MIC developing strategy for attracting new riders

Draft plan announced at AIMExpo

By Jim Witters

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To attract new riders and encourage motorcyclists to ride more, the motorcycle industry must tap into people’s positive emotions, while offering easy and practical ways to enter and stay a part of the two-wheeled community.

Four presenters revealed a rough draft of findings by the research firm Centauric LLC, which was hired by the Motorcycle Industry Council to determine why people ride and why they don’t. The presentation came during the general session titled “Increasing Ridership—A Commitment to Building our Future” during the first day of the American International Motorcycle Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Host Ariana Escalante joined MIC board members Paul Vitrano of Polaris Industries and Chuck Boderman of American Honda Motor Company, and Erik Pritchard, who will become the MIC CEO in November.

Vitrano said motorcycling is at a turning point, and the industry must “grow the pie” by using the freedom, exhilaration, fun and euphoria people derive from riding to attract the “almost riders” and “adjacent” participants, such as mountain biker riders.

At the same time, economic, political and social barriers to riding must be removed, he said.

Vitrano cautioned that there is no quick fix, and the MIC is working toward a longterm solution that will require collaboration with all facets of the motorcycling world.

In modern society, where people are increasingly isolated by technology and dictated to by the norms of a “childproof world,” many are seeking personal sovereignty, and are attracted to the idea that riding a motorcycle can provide power, independence and mastery over themselves and their domains, while also being “a little bad ass,” Boderman said.

Motorcycling is an enriching communal experience, he said. And “people are looking for their tribe.”

Messaging from the industry must move away from the traditional advertising that features machines and gear, instead telling personal experiences riders and highlighting the social good that motorcyclists provide to their communities, Boderman said.

“We need to fill digital media with positive images,” he said, citing YouTube, in particular, as an effective channel for reaching a broad audience with stories of “real people having real experiences.”

Pritchard said the goal is to get more riders riding more.

The four-pronged approach includes inspiring potential riders, convincing them to explore motorcycling, keeping them engaged, then ensuring they are fully integrated into the community.

“We need to make motorcycling accessible, affordable and approachable,” Pritchard said. “We need to run people into actual lifelong riders, not someone who threw their leg over a motorcycle once.”

Among the suggestions to get more riders riding more, Pritchard enumerated:

  • More support for rider communities and networks
  • Development of rider mentorship programs
  • Offering new ways to access motorcycles that are not ownership-based

The MIC is refining these elements into an action plan, which will be presented to MIC members at the MIC annual symposium in November.

“We must unify as one body speaking the culture code of motorcycling and pulling in the same direction to create new riders,” Pritchard said. “No trade association, no company or no person is going to be able to do it alone. There is no time for fractured, uncoordinated efforts. I would like you to join this effort. Find your role. There is room for everyone.”