It’s been 8 years since the economy went into free fall, but the motorcycle business still hasn’t recovered fully. The industry sold 382,000 on-road motorcycles in 2014, according to Motorcycle Industry Council. That’s a 3.7 percent increase from 2013, but the number is far short of the 1.1 million motorcycles that were sold at the industry’s 2007 peak.
What that means for riders: Fewer new models from which to choose exist than in previous model years. Instead, manufacturers increased the amount of variation to carry-over models by adding wind screens and saddlebags to produce touring models or by adding safety features, such as anti-lock brakes (ABS). Further, the largely flat motorcycle sales figures from the past 3 years mean that prices increased only modestly over that period.
The industry is in the process of remaking itself. You’ll notice that models have been influenced by a demographic shift, as the sport’s bread-and-butter buyers—baby boomers—grow older. All of the dealers, motorcycle manufacturers and industry observers with whom we spoke agree: Younger riders don’t have the same desire for horsepower and ever-larger engines that older riders have, and the younger riders are more cost-conscious. “Our long-term strategy is ensuring our core customers get to ride longer, and we continue to bring new customers into the sport,” says Jennifer Hoyer of Harley-Davidson Motor.
Consequently, the price that’s on most models, even with significant updates, increased far less than 10 percent from 2012 to 2015. Because manufacturers shifted focus to the lower end of the market, you’ll notice small price increases even on entry-level models. For example, the Honda CBR250R increased 5 percent, and the Kawasaki Versys 650 increased 4 percent, despite adding ABS as standard equipment.