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J.D. Power Study: U.S. Motorcycle Riders Aging, and Leaving Market

Below is the press release issued by J.D. Power this morning concerning their 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information Study.  The summary of the study contained in the press release is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the report that U.S. motorcycle buyers continue to get older, and are not being replaced with a sufficient number of new customers.  According to the study the average rider age in the United States has increased from 40 to 49 years since 2001.  Think about this for a minute, the average U.S. rider is nearly 50 years old.  Additionally, the study concludes that “the percentage of first-time buyers has declined for a second consecutive year.”  Here is the press release.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 16 December 2010 — Managing owner expectations through proactive communication and providing personal service has a considerable positive impact on overall satisfaction with the motorcycle ownership experience, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information StudySM released today.  

The study, now in its 13th year, measures owner satisfaction with new motorcycles by examining six major factors of the overall ownership experience: product; build quality; cost of ownership; sales; service; and warranty. 

The study identifies a number of action items based on key diagnostics that most significantly impact the overall motorcycle ownership experience. These best practices can be used by manufacturers and their dealers to improve overall satisfaction. Two of these best practices, which are common among high performers, are managing owner expectations through proactive communication (including following up after a sales visit) and providing personal service (including a fluid and seamless process in servicing their motorcycle). When best practices such as these are met, satisfaction averages 878 on a 1,000-point scale—more than 50 index points above the industry average of 827. In comparison, when manufacturers and their dealers do not deliver on these best practices, satisfaction averages only 752. 

“In an industry currently confronted with limited consumer spending, it is to the advantage of motorcycle manufacturers and dealerships to identify and implement the best practices that satisfy owners that may lead to higher revenue,” said Dennis Goodman, senior research manager of the powersports practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Slightly more than one-half of motorcycle owners state that their brand missed on two or more best practices, indicating that there is room for improvement across the industry.” 

In addition, the more best practices that are delivered, the more likely the motorcycle owner is to recommend and repurchase the brand. For example, among motorcycle owners whose brand delivered on all of the best practices, 84 percent say they “definitely will” recommend the brand, and 63 percent say they “definitely will” repurchase the brand. In comparison, just 65 percent of motorcycle owners whose brand missed four or more best practices say they “definitely will” recommend the brand, and less than one-third say they “definitely will” repurchase. 

The study also finds that quality has declined from 2009, with the industry average increasing by 29 problems per 100 motorcycles (PP100) to 152 PP100—the same level reported in the 2008 study. One-half of all owners report experiencing at least one problem with their motorcycle, with most of the problems being engine related (44%). 

Among motorcycle owners who experience at least one problem, overall satisfaction is significantly lower than among owners who did not experience a problem with their new motorcycle (792 vs. 862, respectively). The problems that have the greatest negative impact on the overall satisfaction score are gearshift problems, clutch chatter and the engine lacking power. 

The study also finds the following key trends:

  • Sales volumes and revenue of ancillary goods and services tend to be considerably higher—by an average of $957—at motorcycle dealerships that provide a highly satisfying experience vs. dealerships that do not. 
  • The population of motorcycle buyers is aging, with the average rider age increasing from 40 to 49 years since 2001—an indication that many owners may soon exit the market. Additionally, the percentage of first-time buyers has declined for a second consecutive year, making it more critical now than ever for manufacturers to focus on attracting new customers.

The 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information Study includes responses from 8,490 owners who purchased a new 2009 or 2010 model-year on-road or dual-sport motorcycle between September 2009 and May 2010. The study was fielded between September and October 2010.

91 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Back when many of us started motorcycling, a motorcycle could get over 50 mpg when your typical car only got 15 mpg. Economics drove many of us toward two wheels. Today’s mentality of bigger, faster and louder has many motorcycles burning more gas than many automobiles. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to speed and power and we passed it way back in the 70′s.

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  2. Kjazz says:

    Demographics. The Baby Boomers are STILL affecting numbers across all industries including the motorcycling industry’s statistics. Not saying there aren’t good comments throughout this group of responses, most are dead on right. BUT, the size of the Baby Boomers continues to be the dominating influence. There are just so damn many of them, that the average of practically everything will be largely affected by them and will be more than likely be an age that is a Baby Boomer age: currently (as of 2010) 46 – 64 years. Even if older BB’s stop riding, again, there are so many of them that they dominate. The next wave (Echo Boomers) are coming of age in an economically challenged period. And as others have stated, there are all kinds of small disincentives to joining in the motorcycle thing…..hassles we didn’t have as youth (as I remember it).

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  3. whisperquiet says:

    The same thing is happening with hunting………

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2010-12-19-hunting-decline-new_N.htm

    I never hunted much, but did ride off-road everywhere when younger.

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  4. Jay Mack says:

    Motorcycles are becomming more complicated, heavier and over-built,and more expensive. You can buy a damn nice Chevy Corvette used or a new Honda for the price of some of these new bikes.

    The manufacturers need to simplify the product. THey need to keep new bike prices under $10,000 USD.

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  5. Jamie says:

    Something to consider with J.D. Power…

    - Statistically far more older people actually bother to respond and take the time to fill out a J.D. Power survey. Younger people typically don’t bother with surveys.

    - People that *have* problems with their bike or car are also far more likely to fill out a J.D. Power survey to voice their displeasure.

    So what does that all mean?

    While J.D. Power can look at their data and say that the average age of the motorcycle buyer that filled out their survey is older, that doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual market situation. It makes a good headline though.

    So (and bear with me here for some stereotyping) if brands that typically have problems (Harley or Ducati) also tend to attract an older demographic (due to the brand and/or pricing of the bikes) then you have two factors that result in more surveys being answered. If Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki attract a younger demographic and have fewer problems per bike, then J.D. Power is far less likely to get surveys back on those bikes (and that younger demographic). Add in the fact that the cruiser market is (depending on the statistics you source) at least 50% of the market here in the U.S. where the average age of a cruiser buyer is 35-55 currently. It is easy to see how J.D. Power can arrive at that conclusion based on their survey data.

    There are exceptions to every case (I’m one of them) but take some of the J.D. Power headlines with a grain of salt.

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    • ohio says:

      For your hypothesis to be correct, not only would JD Power’s methodology have to have an age bias (which may account for the high average age), it would have to have a bias that increased year on year (which would account for the increasing average age). 50yos from this year would have to be less likely to fill out the survey than 50yos from last year. I think that’s extremely unlikely.

      Their findings are born out by sales numbers and by dealer anecdotes. Both dealerships and manufacturers are at a loss of how to sell to anyone but their repeat customers of decades. Show me the models that are designed to appeal to new riders, to young riders, to women… there’s nothing but cosmetic efforts and woefully misguided misses based on the shallowest stereotypes or wishful thinking. There’s no shortage of young folks that want to ride on two wheels, but they’re either not finding what they’re looking for, or they’re buying scooters, CB350s, bicycles, or nothing instead.

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      • Jamie says:

        J.D. Powers methodology doesn’t have an age bias per se – if you fill the survey out and return it to them then it counts in the data pool. J.D. Power (like a lot of survey organizations) struggle to find ways to get younger people to actually fill out the survey and mail it back to them.

        Their findings in this survey are based on responses to the survey they send out to a select number of new motorcycle owners. Dealership and manufacturer data is not a contributor to the results.

        Logically it makes sense that the motorcycle population here is an older demographic (35-55). Given the demographics for the cruiser market (older) and that the cruiser segment is the largest of all street bikes, it makes sense.

        I’m just saying, take the J.D. Power headlines with a grain of salt. J.D. Power makes a LOT of money selling survey data and consulting to manufacturers and they know how to push buttons publicly to help promote the sales of that data and consulting.

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  6. PeteP says:

    True, dirt riding seems to be making a resurgence, on some places. All of a sudden I know a lot more people who want to ride (in the dirt).

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  7. I sure agree on buying used. There are a few new bikes I would like to own. But the last bike I purchased was 5 years ago…a 2001 Aprilia RSV-R Mille with a $2,000 Arrow full titanium exhaust system and a Springer folding trailer for 1/4 of the new price. It had 2,500 miles on it and was immaculate! And, sad to say, I did not have to deal with a clueless sales person.

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  8. Mark says:

    Way back when I was young, I would only buy a dirt bike to ride enduros if I could pay cash. New bikes were well under $1,000.00. Now, even though I have more disposable income, and even allowing for inflation, I have to finance a bike because they just cost too much. The advancing technology is expensive, but no one wants the simple machinery we learned to ride on. Not blaming anyone, riders or manufacturers, that’s just the way the bikes have evolved.
    Of course the manufacturers need to build what the riders really want. It’s interesting to note that in these times of deminishing bike sales, Gas Gas recently joked that if sales continue to increase here, they will need to build a new factory just to supply the US.

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  9. Tommy says:

    Yes its all too true. Those of us with a lot of miles on our butts ride to experience life on the hairy edge firsthand. The heat, the cold, the rain in the face, the trees and flowers, the risks, the interesting strangers you meet out there. Many (not all) of todays youth only want the “pretend” experience through thier little glowing screens. Pretend “friends”, pretend racing, fighting, war, crime, sports, etc (computer gaming), pretend sex (porn), pretend work. Sad. Also sad is that these are the people who will be pushing my wheelchair (if I manage to avoid getting deleted by some nitwit texting in their Hummer). Oh well, today’s a beautiful day, lets ride!

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  10. Bill W says:

    Great comments all around — and together I think they describe the big picture problem: There’s more wrong than right about the industry: 1) riding is becoming more dangerous; 2) there are very few new bikes I like and the ones I do are ridiculously expensive; 3) there’s a surplus of good used garage queens that are more appealing than new bikes (my last two purchases); 4) the uncertain economy deters spending on expensive “toys”; 5) insurance is high; and 6) there’s no good entry level. Where are the UJM 550s I learned on? You’d think the Big 4 would have learned something from the huge success of the Suzuki SV650 but not even Suzuki did! I don’t think it’s young vs. old. It’s like any industry – sell the right product at the right price and people will buy it. Last thought – I know I ride less because I see more close calls than ever before and that makes it hard for me to recommend the sport to new riders. It seems like there are only two types of drivers here in Miami — those who don’t see you and are going to kill you and those who do see you and are still going to kill you! Safe riding to all! Bill

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    • Wilson R says:

      These are all valid points. The cell phone and GPS have been real killers when it come to distracting drivers from their tasks. Used bikes with a few miles are half the price of new and like you said, everything that appeals to me is out of my price range! It’s no mystery what is happening to the interest level in motorcycling and it’s sad that motorcycles manufacturers keep pushing that price up so far that even established riders turn away in disgust.

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  11. ben says:

    as pathetic as this sounds (and I hate to say it), I think that a growing percentage of young people (the would-be riders)actually preffer to spend their time and money on electronic devices such as computers, video games, social networking, BS, etc. It seems to me that many young people are fooling around with facebook, sending hundreds of text messages and playing video games all day rather than going hiking, hunting, bicycling, playing sports, racing or even just learning to ride in the first place. LAME

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  12. PeteP says:

    Oh yeah. Like the rest of you, I only buy used bikes. I bought a new bike in 1980, and it was a dirt bike.

    When I can buy a low mileage Speed Triple for $2400, why on earth would I buy a new bike?

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  13. PeteP says:

    1. Does this suprise anyone here? Certainly not me.

    2. There are many factors driving the lack of young riders. One I did not see directly mentioned is the current street riding environment. Most urban/suburban riding experiences involve some use of high speed roads and highways. Immediately immersing a rider into 80 MPH traffic is terrifying. I found this out when I helped my wife learn to ride about 10 years ago.

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  14. Dashui says:

    Peak oil to the rescue?

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  15. Paul says:

    Riding a motorcycle hurts. Sometimes the ride there is great and you suffer on the return. Sometimes it’s too hot, cold, wet, dry, stormy, rainy, windy, dark and so forth. In the generation of fifty plus year old riders we all acknowledge these potential challenges of riding and pride ourselves on being tough enough or crazy enough to reap the pleasure of fighting Mother Nature and our aging bodies while riding our favorite machines.

    I ride nearly every day and I’m 52 years old. I love working on bikes. Have no problem getting dirty or wet and seem to be attracted to people like me. These people are weathered, wise, well traveled, mostly crazy and riding a bike. I like beer, beautiful women, horsepower, risk and things that scare the hell out of me. I like things mechanical and doing everything for myself, no matter what it takes. I generally don’t get cozy with average people very much because don’t have enough in common to try and communicate with them. I usually try to mess with people if I like them and that never works out very well unless they are aircraft mechanics or bikers.

    The younger generations are socially in tune with a variety of different cultures and enjoy it. They have clean IT type jobs that pay well. They love sterile electronic gadgets and face book. They don’t like suffering and have no particular allegiance to anyone or anything except themselves and the comforts that surround them. A long standing job, marriage, insurance no claims, car or motorcycle ownership means nothing to them because today’s society doesn’t reward or even recognize stability, good behavior, faithful ownership, craft skills or any of the things fifty year old plus men grew up with.

    They are survivors in today’s society and know how to play life to their own advantage. They don’t like suffering, getting dirty, messing their hair up, being socially unacceptable and appearing to be anything but what today is outwardly successful with all the right buzz words, cars, homes, clothes and the right circle of friends.

    Young people for the most part today just don’t fit into what we bikers love so much about the biking lifestyle. My own son grew up being totally different from me and that’s OK. As a matter of fact, he’s got an attitude and skills that I couldn’t master if I wanted to. He’s a survivor of today’s times, but not a biker. I breathe a sigh of relief sometimes because I don’t want him to grow up like me. Sorry motorcycle manufacturers… When I die, I will be the last biker in my family!

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    • Weasel says:

      Thanks Paul. Some very good points.

      Another thing, at least for me, is that riding is a solitary activity. Even when I ride with others, it’s still just me, the bike, and the road. Kids seem to be more social these days. Even when they are alone they always seem to calling or texting each other. Most of the time, I just want to be left alone to do my own thing. Do kids these days even have “their own thing”? Seem to spend most of their time “fitting in”.

      Aircraft mechanics are good people. Most seem to be able to take their job seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Not like BMW riders at all. . . . ;)

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      • Wilson R says:

        I’m an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic in my early fifties and have a parallel view of today’s youth. If you were to take away their cell phones their entire life would come to a screeching halt. They don’t seem to want to work on their own vehicles and take their cars or bikes to the stealership for regular service. Most cannot even change their own oil, much less even know how to check the oil level. They are about as much into mechanical things as my sisters were growing up. There are exceptions, but they are far a few between.
        Part of the reason they are not into mechanical things is that society frowns on anyone doing their own maintenance as the smog devices are not to be messed with. My first cars were 60′s Chevies and Chryslers are were fun to work on and had not one computer. They are very much into tattoos though, and can tell you all about tolerance for every perversion out there. A whole society of girly men, that’s what it’s become.

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  16. Jeff says:

    This trend is not surprising. I got into bikes late in life – I was 28 (10 years ago) when I borrowed an 83′CBX 550 to learn on and I was hooked in the first hour…

    I wanted more speed so bought a used Ninja 500 and then a used VFR750.
    Living in a city I quickly learned that speed only meant tickets and accidents. (being an older rookie, it probably saved my life a few times) I got rid of the sport bikes and got into off road (still love it). Now I am on a K1200GT and love to go on long trips with my friends. 800 – 1000 km / per day is great!

    As I went from a beginner, to a sport biker, to a dirt biker, to a sport tourer, the one thing that has kept me on bikes and spending money in the industry is re-discovering that same feeling of fun and adventure. Seeing new places, spending time with buddies and meeting new people is the real joy I get from motorcycles. The bikes are really just tools.

    When I see 18 to 22 year old kids ripping down city streets pretending to be Valentino Rossi, I shake my head. Not because of the riders (kids will be kids), I shake my head at the marketing department of (Honda, Kawasaki etc…). Once again they managed to sell a bike fast enough to win a World Superbike race to a kid who won’t be able to control it. (great idea hey?)

    A lot of those kids are out of bikes in 1 or 2 years because of accidents, insurance cost, traffic tickets, or much worse. Lots of these kids never get to experience the joy of a trip to the coast, or a trip to Sturgis in August etc… because their first bike was their last bike!

    They never became “riders”, they just had a fast bike for a while.

    It has been said a million times, give young riders a 400cc bike for $3500 and watch the sport get bigger. Governments in the US and here in Canada just don’t seem to understand graduated licensing like they have in Europe. Since this is the case, the manufacturers should take the lead to save their own industry. Start looking at a young rider as a person who someday might buy a Goldwing, vs a fresh motorcycle license and a bank loan.

    Just my 2 cents…

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  17. Johnne Lee says:

    The weekend warrior born-again bikers are leaving the market. There are far more “toys” currently available to the young. In America, the failing dollar has destroyed the purchasing paradigm that caused my first vehicle to have two wheels.

    So, who expected the market not to disappear?

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  18. ibking says:

    When gorwing up in the 60′s you can buy a good used bike for 50 or 100 bucks, a used car for 300. Today there are too many laws and restrictions for young riders. Everything today is all about how much will it cost me. And remember when a dollar or less would fill your tank? I have three bikes in my garage ay a cost of $47,000 for all three, to think about it, thats alot money for toys…..just toys.

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    • ilikefood says:

      Not everyone’s bikes are toys. I ride bikes as my only transportation and never owned a car – but then again I live in NYC and work from home, so I don’t need to commute in freezing rain. Still, even if I ever end up living somewhere else, I’ll still use my bikes as my primary transport. A lot of people see motorcycles as toys, but they don’t have to be.

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  19. Mick says:

    I guess at 49 I’m average. But my buying habits probably are not. I buy dirt bikes and trials bikes. On rare occasion I buy a street bike.

    It’s almost easier to find a dope dealer than a trials bike dealer around here. So I buy used probably because I can’t go ogling and fondling and get fired up about a new one.

    Dirt bikes? I ride two strokes. The industry, except KTM, treats me like the bottom feeder that I guess I am. I should buy a new two stroke every year. But my favorite two stroke never changes. I would be buying a new bike only to have to do my favorite mods to it so I can have a bike just like the one of the bikes I already have. That seems like a lot of wasted effort to me. Give me some updates. I’ll buy two bikes.

    Street bikes? I feel that the street bike industry has lost sight of its venue. Public roads do not require bikes that get heavier and more powerful. I feel a street bike should attempt to make riding on the street fun. If a bike has six speeds and does 100mph in first. I don’t consider that bike to made for a public road venue nor fun to ride in one. I can afford any bike on the market. I ride a modified off-road single with a license plate. Street bike industry fail.

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  20. Lucky says:

    It just dawned on me that I have NEVER purchased a new bike in 47 years of riding. Early on, it was a money thing. Now that money is not an impediment, it is hard to find a bike that stirs the soul. My Harley Sportster is a good solid bike–a keeper. But, there is no other Harley that interests me. I will be buying a new/used town scoot in the next few months and have narrowed the choices to PGO, Kymco, and Vespa. Notice that there are no American or Japanese scoots on my short list.

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  21. bushead says:

    I started riding at 15 on a Yamaha 80. Thru the years I’ve ridden a series of street going motorcycles primarily for transportation. I just sold a 1250 Bandit and am about to purchase a 2003 SV1000 standard. Most of what I’ve ridden, and the uses to which I put the bikes I’ve owned put me squarely in the “European type” class of riders.
    If the market is going to grow anytime soon in the U.S., which I can and should, it is going to take recruiting more daily riders. How to do this? Make the bikes appealing to younger riders with style, but focus on the practical aspects of ownership. Money, as in saving it, has a lot of appeal in this new economy. And emphasize the positive environmental aspects of owning smaller bike or scooter. The environment is the place that they will live in in 20 or 30 years. Most young people get that and are keenly aware of it.
    Sport riders alone will not sustain the industry. In a down economy the “optional” transportation mode is the first to go. Ditto with lawyer’s and dentist’s Harleys. In the past I have sold cars when money was tight, and rode my motorcycle until things improved. Something to think about.

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  22. Joe says:

    As its been pointed out, it’s possible that younger people are choosing to buy used instead of new. With the slow economy, there are plenty of great motorcycles available used at good prices.

    Also, more kids are living at home with their parents well into their twenties… and mom may not like motorcycles. I got my first bike at 22, and if I was still living with my parents, I doubt I would have been allowed to park one at the house.

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  23. Jim says:

    Frankly I blame all of this on the liberal mentality and direction our once great country is headed. I am 53 years old, been riding since I was 12. When I was a kid in my neighborhood everybody had some form of mini-bike, Honda CT70, Mini trail etc. All of us kids rode our little bikes all over creation without fear of arrest or being looked at as criminals. Nobody cared that we were riding through the forest, farms and back roads. We had the ultimate freedom that this current crop of kids have no idea of. That freedom and liberty gave us independence and a love for motorcycling that nobody in today’s young generation has any clue of. Of course when you start out in the dirt you advance to the street bikes as everyone of us did. What motivation is there for the young ones today to get in to street bikes? For cryin out loud if their parents buy them a little Honda XR70 the neighbors call the cops on them the minute the engine starts. It’s not the motorcycle industry, it’s the freakin idiotic, liberal, all about me, environmentalist whacko mentality that has caused all this. My kids all rode dirt bikes but they were limited to my property. What a battle! Unless the entire mentality of how motorcycling is perceived it’s over. Me personally; I still own two street bikes and several dirt bikes. Still race actively and have a great time on my bikes. I’m not giving any of them up without a battle.

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    • Weasel says:

      When the government training camps (i.e. public schools) teach children that the internal combustion engine is evil, is it any wonder that motorcycles aren’t as popular as when we were kids? How many school teachers ride? Would they portray motorcycle riding as a wonderful and challenging sport, or a dangerous and frivolous pollution of our environment?

      I calculated the average gas millage of my little Ninjette 250 for the last several months to be 57 MPG. So racing at every stop and zipping around every turn, like a complete fool, and it still does better than a little old lady in a Prius. Seems like there is a marketing opportunity here.

      Riding by the local junior college, I see quite a few small Vespa. Not fast, not cheap, but reliable and cool (or whatever the current term is). Maybe instead of adding the newest technology or squeezing out the most horsepower manufacturers should stop focusing on race bikes and get back to fun and economical transportation. But then the ex-superbike racers that write for most of the magazines would probably all hang themselves.

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    • Stinky says:

      Nice liberal thinking there Jim. Blame a non defineable group. Couldn’t be we have over 300 million people for the losses of riding areas, or the abuse of freedoms? The number of idiots goes up right with the population. Sad fact, the more people you have the more rules you gotta have. Want the freedoms of the 50′s or 60′s get the numbers back to those levels.
      Noisy, fast bikes were the killer of our sport.
      I miss the days of riding in my back yard, vacant lots, sneaking out on some streets to get to a riding area a mile away.Honda were quiet as a mouse fart, mini bikes were no more noisy than dads lawnmower. Our areas went away with the first moron who hacksawed his muffler off, removed the baffle or straight piped his mini bike.
      My wife being a teacher and me never growing up, it seems kids today just want adrenaline without breaking a sweat, or developing a skill more involved than finger and eye movements. The ones that do more away from the couch want attention from the NFL,NBA,WBF,UFC kind of folks, be they 14 or 50, convict or conservative, laborer or liberal.

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    • Mr. Mike says:

      I see it more as a result of the increase in population. There is simply much less undeveloped land available now than there was decades ago. Areas that kids used to ride their dirt bikes in have been transformed into malls or vast suburban tracts where homes are just a few feet away from each other. Nobody says you can’t let your kids ride on your property, provided you live out where their riding won’t disturb other people’s peace and quiet.

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  24. RichBinAZ says:

    So over the last 9 years the average riding age has gone up 9 years. That kind of implies NO youngsters are entering the market. You would have thought the bike makers would have picked up on that.

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  25. Seti says:

    I’m 31 and feel the same way. My first bike was a 2001 cbr f4i. I had a healthy fear of it and it can go just as slow as any othe bike if you have the will power to make it do so. I bought it when I was 20. I still have I and like it. However, I now wish I had a UJM. I would have had just as much fun back then, and I’d be having more fun now. I find myself lusting after the moto guzzi V7, the cb1100, and the bonneville t100.

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  26. Tom says:

    In this cyclic world we live, things come and go and then come back again. From long hair to motorcycles its all cyclic. Now I’d be curious on data that shows previous “Golden Age” rise and fall of motorcycling over the years. Even though moto-bikes have only been around for about 100 years it seems that there have been a few cycles of this rise and fall. I wonder if there are any similarities to the current times?

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  27. E-Ticket says:

    I just turned 57 and bought a 2010 Husaberg FE 390 for riding extreme trails and racing.
    Leaving the market? I don’t think so, bunky!

    I am, however, still riding my ’99 Honda VFR 800 (32,000 miles). Why? Because I haven’t found anything better yet! Trust me, I keep looking but sport touring bikes just get bigger and fatter … oof. Now, if only someone could put a large gas tank, better wind protection, hard bags, and a more relaxed riding position on the cross-plane Yamaha R1 … well I’d just be in heaven. And I would buy it in a heartbeat. Cheers!

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  28. mr dirtrider says:

    I started riding 40 years ago the same way many other riders did, in the dirt through local woods, farm land and along any railroad tracks I could get to. Unfortunately, that path to becoming a motorcyclest is nearly closed. It is nearly impossible for a neighborhood kid to get a Z50 and just go ride somewhere. The future of motorcycling doesn’t look like it used to.

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    • Old town hick says:

      Excellent point! Today it is nearly impossible to get that kind of “informal” start as a motorcyclist. There are now so many barriers to the kind of casual initiation to riding that existed in 70s and earlier…it is no wonder there are fewer new riders coming into the fold.

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  29. azi says:

    Not exactly the same demographic or country mentioned in this article, but a tentatively relevant comment: most of my motorcycling buddies from my 20s are hitting their late 30s and 40s and have switched to bicycling (road cycles or mountain bikes). Probably a number of factors – still two wheels, more family friendly, helps maintain cardiovascular fitness and a healthy weight, minimal ongoing costs (although this is debatable!), affordable and exciting racing, social opportunities, and sense of community.

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    • leroi says:

      Azi’s comment describes me PERFECTLY. Although I dont consider that I have totally left motorcycling as I still have my 3 motorcycles every point he states is dead on exact. I have a couple of motorcycles that currently are in storage plugged into a tender and have unfortunately gathered dust and cobwebs from total disuse this year.

      Riding my motorcycle on the streets honestly had begun to slowly lose it’s appeal mostly because of trials with general road traffic (frustrations with attitudes/behavior of “cagers”)and an increasing sense of boredom as the routes I seem to ride just became overly familiar and to find new roads to explore involved riding significant distances from home.

      I do still love mo’sickles and I suspect I’ll be finding a new balance for where they fit in my life.

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  30. Norm G. says:

    sadly, there’s an unfortunate reality to be an aging baby-boomer. it’s what’s at the core of this article. with the question of where to direct millions of dollars in R&D as a backdrop, if you’re 50+ (immediate purchasing power aside), do the manufacturers consider you as having MORE of your riding years ahead…? or LESS of your riding years ahead…?

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  31. Tom says:

    I was a rider as a kid. I rode again in my 40s. I quit by 48 and am 51 now. Three things made me leave biking: too many folks in cars driving, talking and texting on cell phones; I don’t recover from any injury nearly like I used to; there’s no safety net for medical care in this country, so the slightest accident could cause me to lose my job and my medical coverage. Self preservation, and that’s what I’m teaching my kids and grand kids, too, so no bikes this my family’s future.

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  32. ron says:

    I’m, er, 54 (had to think about that), anyway, been riding since the 80s and have had my share of bikes. Big bruiser cruisers, furiously fast knee-draggers and mad motocrossers. But I’m not seeing what my inner rider is craving.

    I have to wonder if bikes in NA have forgotten what motorcycling is about. They seem over designed, over powered and way more complicated than they need to be. A reflection of our culture I suppose.

    I spent most of the year tripping around the back roads of S.E. Asia on an XR250 Baja and the like. It was the best riding experience I’ve ever had in my life, ever. Incomparable.

    You can’t rent a car in Lao but you can rent a Baja. Everybody rides in Lao. Everybody. I found Honda Dreams way way back in the bush on some mountain top, places I risked life and limb to get to on the Baja (ok, I exaggerate a bit, but the place is full of unexploded bombs).

    Riding is supposed to be uncomplicated. But its not anymore. But there are places where life is still simple and bikes are too. There you can experience the simple freedom of riding.

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    • Kagato says:

      Agreed sir! I’m 47, and enjoy riding my Ninja 500, although I mostly commute on it. $4,300.00 out the door, insurance is 100.00 a year. I can actually goose it and not get a ticket. I’m trying for a dual sport next time, really want a bike I can do a bit of trail riding on. Interesting account of your riding in SE Asia, thanks for the post!

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  33. rapier says:

    The economic prospects for at least 40% of teens and young adults is grim. Few can even conceive of borrowing money to buy a new or newer motorcycle, much less a car, and only a tiny sliver of those could get a loan. The middle class is being defined down yet is still shrinking. In other words the possible market for motorcycles is shrinking dramatically, aside from any issues of style or cultural trends or anything else.

    There are virtually the same number of people working in the US today as in 2000, despite the population growth, those young workers and prospective workers. The ‘labor force participation rate’ is lower than anytime since the 30′s. Those managing to find work have a short lifetime of experience that says their income in real terms is likely to rise very slowly.

    There has never been anything like it in the lives of most living Americans. Against these fundamental economic headwinds is the fact that small motorcycles are unsuited to today’s highways with it’s Civics now having as much HP as a 65 Impala or an 82 Z28 and double or triple the traffic on the roads where most people live.

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  34. Ed Chambers says:

    I see a couple of problems here.First off most of us “old timers” do not care for the style of modern motorcycles and see wisdom of buying used.Most of the youngsters can’t afford the insurance on sportbikes and don’t care for the style of cruisers.They also just cost too damn much when you can get a decent used car for the price of a new mid sized motorcycle most people will just go ahead and get the car.

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  35. bikercat says:

    At 15 yrs old my first bike was 125cc Yamaha MX which I bought off my next door neighbor for 350 dollars. Just outside my front door I was able to ride out in the farms and country dirt roads without any fear of the sheriff or police. In fact all my high school buddies +15 also rode and raced. There was no video games, no internet, no text messaging no cell phones so we spent more time riding. Now with video games and social networking companies all fighting for the younger generation time it’s inevitable less and less kids are getting into bikes. Now add the fact the cost of bikes are higher with larger displacements and there are fewer and fewer places to ride offroad this trend will continue.

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  36. falcodoug says:

    Started riding in the 70′s and now at 51 years old I am not planning on stopping anytime soon! “as long as the speed limit is higher than your age your good to go” A DR650 a Tuono and a mountain bike. keep it on two wheels people!

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  37. Martin says:

    Jeff has nailed this one. A standard twin with GOOD suspension for aging bones, good low end power and flywheel weight for tractability, lightweight handling but good straight line stability, upright riding position so you can sit like a gentleman at table, and not much more. A modern Suzuki GR 650 or a 450 version, one of my favourite test bikes of the early 80s. Maybe a CL version for the truly stylish. And make the damn seat wide enough for my backside, old buggers ride bikes too, young kids are busy stealing cars and playing racers.

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  38. Jeff Roberts says:

    After 22+ years in the motorcycle industry I have watched and predicted this outcome. Marketing departments at he OEM’s have overly responded to the magazines’ desires for more and more performance and style which has led to a virtual absence of true “entry level” bikes. In the 70′s you could start on a 125 at age 14 then step up to a 175, 250,350,450, etc. without anyone telling you they were girl’s bikes. Now, the closest thing to a standard is a 650 which is truly too much for a novice rider and easily over $6k.
    We need a return to elegantly simple, low displacement twins for the street, without fairings which would bring older riders back to simpler times and younger riders into a new era of practicality. Many small displacement bikes are available in foreign markets but the US needs upright standard/scrambler models between 250cc & 500cc that have price appeal for retail & insurance. I’ve had hundreds of shoppers over the years say this.
    Many times I have sold a sport bike to someone only to observe a dismal ownership experience due to fear of the horsepower, discomfort and limitation of use.
    The flip side of the market is the “cruiser”. Japan has had such an obsession with Harley Davidson that it has funneled immense resources into copying a hopelessly inferior design in terms of balanced power, comfort and handling. If motorcycles were shoes, cruisers would be high heels. Simply put: Cruisers are slaves to style alone.
    We have waited now for over 20 years for the ether to wear off and hoped for the Japanese to get back to making unique proper motorcycles. The litmus test of a design is to observe how many miles are put on a particular model of bike. The more relatively upright the riding position for any design group…the more miles get put on it.
    WAKE UP, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha! Harley is not the future of motorcycling…it is a pop-culture lifestyle which is dying with the older true bikers.
    Bring us a naked Ninja 250 or CBR250 for first time riders then give us 400cc to 500cc twin cylinder standards or adventure bikes like the Kawasaki EX/EN500 adeventure bike that used to be offered in other countries. There are already plenty of over 1000cc bikes.
    Please don’t take my word for it. Take surveys of registered owners. Go to the motorcycle shows and find out if the latest greatest most expensive bike is what the buying public is looking for.

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    • Richard says:

      Excellent comments. I have seen too many new riders on cruisers and sportbikes who are too afraid of their bikes to really learn how to ride. I own 6 bikes, from a Hypermotard to a WR250R, and I would love a naked 400-500 cc twin.

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    • Nick says:

      Jeff, I would take your observations a step further. I’m now 37 and started riding in the early 90′s on a used Honda CB650. My friend started on a used Honda 400 at the same time. At the time these bikes were about 10 years old, being built in the early 80′s. Both bike were purchased with low miles in great condition for less than $1,000.

      Now looking back, the early 80′s was kinda the end of line for the lower displacement UJMs. Those great starter bikes are now 25 to 30 years old and no longer in pristine condition with low miles. For the last 20 years, simple and smaller displacement bikes have been almost non-existent in manufacturers catalogs. For good starter bikes, the used market is drying up. Sure, there are still plenty of cheap bikes, but a hard worn CBR900 isn’t the best place to start.

      I think the only way to quickly address this problem would be for Honda, Yamaha, Kawisaki, and Suzuki to crate up thousands of used home market small displacement bikes, and find a way to dump them in the US. Otherwise, we will need to wait for the manufactures to start selling the right bikes, and then another ten years for the bikes to depreciate to newbie price ranges.

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  39. 39 y.o says:

    When I purchased my first bike at 2005, a new HD Sportster 883 Standard (to get my feet into the door of the sport), everywhere I look, I am the youngest person in the store. I was 35 then. I am STILL one of the youngest customer in a HD store in most days.

    HD sells the most bikes of any category in the US. Their No 1. seller? FLHX, or Street Glide that sells for $22K plus. Shame on them ridding of Buell. Would a 20 y.o with 650 FICO score be approved for a FLHX? Assuming he is even into that model, & not the Ducati 1198.

    Future forecast: Motorcycling becoming a niche market, comparable to boating, RV, & private aircrafts (Cessna), whilst low ends being Chinese made bikes. Shrinking middle class bikes like Honda, Yamaha, etc.

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  40. Alvin Davenport says:

    Young people are not only not interested in bikes, they’re not really interested in any vehicles. They are into the tech packed into cars, such as Bluetooth, iPod integration, and music capability, but not the power or handling. They still buy cars, but not due to any visceral or emotional attraction. The limitation of bikes is that not only do they lack much of the “entertainment” technology, they require full concentration to operate and are sold in this country based on visceral and/or emotional attraction. I recently rode my Ducati Paul Smart to my son’s high school during one of his academic meets. While outside eating lunch, I noticed that my bike garnered few, if any, second looks from the kids as they went past it. Admittedly, not a scientific study, but quite a difference from what could be expected even as little as 10 years ago.

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    • Norm G. says:

      this begs the question, how many baby-boomers have made a CONSCIOUS effort to pass on their passion for motorcycling to their Generation X children…? and how many Gen X’ers have gone on to make this same effort to pass on their passion for motorcycling to their Generation Y children…? the answer has never been so much “the manufacturers have to do this”…? or “the manufacturers have to do that”…? the answer rested with us. it always has. granted it’s ultimately the child’s choice, but i don’t know of any self-respecting parent who’d resign his or herself to today’s distractions (ipods, internet, video games, smartphones, fast and furious autos, UFC fighting, etc.) as having more influence over the rearing they give their children than they do. i ran into a friend 2-days ago at the local honda/yamaha shop. since he rides a 1098, i thought it odd i’d see him there. now that he’s old enough, it turns out he was buying a TT-R for his son for christmas. and there you have it….

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    • Mondo Endo says:

      I completly agree. Im 53 and my son is 26 and for years(since he was about 7 or 8) I tried to get him interested in bikes to no avail. Between all the video games and other electronic wonders it seems like the kids just arent interested. My friends and I in school were and still are such motorheads and I feel like we are a dying breed. I got the bike bug from my dad who was a rider since he was a kid and I hoped to be able to infect my son with the same moto disease. I gained much of my mechanical knowledge by taking stuff apart to see what was inside or trying to fix or improve something and many times failing and totally screwing up what I was working on. Young people now can fix my computer if it freezes but little else. Too bad

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  41. Old town hick says:

    Get used to a future of less and less motorcyclists relative to the general population. Young folks are not nealy as interested in riding as those of 20 or 30 years ago. Today there are many more things to interest them, and let’s face it, motorcycling in not the “rebelious” act that it was when I (currently age 52) was a kid. Part of the allure of riding for me and many others was that it was something most older people DIDN’T do.

    Today the average ride is nearly 50! Things have turned upsidedown. Kids still want to engage in activities different that what us old farts value…so many of them want nothing to do motorcycling. It isn’t “cool” for them.

    A shrinking market is here for the foreseeable future.

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  42. LT says:

    This study/title is misleading. It should be labeled “average age of NEW motorcycle BUYERS are increasing.” In addition, it didn’t take a convining (third and affecting) variable into account: downturn in economy. Downturn in economy is very likely corresponding to the decrease in sales. In addition, those who still can afford new motorcycles are older people who are financially more stable.

    If one really wants to study the average age of rider, one can just use composite DMV data on the age distribution of M1 holders.

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    • UTAG says:

      +1. I think the results of this study are skewed by current economic conditions. I suspect young people have less discretionary income in these trying times. Therefore, a higher percentage of new motorcycles are being purchased by those who do–i.e., older buyers with higher incomes that can afford discretionary expenditures.

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  43. Norm G. says:

    [*broken record*][*sigh*] welcome to the ever fragile and niche business that is motorcycling.

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  44. mobilus says:

    The real culprit is insurance rates, especially for young riders. Sport bikes in Ontario Canada have insurance costs three to ten times that of a standard for a rider under 25. For any aged rider owning multiple bikes, they would pay the full insurance rate on each one, despite the fact he/she could only ride one at a time.

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  45. Steve says:

    I agree that new bikes are very expensive for young riders. As ridership declines there are lots of great used bike bargains out there. Perfect SprintST $3800, Perfect VTR1000 $1900 etc.etc. Why buy new? Only rare clowns like mee are buying new bikes in their 60s (which is the new forty of course). Harley probably has the worst problem. There must be zillions of them sitting in garages that are rarely used. When your production is 10 times what it was in 1980 pretty soon everyone that wants one has one. When I drive by the large local HD dealer, the parking area is empty, it looks they are Closed! You would think they would park some service bikes out front to look like there is activity.

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  46. buddygixxerninja says:

    i’ve been riding for over 20 years and out of all the new bikes i have bought, it only comes out to 4 of the 15 bikes i have owned. all the rest was used. and you’re right, the bikes are too damn expensive these days. if they keep cost low, i think there would be more buyers. although, in 2008, when the cost of gas went skyrocketing, bikes and scooters sale was at their best ever.

    to get more new buyers. solution: lower cost, better performance, better looking, and better usability.

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  47. Tom says:

    Guess I’ll have to start investing in trike companies. Maybe HD will finally have to modernize up a bit to attract younger riders. Maybe too, this is why Honda has been giving the American market such short shrift over the years—rider number are declining. Just my .02.

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  48. ko06 says:

    I would be interested to see JD Power conduct the same study including responses from a reasonable sample of owners who purchased off-road bikes. And to Justin’s point, most motorcycle sales are comprised of used bikes.

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  49. Justin says:

    I’m sorry but did this study survey ‘riders’ or people who buy new bikes?

    instead of trying out silly ideas to attract new riders, why don’t they try some proven methods of convincing existing younger riders to buy new bikes? e.g. not making them all cost so bloody much.

    as for me, I’m a rider, I don’t buy new bikes, and not having died yet, i am aging. according to my survey of one, riders are aging, they never entered the market, and they had a burrito for lunch.

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    • Norm G. says:

      welcome to the world of supply/demand economics.

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      • Justin says:

        somebody needs to introduce the motorcycle manufacturers to the world of supply/demand economics. they’re not meeting the shifting demands in this country and sales are suffering already. it will only get worse as the people they cater to continue to drift away from motorcycling and toward nursing homes

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  50. tron says:

    I don’t think this was unexpected at all. In a month or so I’ll be 55 and I’ve been at this for 41 years. Unlike many I never took a break from motorcycles but otherwise I imagine I’m kind of the person they are talking about except I probably a bit more rabid than the average owner, having 6 bikes in the garage.
    I anticipate market shrinkage for several years to come, partly due to the aging trend of riders and the weak economy. The only way I can see this stopping is the makers coming up with more ways to attract new younger riders.
    Curiously, I see a lot more young people who seem interested in my 400 Burgman (looks, approving nods and such) than any of my motorcycles. Most motorcyclists wouldn’t be caught dead on a scooter (and I was one of them until I injured my clutch arm) but it seems those without those preconceived notions might be more open to them.

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