Most industries suffered considerably at the hands of the pandemic. Unless you were a manufacturer of masks or toilet paper, there was a significant cause for concern. The motorcycle industry, like so many others, experienced a sales downturn amidst the lockdowns, but this was quickly followed by a surprisingly steep rise.
According to a 2021 report from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), sales of motorcycles throughout the U.S. were up by over 37% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021, when compared to Q1 of the previous year. It is also interesting to note that this industry group reported that these sales figures are not only representative of one type of motorbike. It seems that Americans are currently feeling driven to get out riding on just about any style of two-wheeled machine they can get their hands on.
What reasons have contributed to such a significant increase in motorcycle sales? Will this trend continue throughout 2021 and beyond?
Here are six primary reasons for the covid-induced surge in motorcycle sales.
1. An Increased Needs to Manage Mental Health
The conditions of the pandemic initially caused a great deal of concern for many, and fears around losing their jobs and the general uncertainty of the future took over. The social isolation that lockdowns brought upon us created a lingering mental health issue for some and a considerable challenge for others. In fact, during the pandemic, over half (56%) of young adults aged between 18-24 reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder.
For many, riding a motorcycle elicits feelings of aliveness and freedom, and, after the lockdowns, the need to feel this way increased dramatically. With many of us cooped up inside for much longer than we are used to, being able to hit the open road, feel the wind in your hair and just cruise was an extremely liberating activity.
2. Fulfilling Bucket List Dreams
When people who have only ever dreamed of riding a motorcycle suddenly experience a change in circumstances that threatens to take the opportunity away, they buy a bike. It is not uncommon for owning and riding a motorcycle to be on a bucket list, and the conditions of the pandemic caused most to consider their priorities and take action to fulfill more of their life-long desires.
3. It Satisfies Social Distancing Requirements
Motorcycles are certainly an appropriate way to travel when it comes to adhering to social distancing requirements. Even when riding in a group, sufficient distancing can and should be maintained for all-around safety. For anyone with a yearning to hit the open road and/or engage in a recreational pursuit without the confusion and hassles of social distancing, motorcycle riding was an obvious solution.
4. Stimulus Payments Supported Further Sales
Increased disposable income is a common reason for an individual to purchase a motorcycle. Whilst the stimulus payments were a lifeline for those who faced unemployment, for others lucky enough to maintain financial stability, it was an opportunity to splurge.
The payments may not have been enough to bring a brand new Harley home, but could certainly cover a starter off-road or a down payment for a bigger machine. This was, after all, part of the government’s intention for the payments – to stimulate the economy and support smaller businesses.
5. Cheaper Fuel Costs
The price of gas has been historically low, nevertheless, for commuters, it has remained an issue. Many struggling families have opted for a motorcycle to save money on commuting costs. Motorcycles use less gas and are typically cheaper to buy and maintain than cars. That being said, both bikes and cars vary hugely in mpg (miles per gallon). According to Compare the Market, a 125cc Honda CBF125 has an average mpg of 93.2, while a Harley Davidson Fat Boy achieves just 38.3mpg.
That being said, there are a number of factors that influence the cost of running a car or a motorcycle; for example, insurance costs are dependent on the type of vehicle in hand as well as the driver’s history. If you have had an accident in the past or have been to court for drink driving offenses, your insurance is likely to be a lot higher (i.e. more expensive).
The easing of the pandemic-related restrictions has had many scrambling to do the things they previously wouldn’t have done and find new ways to live their best life. This is a common and understandable phenomenon following a traumatic event, and the conditions of the pandemic have been traumatic for many. Adopting the notion that ‘You Only Live Once’ (YOLO) has certainly contributed to the rise in motorcycle sales, with so many wanting to experience the thrill of the ride after so long cooped up at home re-evaluating how well they live their lives.
Safety Concerns as Motorcycle Sales Soar
The motorcycle industry certainly welcomes an increase in sales, but, with so many new riders on the roads, safety is a primary concern. The motorcycle lawyers at Shuman Legal point out that this is potentially made even riskier with the YOLO attitude, having the potential to coincide with risk-taking behavior, fearlessness, and general recklessness:
“Riding a motorcycle can be a very safe travel option when properly operated and while using the appropriate safety gear. Motorcycle riding is not like driving a car, where you are protected by an enclosed vehicle and typically very visible, so it is vitally important to have a safety-oriented and conscientious attitude when riding.”
How Long Will this Sales Growth Continue?
Currently, there is no end in sight for the motorcycle industry’s staggering growth, with the current quarter figures showing clear signs that the trend is continuing. With demand for motorcycles remaining high and interest rates staying low, the sales figures should continue to surge. Motorcycle companies throughout America are expecting this year to close out as strongly as the last. We’ll have to wait and see.