A Rebuttal to Frederick Seidel

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rebuttal

On November 5, Mr. Frederick Seidel, respected poet and writer asked the question “Is the iPhone Replacing the Motorcycle?” and expressed his view about the decline of the motorcycle as an object of desire among the youth of today’s America. His piece in the New York Times, with the thought-provoking title “Is the Era of the Motorcycle Over?” aroused curiosity among the industry elite. As a motorcycle design and product planning consultant, I was excited by the notion that a prize-winning author and self-proclaimed motorcycle enthusiast was using his prose to advance a contemporary view on the state of an industry in malaise. It was with great disappointment then, that reading the article revealed yet another myopic love letter to a fabricated vision of motorcycling in the imagined days of yore.

Aside from the absurd comparison between a $500 electronic device and a motor vehicle costing, at minimum, ten times that amount, is the equally absurd idea that at some point, sales of $22,000 exotic motorcycles like the Ducati he cites were ever a representation of young American’s purchasing habits. Suggesting that tumbling sales of luxury motorcycles is indicative of a youth culture no longer interested in the physically active pleasures of motorcycling is akin to saying that the declining subscriptions to elitist magazines like The Atlantic and Harpers signals a national decline in reading. It is also insulting to an entire generation who clearly don’t share the same values.

Unlike the passions of older generations, which tended to focus their resources on one or two pursuits, today’s youth maintain many pastimes, participate in multiple sports, and have far less financial means to divide among them. Motorcycling in this country has been perverted over the past 25 years by the singularity of Baby Boomer vision to mean only one thing: luxury. The same said Boomers all began motorcycling when bikes were cheap and cheerful, unintimidating transportation, but then turned it into a social-status driven lifestyle accoutrement for the rich. If we are to lament the lack of young people enjoying the open road on any motorcycle, as Mr. Seidel says, then fingers must be pointed to the astronomical costs of owning and operating toys like his beloved Ducati, and the declining incomes of the twenty-somethings who may dream of riding them.

Combining completely inaccurate market history, strictly anecdotal evidence, and a point of view doused heavily in nostalgia and single brand mythology, Mr. Seidel constructs a theory that supposes his world view was once a national reality. To think that a “…boy’s world would have fallen to its knees before a new Ducati design” in this country demonstrates at best a laughable gullibility to the powers of Ducati marketing suggestion, or at worst an exaggerated projection of personal brand tribalism beyond all reason. To most American boys dreaming of motorcycling, that vision was, is, and will likely continue to be motocross, and the object of their desire a Japanese 450cc off-roader covered in energy drink stickers. As recently as the mid 1990′s, no one outside of a tiny number of European motorcycle fans even knew what a Ducati was. And they were most certainly not children at the time.

As with any opinion, the tone and content of Mr. Seidel’s argument is entirely personal, but what it reveals, instead of a provoking thesis on the divergent thinking among the generations, is a complete ignorance of the subject matter discussed. Combined with the condescending, rose tinted view that individuals of a certain class and age use for authority, it propagates the underlying attitudes that have nearly destroyed the motorcycle industry in the United States and Canada. Manufacturers, once fat from the fleecing of the upper classes, today have product line ups that no longer offer anything reasonable and desirable to the beginner, in addition to having completely forgotten what it means to advertise to or lure young aspiring motorcyclists into the biker fold. Lest there be any doubt, this is a problem unique to our continent, as world motorcycle production has been climbing strongly every year for over a decade, even during the global financial crisis. These sales have been led, at least partially, by sport bikes. From Mumbai, Jakarta and Sao Paolo to the trendy streets of Shibuya and bustling suburbs of Barcelona, young men of low to middle incomes dream of and purchase small capacity sport motorcycles in the tens of millions. Like the Baby Boomers when they were young, these youths find new small sport bikes appealing because they offer the freedom and style, dignity and glamour that make them aspirational in the same way Apple digital tools do. It is a beautiful, blooming, emotionally and economically fulfilling reality. Just not here. Here in America, a generation turned its back on youth motorcycling for almost twenty years, using all the resources and imagined mythology at its disposal to convince us that motorcycling meant polishing a cruiser costing more than a mid-sized car, and using it 6 or 7 times a summer.

Reading opinions such as those expressed in the article in question, particularly in sources as respected as the New York Times, only deepens the malaise among those who actually work in this industry and are trying, against the tide, to re-introduce to America what motorcycling is all about- visceral, interactive and attainable outdoor fun for anyone.

I am one of those people. I believe that along with transforming the technology of the motorcycle itself to fit the realities of our modern world, the more-than-century-old basic animal appeal of the motorcycle itself will continue to inspire, so long as we make it accessible again. Young people’s hearts are indeed still a flutter at the sight of new motorcycles. Just not here, Mr. Seidel. And not for your Ducati.

Michael Uhlarik is a veteran motorcycle industry consultant and award winning designer of motorcycles for brands like Yamaha, Aprilia, Bombardier, and many others. He is the founder of Amarok Consultants, and the chief designer of the Amarok P1 electric racing experiment. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  • The other Joe

    I tip my hat to you sir, well written. I have been riding for over thirty years (I’m 40), and have never been able to afford any bike newer than fifteen years old. My last bike was 33 years old when I bought it, my current bike is 17 and I think it might be the newest i’ve ever owned. I am currently (slowly) converting my ’94 KLX650R to supermoto, and the people of my small town life are going to see what low budget fun is all about!

  • Will Y

    Thank you for this.

  • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

    Hear, hear.

  • icarus

    Great read, thanks for taking the time to write it.

  • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

    YES!!! I’m sure I can make a solid business case around this for any one of the Japanese OEM’s. Honda and Kawasaki have decent US market starter bikes, even the Suzuki SV650 is a perfectly decent first bike here in America. But Yamaha doesn’t seem to, and well, Ducati has the Diavel, clearly designed for the nouveau motorcyclist. And going in the opposite direction of where manufacturers need to go in the midst of a rather sticky recession when people are turning to mopeds (even in LA) to save money on gas. Speaking of money, how on earth does a poet support such a habit?

    I think back to how I chose Grandma’s Cadillac over dad’s MG (which I’d lusted after for 4 years) as my first car because the whole manual transmission thing was beyond annoying. It wasn’t as hateful on my first Vespa, because I wanted to ride more than anything else, and I could use my feet to keep the scooter from rolling back downhill. Would more Americans would take an interest in riding if the learning curve weren’t quite so steep? We’ve been babied for so long, I think it’s just that people are lazy. Once they master actually riding on a single speed electric bike, people who want to go faster can move up to something that may require a transmission. By then they’ll be comfortable enough with the rest of the experience to add clutch operation to their arsenal. More and more young people in LA are riding bicycles & mopeds. My cycling friends are kind of awed by my motorcycling, yet I feel it’s safer than bicycling. Clearly there’s a need for the sort of tiered motorcycles that are compulsory in other countries- they’re less intimidating to new riders.

    • noone1569

      I think there is something huge to this fear and intimidation to begin riding. Non-riding Americans have been lead to believe that anything under a 600 supersport is crap and everyone needs a litre bike, but 600 supersports and litre bikes are incredibly fucking scary to new riders. The intimidation of going 0-100 in five seconds is huge and is probably the sole reason most people that don’t ride, don’t. They say things like “oh me on a bike? I’d kill myself,” and that is probably true if they buy into the bullshit of needing a 600 supersport or litre bike.

      The real question is, how the hell do we combat this?

      • DoctorNine

        How to combat this? Good reviews and demonstration videos of how much fun that accessible, friendly bikes can be. Also, I think simple thumpers and twins appeal to tinkerers and the mechanically minded, which kind of draw them into the sport. After getting used to those, they will move up the power tree.

        • Sean Smith

          “I think simple thumpers and twins appeal to tinkerers and the mechanically minded” True.

          But even Honda’s current MotoGP engine, with it’s magic seamless transmission is pretty simple. Whether you’re working on a lawnmower, blown and injected alcohol dragster, or one-off custom KTM monster motor, it’s all just measuring and nuts and bolts.

          • Aienan

            Part of it I think is us as riders buying smaller bikes, not just saying “They are for beginners.”

            Now, I own an 800, and some of the people I took training with, or learned to ride around the time I did (two years ago) look at me with awe that I ride such a ‘huge’ bike. The honesty is, while I love my F800, and it is great for highway and rougher roads, it isn’t relaxing as a commuter. As a result, I’m seriously considering a Honda CBR250, not only will it use half the gas (which frankly, is already not much), but I find I am more comfortable on a smaller bike. I liked the 125, but it was just a little too gutless for the freeway.

            The argument I’ve heard against it is that I could buy a used 600 for less money, and then have the power to hoon when I want it. However, I would never let someone who wanted to try a motorcycle out on a sportbike with over 100 hp. I want to encourage people I know to ride, and the 250 seems like the proper piece. Not only as a tool to lend, but as one to show that you don’t need a fancy, expensive bike to have fun and commute safely.

            • 80-watt Hamster

              F800′s a 50-60mpg bike, innit? CBR250′s only in the 70s.

              • Aienan

                My F800GS tends to pull ~4.5 l/100km (52.3 mpg) in the city, and hugely speed dependent on the highway (BMW Claims 3.8 (61.9 mpg) @ 90km/h, 5.2 (45.2 mpg) @ 120), I have not hit 5 on the computer, but did average 4.3 (54.7) on a 1100 km trip in the mountains, but my results might vary due to being at ~600m of elevation. So, averaging around 52 MPG in the city.

                When I was in the dealership, the guy said that it was close to 2 l/100. Frankly, if it pulls close to 3.5 l/100 (67.2 mpg) that is still a marked improvement. From what I have seen, the official number is 57 mpg for the 250, some of the forums and articles I found said if you drive it, pleasantly, it gets in the 60s. So 80-watt, yes, half the gas is a bit too much hyperbole.

                In all honesty, looking at the numbers, I’m amazed the BMW does as well as it does.

          • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

            You may not find many Apple users willing to even change their own oil, but I bet most serious Android/Linux users would to a complete tear-down of a bike the minute they buy it!

            • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

              doesn’t take a Genius to do that ;)

  • dux

    You tell ‘em, Mike. Old people ruined and are still trying to ruin motorcycling (to some degree)

  • Denzel

    Hey, Seifel is a poet, a class of people who are entitled to, expected to, take liberty with ideas, and not be criticized by the literal minded. That said, his ‘vision’ wasn’t very enlightening… basically being, “kids today… spend too much time with their video games and not outside, doing the things I did as a kid”…

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

    I’d be interested to hear what Seifel rode as kid. I’m sure it wasn’t $20k Italian race bikes.

    One look at a bunch of 20-somethings goofing on $300 craigs-list special mopeds is enough to know that the kids will be alright, iPods and all.

  • Gene

    Respected? The New York Times sucks so much, it’s blocked in my /etc/hosts. They’re the self-important egotistical type that think we’re so breathless for their content that we’ll jump multiple hoops for it, including a paywall and requiring you to accept cookies.

    I have no interest in hearing their opinions on iPhones, motorcycles, or anything else.

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    Michael Uhlarik hit the nail right on the head with this rebuttal. I started riding dirt bikes when I was five and I don’t recall any kids I met growing up more octane-addled than myself. I didn’t see my first Ducati in the flesh until I was 19. The guy that rode it was well into his 30s, probably beyond. And yes, I drooled over it, but it was way beyond my means and that gap between a young person’s means and a Ducati has only widened since that day.

    What I see of young men and motorcycles is far from passive. They’re certifiable adrenaline junkies on ZX636s and CRF250s. And how does he manage to overlook that so many young people are taking the very same motorcycles their parents could afford and tweaking them to fit their own generation’s sense of style?

    Who was that riding a then-affordable newish CB550 in 1977? It was their parents, or at least someone their parents knew. Now maybe that parent moved on to a Ducati, or a Harley or worse yet, a Camry. Fact is, then and now, the generation he speaks of is filled with young men on attainable bikes. He just doesn’t see them at the Ducati dealer and track days.

    If anything is holding the numbers of riders back, I would say it’s the combination of 1) the polarization of the extreme motorcycle cultures that send the intimidating message that if you’re not doing backflips or stoppies, you’re sane, not cool and 2) manufacturers have pursued baby boomers to the extent that little if anything has been made both available and cool in a new bike for young people in decades. To both points, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” wasn’t a craven appeal to a fat demographic. It wasn’t an outright spec war on their competitors. It was an appeal to get people on bikes and having fun.

    I’ll admit my professional experience hasn’t been 100% off message with regards to point #1…yet. As for point #2 I say “well done” to the generation getting their hands dirty on some middle aged dad’s dust-covered Honda and getting it running and registered.

    The boomers should know, the kids are alright.

  • NewOldSchool

    Sometimes, while riding out on the mountain roads of SoCal, I like to pull over and talk with other motorcyclists at the popular turnouts. You know the guy that half knows what he’s talking about, but won’t shut up? Even talking louder when he is corrected?

    That guy is always riding a Ducati…And he lets everyone know he rides a Ducati by bringing it up several times in conversation.

    /rant

    • Tony

      “like”

    • Sean Smith

      Sometimes he’s riding a GSX-R. And his crazy uncle can be seen in the summer months riding some form of harley.

  • Don Archer

    You know, we had pong and mini bikes, and we turned out alright. A bit of artistic license in the guys story creates no harm and no foul. His supposition that motorcycling is a dying sport is a bit off, but it is cheaper to by an iPad than a Rabbit these days, for sure. Of course this is being written on an iPad by a guy who rides an R1 really fast on the weekends (both days). Chill out. You can enjoy Apples and motorcycles, just hopefully not at the same time. The kids are aright, man!

  • cookinginpawleys

    Please keep this article generally available (rather than the normal 12 hour window) . This needs to be referenced by the general public, and not just the HFL loyalists.

    • Myles

      +1

    • Mike

      Agreed

  • Eric

    This may be slightly off topic (but still in the how-do-we-get-young-people-riding vein), but I still think safety is a huge obstacle for a lot of people. I have no proof, but it’s my hunch that the millennial and gen X generations are much more risk averse than generations before. I’m 23, and my friends are absolutely convinced I’m going to die on my bike (oh you took you DONOR CYCLE today! PLEASE be careful!).

    How do you counter this? I’m not sure, but I think the best place to start is getting some better/more comprehensive data on motorcycle accidents. I know the was a big report done like 20 years ago (I can’t think of the name, help me out here!), but I’ve looked through it, and it sucked. Very basic data. We need to know more about:

    - The effectiveness of helmets
    - The effectiveness of gear
    - The effectiveness of bike mods (strobing brake lights, louder horns, etc.)
    - Drunk riding
    - Types of accidents & their causes
    - etc.

    Once we have that data, and can put the risk in the proper context, I think we’ll be much more successful in convincing to young people.

    • Tony

      Hurt report. Unironically.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        “The more time goes by, the less things look different. Riders today have the same sort of accidents as riders in the 1970s, except that today they crash much more expensive bikes.”
        —Professor Hugh H. (“Harry”) Hurt, Jr

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurt_Report

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      Excellent point. Nearly everyone I encounter who hasn’t ridden seems terrified of the idea. It’s not because bikes are so fast – they haven’t even experienced them – it’s the brainwashing of a risk-averse society.

      I find myself constantly having the same two conversations at work. The first is answering, “Why ride? It’s so dangerous!” The second is, “That’s a lot of gear you’re wearing, you look silly! Isn’t riding about taking risks?” I’ve had both conversations with the same individuals. It’s a crazy paradox – riding is about inviting death and anything minimizing that is silly. Like, if you value your life so little as to ride in the first place, why protect yourself? It makes me a little crazy.

    • aristurtle

      On the contrary, I only seem to be chided by older people. My boss at work saw me geared up, walking to my motorcycle, and told me “You know those things are dangerous, right?” The guy was having a smoke break, too; I thought it was all pretty funny.

      People my own age generally add up the cost of a bike, a decent set of gear, the ridiculously high insurance costs, and other incidentals and realize that they don’t have the cash lying around to pick up another expensive hobby.

      • Alix

        +1 on the second part of that. I’m 25 and would love to get a bike or a scooter in the next couple of years, but the cost of bike + gear is a bit too much for me right now given that I’m trying to get into grad school and support another expensive hobby (mountaineering).

    • Frosty_spl

      I tell people who nag me about bikes being dangerous and that I could get hurt: “I don’t care if I die.”

      That shuts em up.

      • nick2ny

        I always say that motorcycles themselves aren’t very dangerous, it’s just that it’s so much fun that it’s easy to get carried away. I tell them than i’m acutely aware of this, put them in proper protective clothing, and take them on a sight-seeing ride around NYC. I’ve done this with my mom, my dad, and lots of guys and girls. Works every time. I start them out on a scooter and the next step is an Enduro.

        • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

          This sounds familiar. I have to explain that motorcycles by themselves aren’t dangerous. Like everything else, it is more about the people. Those on them and those around them.

          Now I want to go take a sight seeing ride around NYC on a SuMo.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      I disagree: FMX, Dew Tour, X Games, Nitro Circus, XDL…

      • The other Joe

        All of which are things people watch on TV.

    • M

      you know you’re in the minority opinion on this subject when you read “DONOR CYCLE” to mean “SECOND MOTORCYCLE USED FOR PARTS FOR FIRST MOTORCYCLE” or “VERY BADLY USED MOTORCYCLE PURCHASED FOR THE SAKE OF RESTORING” rather than “ORGAN DONOR MOTORCYCLE”.

  • Scott-jay

    Good, good; thank-you.
    Seems unlikely tho, after fifty years of refinement manufacturers have nearly destroyed the motorcycle industry in the United States and Canada.
    Certainly sea changes (nostalgic is me), but don’t recognize it as destruction.
    Yucky to believe industry controls my motorcycling (government, OK).

  • Thom

    On one hand , some of Mr Seidel’s comparisons and analogies do verge occasionally on the Absurd

    But on the other hand Mr Uhlarik’s criticisms of Mr Seidel’s article reveals a complete and total lack of understanding on his part of the current psychological , philosophical , and sociological Zeitgeist we are presently in .

    Suffice it to say , in conclusion to this comment , that we live in a NoBrow society , where the majority is driven by the immediate and the entertaining , avoiding anything that requires a challenge and effort , ignoring any aspect of genuine expertise , denying the reality and need for quality , as well as due to the excessive ADDICTION to entertainment and the latest Thrill , are living with a youth that , not all mind you , but the majority have all the attention span of a Dyslexic ADD Hummingbird

    And if Mr Uhlarik is unable to see how those factors could possibly be playing in to the demise of Motorcycling , choosing instead to attempt to place the Blame on previous generations as well as an industry that caters to what the customer is buying … well then truly Mr Uhlarik is definitely as clueless as I am claiming him to be.

    Nice article , but full of more holes than a well aged piece of Swiss Cheese or the grater you’d use on it .

    • Sean Smith

      All true, but you’re making gross generalizations here. There are literally hundreds of millions of people in America and attempting to make any blanket statement about our society and the ‘majority’ is just silly. Did you ask them? Did anyone ask them? No.

      Plenty of young people do hard and rewarding things. And plenty others just want to get wasted and chase novelty. Even if that second group was more than 99%, and it may very well be, the remaining few of us who get it are more than enough to keep motorcycling alive and doing well. They just need the opportunity to participate and that needs to come in the form of motorcycles as accessible transportation, not more $20,000 Ducatis.

      • JVictor75

        I would love for Custom Car magazines and *ahem* at least one Motorcycle magazine to do editorials including the average ages of custom bike and car shop owners. Maybe you guys should do that as a future feature or something.

        I think it would be enlightening to old farts like Thom to see how many “young people” are out there making a difference in motorsports and vehicle-centric art.

        • Thom

          Old Fart ? Yeah right , like you aren’t heading here at a 100 MPH yourself .

          FYI Try READING my post JV and you’ll see clearly that I’ve stated its the majority and not all youth that are caught up in their own self entertaining shit .

          But on the editorial about young builders , I’d also like to see what the % are in comparison to others NOT doing anything productive as well

          Tell you what though . Interested in the state of America’s youth and their ability/desire to actually DO something rather than just THINK about it ?

          Have a change of pace and BUY a book and read it . No I mean REALLY READ IT .

          ” Shop Class as Soul Craft ” by Michael B Crawford

          A YOUNG Guy by the way , but with a clearer perspective as to the current state of things than you obviously have

          You can still read a book I assume

          Till you’ve read it though , and in response to your pretentious ‘ Old Fart ‘ comment ;

          ” Guess what finger I’m hiding behind my hand “

          • JVictor75

            Thom, calm down man, it was meant in jest! I am agreeing with you!

            I would like to see HFL start showcasing these younger shop owners/industry people and their products as something for the younger guys (and gals) to start emulating!

            Not all of the youth culture are soulless automatons, but enough of them are that they are the majority. Give them an example to live by, a successful example that isn’t a sports celebrity, a movie star, or a musician.

            That’s what is so depressing about people that ARE in the public eye from the auto/moto industry. Paul Teutel Jr could make a HUGE impact by building something TRULY unique and bringing that interest back to the masses, but instead he continues to make clones of every other bike he’s ever made.

            I would seriously like to see more on networks like Speed (or “Velocity”) about people like Roland Sands and the guys from Cleveland Cycle Works and LESS from jackwagons like Paul Teutel Sr and any number of the “established” chopper building crowd.

            That’s all I was saying!

        • Core

          That would be interesting to see actual #’s on the age.

      • Thom

        Stating very clearly as I have that its not all but rather a majority is not a gross generalization , but rather a sad but all to true statement of FACT .

        Certainly there are exceptions to the rule , and in fact during a teaching stint in Vail this summer I had the pleasure of dealing with some of those ‘Exceptions’

        But ….. exceptions they are . Take a good look at what the MAJORITY are doing and tell me I’m wrong . Teach in either a Public School or Collage/University , even for a year , then come back with your argument …… if you can

        As far as ‘ Keeping Motorcycling Alive ” might I suggest you start with yourself e.g. HFL because in fact motorcyclists ARE part and parcel of the overall problem , what with all the prejudice against this M/C or that , smart assed comments when a manufacture comes up with a sensible reasonably priced M/C etc

        As to the Business well here’s your reality check for the day seeing as this fact seems to be a bit off your radar

        BUSINESS’S MANUFACTURE WHAT THE CUSTOMERS ARE BUYING Period .

        e.g. If more folks purchased sensible , reasonably priced M/C’s when they were offered the manufactures would make more of them . Fact is they don’t

        I get into this argument with a capricious fellow on an automotive site I participate on , with him constantly carping that Mercedes Benz ( yes I own one and TS to who ever doesn’t like it ) doesn’t offer ‘ Budget ‘ and higher MPG cars . My constant answer to this individual is always the same and is consistent with the above paragraph .

        ” If people would of purchased the ‘ Budget ‘ Benz’s and higher MPG ones as well MBUSA would import more of them , but seeing as the customers aren’t buying them when they are on offer MBUSA has stopped bringing them over here ”

        Believe me if Lady Gaga wasn’t selling millions of CD’s the talentless little wench would have been gone in six months time . Same principal in manufacturing .

        Conversely if Lyle Lovett sold as much as Lady Gaga the man would be a multi millionaire rather than being bounced from one label to another as he has been over the last decade .

        You want more sensible , affordable M/C’s Sean?

        Then start giving the ones that make it here positive reviews and quit looking down your nose at them . Then buy one yourself and help out the cause

        Until then I’m afraid , you’re just blowing smoke in the wind .

        • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

          -1. OF COURSE manufacturers could sell sensible, economic, pragmatic, everyday motorcycles. But where’s the money in that? OEMs throw these models into as a haphazard category to sell to ‘misguided’ consumers lacking the deep pockets to afford their flagship motorcycles.

        • AaronT

          Your education argument falls flat (it’s college with an “e” and the keys are not adjacent). Uni is meaningless for most kids; they don’t go to become educated, they go so they will be employable. In the process they take a bunch of mundane classes taught by professors that only give a shit about their grad students and research. We get it, and a lot of students put just as much into their classes as the professors. You have no one but your generation to blame for that, you can’t get a job without a degree because everyone is supposed to get a college degree that has little to no relationship with the career they’ll actually start. You perpetuate this idea that kids today suck because they get how ridiculous the education system is, when fixing the problem would be more productive. I suppose that productive thinking would cut into your allotted time to bitch about those damned kids though.

          I’ve seen plenty of support for attractive small motos. The CBR250 received a favorable write-up and the KTM Duke125/250/300 seems to be eagerly awaited. The problem is that we need attractive small motorcycles to buy, you can’t seriously tell me the Honda Rebel is attractive.

      • SamuraiMark

        +1

        I am continually blown away by all the kids who were in my daughter’s Grade 8 graduating class … the entire group were double-plus awesome. All doing hard and rewarding things. Ok so only in Grade 9 now and none of them riding a Ducati yet …

        Now, those wanks over in that *other* public school …

    • ike6116

      I pray a 19 year old on a brammo does a donut on your lawn.

      • Thom

        That would end up one 19 year old on a Blammo ( Brammo ) that’d never see twenty ;-)

        • JVictor75

          Well also think of it this way Thom. If he was “cutting donuts” in your lawn he probably wouldn’t have enough juice to get very far afterwords. So hey, free Brammo!

  • SamuraiMark

    Seidal’s article does not say or imply anything about youth buying Ducati. He talks about passion for Ducati. He wonders why youth seem more interested in or turned on by the newest ipad rather than the newest Duc. Why youth would *want* an ipad more then they would *want* a Duc. Imagine a youth with his head buried in his ipad when a new 1199 rides by, and the youth doesn’t notice. That is what he is talking about. He does not imply anywhere that he thinks youth were ever actually buying these sorts of machines. He is clearly talking about *desire* for these machines. And he’s very clearly talking about a general decline in youth interest in motorcycling. Whether that decline is real or not I have no idea.

    Michael’s criticism of Seidal’s OPINION PIECE goes well beyond necessary. It’s an academic journal criticism of a newspaper editorial. Seidal was waxing philosophic. Yes, he obviously likes Duc’s … who doesn’t? If someone’s opinion piece, meant as very light reading, gets your back up that much, maybe you need to go for a ride on your motorcycle. Relax man …

    • Thom

      +1

    • Campisi

      I think it’s because the headline of Seidal’s story (about as likely as not chosen by the editor, in my experience) writes a check his article doesn’t cash. It’s like titling a piece “Does Corn Syrup Kill You” only to go on about a time he put too many illicit substances in his soda once.

      • SamuraiMark

        Agreed. But again, it’s a newspaper article. Worse, a newspaper editorial/opinion piece. You always get less than what you pay for! Haha. And double agreed … most likely someone other than the author choose the headline.

        • Devin

          It’s just that Michael is having PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome).

          He’s out on Canada’s east coast and is probably parked for the seaon.

          That’ll be me in a week or two.

    • Roman

      I actually think Seidel is on to something, even if he doesn’t fully articulate it. The creep of mobile electronics into every aspect of our lives is beginning to interfere with how we actually interact with the physical environment. Go to a show with a younger crowd, you’ll see half of them texting, and the other half recording it on their phones instead of just enjoying the music. Go to a nice restaurant, people are on their phones. I find it hard to have conversations with some of my friends, because their nose is stuck in their phones half the time. I’m sure I’m guilty of this too. This is not something you can just wave off.

      Riding is an activity that requires your full concentration. That’s one of the great pleasures of it. But that’s a break from how many people experience their lives right now. Once you’re in the great data stream, it’s really, really hard to pull out. So forget the Ducati brand wankery and look for the underlying point. I think Seidel gets closer to it than our intrepid host, unfortunately.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      SamuraiMark, Uhlarik’s rebuttal points out several of the root causes for the lack of interest in motorcycles within youth culture. The main points being:

      1. The fracturing of interests within youth culture.

      2. The comparatively high financial barrier of entry as compared to other desirable products.

      2. Unlike Apple, which Seidel uses as a point of comparison, OEMs in the US have not marketed to youth culture for over 20 years.

      • Roman

        Agreed about advertising. There is almost zero mainstream advertising for motorcycles. You just don’t see it, other than maybe tough guy Harley BS. It might sounds silly now, but one of the things that got me thinking about riding is the scene in The Matrix with Trinity weaving through traffic on the Ducati 996. It was so freaking cool and something just clicked….I wanted to do “that”

      • SamuraiMark

        Agreed on all points, but that is not a rebuttal at all. That is an attempt to explain the downward trend to which Seidel is asking the question … “What the hell?” Seidel doesn’t really attempt to answer the question. He posits the influence of our digital devices.

        All I’m saying is Uhlarik’s article, at least the part where he is critiquing Seidel, is more than a little assumptive and over the top. I believe (and of course this is just *my* opinion) that Uhlarik is reading a lot more into Seidel’s article than is actually there.

      • Ilya

        The “height” of the financial barrier is a function of interest. Young people have money, they just don’t spend them on motorcycles, either cheap or expensive. Look who is buying scooters.

        • Campisi

          Most recent grads I know can’t (or can hardly) even afford to pay rent once their monthly student loan payments are deducted from their take-home incomes, much less afford something that society has trained them to see as an expensive and dangerous hobby item.

    • Baronsamedi
  • Brad

    My son is 17, didn’t want a car only a motorcycle. Sadly he is the only student at his high school that rides. The bike he wanted was a Ducati Monster. Go figure!! Riding with him has been one of the truly great joys of parenthood.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Can’t wait to get my son a little dirt bike in a few years. Startin’ him early!

  • Edward

    I spend most of my time not dying.
    That’s what living is for.
    I climb on a motorcycle.
    I climb on a cloud and rain.
    I climb on a woman I love.
    I repeat my themes.

    -Frederick Seidel

    Other poems address the anomie of factory superbikes and running slicks on the street:

    http://www.amazon.com/Ooga-Booga-Poems-Frederick-Seidel/dp/0374226555

  • ak

    Wow…I’m dumb. Apples to oranges was a wonderful waste of while.

    Kids are straight up bitches these days in the information era. In the eyes of parents, every older single man with a beard is a pedophile. Keep them inside more. Computers and video games are an inexpensive and effective babysitter.

    Parents (or at least one of them) is working everyday to put food on the table, and this goes for $35,000 a year to $200,000+ a year. They don’t have time for motorcycles and certainly, neither do their kids. Even a seasoned pro would not let their child learn by themselves until that child was a legal adult.

    Motorcycles are cool, no doubt, that is why we are all here. Kids (I’m talking fresh out of high school) are going to do one of 2 things 99.9% of the time;
    1) Go to college
    2) Go into the work force for an extremely low wage.

    This is very general and yes there will always be an exception to the rule…

    And lets assume that both of those categories lust for two wheeled action. How will they afford one?

    Mom and Dad, Credit, Cash. (Greatest to least likely.)

    So now they have a bike, CBR600 and a Ducati 749. Used mind you, as these models are quite expensive new, $10,000 plus. So unless you live at home with the rents that have a garage and/or have a plethora of bike specific tools, you’re going to have to pay some good money to keep this bitch maintained. Am I right?

    Nobody likes a squid unless they’re away from their motorcycle. Also, lets assume they have more then a modicum of knowledge.

    I digress, Steve Jobs liked motorcycles and rode them with a helmet.

  • pplassm

    Mopeds and scooters. The young folks around here all want scooters.

    I read somewhere that there is a state in the US where you can get a driver’s license (for an automobile) at 16, but you must be 18 to get a motorcycle license. These kinds of things don’t help.

    The youths in town that have outgrown scooters are moving on to making “cafe racers” out of their dads’ old CB450s parked back in the garage.

    Ducatis? What’re those?

    • Campisi

      I always thought that a motorcycle license should be available 1) independent of an automobile license, and 2) at a younger age. Tier the licenses so that young riders don’t kill themselves ripping along at 180 mph and they’ll be fine (and most likely better drivers as well).

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

        In Oklahoma, you can get your 125cc learner permit at 14. You can also tell the DMV lady that “RZ350″ is just the name of the bike, not the size of the engine.

        • Campisi

          My opinion of Texas’s Canada has now risen further.

  • markbvt

    Great article, agreed completely. Seidel’s article was off the mark.

    I can only point out my own experience up here in the hinterlands of northern Vermont. We have an active local bike night every Tuesday even through the winter. Of course in the winter only a small core group shows up, but in the summer we’ll have 50, 60, 70 bikes. In small-town northern Vermont. Nearly all the bikes that show up are sportbikes or sport-tourers, and the vast majority of riders are under 30. At 41 I’m one of the old guys.

    The interesting thing is watching the progression of some of the younger riders; as they get more active with some of the longer rides we do, many of them tend to shift away from the 600 and literbike race replicas and toward sport-tourers such as the Triumph Sprint ST, naked sport-standards such as the FZ-1, even ADV bikes.

    I don’t know, maybe we just have a good motorcycle community up here, but when I compare the size of that community to the small overall population, it definitely makes me feel pretty good about the future of motorcycling. (Though all that said, I can understand why companies like Harley-Davidson are worried — very few of the younger crowd up here have any interest in cruisers.)

  • doublet

    I didn’t read through all of this just skimmed the first paragraph and skimmed the second because I’m at work.. but yea. Luxury motorcycles were never indicative of youth spending habits. Now, the “cafe racer” boom sure is! I’m past the point of being enthralled in it, but when I sported up a $200 kz550 ten years ago.. it was essentially the very same generational attitude of youth. The perennial cheap ass motorcycle with ‘function’ (first I had to make it run!) and then ‘cool’ (I mean it was UGLY, but $200..) coming in on the installment plan.. whatever I wasn’t spending on beer, food or gas to get to class went to the bike. Over? no. Different, so as to inadvertently appear ‘over’ to the unaware? Always.

    EDIT: Then again, my inspiration for the flat black paint and general lust for a modern motorcycle was inspiried by a middle-aged dude who was also training to be an aircraft tech, who rode a then-new Monster Dark 750. Man, how beautiful that thing was, and to think I never knew it existed

  • lidewij

    who can afford a Ducati at 17. Not many. And who can explore the full potential at this age of a Ducati. Again not many. My first bike was a Laverda jota from ’78. And yes it was beautiful, powerful, noisy, heavy and so on. But was it a wise choice in hindsight. No I don’t think so. Learning how to ride a motorcycle means that you are or will be able to explore the full potential and power of it.
    Going around corners is the true fun of motorcycle riding. Leaning the thing over and if you can and dare putting your knee down. To learn and master this craft is much easier and more fun with a smaller and inherently cheaper bike. The tendency of crashing your bike at a young age is also much bigger. Writing off a Ducati is a pretty sour experience with too little money in the bank (I wrote off the Laverda and a few years later a 900ss).
    A Ducati TT2…. I wanted one of those really bad when I was young. So to hanker after a Ducati at a young age is true in my case. But I could have been the exception that proves the rule.

  • lidewij

    By the way. I am 40 years old now, European and living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      You live in a place where motorcycles are considered an acceptable mode of transport for the general public.. You totally don’t count.

  • Mat

    Motorcycles are transport, not lifestyle. It’s when people think they’re the latter and not the former that things get fucked up. Firstly, riding bikes gets you from A to B. Secondly, it’s fun. End of story.

    • rohorn

      I like motorcycles a LOT more when I ride them by choice rather than necessity.

      • SamuraiMark

        +1

        • Aienan

          Mat, I wish I could agree with you.

          For 5 months of the year, I ride the thing for fun, because I can. However, if you were to look out my office window right now and saw the 15 cm of snow, you’ll understand why it is safely tucked away in a warm shop.

          My motorcycle moves my soul first, and as a side effect, my body arrives where it needs to be. (I feel like I’m ripping off someones quote here, thoughts?)

  • rohorn

    Will someone with more than half a brain please write an article on the parallels between what is happening to motorcycling right now and what happened to private aviation in the last few decades?

    Or do I have to do it?

    • JVictor75

      I’m more than sure that, if well written (not being a smart-ass) they would welcome an editorial like that.

      I know I would.

      • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

        As an armchair aerospace enthusiast, I would love to read such a piece. I have no idea what has been going on in private aviation in terms of demographics, but would be very interested in finding out.

        M

      • doublet

        I’d like to see it done, being as I’m sitting at my desk at our small, local, family-owned logistics business where we connect the likes of QVC and Amazon to the trucks they desperately need to move freight. This is after training and practicing as an A&P mechanic ten years ago, right out of High School. I’ve worked my way up through all the small local GA shops, done plenty of sidework, and have been laid off from the likes of Northrop Grumman and Agusta Westland. Aviation IN GENERAL is dying. What’s killing small private aviation is further and further restriction through regulation to the point of choking it off and driving costs inordinately up. A GM delco voltage regulator for a plane from the 1960′s that was designed to use a GM delco voltage regulator now has to have a CERTIFIED Gm delco regulator, which is the same part one can get at autozone. Pass it through someone who has paid enough money to be certified to ‘approve’ this part, tack all those overhead costs on, and [i]then[/i] try to turn a profit. Then pay a mechanic in a shop with overhead to put that part on your airplane. Oh, and we’re in a recession. Nobody can afford it.

        But, if you own the plane, and you know how to install a voltage regulator, and you know that a voltage regulator of the same P/N is a voltage regulator… but who really does?

        Maybe one day I’ll rebuild a plane like I did my $200 kz550.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I think you have to do it. Email me if you’re serious.

      • JVictor75

        Awesome!

        • Aienan

          I’m looking forward to this.

          • The other Joe

            I’ll read it.

          • Eric

            Me too

            • miguel

              ME TOO’!!!!

      • rohorn

        Emailed.

  • Nick

    Michael, respectfully, you may be focusing on the details of the opinion piece rather than the overall sentiment. Motorcycles used to give young dudes boners on a global scale, but now glamour technology is serious competition in the “boner” market. This is just my viewpoint, rose-tinted, naive, you bet. But it’s the reality.

    iPads are here and will never leave no matter how nostalgic we are. It’s worthwhile to remind the herd that follows Apple’s every move (myself included) that some of the most exciting, scary, life-affirming moments come on top of two wheels and an engine rather than an app store. The two can coexist, but they each have their place.

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      Nick, see below

  • Danielsohn

    When it came to killing time, kids always had options. We had TV and Nintendo and Walkmans and bicycles. We had friends and a Nerf football and one of those friends had a basketball hoop. We had a nearby gravel pit and some woods. Some of us had CR80s or RM125s. We trash-picked a CB250 and made it work. When we were older we had shitty cars and surfboards. We had parents who let us get away with crazy shit, often unknowingly.

    So now we have iPhones instead of Walkmans and iPads instead of Nintendo. And the woods and gravel pits are still there. Football and basketball are still things kids do.

    But now, parenting is a competition and today’s parents don’t let their kids get into crazy shit anymore. The one’s that do, those kids ride the shit out of mopeds and mini-bikes and the $199 quads and dirt bikes from PepBoys up and down public roads without helmets. At least in DC in the summer they do. Those kids might not lust after the latest Ducati, but you can get them more than a little riled up over a Hayabusa with a stretched swing arm and some chrome.

  • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

    Some After Thoughts

    Thanks to everyone that responded to this piece. This is a subject that needs rigorous debate from any camp if we are to take the North American motorcycle market forward.

    iPads are here to stay, their mark on our society paradigm-shifting, and as I mentioned in the opening of my rebuttal, I was intrigued and excited by the proposition being put forward in the headline and opening paragraph of Mr. Seidel’s piece. It was the lack of compelling evidence and reasonable argument to back his claim that I responded to. That, and the same old incredibly narrow-minded view of our marketplace being once again advanced in a high profile media outlet.

    In general, people today are less patient with gratification, this much is clear to even the most casual observer. Having said that, the United States is not the world, and the US motorcycle market has been over-sold to a particular target audience in the name of unsustainable short term profits, resulting in the view expressed by Mr. Seidel and most industry pundits. Yes, personal electronic devices have replaced many previous pastimes for a large majority of people, but a healthy demand for motorcycles and all the iGizmos in the world can happily coexist, as they do in other countries.

    Some perspective :

    The United States represents just under 3% of the world motorcycle market, yet 24% of the industry’s global profits. How did this happen? India bought over 11 million motorcycles to America’s 500,000, but you can easily surmise the difference in cost and sales margin between the top sellers in either country. India is growing at over 8% year on year. Those bikes are being bought by young men, many of them affluent and with similar competing interests as our young man. Before many of you start conjuring up stereotypes, let me assure you, the Indian middle class is smart, brand and technology aware and have a very bright economic future, unlike our own. They are buying stylish 150-250cc motorcycles (and I mean motorcycles, not just scooters) largely in the sport class. Check out Yamaha’s R15, Fazer 250, Honda’s CB150F and Bajaj Pulsar. Ask those happy millions what they also own and surprise! Its iPhones, iPads, and all the rest of the personal tech, high street fashion and junk that our youth enjoy. India’s personal device market is huge, and their youth just as savvy, trigger fingered, and in search of short term gratification as ours is.

    India too much of a stretch, you say? Take Italy. The world’s 9th largest motorcycle market (until 2008 anyway) is probably the most brand and fashion sensitive marketplace in the world. Italian youth are every bit as lifestyle and tech conscious as anyone’s and certainly more fashion conscious. They are also chronically under-employed and poor, yet until the recession they consumed hot new bikes fast, from race replica scooters to entry-level 600cc naked models like the Honda Hornet, Suzuki GSR and Yamaha YZF-R125.

    Obviously, different markets are chalk and cheese, vastly different from one another on many basic, structural levels, but it serves as an example of how motorcycling can be a high growth, progressive, and youth friendly in today’s digital, ADD universe.

    As I said, I respect Mr. Seidel as a writer and poet. I do not, however, think his point was well made, entertaining, or particularly insightful despite the catchy headline. I welcome the debate in any case.

    • Roman

      Michael, there are a couple things your examples have in common (I’d throw Spain in the mix too). They’re warm weather countries with very dense cities and relatively poor populations. In other words, a perfect combination for using motorcycles as a primary mode of transportation. With a few notable exceptions, very few places in the US fit that description.

      I agree that things went way overboard with the Harley/literbike lifestyle exuberance, but US will never be a market where motorcycles are seen primarily as a way of getting around. It will always be a niche here, but the $64,000 question is how do we expand the niche and diversify it? Corporations will always seek short term profit, so I don’t see them as the solution. Any ideas?

      • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

        Corporations do not always seek short term profits. Japanese companies spent 50 years growing by focusing on the long term, being happy with 2-3% growth. Korean brands like Hyundai/Kia, Taiwan’s Kymco and India’s Hero have been focusing on the long term.

        It is OUR culture’s fixation on unreasonable growth that has caused this.

        As for poor/warm, that is not a reasonably argument either. We once had big booms in motorcycle sales in the US, and I don’t remember the weather being any different. What *was* different was the economic prosperity of the young, and new bikes were cheap and small.

        Why is it that we can’t see past the size issue? In the late 60′s and 70′s, Boomers were thrilling themselves on 175′s and 350′s, while at the same time the then old boys were on the dominant big bikes of the times like 750 Commando’s, 650 Gold Stars and Harleys. Same weather, same disparity between “going motorcycle culture” of cool guys on big bikes, but availability and access to fun for all.

        If you feed the young today, you have tomorrow’s luxury bike consumer in the bag. I am not saying we need to kill off luxury bikes, just augment them with desirable cheap stuff.

        • Thom

          michael uhlarik

          Much as I’d love to believe what you’re saying is true , unfortunately its nothing more than ‘ Pie in the Sky ‘ wishful thinking .

          Parents , schools TV Radio etc have created these generations of Entertainment /Instant Gratification junkies and nothing any single industry can do will change that fact .

          The fact is we boomers were thrilling ourselves with 175′s and 350′s because we were willing to be content with them , knowing as our earning power increased , so would the size of the motor in our frame . e.g we had patience . As well as the skills to hop up and modify our little M/C’s to get us thru to the point of affording the bigger one . So get your facts straight and quit making assumptions about an era you’ve only read about .

          PATIENCE Something the 45 and under crowd is sadly lacking .

          As far as the mechanical skills and abilities , well forget about that , cause they’re non existent in the majority of the youth of today

          • Joe

            Pretty sure the Greatest Generation thought the same thing about you boomers that you are criticizing this new generation about.

            A little bit of reading for you (I know how much you love it):

            http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/94550/baby-boomers-selfish-social-security-welfare-capitalism

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

            Thom, the only reason your generation had the “patience” to start with small engines is because God hadn’t invented the credit card yet for all your instantly met desires while sucking the life out of you with the hidden toll of a debt-fueled economy, like vampires.

            Pie-in-the-sky thinking, indeed.

        • Roman

          I wasn’t around in the late 60s and 70s. Just saying you can’t compare the markets. When you combine expensive gas, tight, crowded roads (with legal lane splitting), dense urban environments and relatively little disposable income, small displacement bikes become a very appealing option. These conditions simply do not exist in the States. I don’t know what conditions were like 30 years ago that made small displacement bikes so much more popular than they are today, but we’re talking about the present, right?

          Maybe if gas was $5.00 a gallon, more people would come around. There was definitely an uptick around 2005-2006 when gas prices skyrocketed past $4.00 a gallon and people started buying scooters and re-discovering small displacement bikes. But that seems forgotten now.

          • Sean Smith

            “expensive gas, tight, crowded roads (with legal lane splitting), dense urban environments and relatively little disposable income, small displacement bikes become a very appealing option.”

            Hm… Maybe that’s how I ended up commuting on a Ninja 250 in Los Angeles. Gas here has been over $4.00 for quite a while now.

          • Elizabeth Keitz

            Oil just hit $100 a barrel this week. So When gas is eventually $10 a gallon. ($160 to $250 to fill up a car) How long before they consider motorcycles as viable transpo?

  • Scott-jay

    “United States represents just under 3% of the world motorcycle market, yet 24% of the industry’s global profits.”
    That’s a market exploited! How would it be in the industry’s interest to change such a sweet deal?
    What portion of those figgers belong to H-D?

  • Thom

    Allow me to end the day by making one thing absolutely clear ;

    I AM all for the motorcycling industry not only surviving , but thriving in the years to come .

    But ….. the simple fact is .. ” Pie in the Sky ” as well as ‘Magical ‘ thinking , along with trying to place the blame on anyone other than the very generations that are causing the current downturn will accomplish about as much as the disorganized and clueless OWS bunch has ; NOTHING ! Not to mention the effect irresponsible and STUPID riding on public roads has had on the overall opinion of motorcycling in this Country ( you know who you are and you also know damn full well you’re only intentionally pissing people off to satisfy your own ego or lack thereof )

    You want things to get better ?

    Start by taking some responsibilities for your own actions and decisions

    • doublet

      What should we do, Thom?

      I’m 27 and have 4 bikes ranging from 1976-1999. 2-stoke, 4 stroke, 1, 3, 4 cylinders.. and I’m (at the very LEAST) the third owner of each one. Should I sell all 4 and buy something new? For the generations of tomorrow? I haven’t bought one new bike in my life because I haven’t needed to. The market is so saturated swinging from people swinging from this toy to that.. why would any smart young person buy a new bike? With a computer and some mechanical ability, who needs the dealer? THIS is the problem the industry has to overcome. If young people were alot dumber, we’d all be out cranking up debt to buy new toys just because they’re now “within our earning power” an we can “afford” them… figuratively. Wait, who did that? With houses and OCC choppers they couldn’t afford?

      • AaronT

        Similar story here: 25, bought my first (motor) bike used, paid cash. I didn’t buy a house with an ARM because that’s just dumb, I live inside my means. I’ve been working in the same career field for 5 years, the pay is low, the pay-off will be huge. My parents told me not to expect Social Security because those damned boomers were going to ruin it.

        So here I am, the blame is placed on ME for an economic mess I didn’t make by someone from a generation that was so near-sighted they didn’t care to calculate how many people SS would require to pay for their lack of financial planning.

    • Peter88

      Who defines irresponsible and stupid? I’ve traveled to Milan and Sao Paulo. Those guys make us in the U.S. look like wimps? Are they irresponsible and stupid?

      As mentioned in a previous post. The 50HP, 200lb bike at a low cost would be perfect. But even that machine would need to overcome the fear attributed to motorcycles in this country and the low incomes of our nation’s youth.

    • Trevor

      Good night Thom, don’t forget to wear your tin-foil hat to bed.

    • Zach

      Which generations are causing the current downturn? I’d like to know who I can blame while I take responsibility for my own actions.

    • pplassm

      Wow. Talk about missing the point.

      But since you went there, how loud are YOUR pipes? Loud cruisers are much more numerous and piss me off much more than squids around here.

      :-)

  • DAVID

    The good news for the younger generation is that there will be a glut of cheap,fancy, used motorcycles on the market when we baby boomers start to die off.

    • doublet

      wow… when I’m 47, wtf are bikes going to be like? I’ve never owned one, as yet, but all these modern race replicas.. like so many 80′s superbikes… mindf*ck!

  • John

    Another way to look at this conundrum is that for $500 to $1000 you buy the latest and greatest cell phone or ipad or whatever. $500-$1000 buys you a 30 year motorcycle that needs tires, battery, and a carb rebuild… “oh, and the speedo cable is busted but those are only $2 bucks on ebay…” The point I am making is that the buying power for the working class is at pre ww2 levels. So if your strapped for cash would you rather spend your money to buy something that is a marvel of modern electrical engineering or somebody’s craigslist cafe racer?

    • nick2ny

      An iPad will be worthless in three years, even if it still works. That motorcycle? It’ll be 10% older and might need another battery. Plus, you will have absolutely cherished life *at least* 100 times burning up the road over those three years, learned how to mend things, and will have learned a bit of mechanical sympathy. If you can take a picture and write an ad, you’ll sell it for 1300.

      I see no conundrum, just a generation of people who hate reading manuals and who are obsessed with therapeutic trinkety consumerism that makes them feel “good.” To me, life spent behind a screen is a waste of life.*

      *unless it’s a windscreen

      http://www.breadwithcircus.com/orwell-huxley.jpg

    • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

      you can spend 2 hours a day wasting your life, refreshing your Facebook profile and watching trending YouTube videos. Or you can spend that time working hard at the otherwise dying discipline of motorcycle mechanics. You learn a lot more about yourself when you’re diagnosing the moving-target symptoms of a half-alive UJM than you do living vicariously through an internet image of yourself.

      I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite, but this 4G/iTouch business will be the death of hobbies. Our grandchildren will watch videos and of motorcycles, model trains, and martial arts and never know what it’s like to truly experience these things.

      • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

        A lot of people vent their desire to tinker by rooting their phones, creating expressive a creative desktop theme (never got that one, but apparently people do it), editing videos, working on collaborative projects with people thousands of miles away, or doing maintenance like defragging.

        Nothing beats the feeling of working on your own bike, to be sure, but city living is hardly conducive to having a well-lit, secure place to store tools and work on your bike.

    • pplassm

      I saw three SV650s for sale locally for about $1500 each. 5 year old literbikes for $5000.

      It’s the buying time of year.

  • Triman023

    2000 Mac Powerbook: Cost $2600 Value today $100
    1969 Triumph T120R: Cost $1600 Value today $10,000

    I bought the Triumph in 1985. Still have it, ride it often, and learned how to repair bikes from keeping it alive. Powerbook still works but is too slow. I should have bought a Norton to go with the Triumph back then instead of the Book…

    • Thom

      What does that prove if in fact the generation we’re discussing choses not to buy a motorcycle ?

      Nothing

      Poor logic on the best of days . Very poor .

  • Thom

    So …. after all the brewhaha here I decided to go back to the source and re-read Mr Seidel’s article in the NYTimes ( I’d read it when it originally came out )

    And …. I’ve come to the conclusion ;

    WTF is Mr Uhlarik’s goram problem ???

    There’s not a single damn thing in the article that is in any way over exaggerated , wrong or over generalized

    The man ( Mr Seidel ) is simply stating the FACT that the overwhelming majority of 18 – 30 year old males prefer to spend their money and time with their Apple what ever , Wii etc , rather than with a M/C or any other mechanical contrivance

    Indisputable , verifiable , and absolutely reliable FACT

    Do we here dislike the fact that this is the reality we’re presently living in ?

    I damn well hope so .

    But does that in any way diminish or resolve the state that we’re in ?

    Hell no .

    Sorry Mr Uhlarik , your argument on the surface as well as to those uninformed amongst us may seem rather clever and well stated , but the reality is its just so much Virtual Vapor in the Breeze , as is so much else when it comes to Internet critiques of actual articles .

    Mr Seidel got it right .

    Mr Uhlarik’s argument on the other hand is ….. errr …… not so much . Well to be blunt its a pant load …. and there you have it

    • Trevor

      Someones not wearing their foil hat….

    • AaronT

      At least you like Firefly!

  • sanjuro

    On a chilly November afternoon, I traveled across the bridge to the East Bay on a quick errand with my GSXR-1000.

    I passed stopped cars like water through a sieve, I marveled at the Oakland Hills and Twin Peaks in the cold air. I enjoyed commuting the city streets and I also went over one hundred miles per hour on the bridge. I was able to use the HOV lane and receive a reduced toll, and I get about 10 more miles per gallon than my car. And the entire time my life was at risk.

    I also have a iPhone, and I received a call, sent a text message, and check a map.

    The iPhone really made the difference.

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      This should be in the NYT

      • miguel

        Sanjuro, keep it secret!!!!

      • sanjuro

        Thannk you Michael.

  • T Diver

    An electronic device is not economically a substitute for a motorcycle. End of story. Shitty poem though. It did not rhyme.

  • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

    Luxury culture is exactly what’s killing motorcycling in the U.S.

    It’s a tool to achieve an amazingly liberating lifestyle, the finest human experience, and nearly anyone can afford it.

  • R13

    The American lifestyle and ideals that bigger is better is ruining it. I hear cruiser & sport bike riders bash small bikes all the time. We make it so that people are embarrassed to ride a small bike so they don’t ride at all. Luckily brands like KTM are trying to make small bikes cool again. Can’t wait for the 350 or Duke 200.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Interesting reading there… I suppose that Australia is fairly similar in regards to ‘what has happened to motorcycling’. I’m 27 now, but when I was a kid I always dreamt of having a sportsbike. That was it – not a dirt bike or a 250cc road bike, just a sportsbike. But I was intensely interested in motorcycles. Up until grade 7 I would stop by the library on the way home to pick up new copies of an Aussie bike mag and would pour over it’s pages, reading about all the bikes they featured. I could have quoted power, weight and geometry figures of just about all the new bikes at the time – and I was only 12 years old! So the interest was there, but how does a young kid get a motorbike? I never expected to get a bike until I’d had a job, and the licensing laws at the time allowed us to get an open motorbike license once we’d had a car license for 3 years. So my plan was always just to wait until I could qualify for that. After all, where in the suburbs can you easily go and mess around on a dirt bike?

    So that’s what I did – I’d had my car license for a few years and I went and did a one day licensing course and bought my first bike at 22 years of age – a GSX-R600. I wish I could have started riding earlier, but they’re the main reasons I didn’t.

    Bikes like the KTM Duke 125/200 could probably make entry-level motorcycling look cool again. When I was read to buy I had a budget of $10k (in Aussie dollars) and in my mind I was thinking there’s no way I’m going to pay that much for a 250cc bike… Of course now I’ve seen the error of my ways and I’m having more fun riding around town on my $3,000 XR400 motard than I ever have on my GSX-R1000, I wish I’d had the motard as a first bike, but there was that mentality that I wanted a ‘good bike’ and that’s why I set the $10k budget.

  • muckluck

    I weed through all the replies, but could someone tell me what episode of south park that is in the caption up above?

    • JVictor75

      Hint: The logos are ‘shopped.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      The Prius episode.

  • Core

    Great article. The comments, made it even better.

  • rfjguy

    Having been guilty of it many times myself, self-righteous pomposity no longer impresses me. Everything said could have been said in far fewer words.