Reader Question: Motorcycles & The Future?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Chris asks: I know motorcycle sales are falling. One thing that seems to be saving some of them is the relatively new category called Adventure Bikes.  I used to go to dual sport events, and most that showed up were on the traditional XR-Ls, DRs, etc. –  a very few showed up on the much larger ADV bike (BMW GS, etc..), but had a harder, almost impossible, time when the trails got harder.  10+ years later, almost all manufacturers have them now, and the segment is evolving to slightly smaller (under 1000 cc) twins around 400-500 lbs.

The last ADV ride in PA attracted close to 1,000 riders! Wow. These ADV rides are growing in popularity and I believe saving some of the manufacturers a little? Might want to look into the latest craze for a story, if you haven’t already. At 50+ now, I plan on getting a middleweight ADV bike soon. They are getting cooler by the year. Will be my first new non-dirt-only bike purchase in over 20 years.

My reply: The motorcycle bidness is losing bidness, I think, because Uncle has finally caught up to it. As recently as the early 2000s, you could still buy a brand-new sport bike without a catalytic converter or ECU or ABS or TCS… and with (gasp!) carburetors. My 2003 ZRX1200, for instance.

That bike – a 1200 cc sport bike – cost about the same as a current 500 or so cc middleweight does now. Well under $10k.

And it’s as easy to service and maintain as my ’76 Kz900.

The new 1,000 cc (and up) sport bikes have EFI, ABS, TCS, cats and 02 sensors. They also cost closer to $15,000 – about as much as a Honda Civic.

Put another way, they are no longer toys – things young guys buy in addition to their car. They are too affordable to buy for most younger guys – and younger guys are the lifeblood of the motorcycle bidness.

And this is why the bidness has been in trouble.

Another reason is the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety cult. Today’s young guys – the current main vein demographic for motorcycles – are mostly Millennials and that generation has been reared in such a way that many of them are pathologically frightened by “dangerous” things; many can barely drive a car – and only of it has an automatic transmission.

Meanwhile the older demo is aging out.

The adventure touring bikes are selling, in part because they represent a return to what motorcycling used to be primarily about: Having fun – and not going broke!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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