Kids these days

The kids are alright.
A lot -- in fact, most -- of my connection to the wider motorcycling world comes via the interwebs. And I've talked before about the fact there are a number of revolving themes within the internet side of that community: helmets, and filtering, and holding a vociferous opinion on Harley-Davidson, and so on and so on. 

One of the themes that shows up quite often, an opinion that will show up several times in the comments section of almost any web story about the launch of a new/revamped model of motorcycle, is the one that goes: "We need to get more young people riding."

Do we, though?

I mean, really: does it matter that the median age of motorcyclists in the United States is 40-ish? 

That's a surprisingly difficult to clarify statistic, by the way. Though it frequently gets dragged out to show the dire state of things -- that motorcycling is doomed. I'm not able to find a recent, reliable source for the statistic but it generally ranges between 42 and 49 years old. Old enough to legally have sex with someone half your age. Old enough to be a parent. If you're a Mormon, old enough to be a grandparent. And, dude, that is soooo old.

But here's a question, a genuine question to which I am not really suggesting an answer: If motorcycling in Western countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom has become an activity dominated by people in their late-summer and autumn years, is that really such a bad thing?

I can definitely see the advantage of getting more people into motorcycling. More is better. It encourages innovation, a wider variety of products and broader acceptance/awareness of motorcyclists. And I'm especially in favour of encouraging a wider diversity of people, i.e., not just white men. But do those people need to be young

Or do we just wish they were young so we can feel young by association? 

Certainly that's a fair enough desire. I'm 38 years old and I'll admit that I do certain old-man things like telling the university students who live upstairs to turn their music down, or making a conscious effort to eat enough fiber. I'm not necessarily proud of these facets of my personality, though. I don't want to wave the flag for old man-ism. I still feel quite youthful mentally and I'd like to think that the things I do are more an extension of that. So, you know, if the overall image of motorcyclists was a little more youthful and a little less white guys burning their khakis on the tail pipes of their fringe-adorned Harleys (a), I guess that would be OK. I guess that in some way that would make me feel young and hip by association.

Maybe. But beyond their second-hand cool, what do young riders bring to motorcycling? Are they the consumers driving innovation in new bikes? These days technologies like ABS are filtering down to the lower-priced bikes that would likely be of interest to a jobless millennial, but they didn't start there. Technology tends to start at the high end, the stuff most often being bought by the chap who, when shopping for a new bike, considers how the seat will affect his prostate.

Young man, you will throw your back out doing that.
Additionally, young riders, if they are anything at all like I was as a young driver, are highly unlikely to improve the overall reputation of motorcyclists. Perhaps we might like for the people around us to think that the person beneath the helmet is young and hip, but we almost certainly want the irrational rage and discrimination that young people often find themselves being the recipients of.

Or, maybe we do. Maybe that is all young people need bring to the table: attitude and enthusiasm. Spirit.

Ever been to a classic car show? Row after row after row of the finest versions of the fastest cars in history... all lovingly buffed and polished by torpid, pot-bellied old dudes who will never, ever, push said cars to their abilities. Those guys are the antithesis of why the cars were made in the first place. They are the motoring version of smooth jazz. I sometimes see the same thing in motorcycling and it makes me feel sad.

So maybe we do need young people. Not for the sake of motorcycling, but for motorcyclists. What do you think?

__________

(a) I don't mean to make fun of that guy. I don't know him and I'm sure he's a very cool fella. But you get my point.

Comments

  1. I'm exactly your age and also just getting into motorcycles (you've got a year head start on me - I've got my MSF class next weekend). I don't think it's relevant if "young" guys pick up the hobby, as long as it never dies out. I mean, does it matter if new motorcyclists are 16 or 40 or 60? Sure, the 16 year old will (likely) be a motorcyclist longer than a 60 your old will, but in the end, that doesn't mean that there will be more riders because people start earlier, right?

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