The Midwest, Milwaukee, Wisconsin specifically is home to Harley-Davidson motorcycles as classic an American icon that there ever was. In the summertime scoots swarm the streets and highways in a seemingly endless parade of blue jeans, black t-shirts and leather. As a kid I started out riding on dirt bikes, little 80cc puddle jumpers that have enough high end torque to blow my hair back and put some fear in my head. One of my buddies had a dirt bike and would let me ride every now and then but he eventually grew tired of my begging. Fortunately I was introduced to a dirt bike that was at my step-father’s mother’s house but my excitement was dampened when told that someone had to be around for me to ride it. Well….that was my first real taste rebellion and I’d take that thing out at will; permission or not. I managed to screw that all up when I crashed it in a farmer’s back field. In my defense; the puddle was deeper than Lake Michigan.
A love affair was born. I bought my first street motorcycle in my early 20’s, rode that into the ground and bought a Harley at 30. Haven taken to the lifestyle and the image 100% my wife and I ride a lot with our friends. We bar hop on the weekends. We do short day rides of 250 miles. We go to rallies, parties, swap meets, shows, wherever there are motorcycles in one form or another at an event, it’s for us and our friends. Were it not for our bothersome jobs and frickin’ snow we would ride year round. There is something to be said for the potentially nomadic lifestyle a scoot can offer. And, no, she doesn’t have her own bike. Call it what you will but I enjoy having my lady on the back and she likes being there.
This past weekend I was riding with my old man, a buddy and assorted other desperadoes on a run out to one of your favorite spots called Poopy’s, “Get shit faced at Poopy’s”. Brilliant. As long as I have been riding and seen so many places there has been one constant;
I am always the youngest person there.
Granted, the bouncy bar-tenders are almost always younger than me and there might be the odd kid that naively rolls up on a crotch-rocket, but at every bar, rally, or show I am among the youngest group of riders. I’m 35 years old and have been viewed as a creepy old dude for years by the 25 and under crowd, so don’t think me some Fresh-to-death idiot with spiked hair. Hell, I don’t have any hair! That took off about 3 years ago. The baby-boomers (my dad being one of them) and their ilk dominate the biker scene and have for a while, so everything is tailored to their needs and wallets.
Three of us were standing there hammering down beers, listening to the same dusty classic rock that every bar owner and band assumes every biker wants to listen to and I asked my old man in a slightly smart-assed yet serious way,
“Where do all the young riders hang out? This place is a sea of grey hair and leather butts”, I went on with my thought, “this place needs to start adjusting now to the coming change. The demographic of riders is going to change drastically in about 5 years when the boomers start deciding that they don’t want to ride anymore, or can’t ride anymore.”
My buddy Jerry added “that fact is not lost on the Harley. Have you noticed that they are trying to freshen up their marketing? And lower the prices of their bikes and make them look cooler? The days of boomers plopping down 25 G’s for a sled are coming to an end”.
The economy of the world changed a few years ago. It may well have changed forever and by extension the world of motorcycles is changing as well. The market for over accessorized, over engineered, overpriced motorcycles is shrinking along with its aging customer base. The Boomers will not be able to support this industry much longer as they retire on smaller pensions, 401k’s and portfolios that they thought would be secure forever. Now is the time for motorcycle manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and Victory to look at who is behind the Boomers and focus their energies on the riders coming up like me. We thank all the old timers that laid the road before us and we will wait our turn, but not forever.