Are Motorcycles Becoming Less Popular?

As the calendar continues its ride into 2017, there are signs motorcycles may not be as popular as everyone seems to think they are.

Obviously, bikers bitten by the riding bug are unquestionably passionate, and who hasn’t caught drivers checking out their motorcycle as they cruise by or while waiting at a stop light? But troubling numbers are coming from companies in the business of selling motorcycles and everything surrounding the two-wheeled past time, hinting the industry may be riding into some headwinds.

While both use different categories on what they consider heavier motorcycles, Harley-Davidson and Polaris parent company of Indian Motorcycle, recently reported challenging sales. Other brands show improving sales numbers, but this success comes largely from ‘affordable’ models with smaller engines aimed at bringing new riders into the world of motorcycles. Reportedly, some of the affordable models are sold on razor-thin profit margins which in itself isn't good for the ongoing success of the motorcycle industry.

Other motorcycle manufacturers enjoying improving sales are investing heavily in shipping and marketing more models into a growing number of countries, including North America.

BMW Motorrad's GS300 is certainly helping with the company's latest sales numbers

Adding to the speculation of a challenging motorcycle market in North America, a press release issued last week promoted how well aftermarket parts distributor J&P Cycles have been doing recently.

‘While retailers in the US motorcycle industry search for solutions to curb declining sales, J&P Cycles is achieving record-setting retail growth through their knowledgeable product staff members and improved customer experiences across all of their retail touchpoints,’ the release reads.

A quick note on just how well J&P Cycles are doing, it set a company record in April 2017 with over 100,000 customer transactions occurring online, via phone and at retail locations. During the same time period, J&P Cycles received a Bizrate customer rating of 9.2 (out of 10) in “likelihood to recommend” J&P Cycles to others. Bizrate is the leading source of online retail customer satisfaction data. 

“To achieve this level of growth and trust from riders means a great deal to us, especially as we approach our 40th anniversary,” said Zach Parham, Vice President of Merchandising of J&P Cycles and son of J&P Cycles founder John Parham. “We could not have achieved this milestone without our customers’ loyalty and our team’s tireless commitment.”

J&P Cycles at Daytona Bike Week

Company celebrations aside, the success of J&P Cycles leads to an obvious question of why others are challenged. When new motorcycle sales faced tough times in the past, the aftermarket parts industry always performed better. Whether from existing bikers upgrading or keeping their motorcycle on the road, or new riders going the route of previously owned machines, aftermarket sales would pick up.

Some could say, the newer models from motorcycle manufacturers enjoy a custom feel and include many accessories as standard, leaving little need to order aftermarket parts.

The other thought, newer riders are buying motorcycles for the purpose of transportation and not necessarily out passion. Parking the motorcycle when the work day is done and ignoring the open road on weekends would go a long way to explain the popularity of smaller-sized engines as well as apparent lack of enthusiasm of bikers wanting to ‘make it their own’.

The final trend to note in this question of where the motorcycle industry is heading, there are lot of company acquisitions taking place. From larger, multi-location dealerships buying independent 'Mom and Pop' dealers to aftermarket companies being bought by larger corporations, the numerous acquisitions could be called breathtaking. Even online, motorcycle websites, whether aimed at dealers or everyday riders, are being bought by larger publishers. At this point, we would use this as a reason for bikers to support independent motorcycle websites such as Clutch and Chrome with regular visits and by referring riding buddies.

As a rider does with the driver having trouble staying in a lane, Clutch and Chrome will continue to keep a watchful eye on all the trends mentioned in the article as we continue to ride through 2017. Aside from the sales of motorcycles and parts, apparel as well as attendance at biker events and rallies should give an idea to which lane the industry is sitting in.

In the meantime, looking to the positive, J&P Cycles will celebrate 38-years of operations by hosting the Iowa Rally on June 24-25, 2017 at the J&P Cycles original store in Anamosa, Iowa. The celebration includes over fifty motorcycle parts and accessories manufacturers, Cowboy Kenny’s Steel Rodeo motorcycle stunt show, live music, and food and beer vendors.

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Clutch and Chrome covers every aspect of the motorcycle lifestyle. Daily news, in-depth articles, reviews and anything that would interest a rider.


We not only produce our own motorcycle related videos but scour the internet to bring our readers the latest, greatest two-wheeled hits online.

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