The news is filled with endless stories about aging boomers getting bikes. As I was breezing through one more of these articles I noticed a few more statistics than usual and they were interesting. I also noticed some generalizations that may apply to some, but not all. Trust me, I know.
“Guys aren’t wanting to go 120 miles an hour,” said Gary Sipes, director of sales for Fort Worth-based American IronHorse. “They want to cruise at 65 or 70 without a helmet and look cool doing it. It [the motorcycle] also needs to look cool sitting there. That’s the whole key.”
Really? As long as you restrict yourself to the cruiser and chopper crowd, that may be true, but some of us appreciate performance and sitting around looking cool isn’t a factor, however, the following statistics mean the slow and cool market are getting the action.
Yamaha says that 63 percent of their road bike sale are cruisers. Interesting. Here’s more:
According to figures from the Motorcycle Industry Council, the median income of motorcycle owners has gone from $25,600 in 1985 to $55,850. The age has also increased from 27.1 in 1985 to 41 in 2003.
And the occupations of owners have changed to reflect the gentrification of cycling. In 1985, 23.2 percent of owners were laborers or semiskilled. That was down to 6.9 percent in 2003. In 1985, 19 percent of bike owners were professionals. That number was up to 31.2 percent in 2003.
So what does this mean? It means for now the cruiser market will get a lot of development dollars at the major manufacturers. It means you’ll see a lot of chrome accessories that have nothing to do with performance. It also means, if you want to stand out you might try something different, both as a manufacturer and as a rider. I guarantee, if you spend all of your money on a custom Harley or Big Dog or something similar, you’ll get lost in a sea of look alikes. Goldammer may be on to something with their “Trouble” custom, it dumps the chrome and fat tires for distinctive design. That, I can live with.
It will be interesting to watch these stats over the next few years. Have sportbikes become so marginal with extreme performance that they’ve become impractical? Has the market shifted for good or until the next population demographic bulge? Time will tell.