One of the biggest issues faced by the motorcycle industry is the difficulty of capturing new riders in new segments. Adding more new 50-year-old dudes on Harleys is great and all, but the industry won’t grow if it doesn’t figure out how to sell bikes to women and young people. It must be doing something right, though: while still not a huge number, female motorcycle ownership is higher than it’s ever been.
The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is an organization that serves many functions in the motorcycle world, and one of those is to track mass amounts of data to help the manufacturers react to trends. MIC data shows that women make up 14 percent of the total motorcycle ownership, a number that’s been steadily on the incline since it was a meager 8 percent in 1998.
What’s even better news, although unsurprising, is that the numbers skew to the younger generation. When broken down by age, women make up 17.6 percent of motorcycle owners 18-35, 17 percent of owners 36-50, and only 9 percent of owners 51-69.
Cruisers made up 34 percent of the women riders, while 33 percent of them opted for scooters. Only 10 percent owned sportbikes. The last 20 percent or so was a mix of standard, adventure, and off-road motorcycles.
For those of you who are dealers out there, it’s interesting to note that women listed “fun and recreation,” “sense of freedom,” and “enjoy outdoors/nature,” as reasons for riding, and cited test rides and fuel economy as two of the biggest factors when buying a bike. Oh, and 57 percent of women riders prefer new motorcycles over used ones.
Women riders also proved smarter than us men (no shit), with 60 percent reporting they’d taken a motorcycle safety course. I’d love to see that number rise (seriously people, it’s amazing what you’ll learn even if you’ve already been riding), but that’s puts men and their 42 percent participation to shame.
The survey turned up some other interesting data points as well. Like that the median ago for female motorcyclists is 39 compared to our 48, that 49 percent of women riders are married, that 47 percent of women riders have a college or post-graduate degree, and over 49 percent do their own maintenance or have a friend do it rather than take their bikes to a shop - which probably says a lot about the culture of and comfort levels provided in most maintenance shops.
Motorcycle sales are still about half of what they were pre-recession, with only 500,000 or so U.S. sales. If we want to keep seeing cool new technologies developed, sweet new bikes released, and the gear world continue to innovate - we need to add more people on bikes.
It’s seriously great news that the bike industry is moving in the right direction, and will hopefully these trends will encourage brands to continue trying to get more women on bikes.
Photos: CJ Wilson and Matthew Jones