50 States Ranked for Highest Motorcycle Ownership: You Won't Guess Who's No. 2

As of the most recent report by the Department of Transportation, there were 8,410,255 motorcycles registered in the United States by private citizens and commercial organizations in 2011. To put this staggering number into perspective, out of every 36 people you meet in the U.S., one of them probably has a motorcycle. For ranking purposes, we won't be looking at total bikes in a state, but rather people per motorcycle (the lower the number, the more common bikes are). So what states in America have the most die-hard moto-enthusiasts?

3. Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain -- Iowa

Iowa is now home to the production of the famous Indian motorcycle. Image: WikiCommons

Iowa comes in third with 18 people for every motorcycle, beating the national average by 50%. In 2011 the state had 172,929 motorcycles registered, representing 2.1% of all motorcycles in America. Iowa is also home to production of Polaris (NYSE: PII  ) Victory and Indian brands, and has the famous Iowa Grand Motorcycle Rally. This Midwest state's wide-open spaces make for a perfect landscape for Polaris' and Harley-Davidson's (NYSE: HOG  ) famous cruisers.

2. Live free or die -- New Hampshire

The 90-year-old Laconia Motorcycle Week. Image: WikiCommons

New Hampshire comes in second with 17 people for every motorcycle beating the national average by 53%. In 2011 the state had 79,266 motorcycles registered, representing 0.94% of all motorcycles in America. New Hampshire also happens to be one of 31 states without a mandatory helmet law.

The state is also home to Laconia Motorcycle Week, which dates back to the early 1900s and is one of the countries oldest rallies. Some sources quote attendance as high 300,000-400,000 bikers for this rally, and it is frequently ranked as one of the best rallies in the country. 

The combination of no helmets, great natural terrain, and the famous Laconia Motorcycle Week make New Hampshire a top spot for motorcycle enthusiasts.

1. Under God the people rule -- South Dakota

416,272 riders made there way to Sturgis in 2011. Image: WikiCommons

South Dakota comes in first with 12 people for every motorcycle beating the national average by 66%. In 2011 the state had 69,284 motorcycles registered, representing 0.82% of all motorcycles in America. South Dakota is famous for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which attracted 467,338 riders in 2013.  

With 77% of surveyed riders riding a Harley-Davidson, this event is crucial for Harley to not only show off its newest products, but also to monitor its core customer. Investors in Polaris and Harley Davidson would do well to monitor how their brand's present themselves at Sturgis to see if they're gaining market share or losing it. 

Since South Dakota hosts the country's largest motorcycle rally and has a small population, it's no surprise this rather thinly populated state takes the No. 1 spot.

Wrapping up the 50 top states
In 2011 the Department of Transportation began more accurately collecting data for states, so for the first time motorcycle enthusiasts can truly see in which states they have the greatest chance of passing by a fellow rider. For the motorcycle companies this data gives them valuable information on where they can most easily reach the greatest amount of riders and customers.

For a complete list of the most popular states for bikes, please scroll down.

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Rank State # Bikes Population People per bike
1 South Dakota 69,284 816,598 12
2 New Hampshire 79,266 1,316,807 17
3 Iowa 173,929 3,050,202 18
4 Wisconsin 317,276 5,691,659 18
5 Wyoming 30,351 564,554 19
6 North Dakota 32,654 674,629 21
7 Vermont 30,070 625,909 21
8 Montana 46,996 990,958 21
9 Minnesota 240,288 5,310,658 22
10 Alaska 30,983 714,146 23
11 Idaho 62,576 1,571,102 25
12 Maine 50,318 1,327,379 26
13 New Jersey 330,470 8,799,593 27
14 Colorado 173,120 5,047,692 29
15 Delaware 30,494 899,792 30
16 Ohio 390,494 11,537,968 30
17 Oklahoma 127,140 3,760,184 30
18 Washington 220,856 6,742,950 31
19 Pennsylvania 404,164 12,717,722 31
20 Indiana 204,402 6,490,622 32
21 New Mexico 64,863 2,065,913 32
22 Rhode Island 32,989 1,052,528 32
23 Michigan 308,338 9,877,143 32
24 Florida 574,176 18,838,613 33
25 West Virginia 56,210 1,854,368 33
26 Kansas 81,354 2,859,143 35
27 Oregon 108,313 3,838,332 35
28 Nebraska 51,371 1,830,141 36
29 Arizona 178,890 6,413,158 36
30 Connecticut 97,960 3,575,498 36
31 Illinois 350,193 12,841,980 37
32 Alabama 127,255 4,785,401 38
33 Tennessee 168,408 6,357,436 38
34 Arkansas 76,293 2,921,588 38
35 Nevada 68,951 2,704,283 39
36 Virginia 195,722 8,023,953 41
37 Massachusetts 159,000 6,555,466 41
38 Missouri 140,936 5,995,715 43
39 North Carolina 223,209 9,560,234 43
40 South Carolina 107,864 4,637,106 43
41 Kentucky 98,475 4,347,223 44
42 Hawaii 30,098 1,363,359 45
43 California 801,803 37,338,198 47
44 Utah 59,355 2,775,479 47
45 Maryland 120,069 5,785,681 48
46 Georgia 199,586 9,712,157 49
47 New York 345,816 19,395,206 56
48 Texas 438,551 25,253,466 58
49 Louisiana 67,486 4,545,343 67
50 Mississippi 28,067 2,970,072 106
51 Dist. of Col. 3,523 604,912 172

Read/Post Comments (47) | Recommend This Article (80)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:39 PM, Skaterfs5 wrote:

    Anyone who has ridden in and around the Black Hills of South Dakota understands their ranking. It is truly a great state for riding.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:51 PM, Room4Rent wrote:

    There is more to popularity than simply numbers of people per bike. Places like California and Florida are obvious for large numbers of bikes, due to great weather. But Alaska with almost no riding season has more than a place like Hawaii with perfect weather.

    To some degree, it involves money. Mississippi is the bottom of the states, and is possibliy the poorest state, while places like California and Florida with much richer inhabitants have the most.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:53 PM, TMFBiggles wrote:

    Alaska really surprises me. The last thing I would want to do in Alaska would be to expose any part of myself, clothed/covered or not, to the elements. Those people must shower in ice water or something.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:54 PM, hag91111 wrote:

    Same with New Hampshire and the White Mountains. Vermont and Maine are also raked pretty high.

    What's strange is all top states are northern states where you can only ride about 1/2 the year.

    Florida is probably the highest ranked warm state at #22. I guess the average population age would factor in as well.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 1:09 PM, brettdj wrote:

    probably need a better rating system than this. California has nearly equal motorcycles as South Dakota has people.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 1:20 PM, holmeed61 wrote:

    Watch out for CARS!

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 1:38 PM, flyer49er1949 wrote:

    A lot of people own a motorcycle for the same reason people own boats and airplanes, it make for good cocktail party talk, not they they actually use them much, if at all.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 2:12 PM, pikappa77 wrote:

    I was shocked that the 'cold weather' states are one-after-the-other at the top of the list and Florida is so low. Motorcycle dealerships there are like 7-11s.

    flyer49er1949, you make a statement that you cannot backup statistically, and I can tell you I haven't seen any proof of what you said. I know people that own boats and are on them every good weekend. And you cannot compare airplane ownership with ownership of any other vehicle; definitely "apples vs oranges". Let's stick to something that sits on the ground that is affordable to the Jane and Joe Sixpacks in the country.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 2:28 PM, tallyho45 wrote:

    Probably a good thing, my comments to him would probably have been deleted by this site before anyone could see them!

    I started riding when my dad got a little Cushman scooter for me when I was five, and have been riding ever since.

    The only two rallies I ever attended was the Iron Horse in Colorado and a big rally in Vermont (probably before many of you were born).

    My bike allows me to 'see' the country up close and first hand. If I see something of interest, no problem with making a U-turn and going back to check it out.

    If you see a solo rider on a 69 Beemer (Earls forks), wave, it may be me.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 2:46 PM, ShiningGenji wrote:

    iowa is third, with 1 out 18 iowans owning a motocycle, beating the national average by 55%, but in 2nd place NH has 1 out 17, beating the national average only by 50%?

    okay, math is not your average reporter's strong suit, but still, shouldn't that have jumped out to the writer or his editor?

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 2:50 PM, pjm1128 wrote:

    flyer49er1949...Maybe most of the people YOU know with bikes don't ride, but ALL of the people I know with bikes DO, myself included.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 3:11 PM, chieftoadlena wrote:

    Does this survey account for people who own multiple bikes. I own a cruiser, a dirt bike, and a motorcycle with a sidecar. Does this skew the numbers for the survey. I am sure the department of transportation for each state just provided the total number of bikes registered in the state. Not the total number of bike owners.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 3:13 PM, HarleyMom117 wrote:

    I'm a 40-something married Mom who has been riding for 20 years. Took the MSF class, rode a beater Yamaha for a year, then a Sportster for 10 years, and a Softail Deluxe ever since. I live in northern Wisconsin, where (contrary to Hag9111's comment) I am usually able to ride around 9 months of the year (the last month has SUCKED -- 4 feet of snow on ground, and nearly every day has seen temps below zero). But when the temp is above 45 and the roads are clear, I'm out -- very often with one of my 2 teenagers on the back. The kids both started riding at the age of 7 -- as soon as they could reach the passenger footpegs. My daughter will take driver's ed this summer -- and she cannot wait to take the course and get a bike. My Hubby doesn't ride (he's a car guy), but he has never had any issue with me riding -- he understands that it is just something in my blood. For Christmas & birthdays, I buy him car parts & he buys me chrome. It works for us!! :)

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 3:22 PM, terryd1960 wrote:

    Why would I not guess New Hampshire? Anyone who knows anything about motorcycles knows about Laconia. In fact, I was surprised to see South Dakota and Iowa, I'd have thought warmer states would have more motorcycles. Does this mean I have no brain? (The author did say that #1 is a no-brainer.)

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 3:24 PM, kosmos wrote:

    "To put this staggering number into perceptive....."

    Does no one edit anything anymore? Really...... it takes the pleasure right out of reading when I run into foolishness like this.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 3:44 PM, Brokenwhistle wrote:

    Last I knew... the "District of Columbia" is NOT a state !!!

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 4:28 PM, castman2014 wrote:

    It amazes me that the highest ownership is in the states with harsh winters...

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 4:37 PM, minnyme wrote:

    I'm surprised California is so low on the list, considering the year round mild weather. This poll is likely counting registered and licensed bikes only. Off road bikes don't need to be licensed or registered, so the numbers would be way different if all bikes were counted.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 5:09 PM, Vitabrits wrote:

    There is no bike helmet law in NH and it is the state with the highest motorcycle fatalities in the country. Live free or die indeed.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 5:27 PM, Meathead wrote:

    This has got to be one of the most rediculous ratings I have ever seen. Comparing the number of cycles to population?? WTF!! If you live in the state of confusion with a population of 100 and all 100 own cycles, you are number uno! Congratulations!!

    How about comparing the number of cycles to number of cycles?

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 6:23 PM, kayakers3 wrote:

    Down here in FLA we don't have laws (or many others with common sense) which require helmets for motorcycles, bicycles yes. We call helmetless bikers organ donors................

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 6:23 PM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Not too hard to explain. The states at the top have low populations and have plenty of places to ride. The low population means the number can easily be skewed by a few people who own more than one bike. Vermont for example, a guy owns 3 bikes and he will have a much larger impact than his next door neighbor in NY. The NY guy has all the people in NYC who most likely don't own a vehicle dragging down the numbers.

    These states are also more lax on law enforcement. Sure NH has a ton of police on the ground for Laconia but once you get into the back roads not so much. I wonder how much high gas prices play in some states vs income levels.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 6:28 PM, potlikker wrote:

    northern states more bikes then southern states? don't think the writer has all the facts..he also over looked that little "rally" in fla. known as bike week!

    and remember to buy the stocks they push....what a load!

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 6:37 PM, lorenztl wrote:

    Very interesting!

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 8:09 PM, jb567 wrote:

    Your methodology sucks. From your figures it's obvious California & Florida are clearly #s 1 and 2. Who cares what the population is?

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 8:15 PM, maddog89 wrote:

    This is the worst article I have ever seen ! You absolutely cannot rank order by people per motorcycle ! That is ridiculous ! I live in Florida and just because the population is larger DOES NOT MATTER !!!! It absolutely MUST go by the number of bikes to make any sense. Florida has almost 5x more bikes than any other state ! Pathetic writing !

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 8:17 PM, maddog89 wrote:

    Sorry, meant most other states !

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 8:32 PM, bigfoot wrote:

    HELMET LAWS SUCK!

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 8:56 PM, wfo75080 wrote:

    A bit misleading. California is #1 in motorcycle sales and Texas is #2, with Florida #3. Manufacturers don't care about per capita, just the bottom line.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 9:59 PM, flyguyret wrote:

    As a businessman, and or potential investor I am more interested in the numbers than the narrative. For real, California has 800 thousand bikes and 37 million people @ 47 per bike. Dist of Columbia even better? Buy stock in your favorite and try to get a dealership.

    P.S. @ bigfoot- know what they call bikers without helmets? Organ donors.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 11:25 PM, Gunnyphillips wrote:

    Bike ownership per capita is one thing, but if you count the number of bikers that travel to events in each state then I would say the standout winners would be South Dakota and Florida. I haven't made the journey to Sturgis yet but I've been to Daytona and Panama City many times. Riding in a biker friendly state like Florida is a sheer joy. I can only assume South Dakota is the same.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 11:48 PM, jerrybushman wrote:

    What state has the most bikes per square mile?

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 12:35 AM, Wenmomojo wrote:

    Every November Galveston TX has the Lone Star Rally that brings over 400,000 bikes to the island. Only 67 arrests last year.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 6:02 AM, BikerChic wrote:

    Terrible article. For those who ride ENJOY. Your really blessed if you get to ride all year round. I'm here in Iowa suffering from PMS. Come on Spring!

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 8:12 AM, 55Matchless wrote:

    For Vitabrits: New Hampshire does have a helmet law - it requires helmets for all riders under age 18. And, as of last report, NH was tied for 4th lowest motorcycle fatalities in the country. (reference National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) .

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 8:21 AM, oldmfool wrote:

    Interesting article. Per capita data is important because it helps you find out which person in the population is most likely to buy the motorcycle. Odds are that you would only have to reach 18 people in Iowa to make a sale versus 47 people in California. It also means that summer is a lot noisier in Iowa. Dang those pipes are loud!

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 8:43 AM, luv2ridemybike wrote:

    Which state has the most motorcycles ridden by middle-aged, bald guys with gotees, big beer guts, black T-shirts that say bike week, that think they "still got it"? Oh yeah, all of them.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 9:08 AM, CrazyBrit007 wrote:

    Most prefer to ride in the better weather, so you would expect the warmer southern states with the longer ridding season to have greater number of riders, but I smile when you look at the colder areas of the country like PA & OH which have a very large number of riders for their climate zone.

    If taking the big rallies into account just skews the numbers.

    The BMW riders club tracks how many miles people ride per year, and PA still comes top if not very very close to the top yearly.

    From a sales / marketing demographic standpoint, I wonder what is more important, number of bikes sold per state, number of bike owners per state, miles ridden per state, just some things to ponder.

    This year N’east PA has been hit with a bad bad winter, it feels like it has snowed about every 3-days for forever now, I used to ride year round, but this year my ride sits awaiting what will become the big thaw, although the pot-holes are SO big everywhere, it will be a dangerous ride until things are repaired, especially at night.

    Ride safe, enjoy....I need to relocate south, i hate this white sh1t

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 10:08 AM, NellieBly wrote:

    Iowa is #1 in coolest state motto.

    By the way, the Indian is referred to as a "motocycle."

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 2:20 PM, asbrian wrote:

    as most news twisted to what the writer wants to say.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 4:28 PM, WiHarleyGuy wrote:

    Interesting article it something within the Motorcycle Rights Community we discovered and started using years ago. When you start breaking down (STATS) numbers many assumptions and myths disappear.

    Do have a concern the best available DATA on WI total motorcycle registrations seem to be low. According to WiDOT (YE) 2012 = 340,268, 2011 = 391,191, 2010 = 343,878 verses (317,276) reference in your story.

    Another interesting stat you may want to add the number of (M) motorcycle endorsed driver/operators license. For YE 2012 Wisconsin had 515,433 Operators w/class M endorsed licenses YES that is

    175,165 more M endorsed licenses than Registrations.

    Numbers can be a funny thing when you start crunching them.

    Tim Tomann

    State - Highway Safety Committee

    ABATE of Wisconsin

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 7:10 PM, shaheenj wrote:

    This is an unfair ranking. Jay Leno owns over 69,284 motorcycles himself. Shouldn't he count as his own state. California also has so many motorcycle collections that are unregistered.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 7:25 PM, mikeyf316 wrote:

    Alaska has some excellent riding opportunities down south where it's more temperate. Beautiful area and weather.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 8:41 PM, Dwirt714 wrote:

    This is one of the most flawed surveys I've seen in a long time! For years Calif., Mich., Ohio and Pa. have had the highest total motorcycle sales in the country. As mentioned in other comments, what the survey completely failed to include are the thousands of off-road machines that are sold that do not require 'registration' in most states. Many families and individuals own one or more off-road only or racing motorcycles which were not included in this survey! Now, go refigure!!!

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 9:48 PM, bobreal wrote:

    Here comes that HAPPY FOOL on the Motorcycle;

    How do You Know He's Happy;

    BY THE BUGS ON HIS TEETH,,

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 1:25 PM, SueHeck wrote:

    For all you

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 1:26 PM, SueHeck wrote:

    For all you on this fourm, you will be laughing if I told you my professor is making us use this data for a homework assignment for our DOE class. You ISE 202 people know what im talking about ;)

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