcyclists. Surely they want more dues. Surely they want their members to live longer and ride longer.

        Why haven’t they funded the next Hurt Report? Why haven’t they lobbied for a DOT standard for boots and gloves and jackets and pants?

        Why don’t we see advertising for motorcycling in general from the AMA? The American Automobile Association tries to portray motoring and motorists in a positive light – you see more gleaming sheetmetal than crumpled in AAA ads, more sunsets on twisty coastal highways than endless streams of brake lights on dreary suburban arterials.

        Is there a British or Italian version of the AMA? What do they do? Are bikers portrayed as brawling losers over there by their own association?

      • Ducky

        I agree. If low-speed (i.e. rush hour traffic jam) lane splitting was legalized in Canada, I would guarantee a huge percentage of the population around Toronto would immediately buy a bike to get downtown every day. We do, however, have free city parking (and that might be why there’s a ton of bikes even though we can only ride 9 months of the year) =)

  • motoguru

    I hope Cleveland Cycle Works takes off like the plague and sells twice as many bike as they had hoped for! We all need to spread the word about these guys and hope people will listen. The big companies have there own agendas and nothing will change until we’re the ones running them.

  • ike6116

    My father never rode motorcycles (took me on a moped once as a young kid and I loved it) but what made me get the bug was riding dirt bikes. An amusement park nearby had 50cc bikes you could ride around a track, I wanted to go every week. Eventually I got my own 80cc bike and I’ve had the bug ever since. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my state has actually outlawed the sale of 50cc dirt bikes, my childhood is now illegal? While this isn’t the only issue it’s definitely one that is helping prevent a next generation of riders.

    I think enough cannot be made about these smaller, cheaper, 250-600cc class motorcycles are dropping the ball not being marketed as the chic-eco friendly option they actually are. “Save the environment without looking like a pussy.” should a message SOMEBODY is running with.

  • Ducky

    I’m actually quite surprised you guys were turned away at the CBR250R launch, since here in Canada a whole bunch of not only journos, but regular folks (current and former CBR125R owners) were invited to the bike’s press launch too!

    Really off topic now, but I don’t think the CBR250R’s power deficit is really that bad. Dyno charts of both bikes are now up:

    The CBR250R’s torque curve is the definition of mid-range fatness. The 250R is only more powerful past 10K rpm (which is not where you want to be buzzing at for extended periods on the highway). If I end up getting one, I think it would be a lot of fun modding… first on the list would be a new set of cams.

  • Ducky

    As an aside, I’m curious as to the age of some readers around here. I’m 23, am I the youngest one here?