While listening to Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich talk to Matt Miller of “Bloomberg Markets” last week, something Levatich said really struck me. He was discussing how the industry needs to grow the total number of riders and talking about H-D’s growth in the outreach demographics.
“[We’re] speaking to those outreach segments, investing in rider training, as we are with the Riding Academy, to help people realize how awesome it is, like you know, to ride a motorcycle,” he told Miller, a Sportster Forty-Eight owner. “And motorcyclists like you and me having conversations like this, telling the world, ‘You need to think about motorcycling because it’s awesome.’”
Hearing that got me thinking about how outsiders view powersports vehicles and what those of us who work in the industry are doing to change any misconceptions.
Sure, we love talking about riding with our peers, but what happens when we meet resistance? Most of us shrug it off, not wanting to get into an argument or a long explanation about how fun and safe the sport can be. I think we should change that and confront the issue head-on whenever possible.
Let me present a few examples of daily interactions we all have and talk about how we can work to possibly change people’s minds about the industry.
Example 1: You pull up to a gas station with your bike, and a 20-something male walks by and says, “Nice bike!”
Most of us probably just say, “Thanks” and walk away. But picture this conversation:
Biker: Thanks! Do you ride?
Bystander: No, I can’t afford it.
Bike: Can’t afford it? Sure, my bike isn’t the cheapest one we sell, but do you know you can get into a pre-owned or entry-level bike for under $150 per month? That’s really not bad. Plus, you get the benefit of using the HOV lane and passing traffic during your commute, and the gas mileage is great!
Bike: Yeah! I’m a tech at the local XYZ Powersports dealership. Stop by and tell the sales team that Mike sent you, and he’ll find you what you’re looking for.
Example 2: Someone on an airplane asks what you do for a living, and you tell her you’re a motorcycle, ATV and UTV dealer. She says, “Motorcycles and ATVs are too dangerous.”
Instead of agreeing with her and stopping the conversation, you can talk about the rider training you offer, the safety gear you sell and the success you’ve had as a rider. Offer her a side-by-side demo, so she can see the safety measures each OEM has implemented into the machines.
Example 3: You’re at your child’s sporting event, and one of the parents asks you how you’re able to manage to ride such a big, two-wheeled motorcycle.
Offer him a chance to sit atop your Jumpstart simulator, witness a rider’s course, or, if he’s really intimidated by two wheels, give him a ride on a Spyder or trike.
Example 4: Your cashier at the grocery store sees your dealership T-shirt, says she’s always wanted to ride but admits she’s intimated by the biker culture.
Invite her to your next dealership event, where she’ll likely run into her dentist, bank teller and hair stylist — people she’ll relate to. Introduce her to local riding groups and show her how she’ll fit in with them.
These are just a few examples, but you get the point. If we’re going to grow this industry, we have to talk about it in a positive light. We have to essentially “spread the good news” about riding and why everyone should be a rider. It’s a grassroots effort, sure, but if all of us in the industry talk about motorcycling every chance we get, we can all make a big impact on growing ridership.
Liz Keener is the managing editor of Powersports Business, a trade magazine for the powersports industry. She reports on the powersports industry through Powersports Business’ varied media, including in the magazine and online. She produces the magazine’s annual Market Data Book and handles a variety of assignments for the magazine and its ancillary products. Powersports Business is known for its exclusive dealer surveys, in-depth industry analysis, Power 50 dealership honors program and dealer education.