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One-Hundred Thirteen Million

That’s the number of motorcycles that will be sold worldwide by 2013, according to a report issued in August by the Cleveland Group. That’s a staggering amount of bikes-in comparison, we purchased about one million bikes in the USA in 2008-but what’s interesting is where these bikes will be sold and what kind of machines they will be.

The 396-page, $5,700 report analyzes markets all over the world and covers 38 of the top industry players. The 113 million unit figure will be reached after several years of projected 7.6 percent growth. About 82 percent of that market will be in Asia-China and India will doubtless be the fastest-growing regions-but the Middle East and Africa are also expected to see huge increases in demand as developing nations slowly build their middle classes.

Of course, it’s not like the streets of Mogadishu will be swarming with Kawasaki Concours 14s and Monster 696s. “Motorcycle” means anything with two wheels and some kind of motor, and in most developing nations, a 175 is a big bike. The vast bulk of what is sold is well under 350cc, with scooters and step-through motorcycles like the Honda Cub being well represented. The key countries in the global motorcycle market? Not Japan, Italy or the USA, that’s for sure: Communist China builds about 30 million bikes a year right now, and India could be building around 18 million units a year by 2012. Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand also build colossal numbers of bikes for local and export markets. In fact, if you ride a Honda, Kawasaki, Triumph, Yamaha or BMW (as well as other brands), your bike may have been assembled or built entirely in one of these countries. Americans and Europeans could stop buying motorcycles tomorrow, forever, and it would represent just a small dent in the burgeoning world market.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • I agree with Patrick. I’ve been riding MCs for some 47 years and never have they been just for purely pleasure. They have always been my main source of economical transportation. Smaller bikes can be more fun than Hondabagos, even in long distance travels, 1 or 2up. My biggest bike now is a 949 cc Moto Guzzi and the smallest is a 50cc Yamaha scooter. Most my riding is done on 250-800cc rigs, depending on what I need to use them for and of what sounds like fun at the time. The wife and I travel on a 750cc Moto Guzzi if not camping along the way. I have 7 rigs all of which cost less than a top of the line Harley Davidson and they all get 40 to 70 mpg, depending on the speeds I run them at. Randy
  • I must say that I find this to be great news. It means that, in the future, we will see a proliferation of smaller engined bikes with an emphasis on extracting maximum efficiency from the resources consumed. It does not necessarily mean that style and performance will be forgotten,however. My experience is that riders, no matter where they’re from, all have an interest in speed and style. In Shanghai, cycles may be limited to 125cc but you see lots of “custom” touches and some pretty intrepid riders wringing every ounce of performance from their bikes. Motorcycling has always attracted these types and, I suspect, it always will.

    I find this to be an interesting counterpoint to “first world” motorcycling which, over the past four decades (perhaps longer, but that’s the limit of my personal experience), has evolved into an increasingly irrelevant pastime pursued by an aging population on highly complex and/or expensive bikes that relatively few people can afford and even fewer can fully utilize. This may simply be the natural progression of all things material but, if so, its nice to know that there are places that are a lot less far along the curve.

    My first bike was a 90cc Hodaka and we had many a fine adventure together. I now ride bigger and faster street bikes but remain unconvinced that the essential joys of riding have much to do with the size or cost of one’s mount. Occasional forays aboard my Son’s XT 225 have reminded me how enjoyable a light and nimble ride can be. I think that I can safely say that I’ve never met a motorcycle that would not be a bit better if it were a bit lighter.

    The fact that such small bore iron can be cheaply acquired is a plus that will undoubtedly swell our ranks. I can remember when a new motorcycle could be had for less than all but the cheapest used car. A bike was a logical, if somewhat adventurous, choice for personal transportation and a whole lot better than a bicycle! In a lot of the world, it appears that it still is.

    I’d also note that those early rides of mine were often somewhat crudely built and, in numerous respects, they all fell considerably short of perfection. This provided the impetus for ongoing customization until, in some cases, I’d invested more in hop-up parts and accessories than I’d paid for the bike. Based on what I’ve seen in my travels, this attitude is ubiquitous and after-market manufacturers are assured a secure future.

    Perhaps these worldwide trends will ultimately alter the climate here. The renewed availability of inexpensive two-wheeled transportation could help to rejuvenate the increasingly stale image of motorcycling as a dangerously indulgent and iconoclastic pursuit. New riders could do a lot to revive the business and the sport of motorcycling in this country, so I applaud the resurgence of the inexpensive ride. Patrick