By Fran O’Hagan, Contributing writer
Ryan McFarland, the founder of Strider kids bicycles, told his motorcycle industry audience at the Orange County IMS Outdoors event that today only one in five kindergarteners know how to ride a bicycle. Similarly, most young drivers today have never learned to use a clutch to drive a car with a manual transmission. Most motorcycles require both balance and use of a clutch, and in the past one could assume that new motorcycle customers would already be familiar with both.
The motorcycle industry is aware of both of these challenges, and at the Orange County IMS there were plenty of examples of efforts to introduce motorcycling to a broader audience. Here are a few:
• Strider kids bicycles offered easy-to-ride bikes and an obstacle course to entice young kids to try bicycling. In addition, founder McFarland has created “All Kids Bike,” an initiative to introduce bicycle riding in elementary school phys-ed classes.
• Robert Pandya helmed Discover the Ride for IMS. It has taught 5,000 brand new riders over the past year, using Zero Motorcycles that require no clutch. The MIC’s new Ride With Us program promises to take over and continue to introduce new motorcyclists to riding.
• Manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson and Honda have their own new rider programs, too. Harley-Davidson’s Jen Hoyer explained that its program has trained 71,000 riders so far in 2021.
• New products are also removing the barriers. Honda just introduced the 2022 Navi, with the styling of a motorcycle but low seat height and the simplicity of a continuously variable transmission and an affordable $1,807 price.
• Battery-powered bicycles also provide a path to attract new riders, some of which will graduate on to motorcycling. The Orange County IMS is a motorcycle event, but power assist bicycles were there, too. Husqvarna displayed its easy-to-ride, battery-powered kids’ bicycles, and provided a demo track for kids to try them.
No, today we can’t count on as many kids riding bicycles or teens learning to drive a stick, but the motorcycle industry is working hard in other ways to attract new riders.