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1998 Motorcycle Owner Survey

24 June 1998

FEATURE/1998 Motorcycle Owner Survey; Today's Riders are Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

    NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE FEATURES)--June 24, 1998--The anonymous motorcyclist behind you on the highway this morning could have been anybody -- doctor, lawyer, celebrity, candlestickmaker -- but a new Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) study in progress provides an intriguing profile of the typical motorcycle rider.
    The national survey commissioned by MIC is being conducted by Irwin Broh & Associates (IB&A) and focuses on motorcycle riders' ownership and usage. The telephone survey includes an equal number of households that own and do not own motorcycles, and more than 700 interviews have been completed to date.
    Trends were established by comparing data from the first six months of the 1998 survey to prior studies conducted in 1990, 1985 and 1980.
    So who is the leather-clad motorcyclist in your rearview mirror? Preliminary results from the 1998 survey show the typical rider to be a 38-1/2-year-old male who is married, has attended college, and earns $44,100 a year. For comparison, the average age of the U.S. general population is 34 years old and median income is about $36,500(a).
    Although the 1998 study confirmed that 91 percent of motorcycle riders are male, recent trends reveal that women are joining the motorcycle ownership ranks in record numbers, reflecting the larger societal trend of women undertaking more active lifestyles.
    According to the IB&A survey, women riders are more likely to be married (64 percent vs. 59 percent) and tend to be slightly older than male riders (39 years old vs. 38 years old) in the total motorcycle rider segment of the study.
    Compared to the typical rider in the 1980s, today's rider is better off financially than ever before. The average rider's income has increased by nearly a third (30 percent) since the 1990 survey, and 75 percent of today's riders paid cash for their motorcycles. And along with an increase in income has come an increase in age. In 1990 the average rider was 33 years old.
    "This study validates that today's riders are well-educated and influential Americans who consider motorcycling an important and valued part of their lifestyle," said Gary Christopher, chairman of Discover Today's Motorcycling (DTM), an information source of the Motorcycle Industry Council. "We're also pleased to see that more women are enjoying the motorcycle experience than ever before."

Riding for R&R

    Over the years, riders have shown a trend toward using bikes more for recreation and leisure enjoyment. In 1998, 79 percent of street riders said they use their motorcycles frequently for casual pleasure riding. More than three quarters (77 percent) of the survey respondents said they ride primarily in suburban or rural areas.
    As one might expect of people who enjoy riding around in the open air, most motorcyclists enjoy active lifestyles and are interested in outdoor activities. The riders surveyed indicated interest in many types of fresh-air hobbies: 18 percent of total motorcycle riders list fishing as their favorite "other recreational interest" and 14 percent indicate hunting as a major hobby.
    Boating and sailing, camping, football and snow skiing also ranked high as other interests.

Occupational Identities

    When not enjoying the open road, today's motorcycle rider is more likely than every before to be working in an office or other professional capacity. White-collar workers made up 31 percent of total motorcycle riders (up from 24 percent in 1990), and blue-collar workers comprise 24 percent of riders (down from 33 percent in 1990).
    Late 1990s ridership in other categories includes: gray collar (service workers and clerical/sales), 10 percent; and "other" (including students, retired military, homemaker, unemployed, other non-specific and "don't know/refused"), 35 percent.
    Beverly St. Clair, DTM managing director, said: "These research results back up what we in the motorcycle industry have long known -- that motorcyclists come from all walks of life, occupations and income levels. The common thread is the sense of adventure and exhilaration that comes from riding a motorcycle."

Where the Bikes Are

    Motorcycling has truly come of age in the heartland of America. The Midwest now boasts the highest population of total motorcycle primary riders, with 30 percent. As a group, Midwestern riders are also the most highly educated, with 52 percent having completed some college to post-graduate work.
    Twenty-five percent of motorcycle riders live in the South, with the West weighing in with 24 percent and the East with 21 percent. The East is also home to the highest percentage of female riders (11 percent), the most white collar/professional workers (34 percent) and the highest median income, at $46,140.

Women Riders -- An Emerging Force

    The study revealed several interesting contrasts between men and women riders. Women riders tend to be better educated than their male counterparts, with 56 percent of women completing some college to graduate degrees vs. 42 percent of males.
    Slightly more women riders are in white-collar occupations than males (34 percent vs. 31 percent) and their relative incomes reflect this difference, with women earning a median household income of about $47,300 and men earning approximately $43,800. Men outspend women in the apparel aisles, however, with average annual apparel expenditures of $300 vs. $267 spent by women.
    Other trends that illustrate the escalating role of women in motorcycling include:

    -- One study by the American Motorcyclist Association of its
    180,000 members found that 10 percent of its members are
    women who have a penchant for large touring motorcycles.

    -- Approximately 10 percent of callers into the Discover Today's
    Motorcycling 800 number are women looking for information about

    -- More than one third of all Motorcycle Safety Foundation
    RiderCourse graduates are women.

About MIC and Discover Today's Motorcycling

    The Motorcycle Industry Council Inc. is a nonprofit national trade association representing manufacturers and distributors of motorcycles, motorcycle parts and accessories, and members of allied trades.
    Discover Today's Motorcycling, a public-awareness campaign of MIC, serves as a source of information about motorcycling to the media and to the general public. DTM operates a toll-free number (800/833-3995) that provides free "Straight Facts" brochures about motorcycling, as well as information about Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourses.

(a) From 1995 U.S. Census Bureau Statistics