Motorcycles have come a long way since 1885, when Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach built the first one in Germany. Called the reitwagen, or riding car, its engine had 0.5 horsepower and a top speed of 11 kilometers per hour. Fourteen years later, the first production bike was made by Hildebrand and Wolfmuller featuring a two-cylinder engine that produced 2.5 horsepower and topped out at 45 kph.
Today's motorcycles are obviously more powerful iron horses. Harley-Davidson (HOG 2.47%) recently unveiled its new Milwaukee-Eight engine that, on the 114 cubic inch high-end model model, has four valves per head and produces over 100 horsepower.
The industry has grown over the past 132 years serving a much more diverse crowd of riding enthusiasts. Although bike makers have struggled to recover from the financial-market meltdown a decade ago, here are 13 additional facts from the Motorcycle Industry Council that will blow you away.
1. Sales gains are fleeting.
There were 573,000 new motorcycles sold in 2015, up slightly from the prior year, but sales are expected to have declined around 2.1% in 2016.
2. Harley is still hogging sales.
Harley-Davidson accounted for 29.3% of all new motorcycle sales in the U.S. in 2015, followed by Honda Motors at 14%, and Yamaha at 13%. Polaris Industries (PII 0.50%) represented just 4.4% of total sales that year with its Indian and Victory brands. Yet Harley reported at the end of January, and 2016 U.S. sales fell 3.9% and were down globally 1.6%. Polaris, on the other hand, said its sales were up 1%, with Indian Motorcycle enjoying mid-20% growth.
3. Gang of eight.
Eight manufacturers represented 81% of all U.S sales in 2015. In addition to the four manufacturers above, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, and BMW round out the list.
4. Going back to Cali.
California had the most new motorcycle sales, at 78,610, or 13.7% of the total. The next closest state was Florida, at 41,720, followed by Texas, with 41,420 new bikes sold. Despite being home to the annual motorcycle pilgrimage of Sturgis, South Dakota sold only 2,620 new bikes in 2015.
5. Wide open spaces.
Even though California topped all states in new bike sales, because it is also the most populous state, its sales work out to just 2.9 bikes per 100, below the national average of 3.2 bikes per 100 people. Wyoming, with 7.0 motorcycles per 100 people, has the most. As a result, there are fewer bikes in the east, with 2.9 per 100, and most in the midwest, with 3.4.
6. Changing makeup of riders.
Women represented 14% of all motorcycle owners in 2014, up from 6% in 1990 and 10% in 2009. It may be one of the most telling figures in why Harley is struggling; its core customer of middle-aged males has fallen from 94% of the motorcycle-owning population in 2009 to 86% in 2014. It's also part of the reason Harley introduced its Street 500 and 750 models, and Polaris came out with its Scout and Scout Sixty models to appeal to these riders newer to the market. However, IHS Automotive data says Harley-Davidson still has a 60.2% share of women riders.
7. A graying market.
The median age of the typical motorcycle owner is 47, up from 32 in 1990 and 40 in 2009. And although its sales are slipping, Harley maintains a 55.1% share of the 35 and older male rider demographic. However, more troubling for the industry is the decline in riders under 18, which has fallen from 8% in 1990 to 2%, and those between 18 and 24 from 16% of the total down to 6%. Where will the new bike buyers come from if the industry is not attracting these younger people?
8. The great escape.
Married riders comprise 61% of motorcycle owners, up from 57% in 1990.
9. Becoming a wealthy pursuit.
Some 24% of motorcycle owner households earned between $50,000 and $74,999 in 2014, and as much as 65% earned $50,000 or more. The the median household income was $62,200.
10. And well-educated.
72% of motorcycle owners have received at least some college or post-graduate education, and almost as many (71%) were employed. Some 15% were retired.
11. Most weren't off-roading.
Of all the new motorcycles sold in the U.S. in 2015, 74% were on-highway bikes, and the 8.4 million motorcycles that were registered in U.S. the year before was more than double the number in 1990. Motorcycles, in fact, represented 3% of total vehicle registrations.
12. Motorcycles do their part.
The motorcycle industry contributed $24.1 billion in economic value in 2015 via sales, services, state taxes paid, and licensing fees, and it employed 81,567 people.