WAIT! Before you move on to surfing Facebook or searching for that next internet purchase, give this article a few minutes. Even if you do not ride you will encounter a motorcycle on the road soon as the season is just getting underway, besides a peek into the psyche of motorcyclists is bound to be just a little entertaining!
Let’s start with an industry in decline. Motorcyclists exhibit nearly rabid brand loyalty. This industry produces motorcycles for nearly every conceivable application from cruising sedately down an interstate in relative luxury to flying off a mogul on a high winding dirt bike, executing a 360 before landing hundreds of feet from your departure point. Harley Davidson’s latest issue of their periodical aptly named H.O.G., (Harley Owners Group) printed the results of an informal poll where enthusiasts could choose their preference, breathlessly running through switchbacks and curves or the long straightaway. It was a virtual wash. Fortunately most bikes today permit traveling over both surfaces. Bikes are loosely classified in broad categories; Adventure, Cruisers, Dirt, Cafe Racers, Commuters, Choppers, Enduro, Moto Cross, Dual Sport and Naked. No, naked is not the obvious, rather referring to the lack of accessories on the machine. Google Triumph and look at their venerable 650 to get the idea. We can add electric to this line-up as there are two very fast electric bikes in production as I write. I am hard on millennials, admittedly likely because I am envious of their incredible array of ways to spend their discretionary time. A perusal of the current motorcycle market clearly indicates they are not entering the world of motorcycles. They would rather spend several thousand dollars on a carbon framed bicycle, another incredibly diversified market. Or technology.
Sorry for the digression…..
There are a good number of motorcycle manufacturers around the world. America does not have this market cornered and never really has. The Japanese and Europeans are building gorgeous, practical and inherently reliable machines, mirroring their experience in producing automobiles. Sales of motorcycles in Europe and Asia are sailing right along, perfect conveyances for the narrow road infrastructure in their homelands. Not so here. I stopped in an Indian motorcycle dealership one day last week. If you can’t ride one in this weather, you can still look at ’em. I noted they had a good number of holdover bikes of 2017 and 2018 vintage, many of them the same bikes on the floor during my last visit nearly a year ago. I ride a Harley, a big, heavy cruiser with all the amenities. Harley and Indian dominate the made in America segment in our part of the world. They are facing a rapidly shrinking demographic and are obviously perplexed as to how to deal with it. The generations these riders represent are rapidly parking their quickly depreciating asset as folks my age do not hold one of these 900 pound behemoths up at a stoplight as easily as we once did. My generation also doesn’t replace their bikes with any degree of frequency, the result of stickers easily ranging up into the 40s. You have to rack up a lot of miles to justify this many Benjamins.
When you venture out on a sun soaked spring afternoon and encounter a motorcycle, smile, wave and give him room. Notwithstanding the very occasional millennial on his new, Nippon pocket rocket, the rider you see is likely near the end. If he is astride a big bore trike, he has acknowledged his love for motorcycling and is attempting to get as much saddle time as he can before he backs it into the garage for the last time. Harley Davidson recently participated in a study of the brain waves of motorcyclists in an experiment coordinated with UCLA scientists. They were looking for the positive mental advantages and responses to the motorcycle experience. I wish them well as they crunch their data. I suspect that most of us that ride cannot account for the silly grin on our faces when we strap on our helmets and fire our steeds up.
I can help them, without the necessity to pee in a cup and wear an electrode bristled cap under my helmet. We ride because it is a hell of a lot of fun, something you have to do to understand. A thrill that our younger generations are choosing to take a pass on……