We’re all in agreement. Covid sucks, we’re sick of lockdowns, and for most of us, 2020 was the worst year in living memory.
“It’s been a really, really positive thing to happen to the motorcycle industry, which is insane because of all the suffering it’s inflicted,” says Dave Grummett, the director of communications for the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council. “As long as we can keep people employed through this and evolve into a new normal, there is a bit of a reset happening.”
The “bit of a reset” is that people have recognized that motorcycles get you out of the house and into the fresh air. You may not be able to go to the movies, but you can go for a ride and have a lot more fun.
According to the MMIC, motorcycle sales for the first 11 months of this year are up 10.6 per cent compared to the same 11 months last year. This includes:
• Dual-purpose motorcycles are up 34 per cent;
• Competition motorcycles (mostly motocross) are up 32 per cent;
• Off-road recreation motorcycles are up 61 per cent;
• Minibike sales are up 48 per cent.
These bikes are less than half the Canadian market, however, and sales of street bikes and scooters dropped this year, but not by much: street bikes were down 9 cent and scooters down 5 per cent.
There’s a plausible reason for this: new riders couldn’t take training courses or even sit their riding tests for much of the season, including the all-important months of April, May and June that are historically booked solid. As well, large-displacement motorcycles are often used for road trips, and few riders were straying far from home this year.
“If you talk to a lot of the dealers, they’ll tell you they’ve never had better years,” says Grummett. “When I see that rise in the sales of minibikes, that’s awesome – that’s the next generation of riders coming through. A friend of mine has a dealership in Saskatchewan, and he’s got kids coming in and their parents are like, yes, I’ll take that and all the gear – compared to hockey gear, motocross gear isn’t as expensive.”
For years now, that next generation has been slipping away as kids concentrate on team sports that sap both time and money. All of us who ride know that if pre-drivers have a chance to try out a relatively affordable dirtbike or minibike, they may well get hooked early instead of skipping straight to cars. The important thing is to follow up with appropriate training, which should be far more available next season.
Next year could also be the year for scooters and smaller commuter motorcycles to catch on in popularity, when people actively avoid the crush of public transit, and they have easy access to training and licensing. The cancellation of this winter’s motorcycle shows will be a handicap because it’s essential to keep new riders engaged in their newfound interest, but Grummett is optimistic that the current popularity of motorcycles and two-wheeled transportation can keep going into a welcoming season of riding in 2021.
“I think that Covid just made everybody re-evaluate what was important, including the mental health benefits of going out for a ride,” he says. “You put the helmet on and you isolate from all the fears and all the stresses and you just go out and go for a ride.”
He’s preaching to the choir here at Canada Moto Guide, but that’s okay – those healthy sales figures speak for themselves and they’re encouraging to see at last. Maybe there really is a small silver lining to this crappy year, and maybe 2021 will be a growth year for motorcycles and all who love them. Let’s hope so.