Dealers must be actively involved in youth riding – if anything, to ensure a future customer base.
PLENTY OF today's riders got their start when they were kids, either zipping through a field on a minibike or conquering the local p/eewee motocross competition.
Getting kids involved in riding sometimes means overcoming economic factors, the lure of other sports and dwindling land usage. The challenge for dealers is to not only reach out to the youth market, but to get them riding for years to come.
Motorcycling is a generational sport in many families, and one of the easiest ways to reach the youth is to entice the parents. Bill Savino, motorcycle press manager for American Honda Motor Co., says, “It’s much more the family: We camp, we like to bring dirtbikes out, and we like to ride. Dad had a bike, and so the son gets a bike. That’s one of the reasons we like some of the smaller bikes — like the CRF125 — to look like the bigger bikes, so they can be just like dad or mom.”
"Dad had a bike, and so the son gets a bike. That’s one of the reasons we like some of the smaller bikes — like the CRF125 — to look like the bigger bikes, so they can be just like dad or mom."
-- Bill Savino, American Honda
Even in offroad racing, families get involved. Jeff Massey, vice president of operations for the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), says, “Typically you’ll see dad and son, or dad and son and daughter, even moms who are geared up and racing with their kids. That’s one of the beauties of the sport: It’s truly a family sport that everyone can participate in.”
James Holter, managing editor for AMA, notes that “there’s some evidence that there’s been greater participation in various types of motorcycling. In the ‘70s and ’80s, motocross was the big one in terms of youth competition, but we’re seeing an increase in hare scrambles [and] trials, and we’re seeing kids out there racing a lot of different things.”
The shared love of riding across generations takes on a more sentimental note for many families. Mike McCommons, who owns the Durhamtown Plantation offroad facility in Union Point, Ga., says that parents often say that riding is the only activity their whole family enjoys together. Parents also get to teach lessons about things like teamwork.
“When there’s an obstacle they come upon, they solve it together. It generates unity: it brings families together. I see it every week,” McCommons says.
Enticing parents to get their kids involved is one thing, but getting them to shell out money for a motorcycle is another. A lot of kids are turning instead to less expensive sports, like BMX, which can prepare them for dirtbike racing later. McCommons says that about 30 percent of Durhamtown’s 75,000 annual visitors are kids and women, but his youth participation has dropped about 75 to 80 percent in the last four years.
Savino agrees that pricing is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to getting kids on bikes.
“The big thing that we’re really fighting against is trying to keep the cost down,” he says. “We’ve tried to keep the cost similar to what it was five or six years ago. We’re working with plants across the world with that same quality and trying to build that same Honda product we’ve always built, but make it something a family can afford.” (continued)