I’ll be the first to admit that I am new to motorcycling and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, perhaps my outlook might be valuable as an outsider.
There’s a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to motorcycling in the US. There are falling sales and fewer riders. I’ve read multiple articles and posts about how to turn this around in the US and a lot of that work has been handed to organizations outside of our direct area of control. So what can we do as motorcyclists? How can we get people riding again?
Well, I think a good starting point is doing what made me want to get into riding.
I don’t mean that to sound self-absorbed, but consider this: I grew up seeing my dad ride his Harley occasionally. I have fond memories of riding on the back of it as a kid. In my teens – the formative years where things start to set – I was obsessed with the popular motorcycle shows on Discovery not for the drama, but for the awesome motorcycles.
And I still didn’t get into motorcycles until I was thirty-three! I had all the makings of an avid fan, from being brought up in a motorcycle-friendly home to loving whatever motorcycles I saw.
So where was the turning point and how can we replicate it with other riders?
A) Ride to work. All the time.
My dad rode his Harley if two things were occurring: 1) it was the weekend and 2) the weather was nice. When you grow up seeing that, you begin to wonder just how practical a vehicle is if you can’t ride it in the rain or cold.
But one day during a winter in San Antonio (cold but not snowy) a coworker came up the stairs in his winter riding suit. I remarked something like “you must be nuts,” and he patiently responded that if you have the proper gear and ride safely, you can ride whenever you want.
Suddenly motorcycles started to seem like a viable option.
I saw him ride to work almost every single day and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’m the only one that would work on, either. If someone sees you ride to work almost every day, they can take their time finding out who you are, building a relationship, and asking about why you ride when it’s cold or wet outside and you can tell them all about how great riding is.
B) Be friendly.
Honda might have said you meet the nicest people on their bikes, but the rest of the media has a fascination with portraying bikers as very unsavory folks.
To combat this, just be as friendly and patient as you can. Everyone has questions and when you’re patient and friendly, people are more likely to ask the questions that will ease their mind about riding.
While you’re at it, feel free to lay out the logistical path to safe motorcycling. You can tell the prospective rider that they can, for a small fee and the cost of a helmet and some gloves, take the Basic RiderCourse to see if they like riding before even looking for a motorcycle of their own. You can be the voice of reason and caution when it comes to what kind of motorcycle to cut their teeth on. And you can definitely be the voice of safety when it comes to gear.
As a guy who loves checklists and milestones, having someone lay out the whole process from training to riding meant the world to me.
C) Follow Up
I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with new riders, but I can guarantee that a new rider would appreciate it if you rode around with them a time or two in order to get more comfortable with their bike and their skills. Go out to lunch or a ride along an easy route. Talk to them about what you notice and offer constructive criticism to get better. Be encouraging.
This will all help get a rider on a bike, safely riding, and establishing a love of the hobby and they can pay it forward with the next rider because you set such a good example.