Motorcycle Industry vs. Next Generation Riders

Hell For Leather, HFL -

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cb500f

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that before too long the entire motorcycle industry could be in a sticky position unless we actively do something to spread the word and encourage the next generation to start riding. This week we discuss the motorcycle industry vs. next generation riders.

I use the term “we” to cover the entire motorcycle industry, the media and our readers who understand motorcycles and ride on a regular basis.

Right now we are in the midst of the perfect storm. To start with, the motorcycle industry is still reeling from the worst global financial crisis in living memory. Bike sales in 2010 dropped by 40 percent and since then have only recovered slightly.

The experts tell us there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we are nowhere near out of the woods yet and it’s going to take time to get back on course.

To add to this turmoil, we have an entire generation that knows very little about motorcycles and how much fun you can have with them.

Marketing types like to categorize people so they understand who the customer is, what they want and how they can sell them something. They (the marketing folks) have labeled this group of people born in 1980 and onwards as Generation Y.

As you’d expect with this marketing category there is a whole host of generalizations and random guesswork. But if you can accept all of that, then reading about Generation Y still makes for some pretty grim reading.

We’re talking here about 20-somethings, predominantly with good educations, who are well-informed, but often still living at home with their parents. They have a lot of debt and a low-paying job – if they are lucky. (*Yes, I know there are exceptions to this.)

They don’t read newspapers. They don’t watch TV news. All of their information is sourced from the Internet. They rely primarily on social media and friends for what’s cool and for what’s not. When and how they choose to buy something is more complex than anything marketeers have ever faced ever before.

On top of all of this it seems they have little interest in or knowledge about of motorcycles. This I believe is because we (and I use the term collectively again to include the industry and current bike riders) have not done enough in recent years to promote motorcycles and all of the positive points about riding. Especially not to a coming-of-age audience.

There are some cultural issues here too; in Europe bikes have always been seen as a cheap and easy form of transportation. It is common in Europe for teenagers to buy a bike primarily because they can get a motorcycle license before an automotive license. Here in the U.S. the car is king. Motorcycles in general are seen as more of a hobby, or a weekend pursuit, rather than as a serious mode of everyday transport.

However, motorcycle sales are still declining. You can blame it on the aftermath of the recession but I think that one of the key factors is that there are fewer new riders getting on bikes than ever before. This does not seem to bode well for the long-term future of motorcycles.

Without new blood, the manufacturers will be selling to an increasingly aging and dwindling population, unless something is done now to encourage younger people to get on a bike and ride.

Yet it’s not all doom and gloom. A couple of years ago, Honda was the first to notice that there was something odd going on out there. Not only that it wasn’t selling as many bikes as it would have liked, but it was also not attracting younger buyers into dealer showrooms.

An American Honda rep told me recently that there was a concerted plan within the company three years ago to do something after being confronted with this problem. “At that time in the U.S., Honda had an entry-level 250cc model with the next step up being a 600cc. That, in hindsight, was perhaps too big of a gap for new riders. In the 1960s Honda built its reputation on offering affordable, fun motorcycles. That’s what we’re aiming to do again now.”

Honda, to my mind has so far delivered on its promise to offer bikes that younger people may find attractive. In the past three years, it has launched 11 new models specifically for those type of riders with the emphasis on reasonable cost and ease of use.

Honda Grom

RideApart gave the Honda NC700X, the Honda CBR500R, CB500F and CB500X a resounding thumbs-up. We also really liked the Honda Grom and the Honda CTX700 that comes with DCT (dual clutch transmission). The latter particularly is a good example of how Honda is making it easier for new riders by taking away the clutch yet still retaining all of the elements that make a motorcycle fun to ride.

Are any of these going to attract more experienced riders? Probably not in most cases – although those 500s do make a compelling argument – but that was never the audience Honda was after. To the next generation, who is even remotely interested in motorcycles, these bikes represent a realistic proposition for three reasons; they are easy to ride, a lot of fun and, above all, affordable.

Product aside, the next really big stumbling block for the bike manufacturers is actually talking to Generation Y in a language they understand. That’s going to be an even tougher nut to crack as they don’t respond to ads, direct marketing or the conventional hard sell. They do, though, trust endorsements from family or friends and their social media network. They will also seek out expert advice on the Internet before making a final purchase decision.

What can we, as group of like-minded enthusiasts, do right now to make motorcycles and riding attractive to the next generation of riders? If you are a 20-something rider, tell us what turned you on to bikes.

Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

  • The Truffle Shuffle

    One of the problems, at least in the UK anyway, is that to obtain a license has become a lot more complicated. The thought process behind it seems to have been with the aim of making it easier for younger people to get on the ladder, and to make it safer for them once they do (by restricting the kind of bike they can ride, up to the age of 24). These changes came into force at the beginning of the year, so I’ve no idea what the stats are on take up since it started, but I’d be interested to know. I have the feeling the effect will be that younger people will instead turn to cars as a means of transport. Yes, the only real advantage of motorbiking is that it’s fun, (eventually) cheaper and quicker!

    • Chris Cope

      The system implemented in the UK in January this year was just a tightening of the existing system, that having been in place since October 2009. I did some reasearch into this a while ago ( http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/2013/05/shooting-your-own-foot.html ) and found that in the year before two-tier testing in the UK some 70,000 motorcycle licenses were issued. After the new system was implemented that dropped to 30,000. Consecutive years have remained equally low. I think you are right that the licensing process hurts things in the UK. In the US, however, things are so relaxed that I think a lot of people are able to get on bikes without a clue as to what they are doing, and they give motorcycling a bad image. So, perhaps there’s a happy middle ground.

      • The Truffle Shuffle

        I was put off by the relative (at least, to getting a car license) complexity of getting a motorbike license (some 3-4 years ago), not to mention the cost, but I stuck to it and am now really thankful for it, but I can see how a lot of people (especially the younger crowd) wouldn’t want to get into it. When you’re in your teens/early 20s, you want freedom, not restrictions.

    • Sjef

      I think those regulations are in effect through the whole of Europe, I luckily got my license just before the new rules, so I can ride unrestricted. It might be a big hurdle for many aspiring riders because it just gives them extra costs. But I agree with Chris, it might be better to have a few well trained riders than an army of squids on the road.

  • Sjef

    22 here, got my license last year in the Netherlands. Got my bike because I’m a gearhead and was always into cars but could not afford one, motorcycles on the other hand are much cheaper ( or so I thought, could have had quite a nice car by now ;) ) Turned out bikes are pretty awesome, delivering thrills no car could ever give.
    The cafe racer trend ignited my interest in bikes, but shows and sites like Rideapart and HFL reeled me in. Thanks for that ;)

    http://i326.photobucket.com/albums/k413/joram4130/CIMG1999_zpsb9d870fb.jpg

  • Scott Szela

    A big problem is also the coddling the youngest generation has been given. They have grown up not even being able to ride their bicycle to the store by themselves preferring to stay inside comforted by technology. Why would they want to do something so “risky” as ride a motorcycle?

    • Jono

      have you ever met a young person?
      turns out most of them hate the coddling, and run a mile from it the moment they are granted any independence…

      if you want more young/new people in the sport, we as community need to put aside the “i ride bike-A and therefore i cant be friends with you because you ride bike-B” thing and start focusing on the barriers and negative stereotypes that keep people from this sport.

      • Jose G

        The well established “tribes” mentality is the utter bane of my generations existence. I have friends that ride super sports that will out right refuse to ride with people from the cruiser crowd. And vice-versa. If we’re all on the same team, why can’t we all just ride the same? I blame the advertising. Your still sitting on an engine between two wheels going way faster than you should be. Just have fun.

        • Jono

          i hear you man. besides wouldn’t it be boring if we all rode the same bikes. i just went on a bike camping trip with 2 of my best mates. i was on my husky tard, one of them on a middle weight duke and the other on a ninja. and we all had a blast talking about and riding each other’s bikes…

        • Piglet2010

          I will ride with someone on a cruiser unless they have loud pipes – then I will not ride near them as the noise is aggravating (one reason to ride a bike with more power than a H-D big twin is to be able to get away from loud pipes).

    • Jason Blackman

      I agree with this. When I decided to take the MSF course, I tried convincing friends to do it with me and all but one declined, citing danger. The one who took it with me didn’t go through with getting his license because of danger as well. And we’re all mid-20′s!

      • Generic42

        I use the latest studies to help refute the “dangers” Basically, 45% of accidents involved alcohol on the riders part, don’t drink and ride and instantly half the danger is gone. Another large chunk (33%) involved no helmet or improper helmet usage. Again, wear a helmet and another (yes there is overlap) smaller percentage of the danger is gone. To easy choices instantly make riding that much safer. Add in an MSF, a properly sized bike and the other gear and you can eliminate a large percentage of the overall danger.

        • mulderdog

          absolutely

  • John

    I disagree. When we encourage people to ride motorcycles, the people that jump on board are generally Class A Mo’rons. Secondly, with fewer people buying $15,000 motorcycles due to the economy, we get great, affordable bikes like the CRF, CB500s, NC700s, V-Strom upgrade, etc. Aside from this, in many areas, the comfortable riding season is only 5-6 months, if that, and it is under constant threat of rain and being stuck under a bridge. The free market works, we don’t have to encourage anything. If less people buy bikes, we will get better and more affordable bikes. That’s the free market.

    • di0genes

      If less people buy bikes dealers and manufacturer go out of business or change what they make or sell.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excelsior_Motor_Manufacturing_%26_Supply_Company

      • John

        That’s not really how things work, as evidenced by the article. Schwinn chickened out, he had plenty of business. Now, if there’s lot of demand by newbies, then newbies will pick the bikes, as they did in the 90s, and what did we get? Cruisers and crotch rockets. Everything else disappeared or became very expensive. So, lately, we’ve had high used prices, but little demand for new bikes. So what do we get? Really excellent affordable motorcycles that make many used bike prices seem silly. I mean, sure, if you want to pay more for motorcycles that are aimed at newbies, go right ahead. I’d rather buy a bike that is designed from the beginning to be a great bike for everyone at a great price.

        • di0genes

          You are wasting your talents here, you need to inform Harvard Biz school of your findings.

    • Piglet2010

      You know, motorcycles do not melt in the rain, and there is some really good rain-gear out there (or just wear an Aerostich Roadcrafter).

      • John

        Sure, but riding in the rain comes at much higher risk. I rarely ride at night or in the rain for those reasons.

        • Piglet2010

          I like riding at night in the rain.

  • Graham Dorey

    This is an interesting issue that I agree needs to be addressed by the motorcycle industry. I’m 27 and live in London. I’ve held an unrestricted license since I was 21 and currently ride a 90′s GSX-R750. I have a 26 mile round commute through London everyday so put in a lot of miles on my (currently very grubby) bike. It is by far and away the quickest way across the city but that is not the reason I learned to ride. Since I was a child I have always been drawn by the mythology, look and sound of bikes. The appeal of motorcycles almost feels like an unexplainable need that has to be satisfied.

    Unfortunately, none of my friends share my passion. I rarely ride with other people because in truth there aren’t that many people in their 20′s who are in to motorcycles. Whenever I meet new people it is often considered highly unusual that I have a motorcycle.

    I work with motorcycles and my job sees me going to a lot of classic motorcycle events across the country and the sad truth is that the overwhelming amount of motorcycle enthusiasts are white men over the age of 40.

    • chad west

      Here in ny we have alot of black riders (me) but alot of them a squids that start on 1000s like this girl who got a r1 as her first bike and she was litterally bouncing on her toes to keep it up at a light and the other night a guy stalled his gsxr 600 10 times in a row infront of my house

  • chad west

    Im 16 in new york and getting my first bike next year and most people my age that think about it are hindered by their family and Just copy their friends, its annoying and sad

  • Brian

    “To add to this turmoil, we have an entire generation that knows very little about motorcycles and how much fun you can have with them.”

    to start with, until motorcycling is treated as a viable form of regular transportation, as a recreational activity it will always have a limited audience capacity.

    “Marketing types like to categorize people so they understand who the customer is, what they want and how they can sell them something.”

    Marketing types for the motorcycle industry can’t seem to penetrate to the non-motorcycling crowd to grow the consumer spread and demographic because there isn’t an “app” for it. There is a whole different dynamic to the crowd you mention as to whom we are to be pandering to. To engage them, you need to lock onto them like the various ( fill in the blank brand name) personal electronics companies do. Engage them in how they can plug into it as a betterment of their life by extension and usage.

    “There are some cultural issues here too; in Europe bikes have always been seen as a cheap and easy form of transportation. It is common in Europe for teenagers to buy a bike primarily because they can get a motorcycle license before an automotive license.”

    I don’t even want to get into a tiered license structure which I really think we need, especially in helping teach personal responsibility to the younger generation who are more plugged in to the attention of everything going on electronic before that of what is going on in the roadways surrounding them. Getting them onto a bike, I personally think, would change their perception and priority and driving habit(s) really quick in terms of reaction and awareness. That is a whole different discussion though.

    “What can we, as group of like-minded enthusiasts, do right now to make motorcycles and riding attractive to the next generation of riders?”

    it sounds silly, but if you make an app that creates and stirs interest, you can then migrate them and integrate them.

    • stever

      Well, a tiered licensing structure would be amazing. It would go like this:
      1st: low cc bike
      2nd: big bike or small car
      3rd: big car with blindspots
      4th: prius (extremely dangerous. advanced drivers only.)

      Think about it: why do we let brand new drivers get behind the wheel of the deadliest vehicles? A scooter would teach them road awareness and is just a little step up from a bike. And, while they’re learning, the small mass and power of the vehicle would make it much less likely that they could murder someone. Also, they’d be less likely to be distracted from the road by a backseat-full of their hooligan friends. Also, they couldn’t knock each other up in the back seat.

      • Rameses the 2nd

        I agree with you on Prius. I do power wheelies on my Prius all the time.

        • Piglet2010

          I do not normally rev my engine a lot while waiting at red lights, unless there is a Prius in the lane next to me. :)

  • thirstforspeed

    Here in Canada (as distinct from EU) we have 3 problems that act as an obstacle to getting my generation (Gen Y) onto bikes.
    1: Our parents insist that motorcycles are waaaay too dangerous and we will die a fiery death the moment we throw a leg over. The whole ‘donor cycle’ thing really scares the parents because they either see motorcyclists as squids on crotch rockets crashing all over the place, or retired dentists on their 40K bagger. There is no middle ground here. They forget the fun they had on a Honda 50, and maybe just remember all the dumb stuff they did on one. These views are ingrained into us since birth until we associate motorcycles as bringers of insta-death.
    2: Squids on supersports leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth I think, and like it or not, it reflects on the whole sport. Supersports are awesome, but there is always a story about somebody’s son getting a liter bike at 16 and 2km later stuffing himself through a brick wall or something.
    3: Our season is 6 months long, and we can’t use studs on our tires, so once the snow shows up, we put the bike away. If I could run with some tiny studs on my tires, I’d be able to go all year…

    I am new to the sport (licensed for 2 yrs) and I’ve bought 4 bikes in the last 12 months (all cheap ones of Kijiji for projects). I am so hooked. I love this sport, but the misconceptions and motorcycling in Canada at least really hold back a lot of people from trying it. Damn shame too.

  • Darren

    I’m 29 years old right now. When I was in high school I rode an old CB750 as my primary mode of transportation and loved it. High insurance costs and student debt prevented me from riding while in college. After finishing school the priority was to pay off my debt and a bike didn’t fit into that financial plan. Years later after purchasing a home and having a decent paying job I’m ready to ride again. I bought a cbr500r this past summer as a re-entry rider. I’m impressed that bike manufactures are finally making affordable bikes that cater to the everyday rider. These bikes remind me of mid 70′s UJM bikes. Easy to ride, comfortable and not insanely powerful. I’m so happy to be back into riding again after almost 10 away from it. Keep up the good work Honda!

  • Lee Scuppers

    We live in a timid, frightened, zero-tolerance culture. Boutique-raised only children who rode in car seats at age ten, and were never allowed on a tricycle without a helmet, are less likely to ride motorcycles than kids who grew up like human beings. Some will, but at the margins we’re losing a lot of them. That’s not going to change.

  • di0genes

    Old guy with 25 year old son who rides responds; Here in the frozen great white north motorcycles will never be all year economical transportation, motorcycles are a luxury item that require having a good job with good pay and something with at least four wheels, roll up windows, and a heater for year round transportation.
    As with any luxury item, this also means that the most desired items are those that are the most impractical.

    My son has a steady career oriented job with good pay, but he is five years ahead of his cohort, his friends will get there too, when they are in their late 20′s and early 30′s, after they figure out they can’t work for Starbucks for the rest of their life.

    The kids who had dirt bikes when they were growing up will probably get a street bike when they can afford it. Honda is one company who is counting on this, check out their family that rides together ads.

    If trends remain as they are today, 30 something born again bikers will likely get a full on sport bike first, which they will trade for a cruiser after a few years, or whatever the fickle gods of moto fashion will dictate in the future. I don’t foresee a bright future for bikes whose primary virtues are practicality in any market where motorcycles can never be year round transportation, 2WD Urals and snowmobile suits notwithstanding.

    • Piglet2010

      Why do they make tire studs, heated vests, heated face shields, and heated grips and hand muffs if motorcycles were not intended to be ridden in winter?

      But the real problem with winter riding is that it will create a negative impression with your employer, and/or clients/customers.

      • di0genes

        No, the real problem is that it is effing freezing

        • Piglet2010

          For me employer and client reaction is the bigger issue. :(

  • BryonCLewis

    I see it more as an issue with people’s perspective on transportation in general. Most of my friends see transportation as a chore. A boring necessity to get from point A to point B. That’s most likely why my mid 20′s friends drive boring cars (i.e. Camrys, CRVs) and few of them even know what a clutch is for. They don’t understand that if you buy a proper car or motorcycle then transportation can actually be enjoyable. The confused looks I get speak mountains about their perspective when I tell them I went for a 250+ mile ride just because.

    There is a secondary issue with the fact that most mid 20 somethings are living at home and not making enough money to have what is seen in the upper half of US and especially the North East climate a 6-8 month toy. What doesn’t help is the stranglehold Harley Davidson has on the image of a biker. When I got my first Yamaha cruiser, all my non-riding friends would constantly ask when I was getting a Harley Davidson. They didn’t know the first thing about riding but knew I should get a Harley Davidson because in their view that is what motorcycling is about. The base model Harley at a MSRP of $8k+ is not something the typical living at home Gen Y can afford and their isn’t enough marketing or hype surrounding the wonderful opportunities that Honda and is presenting with $5K new motorcycles.

    Gen Y needs to be shown that transportation can be enjoyable with the right type of vehicle and that it can also be financially viable if you don’t need the (coach, vera wang, nike, gap) version of a motorcycle and rely on the used market.

    (Also want to make it clear, I do like Harley Davidson bikes. I have no issues with their performance, styling, features or anything. I’ve ridden quite a few and found them quite enjoyable, especially the Street Glide. If I wasn’t so frugal I would probably have one)

  • Alex

    I’m a 19 year old college student and my bike is my only source of transportation. I’ve been riding on the street since I was 14 (in OK you can get a license for 250cc or less at that age). The overwhelming majority of my friends who want to ride are not allowed to by their parents because motorcycles are “too dangerous.” It’s unfortunate that so many people my age are kept from enjoying bikes because they’re still being babied by their parents.

  • Generic42

    Don’t forget our responsibility as parents and mentor’s to these kids. I will try to instill in my daughter the sense of joy and freedom that comes with riding as soon as she is old enough. Later on I’ll take her on adventures on the back of the bike as my dad did with me.

    I encourage my younger cousins to ride safely and enjoy the sport. I also keep in mind that when I ride, I represent all riders and try to not be that “idiot” everyone always sites when talking about horrible riders.

    • Tim Watson

      Good advice. Thanks

  • TenorMadness

    I’m at the early end of Gen Y, but looking back before I started riding this summer, I really wasn’t exposed to any marketing.

    For me, the choice to ride came when someone asked me what I was thinking about, and instead of the truth(nothing) I replied it was time for me to get a motorcycle. I didn’t have any friends or family who rode, and my only tie to the culture was a regular at the corner bar who’s a bike mechanic and former racer.

    My research was largely through the internet and listening to friends recount their tales of ex boyfriend riders and injured uncles.

    What really cemented me, though, was seeing the different kinds of riders coming through my hospital, and seeing what severity of injuries usually corresponded with what combination of bike, gear and personality.

    I’m riding a used ex500 now because it came from a good source, and I can pick myself and the bike back up when we fall, but I’m definitely keeping up with this site and others to help me buy my first new bike in the spring.

    Now I just need to decide whether to go for the cb500x for the daily commute comfort, or a wee strom for the 1000mi weekends

  • mustangGT90210

    The safety nazi’s I think are scaring my generation (I’m 21) out of bikes. I bought into it for the longest time. At 16 I started looking at ninja 250s, but was talked into motorcycles being impractical transportation for my climate, due to the 3 straight months of rain per year in Florida. And then of course there’s the “someone is just going to run you over, and that’s that” stuff you hear. The majority of the non riders I talk to tell me I have a cool bike but won’t buy one because they think they’re going to die.

    Luckily for me, a good buddy of mine’s dad has been riding for years, and my buddy ended up buying a little bobbed out honda rebel. Then after sitting on that bike over the next couple weeks I asked him if he would teach me how to ride it. And then I was hooked. 3 weeks after my first teaching session I had bought a ’93 GS500, and it was off to the races. That was May 2012, since then I’ve put 13-14k miles in on 2 wheels, and I sold the GS about 4 months ago for a ’94 GSX-R 750

    Had my buddy never taught me how to ride on that rebel, I’d still think they were all just death traps. It’s what gets pounded into everyones head. I’ve got a feeling that if we could get more people to even just learn a little about riding a motorcycle, that my generation would pick them up and run with them.

    • Justin McClintock

      I agree about the safety nazis. I thought about getting a motorcycle in college. My parents threatened to cut me off. So I didn’t. Then I decided to get one after I got out of college. My parents threatened to write me out of their will. Thankfully I didn’t care at that point. That was 8 years and 6 bikes ago. Somehow, despite my mother’s predictions, I’m still alive.

      • Chris Optional Freeman

        you’re parents must be egocentric control freaks if they are threatening to end your education and cut off inheritances over your choice of transport. my mom didn’t know i had a bike for 2 years. my dad has had motorcycles since he was 15 and naturally i grew up around them. the bad rep gets spread from the squids that cant ride and try to do stupid stuff, and the ignorant american public that refuses to acknowledge the benefits of any mode of transport other than a car. like the family with 1 kid, that never takes the car on vacation yet has 2 monstrous SUV’s.

        • Justin McClintock

          I wouldn’t quite call them control freaks, just overly paranoid. We had friends who got 600cc sportbikes in high school. The promptly wrecked them and hurt themselves pretty bad. It was the classic squid meets bike scenario. My mom was convinced that would be me. That and she didn’t know enough about bikes to realize there’s more than just Harleys and crotch rockets. In other words, she was just like most moms out there. That was also quite some time ago. Now? I take her for rides on occasion and she wants a scooter. My how things have changed.

          • ZedsPeds

            I had a pretty similar situation until I came home with a project bike (cb500) and a pile of gear 2x the cost of the bike.

            I got it fixed up eventually and rode it around for the next two years until I graduated to a MV Agusta era Husqvarna sumo. Still carbed with about the same hp, but modern electrics, tires, fully adjustable suspension, etc… My mom now has her own vintage Cl305 scrambler and a set of leathers.

          • Reid

            My mom was the same way lol

        • grindz145

          This is definitely representative of the norm. Justin’s parent’s aren’t outliers. When I bought my first motorcycle in college, I had to stash it at a friend’s house, and ride my bicycle a 3 miles to take my motorcycle out. There was times when I actually rode my bicycle further than I rode the bike, just so I could show up on the motorcycle :) The perception of risk in out society is very misguided.

    • imprezive

      I have to agree with this. I’m 30 now so not so young but even now most of friends don’t ride because they think its unsafe. Even the ones who would ride anyway are now married to wives who say no to having a bike. It’s sad since CA is one of the best places in the US to ride. It’s not surprising considering when most people find out I ride they feel compelled to tell me about someone they know or kinda know who got into a motorcycle accident.

      • Lourens Smak

        I always reply with a story about that guy I knew, who slipped in the bathtub and hit his head on the faucet and died, and that is why I never take a bath, too dangerous.

      • Chris Optional Freeman

        if your wife says no to having a bike. tell her she cant buy new clothes and makeup. its the same thing. especially in america where 1/3 of marriages end in divorce, buy the damn bike, get her a helmet and take her for a ride.

        • mustangGT90210

          my ex told me when I went to look at what became my first.. It’s me or that stupid bike you’re going to kill yourself on.

          needless to say, I came home with a bike

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Is it just me, or does the whole “motorcycle = suicide” thing a uniquely American attitude? It’s the cultural default that people just mindlessly repeat. I doubt it’s like this elsewhere in the world where two wheels is simply an inexpensive and unremarkable way to get around.

      • Mark D

        I bet it has something to do with our wide-open roads. Its way too easy to get a 1000cc sport bike on credit with no money down, teeter out onto a straight highway, wack open the throttle, and do 180 into oncoming traffic. Falling off a 250cc bike or a scooter at city traffic usually result in no more physical harm than a bicycle accident (probably even less, considering how little protective gear you wear on bicycle).

      • Dave

        Ha, you are not alone. They have a saying in Australia when you tell someone you ride a motorcycle: “Temporary Australian” as in “Ah, so you’re a Temporary Australian now huh?”. Yes, the you can hear the capitalization in their voice. I reckon 6 out of the first 8 people I told about getting a bike replied with that. I dont get it now, basically because I choose who I tell and who I associate with.

      • Khali

        Around 9 out of every 10 people I tell about commuting on a motorcyle, agree that it has great advantages time-wise and economy-wise over commuting on a car, yet are just too scared to try. They are also afraid about temperatures (cold in Winter, hot in summer) and rain.
        I always tell them about protective gear and how it helps being safer and more confortable in such situations, but i wont lie to them: Riding a motorcycle is dangerous and you have to hop on it being very aware.
        At this point, most people think that those advantages are not good enough, and having to buy all that riding gear makes it too expensive to even consider.

        Usually the 10th person is another rider who completely understands me and commutes on his motorcycle.

        • sixgunsteve

          I commute year-round in all conditions (except icing) and I hear these comments EVERY SINGLE DAY when I walk into the office; “Oh, you’re here. We were worried that something would happen to you on your bike with all the *insert comment about weather, traffic, etc.*” I usually reply with something like, “if you folks in cars would just slow down and pay attention in adverse weather conditions it would be safer for everyone” which usually gets me a chorus of guffaws or middle fingers. I gently explain (you have to be gentle with cagers, heaven forbid a crazy bike rider tell them they are not good drivers) that all the conveniences in their cars have made them low-skilled and lazy drivers; heated/air conditioned seats, XM radio, lane departure warning, back-up assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, collision avoidance system, etc. It has further separated them from physical and mental tasks of being engaged and controlling their vehicle.

          • Steve

            I couldn’t agree more! The “involvement” gap between riding a motorcycle, and driving a car have gotten farther and farther apart, making the jump to a bike seem MUCH more scary than it once was.

      • Steve

        Afraid its not ,in Europe that same mentality exists in non motorcycling circles.

    • Stuki

      Yup.

      The same culture that insists every young guy with a pulse needs to be medicated for ADD, are similarly invested in the myth of motorcycling being little more than just a permutation of Russian Roulette played in leather suits.

    • error cooled

      I think in generations past many people got started off road – scrambling around dirt mounds and trails that have since urbanized. The opportunity to ride off road is just not what it used to be — and its unfortunate because dirt riding often translates to strong street skills.

      In my case my dad surprised me with a Tomos moped when I turned 11 – and I rode the wheels off of it until 16. I started monkeying around off road later in life at around 19 – and regret not getting off road earlier in life. I am 28 now and all my moped cronies from high school are quick to hop on a motorcycle – but to others it is certain suicide.

    • Joe Bielski

      Great responce.

      I think it’s great that your friend showed you the ropes on a bike. My neighbor has been asking me about my bike for quite a while. I think come spring I’ll have to take her to the parking lot and teach her the basics to. LOL and as far as the comments I hear about getting smoked on a motorcycle… Well we’ll all die at some point, might as well enjoy ourselves. And in hindsight, I think motorcycling saved my life when I hit the lowest point in my life. I didn’t know what to do and decided to learn how to ride. Life is so much better when I’m on two wheels.

      • mustangGT90210

        Sounds like a pretty good ice breaker ;)

  • Arriba

    I’m 27 and ride a 2nd hand Honda Transalp xlv. I always loved motorcycles but two things tipped me over to actually buying a motorcycle (and not a car), when I finally had enough money.
    a) my father rides (although he is what we call a summer-rider), and gave me the book Jupiters Travels (by Ted Simon, but he surely doesnt need introduction here)

    b) the ‘Long Way Round’-series with Mcgregor and Boorman (thats why I got an enduro and touratech panniers! :)

    So its the adventurous freedom i like about motorcycles. Not the ease of use, which it definitely isnt when you are trying to keep yourself and your students test, books, notes, laptop, etc… dry when commuting (I’m a substitute teacher).

    EDIT: Asking this question here is probably preaching to the choir. We are already into bikes off course :)

    • Piglet2010

      I’m guessing you are not in the US, if you ride a Transalp.

      • Arriba

        Correct, I’m from Belgium. Are Transaps not popular in the US?

        • Piglet2010

          The Transalp has never been for sale in the US.

          The NT700V Deauville (aka Dullsville) was sold in the US for a couple of years, but only 17 or so people bought one – the only I have ever seen is parked in my garage.

  • appliance5000

    A few observations:

    I hang out on the cbr500 forum because I own a cb500f and at least half the riders are experienced riders who are downsizing, getting back to it, or are just tired of large heavy machines. What’s interesting is how surprised they are at how happy they are with the power and agility these machines offer.

    Regarding the younger crowd. Hipsters can be trashed but they are carrying the torch both in terms of restoring old machines and modding. Many have new inexpensive machines for reliable transport while the projects are used around town. They make it look fun.

    I wouldn’t neglect the scooter crowd either. Lets slip quadrophenia into the vcr and revisit the glory days. It’s also interesting that sting was an annoying putz even then.

    One thing I notice from my forum is that it seems many people haven’t driven a stick. They either can’t shift properly or they immediately try to get into top gear. The joy of an engine at high revs in its power band has to be learned.

    So all is not lost. We live in tough economic times and real salaries have gone down over the years – with the implosion of the republican party I see brighter things ahead.

    • Lee Scuppers

      Yeah, one-party states always do well, especially when they fine businesses for hiring employees full time.

      OK, you’re just trolling, but still… talking about motorcycles is fun too, sometimes.

      • appliance5000

        I am not trolling – 70% of the american economy is consumer based. During Bush neocon policies resulted massive wealth redistribution, bankruptcy of the treasury, and a housing crisis that drained an estimated 20% of the nation’s wealth from the middle/lower class.

        Short answer: if you don’t have money you don’t buy stuff.

      • Davidabl2

        Hey,Lee what App500 may be saying is that a Fu’dup political system leads to a fu’d economy in which more people ride cheap motorcycles because they can’t afford automobiles. And in the long run of course If the extreme repubs do shoot themselves in the head it’ll just leave for room for more moderates :-)

        • runnermatt

          If the Republicans do implode I expect we will see one major party (the Democrats) and several minor parties; the republicans among them, as well as, the libertarians, Green Party, and the Justice party (I’m hoping).

      • Piglet2010

        Well, the political party that had the most successful economic policy of all time was the NSDAP – make of that what you will.

  • Versys Jake

    I’m 26 years old. I grew up riding dirtbikes and motorcross. I started commuting to work on a Versys because traffic was really bad and it saved me time. Other than that, I found commuting on a motorcycle sucks. It is cold in the morning, you have to gear up and down anytime you go someplace, people don’t pay attention, If you go fast you get a ticket. Also, after two years of commuting on a bike I ran the numbers and realized that it would be more economical to drive a Honda civic, due to the high cost of maintenance and short lifespan of a motorcycle engine. Therefore, I sold my commuter and bought a “street legal” wr450f and ride offroad on the weekend with that. Offroad riding is pure, there are no rules, no half awake moms in expeditions trying to take you out. To sum it up, if you live in a big city with traffic and poor parking a motorcycle is great, other than that it makes more sense to drive a car during the week and go ride on the weekend… if you can afford it.

    • Justin McClintock

      Uh oh. You said it made more sense to drive a car?!!! Where’s Wes?!

      I agree though, and that’s part of the problem. Many people need their transportation to be financially practical in order for it to be financially justifiable. Bikes are fun, but for most of us (outside of single people living in an apartment in SoCal, and even then for many of them), bikes just cost more. I’m all for bikes, but having a bike ain’t cheap. Even cheap bikes aren’t cheap in the end.

      • Versys Jake

        I love motorcycles, but the fact is for most 20 somethings a car is more practical. Most of my friends care more about having the latest iphone and toyota. Riding a streetbike is way off of most peoples radar that they don’t even think its that cool, just dangerous. Oh and I am in San Diego to give you perspective.

        • Braden

          Most 20 somethings believe that a car is more practical certainly, but is it true? Halfway decent protective gear and a good backpack or bags and what else do you really need? How many jobs require you to constantly be shuffling some collection of items that can’t fit in a bag or two and necessitate having an extra 20 cubic feet that the average sedan affords? I just don’t see the appeal with gas mileage, parking access, traffic agility, situational awareness, ease of use/maintenance and cheaper running cost. I suppose I don’t have a place to put a morning cup of coffee, terribly impractical that.

      • Davidabl2

        Wes lives in LA. Your classic ” big city with(horrible) traffic and poor parking.”
        I also assume that he’s “single & living in an apartment.”
        If he lived in Anchorage, Alaska he might feel different :-)

    • Mark D

      Know what actually IS cheaper for commuting? A scooter. Cheap tires/brake, no valve service, no chain lube, almost no insurance, free parking on the sidewalks, space for your helmet.

      • Versys Jake

        Yeah but scooter maintenance is still expensive, tires etc. To get me back into commuting I would need a bike that would get 50+ mpg, go at least 100k with limited maintenance, keep me warm at 75mph with the wind off of my head, look cool, go fast, handle, and cost less than $5000 on the used market. Maybe thats the deal right there. Us 20 somethings are used to technology and lets face it motorcycles have not advanced at all in terms of comfort or practicality.

        • Rob

          Waaah!
          Hey, riding a motorcycle is harder than driving a car. It’s colder, wetter, windier, and there’s no place to put the frappacino. You gotta have bigger stones or fewer choices than me to drive one to work.
          I use mine for recreation. Most of my riding friends do as well. Trips on a motorcycle are awesome. My 29 yr old son is one of my favorite people to ride with, but he’s definitely is an outlier in his age group. He doesn’t whine, makes thoughtful mods on his bike, and gears up like an old guy (aerostich). On nasty days he takes the Suby to work.

      • Piglet2010

        The problem I have with motorcycle commuting is that it is 5 miles by car, but often 50 or 100 miles by bike. ;)

        I do not worry about the relative cost – after all, I can’t take the money with me.

    • Braden

      I can’t really say I agree driving a car makes more sense based on cost. Initial cost is obviously cheaper on a motorcycle, gas is laughably cheap, insurance doubly so (especially for older bikes) and so on. The only argument that seems initially valid is maintenance, which is strange considering how easy it is to take care of bikes nowadays. This is especially true for Japanese bikes, but even true for the two Italians I have (Moto Guzzi and Ducati) in the stable, especially since service manuals can be found free or ridiculously cheap nowadays. I’m a 20 something college student with a part time internship, I’m not exactly well off. With basic tools that anyone should have and access to the knowledge base that is the internet, I think at worst cost of maintenance cancels out with the cost of car maintenance.

  • brittonx

    I love my CBR500R. The pics were this last weekend out at the track on the CBR500R

    • Jonnhy

      I’m 29 and I think more than “Generation Y”, there are “Y People”. These Y People can be anyone, and can be caracterized by a needing to post something on the internet every minute. These are people that grew beneath their moma’s skirts, with helmets and doctor’s appointments every 6 months for check ups. They had their first cellphone at the age of 6. They were born with computers and technology, and were told that playing outside was dangerous.

      Besides Y people, there are other kids that grew seeing their parents riding bikes everyday. Others had seem his cousin in the hospital, all wrapped in cast with just the eyes showing, from a motorcycle accident. I mean, people are different, and each one wants different things. But basically, whenever one is prepared to ride a motocycle, one will know it. Nobody should be trying to force someone to do something they don’t want, don’t you think? Some people just takes more time than others, accordingly to their life experiences (including how they were raised).

      Riding a bike takes attention, commitment and responsibility. It’s not something that should be taken lightly or just because it’s the flavour of the week. One must first understand what it means, it’s not the same as riding a car while half-asleep or drinking coffee, texting or talking on the phone.

      Would’ve you ask the same question if you worked for a tobaco company?

  • Reid

    I’m 25 and just bought my first bike earlier this year. My dad rode and raced motocross bikes when he was a teenager up through his 20s and into his early 30s but my mom essentially made him quit riding because of my sister and me, and she was afraid he’d wind up dead – Pop was and is a bit of a hothead when it comes to things with engines and wheels. I always wanted a motorcycle since I loved fast cars since a young age but I was never in a financial situation to afford one until recently, and even then I had to do a lot of convincing to my folks that I would not immediately kill myself on the road or on a trail somewhere far beyond cell phone range. After both of my grandfathers passed away within a year of each other I decided it was time to really take a step out and do something fun without over-considering all the awful things that COULD happen. I’m so glad I did, and now I know that I will always be a motorcyclist. It’s the best money I ever spent.

    Now, as far as what I think would attract new people to take up motorcycling – from a product standpoint I think it has to be choice. The mainstream manufacturers all need to have a very obvious step-up plan in place for each of its main types of motorcycles. Honda, for example, ought to have a CB125, CB250, CB500, CB600R, CB1000R in the naked/sporty standard category and the other guys should, logically follow suit. That way a person who got their motorcycle license at a young age (with much much much more training involved and license restrictions designed to expand as a rider grows in experience, much as is done elsewhere in the world) could move up from one model to the next as they gained experience.

    As for what can be done from a cultural standpoint, I’m not sure much will change in America. Motorcycles are seen as frivolous for the most part and dangerous frivolities at that. I think that is partly due to the dominance of the cruiser and supersport machine (“Whatcha ride? A Harley or a crotch rocket?”) in the US market. Neither of those kind of machines are particularly easy to use nor are they overly practical, and, making matters worse (as we’ve seen from the notorious biker gang vs Land Rover video), the cultural perception (almost the expectation) is for motorcyclists to be “outlaw bikers.” That attitude is a turn-off for a lot of people who’d make responsible riders while at the same time being a turn-on for people who live up to the unfortunate stereotypes.

  • FrVentura

    Once I sat on a bike and rode it for 200m, I was instantly addicted.

  • C.Stevens

    Just look at the selling points for cars. Blind spot detectors, tons of airbags, cameras, info-tainment garbage, auto-braking systems. “I wasn’t paying attention, but my Mercedes was.” Marketers find out what people want, and they want that stuff. Do you think a society (or their kids) that is so safety-obsessed would be inclined toward motorcycles?

    I also find it ironic that these same safety-obsessed people won’t even bother to maintain the brakes in their vehicles. No personal responsibility whatsoever.

    • runnermatt

      These people aren’t safety obsessed, they just want to feel safe so they can text message, facebook, twitter, instagram, take “selfies” while driving, etc. This is similar to my analysis of the two main types of people that buy Volvos; the second type drives faster than their abilities or undertakes other dangerous behavior while driving and then buys a Volvo so that they will be safe when they do crash. (The first type of person that buys a Volvo is scared of life itself.)

  • Robert Reinhardt

    Ive always been interested in motorcycles, but was forbidden from having one. Four years ago I just went out and bought one despite my parents. At the time I was more interesting in older bikes and the restoration of them (garage time in the long NE winters). I got fed up with the unreliability (lack of brakes) of classics, moved on to modern street bikes. I was quickly disillusioned there as well. The bikes are too fast to use on the street. I never felt like I was pushing the machine at all. Now I have a dual-sport and LOVE it. I can ride it hard on the street and not have to worry about excessive speed and have discovered a whole new world of fun off-road.

  • Kelly

    27y/o female in San Diego. I always wanted to ride motorcycles when I was growing up, but my family was too poor to afford most luxuries. I was discouraged from riding by almost every person I knew and trusted. Riding looked like fun, and as a person who enjoys being outdoors immensely, riding was a way to be more in touch with the world as I motored around. I started riding at 22. I mostly race anymore, but still love to get out on a bike and take in the sights and smells of the mountains and backcountry we have out here. My vacations are usually centered around being able to ride when I get to my destination. Riding well provides a tangible sense of accomplishment. Racing has forced me to believe in myself and my abilities, a silly and cliche thing to bring up, but very real, and not something I think any other activity or mode of transportation could have given me.

  • Likhi Ondov

    The top issue for me is the attitude in the motorcycle industry around maintenance.

    When I buy a car, I take it to my dealer to have the routine maintenance done. When I take it to my dealer for said maintenance, they do it quickly and for a relatively inexpensive rate. A typical service (the ones you get ever 3k-4k miles) costs less than $50. And it it will have only taken an hour. If they cannot finish quickly, I get a loaner so that my life is not interrupted. Car ownership is easy and hardly inconvenient.

    When I buy a bike, none of car ownership practices match up. I have to call weeks in advance. A service takes 4 hours; a day or more is not uncommon. Service loaners are rare. Service is expensive. Easily $300+ for routine service. The point is that motorcycle ownership is not convenient like a car; it’s an interruption to my life, requiring extra time set aside for service appointments.

    I do not want to do maintenance on my own motorcycle. If I want accessories, I will put those on myself. But I like the idea that I’m taking it to a trained mechanic to touch the mission-critical rotating bits. This mentality of “young kids need to learn to pick up a wrench”, while useful, seems unnecessarily gruff and old fashioned.

    To fix the industry: do service fast, cheaply, and with greater consideration to the customer. A motorcycle owning experience should be as easy, inexpensive, and simple as owning a car. Non-motorcycle people looking in have enough to worry about buying gear, paying for MSF classes, and learning to ride.

    • Mark D

      Supply and demand. There a bazillion places to buy or have a car serviced. For bikes, there one or two with a 20 mile radius. That’s why picking up a wrench is a good idea. The same mentality that leads Millennials to root a phone or code or other life hacks should lead them to do their own maintenance. It gives us a sense of agency lacking in many of our jobs and careers, where success and quality have almost no tangible point of reference.

      • Beale

        I was just going to post something similar but you’ve nailed it already. I understand for new bikes you’ll want to have them serviced by the dealer while under warranty but, for me and most of the riders who grew up with me (I’m 51) at least 50% of the joy of owning a motorcycle has been working on it yourself. That attitude seems to have fallen away with younger riders although it’s not gone completely. It does seem like younger riders in the Triumph/Sporty/bobber scene are working on their own bikes. The Honda Grom is a great bike for new riders to learn about riding AND wrenching. It’s simple to learn both on a bike like the Grom. Working on your own bike can be incredibly satisfying and transform you from a dependent consumer into a far more self-sufficient, master-of-your-own-shit.

    • Aaron Lynch

      You’re also comparing chevy maintenance with that of a ferrari. Bikes are harder to do ‘simple’ things just because they are size limited in ways that cars are not. And they are usually designed for performance and weight more than long term ease of use or maint.

      • runnermatt

        You haven’t looked under the hood of a modern front wheel drive car (especially a german one) have you. There is practically no room under the hood to do anything. On a bike you pop off a fairing and most everything is right there.

    • Piglet2010

      I can get an oil change for my car in an hour with no appointment for $25. For the bike it is nearly $100 and leaving it at the dealer overnight.

      • Chris Optional Freeman

        you are getting ripped off sir. change dealers or DIY.

        • Piglet2010

          It is much less if done as part of scheduled maintenance, but stand alone it costs more for some reason.

          (The 600-mile service on my TW200 was less than $100).

          • Mr.Paynter

            My new Tdub is coming up soon, I am very interested to see how much it comes in at here in SA, my only comparison for a new bike service was my Ninja 650.

    • Braden

      I understand where you’re coming from on doing your own maintenance, but I think you’re being overly generous regarding the skills of your average trained mechanic. With the same tools you would have to do basic work on a car (or even your house), and a service manual that costs you on average $30, you can follow relatively clear instructions and a step by step picture guide on how to do everything on your bike. Take this off, remove that, look for this within this specification, put it all back together, make sure to torque it all down properly and you’re done. I will admit you will occasionally need some absurdly overpriced special tool occasionally (like if you needed to replace the clutch or some other intensive non-regular maintenance procedure), but the cleverness and inherent DIY nature of bike forums and the aftermarket support that we have now makes that almost non existent. It might take you slightly more time than your car at the mechanic, but will be far less than the dealer will take.

    • Chris Optional Freeman

      learn to do simple maintenance. changing fluids and brakes on bikes are very simple tasks that require very few tools. it will save you loads of money and time.

    • mustangGT90210

      Agreed completely. You’d need to 2 bikes in this country because of the crap parts network. That or I just stick with old bikes too much. Either way, it’s a pain. I do all my own work, but the first oil change on my 750 was at a shop, because I couldn’t wait 5 days for the filter to be shipped to me. Long story short, $60 for 3 quarts and a filter. Sixty freaking dollars to unscrew a bolt, screw it back in, and R&R an oil filter. Yet if I take my truck to a shop, it’s 25 bucks for 6 quarts and an OEM filter… Why?

  • Jose G

    I think that if the industry wants to grow. Manufacturers should start by challenging well established mindset (At least here in the US) that bikes are “Luxury” items. We’re told that aside from aesthetics, they don’t have any practical value, that they aren’t great for things like long distance commutes, errands, riding to work in all weather and so on. Being a 23 year old millennial, the most irritating thing I come across from my fellow vapid, pretentious, technology absorbed kin is that bikes are what you get after you can afford to pay off your car. That they are “Toys” for the rich. Well I’m not rich by any means (unless you count spirit), my bike is my only set of wheels and I can attest to my ninja 300′s daily usefulness. If it wasn’t for how affordable my bike is, I wouldn’t be able to pay off my student loans and keep my job and a roof over my head. I honestly feel that if the industry was trying to make a profit, they would be preaching about how much more affordable and useful bikes are. “Normal” people (making a big stretch there) in my generation only care about something if it is something they can do in between paying off student loans and working. Manufacturers have to realize that because theres a definitely practicality in riding daily. They just have to start seeing things in that mindset.

    • Rameses the 2nd

      I agree. The first service on my Scrambler was roughly $250. I was thinking WTF. Want a nice comfortable Helmet? Be prepared to spend $300+ on it. Every small accessory is in hundreds of dollars. At least in the US, manufacturers see motorcycles and accessories as luxury items and it is certainly not helping the motorcycle industry.

    • roma258

      It’s amazing how much you can afford when not making $400 monthly car payments. I’m not rich by any means, but once i didn’t have car payments to worry about, I could feed my moto addiction without any issues. My rule for bikes- never finance a bike. You should be able to afford to buy it straight out, unless you’re using it as your primary form of transportation. And for the vast majority of us (in ‘Murica that is), that’s simply never gonna be the case for a whole host of reasons.

  • stever

    Why don’t they advertise to the general public? It’s not my job to sell their motorcycles that make them money. Just show some babe riding to meet her friends at Applebee’s or whatever, and then all the friends are waiting in the parking lot outside next to their bikes. Then they smile when the first babe walks up. Then a slogan.

    “Honda: It’s what you can ride to go places.”

  • Dan.

    Easy solution, make something that looks good and isn’t the overweight, underpowered pig that is the bonneville..

  • Aaron

    I definitely agree on the safety concerns most of my friends have, but they’re scared to get into it and everyone tells them to drive suvs to be safe and not a little motorbike. But I’m 23 and love motorbikes and what I would desperately love to see is the 400cc category take off. In my province in canada the insurance bracket is from 150cc to 400cc which is around 400 to 500 a year in insurance. Once you go over 401cc the insurance literally doubles making it a lot less financially justifiable especially since up in the North it’s really not a good idea to ride all year round and you’ll need a car or other form of transportation in the snow.

    Years ago kawasaki made a 400cc sport bike rated for 60 horses and I would love to see something like that. I currently ride a 750 gpz from the 80s because it’s cheap and has a little more power than I need. But better to have and not use than to need or want and envy or not have.

    Ad on to top his manufacturers still jack up the price 2 to 3 grand over us msrp (the drz400 from my local dealership is 8 grand new)

    so if I could tell manufacturers to do something beneficial for my generation either start building 400cc bikes or start producing sporty electric bikes with similar power to something like the zero FX but try to get the price to something a little more reasonable for a student such as myself. For example the FX would cost me around 14 grand from a dealership up here, bring that under 7 grand and the rest will take care of itself. environment is a huge concern, use that to your advantage!

  • fromwork789

    For me personally, it was the social stigmas (irresponsibility, a punk, unprofessional, reckless) attached to peoples’ perceptions of motorcycle riders. I’m a broker that wears a suit everyday to work in a large city and was worried/unsure how my colleagues would view me. I eventually got over it because I was eroding sitting in an office all day and needed something else in my life. Couldn’t be happier.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    I am gen Y and my younger brother got me interested into motocycles. If you live in a cold place like Chicago, you can’t quite just rely on motorcycles as your only mode of transportation. Novevember – March are just too chilly and it is almost impossible to ride during winter; that just leaves us with 7 months of riding season. Also, as we cannot split lanes, it makes motorcycle almost as boring as cars; like everyone else, you will just need to sit in a rush hour traffic and on a motorcycle it will be a lot worse (no air conditioning, no music, no multi-tasking). This makes it extremely illogical to spend good money on motorcycles. For all practical purposes, it is nothing more than a toy to me. I can do fine without my motorcycle, but I cannot live without my car.

    Also, most Japanese bikes just look meh in comparison to European bikes and Europen bikes are usually too expensive. I think we need more bikes like Yamah FZ09 (affordable, fast and good looking).Harleys are slow, expensive and boring. I may want a harley when I am in my 50s, but it is not going to happen anytime soon.

    • Piglet2010

      Illinois almost had a lane-splitting law, but since it also had a lid use provision, ABATE lobbying killed it. Justice would be to allow lane-splitting as long as one was wearing a lid.

      Illinois should also legalize tire studs for motorcycles, so one can ride in the snow and ice.

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        I have a riding buddy that put knobbies on his Honda Hawk for winter commutes. He said it was “exciting,” and perhaps not in the good way.

        Load me up on the TeeDub, though, and we’ll talk.

        • Piglet2010

          I have ridden my TW200 on the stock Trail Wing knobbies on snow covered back roads – even the icy spots can be ridden as long as one is very smooth about it. But I may order some Aerostich studs in a couple of months.

    • Beju

      I’m in the older end of Gen Y, in Chicago, and my feelings are pretty similar to yours. Always thought motorcycles were cool, but my friends were what got me into riding.

      I’ve been using my 1978 GS550 as a commuter vehicle when it’s been dry this year, but the end of the day, it’s a toy. I don’t ride enough miles per year for it to make economic sense so long as I still own a car.

  • Ayabe

    Unless your parents or close friends are into riding it’s really hard to break in to. To some degree I’m sure that’s always been the case but when you tie that in with the almost….hostile attitude you get with a lot of dealers results in a very challenging environment for the uninitiated.

    I think we really need to look at how terrible many of the frontline ambassadors of motorcycling(dealership employees) truly are. How many thousands or tens of thousands+ of new riders have been put off by the whole experience because some neck tatted douche tried to push them into a liter bike for their first ride? Or mocked them for looking at a 250, or ignored them until they left because they weren’t scoping out a Hayabusa, “you don’t need ABS, this is a light bike”, or “insert anecdote here”.

    Sites like RideApart are doing a great job to combat this, a new/potential new rider can come here and learn a ton – including tuning their BS filter for when they start shopping.

    But you guys aren’t on the front line at the Honda dealer when the 22 year old new college grad comes in looking to buy his first bike, it’s Joey NeckTat and his rebuilt R1(with ebay HID kit) which can be seen stunting(until you go blind from his misaligned headlights) from 11pm-2am most weeknights. Joey thinks the new 500′s are slow and crappy.

    Don’t let your friends be turned off by Joey NeckTat and his merry band.

    • Mark D

      I have never met a group of people more defensive, insecure, and unpleasant than those who work in motorcycle dealerships (very few exceptions, but Scuderia West in SF is one of them).

    • Piglet2010

      Another factor is licensing laws – if people were allowed to ride solo with a permit, without having to have a licensed motorcyclist follow them, there would be more riders. Hard to get enough practice to feel comfortable taking a riding test if you do not have someone to spend the time to do this, not to mention getting the bike legally to the test facility.

      Yes, there is the MSF BRC with test waiver programs, but I know people who do not want to take the class without some experience first.

      • Martin

        In the US state of Wisconsin, the only restrictions on learner’s permits are that you can not ride with a passenger and you can not ride after dark.

        • Piglet2010

          Not so in Iowa or Illinois. :(

          • Rameses the 2nd

            I took the MSF course after I got my motorcycle license. I think everyone that attended the course passed the so called “test” at the range. Half of those people couldn’t follow straight forward directions like “go straight and make a left turn after the cone”. I honestly don’t think the getting a license is a major factor in younger folks not getting into motorcycling.

            • mustangGT90210

              In Florida, you have to take the BRC MSF course in order to get a license. And then it’s completely unrestricted. Bring on a 1000 mile tripe with a passenger in the dead of night.

              Not saying it’s the smartest idea, but I like the freedom

    • HoldenL

      I will cherish the name Joey NeckTat forever.

  • Jack McLovin

    I’m 31 now but I started at 25. Before that I was very much into cars but I couldn’t give a flying fig about bikes. I was in the Army and tons of guys had bikes but I just didn’t care for bikes no matter how “cool” I thought they were.
    Later on in life a friend of a friend offered me a ride on his bike and I refused because I was jobless at the time and couldn’t afford to fix it if I dropped it.
    Then another friend of a friend offered me a ride and this time I took him up on his offer. About 100 yards of riding in total and my sole mission in life was to get a bike. I worked two jobs and took all the safety classes and haggled every dealer in a 100 mile radius until I got what I wanted.
    If I had a suggestion to manufacturers it would be demo fleets. More demo trucks, have basic gear for riders to borrow, advertise as much as possible when and where the demos will be, offer as many free and convenient test rides as humanly possible. It is one of those things that once you experience it you’ll be hooked, but unless you have a friend that rides (even if you do) trying out a bike is almost impossible especially since 99% of dealers will not let you test ride a bike. Have demo units available at dealerships, do whatever you have to do to get someone on the bike and they will sell themselves.

  • roma258

    I’m 31 for another couple days, so I guess I fit into the Gen Y demographic…just barely. When I graduated college and managed to get hired for an “adult job”, one of the first things I did with my paycheck was buy a new car. This was during the initial sportcompact boom in the early oughties and I just had to have a stick shift WRX. Ofcourse I proceeded to wrap it around a telephone pole a couple months later (so much for all wheel drive). Looking back, the whole American “car culture” definitely had its influence on me. Cars are just front and center, car magazines, car racing, cars as a status signal…it’s all front and center.

    What got me into bikes, I can’t even concretely recall. I was in a bit of a rut in my mid-20s, still living at home, not really excited by anything I was doing. I’m not sure if it was my grandpa’s stories of riding his old Jawa across Ukraine and the Baltics, or if it was the fact that PA offered free MSF courses, or maybe it was Trinity ripping around on that Duc 996 in the Matrix….but something just clicked and my life has been immeasurably richer for it. Trips to the Alps, Pacific Coast highway, riding the dragon, track days, club racing, even the simple pleasure of a Sunday morning ride. Can’t imagine my life without bikes and all the awesome people I’ve met along the way.

    Just as an editorial note, some demographic data would’ve provided some good context. If you’re going to say that fewer people in their 20s are riding, would be useful to put some data behind it. As for how do we get more people of my generation on two wheels…I think bikes are such a marginal presence in the American mainstream, just getting them more exposure would do wonders. They’re never going to be the practical alternative in about 80% of the landscape (not lane splitting, not enough density, weather), but that didn’t stop the motorcycle explosion of 1970s and 80s from taking place.

  • Ryan Chambers

    Started riding a year-ish ago at the ripe old age of 23. My dad used to ride, and I’d been around bikes in passing off and on throughout my life. I’d owned a few sports cars since I started driving and decided to give two wheels a shot. So, having never ridden before, I sold my Hyundai Genesis Coupe (2.0T R-Spec for the curious) and found a 07 SV650s on craigslist for a good price. I then had a coworker instruct me on how to ride his 125cc 2-stroke Yamaha in the middle of a field for an hour, then went to purchase the SV the very next day… And rode it home. 10000+ miles ridden later here I am, and still loving it.

  • Mark D

    Good point about the chain. I wonder if Honda considered a belt for the 500s…

  • Aaron Lynch

    I think this is a non-problem that will solve itself once gas hits $9 a gallon like it has in the rest of the world. Motorcycles are transportation of choice in MOST of the world, driven simply by economics.

  • Joshua Winn

    “You can leave your helmet and jacket here at the front
    desk. It will make you more professional-looking.”

    That was the first thing said to me at my last job
    interview. It certainly shows that prejudice is alive and well, whether we or
    anyone else likes it or not. Just to beat the dead horse, we need to get people
    involved to show that we can be just as responsible as everyone else.

    What did I do to get others involved? I kept my 250cc for a
    few years after I bought my bike, and just talked to everyone who seemed just a
    little interested. If they were friends or family, take them out to learn in a
    parking lot. So far I have had five riders and two purchasers.

    Funny enough, here in Southern California, the number one
    response I get from people who don’t make the plunge is, “I don’t want to get
    wet when it rains.” Sure we can have our days, but I can guarantee you, this is
    one of the best places you could ever ask to ride in, so if you won’t here,
    then you probably never will.

    Also, some others have it correct when they say the
    maintenance is an inconvenience. I do the work myself on everything, which is
    uncommon for other younger people, who pay 20 dollars for a car oil change,
    done in thirty minutes. They don’t have to adjust valves anymore! My dealer
    told me a valve adjustment on my bike was 450 dollars. Wow.

    Many parents don’t work on machines anymore, why should
    their kids?

    In the words of the Dead Kennedys, “Give Me Convenience or
    Give Me Death!”

  • Arno

    Dear Tim,

    As a motorcyclist, I agree with your opinion, although I think that you are overseeing some important factors. Offcourse I can only speak for Europe, since I’m Belgian and don’t know everything about motorcycling legislation in the U.S.

    In my opinion there are two main reasons (soon to be three) that are killing motorcycling.

    1. Getting a riders license is too expensive.

    2. Getting an insurance as a -26yo is too expensive (especially for a sportsbike, IF! you can find a company that will give you an insurance)

    (3. Technical control is going too be too expensive)

    …and I’m not even talking about gas prices, trackday prices, tires, maintenance,…

    Try paying all that while you’re still in school and only working as a waiter on the weekends…

    This is why most teens/ 20yo’s buy a 50cc-125cc scooter. Meanwhile most parents will be glad to pay for a small car that is a lot safer (and probably costs less or as much as a decent beginner bike). Also; it keeps you dry. And once you start driving a car, odds are that you’ll only start looking for a bike when you’re going trough your midlife crisis.

    (Quote) “So, It is common in Europe for teenagers to buy a bike primarily because they can get a motorcycle license before an automotive license. Here in the U.S. the car is king.”

    Nope. In most European countries you can only get a full riders license when you’re 24. Drivers license when you’re 18.

    My 2cents,

    Arno, 25yo

    • Tim Watson

      Hey thanks Arno for your European perspective. makes interesting reading. Am i wrong that at 16 you can’t get a license for a scooter? If so that’s changed in the past few years. Scooters were always a way to get interested in motorcycles for me at that age when I grew up in Europe.

      • Arno

        Well, in some countries you can even buy a 50cc starting at 14, although in most countries it’s 16. The problem is that the gap between a 50cc moped and a 125/250/more cc bike is too big. Not only because the bikes are faster, more expensive, more dangerous, but mostly because the riders license will set you back at least 1.000 euro’s. (Don’t know by heart how much that is in dollars, but it’s more than what I paid for my first 500cc Suzuki a couple years ago.) A 50cc license costs about 50 euro’s…

        Most people just ride their 50cc for one year with a free learners permit and then one year illegally without a permit. Once they turn 18, they buy a car… Once they realize a car is useless in the city center, they tend to go back to scooters, mostly 125cc. To promote mobility in the cities, most countries allow that you can ride a 125cc scooter if you’ve had a driver’s licence for at least two years.

        So yes, you can start with a moped at a young age, but once you turn 18 the gap to go for a proper motorcycle is too big, and a car is just easier…

        And don’t get me started on the fact that proper riding gear is mandatory on anything above 50cc. That means that in theory you need to wear proper boots, a protective coat, helmet, gloves and protective pants on a 125cc Vespa…

        By the way Tim, feel free to add me on Fb or Twitter. I work as an editor/testrider for a Belgian motorcycling magazine. Might come in handy someday :)

        • Steve

          The cost is certainly a big factor in limiting take up. As well as the bungling government bureaucracy, closing down test centers selling of the land and then scrabbling about to find new test centers, still not properly resolved 2 years later.
          I was unaware correct clothing was mandatory, dont believe it is in the UK but if your not wearing it your insurance payout could be reduced after a claim.

    • runnermatt

      One way to encourage riding a bike or scooter might be to require proper training to drive a car. In the U.S. the driver license programs are SAD JOKE. Usually it just involves book training and some videos showing horrible accidents to try and scare teenagers into driving safe. I imagine the videos only work for a very small percentage and those are the people who buy Volvo. Rarely is there any kind of car control training. It doesn’t help that the teachers teaching the course are probably bad drivers too.

      I spent 2.5 years in Japan. It costs about $3000US to go through the drivers license from scratch in Japan (I googled it). Also, to buy a car in Japan you have to be able to prove that you have a place to park it.

  • Dsbrew

    More RideApart videos and maybe a few gear giveaways every once in a while!! I’m 24 and wanted a bike since I was 8 or 9 after hearing endless stories of my father’s bike adventures while he was growing up as a missionary kid in Central Africa. He taught me that if I wanted to ride and appreciate the bike, I had to work for it. So I started saving money, doing odd jobs (painting, cutting neighbor’s grass ect..) until my 12th birthday when I had saved up enough money for an XR100, popped my first wheelie and never looked back. I think what the next generation needs is for more of us current riders to drop the bullshit facade, head out into the unknown, and take the time to share the stories we make along the way. Inspire the imagination and facilitate the environment to earn the adventure. Thanks pops!

  • ben

    As part of Gen Y and relatively recent motorcycle advocate I have some serious opinions on this.

    - Motorcycles suffer from an image problem. Brought on by decades of Cretins, and Hells Angels, and then by packs of idiots doing tricks on superbikes on the highway, and by… beating on families in range rovers. They’re plagued by loud mufflers, machismo and anti-social behavior. You want to get to Gen Y? Today, geeks rule, so drop the attitude.

    Drop the black leathers, offer some approachable entry level bikes…I’m not talking about cb500f’s … I’m talking about 100/250/350 cc displacement and Super Cubs. Bikes with a motorcycle form factor without the pretension… and its important, but they need to look gooood and be incredibly cheap, and they can’t be mopeds. Like, drool worthy good. There has to be no question that they’re pretty. If a hipster girl says these words: “It’s cute!” … then you’re winning… if she wants to sit on it… you’ve just sold one… and if she wants to go for a ride… then you’ve just sold a million.

    After that, there needs to be a a whole new set of options; I think Honda gets it. Gen Y, doesn’t care about displacement… we care about fun, and more than anything marketing needs to reflect that. No more action shots through the canyons. More like cafes, record stores and micro-breweries (please ride responsibly). You need to change the lifestyle image with all types of motorcycles. No more middle aged men on Cruisers. We want to see women on motorcycles! And not women in black leather track suits, real women! Sassy girls in jeans and leather jackets… laughing and having a good time. Sell us a new image! We don’t want to race these things, we want to have a good time on them!

    and then the big one:

    - Safety… seriously, more than anything this is why Gen Y doesn’t ride motorcycles. We’re not asking for much, how about that Dianese airbag system? We grew up hearing about how stupid it is to ride a motorcycle, and we all know a friend of a friend who died on a bike, give us better options than a helmet and a jacket. I mean, come on! At least so we can shut our friends up when we’re going to get our license. Cars are so much safer today than they were even 5 years ago… motorcycles… exactly the same. I don’t know what can be done… but someone needs to come up with something… ’cause if the best we can do in a hundred years of the motorcycle is ABS and an inflatable mae west I worry for the future.

    • roma258

      Well we have a perfect test case in the Honda Grom then. Early indications are extremely positive.

      But I will say, nothing sexier than a cute girl in full leathers. Nothing.

      • ben

        I like the grom, I think it’s gettin motorcyclists excited, but I also think it’s nothing special in the looks department. My friends ride bicycles because they’re classic looking and ’cause they’re easy to work on… the grom’s for motorsports enthusiasts… I’ll be curious to see how well it does with new riders.

        I would like to see how a small cc motorcycle that was engineered to be taken apart with bicycle tools would do in the market… you’re definitely hitting the geek thing with that.

    • chad west

      Motorcycles have been given such a bad rap, and i think this class will expand much more but, and i think the range rover driver did something and thats why they beat him up but the news in ny are making him look innocent Because they have a bone to pick with bikers in general because of all the years people have been doing this. I wonder when yamaha and suzuki will get into this class and i cant decide between the duke 390,cbr 500, and ninja because they look so good

      • ben

        when’s the last time a group of car drivers chased someone down and beat them up in the street? It doesn’t matter what the reason for it was… It was miles away from what the proper reaction should have been.

    • runnermatt

      My solution to friends and family talking me out of getting a motorcycle was simple. I didn’t tell them until after. They will be quick to criticize the idea before you get a bike, but they will not be so quick after you have your license and bike because they don’t want to offend you.

      Though every time someone asks my mom about my bike all she says is, “I wish he would sell that thing”. I find it funny. 8k miles and 2 years in without any accidents and I don’t get any criticism anymore.

    • Maymar

      Not only do we need more small displacement bikes, we need to start working on moving away from the old idea of “start with a 600 or 750, you’ll get bored otherwise.” RideApart’s been good about not perpetuating that one, of course.

      • forking

        Shaking that misconception is difficult, especially because much of the US is a flat grid of streets, and that lanesplitting is illegal in every state but California.

        Since there’s LOTS of interstate and LOTS of suburbs on grids where I am (Metro Detroit), a less powerful but more agile bike doesn’t offer a huge benefit over one with outright power, or one that is more suited to long trips at highway speeds.

        Lanesplitting alone would make a huge difference in my commute in, where there will be 5-10 miles of traffic a few days per week – making a motorcycle a very appealing option to shave 15-45 minutes off of the commute.

        • Maymar

          This is true. I admittedly have the benefit of being a primarily urban rider.

          On the other hand, my archaic 250 will do 75mph relatively fine (it’s loud, but it’ll do it), and from what I understand, the current crop of 250s are perfectly competent at keeping up with highway speeds. You may not want to IB with it, but for a commute of less than an hour, it’s acceptable.

          More importantly, the idea is to not encourage someone to get something too big that they’re not quite ready to handle, and set them up for something that discourages them from riding. Even at almost 200lbs, I still find some 750′s a little too top-heavy and unwieldy for me, and I know there have been enough times where I’ve done something ungraceful enough that more power would’ve just lead to a wreck (or at least a very awkward moment).

          And, leaping to slightly more obscure conclusions, the more people that embrace low-cc bikes, the more the market will respond with a wider range of good small bikes, including those still optimized for grid streets and highways (needless to say, I’m a big supporter of Honda right now).

    • HoldenL

      Nice points, ben. My memories are kinda hazy because I’m an elderly 50, but the advertising you want to see — young people having fun, visiting cafes and record stores — describes some of the advertising that I recall from the 70s, especially “You meet the nicest people riding a Honda.” The “Kawasaki lets the good times roll” ads had a bit of that, plus some canyon-carving type stuff. And lo and behold, a motorcycle boom was going on. I doubt the ads caused the boom — it probably was the other way around — but those ad campaigns did make motorcycling seem fun. Nowadays, how many motorcycle ads do you see on TV? If you see any, are the riders smiling?

      And I gotta say, your mention of “record stores” made me smile. Not many of those around anymore!

      • ben

        I think we’re very close to having a resurgence of interest in motorcycling.

        It’s not just ironic that what I’ve described sounds like ads from the 70s, I think it’s cyclical. The most popular bikes with my generation seem to be those same 70′s UJM’s that you’ve described and I think it has a lot to do with the mindset that went with them: the “you meet the nicest people riding a Honda” people. It comes from a desire to have an authentic experience with real people in a world that’s becoming increasingly cold and distant.

        I don’t think advertisements alone can sell motorbikes but I do think that a conscious effort to appeal to our design sensibilities and to show us how motorcycles can fit in with our lives can go a long way towards getting Gen Y and the future generation of motorcyclists excited.

        PS; I think you might be happy to learn that records and record stores are making a huge come back. I can think of 6 vinyl record stores within 3 miles of me! (I wouldn’t get to excited for 70s music making a come back though)

  • runnermatt

    I’ve actually been seeing more bikes on the road since I started riding. I don’t believe I’m looking out for them more since I now ride. I was already very observant when driving. If anything I think the low wage, high debt is forcing more people to ride because it is cheaper than a car. However, if a person doesn’t have any friends that ride it will slow down the process and the “motorcycles aren’t safe” conversation will then stall out all pursuits.

    When I decided to ride I didn’t know anyone (except a few coworkers) that rode. I already knew how the “I’m thinking about getting a motorcycle” conversation was going to go with the girlfriend, family and friends… so I didn’t bother to tell them before hand. My girlfriend found out when I came home from the first day of the MSF course. She and my dad found out I had bought a bike when I asked my dad if we could go pick it up with his truck and trailer.

  • DerekB

    IMO It has nothing to do with the internet telling 20 somethings whats hip. The companies greatly overstate the importance of social media, Most 20 somethings see right through the cheesy marketing directed at them from large corporations. Motorcycles are cool and have always been cool. I think it comes down to the fact that there aren’t many CHEAP cool used bikes on the market. I imagine in 10 years with tons or CBr250r/cbr500rxf ninja 250rs on the market all selling for under 1000 you’ll see a resurgence. A kid can’t get financing on a new bike anyway

    • Tim Watson

      That’s a really good point Derek. Financing is another hurdle for young riders to overcome to get their first bike. But there are plenty of cheap starter bikes out there that maynot break the bank.

  • ChiMagic

    Nearly all the youngsters I know have no concept of a clutch. They live in world full of SUVs, Priuses, GTA, and Texting. Some of them refuse to go outside and are too lazy to and too obese.

    • Piglet2010

      I hear this from people that give riding classes to the military (almost all of whom joined right out of high school) – they all want to run way too high of gears.

      Maybe that explains the appeal of tractor engined cruisers?

  • Justin Christenson

    I was fortunate enough to have parents that encouraged riding from a young age. Both my mother and father rode dirt bikes and naturally, I had no choice in the matter once I was big enough to sit on a Suzuki JR-50. Riding took a back seat to baseball and girls when I was in high school, but by the time I had graduated from college I was looking to get back in the saddle.

    I’ve observed that the biggest thing keeping most people my age from riding is the unfounded fear that they would have some horrible accident. They see me, and anyone else who rides as a lunatic, constantly cheating death. I don’t know how this perception can be turned around. It seems that the trend with everything these days is towards safety and insulating yourself from any potential harm. I do not envy the marketing agent whose job it is to reverse this trend, but unfortunately, motorcycle sales will continue to decrease until America gets its balls back.

    • runnermatt

      Maybe you are the person to figure out how to reverse the trend. Having ridden from a young age and having parents that encouraged you to ride gives you a unique perspective. Maybe discuss it with your parents. Figure it out and your future will likely be set if you are into marketing. Of course, I’m assuming you are not out of your mid-twenties yet.

  • Zachary Church

    I am 22 and what turned me on to getting my license and a bike was the fuel milage, being able to ride on the street (I had only ridden dirt before), and skipping through traffic. What I didn’t expect was how much fun and freedom it would bring me!

  • Piglet2010

    When people ask me, “Isn’t that dangerous?” I tell them, “No, it is much safer for other road users if I am on a motorcycle than if I am driving a car.”

  • Guzzto

    Down here in New Zealand I am seeing more and more younger riders, there
    was a time even about 5 or 6 years ago where I would actually be
    surprised if someone parked up took their helmet off and was under 30.
    Culturally motorcycles seem to have become cool again (was there any
    doubt?) but when I see fashion / design magazines using old BMW’s
    (Edwin denim for example) in their look
    books and marketing you know there’s some kind of cultural moment going
    on (I think carter had an article about this somewhere). Anyway
    regardless of why these guys are getting into bikes the young guys I
    meet are already hooked. Most of them are starting out on small
    displacement CB’s and older hack bikes but I’m also seeing quite a few
    new CB500′s ninja’s etc. I don’t know what the sales figures here are
    doing with new bikes but I know the garage at my work has tripled the
    number of motorcycles in the last 4 years. Oh and my girfriend has sold
    her car and rides to work in the city everyday. We do have a pretty good licensing system and you can ride any bike up to 33bhp after some basic handling courses. and graduate up after a year. You can ride by yourself as a learner. There’s always been a strong motocross culture here for younger riders but that often didn’t translate into street riding. Interesting to see what’s happening in other countries regarding new rider demographics.

  • Von

    I’m 32, barely making the Gen Y cut-off. I think the revival of the retro style standards really got me interested in riding street. I grew up racing dirt bikes and haven’t had a bike in ten years. Now I’m more mature (don’t tell my wife) and I want something to cruise around on during the weekends. Everything from a Scrambler, V7, CB500F, to a CRF250L makes me want to get a bike again. Sites like this or Revzilla or MotoGeo don’t hurt either. The more mature (yet fun) motorcycle culture your site promotes is nice when it’s easy to think of motorcyclists either being a Hell’s Angel or a crotch-rocket “squid-iot” with no in-between. It’s reassuring to hear sites like RideApart say it’s ‘cool’ to wear 100% of your gear 100% of the time and so on and so on. I’ll be jumping into the motorcycle world next year when I buy one of the above mentioned bikes (maybe even the Ducati Scrambler, if it’s awesome, will get thrown into the mix). Gen Y simply needs motorcycling to be affordable, fun, safe, and cool. It has become that more so than in the past, at least for me.

  • kcavaliere

    It’s a double edged problem. I’m far past Generation Y by decades. When I went to buy a new Honda I saw some of the dullest, or strangest, or oldest, or over the top motorcycles I’d ever seen from Honda. What I wanted was a practical motorcycle with current technology. The CBR250R with ABS was a breath of fresh air. I own a 2013, in all black, and it’s a classy looking thing. It’s a fine motorcycle, too. My previous new Honda was a 2010 Shadow RS in pearl white. In a word, disappointing. It looked good, but it didn’t add up as a great motorcycle. I’m on the fence about the CBR500R. It’s good, but almost generic looking. The point is they couldn’t attract an existing owner to buy new for far too long.

  • Alex Tsinos

    To add to my last comment: regarding safety, see your recent article “celebrating” the 26th anniversary of radial motorcycle tires, some 36 years after the innovation was made available to cars. The industry has not helped itself in the public eye.

    Motorcycling continues to be on the fringe of transportation in North America so it stands to reason that OEM’s are reluctant to invest tons in “boring” stuff such as safety. THe industry preferred spending its r&d money on making supersports faster and faster throughout the 90′s and 2000′s. In so doing, they’ve over-engineered themselves into a predicament.

    What Gen Y wants, I think, is efficient simplicity without forgoing user experience and style.

    To make a parallel with the auto industry, a civic, a corolla, a Mazda 3… They all pretty much look and feel the same. Honda never thought the Acura NSX would be its volume/sales leader – that’s the civic’s role. Why did Honda Moto (and all the other metric brands) think that supersports would lead to sustainable sales? Now, why is the civi, corolla or 3 so popular? They offer most, if not all the technology and safety features found in the industry-leading BMW and Audis, but do so in an affordable yet uncompromising package. Honda is almost therwith the 500′s. Now if the other metrics can come to the table.

  • Alex Tsinos

    Awesome points!

  • Kr Tong

    ” Here in the U.S. the car is king. Motorcycles in general are seen as more of a hobby, or a weekend pursuit, rather than as a serious mode of everyday transport.”

    Gen Y isnt getting their drivers licenses either. THey see no value in driving at all. This isnt a car culture vs motorcycle culture. This is an online culture vs the real thing.

    Also motorcycling is doing fine. Do you foresee dirt bikes dying out in america ever? Nope. Street bikes are lackluster because there’s no places to do it. The UK is the size of california with something like 20 tracks, sanctioned road races, legal dirt trails everywhere, etc. What has calif. got? four tracks and zero sanctioned events? There was talk of a gymkhana event that never happened. And where can i go ride on dirt? Three hours away? Maybe less if i find an unfinished road for a few miles?

    Make motorcycling into something families get their kids involved in because they think it benefits them for life…. like football or baseball… and you’ll see more of it.

    • stever

      Almost right: “Gen Y” sees no value in driving at all. It’s not car culture vs motorcycle culture.

      This is real culture, spending time with friends and doing things vs traffic culture, sprawl culture, boredom culture, talk radio culture.

      Motorcycle companies need to put motorcycles in #1, not #2.

      A traffic jam is not culture. Driving 45 minutes to get to everything isn’t culture. It’s death.

  • Piglet2010

    More worrying that opposition to lid laws is opposition to noise laws. Personally, I would love to see the EPA “label match” program enforced in all 50 states, to get the “loud pipes” off the road for once and all.

    As for #1, that is why I ride a Honda Deauville while wearing a hi-viz ‘Stich – so as not to be associated with the jokers.

    P.S. Where can it be icy in the Upper Midwest 8 months of the year? Quebec City, sure (I once lived there), but not even far northern Minnesota or the UP has 8 months of winter.

    • Chris Cope

      I lived in the Twin Cities. It isn’t always icy that long, I’m just saying it can be. I can remember snows in October (the Halloween Blizzard!) and May.

      • Piglet2010

        Yes, I will agree that there are 8 months of the year when snow and ice are possible (not counting hail).

  • Eric Shay

    What made me attracted to riding was a cheap Yamaha DT175 that my uncle was selling for 50 bucks. After that feeling of getting it started for the first time I was hooked. It was such an emotional rush that lead to going to a tech school for motorsports/marine and an obsession over bikes ever since. I guess my case wasn’t standard. My dad did have a bike when I was a kid that I remember so maybe that drew me in too.

  • Piglet2010

    The elephant in the room is that the US is a declining nation headed towards 3rd world status, with a rapidly disappearing middle class. Other than Harley-Davidson and Polaris/Indian/Victory, all the manufacturers could afford to have no sales in the US. None can afford to do poorly in the SE Asian market, which is where the future is.

  • Dave

    Excellent points, and a very valuable insight from Gen Y! I really mean that.

    However, Let me fix that for you:

    “Motorcycling is in trouble because of the huge rift between people who
    have an attention span and those who have the attention span of a gnat and need the constant approval of others”.

    That’s pretty much what you described ;-), I’m sorry to say.

  • Khali

    Im 29 right now, been into motorcycling for 3 years now.

    What made me interested in motorcycles were 2 of my skiing friends. On our skiing travels they started telling me about motorcycle travels. Once a year, they loaded their bikes with just the necessary luggage and rode to an european destination with absolutely no plans made. They just knew where they wanted to end. During the travel they decided on-the-go where to sleep, where to eat and where to go. It sounded like such an adventure!!

    Also they told me that if I liked skiing (or snowboarding), i would love motorcycling. Same kind of sensations but like 10x more powerful on the bike.

    I was scared of falling or crashing, so I spent a whole year reading everything about motorcyles that I could find. I discovered HFL and some other sites and started reading them daily, and finally I convinced myself for getting a license.
    I wanted to make motorcycle travels like my friends did, but noticed that first I had a lot to learn and prepare. Started going out riding with other local motorcyclists, doing easy travels to moto-gp (Living in Spain, thats 4 weekend trips per year), riding to some concentrations, and this summer I could make my first real motorcycle trip. 3000km on 10 days across the pyrenees. That was one of the best experiences on my life, and Im already looking for enough free days to make the next trip.

    My objective with motorcycles is travelling, but as a side-effect I got into sunday riding with other riders, started commuting on my bike (reduced commuting times from 1h30min to just 30min), and even started watching moto-gp on the tv. Now I take my bike into consideration on every aspect of my life, and cant see living without a motorcycle right now (maybe without a car, but without a motorcycle, definitely not.)

    Riding makes me feel alive, in this world without motivations for anything, waiting for the next weekend ride, planning the next trip, or dreaming about the next bike i will have, keeps me motivated for working and for living my life.

    Yeah I crashed and broke some bones, and I may crash again and break more bones, or even die, but I feel more alive on just a single sunday route, than on all my life on Facebook and twitter, so who cares.

  • Steve

    When was the last time a manufacture advertised motorcycles on prime time TV or in anything other than motorcycle or motorsport magazines. In the UK I cant ever remember it, true the exception was the Honda ads but they are not specific to motorcycles. We used to get a Suzuki ad on Talk Sport radio station but not heard it for while now.
    They’ll never attract new buyers from outside the mototcycle circles if they dont know motorcycles exist.

    • Piglet2010

      I last remember seeing motorcycle advertisements during prime time in the early 1980′s.

  • Kyle

    I think it’s a two-pronged problem. One being the American cultural attitude to bikes, especially mopeds, scooters and small displacement bikes, and the other being the trend of the last couple decades of manafacturers producing mainly bikes for experienced, wealthy riders.
    The non-rider can only identify two types of bikes: Harleys and crotch-rockets. Their view of both is negative, Harley riders are Hells Angels and are scary dudes, and sportbike riders are only the flip-flop wearing squids who they see weave between their cars on the highway. Most other riders don’t really register on their radar.
    And for riders looking to get into the sport, the bikes best able to teach them: 250′s, scooters, mopeds, anything with slow acceleration and an upright riding position are discounted as girls’ bikes, or scooters which are for sissies.
    I started on a honda ruckus because I saw the article in Super Street maybe 5 years ago and they looked so cool. I began to understand that it was a scaled down version of a motorcycle. A bunch of low-sides, riding off-road and 4000 miles later and I have now purchased a 96 Suzuki DR350 to keep the shenanigans going.
    I believe the scooter was an amazing introduction to riding, and the slow 4-stroke DR which most people would discount still provides me with plenty of challenge from which to learn and grow.
    When we can reverse to the tide that the only bikes that are cool are >600cc sport bikes and $12,000 harleys, and help people realize that two-wheeled transportation of any kind is super fun and economical, we can help shift to a more-rider centric culture and all the benefits it brings, such as less congestion, and more awareness of the road, and other drivers and riders.

    • Piglet2010

      Unless the rider was very short and would only fit on a mini-cruiser, I would recommend something like a used TW200, DR200SE or CRF230L as a first motorcycle – cheap, slow, simple, and little to damage when crashed, and it can be taken to the OHV park for trail riding.

  • Bill J

    From what I’ve read, Gen Y doesn’t even want to drive – let alone ride a motorcycle. Kids are forgoing their driver’s licenses and letting their Mommies and Daddies haul them around. Add to that that they are still living at home after they’re in their mid 20′s… Well, I think the motorcycle industry just better stick with slow-ass cruisers for us geriatric consumers.

    • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SgRlM0sDWJI/R4Zrki-3osI/AAAAAAAAAW8/WOaLxbOOLws/s400/zoolander.jpg Sean MacDonald

      you seem to understand my generation well.

  • Rob

    I didn’t ride in my 20′s, now in my 40′s and am a dedicated motorcyclist. Don’t panic, it’s organic!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-M-Van-Couvering/1073822541 Benjamin M. Van Couvering

    The progression looks like this: Fixed gear bikes -> Road bikes -> Cyclocross -> Motorcycles. It’s happened to me and many of my friends. Some of us have cars too, but motorcycles make sense in dense urban areas the same way bicycles do.

  • Ole Bond

    I got a MC because my Mother didn’t want me to have one, primarily because she was afraid of me getting hurt. The economics, convenience and pure thrill of the ride were also reasons, but the fact my mother didn’t want me riding one sealed the deal. I had a friend who taught the MC safety course for the state, and he guided me along the path towards ownership and an endorsement.

  • slowpoh

    I’m a brand new rider looking to get into motorcycling (just did the MSF and got my M1). Just wanted ask if I’m just so new and not seeing the dimension around a coalition or organization trying to work on new incentives to make people think again about their transportation. I see a lot of discussion around smaller displacement engines, safety, and changing perceptions. But if i’m on the outside, i want to see something visible that will make me rethink my transportation or as an alternative hobby. In the auto industry – hybrids got to go on on carpool lane and that probably spurred a lot of interest in the Prius in California. I started seeing bicycle lanes and racks everywhere in San Francisco and noticed I can get my commute done faster door to door than driving or public transit.

    I’m noticing that it’s not that easy to find convenient motorcycle parking that speaks to the smaller footprint advantage in cities. If people started seeing a dedicated motorcycle parking spot on every block, perhaps they will take notice? Just an idea but it’s got to be something(s) that are bigger than one manufacturer and/or subjective opinions on the culture.

    • 80-watt Hamster

      I can’t help but question the efficacy of things like dedicated parking before the demand exists. Fargo installed some motorcycle-exclusive spaces downtown awhile back; they were gone within 2 years.

      Having just read through all 170+ responses to this article, one has to wonder if a solution exists. So many people brought up mental and social hurdles I hadn’t even thought of, but immediately made me think, “Wow. That’s absolutely dead on.” In any event, of the perhaps dozens of people with whom I’ve had motorcycle conversations who’ve expressed even a passing interest in becoming riders themselves, I’ve been able to convince exactly zero to follow through.

    • kinscore

      Motorcycles are allowed in the carpool/HOV lane throughout the USA (thanks, AMA), and generally cheaper than eligible cars. So there’s that. I don’t know how many people are aware.

      I’ve noticed that in addition to lack of motorcycle-specific parking, some car drivers get annoyed when motorcycles are parked in “car” spots in parking lots (motorcycles are allowed to take full size spots), even if there are no remaining motorcycle spots, or were none to begin with (some car drivers seem to think motorcycles should be parked in left over floor space, where parking is actually legally questionable at best). Public sidewalk parking is illegal where I am; private sidewalk parking is at the whim of the property management and I don’t think I’ve ever seen signs one way or the other. And while I don’t think replacing car spots with more motorcycle spots is (yet) a practical idea in most places, I have noticed some dead space that could be replaced with one or more motorcycle parking spots—e.g. short sections of curb between driveways (marked red for no parking), parking lot row end markings, wide sidewalks (especially parts obscured to pedestrians by architectural features).

  • Alex

    What turned me on to bikes (I’m 23) was my dad taking me for spins on his old CB200T when I was still a kid of 5. Then he fixed up an old scooter for me to start riding when I was 7 and just let me experience the fun. Really what got me into biking, and probably what got most of us into biking, was a good role model who showed us the joys one can have and the bonding that comes out of, having and riding motorcycles. If I were to recommend a way to get the newer generation into riding, it would be through the same means as me; having someone, be it an uncle, aunt, parent’s friend, any responsible adult to give a kid the chance to express themselves and have fun exploring their limits on a small cc bike. As for getting other people of riding age into our world, I’d say that what we can do as motorcyclists is to try and dispel the myths about how riding=suicide, and maybe give them lessons on our bike (if its small displacement) to let them see what it feels like.

  • Don Fraser

    Never rode a bike till I was 21, a cousin’s Honda CT70, and have been riding on and off road for 42 years. Commute 85 miles a day, 6 days a week when the temp. is 50 or above, rain or shine because I would rather ride than drive. I live in rural western NY and my work hours let me ride after rush hour. My biggest fear is hitting a deer, so I no longer ride after dark or during hunting season. Also avoid 4-lanes, but avoid them in my car also. Even though I commute, I still consider a bike to be a toy, small cars get the same mileage and require almost no maintenance, no helmet or protective gear required, dry in the wet, warm in the cold. Tough for a young person today with college loans, nice paying jobs seem to be harder to get, everything costs more. You can see that the bikes that sell the most right now are for the old guys like me that still ride and can afford it. I think we have seen the best until small, inexpensive, useful motorcycles become more prominent.

  • Slacker

    I think some of our biggest issues at this point is that we don’t have many people in Generation Y who are willing to be advocates for the sport… You don’t often see kids in the 20-25 age group riding. There are tons of parents who will make it a near impossibility for them because of the fear instilled in them from a young age because up to this point, the experience that many parents have had is through seeing (or rather, noticing) irresponsible riders, as opposed to taking care to note the people who are riding responsibly and intelligently. As of today, we have people who still think motorcycle riders are the “big, scary, angry” men in black leather and kill drivers who cross them (very rarely is this the case). If someone talks to me about riding, I’m always encouraging them to take it up themselves. Simply, they’ll never understand why I do it if they never put in the effort to give it a shot.

  • Josh Jensen

    I am 22 and I live in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. I bought my own bike last year and put a large amount of miles on it since. The deciding factor for me was befriending someone who happened to own a VFR and really wanted to take me out on it as a passenger. after that moment I was hooked. Unfortunately, I never growing up seemed to know or see the joys of riding in any advertisement other then go get a Harley Davidson and be in a rough tough badass biker gang, but that advertising never interested me or most of my age group. Being a professional in the Advertising and Design field, I see a major issue there, and with other bike companies. Finding ways to make motorcycle advertising interactive is going to be a good way to “get the foot in the door.” Plus creative advertising will need to be implemented people like me have a very limited attention span when it comes to sales. Using technology and physical interaction to show how fun, easy, and safe riding can be is needed to change the old “expensive deathtrap bikergang” mindset that too many young people have preconceived notions of.

    Let’s make riding cool for a generation who listens to dubstep, tweets on their iphones, Is in love with Xbox and strives to be an individual.

  • who cares?

    This article is the purist bullshit I’ve ever read.