Bikers say under-30 generation isn't interested, and can't afford many of the top motorcycles

Union Leader Correspondent
June 20. 2014 12:23AM
Chris Estep of Mount Vernon, Va., is one of the younger riders in Bike Week at age 37. He caught the motorcycle-festival bug fairly recently, he says: “I'm trying to go to as many as I can to catch up.” ? (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)

MEREDITH — Motorcycle lovers at Bike Week 2014 come from all over the country and the world, are from many backgrounds and represent many fields of work.

But they can’t be accurately described as people of all ages.

Bike Week riders are increasingly middle-aged or older, and are mostly professionals in their fields of work.

Very few bikers attending Bike Week are under 30. Most are over 40.

In a spot survey of bikers at Meredith Harley-Davidson Thursday, the youngest biker found was Chris Estep, 37, of Mount Vernon, Va.

Estep said he has been going to motorcycle events all over the county for the past few years, trying to learn what has the older generation so excited.

“I’m trying to go to as many as I can to catch up,” Estep said.

Estep said younger riders are more interested in smaller sport bikes that tend to be much less expensive. A website described the bikes as “super fast, gorgeous, a real babe magnet.” They are used in competitions and at tracks, and are built for speed, not for show. On top of all that,, the sport bikes make long-distance riding uncomfortable.

Other bikers acknowledged the lack of teenagers and 20-year-olds at Bike Week, and said financial considerations are the reason. The average motorcycle at Bike Week costs between $20,000-$30,000, attendees said.

“It’s the economy,” said Bob Burch, who said he is from upstate New York. “Kids can’t afford the kind of bikes most of us are driving.”

Tim Snow, a manager at Meredith Harley-Davidson, acknowledged the cost issue.

“The Harley-Davidson has evolved and (the riders) are older, yes,” he said. “The bikes they tend to buy are the more expensive ones.”

The motorcycle manufacturing industry has recognized the loss of younger street motorcycle buyers over past decades, and Harley-Davidson has responded with a less expensive street motorcycle aimed at younger people who might have cost concerns. Due out in 2015, the Street 750 will cost $6,000 to $8,000.

The product is also aimed at young female bikers, a growing segment. “Women are growing as a group,” he said. “There’s a lot more young women owning bikes.”

Of course, young women are also a draw for younger Bike Week participants who line the roads of Weirs Beach — often while drinking — urging young women riding by to bare their chests, an activity police try to curtail but which has given Bike Week a bad reputation, bikers said.

“The kids today are scared to do what we’re doing, they probably don’t have the money,” said Rian Chace, a longtime Bike Week participant from Plainville, Mass.

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