Why Are Bikers Older?

Or… “why are there fewer young motorcycle riders?”

My friend WC asked me

Why are bikers an aging population, and why aren’t there more bikers on real bikes (not crotch-rockets)?

Hmmm… while I may not choose to ride a “crotch-rocket” (that is, a small motorcycle built for speed), they are motorcycles nonetheless. So to the first question…

1. Why are bikers an aging population?

Honestly, I really don’t know. I can speculate, but all I can do is take guesses. However, I really think it has to do with the cost of choices of expenses that younger people take on. I explain further by considering the comparison with my kid-bro cousin and myself.

My favorite biker cousin is of the millennial generation (30s), and like most millennials, he has changed jobs three times in the past five years, got married, bought his first house, and is now expecting children (yes, twins) in January. He represents many of his age cohort with what he calls “adulting.” No more staying out late, partying, drinking, and socializing.

It seems to me that most millennials have limited income and other financial demands imposed by technology that I did not have when I was their age.

When I was in my 30s, I had a good job but it was entry-level and paying fairly moderate wages. I bought my first house (and got my first 30-year mortgage), but the house was a mess that required three years of sweat-equity labor that I put into it to make it habitable.

Being a child of parents who endured The Great Depression, I learned to make a budget and stick with it. I did not spend money that I did not have. I used credit where required (home mortgage and car payments), but that was it. Other uses of credit found me paying the bill in full when due.

I purchased groceries and cooked meals at home. Eating in a restaurant or going to a movie ($3 entry) or a concert was a rare treat. I worked supplemental and odd-jobs to make additional money, like mowing laws (yeah, even in my 30s) and doing home repairs for people.

My mortgage payment was 30% of my take-home pay; my car payment was $100/month for three years. My utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, landline telephone) were about $100/month all-in. I had no student loans or other debt. I saved the rest of my money and spent it on “fun” things like my motorcycle and gear (including, ahem, “a few pairs” of boots.)

What I did not have when I was in my 30s that people of that age have today are: $200/month cell phone bills; $200/month cable TV and related on-line entertainment expenses; $100/month broadband internet bills; huge student loan payments; car payments that are higher than my first mortgage; and dining out often.

When you add it all up, the cost of paying college tuition costs, the trappings of technology, and choices for convenience impose a huge expense against a limited income, and younger people consider a cell phone, broadband internet, cable TV/entertainment, and eating out to be requirements (not options). Those priorities and choices are (and were) different from my own.

As young people divert their income to their priorities, I was among the generation without those expenses, so any disposable income I had went into a motorcycle, gear, and boots. Simple as that — differences in priorities.

I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I am on fairly safe ground to guess that the amount of money available to a younger person these days, even with higher-paying wages — is less (by percentage) than it was for me. I know from my own experience that I had about 40% of my monthly income available to spend on “fun” (however I classified it) which is probably significantly more (by percentage) that younger people these days.

At first I diverted my “fun” money into building materials to renovate my first house. But as those costs dwindled and my income rose, I had more money for a motorcycle, so I scaled up to larger and more expensive bikes. But even back then, an expensive cruiser motorcycle cost $4,000.

These days with motorcycles costing $10,000 for the most basic model, and upwards of $15K – $25K or more for larger motorcycles, and with decent, quality, non-made-in-China gear costing a lot, it is no wonder that younger people who DO ride a motorcycle choose one that is less expensive, buy cheap boots made in China, and buy crap-gear made in Pakistan.

Also, as I recall, back in my early days of motorcycling, bikes like “crotch rockets” were not available to the masses. If you wanted a racing bike, you had to build one. My choices were a cruiser or a large cruiser or Grandpa’s GeezerGlide (big ol’ touring class Harley).

Anyway, I have rambled enough. I think that there are more older bikers for two reasons: 1) available disposable income after applying different priorities; and 2) those of us who grew up with a cruiser-style motorcycle and who continue to ride — and upgrade — continue to choose a style of motorcycle with which he is most familiar and comfortable. (This last statement addresses WC’s second point — why older people do not generally ride sport bikes.)

Oh, and one other point — older people find it very uncomfortable and difficult to ride a motorcycle that requires leaning forward from a traditional 90-degree seated position astride the saddle of a motorcycle. A kid with a limber body has no idea how much it hurts to ride bent-over on a bike built for speed. No worries, he will learn. We all do.

Life is short: ride the bike you prefer and that fits your priorities.

2 thoughts on “Why Are Bikers Older?

  1. Thanks, good man, for the explanation. I still have that image of the young alpha-male astride his Harley as the “way it should be”, even though that is not real life. Kinda like when you see a bright red Corvette zooming down the road driven by Grandpa who is 75. Something “wrong” with that picture.

  2. As a millennial in the middle end of the spectrum, my budget usually goes to boots. About to reach the big 50 in my collection!

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