The motorcycle market according to Ilya

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You’ve never heard of Ilya Khait, but you’ve definitely heard of his products. Despite selling only something in the region of 550 sidecars and motorcycles in the US a year, Ural enjoys a media and cultural presence that’s the envy of companies many times larger. You know what a Ural sidecar is, you’ve read articles about them, you’ve watched YouTube videos of them performing incredible feats, you’ve seen them in movies and you’ve likely seen their ads. You understand their appeal. Can you say the same of a much larger company like Kymco, for example? A big part of the reason you answered “no” is the savvy marketing and direction that comes from Ilya and the company’s other half, Madina Merzhoeva. Here, Ilya’s made a little sketch for us illustrating where the motorcycle market was and where it’s going. While larger makers are still chasing Boomers, this is the first time we’ve heard the head honcho of a motorcycle company acknowledge and articulate what happened to the market over the last three years.

Ilya sums up the fundamental shift that’s occurred in the motorcycle market since the financial collapse of 2008 with these observations:

“1. The worst news from overall ugly industry statistics is that motorcycle consumer aged by ten years during the last ten years. This means that the motorcycles have been and are being bought by (literally) the same people. In ten years these people will turn 60 and the motorcycle industry ends there.”

“2. During the last decade, the motorcycle industry operated in the paradigm that is described/shown in the right lower sector of the diagram — the adrenalin boosters for machos. But this all stopped working now.”

“3. The new generation does not need machismo to express their individuality. And there are a lot of new ways for them to express themselves other than riding a motorcycle. In this sense, motorcycling began to compete with some of the things that weren’t around even five years ago. Seven hours a month spent on Facebook (or whatever the actual average numbers are) is seven hours taken away from other types of activities, including motorcycling.”

“4. Right now there are a lot of discussions that the reason for fading interest in motorcycling is the idea of motorcycle as a form of transportation was not promoted. There is some truth to that, but only to a certain degree. It is difficult to imagine that the utilitarian side of motorcycling will become the fundamental motive for becoming a motorcyclist. If you are so concerned about your fuel expenses, it’s cheaper, safer and simpler to take a bus or a subway, ride a bicycle or walk.”

“5. Even more difficult is to see a macho who commutes on a scooter to work. What we are trying to say here is that counting on promoting motorcycling as a practical means of transportation without offering a different emotional component and social context will not work. The question is what that emotional component and social context should be.”

“6. For younger generation, motorcycles will serve less as a tool for self expression and more as a way for finding a group of the like-minded peers. That’s why we think the future of motorcycle industry is impossible without finding the ways to facilitate this need. “Social club membership” may not be the perfect term, but this video is what I mean:”

We went on to ask Ilya what his graph is telling us about the motorcycle market’s next 10 years:

“We don’t know yet, but here a few things that may happen.”

“1. New units market will be flat (or growing very slow) for some time and than continue to decline.”

“2. Used motorcycles market will continue to be strong.”

“3. Less sales means less profit which means fewer resources for R&D. Fewer new models?”

“4. Manufacturers will have to address the cost issue, although we don’t see how.”

“5. Traditional sales channel is too expensive for manufacturers. Manufacturers will try to downsize the dealer network in order to be able to provide higher sales volumes for remaining dealers in exchange for lower margins.”

“6. All manufacturers will try to break into the viral and social media marketing. Some of them will succeed and some not.”

“7. We’ll see quite a few attempts to bring relatively inexpensive low-displacement motorcycles made in Asia. Sooner rather than later they will realize that it’s tough business to make money in.”

“8. We’re going to see mpg figures in the advertising of 2.5-liter, $30,000+ cruisers. It’s already happened.”

We also asked what trends he’s observed that have informed this analysis:

“1. Continuing aging of the motorcycle population – it can’t be explained exclusively by the bad status of the economy.”

“2. Decreasing motorcycle sales for 4 years in a row — the decline actually started well before the recession.”

“3. Drop in sales is widespread – it affected not just a specific type of motorcycle or make.”

“4. The raise and fall in scooter sales in 2008-2009 — the low MPG alone is going to be a hard sell.”

“5. Decline of the traditional and blooming of the Internet-based industry publications — with latter offering club-like atmosphere for readers.”

“6. Developments in other industries dealing with recreational activities. For example, snow boarding vs. alpine skiing. This is very interesting example. Pretty much the same type of activity, but it’s widely perceived that the first is for younger crowd and the second is for older. Why?”

Ilya concludes with, “At the end somebody will find a right way to talk about motorcycling with the younger crowd. Or, more precisely, the younger crowd will decide who they want to listen and talk to.”

  • ike6116

    Nailed it.

  • Mark D

    Absolutely spot on analysis.

    The one thing that makes me hopeful about increased ridership in the US is increased urbanization. For many white Americans, our parents and grandparents largely fled the city for the perceived safety (and homogeneity) of the suburbs. There has been a demographic trend of young professionals staying in cities, even after marrying/starting a family. The value of commuting on two wheels is dramatically improved when you’re in the city, and in a lot of the faster growing cities, not only do they have minimal public transportation (see: sun belt cities, or even Atlanta), but the fastest growing cities have relatively warm weather (Charlotte, Flagstaff, Raleigh-Durham, etc).

    • Myles

      Motorcycles can also always ride in HOV lanes. Scooters can park on the sidewalk. In the northern VA/DC area many areas have entire blocks for (free!) motorcycle parking.

      Unfortunately this isn’t enough to get Joe Camry out of his bubble or Suzie Accord over her cold feet.

      I have noticed a lot of asian/african immigrants/1st generation americans love to ride. Anything from the latest sportbike to a mid-80′s nighthawk to a busted sportster. I think the “white Americans” you allude to rarely do anything difficult in their life, and riding isn’t easy. Buying an Accord and getting your oil changed every now and then is easy, gearing up and paying attention during the morning commute is not.

      • Mark D

        Very true re: White Americans; I wanted to qualify my own background as a product of a fat and happy lifestyle in a suburban town populated by mid-70s white-flight.

        Like lots of industries, motorcycle manufacturers need to start realizing that demographics are changing. The country is becoming increasingly urban, global, and non-white; while this is a bit of an assumption, I’m guessing the US product development boards of manufacturers looks nothing like what the country will look like in 15-20 years. And that’s a problem.

    • Case

      I am fascinated by this urban/suburban disconnect. The hipsters shown in the video and described by Wes in his response to Devin (below) could not have less in common with the suburban bores in the area I live.

      The bigger-is-better, F-you-tility vehicle culture of the suburbs is not the future of motorcycling; it is a dead end. Unfortunately this culture is a driving force right now.

      I also think that part of the problem is exposure: not enough people know other people that ride motorcycles. Social enablers are the most effective tools for any activity. (That’s why recovering alcoholics aren’t supposed to hang out with people that drink.) The more people that ride, the more people will want to ride. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true: fewer riders = fewer people want to ride.

      • Myles

        There is another side to this, no one has a pickup in the city so no one rides dirtbikes or ATV’s. I would love to get off road, but it would either mean buying a pickup, a dirtbike, and another parking spot or replacing my bike with something like a katoom adventure or GSA (and they don’t really do well in anything more difficult than a fire-road).

        • Surj

          If you live in the city, you can get a ZipCar (truck). That solves the transportation issue.

          Or just get a van, and live down by the river.

          • BMW11GS

            riverfront property is too expensive now in most cities!!

  • markbvt

    Yep — dead on.

  • Devin

    I like how he mentions snowboarding. Snowboards are harder to learn, harder to get pushed up on a T lift, not any cheaper, and are considerably slower than two skis; yet somehow they are cooler.

    So wait – motorcycles stopped being cool? Holy shit.

    • Wes Siler

      That’s exactly the problem. iPhones are cool. Fixed gears are cool. Dressing up like a lumberjack is cool. Talking about the zombie apocalypse while being woefully unprepared for day-to-day life is cool. Motorcycles are not cool. Problem.

      • Myles

        I’m 23. My generation sucks. Everyone is either a nerd, could be cast in Jersey Shore, or a disgusting hipster. Nerds are too big ‘a pussies to ride, Jersey Shore kids are too stupid to ride for more than a season or two (wrecked my giXXXer bro!), and disgusting hipsters are too poor (and too pussy, this is why the only motorized vehicle you’ll see them on is a moped).

        Not trying to say mopeds are lame (they aren’t, great vehicles and a ton of fun), but clips like the one embedded in the article scare more normal people away from considering buying one. You know, people who don’t want to be the bald guy in his early thirties chasing 19 year old girls by introducing them to “the scene”.

        • Wes Siler

          That’s exactly why we founded HFL and why we continue to make it. I’m 30, I want my peers to think motorcycles are cool.

          • markbvt

            For a while there, it seemed like a lot of the 20-something hipsters were getting interested in ’70s UJMs, until they figured out that keeping them running required occasionally getting your hands dirty.

            Funny how it’s a regional thing though. Plenty of 20-something motorcyclists up here in Vermont — in fact, despite Burlington being in appalling danger of becoming a major hipster hangout, I see a lot more young people here on motorcycles than on mopeds, it seems.

          • Scott
          • jpenney

            Wait a minute, I thought HFL was for hipsters that hate Harleys?!?

            I want my money back :-p

          • DAVID

            “I’m 30″
            I wondered why you dogged us boomers so much :)

            “In ten years these people will turn 60″
            i’ll turn 60 in 2 years and I will purchase at least one more bike, maybe two before I am too crippled up to ride.

        • BeastIncarnate

          It’s wild how youngish-people (where the hell do I fall at 29?) are scared of riding and refuse to try it in a controlled environment. Though I do know more than a few nerds who ride, despite their apparently massive vaginas.

          • Myles

            Nerds do ride some (I’m one of them). At my previous company only 6 people rode (office of about 100 people). Four were in IT, but all older dudes.

            • Mark D

              Us nerds are some of the only people who have jobs that pay enough to afford motorcycles!

              • BMW11GS

                nerds are just what boring people call those who know something

        • Mark D

          Ha, “Its really a family. If somebody breaks down, you pick them up.”

          That sounds like a huge pain in the ass. I’m busy enough as it is without having to go pick up some random dude on a busted Puch. I don’t care how much “Stars” you play.

          • slowestGSXRever

            When I first started riding I slipped a chain, some random dude in a pickup stopped and pretty much put my bike back together for me. Was awesome. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll get to help out some other dope who doesn’t quite know what he’s doing yet. I don’t think that kinda behavior is exclusive to neohippies riding mopeds

        • soban881

          As a 23 year old nerd from Jersey who rides a Suzuki, I must represent! *slowly pulls up shirt to reveal abs*

          • nick2ny

            If you want to know the temperature you gotta check the Firmistat.

      • Ian

        I agree and I’ve been making this point for a while on forums and in conversation. The thing I don’t know is whether or not any bike or marketing campaign can alter the trend. People seem satisfied to tweet that they just rode (walked) their fixie two blocks to the zombie-themed bar.

      • fasterfaster

        Motorcycles ARE cool. MotorcycLISTS are not cool. I’ve spoken with hundreds of potential motorcycle customers about our upcoming product and universally they recognize the inherent coolness of motorcycles, sometimes subconsciously. That’s why motos continue to be featured in film and advertising, though usually as a plot or character device. What turns them off of buying one is the image created by the outgoing generation, and the (mis)perception that they have to be one of those muscled up douchebags on a crotchrocket or hog to ride one.

        I’m not worried about the industry and I think the one area Ilya is mistaken is in new vehicle sales dropping. There is huge latent demand right now, and it will convert to sales as soon as new companies and customers can carve out an image separate from the legacy.

    • Roman

      It’s funny. I ski in the winter and ride motorcycles the rest of the year. Must make me uber un-cool…or something.

      I appreciate the point of these articles and the concern over the future of motorcycling, but at some point the marketing-speak becomes a little tiresome. Motorcycles are fun, skiing is fun, snowboarding is fun (as long as you’re not scraping all the snow off the effing mountain). I think it’s important to remember that as the primary reason people do any of these things, at least in the States. So my point is that once you start getting into the weeds of machismo versus individuality versus status, my eyes start to glaze over. A little more substance, a little less lifestyle bs please.

    • Erik

      New motorcycles are not cool. My 22 year old kid is into moto retro. So far he has only owned one motorcycle out of about 5 that is younger than he is, and that one was new when he was 7 years old. Visit bike exif to see what bikes are cool today, a significant proportion of grungy, cheap to buy 70s and 80 japanese econobikes, made cool for the first time in their lives with flat black rattle can spray jobs and street tracker throw everything away but engine frame and wheels styling.

      • Devin

        Just googled that. Excited that naked is coming back.

      • ursus

        New brakes are cool.

        • BMW11GS

          +1! on new brakes that is

  • Filipe

    I’m 28 years old and I bought my first motorcycle (used) last year, because for the first time in my life I had enough money to do it and no parents not allowing me to. I’ve wanted a motorcycle since I was 5 years old, so it’s not like I was surreptitiously brainwashed into wanting a bike by a clever marketing campaign (at least not a recent one). Now, I’m prone to thinking that there are many others out there like me who just need a small catalyst, financial and/or emotional (enter marketing campaign here), to jump into the world of motorcycle ownership for life. In that sense I think Ilya makes a lot of good points here, some fairly obvious and some not so much, and it would seem reasonable to assume that the solution lies in a combination of many of the issues addressed… but it seems to me that the last reference to the split in snowboarding/ skiing is incredibly pertinent.

  • Ben

    Why not have a crew of P.R. folks patrol website forums and engage potential customers in open and honest communication.

    Look at– almost 160k members. The thread about the new Triumph 800XC has over 3000 posts, Might as well get some of those folks engaged a bit more.

    • Wes Siler

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. You mean companies can directly engage with the public?! You’re blowing my mind here.

    • markbvt

      Chase Bales of Highland USA was a fairly frequent poster to ADVrider until his untimely death. It seems pretty clear that some of the other motorcycle companies do keep an eye on the forums; same with many accessory manufacturers. But you’re right, they would do well to participate more openly — and not just PR people, but engineers as well.

      Furthermore, they would be smart to take advantage of the community atmosphere of the forums. Surprising numbers of these people know each other in person as well as online; rallies and get-togethers are common occurrences; there are so many opportunities for motorcycle manufacturers to engage face to face with potential buyers beyond the classic dealer or motorcycle-show model, if they would only put in a little effort.

    • BeastIncarnate

      Talk to the little people?! Are you insane?

    • NitroPye

      Lotta folks get all up in arms about that sort of thing. “Whoa! You are trying to get my opinion on something.. pfft thats worth something buddy, you gotta pay me for this market research”

      Yes its bullshit that people do, but you’d be surprised how up in arms folks get about something that in the end helps them out.

      • Wes Siler

        Only if it’s gone about in the wrong way. It can’t be one sided. If the company is prepared to participate with some give and take than experience has shown social media and community marketing to be overwhelmingly effective.

        • NitroPye

          I’ve seen it done completely fine only to have the business owner or whatever driven out of the forum being called a shill or whatnot.

          But I agree when done well it is an effective tool that very few people get.

  • Sean

    “What we are trying to say here is that counting on promoting motorcycling as a practical means of transpiration without offering a different emotional component and social context will not work. The question is what that emotional component and social context should be.”

    There’s the true problem. Nobody’s bothered to show plants how much better it would be to use motorcycles to eliminate that unwanted oxygen. Think how many more units could be sold if plants realized how much cooler they’d be with a motorcycle. This kind of failure of imagination is exactly what’s wrong with the motorcycle industry these days.


  • Ilya

    Ural has been supporting web-board on its own website since 1999 (thanks to previous importer who first put it in place). Communication with customers through this web-board was the main driver for the quality improvements over the last few years.
    ADV is another perfect example of social club (in the sense of the graph). For us at Ural, ADV is the place where the whole adventure sidecar thing was born (search for “Mr. Cob” to see what I mean).
    And I’m glad you like snowboard example. We like it too ;)

    • Paul

      Hell yes, Ilya! Mr Cob brought the ST to my attention with his cross country escapade in the pages of ADV. The steady improvements, and model diversification, and the increase in sales for Ural in 2010, tells me you’re doing something right.

  • ike6116

    I gotta be honest motorcyclists are actually some of our worst enemies when it comes to getting more people to ride.

    Look at the jaloponik and reddit/r/motorcycles over the 4 year old…

    People have turned “ATGATT” into a goddamn religion they basically talk about motorcycling like death is a damn certainty the minute you throw your leg over unless you’re Valentino Rossi himself.

    The nanny state has got some of us to buy in and begin doing their work for them.

    Im not saying DAMN THE MAN DON’T WEAR A HELMET but Im saying quit being a wet blanket every time you see some one doing something risky and fun.

    • Filipe

      hear hear

    • zipp4


    • markbvt

      It goes the other way though too. A lot of beginners just don’t know better and have no idea of the variety of gear that’s available. Then they have a minor spill because they’re beginners, but swear off the sport because they’re all rashed up, when with decent gear they would have dusted themselves off and kept riding.

      What it comes down to is HOW you present those gear options to new riders. I agree that they shouldn’t be beat over the head with the ATGATT philosophy, but gently educating about decent gear can’t hurt.

      • ike6116

        I dunno. It’s just this downer attitude I don’t like. This motherly “gentle reminder” notion. “Now don’t have too much fun, remember what you’re doing is dangerous…”

        We get it. What adult doesn’t understand that motorcycles are risky? It’s beaten to you by society pretty quickly and those who are so thick they still don’t get it never will so why are we letting them dictate the tone in which we speak about our beloved sport?

        • Grive

          I see it the other way. Maybe other ATGATT zealots go about it the wrong way (though I’m more likely to be a most the gear all the time guy).

          Precisely because society has hammered motorcycles as suicide (donorcycles anyone?), a frank discussion on risk management could be very useful to swing this idea the other way. Of course, the line between “look, it’s not that dangerous if you do it this way” and “SPEND MORE ON YOUR GEAR THAN YOUR BIKE OR YOU DIE!” is thinner than what one would think.

          Then again, I’d rather see the motorcycle market shrink yet more than have it explode with people who have no idea of what they’re doing.

    • nick2ny

      I know–I didn’t think the four-year-old thing was off the charts, MH-style “this is why everyone is an asshat/A lambo on snow tires means you’re a loser” type of dangerous.

    • Denzel

      True… I was a kid in the seventies… the glory days..On Any Sunday and all that… and it was FIRMLY IMPRINTED into my little psyche that bikes are all about FUN… Maybe that’s true of others my advanced 40 something age who continue to ride…and buy…

  • Ben

    How about a factory backed program to support test rides??? Might be a little easier to outlay several thousand dollars if you get to ride the dang thing first.

    • Roman

      How about getting people on bikes period? I think that once people get a taste, they get it. It’s just not alot of people make that first step. Dunno how many times I’ve told people to just try MSF, it’s free here in PA, what’s stopping you from trying?!

      • ike6116

        WOW… Free MSF?!

        That would be awesome. I would bring my friends on weekends and just take it over and over again with them, shit I had some of the most fun the weekend I took the MSF and I had to pay $289

        • Roman

          Yup, it’s covered by a permit fee, or something along those lines. Great way to get more people into riding, but most non-riders have no idea that it exists.

      • Brammofan

        Free MSF? Hey, HFL, how about an article on MSF detailing where it can be taken free?

        • Wes Siler

          Check out the “learn to ride” link at the bottom of every HFL page.

          • jpenney

            Though I haven’t taken an MSF course myself, I know plenty of people who have. They went from non-riders to solid riders very quickly and without problem.

            I’m always amazed at the people that scoff at the price of the course but not the cost of a bike. One minor tip over will easily be more than the cost of the class.

            • Brammofan

              Justin – you’ve seen the hovel I live in. Isn’t it obvious that all my income is spoken for? And it’s not that I’m scoffing at the price, just not going to pass up “free” if it’s available.

              • jpenney

                Not directed at you. Just popped in my head while reading this part.

    • Grive

      Bing bing bing on this. It surprises me that this is not standard.

      Kawasaki and Suzuki dealerships around here allow you to test-ride some bikes*. They require a signed release and a copy of your driver’s license, and they give you a mule with fairing they don’t care about (The Suzuki guy told me they used hastily repaired fairings that had been thrashed). The Kawa dealerships put the salesman on another bike to accompany you.

      Heck, the kawa dude even taught a friend of mine how to ride a ninja 250 during the test ride.

      The dealer at BMW Motorrad did offer me a test ride, but I never did take him up on the offer. The Honda dealer looked at me as if I had suggested the throw in his firstborn along with a bike cover if I purchased the bike.

      *Some is based mostly on availability. When the Suzuki Gladius came out, for example, they had all bikes spoken for weeks in advance of new shipments, so they had no free bikes to allow test-rides (not that they have any incentive to).

  • Frosty_spl

    I believe the social club aspect. My friends and I all got bikes last summer. My one friend said he didn’t really like riding, but liked hanging out with everyone.

    • Grive

      On that note, my Suzuki dealer used (maybe they still do, I haven’t gone there since march) to sponsor sunday drives.

      Basically, from 6:30am to 7:30am there was free coffee and cookies at the dealer parking lot for customers that came riding a bike bought there (new or used), and at 7:30am the group took off on any all-pavement route suggested and previously vetted by regulars, and back in time for lunch.

      It’s a nice idea, and seemed to work nicely for the dealership. Many repeat customers in those outings.

  • david

    I am interested in the article and agree with much of it, but am fascinated that my little focus group (son: 17, daughter: 13 and their friends) go against the “motorcycles are not cool” conventional wisdom.

    My kids and their friends all WANT my bike (’03 VFR), and love rides and just poking around on it.

    • Ilya

      This is because you somehow managed to organize in-house social club ;-)

    • Michael

      I love getting waves from kids (and old guys) on the side of the road. Makes me feel almost a tiny bit cool, even though I am pretty sure I’m not.

  • dux

    Sweet. This means I can get a Super Tenere or a V-Rod for next to nothing in 10 years

  • Michael

    I just started riding in the past couple years. I’m old. Mid-40s.

    A few different motivating things all came together and I realized “Holy crap! I should have a motorcycle. What’s the matter with me?” That was on a Wednesday. On that Saturday morning I bought my ’83 KZ750 with 9k miles and a well-tended garage-baby previous lifestyle. I love it.

    However, here was my impression of motorcycle riders before I got mine, a few friends excepted:

    “Motorcycle riders are huge dicks. Why would I want to join that club?”

    Either they are: Assholes tearing up the highway at unsafe and obnoxious speeds, or assholes with obnoxious loud pipes setting off car alarms for ten blocks around. Both represent groups that behave selfishly at the expense of others, and that’s a personality trait I don’t care for at all.

    Why would I want to join a club that basically gives me a chance to join one of two giant bags of obnoxious dicks?

    Toss in the knowledge that you can do everything right and some idiot can terminally end your ride with no ramifications, and it’s not a very attractive activity.

    My mindset has changed a little bit. A lot.

    But I’ll say this: When one of the assholes tearing up NYC on sportbikes at 4 AM bit it doing something stupid last year, sadness was not what I felt. Hate to say it, but it was more like a tiny bit schadenfreude (which I felt guilty for immediately.) If a 1800cc v-twin opened-piped asshole chariot had followed that jerk into the river or under the bus or whatever it was that happened, I can bet you more people would nod “Nice” than “Oh no.”

    That’s not my mindset now, but I know for sure lots of non-riders feel that way.

    Blame marketers for the weak bike market, blame companies who don’t bring cool bikes to the US, blame old guys on chrome buckets, blame Bill Clinton and blame Canada, I don’t care. But when the most visible members of your group are perceived as selfish, annoying assholes who can be run over at any time by any idiot cager, you have a club that will have a hard time drawing new members.

    • slowestGSXRever

      both of my thumbs are up right now.

    • Your_Mom


    • dux

      I agree. I think the thrust of this article is that the small penis club is shrinking and normal people becoming a larger percentage of riders out there. So there is hope!

    • robotribe

      I can’t add anything more to this conversation other than a slow clap for Michael’s spot-on assessment which captures all the reasons I avoid “clubs”, organized or otherwise.

  • 2ndderivative

    I’m not so sure about the social club part. One aspect of riding that I (and many others) enjoy is the solitude.

    • Wes Siler

      Is not the absence of a social club indicative of a club in and of itself? A club of one?

      • Paul

        amen, Wes; my bike has a solo seat because I like to have my meditation in a solitary environment.

        • Ilya

          You guys ARE members of the club. You’re even paying $1.99 monthly membership fee.

          • Wes Siler

            Shhh Ilya, you’re ruining our lone wolf image.

            • Paul

              I’m a member to help keep Wes and Grant in petty cash for PBR… or cheap vino or whatever it is keeps them going…

            • BeastIncarnate

              Whenever I hear “lone wolf,” I think of my neighbor’s riding club. Saw them riding off one day, three guys with matching “Lone Wolf Motorcycle Club” vests. Something tells me it wasn’t tongue in cheek.

          • 2ndderivative

            It’s just PMS. I’m a December-March subscriber.

      • DAVID

        they make a patch for that.

  • slowtire

    A lot of guys that are married, or married with children, are not going to buy bikes because they have people depending on them and it’s deemed irresponsible to ride one, regardless of their experience. I was one of those guys at one point, despite riding from the age of 8. As they say, a happy wife is a happy life, for the most part. I understood that reasoning for awhile, and then came the divorce.
    Unfortunately, in a lot of the US, the thought that motorcycles are death traps is so ingrained in people that I can’t imagine what it would take to turn it around.
    It gets even worse: When I was considering an econo cage for the work commute, several friends remarked that they are too dangerous and you get no respect on the road. I would laugh and say: I ride motorcycles, remember?
    The bigger is better is safer thing isn’t going away soon. I don’t even see many kids on mopeds anymore. I would have killed to have one when I was younger. It’s sad. The motorcycling marketing guys have their work cut out for them.

  • Paul

    In places like Thailand, Vietnam and India, you see lots of young backpackers hopping on motorcycles. Most of them don’t know how to ride, and don’t seem to care that the traffic is WAY more dangerous than it is back home. But riding is cheap, fun and accessible, and everyone does it. Do they take up motorcycling when they get back home? Most don’t. In North America we’ve made riding expensive, intimidating and way too serious.

  • Ed

    The safety culture thing has a part to play too. I didn’t get back into motorcycles until I started working in an Emergency Room and saw the injuries produced by motorcycles vs stupidity. Guess what, drunk and stupid is far more dangerous. Yet, even in the Emergency room, even when most of my co-workers ride bikes, people reflexively said “you’ll hurt yourself” as soon as I said I bought a motorcycle. It’s been pounded into us that motorcycle riding is not only unsafe but an activity that lacks responsibility and maturity. That’s WHY the marketing to wanna-be rebels brought up on Easy-Rider worked in the first place. That’s also why motorcycles are a hard sell as basic, economical transportation. BTW: Two of our hip, Emergency Room docs ride Buddy scooters to work!

  • parkwood60

    Does anyone else see a connection between alpine skiing and motorcycle riding int the way you do it? I mean, is there anything closer to skiing, without the cold and the hill, than riding a bike through a twisty mountain road? Maybe the kids today just need a bike they can sit on side saddle and ride more like a snow board? The closest thing I see are Go-peds, and I always wonder why you would want such a high center of gravity on a motor vehicle.

  • Mark

    Interesting. Even just a couple of years ago, if you’d told me Ural, of all brands, would be hip… I’d'a laughed. But there’s some truth in all of this. I have to say that the (print) magazine which impresses me most these days is the UK pub Classic Bike — and I’m not saying that because I write for it. Interesting to note that CB is, by definition, essentially immune to OEM’s ‘branding’ efforts and messages. Also, the classic scene is far more of a community if only because getting a classic running and keeping it running is sort of a community effort.

  • Emmet

    What manufacturers are doing wrong is they are selling a lifestyle over a motorcycle. In this sense, they find it harder to sell pragmatism over badass, boy-racer, etc. All my friends who are interested in riding are into the idea for the WRONG reasons. One wants an older Triumph because Bob Dylan rode one (hipster). Another wants a bobber (Harley faggot). When they ask me for help in purchasing a motorcycle and learning to ride, I tell them to first get a permit and take the MSF course. Undoubtedly, none of them have followed through with this.

    I have one friend who I helped buy a 600 sportbike and then taught him how to ride. Although I couldn’t dissuade him from getting a sportbike as his first bike, I did manage to convert his Squid attitude towards riding. He and I are alike in that we are both economic in our decisions and he appreciates the fuel mileage, low insurance premium and small footprint a motorcycle leaves.

    • Kirill

      THIS. The bikemakers seem to be trying to follow the Harley model of selling a lifestyle and an image instead of a product. Almost every bike ad I’ve seen sends the message that “hey this bike is cool and you should buy it because DON’T YOU WANT TO BE COOL.”

      On one hand, its hard to blame them since the general public sees bikes as toys and not transport. On the other hard, they could try to change that perception, maybe make some kind of unified industry-wide campaign.

  • Mike

    I couldn’t help but think of this article as I rode 100-something miles today to & from work. ‘Statistically speaking, people are going to think I’m either a geezer, knocking on death’s door, or some twat who’s about to pop a sick wheelie & splat myself all over the place’

    Though, for each of the 6 other motorcycling souls I saw today, I tried to communicate with my lazy wave ‘Hey did you know the Internet says we’re a dying demographic?’ I don’t think they got the message – they were having too much fun to notice.

  • Stephen

    Credit to Ilya for seeing the contrast between snowboarding and skiing. Credit to many commenters for seeing the contrasts between the epic fun of riding a motorcycle and the social aspect of the people you do it with, and lameness of the shirtless tools on crotch rockets and the pirates with their bandanas and chaps.

    Ilya, go see “doin it baja” on Check out 4q Read about Thor Drake and See See Motorcycles, check out bolts action blog, Jeremy Jones the pro snowboarder, check out cycle zombies the blog, check out jason lee (the actor, and pro skateboarder) who just bought a Falcon moto. See the recent NY times article on the connection between motorcycles and board sports. The answer sir, is that your market is standing on boards today. And they are just getting into motorcycles. And they are really fucking cool.

    More kids skateboard than play baseball in America today. The Olympics were basically a Shaun White made for TV special. “Action Sports” are building customers for your motorcycles daily–you just need to learn to speak their language, and it’s on.

  • Ilya

    Thank you, Stephen! I was going to do my own research, your info gives me perfect starting point. Now, two questions:
    1. How often you see snowboarder (or skateboarder) who is going snow(skate)board alone?
    2. How they all communicate with each other?

  • Jeff

    Now you can factor in gas prices skyrocketing in spring / summer, & may be up there a while this time. I would think surely this will spur more smaller cc bike purchases.

    • Ilya

      I wouldn’t bet my money on it.