Episode 46 – Are Millennials Killing Harley and Motorcycling?

Today we are exploring if Millennials are actually killing Harley and the Motorcycle industry as a whole.


With all the internet trolling experts out there claiming that millennials are ultimately killing the motorcycle industry and Harley as a brand, we take a look at real data.

Actual Demographics: According to a 2018 Motorcycle Industry Council Survey here are the demographics for riders:

  • Median Age: 50 years old (compared to 45 in 2012)
  • Married: 68% (Compared to 63% in 2012)
  • College Grads: 24% (Compared to 17% in 2012)
  • Gender: 81% men, 19% women (compared to 10% in 2009)
  • Motorcycle Ownership: 13,158,100 (2mil more than in 2009)
  • Motorcycles in households: 8.02% (compared to 6.94%) 10,124,400 homes have a motorcycle
  • Household Income: $62,500 (compared to $64,100 in 2012)
  • Employment Status: 71% work, 24% are retired


What are millennials surveyed as to wanting?

  • 69% say they want electric bikes citing environmental impact and fuel economy as the top reasons.
  • Over 50% have taken a rider course (MSF, Riders’ Edge, etc.)
  • How do they use their bike: Commuting!


What should we actually focus on:

  • Economy - Millennials came into the workforce during one of the most turbulent economies in history, (We also were in an impressionable age during the gas “crisis” that followed hurricane Katrina that caused us to be a bit more mpg conscious than others)
  • College - 36% of millennials have graduated college, compared to 1980 where only 24% were college grads… So What? College is an expensive endeavor, and does not guarantee a comfortable living, instead it guarantees insane student debt.
    40% of millenials have student debt (copmared to 24% of boomers. Source: AARP)
    Avg. student debt amount for millenials $34,504 (8% YOY increase) Source: Experian
  • Millennials are buying motorcycles that are fit for purpose, lower cc’d bikes that are meant for commuting and heavily urbanesque environments, not for touring or carving twisties out on the country roads.
  • Millennials aren’t buying motorcycles because they are cool, which is what Gen Xers did, instead, they are looking at bikes as a means of transportation that is easier to own than a car
  • Design tastes are not the same as Gen X riders, they like a more vintage, cafe-style design with a less is more concept

Saddlebag Giveaway: For everyone who donates $20 to Project Clean Slate, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a set of Advanblack color matched (to your Harley) stretched saddlebags. We are limiting this to only 500 entries, and if you want your name entered more than once, donate an additional $20 for every entry you would like. And remember, if you don’t win, you can rest assured that the money is going to a great cause, and it is a tax write off. Head over to betweentwowheels.com, click the project clean slate link, and donate today!


How do these factors alter the industry?

  • A massive growth in the sub-$10k bike range
  • New models that are more of a resurrection of the “old glory days” such as bobbers and cafe racers
  • Significant design enhancements in the middleweight engine classes, primarily around 500cc, manufacturers are making these bikes cool
  • Clearly manufacturers are listening to the millennials, as we are seeing greater advertising and R&D spend on these smaller, more agile motorcycles
  • Bucking the system - Millennials don’t want big, expensive motorcycles, they want cheap transportation with a low cost of entry, and amazing fuel economy (53 cars on the market today get 45mpg or better)
  • Massive HOGs are no longer cool in the sub 35 year olds, lean, mean, & cheap are the names of the game.
  • Triumph had it’s largest sales growth in its history, primarily selling sub-$10k motorcycles to younger riders


So are millennials actually killing motorcycling?

Roadblock - Not in my opinion, we are forcing the motorcycle industry to mature their styling models to appeal to more than a 50 year old married man, with 2.5 kids, and going through a mid-life crisis. We are demanding innovation while forcing the industry to do better by the environment

Justin - Changing it, yes. Killing it, no. Think of the biggest growth factors. Social media - Millennial creation and millennial ran. Apps - Millennial created and millennial ran. Motovlogging - Millennial created and millennial ran.

Ken - Not at all, sort of. They are killing the old way of doing things. They look for cheaper and more reliable things. My wife did that when she couldn't afford a new car but could buy a new motorcycle. Smaller payment better gas mileage.

Closing Argument:
What sub-800cc motorcycle would you own, and why?

Roadblock - KTM 790 Duke

UK - For commuting around town I'd take most any sport bike. They're so many out there that it's a really saturated market which keeps the entry cost down and they're pretty reliable.

Justin - FZ07 or Triumph Street Triple