Thursday, February 21, 2008


US motorcycle sales down in 2007 for the first time in 15 years

Well, it finally happened. According to a report recently issued by the Motorcycle Industry Council, the first recent lag in annual domestic motorcycle sales happened in 2007. Final numbers aren't available yet, but I have to wonder if this slowdown is the first harbinger of the average Joe's interest in motorcycles starting to wane.

Motorcycling in pop culture reached a cult-like status in the 2000s with the cable TV-driven rise of celebrity bike builders and superbike roadracing. But I've noticed that the novelty is apparently starting to wear off as far as the general public is concerned. Shows like American Chopper have been bumped from constant rotation on the Discovery Channel and subsequently relegated to once-a-week airings on TLC. The TV bike building competitions have also disappeared, and moto-celebs like Jesse James and Arlen Ness seem to be fading back into obscurity.

As for racing, I don't know what to think yet. Speed Channel used to dedicate its entire Tuesday night prime time lineup to motorcycle racing replays and niche lifestyle shows, but the vast majority of those programs are now gone, too.

The popularity of motorcycles in the US has always ebbed and flowed with the culture and fashion of the time. In 1973, 1.6 million new motorcycles were sold here. Nineteen years later, that number had dwindled to approximately 280,000. In 2007, we're back up to 2.5 million, including ATVs, off-road bikes, and scooters. Maybe we're finally heading back into the valley after reaching an early 21st-century peak.

All in all, that may not be a bad thing for those of us who are serious, lifelong motorcyclists. We tend to lose fewer rights and are generally subjected to less hassle from the public, our legislators, and law enforcement in periods of regression.

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