This was the First Gear column written by Editor-in-Chief Greg Drevenstedt for the February 2023 issue of Rider. The magazine’s parent company runs MyVoiceRewards, an ongoing panel survey that rewards participants with gift cards for completing surveys.
Motorcyclists are a select group. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, there were 10.4 million U.S. motorcycle owners in 2020, which is just 3.1% of the 331,449,281 Americans recorded in the census.
Motorcyclists are also a misunderstood group. We participate in a wholesome, fun, skill-based activity, but most of our fellow citizens think we’re crazy for doing so. They believe we have a death wish, but in fact, the opposite is true. Riding a motorcycle makes us feel alive. We enjoy the sensations, the escape, the freedom, the challenge, the thrill – and yes, the risk.
Despite persistent stereotypes, few of us are hell-raising outlaws or adrenaline-fueled daredevils. On average, motorcyclists tend to be older males, mostly married guys with families, jobs, and mortgages. But that’s changing. According to the MIC, the proportion of motorcyclists who are female increased from 6% in 1990 to 19% in 2018.
Every couple of years, Rider conducts a reader survey to help us get to know you better. Just as we appreciate the emails and letters we receive from our readers, we also value feedback we receive through surveys. I’d like to extend a personal thanks to the 2,010 of you who completed our 2022 survey.
From the responses, we know that 79% of our readers are married, 81% have a college degree or have attended a vocational school, 65% have a household income of $75,000 or above, and 30% are active military or veterans.
More than one-third (37%) of you own just one motorcycle, but 27% own two, 14%own three, and 20% own four or more. BMW, Harley-Davidson, and Honda are the most popular brands, but every major brand from Aprilia to Zero is represented among our readers.
Related: 2023 Motorcycle Buyers Guide: New Street Models
In terms of type of motorcycles owned, the most popular are touring (37%), sport-touring (31%), adventure (27%), cruiser (25%), naked/standard (17%), dual-sport (16%), and vintage (12%). But let’s not leave out dirtbikes (9%), scooters (6%), sportbikes (4%), trikes (4%), sidecars (1.5%), and electric motorcycles (<1%). (The total adds to more than 100% because respondents could select more than one type.)
Our readers are experienced riders: 87% of you have been riding for 20 years or longer, and 8% have been riding for 11-20 years. When readers were asked to rank the primary use of their motorcycle(s), the top choice was day rides/pleasure, followed by light touring/weekends, touring, adventure touring, commuting, and off-road.
In the past year, 24% of you rode less than 3,000 miles, 31% rode 3,000-5,999 miles, 23% rode 6,000-9,000 miles, 20% rode 10,000-24,999 miles, and a highly dedicated 2% rode 25,000 miles or more.
In addition to our reader survey, our parent company conducts research on all powersports segments through a program called MyVoiceRewards. You may have received an email from us or seen ads in the magazine, our e-newsletter, or on our website inviting you to join. Nearly 2,000 of you have signed up so far, and folks who take surveys earn gift cards for their participation.
Since last March, the MyVoiceRewards team has conducted motorcycle-related surveys about helmets, jackets, tires, audio, service and maintenance, events and rallies, ride-assist technology, and ride sharing/rentals. As a former number cruncher, I enjoy digging into the results and pulling out interesting nuggets of info, such as the following:
- 91% wear a motorcycle helmet all the time, 7% wear one some or most of the time, and 2% rarely wear one.
- Full-face (41%) and modular (30%) are the most popular types of helmets. 92% own two or more motorcycle helmets (30% own five or more –that’s a lot of lids!).
- 90% own two or more motorcycle jackets (7% own five or more).
- When buying motorcycle tires, 72% expect to pay between $100 and $200 per tire.
- 45% buy motorcycle tires through a dealer, while 41% buy them online and 11% buy them from a mechanic.
- In terms of ride-assist technologies, 72% own a motorcycle equipped with ABS, 39% with traction control, 38% with ride modes, and 30% with tire-pressure monitoring.
- 65% listen to music or podcasts when they ride. 65% use a helmet communication system, 36% use an audio/stereo system with speakers, and 19% use earbuds.
- 42% do their own motorcycle maintenance, 38% rely on dealers, 11% go to independent repair shops, and 7% have friends or family members work on their bike (I hope that 7% of you provide the pizza and beer!).
- 37% attended a motorcycle event or rally in the past year, and 52% attended one in the past 1-5 years.
- The most popular activities at events or rallies are bike shows (71%), demo rides (71%), food and beverage (65%), local tourism (65%), group rides (53%), and live music (52%).
- 42% are familiar with peer-to-peer motorcycle rental programs, and 52% think motorcycle ride sharing will grow in popularity, but less than 2% rent out their own motorcycle to others.