2012 Pacific Northwest Motorcycling Demographic Study Review

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Skagit Powersports


The Face of Northwest Motorcycling

2012 demographic study reveals changing dynamics of riders in the Northwest

It’s been an interesting week working through the numbers for the 2012 Sound RIDER! demographic study, and some interesting revelations have come to light.

If you’re a dealer you’ll certainly want to read this. If you’re a local rider who enjoys stats and number crunching, you'll be interested as well.

For starters, let’s call it skewed right from the get go. The study reflects trends among new subscribers within the last two years. We park those results up against the same study conducted in 2010 to see what’s going on in the market now versus two years ago. But it’s based on Sound RIDER! readers, so we can’t say it tells the whole story. However, with 63,000 monthly readers it's an interesting one to be sure.

Readership is Growing

Our readership had stalled out at 60k for a number of years, but in the last two years that average has bumped up to 63k per month, and we had several months in 2011 that tipped the 70k mark. We believe this is driven by a lack of print publications for motorcyclists in the Northwest market, and an increase of interest in our events such as the Rally in the Gorge, Café to Café Tour, Sasquatch Dual Sport Tour and our Road Trip tour. We’ve also reshaped aspects of our editorial content which appears to be having a positive effect as well.

Boys and Girls

We saw a slight decline in female readership at 11%, down from 13% in the 2010 survey. 11% is the US average. When times were better there were a lot of new riders entering the sport, so this may reflect a decline in that overall number. But the fact that we’re on par with the national average is still a good number in our book.

What They Do

Jobs in aerospace doubled from 4% in 2010 to 8% for 2012. Ditto those exact same numbers for construction jobs. There was a significant decline in retail workers among our readers, declining from 16% to 5% over the two year period. Not surprising when you consider how scaled down retail crews are and how much available retail space exists in the real estate market.

In the Money

In several ways it appears our readers/riders have fared the economic storm better than average.

For starters, unemployment rate among subscribers was only 2% for the two year study. In comparison to the 8%+ national average the last two years, we were floored by this number.

Then we looked at the household income levels and found 11% more readers earning 60k and above, higher than average national levels.

Good News

Our readers noted that 20% of them plan to buy a new bike in 2012 and 84% of them plan to purchase new gear. New bike sales only occurred among 10% of the readers in 2010 and 2011, so this is a good sign as well.

The Law of Two Averages

NADA and Kelley Blue Book assume an average rider rides about 0-4,000 miles a year. That is the case with only half of our readers/riders. On the other side of the coin, 34% ride 4k-10k, 12% ride 10k to 20k, and 3% of our subscribers ride 20K+.

By the Brands

Ownership among several major brands stayed steady including Ducati (3%), Harley-Davidson (22%), KTM (3%), Suzuki (16%) and Triumph (6%).

The only brand to decline was Yamaha, going from 18% to 15%.

Going up were BMW (growing from 13% to 15%), Honda (25% to 29%) and Kawasaki (an amazing 13% to 19%).

But before we leave this section, pin that H-D number, flat at 22% to memory, something very interesting occurs next.

By the Categories

This year we took the Adventure category and separated it away from the Dual Sport Category (previously counted as simply dual sport in 2010). 8% of our subscribers own an adventure bike (any dual sport over 1000 cc). Dual sport ownership was 30%. Combined that’s 38% vs 21% compared to the combined categories in 2010. Almost double!

As our rally in the Gorge grows, we see more and more returning attendees arriving in trucks with trailers, rather than on a bike. Why? Because they are bringing both a dual sport and sportbike or sport touring bike. The dual sport adventure market is in a serious growth pattern and a number of dealers concur.

But the cruiser category declined from 27% to 8%. Remember that holding steady H-D number at 22% ownership? We put it all under a microscope and determined the correlation. No one gave up on the Harley brand, they simply bought more XL (standards like the Sportster) and FL (touring baggers and dressers like the Road King and Electra Glide) models, rather than FX (cruisers like the Low Rider, Night Train and others) models. New riders are going for Sportsters while long range riders are going for long range comfort and storage across the FL lines. We saw a similar trend in the Yamaha Star line.

The sportbike market declined from 26% to 13%. What happened here? An increase in owners of standards like Yamaha’s FZ series appeared along with an increase in owners of sport touring bikes like Yamaha’s FJR and BMW’s RT series. It’s all coming down to comfort, and sport riders are trading in bikes they once laid across for bikes that provide a more comfortable perpendicular riding position with just about as much performance.

Is Social Networking All It's Cracked Up To Be?

In 2009, we made the decision to stay out of social networking as a marketing tool. Knowing the resources that would be required, we determined it was not feasible. As a result, less than 1% of the referrals to Sound RIDER! came by way of Facebook. Not surprising given the later.

But then we started reviewing dealers who have been working the social networking mines for three years now. Without naming names, we took 10 prominent dealers in the Puget Sound, added together their "likes” and realized the average dealer had garnered a total of 650 likes. We ask the questionwas it worth the effort? Email lists, we believe, can be far more effective and it’s easier to grow a far larger list. While we understand the average dealers’ inability to create effective emails monthly, we’re not sure the alternative is actually panning out as planned.

TM/Winter 2012

If you're a Northwest dealer or motorcycle business and would like a copy of our full 2012 Demographic study, please email your request, along with a link to your website to  SREditor@soundrider.com 


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