How the motorcycle market is changing
Back in the 1960s, many motorcycles you’d see out on the road were sporty, smaller-engined machines meant for fun. Along the way, they added weight and power to continue to appeal to the baby boomer market as it aged. These days, the motorcycle industry is again in transition.
“There’s a decline in the sales of big, high-end cruisers in favour of a shift toward smaller-displacement sportier bikes,” says Bryan Hudgin, PR
Specialist for Yamaha Motor Canada. “And while the current economy and aging boomers have something to do with that, it’s more a reflection of the echo boom: baby boomers’ kids coming into the sport.”
This demographic (roughly 26 to 40 years old) isn’t as interested in owning a cruiser as their parents are. They’re at a point in their lives where priorities are buying a house, raising a family, and building a career.
Another significant trend is the ever-growing number of women riders. “Women riders made up a very small percentage of motorcyclists twenty-five years ago. Today, women riders make up around 12 to 15 percent of all motorcyclists and are influencing the both design and image of motorcycles,” adds Bob Ramsay, President of the MMIC.
Utility plus fun
It comes down to simple economics. With less disposable income, they want less expensive, versatile bikes for transportation and recreational use, says Hudgin.
There have been a number of standard “naked” or “all-round” motorcycles marketed in the last several years to meet demand for such machines. They fit the definition of a do-everything, affordable bike that’s also fun to ride whether commuting to work or school, riding your favourite backroads, or light touring duty.
Standard motorcycles offer good value (in the $8,000 to $10,000 range), comfort from an upright seating position, and weight that’s easy to manouevre (200-220 kg/450-485 lbs). Engine capacity generally ranges from 600-650 cc with a claimed horsepower rating between 65 and 70 bhp. Higher end models have greater power and displacement, from 850-1050 cc.
Samples of popular street models include: Suzuki Gladius, Suzuki Bandit, Suzuki V-Strom, Yamaha FZ6, Kawasaki Versys, and Kawasaki ER-6n. Others in the category that are somewhat more expensive are the automatic transmission-equipped Aprilia Mana 850, BMW R1200R, Moto Guzzi Breva 750, Triumph Tiger 1050, Honda CBF 600SA, and Ducati Monster 696.
They are joined by a list of other motorcycles that are ideal for newbies, but are not as versatile because of their smaller size, or because they are purpose-built like small-displacement cruisers and sport bikes.
In addition to standard motorcycles are a variety of dual-purpose bikes. They’re equally suited to younger buyers who also want to venture off the beaten path, since they’re designed for both on- and off-road riding.
Dual-purpose motorcycles are categorized into three groups:
* Lightweight: weigh 110 to 140 kg (250-300 lbs.), have high fenders and ground clearance with long travel suspension, and dirt-oriented tires called knobbies.
* Middleweight: 140 to 160 kg (300-350 lbs.), have less suspension and travel than lightweights, and tires suited for dirt and pavement.
* Heavyweight: more than 160 kg., good for long-distance riding mostly on pavement; also called adventure bikes by some manufacturers.
The dual-purpose market segment has seen a revival, with new models offered over the last few years, and the growth of this segment has continued, says Hudgin. Popular models in this category include: BMW F650GS and F800GS, Kawasaki KLR 650, Suzuki DR650SE and DR-Z400, Yamaha WR250 and XT250, Honda XR650L and CRF230, and KTM Adventure 990.