Published in the Feb 2018 Issue of Backroad Magazine (written Dec 12, 2017)
Thanks for the opportunity to talk to your audience Brian and Shira!
Give a Shift for motorcycling - An open letter to the readers of Backroads Magazine
Hello. You have distinguished yourself as an enthusiast simply by having this printed magazine in your hands. Brian and Shira are enthusiasts who write for enthusiasts and share your passion for riding. As the former PR manager for Victory Motorcycles and Indian Motorcycle in the past decade, I had loaned them test bikes, and talked about story ideas. They get it - but the truth is, there are fewer of us who “get it” these days.
Overall motorcycle sales and participation are hitting a very rough patch because of many factors despite there never being a better selection of motorcycles available. There are fewer potential riders daily, and while the industry is working on the problem in a relatively private manner, there needs to be a public intervention that calls on all of us to elevate riding. Spoiler alert - there is no silver bullet to fix this. It will be many smaller efforts that will stem the losses and increase positive attention towards motorcycling.
Manufacturers and the aftermarket as well as the Motorcycle Industry Council (the industry reporting and advocacy group sponsored by members) are doing what they can - but we have some real problems. The lack of a public conversation drove me to bring together a panel of equally frustrated industry buddies and riding enthusiasts. What I thought would be a group of ten or so grousing over a couple six-packs turned quickly into something much bigger. I had dozens of people ask to be on the panel and hundreds fill out an associated survey. Clearly this conversation needed to happen.
I formed the “Give a Shift Roundtable” to talk through some obvious stuff, but there were lots of new ideas and most importantly: some solutions. The power of the GAS Roundtable was to get together diverse, insightful and enthusiastic riders to have an anonymous conversation. 25 magazine editors, writers, OEM PR people, aftermarket industry reps and committed enthusiasts made up the panel. A fully anonymous transcript, summary report and a bonus industry report by well-regarded trade writer Guido Ebert can be downloaded at https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/SdhSlwwnDH.
The report outlines five focus areas including: 1) Products are great, but desire is fading, 2) A considerable threat in an autonomous vehicle future, 3) Female (and correlated youth) ridership must be increased, 4) Motorcyclists must self-promote, 5) Dealerships lag behind current retail trends and methods. Read through the report for more details and if you REALLY want to be a fly on the wall for a very smart conversation, enjoy 60 pages of the transcript from the three-hour conversation.
So here is a suggestion for you, dear reader and rider. Take point four above and make it your own - be the best ambassador you can be. Invite people to explore motorcycling with you. Don’t have a “ladder” approach to push newbies into bigger bikes - be excited about small bikes. Evaluate a used bike for them. Answer dumb questions without judging or pushing. Bring them to a dealership. Bring them to a couple - including one you don’t usually go into in case they have different moto-taste than you. You may learn something yourself!
I hope that the Give a Shift Roundtable helps define how you, your dealer, your riding group and even this magazine can help swing ridership into a positive direction. Choosing to ignore the issue or be complacent about what is a truly great activity for family, friends and our future is a road to nowhere. A ride we may enjoy now, but a future we can avoid.