Mellenials, Seems like a dirty word these days. Almost always is proceeded by the word “You” and followed up by a negative adjective. Where did we go wrong? Why aren’t these spoiled kids riding motorcycles? Well, I am a Millennial, so I will tell you.
There is an obvious decline in not only the on road motorcycle industry, but the off road as well. There is a very blatant lack of engagement from the “Millennial” generation in the motorcycle community. There have been a number of studies published on this topic with a few hypothesis as to why Millennial’s, hereafter referred to as “We” are not buying into the sport.
The first is that we have a much higher percentage who attend post-secondary education, and the skyrocketing school debt incurred puts want items like motorcycles well out of reach. There has been two identified age periods where people tend to buy bikes, these are immediately before having a family, or immediately after kids leave the house. We are (for the most part) not old enough to have reached the latter stage of having kids leave the house, and as mentioned earlier, with such high school debt we cannot afford a luxury item in our 20’s or even 30’s as we still have tens of thousands of dollars in school debt.
The second is that we are trending toward moving through the stages in life a little later than most other generations. We all know stories of kids who have stayed at home into their 30’s, and whispered to neighbors about who’s kids have “failed to launch” because they have not moved out before they hit 20. This early departure is a very North American tradition. We all know the routine of graduating, getting a job, buying a house and having kids in that order. With foreign investors buying up whole communities and pricing us out of the market, coupled with mistakes from previous generations leading to defaulting on mortgages and mortgage lenders now making mortgages much, much more difficult to get, really only gives us two options. First is we need to stay at home longer to save for the higher down payment for a mortgage, second is we move out and rent until we save enough. We are struggling to maintain the routine life stages of our predecessors which is resulting in less available free capitol to purchase want items like motorcycles in the first age range of motorcycle purchases as I noted above. We already feel like were behind the 8 ball trying to move out, so spending $10k on a non-investment want “thing” is just not done.
The third is parenting, in a multitude of facets. I know what you’re thinking, typical Millennial blaming others for their shortcomings. But hear me out, I don’t mean it in a bad way at all. I was raised outdoors. I grew up camping, hunting and fishing. My parents, in my opinion, raised me the same way I would wish to raise my kids with a great appreciation for personal relationships, the outdoors and having, meeting, and missing goals. One of the things our generations’ parents are always stressing to us is the importance of having experiences vs. consumer products. The number of Millennials’ that own motorcycles compared to previous generations may be dropping, but the number of Millenials who have been to other countries has significantly increased. I have been told by older generations that when you grow old, you won’t sit on your death bed wishing you had bought the model X car instead of the model y, but you will regret not having gone to your ancestor’s home country of z. We are listening, so don’t get mad that there are now less model x cars, and more trips to country z booked.
Last is competing with the video game industry for attention time. Growing in previous generations you did not have the same booming gaming industry. You could maybe play some Atari, maybe some Nintendo or other first gen gaming methods. The games of yesteryear are not the games we have now, and it makes a big difference. Games in the past were able to be picked up and put down at any given moment to no detriment to the player. You could play 15 minutes of Mario and have a rewarding experience and were not punished for quitting after the next level that only takes 2 minutes to pass. The video game industry now uses metrics that include number of player hours played to count towards its monetary value. In order to get higher player hours logged in a game they very specifically make these games so that you need to play for several hours at a time in order to get any rewarding experience within the game. There are literally thousands of very intelligent people who have the sole job of figuring out how to keep your kid playing this game longer. This is what you are up against to try and get your kid outside and on a bike. An industry many times larger who spends many billions more in advertising solely to get your kids staring at a screen longer. This is a problem no other parental generation had to deal with. It is going to take strong parenting skills to limit kids screen times. This may also require parents to know more about the games their kids are playing and restrict the ones that require you play for over 2 hours to accomplish anything. If your kid is playing the 2+ hour game, you will be fighting with them every day, in which case you may want to have them limit this game to weekends only or not even allow its use at all. Im sure they will blame you for being unfair and uncool, but that is just the start of them possibly fighting a gaming addiction, then you must remember, your not fighting the kid, your fighting the addiction.
What will get us to ride and buy bikes? If I had a concrete answer I would be working for a motorcycle company leading the marketing dept. instead of hypothesizing at my computer in my living room. I do have a few ideas though, we may still save the sport.
Idea #1 reboot Ghost Rider! Or, something similar. We need to have more Iconic figures on bikes, but focus on the person and not on their out of this world bike skill. We need to be able to say, that’s a persona that I want to be seen as, and can if I buy a bike. Come to think of it, I barely ever see motorcycle (especially dirt bike) ads anywhere but in motorcycle literature or TV. Why preach to those who have converted? Where’s your new customer outreach? Also, where there are girls, there are guys. Get more girls involved!
Idea #2. Be safe. Your fun and antics may be ruining the sport, if you get hurt that is. When I was younger my parents told me that I would never own a motorcycle as long as they could help it. Why? Because we have a family friend who is paralyzed due to a motorcycle injury. One major injury could affect 20 potential future riders by making them think this will happen to them if they ride. This works the exact same way as the criminal justice system. If someone commits a crime the courts impose a sentence. Part of the severity of that sentence is for General Deterrence. If they discipline you severe enough it sends a message to others that “this is what happens when you do that”. Same goes for severe injuries to riders. This was the biggest hurdle in my entry into motorcycles. My wife was scared I would get hurt, and it’s a real possibility. This fear is increased by each story we ever heard of people being hurt when riding a motorcycle. We all need to ensure we are responsible, or we fall victim to The Tragedy of the Commons, “Oh I can do what I want, it doesn’t affect anyone, I’m only one person”. You ride unsafe, you get hurt, there goes 20 future riders. Simple.
Idea #3 Make it more accessible. No one wants non-riders to ride their bikes for the first time. They will drop it, whisky throttle it into the bush or otherwise rev the #$%# out of it. How is a person to try the sport without investing thousands of dollars into a bike blindly? And there is also the problem of location. Specifically with off road bikes. There are dealer days where you can try bikes, but they always are held in riding areas, where the general public is far away from. Not only that, but they bring out their best new bikes for people to try. This is intimidating for potential new riders because they don’t want to damage a $10k new bike. Bring out some old beater 100’s or 150’s for new people to try!