Motorcycle racing is money wasted

Dailies -



It’s time for the motorcycle industry to have a serious think about its priorities, because they’re looking bizarrely skewed right now. The classic mantra tells us that winning on Sunday sells on Monday, but is this really true, or indeed relevant?

If ever there was the perfect time to drive up the decimated sales figures of bikes and scooters, this is the time. Fuel is gaspingly expensive and while the price fluctuates it always goes up more than it comes down again, it rises rapidly but falls slowly, traffic congestion is choking our motorways and cities and it’s summer time (no really, it is…), the best time to promote two-wheelers anyway.

In addition, some new research from Belgium has shown that if 10 per cent of car users took to two wheels, overall journey times for all road users would be down by 40 per cent and overall economy and emissions would be significantly improved too. Everyone benefits from an increase in motorcycle usage, even those in cars, a message which could not be more positive.

So what is the industry doing. Spending money on marketing all these advantages? Putting right the misconception that two wheels are a dangerous way to travel? My daughter had a knife pulled on her on a daytime train journey near London last week, that wouldn’t have happened if she’d been on a bike. Hers is hardly a rare incident, yet we’re told trains are safe… Door to door, taking all dangers into account, you can often be much safer returning home late at night on a bike or scooter than taking public transport.

All this is tailor-made for a powerful marketing campaign, yet the motorcycle industry remains resolutely silent about its many powerful advantages.

The reason? We’re told it’s money, that the industry simply isn’t big enough to market itself in the national press, on TV or on major websites. This is of course a self-fulfilling prophesy: if you’re not selling many bikes, you don’t generate the income for strong marketing to boost those numbers.

The industry does have the money though, the problem is that it’s spending it – lots of it – in an astonishingly unproductive manner: racing. The classic mantra tells us that winning on Sunday sells on Monday, but is this really true, or indeed relevant?

Who do we need to be selling two wheelers to? Commuters, utility users, people after secondary transport for their families… many people who have no idea World Superbikes or MotoGP even exists, and certainly a potential customer base with very little interest in motorcycle racing, who will be influenced not a jot by who’s winning at Silverstone, Mugello or Assen.

Among those of us who know bikes and are enthusiastic about them, readers of Motor Cycle News for example, what kinds of machines are selling well? Adventure bikes, naked machines, all-rounders… none of these are being raced. And the categories in the biggest decline? Superbikes, which are doing very badly, while the supersport 600 class has imploded. Most manufacturers have dramatically slowed or ceased altogether development of 600cc sports bikes, yet while the left hand is doing that, the right hand is still busy pouring money into racing them, or racing to promote them.

Does winning races even sell bikes in the relevant road bike categories? Maybe it has some influence, but factors which are clearly more important include performance in magazine group tests, value for money, dealer reputation, reliability, comfort… There’s a clear and undisputed correlation between bikes that do well in magazine group tests, especially MCN’s in the UK, and subsequent sales performance, yet there’s none at all between race winning bikes and sales of their related production road versions.

Racing won’t go away if the major players stop spending, it won’t even get any less exciting. Motorcycling generally though will benefit enormously from a redirection of those very substantial funds into marketing two wheelers properly and effectively. Right now, it looks like nothing more than a very expensive self-indulgence, a luxury at a time when the industry can afford no such thing. There is no alignment between what the industry is trying to sell and where it’s spending its promotional budgets.

In simple terms, it’s stupid.

Kevin, an extremely pale Englishman, writes for the Sunday Telegraph, MCN and a long list of other publications including Ash On Bikes, where this article originally appeared.

  • pinkyracer

    excellent argument. But what percent of the racing budget comes from the manufacturers and what from the sponsors? The MIC is supposed to be promoting motorcycling to the American public but are doing a horrible job of it. I say we hire the oil industry’s* lobbyists to get congress to mandate that all Americans spend the first year as licensed drivers on 50cc mopeds. That’ll change things. Scooter & motorcycle sales growth is mostly happening in Asia, btw.

    Not because it’s something the oil industry would dig, they wouldn’t. But because they clearly have the best lobbyists. Either that or Monsanto’s lobbyists.

    • Sean Smith

      Wait, are you saying we should do business like a large, corrupt corporation?

      • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

        Hardly. He’s saying “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”.

        • pinkyracer

          gun fight? We’re not even IN the fight! I’m sure the entire motorcycle industry’s lobbying budget is what Monsanto spends on a week’s blow job budget.

          Why yes, Sean, I am saying that the only way to get anything done in this country is to buy government officials. Whether it be prostitutes, cash, or tuition for their kids, or whatever, that seems to be the only way things change now. And most Americans are too doped up on junk food and junk TV to revolt, so I think playing within the system to affect change might be the only way.

          Oh, and Pinkyracer is a “she”. ;-)

          • BMW11GS

            I have my tin foil hat ready to go! Misunderstanding of world politics and business full steam ahead.

          • Campisi

            It doesn’t help that any time the public wakes up the military-police knock them back out again with tear gas and rubber bullets.

      • Ryan

        When in Rome…

    • El_Jefe

      This is the question I have, and I’m really surprised the author never mentions the word “sponsorship.” See those big green “M”s on that bike? That’s where much of this “wasted” money is coming from. So unless you can show some actual numbers, I think it’s a pretty big leap to say that same money could be diverted to other forms of marketing.

    • Gene

      I think mandating people to ride a bike would also stop the “I don’t give a shit about skill or safety” attitude after being hung out in the breeze on a bike and eating the pavement a couple times, but that’s a whole different topic.

      • muckluck

        I always saw motorcycling as a sence of freedom, mandates do no embrace this. No matter if its a newb on a literbike or coed on a scooter, they both can be dangerous, people die unexpectedly, andsince the motorcycle market is sooooo tiny in the US it would not help the sales or progression of our chosen freedom.

  • Kevin

    This misses half the point of racing…it drives R&D…what you develop getting ready for Sunday, you can sell on Monday.

    • Jon B.

      But Kevin makes the point that the bikes that typically receive said R&D advances—sportbikes/superbikes—are not the ones actually selling.

      • Grant Ray

        That bikes currently selling aren’t race-derived simply isn’t true.

        1. Adventure bikes started as race bikes in the 80s, 90s and 00s. That includes the GS as well as the 990 Adventure.

        2. The forks, wheels and aluminum frames on current standard bikes all came from race bikes in the 80s, 90s and 00s.

        3. As for all-around bikes, like the handy Honda XR650L? It’s just a XR600R Baja racer that’s been rebooted for the street.

        • Jon B.

          1. But you’re talking about Dakar. I thought we were talking about mega-expensive road racing? Is Dakar or Baja even anywhere near as expensive as 18 world rounds of MotoGP for a mfg?

          2. True. But is it sustainable, and even relevant in 2012 and beyond? Do you mean to say that there is a direct relationship and Honda couldn’t develop 220hp and an electric damper at Motegi on a test day? Kawi couldn’t refine their ABS while testing it at Autopolis?

          3. See 1.

          Just wondering.

          • Grant Ray

            1. Professional rally racing & endurance racing have always been crazy expensive, and we both know rally isn’t just limited to a single race.

            2. Your response isn’t about the viability of racing as trickle-down development, it’s really about the viability of motorcycles as a cultural product and industry in 2012 and beyond. Of course trickle-down development that’s marketed via racing is sustainable. Until the market place says it isn’t. Which is when smart companies stop. Are motorcycle companies smart?

            3. See both 1 and 2.

        • PenguinScotty

          Exactly the point. The sheer amount of Transalps sold due to Dakar is amazing, for example.

          I don’t think it’s a question of racing in general, but more what KIND of racing. To me, it’s easier to justify buying a 990 Adventure, which is versatile but fun and capable, compared to a Supersport bike that may have won a championship on flat tarmac, but is unusable anywhere but the track.

          If anything, we should push Dakar and Enduro racing more (Less the Enduro, albeit, it’s fun). I would LOVE to see more SuperMoto racing, especially in the states, because you get the best of both worlds. 30 minute wheels swaps and you went from dirt monster to street ripper.

          The adventure market should most definitely be pushed more. It’s growing already, but as said before, if you can market the Adventure market on TV, show some spots from Dakar or Baja, then some happy people smiling and adventuring, sales would explode even more.

          Main problem that i can see why people don’t go for motorcycles more in the US, is simply that they are lazy. Sorry, but it’S the truth. Why actually pay attention when you can go to the DMV, pick up your drivers license for 20 bucks at 16 years old and drive a 4000 lbs SUV. Gear up to ride? No time! What about my hair! Things like that. It’s sad, but true.

          Got a bit side tracked there.

          However, i do not really think that giving up on racing is the right call. I feel the same way about MotoGP as i do with F1, what’s the reason for it? We’ve gotten to a point where it’s mostly aerodynamics that can be altered, but let’s be honest, what’s the benefit of that for the street? Virtually nothing.
          Regardless of that, i can’t stamp down my foot and say “Get rid of it”. As weird as that may seem.

          • Kevin

            It’s all about the rules and how they want to push the direction of the sport. Aero drives efficiency and increases gas mileage. Even relatively cheap cars nowadays having rear splitters. Better yet, look at Le Mans. It’s pushing diesel to a new level.

            • PenguinScotty

              It’s true, aero makes sense, but let’s be honest, the changes done by car companies to decrease drag are virtually null. For several reasons. Drag doesn’t make a significant impact on a cars handling/fuel efficiency below, roughly, 30mph. Less weight, roll resistance, unsprung mass, etc. etc. will make a big impact at every speed. Sad thing is, everything is getting HEAVIER, even though we have composite materials that are stronger than metals, but too expensive for mass production.

              Diesels have been at an insanely efficient level for many many years in Europe. Audi isn’t really introducing rule-breaking new technology (Hybrid stuff aside). Direct injection diesels have been around for years, making 40+mpg all day long. The main interesting thing is the step away from cast iron blocks, which used to be a necessity back in the day. Again, though, that has been around before the whole R8 shenanigans.

              • Scott-jay

                Doncha wish car & SUV tax basis was weight?

      • Kevin

        A loss leader strategy is nothing new, in terms of technology or marketing. It’s aspirational and it eventually trickles down and we’re all the better for it.

        The alternative of course is Harley. You have a successful product that doesn’t derive it’s appeal from performance and you end up with a stagnant piece of crap. Think of someone with average intelligence. That’s a pretty dumb person and I would definitely prefer that competition over performance drive progress as opposed to the purchasing preference of the masses. I have no desire for a radio or cup-holder on my goddamn motorcycle.

        The other part of the equation is that everybody isn’t going to buy a motorcycle. The argument above about how we need to sell them as transportation for the common man is bullshit. Most people don’t have the proprioceptive capacity to operate a motorcycle in a relatively safe manner. The people that do are competitive and like to test out their capacity.

        Lastly, if you think riding a motorcycle is safe, you’re living in denial and any marketing campaign to promote motorcycling as “safe” would get shot to pieces, if not by perception, by the courts. Riding a motorcycle is by far the most risky activity in my life. Sure, every motorcyclist is going to tell you, “Well I could get hit by a bus tomorrow,” as some way to justify it to themselves, but the fact of the matter is as a whole, it’s just statistics and riding a motorcycle puts you on the wrong side of the odds.

    • Ross

      It seems R&D these days (at least in MotoGP) focuses on bleeding edge electronics designed to control 280+ hp engines using GPS data to dial in performance specifically tuned to the track being raced. Unless your daily commute or weekend fun includes a turn or two on an international racetrack this confers no trickle down benefit.

      • Kevin

        So you’re talking about traction control? and how exactly does that not confer a benefit to street riding?

        • Ross

          The traction loss issues dealt with by MotoGP riders are a result of riding at 11/10ths with engines beyond a mortal’s ability to directly control. Traction loss issues on the street are a result of debris, poor surfaces, or rider error. The resulting problem is similar, but the cause is vastly different. It seems that the MotoGP electronics are focusing more on efficiently addressing the cause rather than mitigating the result.

          There is a reason two out of the three examples Grant provided involved uncontrolled environments.

          • Kevin

            Whatever level the rider is at, it’s always rider error and loss of traction. It’s the same spectrum, just at the extreme and having that technology fine tuned at the extreme makes it even better for us mere mortals.

      • Sean Smith

        Yeah, actually that’s been the biggest advance for streetbikes in recent years. See: APRC

        • Ross

          That is exactly the problem, the trickle down has already occurred and the racing R&D is becoming less and less relevant as the overall performance envelope is pushed. Five years ago more money spent on traction control would result in gains on the street. Not so much now.

          I’d say brakes provide another example: racing R&D was useful up to a point, but has now diverged. I don’t think there is an argument that improvements to carbon brakes will be turned around to improve streetbikes.

          • Sean Smith

            If someone found a way to make them cheaper they would improve the shit out of some top-tier street bikes. Significantly less rotational inertia, increased ability to deal with heat, more power, etc. Technology has a way of taking things that seem unreasonable and making them a reality. How ridiculous is an iPhone?

            • Ross

              Top-tier street bikes, sounds suspiciously like supersports and superbikes. Those same market segments which the article describes as doing “very badly” to the point the market has “imploded.”

              Also I’d say the iphone was less a case of new technology so much as a triumph of interface, supply management, and advertising.

  • Kate

    Motorcycles are seen as a hobby in US not as realistic transportation. They should be marketing more affordable lower cc bikes like 250′s – as they seem to do in Asia. Is it realistic that we need huge cc’s for everything?

    Also why not have a motorcycle commercial spot now and then on standard TV programming. The only time I’ve seen a motorcyle in a TV spot was to sell Motorola phones. Depressing.

    • mfour

      On some on of the networks I’ve see a Honda commercial about the CBR250R. A man recounts his travels on his “250″ and how wonderful they are.

      The problem though is he’s talking about riding to “clear his head” not as a practical means of transportation. ::facepalm::

  • wwalkersd

    As commenter (as opposed to the author) Kevin points out above, there is some technology transfer from racing bikes to production bikes. In particular, the rise of electronic rider aids is coming down from racing, although it hasn’t reached below the superbike level yet.

    That being said, the performance of modern superbikes is ridiculously far beyond anything you can reasonably use on the street. So how relevant is racing development to street bikes, really?

    On the other hand, I don’t see any amount of marketing getting most people to use bikes as their primary transportation. They’re used to traveling in a climate controlled pod, and the inconvenience of changing clothing to adapt to the climate, not to mention the need for protection, is likely to keep them off two-wheelers, no matter how much sense they make.

    • Sean Smith

      Actually, this Harley No Cages ad almost goes there.

      • filly-fuzz

        Love that ad, funny to see the harley tossers hating on it though.

        what would have made it better is a quite little vespa flying past unnoticed instead of some attention starved wanker accountant.

  • Sentinel

    Times have changed, and the rise of the Sportbike segment has not only stalled, it has been regressing, while other categories are on a rapid rise.

    People have matured and are looking for and expecting more from their bikes now in function and usability…

    • pinkyracer

      not just people, but more specifically, the majority of existing riders. It’s sad to go to the bike show and see mostly old farts, and now these dumb trikes which are great for the geriatric set.

      The industry really needs to target the younger generation who in LA are into cycling and small displacement vintage motorcycles. No manufacturer is currently tapping into that growing trend, which is sad. All these hipster kids are fawning over vintage bikes, and what’s cool in LA now will be cool everywhere else soon enough. Look at every irritating fad in the past- I remember back in 1990 when Mickey Rourke and all the other poseurs on Melrose RUINED Harleys forever. Then there was that Ed Hardy fashion fad, to name one of the more distinctive fads that came out of LA, although that one was more engineered by the brand.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        In the past three weeks, I clocked 3000 miles riding amazing motorcycle roads in PA, VA, and WV — with lots of mountain switchbacks and perfectly paved twisties. I saw maybe five sport bikes the whole friggin’ time! Half of all the motorcycles I passed were Harleys. A quarter were trikes (both single-front and double-front wheelers). Whenever I had a chance to speak to other riders, I was clearly the youngest — in my 40s! (And skinniest too.)

        • pplassm

          That’s because the rest of us are working. Those old farts are retired.

          • BMW11GS

            yes ageism!

  • Holden and Annette

    Maybe riders, not manufacturers, have to take the lead, and lobby legislators to legalize lane-splitting and filtering. The industry could do its part by producing PSAs that inform commuters that single riders can use the HOV lane.

    After these fantasies have become reality, bike makers can spend that racing-development money to advertise the utility of motorcycles for commuting and errands.

    And fergawdsake, sell non-Harley starter bikes that a woman with a 28-inch inseam can flatfoot.

    • Sentinel

      Good stuff! ^ :)

    • jp182

      very true….wouldn’t it be cool if there was an organization we could pool behind to get our voice hear…..

      • Sean Smith

        Lets call it the American Motorcyclist Association. Wait…

        • Emmet

          Vote for Nobby!

    • filly-fuzz

      ^^^This is what needs to happen.

  • Liquidogged

    Race tech does trickle down to usable street tech, and anyone who thinks that process is over with doesn’t have a very active imagination. APRC, etc etc. However, there is a point of diminishing returns and as badass as we all are and everything, it wouldn’t hurt to get more people in on the fun. Anyone who tells you most people can’t operate a motorcycle safely needs to shut their yap, buy a plane ticket to thailand, and go marvel at a society where small motorcycles and scooters are, in fact, the dominant mode of transport for a huge portion of the population. Why aren’t we doing that in ‘murica or europe? Because – especially in the states – motorcycling has been hijacked by people who think anything less than a 600cc supersport or 1200cc cruiser somehow makes you less of a man. The manufacturers buy into it, new riders buy into it, and a lot of people don’t realize it’s bullshit until they are older, wiser, and have fallen off bikes a few times. If Kevin the author wants more people riding, he should focus his ire not on racing – which still has an important role to play in the development of motorcycle technology – but on the concept that bigger is always better. Get people to realize that small is often fun, and that your bike isn’t an extension of your dick. Oh, and get the price of gasoline to reflect something like the prices in Asia… see? Racing hasn’t got shit to do with it. Much deeper cultural and economic factors are at work here.

    • jp182

      yes yes and yes. I cannot understand how anyone who rides here would have a problem with educating more people about riding and getting more riders on the road.

      Thing is Kevin’s argument is that so much money is spent on racing that the manufacturers are saying that they can’t afford to market ANYTHING to the rest of the masses. I’d say that maybe they need to race their smaller cc/slower products and they we all win.

    • longtravel

      So on the whole I agree with you, but I have a couple caveats about your particular argument that people who think big power is necessary are dumb. I’ve had a Ninja 250, a YZF600R and now a 919 so I’ve played both sides.

      I’m originally from East TN where awesome curvy roads abound. Small motorcycle are great here. No power? No problem. Plenty of other fun to be had on two wheels. Just point the bars towards the nearest set of hills and take off.

      Now I live in Central Ohio. The nearest real riding road is an hour and change down long, straight, flat slabs of pavement. Any less than that and you find yourself looking forward to that special freeway on ramp and the one three turn combo road that’s 10 minutes out of the way on the ride to work. No power? Sucks to be you, cause power/speed is about all the fun to be had in these parts. Not that you couldn’t do without it, but it’s sorely missed for anybody but the greenest of riders.

      • Liquidogged

        Yeah, I hear you. Moving to Chicago 4 years ago was the worst thing that ever happened to me as a rider. Everything is flat and straight. Most bikes are chromed/stretched. It’s a wasteland unless you are racing at midwest tracks which are apparently very competitive. Big power makes more sense here for the street, for sure.

  • wwalkersd

    Sadly, motorcycles as mass transportation are only effective where cars are prohibitively expensive, either directly or due to government policies.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      …coupled with congestion and sketchy road surfaces. Motorcycles excel in countries like India because of all three.

    • Sean Smith

      Hey, you just described high school and college in SoCal. The 70′s back this up.

  • Campisi

    Counterpoint: electric motorcycles.

  • rohorn

    If Jolly Good Motorbike Journalist’s daughter isn’t riding a bike – and he thinks she needs to – then’s credibility’s gone roit down the loo, it has.

    Motorcycle racing is a sport – who gives a flaming rat’s ass if it has any relevance to anything else – it doesn’t need to.

    I’d love to see more Kim Newcombes, John Brittens, and Erik Buells – and less overhyped oh-so-hip dropshippers posing as visionary entry level motorcycle manufacturers.

    Glad to see this was copied from another site – glad it was cited – I would have guessed incorrectly.

  • Racetrack Style

    Cash spent on electric dirt bikes seems like a parallel to spending money on racing. Isn’t that money well spent in more ways than one?

    I’m surprised some street ebike OEMs have not teamed up with the dirt ebike OEMs because the dirt ebikes can sell now.

  • Charlie

    Great piece. This is why HFL is unmatched. The most interesting people in the industry. Unbiased and thought provoking. Great to see Kevin aboard. You don’t need to win a race to develop traction control. Maybe MV is the best example of how it’s limited resources are better directed on development, notwithstanding its racing heritage. Profits are all that matters, and that’s about making commuting fun and capitalizing on the motorcycles natural advantages (cost, speed and efficiency). Bikes are already overpowered for the street – bring the cost down, debunk the safety myths and you will have 9 consumers for every track enthusiast

    • Liquidogged

      No, you don’t need to win a race to develop traction control. But unless you have a need to win races, you have very little need to develop something like traction control. Average riders on the street do not dream up whiz bang features, request them, and then find them in next year’s models. The manufacturers are only going to do what is necessary – what is necessary to win and what is necessary to sell bikes to the masses are, of course, not always the same.

  • Keith

    “My daughter had a knife pulled on her on a daytime train journey near London last week, that wouldn’t have happened if she’d been on a bike.”
    There is a bit of logic I won’t even comment on !
    Anyway, who said racing had to have real world benefits? Sure, there are trickle down technology improvements but in the end, racing is …fun.
    Fun to do, fun to watch and fun for the manufacturers to compete with each other.
    I consider paying football, baseball, hockey and other sports players ridiculous sums of money a “waste” as well but people want to watch the game.
    I really can’t see any change to the motorcycle culture in North America if funds from racing were diverted to some kind of advertising or lobbying.
    “what Monsanto spends on a week’s blow job budget.”
    kind of says it all.

  • Eben

    Is racing really a money-losing activity for manufacturers? If a company like WIlliams can be profitable doing nothing but motor-racing, you’d think it would be worth it for manufacturers to be involved for the purposes of training engineers, developing cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques and brand exposure. Even if they just break even, there’s a lot of good that can come out of it.

    I agree that the bikes that most closely resemble racing bikes are not the practical bikes that could use the promotion, but unless we can people excited about fuel efficiency racing (Or is that what MotoGP is considered now?) or lane-splitting competitions, I’m not sure what to do about that. Performance is attractive, practicality is just practical.

    It would be nice to see a Two Wheel Are Greener Than Four campaign. I assume there’s a motorcycle manufacturers association that could do something like that. While individual manufacturers could try to get the point across, a coordinated, long-term campaign would probably be more effective. Along the lines of the Got Milk campaign.

    • kidchampion

      Better than a “2 wheels are greener than 4″ campaign would be a “2 wheels are more efficient than 4″ which is a distinction with a difference. City planners discuss the billions lost annually to inefficient infrastructure and travel delays. Increased efficiency through reduced resource consumption as well as time spent in travel, is green but it is also more than that.

  • kidchampion

    Regarding motorcycle safety, last year I wrote a letter to the local paper about two articles published in the same issue: the first was an article about medical errors, the other a motorcycle death with a quote by a doctor about the danger of motorcycles. Fewer than 5,000 people die each year due to motorcycles. An estimated 200,000 die from medical error. The most dangerous part of a motorcycle accident might be the going to the hospital part.

    • kidchampion

      Another point I addressed in that letter applies here. I asked the newspaper to provide more details in motorcycle accidents and to follow-up whenever possible. The articles are usually; “A man died at 2:38 am when he left the road and struck an object at an offramp. Police are investigating.” My take on that article is that it’s probably alcohol related due to the hour the accident occurred. Non-riders read it as “Motorcycles are dangerous.” Was alcohol involved? Was it a scooter, or a bike? Sportbike, or Harley? Was he speeding? The best way to aggregate good statistics about accidents would be if they were reported with a standard level of detail. I think people could then better determine when motorcycles are dangerous.

      • BMW11GS

        I totally agree with all your points, very good thinking. My dad used to list off the local newspaper fatality reports for motorcycles to me to remind me to ride carefully. All the incidents though were suspect because of the nature of the accident described, i.e., “motorcyclist failed to negotiate corner/on ramp.” …You have to wonder if alcohol was involved or under training. I think reporting on more details would help the general public realize what sort of actions, lifestyles, and bikes are prone to higher rates of accidents.

  • Rick

    Motorcycle racing in all its forms is a sport, a common interest, followed by millions of people around the globe from countless backgrounds- that’s a good thing.

    Some will be inspired to travel and attend racing events. Their tourism pumps money into local economies both here and abroad- another good thing.

    Travel and tourism create opportunities to meet people, make new friends, and increase our understanding of others- that might be the best thing of all!

    Hopefully the Italians do not ban racing as a wasteful activity in the next year, because I’m planning to go there in 2013 and it’s Mugello which beckons me more than anything!

  • damien

    Seems like DORNA may be seeing the writing on the wall too regarding marketing budgets… Probably why they pushed to get CRT bikes on the grid.

    Lower cost of racing means less money spent by manufacturers to continue to be involved.

    Also, the sponsorship argument (they spend most of the money racing) is a good point. Hello Marlboro Ducati.

    • rohorn

      Except that DORNA seems to like then to spend the money on hospitality BS, expensive trackside lodging, and stupid travel expenses.

  • TilJ

    It’s a well-written article but I feel it reached a misguided conclusion due to starting from a unsubstantiated premise. I’m about to get unpopular :-).

    In many of the markets that drive the motorcycle industry (i.e., wealthier countries that have snow), the simple fact is that motorcycles aren’t practical — they’re leisure. As a rider for 3 decades with 400,000km under my belt I know the lengths that dedicated riders will go to to make riding more practical but “more” isn’t enough for the 90% of the buyers that the industry relies on. That’s not a bad thing, it just means a different approach is needed. I think that as a leisure activity motorcycles don’t compete with cars, they compete with golf and boating (for example). Expensive leisure activities seem to need a rallying point such as racing, or golf tournaments, or regattas during long weekends at the lake in order to sustain enthusiast interest levels high enough to fund their infrastructure (dealerships, golf courses, marinas). The businesses supporting the industry need people committed enough to the leisure activity that real money is involved, and that takes making the sport bigger and cooler.

    Ask a little kid if motorcycles are cool. You’ll get an emphatic “yes!”. That’s not due to traffic efficiencies or relative safety merits, it’s due to marketing activities like racing. Well, that and bikes are intrinsically cool ;-). It’s the same reason people buy Porsche 911s and fast boats — neither are being raced professionally bu 99% of the buyers, they’re just super cool.

    It’s worth considering that if the motorcycle industry focuses on efficiency and safety and practicality, I fear it’s a slippery slope right past bikes and onto a well-funded public transportation system (or walking). Motorcycles are exciting and fun, and that’s the way they’re marketed.

    • Ross

      I think you missed the point. It wasn’t that racing should go away, it is that the industry’s fixation on it now is detrimental. It is a problem because the technology derived from racing does not add to the models selling well or the product development plans being rolled out.

      Motorcycles will always be cool. However that doesn’t make schizophrenic resource management a good idea.

      • Kevin

        One word: Multistrada. 20% over sales forecast, 40% of buyers new to the brand, and race-derived technology galore. And before the aging demographic comment comes out, I’m 27, in the 28% tax bracket, and it’s at the top of my shopping list for next season.

        • Ross

          I’d be more interested in how the multistrada sales figures compare to the monster 696. How many 15-20k non-sportbikes could ducati forecast selling anyway?

          They are enormously desirable bikes though, hopefully you’ll be able to add one to your garage. I recently brought a griso 8v home and there is nothing like riding a fine italian.

          • Kevin

            Better. It’s been either one or two in their line-up for the past year and a half. 848 and Diavel (depressing) have joined it as leading sales in 2011 and 2012 (thus far) respectively.

            • Ross

              I was trying to find hard numbers, but I couldn’t. Mind sharing?

        • TilJ

          In an odd coincidence, an MTS1200S Touring is my current ride. My 20th bike thus far, and amazing for long distance sport-touring.

      • TilJ

        I don’t think any technology needs to trickle down from racing — that’s just the excuse manufacturers use because racing is unpopular (noisy, gas guzzling, etc) with certain non-riding demographics.

        I think racing is needed because leisure activities are fickle things. Having something exciting to maintain your customers interest, giving them something to dream about and talk out, helps keep them from switching to another leisure activity. Retaining customers is important with bikes because of the high barriers to entry: if you lose a customer, you likely won’t replace them. I believe that without the major racing series motorcycle sales would have fared much worse in these bad economic times. It may have also positioned the industry for a quicker recovery: those who couldn’t afford a ride cold still “keep a hand in the game” by following racing, maintaining their interest until they can afford to buy a bike (which they’ll likely never race themselves).

  • Peter88

    This was pointed out by one of Kevin Ash’s commenters and I’ll repeat it here. If nothing else the car companies will be against any notion of motorcycles as transportation. I’m sure Honda would rather sell a Civic than a CBR250. The margins on the bike are probably quite small. Now add Nissan, Ford, etc. to the mix.

    And those countries that buy so many motorcycles? They are in warm environments and if those people could afford to they would buy cars.

    As TilJ pointed, bikes are a leisure activity and racing supports that leisure activity.

  • T Diver

    Is Monsanto hiring?

    • austin_2ride

      If so I hope that I can fill any open holes they may need filled!

  • Sauciér

    I think marketing dollars (at least in the US) should be spent reminding people that riding a motorcycle is fun. Yes it can be economical and yes some really skilled folks can race them, but Americans in general need to be reminded of the fact that it’s fun – along the lines of “you meet the nicest people riding a Honda fun.”

    How do you do that? By allaying fears that motorcycles are for crazy thrill seekers or outlaws. The message should be that with decent gear, a bit of skill, and a prudent mindset that riding a motorcycle can be relatively safe and a helluva lot of FUN.

    How do you do THAT? By making sure dealers have decent gear at affordable prices. Not everyone needs one piece leathers but I do feel for about $200 you should be able to buy something along the lines of an Icon Overlord jacket and pant combo and for another $200 a pair of gloves and a helmet. That’s pretty cheap for some important gear but I think that should be the price point and that’s not including boots.

    Dealers should also get rid of the “they either know how or they’ll learn how” mentality when it comes to educating people on how to ride a bike. I know that every mom and pop dealer can’t do it but most dealers should actually teach riders how to ride. Have a weekend class – hell, most dealers are closed Sundays anyway, so do it then. Currently people just buy a bike and it’s “you should think about taking the MSF. Thanks for your business.” Instead, it should be, if you don’t already have a motorcycle license or endorsement, “come here this weekend to pickup your bike and we’ll teach you how to ride it.” then you can educate people about the need for decent gear, get them on the road to acquiring some skills, and start them off with the prudent mindset so they don’t get themselves killed. Then you’ve got happy customers who have FUN with your product. And they just might come back.

    Shift some marketing dollars towards supporting dealers so they can do that and the motorcycle culture in the US will grow the right way.

    That’s my two cents.

    Also, I love watching racing and going to them.

    • TilJ

      I like your comment on the dealerships involvement in this. My favourite dealership recently “downsized” (to service-only) in these tough financial times, but previous to that they were a huge force in the local riding community. They organized lots of events and pushed the riding course so hard that they even tried buillding the course fee into their bike price.

      Learning to ride motorcycles is harder that learning some other leisure activities. I think support of local clubs is also key to lowering that barrier. Kids learning to ride on dirt bikes in a well-supported club environment can easily be life-long riders. In a way, that ties into factory support of racing though it’s a bit of a stretch and I’d like to see it improved, perhaps by manufacturers assisting dealerships in supporting local clubs. It’s not like the old days when regulations were non-existent and there was lots of open public land to learn to ride on.

  • zato1414

    Well “Pale Kevin”, you race hater, what have you done to put your daughter on a bike. Racing is competitive, technology producing and fun! You have your opinion and it sucks. Do not try ruining it for the rest of us. Oh yeah, if enough motorcyclists wanted a 600, they would be produced.

    • Scott-jay

      1st & foremost: racing is fun.
      Enough fun some people watch other people race.
      Enough people watch some manufacturers pay to associate with racing.

  • The Other Will

    With all the race fans getting their panties in a bunch, nobody is really talking about how paragraphs 2 & 3 are relevant without making mention of over funded racing activities. I like the article, but the interesting points got swallowed up by a racing argument that didn’t even really need to be made, especially without any numbers concerning sponsor contributions and actual manufacturer cost allocation. There are definitely broader and more interesting ways (to me, anyways) to market bikes than racing that aren’t being taken advantage of.