Honda joins UK university to study elusive youth motorcycle market

uk.info@motor1.com (Kate Murphy)
Honda UK NTU Youth Study

Kids love motorcycles... don't they?

Unless you’re new to the sport, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years or so, you’ll know that the motorcycle industry is aging out. The average age of motorcyclists is rising as fewer young people adopt the sport. In an effort to staunch the bleeding, manufacturers are trying to appeal to younger generations, but have been generally unsuccessful. The most recent attempt to discover why The Youth Of Today isn’t interested in motorcycles comes to us from Honda UK. Team Red joined forces with Nottingham Trent University (NTU) to “grasp a greater understanding of younger demographics’ perception of motorcycles and riding.”

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Honda UK brought six of its current UK-spec motorcycle models (PCX125, Monkey 125, CB125R, CBR650R, CB1000R, and Africa Twin) to NTU for a five-day exhibition. Honda set up the Africa Twin, its newest generation of Adventure bike outfitted with an 1100cc engine and a DCT transmission, on a “rolling road,” a riding simulator that’s bolted to the bike with the back wheel on rollers, so potential riders can “ride” the bike without actually moving.

Honda touted the event as, “an exciting insight into the advanced capabilities of Honda motorcycles in 2020 and how they can be a source of great enjoyment and functionability.” That’s a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo corpspeak just to say, “Are our bikes good and do The Youths like them? If not, why not?” While the exhibit may have come across as a serious advertisement and endorsement of Honda motorcycles, the students’ reactions to the bikes are being recorded for later study. The research will be used to help Honda focus its marketing toward the aspects of motorcycling that appeals to this age group.

Teenager in professional training repairing motorbike

“We’re taking a ‘user-centred’ approach to get first-hand insights from young people about the appeal of motorcycling whilst also exploring any barriers that might keep them away from two wheels. It’s a fascinating piece of work and a great opportunity to link up with a major manufacturer in this way,” said independent consultant and “world-leading expert in motorcycle rider behaviour” Alex Stedmon.

Andrew Mineyki, a Department Manager for Honda UK Business Planning, said, “As the market leader, we share in the responsibility for encouraging younger people to consider [powered two-wheelers] as a mobility option. In the face of rising transport costs and ever-increasing traffic congestion, motorcycles and scooters can provide an enjoyable, stylish, fuel-efficient and time-efficient alternative to cars and public transport.”

Young women riding vintage scooter

In my humble opinion, this is the way to do it. Instead of waiting for The Youngsters to attend motorcycle shows or show up at dealerships (they don’t), manufacturers have an increasing obligation to bring their motorcycles to the target demographic. Put the bikes under kids’ noses, because otherwise they’re too disconnected and the motorcycles too intimidating.

Hopefully this “mountain to Mohammed” approach will trickle out to other manufacturers. They might learn that things like local, inexpensive motorcycle training can encourage kids to ride, but kids today need a bit more spoon-feeding than any manufacturer is currently doing. Will Honda UK share the results of this study? There’s no word yet, but the results could absolutely benefit the entire industry, and lift all boats—er—motorcycles.

Source: Honda, NTU