Ever have the sneaking suspicion that you’re not getting the whole picture from someone?
I know I have. Take, oh, just about every article published in recent time since Harley-Davidson talked about flagging new bike sales among millennials.
Then take every hot-take industry apocalypse article about how the motorcycle industry is yet another thing that dastardly Gen Y is killing.
Here’s the thing: While The Motor Company makes up roughly half of all new motorcycle sales in the US, there are other bikes on the market. Bikes that aren’t cruisers. Bikes that are smaller, more functional, or in some other key ways, just plain different from what Harley has to offer.
Take BMW, for example. BMW has been experiencing growth upon growth in sales, for five years in a row. They sold 88,389 bikes in the first half of 2017; a 9.5% increase over the same period last year.
So you can’t even make the case that new bike buyers don’t want to spend money. Non-entry-level bikes in both company’s lineups will cost you a decent amount of money. We don’t know exactly how many millennials bought BMWs, however.
WHAT ABOUT USED BIKES?
That’s the other question that’s been bugging me ever since I saw all the hand-wringing about millennials killing motorcycling. You see, unlike the careful numbers that motorcycle dealers keep of their new bike sales, and the press releases that each company issues about new bike sales numbers on a regular basis, no one is keeping track of all the used bikes sold.
And there are a lot. Just open up your local Craigslist site and look at all the bikes for sale. Sure, not everything listed for sale will end up changing hands, but many bikes do.
Depending on how much time, effort, and additional cash you’re willing to spend, you can find a used bike for almost any amount of money you have. Can’t do that in a new bike showroom, and you can’t do that if you’re as broke as most millennials who are busy paying off Sallie Mae.
If you’re in a large metropolitan area, they’re about a zillion times easier to park than a car. Fun fact: Growing up in Chicago, I didn’t learn to drive until I was an adult. I walked/took public transpo/bicycled everywhere. Believe me when I say that commuting on two wheels is much less stressful when it comes time to stop somewhere.
THE PERILS OF NOT KNOWING YOUR SUBJECT
Then we come to a third problem in seeing the entire picture: H-D might be 50% of the new bike market in the US, but it’s still just a single voice. Are Harley’s sales down? Clearly, the company is the authority on that, and that certainly seems to be the case.
But people–millennials and otherwise–are still out there riding bikes, and also buying them. Motorcycling isn’t dead, or necessarily even dying. All the doomsday forecasting seems greatly exaggerated, premature, and quite frankly, lazy. #thereIsaidit
Blaming everything on a generation that’s saddled with unprecedented financial burdens is counterproductive and inaccurate, on top of that basic laziness.
LET THAT BE A LESSON TO US ALL
So what have we learned? If someone isn’t presenting the whole picture to you in a writeup, ask yourself why. Dig deeper. Don’t be afraid to supplement that first source, or disregard it entirely if it seems like it’s inaccurate (rather than merely omitting information). If you want to understand something, don’t just read a bunch of articles that all basically say the same thing.
(And if you want someone to write about bikes, try hiring a writer who rides. 😉 )