Harley-Davidson (HOG) just announced its earnings, and for the ninth consecutive quarter, unit sales have dropped. Although some would predict that this news would delight me (as a Dealer of Zero Motorcycles, a soon to be Electric Motorcycle competitor), I see this news as the not so subtle canary in the coal mine.
For years, Harley-Davidson has dominated the US motorcycle market. It’s hard to believe but less than twenty years ago, nearly one out of every two motorcycles sold in this country were Harleys! Over the last couple of decades this has declined and now less that one in three motorcycles is a Harley. Although still a dominant market share, this decline also indicates a more existential crisis for motorcycle manufacturers: that fewer Americans are riding motorcycles.
As a long time motorcycle rider and enthusiast, this concerns me. I want more people to throw their leg over a bike and fall in love with motorcycle riding and make it not just a weekend activity, but a daily passion. If more people rode, motorcycle safety and education would become a priority and motorcyclists would be safer on the roads. Not to mention here in California, (and now in Utah, bravo), motorcyclists can legally split lanes, reducing traffic congestion for everyone. A detailed Belgian study found that a significant reduction in traffic could be attained if only small percentage of drivers rode motorcycles instead of driving cars. The study found that if 10% of private cars were replaced with motorcycles, average travel time was reduced by 40%. And incredibly, if 25% of cars were replaced with motorcycles, traffic was eliminated entirely!
Although the younger generation has taken less of an interest in cars, eschewing the high cost of car ownership, we are in the midst of an urban transportation renaissance. Ride sharing, bicycle sharing, and electric scooter sharing services make getting around Los Angeles and other cities, without your own car easier and more accessible than ever before. This is forward progress in what has traditionally been a very car-centric culture. It means the younger generation is considering other transportation options and as motorcyclists, we should encourage them to explore these two-wheeled options, which are far less of a financial burden than a monthly car payment.
Motorcycles are the fastest way to get around town in a private vehicle, allowing you to bypass traffic with lane splitting, and not having to worry about difficult or expensive parking situations. I am a frequent flyer and make use of the Free Motorcycle Parking at LAX, (imagine that, First-Class Motorcycle Parking at one of the world’s busiest airports), as much as I can.
I believe it important for motorcyclists to take advantage of these benefits and do our part to make people aware of these benefits of motorcycle riding. Equally important is for us as motorcyclists to set a positive example of what motorcyclists should be with safe and responsible riding. If someone does take an interest in motorcycling, the California Motorcyclist Safety Program is an easy and inexpensive way to learn to ride or re-familiarize oneself with motorcycles. No experience or motorcycle is necessary for the Beginner Course and you can complete your Motorcycle Licensing in a single weekend! Advanced courses are available as well for experienced riders and I highly recommend them. An added bonus, students who have completed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or California Motorcyclist Safety Program rider courses in the last 90 days can receive up to a $500 rebate on a Zero Motorcycle at time of purchase. This incentive will effectively PAY for your Motorcycle License!
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t also mention the appeal that Electric Motorcycles have for new riders. The ease of use, lack of clutch/shifting, no noise, and no engine heat make Electric Motorcycles an extremely user-friendly option for those who wish to get on two wheels without the steep learning curve. With fewer “new” skills to worry about, a novice rider can focus on their safety and maneuvering. Many of our customers are new riders and it is always exciting to see a new rider enthusiastically take home their first motorcycle!
Let’s work together to bring Motorcycles back to the USA!
Enjoy the ride,