By Matt Bolch
It’s no secret that more women are purchasing motorcycles, but new data from J.D. Power and Associates shows that cruisers are the preferred mode of two-wheeled transportation among this group.
Since J.D. Power’s 2003 survey, the percentage of women buying cruisers has gone up
42 percent, and the percentage buying sport bikes has increased more than 50 percent.
The overall numbers of female motorcycle buyers remains relatively low, but savvy powersports dealers recognize this trend and, if they haven’t already, start stocking products and accessories to capitalize on what must be called an emerging market opportunity.
Among all types of motorcycles, women buy slightly fewer than 12 out of every 100 sold, according to the J.D. Power data, a respectable 20 percent increase over the 2003 survey. Women now account for 8.4 percent of all sport bike purchases, and female riders buy 17 percent of all cruisers, making that segment the most-popular among women.
“Women are looking for something they can handle – not too tall and not too heavy,” said Brian Longshore, sales manager at Longshore Cycle Center, Florence, Ala. Longshore says cruiser models between 250cc and 800cc are popular among first-time female purchasers, while more experienced riders go for 1100cc-1300cc models. The dealership carries motorcycles from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki, and the sales manager notes that women don’t appear to be as brand conscious as male buyers are.
“Size and comfort are what they’re after, not so much brand,” he said of the dealership’s female clientele. “Guys are definitely more brand-oriented, while ladies might be a little pickier about color.”
Females also are more likely to bring in friends to help make a buying decision, especially other women motorcycle riders, he notes. Asked to name other differences between the sexes during the sales process, Longshore notes that women might not sweat the performance details that men do, stressing again the importance of comfort.
Sales at Perry Brothers Honda World in Salt Lake City have closely mirrored those reported in the survey, says Wes Elder, sales manager. “I’ve been here for three years, and women have become an important part of our market,” Elder said. “They’re generally well-educated about the product and know what they want.”
What they want are Honda Shadow Aeros and Shadow Spirits, machines with mid-range power and a lower center of gravity, Elder says. The dealership also has been seeing increased ATV sales to women.
“We also have a few sport bike gals who race at a local track,” said Elder, who adds the dealership has been increasing its selection of women’s riding apparel to further capitalize on the buying habits of its clientele.
The trend toward more female motorcycle enthusiasts has not escaped the notice of the owners of Andersons’ Sales & Service in Madison, Ind. Although co-owner Joshua Anderson notes that cruisers comprise the largest market segment among women at the store, the dealership recently sold a Honda CBR1000RR sport bike to a female buyer.
“We’ve been in business since 1997, and we’ve noticed a lot of women coming in with their husbands,” Anderson said. However, more women than ever are the ones who are in the market for a new or used bike. That’s why the Honda dealership has added more women’s clothing lines and expanded the color choices for riding gear.
The only reluctance Anderson has seen regarding women and motorcycles is in shifting gears. He relates the recent story of a man who bought a 250cc Honda Rebel for his wife, who brought the motorcycle back in exchange for a scooter. She didn’t have a problem with the motorcycle, per se, but wanted a machine with an automatic transmission.
Not many manufacturers have made the foray into automatic transmission units, although Oklahoma City-based Ridley Motorcycle Co. sells nothing but automatic motorcycles. Like many powersports dealers, Anderson has seen automatic transmission prototypes from major manufacturers such as Honda, but none have hit the American market in a big way yet. But as scooter enthusiasts begin to yearn for more powerful machines, that likely will change.
So far, the trend toward more motorcycle ownership among women hasn’t translated into new offerings aimed toward this growing segment, says Glenn Hansen, communications manager in the motorcycle/ATV division of American Suzuki Motor Corp. “Are we marketing specifically to women? No, we’re not,” Hansen said.
“We go to Bike Week and motorcycle consumer events and haven’t heard any anecdotal evidence about women motorcycle riders that would make us do anything different or market in a different way,” says Hansen, noting that the same motorcycle sizes, types and features that appeal to men also appeal to women.
Although the J.D. Power statistics clearly show the heightened appeal of bikes to females, dealers should be aware of local market conditions before knocking out a showroom wall for that ladies-only section.
Imperial Valley Cycle Center sells only a few cruisers to women each year, about 7 percent of total cruiser sales, manager Ryan Rebollar estimates. “Our market is different, with the cruiser/sport bike category our third or fourth best-seller,” Rebollar said.
“In a bigger metro area, you might see more women riders, but it’s just not a trend that we see,” Rebollar said.
By Matt Bolch