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Research Study Tries to Determine Why Millennials Are Not Buying Motorcycles

Apparently, posing hipsters on motorcycles hasn’t drawn enough young buyers.

We can all speculate why younger people are not buying motorcycles in sufficient quantities to assure the future health of this industry, but there seem to be very few, careful, scientific studies on the subject. An article posted on Barrons’ web site seems to have found one.

In the article, Barrons discusses a study by Bernstein Research on the subject. It appears they observed 5 reasons why millennials are buying fewer motorcycles, with the principal two reasons being college debt, and the fact that “millennials generally appear to be moving through traditional life stages later than previous generations.” They also cited decreased use of dirt bikes by youngsters, a form of “gateway drug” to motorcycle addiction.

Any way you look at it, the industry has a serious problem with its aging demographic. Give us your thoughts on the subject below.

187 Comments

  1. Al says:

    Things like ABS, Keyless ignition, Apps on phones to build your own bikes, Traction Control are add ons in the US, where as in Europe and Asian more bikes and options are offered as standard.

  2. Al says:

    Maybe because motorcycle industry doesn’t offer bikes that appeal to the millennials. Bike that you can get in Europe and Asia aren’t offered in the US.

  3. Scott says:

    Who even says they are not buying motorcycles. Yes certain brands are having trouble like HD, that refuses to change their model lineup beyond their core buyers. But many other brands are not having this trouble. Purchases of Motorcycles in general are down since 2009, but motorcycle sales went through a bubble at the same time as the housing market did. However sales are up from the 90’s and have been following a steady upward trend excluding the 2000’s bubble.

  4. Jason Marshall says:

    It’s economics people. Millenials are broke and can’t afford many luxuries. Also, one bad crash could ruin us economically for years from medical costs.

  5. Dave Joy says:

    Years ago, we bought a motorcycle because we couldn’t afford a car! All our mates had bikes
    so we rode around town and had fun!! Then we dated, got married, had kids and needed a car.
    So we bought an old banger and with lots of time and work and dirty fingernails and cut and bruised knuckles (and trips to the breakers yard) we kept them on the road! Then as we got a little older we started to earn better money and bought a new car and had it serviced at the dealership and all was rosy! Then when the kids had grown, left home and we had all this spare cash we thought “wouldn’t it be nice to have a motorcycle again?” And here we are, all us old bikers! Most kids these days have a car before they even finish school, whether its driving Mum or Dads car or getting one bought for them just for graduating!!
    How many parents out there would buy there kids one of those dangerous motorcycles!!
    Its a sad situation but the days of the motorcycle is getting near the end and when us old guys depart this world there are a very limited number of riders out there to take our place!

  6. arbuz says:

    In my view, the real reason is simple:
    Safety issues.

    Safety in road-riding,
    Safety in the related Sports,
    Safety (or lack of it) in perception of the people who ride.

    Here are the outcomes of the above:

    a) No need to by new motorcycle, because the new bikes do not substantially improve the safety features of the used ones (I am comparing used bikes from 2005 and up).
    Therefore, folks are not buying new bikes.

    b) cost of insurance is very very high, because riding motorcycles is perceived (and statistically supported as un-safe)
    Therefore folks, especially yonger ones, are not buying bikes.

    c) Not going to send my kinds to practice motorcycle-related sport — because they are un-safe.
    (soccer or tennis is better, even jiu-jitsu is safer, I think).

    So kids are not going to group up in motorcycle-related sports
    Therefore kids becoming adults, do not care about bikes.

    d) Judges/jury consider motorcyclist ‘partially-responsible’ for their injuries because they chose to ride motorcycles. (I remember at least one, may be more publicized cases where car driver walked away after killing bikers).

    So unless safety situation improves, or it will be impractical to drive a car — motorcycle sales will continue to decline.

  7. ham says:

    The times are changing.

    I just purchased my first e bicycle. It is phenomenal. I told my brother if they had had one of these when I was 12 I would never of had a Honda 90.

    In just a few years the electric motorcycle/scooter/bicycle will rule the majority.

    You see I ride a Motoguzzi Stelvio. I am 60 years old. But this Fuji 18 inch wheel fat tire bicycle makes me a star and I actually get exercise at the same time.

    Things, as usual, will be different. Paradigm shift in the making.

  8. BoxerFan says:

    I’ve been reading comments, and a lot focus on the monetary and digital-culture aspects.

    Nobody that I have read has yet mentioned the real reason for young people. Lack of sex appeal.

    Not only are bikes themselves not all that fashionable to new trends… but more importantly, owning and riding a bike won’t get you a girl’s attention. A girl riding a motorcycle might not even get a guy’s attention, or whatever permutation is new and current…

    In this risk-averse culture, adults have gotten their way, and unpopular risky behavior has become shunned, and the young are quite exposed to that opinion.

    Fuel use is not environmentally friendly. Riding on open ground isn’t environmentally friendly.

    Risking injury or death on a “Donorcycle” is irresponsible, potentially reportable offense. Heck, a motorcycle would probably be banned from a school parking lot… and the romantic interests would probably scorn it for the cultural and political correctness reasons above.

    I have family members and children of family friends… the young ones barely want to look at a bicycle. The older ones have no interest in driving cars… and don’t care well enough to become truly proficient drivers, and didn’t get their licenses until well after 18 years old, as a matter of commuting necessity. They still consider driving an unfortunately-necessary chore. That isn’t a mentality that is going to take further steps toward motorcycling.

    I heard “Donorcycle” so often when I was in college and had a bike, it became a pet peeve, and that was 20 years ago… the negative pressure has only gotten worse, and riders who still ride do it despite that pressure. Couple in the economic pressures on incomes, and high costs of modern motorcycling, the inertia pressure to stay inside and less mobile, or for physical activity to be centered around fitness, rather than transportation or geographical range… and that is a high mountain to climb.

    For myself getting into the middle-age category, I love bikes, but I haven’t had one in some time, and getting back into it is even a hard justification to make.

    I love learning and reading about bikes, and I would love to have another, but the day-to-day practicality, safety, and economic realities just don’t add up to get a bike back in my garage, after they were the factors for selling my bike off about 10 years ago.

    The sex appeal part left long ago… the girlfriend that turned into a wife didn’t even like the bike that much at that time… and later was part of the negative pressure against it, for fear on the grounds of safety, and not wanting to put the family at that sort of risk.

    Another bike, would face the same pressures my previous bike had. iIt would sit too much, half the year in the winter, and every time I walk to work, and drive a practical vehicle on practical errands, and don’t have a lot of other non-obligated recreation time that isn’t occupied by family members, for myself to just go ride. It would cost too much just to sit, and risk too much to court bankrupting and debilitating injury or death on bad roads in bad traffic.

    I don’t doubt the commenters who are saying that they find near-death experiences each time they venture out… I see how people drive cars anymore… and the traffic is often over-crowding the traffic capacity and maintenance condition of the roads, covered in sand, gravel, and pot-holes. The low-traffic roads are in even worse condition than the patchwork repairs on high-traffic roads.

    A high dollar hobby is hard to justify for just the few occasions that it can fit into the schedule, and even then is an ordeal and a risk to participate in. The debt and insurance factors just push an already weak equation distinctly toward the cons side of the pro/con list, with the main PRO being that I like interesting machines, and enjoyed riding when I used to have the free time to do so.

    With a lot lower costs, a lot fewer external responsibilities, more discretionary income, and much more time… and I might be able to justify a bike that would get more frequently used.

    • Mark Smith says:

      This exactly! I currently ride after a hiatus but I can completely relate to this post. I don’t have time to ride. I have kids to drop off or pick up. I work weekends or spend time with the family. I can afford to own a bike and so I have one, but if I had to do it again I would definitely buy something cheaper and used. I’m at about 2100 miles on a 2 year old bike. Awful…

  9. OLD Rider says:

    I’m a 60 young rider with nearly 50 years of riding experience. I like most of us cut my teeth on dirt bikes& endures, as some one pointed out there are less trails and places to learn at. And for me now I’m thinking of giving up riding because I’m terrified to go on the streets. I’m currently living in western N.C some of the best roads in the country. But the number of elderly drivers and the distracted younger drivers is bad, crossing the center line, pulling out in front of you.Every time I go out for a ride I have at least one near death experience ! I’m getting to old for that kind of adrenalin rush, the people I’ve talked to who love to start riding say they are to afraid, it’s to dangerous. Maybe more motorcycle awareness PR would help.

  10. J. Paganel says:

    What bike manufacturers don’t understand is that if you want a 20-30 year old customer, you need to go after the teenager. It’s ridiculously hard to get a kid on two wheels. Mopeds need a car license, over-50cc motorcycles need a bike license, which is a pain to get under 18. Over 18, see above – need two licenses. A farm kid can bomb around on a dirt bike, but if you live in the city, you’re pretty much screwed. I tried to get my kid a moped permit at 16, but it’s a huge pain the ass, and even the DMV doesn’t know how that’s supposed to work. Plus, the only mopeds we have these days are scooters. There isn’t anything that would look like a bike.

    Harley is making some motions to appeal to the younger crowd. They aren’t going far (or young) enough.

    Manufacturers need to look at getting teenagers interested. Make 50cc bikes that look like bikes, and aren’t sized for 5-year olds. Put some money in riding schools and tracks. Help them get permits so that a small bike can be a ride to school transport.

    Some lobbying to change laws to make motorcycles more appealing would be nice, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone to do it. AMA only cares about dirt trails and resisting helmet laws, and I haven’t heard of any other organizations.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Bikes used to have much better mileage compared to cars. Cheap cars used to have terrible suspension and brakes, and were much less reliable than cheap cars of today.
    I believe that young people are abandoning motorcycles because cheap/small cars don’t suck anymore.

  12. HS1... says:

    1. About a third of children are raised by their mother or grandmother.
    2. Few places for youth to ride in cities and suburbs.
    3. Youth Sports demand much more time than a generation ago.
    4. Less disposable income for people in their 20’s.
    5. Less positive exposure of motorcycling in media and culture.
    6. AMA sucks crap really badly at promoting motorcycling.
    7. Manufacturers left behind beginners for a generation.
    8. Less kids know how to wrench on really cheap bikes.
    9. Cumulative effects of all the above.

  13. PBrasseur says:

    It’s not about the money, millenials are used to getting everything they ask for…

    Millenials don’t much like bikes is all and when they do their girlfriends forbid it!

  14. Fry says:

    Oh my god. You guys should hear yourselves: “The young, good for nothings, just don’t measure up to our generation’s bad-assed-ness”. Oh. Brother.
    Look, ‘young’ folks aren’t buying motorcycles because the industry is a bit of a junk show. Don’t blame the consumer if they don’t want what you’re selling. That’s pathetic. Has anyone gone into a dealership lately and tried to have a real conversation? The simple act of getting information, finding out about the tribe, comparing bikes, is a bummer experience. And completely old-timey, with it’s sales-rep desperado, let me get you coffee and hover while you look around discomfort. It’s often worse than buying a car at a dealer, only a Moto is often a luxury purchase, not a necessity. And a luxury purchase should feel different than a commodity purchase experience, regardless of price bucket.

    For an industry that touts rebellion and freedom as it’s foundational characteristic, the Motorcycle industry is profoundly backwards assed and conservative, seemingly run by a bunch of uncreative, conventional, run of the mill non-treprenuers. People will buy and ride motorcycles if you make the ownership experience rewarding, and appropriate for the user’s expectations and priorities. It’s that simple and it’s not the consumers’ fault. BTW, I’m 50, and I have to deal with consumer mind shifts every day in my line of work.

    • Blitz11 says:

      Non-treprenuers! Great word.

      As a young man, I worked here (brennys.com). His business is growing. Growing! Why?

      1. He has two millenial kids. They feed him information. He listens.
      2. He’s adapted to the times.
      3. Check out his commercials at https://brennys.com/Commercials

      He makes it fun. I owe Mark quite a bit.

    • Carbon Canyon says:

      Hmmm I have to disagree that it’s a “junk show”; there are some amazing bikes across the price spectrum. A huge issue I think is that there hasn’t been much thought as to how these bikes could appeal to non-riders more. Every company lives by focus groups, but they always bring people who already ride to those focus groups. I’ve worked with several brands, and I have yet to see a focus group that asks non-riders how we can bring them into the fold.

      The dealership model is dated but entrenched. Kawasaki tried to sell through Costco with limited success. I would like to see more experiments like that, but it will piss off the established dealers and might make them walk from your brand.

      What do non-riders want? How many people are almost in the fold but they have one small hang-up?

      For the older riders: if you care about the sport, stop antagonizing people who choose to ride different bikes than you. I will never give a scooter rider flak, or a Harley rider, sportbikes, ATV’s, 3-wheelers, etc. We have to be more accepting and less judgmental of all powersports if we want it to survive and grow.

    • Ron says:

      I don’t think times have ever been better for buying a new bike. Suggested retail is a joke right now, except on the high-end makes.You can find new 2017 Z900’s all over cycletrader.com for $6999.00. Last April I bought a GSXS-1000 naked ABS for $8500usd out the door. 145HP, brembo monobloc front calipers, super comfy seat and ergos, ABS amd traction control. Fantastic bike. Times have NEVER been better.

      As far as a hovering salesman bugging you, tell him to piss-off you will find him if you need him. Nothing wrong with backing up a rude salesman.

      As to why the younger people aren’t buying that’s easy. They don’t have disposable income. Companies aren’t paying a liveable wage to entry level people anymore. Heck, you are lucky to find a full time job in the USA at entry level because they don’t want to pay for any benefits anymore. I am 56 and have two Sons, 24 and 27 and they do not have the opportunities I did at their age. What is ironic as that most young people think we should allow all these immigrants unchecked into the USA. That situation is what has destroyed entry level paychecks IMHO.

  15. mechanicus says:

    I dunno, all points I’ve read here are valid. I getting down to the end of my riding time, and it’s been a fun run! Man, where did all that time go? From my first purchase of a junk un-fixable HD 45 in 1970 to my first reliable new-ish ’73 CB175 in 1973 up to my current touring geezer-glides with dozens of bikes in between. Maybe it will all sort out. All things are cyclical – usually following a cosine curve. We’re in a dip. It’ll move or move on the the next technology. That’s all I have. Mechanicus out.

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