When traveling on a bus tour for thousands of miles to far off places just won’t cut it, the motorcycle is the most desirable way for the more adventurous types — from all walks of life — to see the world in a way that wouldn’t be possible on a bus or in a car. Adventure touring (ADV) riders typically use their bike as a self-contained means of travel that allows them to explore the landscape more intimately than in a closed vehicle.
Most motorcyclists are, by nature, adventurers; otherwise, they’d probably stick to their caged vehicles. But the ADV segment expands more on the explorer side of a rider’s personality and is a growing niche segment that dealers can cater to if you do your homework.
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), the number of dual-sport motorcycles sold last quarter was about 11% of the market for two-wheelers. Overall in 2018, MIC said that of the 12.2 million motorcycles in use, 5% were dual-sport bikes. While it’s not the largest segment, it is one of the few that has continued to show growth over the last few years. Another MIC fact that may catch your attention is that of the nearly 30 million people who rode a motorcycle last year, 9.9 million of them ride both on-road and off-road, so there’s plenty of potential sales to the adventure rider population if you choose to tap into it.
“I definitely think that the ADV segment is growing,” said Alisa Clickenger, owner of Women’s Motorcycle Tours and moto-journalist. “I am beginning to see more families are getting involved in the sport, which I have long said that women, in particular, are the key to the health of the industry because they drive what families do for vacation and fun. And having just come from the BMW MOA, you know, there were a lot of adventure riders there, and a lot of them were women.”
Women’s Motorcycle Tours offers both on-road and off-road riding experiences, and Clickenger specializes in hosting women riders and teaching them how to ride.
“We’re women focused on supporting other women following their dreams and living lives they love. We focus on the individual experience and the camaraderie of the road and seek out fun places to explore and the best riding we can find in each area.”
Rene Cormier of Renedian Adventures Global Motorcycle Expeditions, who has been in business for 10 years now, said that they have to spend a lot of time qualifying customers to make sure they can handle the riding, and he stresses that it’s not for everyone. Some potential customers he turns away because they don’t have enough experience yet.
“The motorcycle community — by virtue of riding motorcycles, and this was something that we didn’t know before we started the company, but just something that became evident going on trips with a motorcycle — something unexpected is always going to happen,” Cormier explained. “That’s the nature of being outside on a bike. You’ll have weather issues or perhaps mechanical trouble or whatever the case may be. Usually, by the time people are experienced enough to come on a group tour with us, they’ve had their fair share of crazy adventures and silly things that have gone wrong. So when things go wrong on our tour because of a border issue, the police, weather or a flat tire or whatever, motorcycle riders can easily sit and say, ‘you know, how can we help?’“
Cormier said that his tours in Africa often encounter bus tour groups at their stops, and many of them look and wish they were riding.
“You should hear some of those stories that come out of those buses. If lunch is supposed to be at noon, and now it’s 12:05… ‘Oh yeah, I have low blood sugar, and I want my money back.’ We typically have lunch sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on most days. We don’t offer the cruise liner type experience. I can give you just one or two people in the last 10 years who were challenging to travel with, and the other 99.9% of people have been very delightful.”
Cormier said that in his 10 years of running tours, they have not slowed down yet. From his perspective, the ADV market is as healthy as ever.
“All I can say is from our internal experiences with the growth that we’re having over the last 10 years; we haven’t seen any sign of slowing down, even as we introduce new markets to our riders,” Cormier added.
Cormier said that a significant percentage of his customers have been on more than one tour with him.
“It’s a large part of the reason why we were encouraged to expand to new places. People come to Africa usually as their first tour, and they had a good time, so I think we do a pretty good job. I try to live by the rule of under promising and over delivering. That was the lesson we learned early on.”
Clickenger said ADV is a lot about going outside of your comfort zone.
“Off the street, out of the country. You see those things that surprise and delight.”
While she admits that any rider can have an adventure on any motorcycle, there’s a distinction between riding on paved roads vs. dirt and gravel for miles at a time.
“It’s defined by the motorcycle, but perhaps even more than that, it’s the mentality of doing something outside the box, seeing something new, breaking barriers and pushing yourself a little bit.”
Living on the edge may be second nature to many ADV riders. Our experts say the average ADV rider is usually someone who makes above average income and who tends to be a business owner or entrepreneur.
ADV riders will spend the money, so being seen as the dealer who caters to this group can bring in profits from PG&A as well as service. Touring riders may rent a bike to go overseas, but they will spend between $15,000 and $20,000 or more on a bike at home and more than $1,000 for gear, plus the extras that always creep up before a major trip.
If you are looking to tap into the ADV/Touring market vibe, a good start is to keep the appropriate gear and products in stock and train your staff to work with these customers and understand their adventurous nature.
Cormier and Clickenger both hold seminars and talks at dealerships throughout the country when they are not on tour. Cormier said he’s been to about 75% of BMW dealers to give lectures and that he would do more if a dealer is interested in bringing him in.
As a dealer helping facilitate trips and planning in a non-sales atmosphere, you will earn it all back when the time comes for ADV customers to buy.