The industry is looking for new ways to attract women and younger riders.
As the weather warms up, many Texans tune up their motorcycles and get them out of the garage. Texas ranks third in the nation for the number of registered hogs and choppers, but the industry is in trouble. As baby boomers age out, sales for many manufacturers are either flattening out or falling.
Robert Pandya, a former motorcycle executive, and founder of the group Give a Shift, spoke with Host David Brown about a report his group put together on declining ridership and what to do about it.
“There is a need to have this conversation,” Pandya says. “I realize that motorcycling isn’t for everybody out there. It’s a part of the transportation matrix, but the conversation is not happening.”
One of the demographics that manufacturers are missing out on is women.
“Women make up 14 percent of registered riders,” Pandya says. “There may actually be a higher percentage a lot of times a guy may go in and buy the bike so it’s a male name on the title. The opportunity for growth and to include more growth is phenomenal.”
Apparel is one way the industry tries to attract more females. The industry term for modifying clothes for a female market is “shrink it or pink it. This means just making a jacket or helmet a few sizes smaller and coloring it pink or purple. More nuance may be required to attract this under-represented demographic.
“There are manufacturers who are creating female-centric clothing that actually fits right that actually looks cool that is a complement to your motorcycling,” Pandya says. “Instead of it feeling like you’re wearing somebody else’s costume you’re actually in the right gear for you. That makes you more confident as a rider.”
The industry is starting to become conscious of the fact that up until this point they have largely ignored Generation X in favor of the baby boomer generation. Pandya says the conversation about increasing ridership for young people is starting to happen but hasn’t had the public attention it deserves.
“Almost every single car I passed on my way to the studio here had just one driver in it,” he says. “Here on UT campus there’s a huge shortage of parking spaces. If more people were on scooters or small motorcycles the freedom that a lot of college students are getting for the first time in their lives is complemented by two wheels and a motor.”
Pandya realizes that there are certain people who will never have any interest in motorcycling due to safety and other concerns. However, he does believe that it’s worth preserving for the people who want the freedom motorcycling can bring.
“As an option out there it’s a compelling thing to be on two wheels, to be in the environment riding through it,” he says. “You’re in the movie, you’re not watching the movie.”