Millennials are often stereotyped as being a generation of people who like to do everything without much care for the consequences. But when it comes to riding motorcycles, this stereotype may be underserved. In 2016, CNBC published an article, ‘Millennials don’t like motorcycles and that’s killing Harley’s sales,’ which discussed the struggles Harley-Davidson.

Then, in 2020, Reuters published an article entitled ‘Harley-Davidson’s sales growth struggle sends shares tumbling,’ which discussed how millennials were to blame for the less than stellar performance of Harley-Davidson in the previous year. After reading both articles, it may be safe to say millennials are not as carefree when riding motorcycles as their image suggests.

Where We Stand

In 2020, Harley-Davidson Inc. reported a decrease in motorcycle revenue for each quarter, pushing down the price of its shares. For several years, Harley has struggled to improve sales in the United States, which makes up its largest market and accounts for more than half of all sales. The Milwaukee-based company has struggled to attract millennial customers as its tattooed, baby-boomer base ages.

According to CNBC, in 2019, the shares of motorcycle manufacturers decreased by at least 32 percent. This decrease is primarily due to millennials considering purchasing motorcycles for entirely different reasons than previous generations.

While many baby boomers use motorcycles to explore the world around them, millennials purchase motorbikes because they are considered ‘cool’ and a symbol of wealth. This means not only are millennials not buying bikes, but they are also not riding them as often as previous generations either.

A Financial Issue

The typical Harley-Davidson client is a married male in his early 50s, with a minimum household income of $90,000. These clients purchase motorcycles because they are passionate about the item or way of life. Millennials appear more motivated to explore motorbikes based on their price, suggesting that they are more likely to be drawn to lower-priced models with lower profit margins for the producer.

According to analysts, the future of the motorcycle industry may continue to depend primarily on an aged population. That is, unless millennial riders begin to view motorcycling as a pastime rather than a mode of transportation.

According to recent studies, most people who make up the millennial generation are feeling financially insecure. This is because many millennials are often burdened by high debt levels and poor credit scores. Because of this, they feel unable to afford an expensive motorcycle.

In the 1980s and 90s, motorcycles were considered a cheap mode of transportation; however, this opinion is shifting among millennials. Even though buying a motorcycle is considerably cheaper than purchasing a new car, most millennials won’t be able to buy without taking out a small loan.

Many millennials find the financial strain of buying a motorcycle to be too great. The requirement for funding results in the buildup of debt, which is the factor contributing to the decline in millennial motorcycle riders. Compared to Generation X., the average millennial pays roughly twice as much debt from student loans.

The Tough Get Going

Older generations tend to look at millennials and younger folks as generally softer people, citing โ€œparticipation trophiesโ€ and being extra sensitive. While itโ€™s a gross generalization, the fact of the matter is that millennials are more risk-averse, with a desire to remain safe and avoid what is perceived to be a deadly mode of transportation with other drawbacks, such as limited seating capacity and storage space.

The strong, silent type stopped being the archetype to model ourselves after a long time ago. Maybe weโ€™re not softer, but less interested in the prospect of broken bones and death. Not for nothing, but many millennials have witnessed lots of their friends and family members pass from motorcycle accidents.

And considering the increase in distracted driving accidents and proliferation of cell phone usage, having a protective metal box around oneself while out in the wild streets doesnโ€™t so uncool after all.

Motorcycle Movies Are No Longer Produced

Although there may be a perceived stigma around motorcycles for millennials, it does not necessarily mean millennials are not buying bikes. Several people in the millennial generation are still buying motorcycles and riding them regularly.

The question is, why are millennials buying motorcycles and riding them less than previous generations? The decrease in the number of millennials riding motorcycles could be the decreased availability and glorification of motorcycles in the media.

In the 80s and 90s, when motorcyclists were viewed as rebellious but cool, many films sensationalized and praised the life of a motorcyclist.

The Importance of Being an Environmentalist

Another possible reason for a decrease in the number of motorcycle riders is the fact that millennials have been heavily exposed to issues about the environment and climate change. Motorcycles, indeed, pollute the environment more than other forms of transportation. Accordingly, it’s possible that many people are looking into more environmentally friendly transportation methods.

Millennials have been exposed to a lot of media coverage, suggesting that buying motorcycles may contribute to the increase in global warming and climate change. With this in mind, it could be possible that millennials are choosing to ride motorcycles less because they believe that they pollute the environment more than other forms of transportation.

The Other Side

Contrary to most research, a CDK Global Lightspeed survey cited in Power sports Business found that 43 percent of all off-road motorbikes bought between 2019 and 2020 were by Millennials. However, one must take into account the considerable differences between off-road motorcycles and Harleys.

Off-road biking can be done competitively or as a sport with friends on the weekend. The style of riding differs greatly from the type of riding a Harley offers. In addition, the Harley lifestyle is as different from dirtbike culture as much as their respective components differ.

It is clear that millennials are undoubtedly interested in buying motorcycles and riding them regardless of the stigma implying that most millennials are not interested in riding. It may be possible that this is a myth, but it does indicate that there is an interest in motorcycles among the millennial generation.

Final Thoughts

Regrettably, there is no conclusive evidence to show that millennials ride motorbikes less frequently than previous generations. However, some factors may indicate that millennials are still interested in riding motorcycles.

Perhaps this interest will increase with the manufacture of less expensive, more accessible bikes that shy away from the lifestyle and culture centered around older audiences.