US Motorcycle Sales Have Never Been Hotter in the Last 20 Years

Calling the US car market’s current state ‘red hot’ might be an understatement. But even as parts shortages have limited car sales, other motor vehicle industries have also exploded in their own ways. Demand for RVs has driven prices through the roof, for example, and UTVs are experiencing similar issues. And recently released data shows the US motorcycle industry is riding a bigger sales peak than it’s seen in years.

So far, 2021 has been a 20-year high point for US motorcycle sales

Two riders look at the motorcycles for sale at an Indian dealership
Two riders look at the motorcycles for sale at an Indian dealership | David Brewster/Star Tribune via Getty Images

This news comes courtesy of MotorCycles Data, which gathers sales data from the worldwide motorcycle industry, including the US. And the site’s latest report shows that the US motorcycle market is revving up (pun intended).

In the first half of 2021, US motorcycle sales rose 19.4% overall compared to the same 2020 period. And they’re up 33.8% compared to the same period in 2019. Admittedly, MCD’s report bundles together newly-registered motorcycles with scooters, UTVs, and ATVs. So, the 514,767 newly-registered powersport vehicles aren’t purely bikes. But it’s still one of the US motorcycle industry’s best showings in 20 years.

Data from the Motorcycle Industry Council and Statista backs up MCD‘s report. The MIC says that Q1 2021 US motorcycle sales were up 37.2% overall compared to the same period. Furthermore, the MIC claims this was the fourth straight quarter of sales growth. And while MCD’s figure combines multiple powersport vehicle segments, Statista reports that, as of August 2021, 441.32K motorcycles were sold in the US.

Off-road motorcycles aren’t the only ones experiencing a sales jump

A low-angle rear 3/4 view of a gray-and-black 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special with accessories
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special with accessories low-angle rear 3/4 view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

So, what’s been driving the growth in US motorcycle sales? As in 2020, off-road motorcycles are one of the strongest influences. The adventure bike market, in particular, is one of the fastest-growing segments, Riders Share CEO Guillermo Cornejo says. And both MCD and the MIC confirm that sentiment. The latter found that in Q1 2021, dual-purpose motorcycle sales rose 47%, while off-highway, e.g., non-road-legal bike sales rose 45.4% over Q1 2020.

This rampant growth mirrors what the RV, UTV, and ATV industries are seeing for similar reasons. Riding a motorcycle into a national park or a forest preserve gets you out of the house without breaking social distancing. And the beauty of an adventure bike like the new Harley-Davidson Pan America is that it can work both as an off-roader and a commuter.

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Speaking of the Pan America, even though it’s only been available for a few months, it’s one of the brand’s fastest-selling bikes, RideApart says. And the segment is regularly getting more competitors, including Aprilia’s new Tuareg 660. Plus, strong US dirt bike sales undoubtedly influenced Triumph’s entry into enduro and motocross motorcycles.

However, it’s not just off-road bike sales that grew in 2021. MCD says US scooter sales are up 14% overall, “the best level hit in the last decade.” The MIC says they grew 34.6% in Q1 2020 over Q1 202. Plus, on-highway US motorcycles are up 31.4% in Q1 2020 over Q1 2020.

Even here, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect, Forbes reports. Returning commuters didn’t want to risk using public transportation or ride-sharing services. So, they turned to motorcycles—as well as bicycles—as inexpensive, compact commuter vehicles. And the impact is palpable. I talked with one of Triumph’s regional managers at IMS Outdoors 2021, and he mentioned that dealers were often selling showroom bikes because the demand was so high.

Will inventory shortages dampen the market?

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But while the demand for new motorcycles—and used ones, too, RideApart notes—is high, can the factories keep up? Cars aren’t the only vehicles affected by continued part and chip shortages, after all. RV prices are high these days not just because of demand, but because raw material supplies are low.

To MotorBiscuit’s knowledge, no motorcycle company has fully shuttered production due to parts shortages as of this writing. But microchip shortages have forced some manufacturers to limit production, RideApart reports. And at least one tire manufacturer has also had to slash production somewhat.

However, it’s worth remembering that winter is on the horizon. Although some US riders live in motorcycle-friendly climates, a significant number of them don’t. And while winter riding is doable, US motorcycle and powersport vehicle sales in general understandably cool during this period. That might give motorcycle factories a chance to catch up to the demand and rebuild robust inventories.

Still, even if it’s hard to find a new bike these days, seeing more people want to get out and ride is never a bad thing.  

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