According to Science, Young People Want Motorcycles

But they may have an issue affording them.

byJonathon Klein|
Motorcycles photo

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Countless think-pieces and op-eds would have you to believe that the younger generation cares quite little about traditional transportation. That these young adults are forgoing all forms of non-public transit due to lack of interest. Mercifully, science is here to refute these old-man-get-off-my-lawn assertions—at least for the motorcycling world. Helping move the conversation from generalities and anecdotal hot-takes, the Progressive International Motorcycle Show released survey findings that reveal younger demographics still have an eager interest in old-school, two-wheeled transportation. 

The survey was conducted along IMS’s seven-city tour, with its data gathered from participants of IMS’s “Discover the Ride” program. Discover the Ride is aimed at helping bring non-riders into the motorcycling fold. In total, 6,800 people were surveyed after they completed the program and their answers to a follow-up questionnaire revealed some interesting statistics. 

First, of those 6,800 participants, 47-percent did not have a motorcycle license, nor had they ever ridden a motorcycle. Of those non-licensed riders, IMS found that 81-percent indicated they planned on getting their motorcycle endorsement after they had completed the program. Furthermore, 64-percent of those non-licensed riders were under the age of 35, indicating there’s a large percentage of young people interested in taking the motorcycling plunge. 

Of late, however, the motorcycle industry has contracted with fewer young riders being added to the overall riding public. So if there’s substantial interest throughout a rapidly growing generation, what then, does this information signify? To our eyes, the survey illustrates the rising issue of generational income inequality and the rising cost of ownership. Not, as it’s been numerously stated, for a lack of interest. 

Though motorcycles are significantly cheaper than automobiles—which has seen a shrinking populace as well—motorcycles are still considered expensive, nonessential purchases to a generation who’ve seen their dollars go shorter and shorter distances. Rent throughout the country has increased disproportionately to inflation and college tuition debt among millennials has ballooned to over $1.5 trillion. Millennials also have less take-home income, or as much job security, as their parents. As such, many of the industries that Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers were able to prop up through favorable monetary systems and lack of assumed debt, are now hurting as the economy wanes and an entire generation is saddled by economic policies that have been proven to be unsustainable. 

IMS’s own Robert Pandya, who’s the Team Manager of the Discover the Ride program, touches on the industry’s shortcomings. “The motorcycle industry has struggled with Millennials and Gen X’ers not entering the market at the same rate as baby boomers are aging out. Thus, it is critical for the future of motorcycling that current industry leaders come together to bring approachable opportunities for the next generation, as well as underserved demographics, to experience and get on board with riding.” 

Though we enthusiasts may live during an era of plenty in terms of affordable motorcycle options, and scientific proof shows young adults do indeed want to get into motorcycling, there are a number of real financial hardships that tend to preclude ownership. Industries like the motorcycle market face an uphill battle so long as these issues plague young adults. Thankfully, because of IMS’s survey and subsequent data, we’ll never have to hear about the younger generation’s lack of interest in motorcycles.