May 28, 1995

Motorcycle Riding Not Just For Rebels Anymore

Charlie Powell Correspondent

A motorcycle roars past you in the fast lane. Or maybe a caravan of riders, riding double on big bikes, pulls up in your rear-view mirror. Who are these people who ride motorcycles anyway?

That’s a good question, and the answers - according to the Motorcycle Industry Council - may surprise you. The average motorcycle rider today is more likely to be the guy next door than a rebel or dropout.

The typical motorcycle rider of the 90s is male, 32 years old, has some college education, and earns about $33,200 a year. He’s wealthier and older than the typical rider back in 1980, who was only 27 and earned, on average, about half as much.

Conducted by Burke Marketing Research, this latest and most comprehensive study of motorcycle industry demographics involved random telephone sampling of 2,595 households that owned motorcycles, ATVs, and scooters. For control and contrast, 1,208 households that do not own these types of vehicles were surveyed, too.

Occupational distinctions tend to disappear among motorcyclists. White-collar workers make up 25 percent of today’s bikers, while blue-collar workers make up 29 percent. Twenty-two percent of motorcycle riders are students or so-called gray-collar workers in service and sales.

These iron steeds also seem to have replaced the horse among westerners. In the United States, 30 percent of motorcycle riders live in the West and 33 percent in the Midwest. Among female riders, the West and the East are tied with 7.8 percent of all riders each.

Midwesterners and southerners like the big touring bikes. Combined, they own 61 percent of the chrome-festooned pavement rumblers.

Female riders are slightly more likely to be married than their male counterparts at 58 percent versus 56 percent. They’re also a bit younger at 32 years old.

What type of bikes make up the market? Well, highway bikes are king with about two-thirds of the market share. Off-highway bikes constitute more than 15 percent of sales, while dual-purpose bikes grab about 12 percent of the market. Putting along in last place are scooter sales at a modest 9 percent of the total.

Among manufacturers selling cycles in the United States, Honda drives away with the largest market share at about 30 percent. For you hawg fans, Harley is second with a respectable 22 percent. Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki all follow in order separated by less than five points from 18.8 to 14.6 percent.

So what is the motorcycle industry worth in the United States? A lot. Motorcycles generated $7.33 billion in consumer sales and services in 1992, the latest year for which figures are available. That figure includes new and used retail sales of motorcycles, scooters, and specialty vehicles; parts and accessories; dealer servicing; advertising; financing; insurance; dealer salaries; state sales; registration fees; and dealer personal taxes.

In Idaho, the motorcycle retail marketplace is valued at more than $73 million annually. In the Evergreen State, motorcycles bring in more than $151.2 million each year. (As a comparison, that’s equivalent to about 20 percent of the wheat industry.)

And the motorcycle industry is alive and well. Sales in 1994 were up 4.5 percent, and this year looks to be even bigger.

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