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State of Confusion? No, Time of Transition

Balancing financial stewardship with the cultural demands of an enthusiast-driven business is as big a challenge today as it was 40 years ago.


There are so many things to consider these days as a participant in the motorcycle industry, how could it not be confusing? Technology is right at the top of the list. Of course, trying to understand the evolution of changing demographics is driving everyone crazy. Balancing financial stewardship with the cultural demands of an enthusiast-driven business is as big a challenge today as it was 40 years ago. Let’s not forget image in this ego-driven sector of society. What about the overall decline in the American Moto Culture?

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So why is technology so important? Whether you are a motorcycle manufacturer, a major distribution company, an aftermarket manufacturer or a small builder/parts manufacturer, technology will help you effectively compete against every other business in the universe vying for your customer’s dollars. The logistics of getting parts to end users seems to be changing on a daily basis. Successful internet presentations and social media views get you noticed but if you can’t deliver, impatient end users can shut down your momentum. You must have the right products aimed at the right audience. Boomers are still an important segment to consider as their preferences of baggers and trikes can generate huge sales dollars in customization and performance. Younger riders without as much disposable income seem to be attracted to DIY product lines and a lower-cost entry into motorcycling that allows them to personalize their rides as they go.


How do you grab the attention of a millennial, then get them to be as involved with their machine as they are with the social experiences motorcycling creates? Facing the operational, product development and market position challenges are difficult enough, but if it is not done in a profitable manner you will be gone tomorrow like so many other good intentions. I know boomers like to accumulate things and millennials like to accumulate experiences, but there has to be a common motivator that brings us together to celebrate the great American Moto Culture. The bigger problem is the great American Moto Culture is not as great as it used to be. Just check out your local grocery and airport magazine outlets, no motorcycle magazines, no ATV magazines, no RV magazines, one truck magazine and maybe two car magazines. Check out the shrinking Hot Wheel selection at Walmart. I know print media may not be the best measure, but there are plenty of gun and gaming magazines still on the stands.

There can be no more confusion how we must all work together to attract new blood and create new moto enthusiasts. No more talking about the ’90s or the good old days. No more reactive, cut-back strategies, but proactive, inclusive approaches are paramount to market growth. No matter how we define our personal involvement as off-roaders, racers, customizers or adventure tourers, we must all serve as active disciples at the Altar of Internal Combustion. Sharing knowledge seems to me is the basis of a strong marketplace for all future moto enthusiasts. As larger companies figure out the latest logistics technologies and help entrepreneurial startups, we all become more efficient. Sharing your experiences when you find a better route to travel, a better way to install an accessory or a new place to hang out makes it easier for the new guy.


Volunteering to help your buddy when he or she buys a new exhaust system creates a “shared experience” that you will always remember. As demographics continue to evolve, the thrill of two-wheel adventure and the satisfaction of working on your own ride to create a personal statement should still be the common denominator that transcends age. As an endeavor, the love of motorcycling should not be a price-driven activity but a value-based activity from the amount of satisfaction received beyond our daily routine. Let’s be clear, the camaraderie of motorcycling has always made the sport a special activity and is the key to the future growth of our industry and a bright future.

Bob Kay is the V-twin director of AIMExpo/MIC Events. He’s been involved in the motorcycle industry for more than four decades. More recently he has helped produce custom bike shows, including the AIMExpo Championship of the Americas.

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