Honda Motorcycle parked

By Bruce Mike

While I haven’t ridden a lot of miles this year I’ve spent a lot of time on my bikes. Much of this time has been in traffic. Something I’ve noticed while sitting at intersections and watching the world go by is there are not a lot of young people riding motorcycles. I do see quite a few scooter riders who are young. I think that has to do with my being close to a college campus, scooters are cheap, and you can park them anywhere.

My love of motorcycles started when I was very young and I was riding a street bike as soon as I could. I paid $500 for my first bike. A buck a cc. It was about five years old. That seemed to be common pricing for bikes back then. I spent about three years riding without a motorcycle endorsement but I was a bit of a scofflaw back then. I was in my late teens and there were a lot of other riders my age.

I know it’s not news that motorcycle sales in the U.S. are pretty stagnant and they have been for awhile. There are a lot of opinions about why this is. The number one being, that motorcycles are expensive and normally purchased with discretionary income. Most people in America see motorcycles as something we own for fun and not a primary form of transportation. Over the years mine have been both. The industry’s response to this is to build smaller displacement, less expensive bikes to lure young people to riding. While sales of smaller bikes are going up, I think it may be too little too late. I think the answer may be in how manufacturers are marketing these bikes.

Here’s my opinion. All these smaller bikes should have been on the market 10 years ago, right after motorcycle sales plummeted. They could have been advertised as fun and cheap which may have created interest for kids in their early teens. I think we’re at a point now where manufacturers need to market motorcycling, more than just motorcycles. We have an entire generation that are attached to their phones and the apps that are on them. They are consciously, and sometimes I think unconsciously, completely absorbed in their devices. This can’t be easily done on a bike. If everybody rode motorcycles there would be no distracted driving. I think bikes need to be marketed to these folks the way they used to be. As a way to be free from life’s attachments. Show them how great it is to be alone in your helmet and free of worldly distractions. Show them how practical a form of transportation they are.

I base this opinion on my own observations. There seems to be a real trend for retro things. I see it with cars, motorcycles, clothes and activities like board games and pinball machines. We have television programs about tiny houses and living off the grid. There seems to be a real movement for less stuff and more experiences. I like to hope that these trends are a precursor to our society maybe returning to simpler pleasures and simpler times.

A lot of the younger people I do see riding today are on vintage, smaller displacement, japanese and european motorcycles. If you’re going to sell retro looking bikes, which a lot of the new ones are, why not go retro with advertising.

It might be time to remind everyone. “You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda”.

MMM

4 Comments

  1. Hi Bruce,

    I bet you learned how to maintain that first bike too; bought or borrowed a few spanners, changed a few tyres etc.? We have been sold the myth that bigger is better, that 125cc bikes are somehow ‘for kids only’. We have also been sold on huge dealer rates for servicing and that all this is essential. I don’t know what the US is like, but here in the UK, there are more apartments, and more small houses with no space in which to practice outdoor pursuits like motorcycling. Nowhere to store your bike, your gear, and your tools = no chance of ever having a bike.

    Bikes are expensive to run too. When you can buy a decent cheap car for less than the price of a really scrappy bike, why would you? The is no advantage in economy either. How many bigger capacity bikes can you name that do less mpg than a cheap diesel car….and remember, small capacity bikes are by some strange lay, only for kids (see above). Unless attitudes change both within the industry and the public to recognise that small bikes are both fun and practical transport, we are set to become as obsolete as traction engines.

    And here is a parting thought. At one stage in the early/ mid 1970’s, Honda CB350 twins like the one in your picture were far and away the best selling bike in the US. What happened?

    1. Ian, dude. Way to channel me.

      1. Thanks Thomas,

        It’s a pity my typing goes to pot when I’m in mid rant though :-0.

        Happy Christmas to all at MMM, and good luck for 2018

        It’s still a great read.

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