Why Motorcycles Are Not as Popular in America Compared to Other Parts of the World

If you can’t afford to buy and maintain a car, a motorcycle is a low-cost and satisfying alternative. Reports from last year showed that motorcycle sales were up by nearly 20% compared to 2020. While impressive, those figures don’t offset the fact that motorcycle sales have been declining for years.

It may shock some bikers to know that U.S. customers don’t purchase the majority of the world’s motorcycles. Why is that?

1. Smaller population

A group of motorcyclists on their motorcycles.
Motorcycles | Getty Images

Motorcycle Monarch points out that America’s total population trails behind two other countries: India and China. Despite the larger surface area on American soil, it’s far less populated than other countries.

That’s why more Americans have cars: there’s more room to park! Citizens in China and India often live close to one another and prefer smaller vehicles.

2. Area between infrastructures

In countries with dense populations, most people can walk or bike to their jobs within a few minutes. That’s not the case in America. According to TitleMax, the average U.S. commuter needs over 26 minutes to get to work. And that’s if you’re traveling by car.

Many people also use the highway to get to work or get stuck in slow city traffic. Imagine all the leaning you’d have to do as you wait to inch forward. Commuting by car is simply a more convenient and comfortable option.

3. Climate differences and weather in general

Motorcycle Monarch says it can take up to 20 miles to reach your destination in any urban area. It’s pleasant to drive in warm temperatures, but what about in the colder seasons? Most people don’t fancy the idea of driving 50 mph on a motorcycle in winter, completely exposed to the biting wind and possible snow.

4. Safety concerns with motorcycles

While motorcycles have some advanced safety features, it’s only a handful compared to what you’ll find in modern cars. Motorcycles are fundamentally less safe because there’s not as much sheet metal to shield you in a collision. 

According to recent data, your chances of getting involved in a deadly motorcycle accident are 22 times greater compared to decades past. Since you don’t have a seatbelt, you should wear a helmet and several other pieces of protective gear at all times. 

5. Limited space on motorcycles

Some Americans prefer cars to motorcycles because cars offer more cargo area. Unless you’re only getting one or two items at a time, a motorcycle is useless for a trip to the store. 

While sidecars are certainly a thing, the vast majority of drivers also only use their motorcycles for solo drives. True, one passenger can sit snugly behind the driver, but passengers who aren’t used to it can potentially endanger both parties.

6. Fewer people with licenses

In the majority of states, getting your motorcycle license takes longer than getting a simple driver’s license. Many states require a driver’s license beforehand, so you’ll have to learn to drive a car anyway.

Most drivers, regardless of age, will need to hold a motorcycle learner’s permit before getting an unrestricted license. That’s usually 65 hours of driving practice, and 15 of those must be supervised. After completing your training, you also need to pass the motorcycle knowledge test and safety course. The safety course isn’t like a regular driver’s road test: it’s usually nine hours of riding exercises and classroom time.

That last factor, combined with anxiety about safety concerns, steers most potential motorcycle drivers away. While motorcycles are indeed cheaper than many cars, they can still be expensive for two-wheelers. Ducati is one of the worst offenders, with one model costing over $28,000.

That being said, manufacturers are interested in creating cost-effective bikes that appeal to new drivers. For example, Honda has a few beginner-friendly bikes for less than $5,000 which could be great options for those wanting to break into biking slowly and in an inexpensive way.

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