Anyone who has been even remotely keeping track of motorcycle trends will have seen the doomsday style headlines “Millennials are killing the motorcycle industry!” and “Why are millennials not buying motorcycles like previous generations?”. Not only do these headlines simply confirm the standard opinion trends of older generations thinking “Why aren’t these kids doing the same things my generation did,” they show a lack of understanding from the motorcycle industry as to what young people want.
The ‘dying’ motorcycle industry concept really spawned from Harley Davidson in the North American market. This came about for a number of reasons.
Young people are more increasingly urban dwellers – It is no secret that the job market isn’t great for today’s workforce so an increasing number of people have been moving to the larger cities in search of work. Gone are the days of living your whole life in the small town you were born in as there are just now the job opportunities in these small communities to keep everyone happy.
With a more urban based population, the needs for transport become more city focused. Harley Davidson mainly produce large motorcycles for highway cruising and are not really small enough for weaving in and out of traffic which is vital for a motorcycle user or they might has well be sitting in traffic in a car. This is not exclusively a Harley problem as all the major manufacturers make big, expensive bikes but Harley are one of the worst offenders.
The economy is still rough – Since the job market in a lot of the world is still pretty rough and wages are not increasing at a similar rate as the cost of living, consumers simply do not have the money to spend on a big motorcycle. No money = no motorcycle, simple as.
There are still plenty of guys and gals who want to experience life on 2 wheels but that is more increasingly happening on cheaper, smaller bikes. This trend is clearly visible when you look at the current sales numbers which show that the sub $10k range of motorcycles have seen a big jump in sales which is surprising when the motorcycle industry is ‘dying’.
The world is changing, Harley is not – Harley Davidson is very set in their ways and it shows with the products they sell. Over the last few years, everything has been all about innovation and advances in technology, both of which are not things that that Harley (or most of the motorcycle industry) are known for. While the mainstream motorcycle manufacturers have been concentrating on the best ways to extract more performance out of their bikes, not much else has advanced within the 2-wheeled market since the 1980s.
There will always be wannabe bikers but making that transition from simply saying that you want to get your licence and your first bike to actually doing it is quite an intimidating prospect. Over the last few years, motorcycles have become faster and more intimidating so although the entry barrier to get into bikes is almost as low as ever, it seems much higher as a ‘real biker’ rides a 600cc minimum which is simply too big a jump to make for a non-experienced rider. This is where electric motorcycles come in.
An electric motorcycle is faster than a legally equivalent combustion engined motorcycle so it can be ridden on a lower classification of licence (in Europe at least). For example, the Evoke Urban series motorcycles are classified as a 125cc bike while they actually perform more along the lines of a 250-400cc bike. This maybe contradicting what was said previously in this article but in reality, the bikes are a safer alternative to starting off on a little 125cc petrol bike. Without a clutch to deal with, the rider has greater control of their bike as they only have the throttle, front and rear brake to worry about so more focus can be aimed at increasing their technical riding skills, focusing on the road and (most importantly) other road going traffic. With this ease of riding, it lowers the entry barriers and removes some of the intimidating factors of becoming a rider.
One final thing that has pleasantly surprised me is that younger people in general are much more concerned about the environment so more and more would opt for an EV over a combustion engined vehicle than the older generations. This is going to be a major factor in the transition from oil to electrically powered vehicles and after doing my own market research, the biggest hurdle preventing a rapid change is the price aspect. EVs are still expensive compared to their combustion engined parents but an electric motorcycle is a very feasible stop gap for consumers who want an EV but cannot yet afford an electric car. Now is the time to get more people out of cars and onto electric motorcycles for the good of the environment, our congested roads and the motorcycle industry as a whole.
Looking at the current trends in the industry, what is needed is a sub $10k electric motorcycle that is designed for urban use and new riders. Plenty of younger people still want to ride motorcycles but most of them just aren’t doing it on bigger combustion engine bikes.
By: Connor McRae
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