Big-bike snobs damage motorcycling

Motorcycle sales are down around the world because many riders are big-bike snobs, while the industry has failed to reach out to women, minorities and millennials.

These are findings from the American “Give a Shift” group of motorcycle industry luminaries, yet they are universal to the motorcycle world.

They claim the industry has not reached out to women, minorities and millennials.

But it also blames “big-bike snobs who look down on smaller bike riders”.

The panel saw these as the major problems facing motorcycling:

  • Baby boomer buyers are quickly ageing and leaving motorcycling;
  • Dealerships are too interested in selling powerful and expensive bikes and don’t know how to deal with new customers interested in more “approachable” bikes; and
  • The introduction of autonomous vehicles could kill off motorcycling. Click here to read more on this topic. 

Among their suggested solutions are:

  • Build more three wheelers that won’t tip over to keep ageing riders in the sport;Big-Bike Snobs Sturgis trike
  • Build bikes that are sized and priced to be attractive to newcomers;
  • Promote motorcycling as an activity for everyone; and
  • Riders should be better ambassadors for the sport.

Boomers go bust

The ageing rider base and the disinterest in motorcycling by millennials was highlighted by the Bernstein Research market report.

Give a Shift says millennials have been “bubble wrapped for safety in their youth” or raised by overprotective parents who discouraged risk-taking.

They say the sport needs to be promoted so the reward outweighs the risk.

It says a pivotal strategy is to engage more women who are typically more risk-averse.

If more women and, especially mothers, start riding, children will follow in their tyre tracks, the panel suggests.

“The increase in female ridership will have a huge influence on young riders’ access to motorcycling, a much-needed segment for motorcycling to thrive,” the panel says.

It calls on the industry to spend more time and money on promoting motorcycling to women and young riders.

Big-bike snobsBig-Bike Snobs

But it also says riders should be better ambassadors to the sport, as outlined by this Australian female rider. Click here to read her comments.

The panel calls on every rider to become ambassadors and not snobs.

“To work to be inclusive of smaller motorcycles and scooters, not big bike snobs who look down on smaller bike riders,” it says.

“If just 20% of current riders were able to bring a new rider into the mix every year, the shift would be dramatic not only in sales, but also in camaraderie.”

Bike snobbery may not just be the domain of riders of “big” bikes such as heavy tourers, but also powerful sports bikes, expensive European bikes or certain brands.

The panel is simply urging all riders to be inclusive, rather than exclusive for the sake of our pastime.

  • Are you a “big bike snob”? Leave your comments below.

23 Comments

  1. Small bore (under 500cc) road bikes are severely under rated as fun practical motorcycles.
    I restore and ride 70’s small bore Suzuki two strokes. I rarely get a wave or even a nod from any other rider. When I’m talking to someone in a social setting they assume and ask if I restore Kwaka 9’s, Harleys or Ducatis. The conversation becomes awkward and usually ends once I tell them Suzuki 90s!

  2. Start re-running “On Any Sunday (1971)” in the cinemas. :-)))

    If new riders, potential riders and Old Farts don’t come away from that with big grins and a fun outlook on riding, then they’re truly lost causes. 🙁

    Yeah – the bikes are 40 years old – but nothing else has changed. The riding experience and camaraderie has not. If you’ve ever attempted anything on a bike, you’ll find something to laugh about.

    While I’m not a fan of the US flat track stuff, I was gobsmacked at what we then accepted as “safety standards”. One comment: “he slid off the track and smashed through a 4×4 safety rail”. What???

    Don’t miss the start, but skip 4:00 – 28:00 if you want to miss the US Flat Track Mile stuff.

    Cheers.
    John C.

  3. Hey c’mon now – WHY the HELL are you TELLING US – GO TELL the Manufacturers, Dealers, and the Politicians – WE as riders already know all this stuff – so don’t go bothering US again – What is it that they are trying to portray here ???
    The Motorcycling Industry is what it is – we can’t influence them and we can’t change things – I don’t want a small bike to learn on etc … I do aknowledge every rider out there on the roads – and I do encourage newer riders …
    The Motorcycling industry very rarely ADVERTISE on TELEVISION – Only when the MotoGP’s are ON do they do any sort of advertising – but it is usually the fastest best top speed biggest horsepower and unleashed beast on 2 wheels – rush in and buy one …

    I haven’t seen any sort of advertising that would attract novice riders or women – most of the younger women are too busy with their Smart Phones, facebook, twitter, or some other poxy social media, worrying about who said what to whom and when and why to be bothered to get a life – and unfortunately the Males that are of the same/similar age – are doing the same damn thing/s including doing their make-up ….

    Just HOW do WE Motorcyclists encourage these sort of people to go out and buy a motorcycle and why should we anyway – I certainly wouldn’tbe bothered trying to converse with them, most of them talk in text speak anyway –
    Like I said – if the Industry are worrying about futrue SALES – then it IS their Problem and certainly not mine … As long as I have a good time riding my motorcycle then that is all that matters to ME !!!
    I will send these BoofHeads a couple of dolars to Call some one who cares – that IS IF they can FIND Anyone who does …
    Sheeeeesh !!! Gimme a Break will ya !!!

  4. Give A Shift seem to be drawing a long bow here. Do snobby Rolls Royce owners harm the sales of Toyota Corollas? No. If people aren’t buying motorcycles, I don’t think it’s got much to do with big bike snobs. I would guess it’s 99.99% to do with perceived risk. That’s where I would be focussing my attention. Show people that most motorcycle accidents are due to the WAY people ride, not riding per se. If you develop your skills, ride to the speed limit, wear highly visible clothing and keep your headlight on – and did I mention develop your skills? – I don’t think motorcycling is particularly dangerous at all. I went out with a very experienced rider the other day who said he didn’t see much point in the riding test including tight U turns with your feet up because “it’s the only time you’ll every do it – in the real world you always put your feet down”. That was disturbing. If you want to ride safe you have to be constantly improving your skills. If they’re not improving you’re actually going backwards because you’re ageing. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now…

  5. The best way to bring people into motorcycling is to encourage them to take the “motorcycle experience”. For many people that have friends who ride, the invitation take them out for a “motorcycle experience” rarely, if ever happens.

    Way back in the early 90’s a group of Harley Riders identified that a potential market existed in the Motorcycle Joyrides arena. Since that time the Harley Rides industry has grown peaked and continues to exist. I took over one such business in 1998, which had been established in 1993. Today it continues and demand is still there for motorcycle joyrides. Its almost impossible to kill. With almost no advertising other than a my website http://www.harleyrides.com.au, a Facebook site and a Tourism Australia listing – I continue to get frequent requests for Harley Ride bookings.

    99% of the people we take out for a pillion ride have never been near a motorcycle in their lives. The fascinating thing, when they are on the back of the bike, is the change in attitude which takes place as regards their attitude about motorcycles and their perception of the prevailing Safety Propaganda that stops people from getting into motorcycling.

    Many is the time I have, at the end of a ride, had a wife say to their husband, “Darling I think you should get one of these.” Women love the experience. Many are apprehensive at first, but after but a few minutes all their fears and negative perception have disappeared. Several years ago a guy I took out for a Birthday Ride came up to me and said, “John, do you remember me? I’m now the president of the Dandenong HOG, all thanks to you.”

    If a man is desperate to get himself a motorcycle , then all they need to do is give me an hour with his wife on a surprise Harley Ride. After that its a done deal. All it takes is a little bit of demonstration and explanation.

    I once wrote to Harley Davidson and told them what we do and tried to explain our value to them. Sadly, they just brushed me off and wished me good like. They were more interested in protecting their Trademark interest in the Harley name, than recognising that I was actually part of their unpaid marketing team.

    We have taken thousands of people for rides over the years. We have exposed thousands of children to motorcycles at school fetes and on Corporate Group Incentives. Tonight I will be taking a kid to his primary school graduation – another future motorcycle rider.

  6. Lower rego fees, stop having fees on multiple bikes. Why pay two or more TAC insurance fees when you can only ride one bike at a time?
    Let us ride in bike lanes provided we give way to pushbikes if they’re there. Free tolls for bikes too.

  7. Re building more 3wheel bikes – this will not help in attracting new riders due to licensing laws which require three years on two wheels (in Vic anyway) – unless a less-than 650cc model appears. Solve this problem and I know many who will join our pastime. Oh and to anticipate the critics – I rode two wheels for two decades, and now choose my Spyder with its three… Different skills to ride, different challenges to take the bend “just right”, and a blast to ride. Brilliant for those with short legs, too…

  8. Big Bike Snobs!!! Really!!! Who cares what other riders think!!!! i ride because i love riding, I’ve been doing it for over 35 years and i wave at other riders on the road as a show of friendship. Yes i wave at anything on 2 wheels, but honestly, if they don’t wave back it doesn’t phase me.
    Motorcycling is about being yourself. If you are that vain that you need to be noticed by other riders, then you my friend are riding for the wrong reason.
    Wippie

  9. Slow riders favour big bikes. Highly skilled riders appreciate the light weight and agility of smaller bikes because they have the ability to make use of those qualities. Lesser skilled riders only have the ability to fully open the throttle in a straight line (which means they have very little skill), so because they can’t make use of the advantages of lighter bikes, big power is all that matters to them.

    Just to clarify things – one of my current bikes has 1000cc and more than 140hp, but I have enough experience on smaller bikes to understand their value. Smaller bikes teach you to become better skilled riders. I have seen too many riders get the biggest bike they can, as soon as they can, which stunts their development as a rider. From then on their approach to riding is all about avoiding unleashing the ‘beast’ within. On smaller bikes you can really ‘fang’ them, which is a different approach to riding, and develop your skills. Then you can make use of these skills on big bikes. If you haven’t tried it you will never know. Don’t make fun of riders on smaller bikes. They might just be far better riders than you.

  10. I dont agree at all, I believe that motorcycling is thriving amonst women and younger people. As a small business within the motorcycle industry I am continually amazed at the amount of new riders we come in contact with and the passion they have. I do agree that these younger and newer riders seem to approach riding with much different attitudes than the Old Grey Beards that dominate some area’s of our sport / lifestyle. Women in particular are far less judgemental about what others ride or who they ride with. The much maligned “hipster” gets a rough run from some area’s of the scene but once again they are incrediably passionate about their bikes and they are creating a whole new future for motorcycling across the globe….

  11. I have a big bike, HD, I usually ride it because it is FUN. I also have a couple of older smaller bikes 750s that are ridden regularly. I don’t understand this snobbery you speak of but have experienced discrimination when I am riding the Harley. Most riders don’t wave back.

  12. As an older woman rider getting back into it again, I found that my biggest problem was the weight of the machine. As a woman I’m not as strong as a man, and as an older woman, I’m not as strong as I was so I was specifically looking for a bike under 200kg. Not as easy as it sounds.
    The best bike I’ve ridden so far was a now ancient Honda VF400F that weighed around 180kg. It was perfect for me at the time, but I can no longer ride a sports-styled bike due to back, neck & wrist issues. Now I’ve got a NC750X, not under 200kg, but with a low centre of gravity and now that I’ve lowered the bike, it’s good.
    I remember when I first started out legally on a 250cc bike 30+ years ago, guys on bigger bikes would sneer at me in full racing-style leathers and ask why I’d bother wearing ‘all that’ while riding such a small bike. We all hit the road just as hard and it saved my skin on the only fall I’ve had.
    Thank goodness for Netrider, MRA, & Ulysses.

    1. even for men, there are many bikes average men cannot put both feet full on ground, not to mention women. Yet they complain women are not interested in.

  13. As a father I have only this to add:
    Most of the children and young people’s time seems to be spent on their devices. They don’t seem to be interested in any activity, other than computer games and ipads. I wonder if that is translating into motorcycling. And also some of us remember when motorcycling represented freedom; now – as with much of life – we are being increasingly restricted by legislators and the use of technology by law enforcement. If I were a young person today I’d ask myself if I could be bothered with all the aggravation of going through the process of getting Ls and Ps and having to continually watch out for minor infringements that may cost me disproportionate fines and my licence. When I was a young fella the local copper would pull you over and tell you to pull your head in, today you WILL be issued the fine and lose points.

    1. Refocus learning to drive/ride as a compentacy challenge, just like any other skill we learn.
      Then we can get rid of all those restrictive laws.
      Amd like many different skill sets, driving is just not for every one, one might seek to become to be a dentist, but if it is not for accept it, do not go about, it is a right to be a dentist, or a driver, it is not a right, it is a privalege!

  14. The local HOG Chapter NSW South Coast HOGS now have a number of women riders who have gone from being pillions to having their own bikes. Starting from HD 500’s moving up the bigger bikes. Harley Davidson is trying to attract new riders with Harley Days and does promote women riders.

  15. Let’s first define a “big bike”. In the context of America I’ll assume a big bike is a full-dress tourer, whether it’s a Harley, Indian, Gold Wing, whatever. These are not cheap bikes. So what we are coming down to is socio-economic snobbery which pervades far more than just motorcycling and knows no borders.
    The American “Give a Shift” group of motorcycle industry luminaries are speaking from a _very_ American perspective and would naturally assume that their views and the snobbery are consistent all over the world.
    “Give A Shift” are clearly advising American manufacturers on how to sell more bikes in the future.

    If “Give A Shift” went to Asian and European makers and suggested that they “Build bikes that are sized and priced to be attractive to newcomers;” the G A S people would be looked at quizzically for a moment then laughed at and told to piss off and mind their own bloody business.

    1. Hi Mister T,
      I’ve added a paragraph at the end.
      In my experience, bike snobbery isn’t restricted to riders of big heavy cruiser/tourers.
      Riders of particular brands or types seem to look down their noses at riders of other bikes.
      The panel is urging riders to be inclusive, rather than exclusive for the sake of our pastime.
      Cheers,
      Mark

  16. Motorcycles are actually the safest possible vehicles!
    In an accident it is usually only the rider who is hurt rarely an innocent bystander and even should a motorcycle plough into a crowd it will come to a complete stop after injuring only a few people unlike a massive 4×4 that could mow down hundreds and keep going. But no one ever brings this up when they start wringing the apron strings and fluffing the cotton wool. People who have no business driving a massive thre ton truck with kill bars on the front are encouraged to drive the because they are so safe and motorcycles are so dangerous it should be the other way round, idiots who have no concept of safety should not be allowed anywhere near anything but a moped and as the start to gain a clue move up to an actual bike that can go faster than fifty kph uphill.
    The other problem is clothing
    Bike suitable clothing is either black or BRANDED or the latest fad that was over two years before someone made a bike version!
    And if you do find something that looks good is not out of date and a reasonable quality and price it is only available in children’s sizes! I mean we’re supposed to be getting bigger even asians on near starvation diets are supposed to be getting bigger but for some reason ever size on the rack in the motorcycle clothing (or any other) store is medium small and tiny.

  17. Main reason is, you buy your bikes when your 17 to 30, get married, reluctantly sell bike to help finance a home and family.
    Once teenagers leave home or you divorce, you buy another bike. Most women don’t like bikes because of perceived safety issues and worry about helmet hair.

    It’s not up to me to bring new riders in, it’s a personal choice. Better marketing by manufacturers would help and dealerships becoming more family orientated and more female staff would make them less confronting for motorcycle green horns.

    Governments waiving tolls for bikes and lowering rego costs would also assist sales and reduce traffic congestion.

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