The Generation Game

Bikers and riding
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The Generation Game

Post by Alun » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:04 am

Okay, the motorcycle industry is in a bad place with the demographics of riders pointing to the average motorcyclist approaching 50 years old. What do you think are the reasons for younger adults (and women) not flocking to the most exciting form of transport known to man?

If things stay as they are then the industry is going to find itself in the same position as the Telegraph newspaper which had more readers dying from old age than there were new readers taking up the newspaper.

I'm sure there are numerous factors that contribute to the dramatic decline in young riders including;

Prohibitive insurance costs
The complexity of the test.
Cost of new/smaller bikes?
The image of the industry?
Is the world of motorcycling now too old and fuddy duddy to be cool?
Is there a lack of exciting entry level machines?
Or what about the huge ammount of young adults now going into further education as oppossed to leaving school and getting a job - and some cash to buy a bike?

When I think back to when I was a lad there was a whole bunch of us into bikes (I'd say about 30% of my class at school) and we got into them by buying old bikes for next to nothing and doing them up – try doing that with a modern machine. When we left school and started work most of us bought trail style bikes from Honda 125's to Suzuki TS 250's, only a few bought road bikes.

This is a big, big problem for the future of motorcycling.

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Re:The Generation Game

Post by markgregorys1 » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:55 pm

They don't want a bike because Mummy says they are dagerous, at 17 they want a car, lessons paid for, and then car brougt for their 18th. No sense of adventure, don't want to get dirty climbing into lofts doing an apprenticeship, rather sit in an office waiting for dead man shoes. I am 52, started work when I was 11, paper round, milk round, butchers boy, bread round anything for a few bob, shit I sound like my old man :(

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Re:The Generation Game

Post by africajim » Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:18 pm

In the late 70's when I started on bikes, the cheapest form of transport was a bike, well a moped for starters! This gave you an apetite for bikes, then a 250 before moving on to a car. The bike bug has always been there and I've always had a bike but just for fun.
Nowadays the bike is still for fun as I run a company van which I run daily, but I wouldn't not have a bike!
Agreed, kids nowadays have it hard, bikes are more expensive, the spoilt little brats won't accept any old pile of junk, the test costs quite a bit and even the CBT's around £100 now so it's all piled against new bikers. Agree with the thoughts of pass car with lessons paid for by daddy, new car on HP and no time or money left for a bike.
I don't know the future, certainly usually older guys I meet touring all over Europe in the summer. Hopefully there will be a revival in bikes in the future, either that or we'll become dinosaurs!
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Re:The Generation Game

Post by Alun » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:03 am

Hi markgregorys1, same here, paper round at 11 quickly followed by the best paid job in town at 12 – chopping and delivering bags of sticks on a horse and cart. Jesus H Christ, as I typed that I felt like I was some sort of alien.

Anyway, as said, the motorcycle industry has a big problem which they've not even started to address and I'm not sure they know what to do either.

AJ gets it right when he points out that youngsters have it hard these days – at least when it comes to bikes. When I think back to my teens a car was not essential as most people lived and worked in the same town/city/community. For example in the South Wales Valleys most worked in the local pit or a connected industry. In other words a car was not essential. You could walk to work and there were things called 'works buses' remember them? Today, a car is pretty much a must have if you want to get a job, as is a mobile phone, as is a computer etc – not much disposable left for a bike after that.

I'll tell you what would be good, is to hear the opinions of a young aspirational biker – if there is such a thing. Actually, there is, my son. He's 19, completed his CBT and wants a bike – a Varadero 125 as he's 6ft 2in. He works, has the desire, but deduct all the cash he's paying out on basics; car insurance , petrol, partying etc. and he's no chance. And then when he moves out of the family home he'll have to find 'rent' to pay his own way. And in our part of the world that's a good £600 a month for a one bedroomed flat.

The motorcycle industry has a lot to compete with, maybe too much in the modern world. We are a dying breed.

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Re:The Generation Game

Post by Bryn » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:49 pm

I'm that 19 year old aspirational biker! I completed my CBT about 3-4 months ago and after I did that I was itching to complete my bike test so the next week I went on to complete my motorcycle theory. Since the theory I've had neither the time or money to have a lesson (which costs just above £80 for one!) and my determination to get my bike licence has almost disappeared.

When it comes to youngsters riding a bike and what stops them, I think there are a few influences. Parents, money, time, laziness, lack of knowledge and friends.

Parents: Not so much a huge problem for me, but while both of my parents have said that they would let me get a bike, I know that for my mom at least, she would be worried every time I went out on it, and that is fair enough.

Money: An obvious one here. Youngsters don't earn as much as guys with full time jobs, plus, when we have money we HAVE to spend it on things like beer and food. Saying that though, most of my friends have cars and have been able to afford them, bikes are a lot cheaper on the whole with petrol and insurance being a fraction of the price than if you drove.

Time: Trying to hold down a full time job, or full time education leaves little time to bother with passing your bike test, and as there is so much to think about with passing your FOUR (yes four) tests, a lot of people will find it hard to find the time any more.

Laziness: Kind of goes hand in hand with the point above, when I say I don't have the time, I mean I can't be bothered, I would rather sit on my arse playing xbox.

Lack of Knowledge: As I stated previously, there are 4 tests you have to pass if you want to be able to ride a big boy bike, and for most people knowing where to start is a major pain in the ass. I managed to suss out that you need to do your CBT, theory, module 1 and module 2, and in-between all these, on average, you will be looking at doing about 5 lessons. It gets a bit confusing.

Friends: One reason I opted not to get a moped when I was 16, I can't take my friends with me. My car has been used countless times as a form of transport for me and my friends together, and if I had a bike I wouldn't be able to do that. Plus, my girlfriends parents wouldn't allow her on the back of a bike if I had one.

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Re:The Generation Game

Post by Jon Y » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:47 am

I think Bryn hit the nail on the head.

I got into bikes because I was obsessed with them. If you're not than it is too much effort to go through and too expensive. Gone are the days when you turn up and the test centre, ride round a car park and stop when a man steps in front of you with his hand up.

For most people (including myself) it is a choice between a car or a bike - youngsters can't afford to run both. I opted for a bike but pay the price in the middle of winter when it is raining or snowing on me and I still have to get to work on two wheels.

But I think there is hope for adventure biking. Travelling is becoming more and more a rite of passage and people just need to be shown that seeing the world on the back of a bike is the best way to travel. And, perhaps more importantly, that you don't have to be a multimillionaire with a back up crew and a team doctor to survive a RTW trip.

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Re:The Generation Game

Post by Dylan » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:40 pm

As a younger (24) biker I can see a few reasons.

I don't think the licensing difficulties are that big a factor, we all jump through the hoops to get a car license. Also, licensing systems are different throughout the world and I imagine the disappearance of young bikers isn't restricted to the UK. I see the same thing happening in Australia and New Zealand where motorbike licensing is not substantially more difficult than car licensing.

Mostly I think Gen Y are more conservative than Baby Boomers and Gen X. Gen Y aspire to a university degree by 22, a home loan paid off by 25, and a career that involves a suit and tie. Motorbikes, tattoos and leather aren't part of that. The rebellion of the 60's and 70's just isn't there.

The dangers of motorcycling also play a large part. Statistics on motorbiking deaths and injuries are readily available and indeed thrust in our face through government advertising (more so than in the 60's and 70's?). Parents, family, friends, girlfriends all repeat the message. Everyone knows someone who died on a motorbike. You have to be very determined to make that first purchase in the face of all the opposition.

There are some positives though. Traffic congestion and rising fuel prices are seeing an increase in the motorbike market generally, and that includes young people.

In Australia Casey Stoner (and his good looking wife) is converting young people to motorbikes. Although mums and the government seem to think 18 year olds shouldn't be riding Ducati 1098's, I can't see why...

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