The barriers to becoming a road riding motorcyclist these days are huge – onerous licensing requirements, years of restrictive rules and costs which many youngsters can’t bear along with about a million other popular activities which didn’t exist when us oldies started riding.
To attract more youngsters to riding the industry needs to remove some of the barriers. We can do this by improving access to machinery, experience, advice and other riders.
You have to be pretty committed to bother putting up with three years on P-plates, the inability to carry a pillion passenger, no access to your phone while riding and multiple days of enforced training just for the right to spend heaps of dosh on a bike.
Sure, many of the rules are the same for driving, but… riding’s optional, driving isn’t (for most young people).
One young guy I know kept putting off getting his bike licence simply because he wouldn’t be able to take his girlfriend anywhere.
Sure there are some youngsters who buy a scooter or small bike to ride to university, but they are riders of convenience, not passion – they might be converted later, but they might not, too: they see riding as transport, not fun.
Currently youngsters might wander into a bike shop to find out about riding… and if they’re lucky they might walk out with some advice to Google their state licensing body to find out about the compulsory training required to get a licence.
Why not offer a service to book people into a course on the spot?
Each bike shop should have a range of demo/hire bikes (possibly some of the second-hand stock?). These are machines new riders can use to get their experience up, bikes they can bolt an L-plate to and ride around for a weekend or a week. Maybe the cost of the hire could be deducted from the price of a new bike if they come back and buy one.
Shops could lead group rides or tap into their local riding groups and customers who (I’m sure) would be pleased to guide youngsters around the great local riding roads of their area. Those same youngsters would be welcome to join the rides even after they have bought a bike of their own. Of course returning riders would also be welcome.
Maybe the importers would do provide assistance with the cost, insurance, maintenance and repairs of such a fleet.
Keep in mind that although bikes are basically as cheap as they have ever been, cars are crazy-cheap – and more reliable than ever. And they bulk of them have air-conditioning, power steering and automatic transmissions, even the cheap secondhand cars, which means transport is relatively cheap, easy to master and comfortable.
Motorcycles can’t compete with cars as transport unless you’re talking heavy traffic, parking problems and scooters – which is a story for another time.
This is about recreational riding, an activity which has lost ground to the myriad of other things youngsters can do with their weekends, from Netflix to watercraft, Fortnite to football.
It’s a lot easier to play football than it is to ride a motorcycle legally – and even easier to be a passive football fan. Join your club online, buy some gear in the team colours, catch the train to the stadium, have a few drinks and do it all again a week or two later.
Contrast that with making sure your bike is good to go, suiting up in all the gear, hoping the weather will be good, not be able to drink and copping flak from parents, friends and others about your ‘Temporary Australian’ pastime.
And, of course, the appeal of online video games is strong… much bigger industry these days than Hollywood, and its driven by the 20-40yo men, the gender and age traditionally getting into motorcycles.
Motorcycle sales have boomed in various decades and for various reasons. In the past it was sky-high fuel prices, cheap, reliable dirt bikes, then baby boomers rediscovering motorcycles, the sportsbike era… most recently adventure bike sales have exploded while cruisers are tanking and nakeds are popular again.
I think now is a good time for the industry to focus on people, on convincing people to become riders, not customers, because riders will wear out bikes and replace them, which is what needs to happen if motorcycling is to survive.
– Nigel Paterson