When is the last time you punched a clock? Go to work, punch in, work is done, punch out. Fifty years ago it was still common practice, today, not so much. As factory work has dramatically declined, the ability to compartmentalize your work and not having to think about it during your off hours, declined right along with it. Going in early, staying late, carrying a phone and taking that call from a customer or someone at your company, is pretty much how things work today and that affects leisure time activities like riding motorcycles. When you could forget work, you could jump on your bike and ride for hours, you had riding time every day and all weekend long. You can still take long rides on vacation, but other days now seem a bit rushed.
We’ve previously discussed the growing phenomenon where many young people aren’t in a hurry even to get a drivers license, let alone buy any kind of vehicle, but motorcycles are almost exclusively devoted to leisure time, that punch out and let’s ride time. Cars were a necessity, but motorcycles were a choice. When factories were humming with activity and the end of shift rush to the parking lot took place every day, you often heard the sound of bikes starting up all over, signaling the beginning of that separate time segment when the boss was in the rearview mirror. Times have changed.
Motorcycle companies and motorcycle enthusiasts will adapt, perhaps focusing more on the technical aspects of the machines, the engineering, the accessible performance you can use all the time instead of the all out, race only numbers unreachable except by the talented few. The everyday life of more and more people leaves less room for the regular extended rides when so many other obligations vie for your time. A smaller core of riders will still own motorcycles, but the fad of yuppie corporate vice presidents donning their leather jackets on the weekend seems to have faded, the riders that remain were there before the fad and even some of them have begun to slip away.
Harley Davidson just announced a new exclusive partnership with EagleRider, the nationwide motorcycle rental travel and tour company, expanding the number of locations in their operation, enabling a rider to rent a full dress Harley touring or cruiser motorcycle in their home town, ride cross country on their dream trip and then drop it off at their destination. They experience the freedom of the road and relaxation on their extended vacation, without having to permanently park the rig in their garage all year. They can rent one for shorter rides, too, just like an RV. The rising tide of rental everything makes this a smart move for Harley Davidson, but it may also be a necessary move. The Motor Company sells or leases motorcycles, riders have access to them, but the ownership is in the rental fleet and less frequently in the individual’s garage.
Where is this leading? If you enjoy motorcycles, especially the classic models, if you like to tune and maintain that bike from decades ago, something you can do whenever you have a spare hour or two to tweak and polish and appreciate its looks, if you’re slowly restoring a project bike without a hard deadline to meet, then you’ll always have a place in the world of motorcycles, but that world on a bigger scale has changed. What will it look like ten or twenty years from now? There are probably a lot of company executives who would love to know, but don’t let it bother you. You can still participate on a personal scale whenever and however you wish as your time permits and that’s a nice thought. Be your own definition of an enthusiast, after all, it’s your precious time at stake, make your own rules. A lot of us are doing the same and we’ll be here for a long time to come.