32 Compelling Motorcycle Demographics

Nothing screams Americana more than a motorcycle that is waiting to conquer the open road. It’s no wonder why households are embracing this vehicle as a way to enjoy life. Yet despite its popularity, the motorcycle still struggles to reach certain demographics.

95% of the members in the American Motorcyclist Association are men.

Harley-Davidson dominates the motorcycle market, but names like Honda and BMW are also major contributors. In 2014, US consumers purchased 484,000 motorcycles, which was a 3.8% increase over figures from the previous year.

Who Rides Motorcycles Today?

  • California leads the US in total motorcycle registrations, with just over 800,000 total vehicles registered.
  • When per capita ownership rates are considered, South Dakota comes out on top, with there being 12 people for every motorcycle owned. New Hampshire comes in second at 17 people for every motorcycle owned.
  • Mississippi has the fewest number of registered motorcycle owners in the US, coming in with 2,000 fewer owners than even low population states like Rhode Island, Wyoming, and Vermont.
  • The average motorcyclist who joins a biking association has ridden a motorcycle for at least 26 years.
  • The average annual household income for motorcycle owners: $85,300.
  • More than 1.5 billion miles are covered by motorcycles every year.
  • The average age of a motorcyclist in the United States: 48.
  • 26% of motorcycle owners have at a 4 year college degree. Another 16% have gone on to study post-graduate work.
  • On-road riding happens 2x more often than off-road riding with the average motorcycle.
  • Motorcycle owners who ride frequently are more likely to share information about themselves and join associations compared to low frequency riders, which may skew some of the demographic information.

The motorcycle industry has recognized that they need to target women and younger riders in order to continue their patterns of growth. For Harley-Davidson, there are 4 core demographics that are being targeted for growth: women, the 18-34 age demographic, African-Americans, and Hispanics. Sales in 2014 for these 4 categories were double that of their core customers for a third straight year. More people than ever before are discovering motorcycles, which means the motorcycle demographics are likely to evolve and grow in the coming decade.

How Are Motorcycles Being Used?

  • The average motorcycle owner uses it for at least 100 riding days every year, which includes days that involve commuting.
  • The average length of riding season: 10 months.
  • 71% of motorcycle owners state that they have taken at least one motorcycle training course during their lifetime.
  • 13% of motorcycle owners say that they ride their motorcycle for 300+ days every year.
  • 29% of motorcycle owners ride a minimum of 10,000 miles each year.
  • Nearly half [47%] of the motorcycles that are owned are some form of touring bike.
  • 1 out of 5 motorcycles being used as a primary mode of transportation was built in or before 1994.
  • 80% of the motorcycles owned in the US have windshields and either a luggage carrier or a saddlebag.
  • 64% of motorcycle owners say that they will rarely or never ride with a passenger while taking a pleasure trip.

For the most part, motorcycles are being used as a primary mode of transportation when the weather allows for it. This means northern owners are going to get fewer good riding days compared to southern owners in the US. Some may be using their motorcycle as a way to save on fuel costs. Others may ride regularly just because they love to do so. Whatever the case may be, motorcycles are being used frequently, but not necessarily safely as the data suggests, virtually every day in the US.

Who Is Purchasing Motorcycles Today?

  • 22% of all new motorcycle purchases come from first-time buyers. This figure has remained relatively stable since 2001.
  • The average age of a motorcycle owner has increased from 40 to 48 years of age since 2001.
  • From 2003-2008, the number of US households purchasing motorcycles climbed by 26%. During the same period of time, the number of overall US households climbed just 5%.
  • For Generation X riders, women make up 15% of the demographic, the largest female demographic there is.
  • Baby Boomers outnumber Millennials as motorcycle owners at a 4-to-1 ratio.
  • 30% of motorcycle owners perform all of their own maintenance. Another 60% of owners say they do as much maintenance work as they are able to complete.
  • Sales volumes are nearly $1,000 higher per average transaction when owners feel like they’ve had a satisfying experience with their dealer.

Because there is such an age and gender gap in the motorcycle demographics, since the primary customer is a Caucasian/White male above the age of 35, it is important for the industry to create an interest in their product. Otherwise if their core customers end up with an economic hardship, the industry is going to struggle as well. Harley-Davidson has learned that lesson the hard way. They may have tried to trademark the sound their motorcycles make as a way to build their brand, but not even that can save the company if there is one primary customer segment and they go broke.

Does The Motorcycle Industry Have a Growth Problem?

  • 39% of motorcycle owners in the US are between the ages of 51-69.
  • US citizens over the age of 50 control 77% of the total net worth in the United States.
  • Older motorcyclists are more likely to spend money on accessories instead of paying $19,000 – $39,000 to purchase a new motorcycle.
  • 60% of the motorcycle fatalities in 2012 involved rides between the ages of 46-65, a change in the demographics as most fatal crashes have historically involved younger riders.
  • 3 out of 4 motorcycle owners state that they have had at least 1 crash involving their bike. 20% of owners who have been in a crash have had 3 or more during their lifetime.

So what is going on? It seems that guys who gave up riding to get married, raise a family, and have a career decided to get back onto a bike assuming that they didn’t lose any skills – except that they did. Motorcycles are also more powerful than they used to be, which can be a surprise for riders who haven’t been on one in awhile. Few mentoring programs exist in this industry as well, which means advertising and marketing tends to be the only outreach effort made to younger potential motorcycle owners. If this can change, the industry will survive. If not, then the motorcycle demographics indicate that this icon of Americana could be fading into the sunset.

Motorcycles Statistics and Trends

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