I stumbled across some biker statistics which I thought were quite interesting. They do reinforce the fact that the biker population is an aging one The figures are from 2021.
There were 3.6 million registered bikers in the UK at the end of 2021. 48% were over 60 and only 10% were under 39!
It also breaks down the regions where biking is the most popular based on ownership per 100,000 population, with the North East, Scotland and Wales near the top. Perhaps unsurprising given the lower traffic densities and fantastic scenery.
I was surprised that 48% of registered bikers were over 60 and it’s probably slightly higher in 2023 (I joined that list in 2023) and that only 10% were under 39. I wonder whether biking as we know it has a future given the lack of interest by the younger generation. Or, has it always been the case that people only really take a serious interest in motorcycles when they reach their 40’s, a time when most find they have more disposal income and biking is a hobby (mid life crisis)?
I passed my bike test in 2002 aged 39. It was something I had been meaning to do for years without getting around to it - house, mortgage, career and fast cars had always gotten in the way!
The past 21 years riding bikes has been brilliant and I regret not doing it much earlier - I would probably have saved a fortune on cars! Bikes are waaaaay better.
Bike capitals of Britain | Bikesure.
You only have to look at the bald heads and grey hair that swamp bike meets etc.
I will be 60 in December and passed my test at 17 in 1980. There were loads of us a similar age riding then, the college car park was full of bikes and many of us were hoofor life.
These days kids run a scooter until they can get a car licence then get a car on PCP or whatever it’s called.
Unfortunately biking has become an expensive leisure activity due to bike prices, ease of car ownership and possibly lack of a motorcycle hero like Sheene.
In the earlier years my bikes were my only form of transport and were always my preferred way to travel. However I rode the first 4 years on L plates, never had a paid for lesson, the provisional license was cheap and insurance wasn’t too expensive. Even taking the test to get a full license wasn’t expensive and again I had no lessons for that. Plus I could ride around on a 2 stroke 250 that wasn’t holding me back. Nowadays it seems like you’ve got to shell out hundreds of pounds just to start riding, then pretty expensive insurance on top of that. Then you have the restrictive license controls on top of that and I believe you have to pay again to take another test to get a full license. So I’m not surprised by the stats, in fact I think it’s been the core of government policies for generations. So it’s not really surprising that motorcycling, in general, has moved to a hobby rather than an alternative form of daily transport.
My commute on the bikes took me around the M25/M4/M3 in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s there were a reasonable number of bikes, these days if I’m around those roads at rush hours they are nowhere near as common.
Another interesting stat I just found
Although there were 3.6 million licensed motorcyclists in the UK in 2021, there were only 1.35 million registered bikes on the road. Given that quite a few active bikers will own more than one bike, it means that a large majority of bike licence holders don’t own a bike.
Edited to add….
Unless the age profile of the missing 2+ million bike licence holders is known, the age breakdown of ‘active’ bikers could be seriously skewed.
Lots of good points, particularly about the licence two-step you have to do these days if you’re under 24 (is it?). I’m glad it was just CBT and straight to fill licences when I did mine in the 90’s.
Trying to see the tank as half full, A2 compliant bikes can be pretty good these days. They’re nothing like as compromising as a 125. Lots of Triumphs can be fitted with a restrictive, though not the Rocket 3, I suspect.
Back in 1967, I just had to ride round the block a few times on my 250 and do an emergency stop for the examiner. (Insofar as the Arrow’s front brake was capable of an emergency stop.) Simples. No wonder there were more of us on the road in those days.
I always wanted to ride a motorcycle from a young age and “almost” did when I was 17, but really needed a car to get about ideally and couldn’t afford both.
Then life sort of got in the way until a few years ago when I finally got around to it. It is such a costly and time consuming process now compared to what it was (if only I had known back then when the process was so much cheaper and simpler!!) and younger riders pay some absolutely crazy insurance prices (over £2000 on a 125 is not uncommon in some areas). Added to that, those who want to get rid of their “L” plates early have to do 3 Mod 1 and 2s potentially (A1, A2, A) as well as CBT and theory - a lot of time and money spent .
I am fortunate in that the insurance is not bad at all for me (it was only £79 / year for me on the 125 with CBT and about £200 / year on my last renewal for the Street Triple and Fireblade which is with a £60 charge for class 1 business use so could be £140) so I have been able to get straight onto the sorts of bikes that I wanted to. Plenty of new riders are utterly priced out of getting what they would like to ride and enjoy and I think lose interest too based upon that, from those I have talked to.
From others I talk to, I think that we also live in a very risk - averse world these days as well; I am on a course with work at present and a few of the ladies (in their 20s) saw me on my Street Triple last week and said it was cool but all said that they would never ride a bike as they find them terrifying. I had a childhood with parents who were not risk - averse at all and then a job and hobbies which all carried risk so perhaps my level (and that of my generation - I am 46 - and older) of what is an acceptable risk to take in terms of activities sits at a different level to many of a younger age?
What the stats clearly do not take account of are the number of unlicensed riders, of which there are many - it would be interesting to know what the age distribution would be there and how the numbers riding without the appropriate license have changed in line with the licensing rules.
I think the reasons for the age statistics are many and complex; but I do know that I feel young when I go to places where there are loads of bikers…good for the ego .
Feel young? You are bloody young!
I wouldn’t be surprised if the insurance cost is the biggest obstacle, and gives worried parents even more leverage to steer their little ones on to four wheels.
A big price tag for a bike is one thing. Having to find a four-figure sun every year for insurance when you’re still a teenager is madness.
Something needs to change.
Brother in law in his 70’s still has cat.A licence but hasn’t ridden since selling his Lambretta for a car some 50 years ago. I’m sure this scenario will be quite common in those statistics.
I’ve done my bit to continue the lineage, both son and daughter have cat.A’s, but then they’re just past that 39 cutoff in your statistics. So we’re talking yet another generation down the line, I have 4 grandkids but only one is over 16, she survived a year on a 50cc scooter before taking her car test. Driving around in an Audi A1 now, can’t see her going back to 2 wheels any time soon.
Sadly I find “bike meets” (& even conversation with the general populous) quite depressing, I think we’ve come to the point where it’s expected to find an “old git” when you lift that lid. To see a young face would be a surprise, I suspect the younger generation no longer sees motorcycling as “cool”.
And yet, look at the crowds you get at MotoGP rounds, especially in Europe. Lots of younger (under 49) people.
I’d be interested to see how those stats look for other countries. If they’re better, at least, then it means we’re doing something wrong in this country, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we were.
I think the mix would probably be better in countries with a dryer, warmer climate, but in the UK stats it does show the highest bike licence (per proportion of population) possession is in the North West, Scotland and Wales, so that may not follow!
I won’t be at the bike show this year, but for those that are it could be interesting to make a mental note of the age brackets of those visiting the show - whether it’s a good mix or predominantly over 50’s.
48% over 60, 10% under 39, … so 42% in their 40’s & 50’s
If you (reluctantly) accept motorcycling is a leisure activity then hardly surprising, it’s the demographic most likely to have the disposable income required.
Obviously the UK weather plays it’s part, but also our overcrowded and aggressive road manners towards bikers dissuades. Being a minority group we’re regarded as “abnormal”.
Spending a day in Biarritz was refreshing, scooters, small & large, plus bikes of all kind seemed to outnumber cars! And were seen as “normal”.
You’re right - I think there are a lot of factors involved. In my youth, many of my friends had scooters or motorbikes, and I naturally wanted one too. For a student, they were cheap transport, as cars were expensive to buy and run. It was easy to get a bike licence. And once I’d got a bike, I found that I enjoyed it so much that I’ve never been without one ever since, even after I got a car. Bikes had a cool image back then, and, as you say, we lived in a less risk-averse culture. Being young and poor also forced us to develop practical repair skills to keep the things on the road. And, pre-Thatcher, we were still a society that made things, so practical skills and attitudes were still widespread.
Biking for me started in the 80s. For some, perhaps, that’s past the heydays of the 60’s and 70’s, or maybe it’s just my perception of what had gone before. All I knew was, a 50cc bike gave me freedom. My school and friends were some 7 miles away, beyond the small town where I grew up, and for the first time I had the ability to come and go as I pleased.
A car was obviously out of the question at 16 and, for me, still was at 17, when I bought my GP100. Then I had freedom and speed! You may laugh but when your life never went much above 30moh, 70mph was mad fast!
I vaguely recollect the Suzuki insurance being about £100 or so. No idea what that would be in today’s money but surely not £1500+.
There are lots of brilliant 125s these days, and great little retro bikes, too. So much more choice, quality and street cred than when I were a lad. A FS1E was the height of cool back then (not that I had one). Look around at what’s available today and you realise nostalgia’s not what it used to be.
But isn’t that the same for all sports? How many footy supporters actually play, not many would be my guess.
I bet most of the under 39s that have a licence live in cities and use them to commute. Biking in general is so difficukt to get into now, from the hurdles in getting a licence (when I started it was far easier to get a full bike licence than a car) and the cost of biking means it’s no longer the poor man’s transport. My own suspicions are that the government actually want to deter youngsters from getting one too, it takes a lot of dedication and determination to become a biker these days.
I think there’s lots of good points raised on here. I think the reasons why more young people don’t get into bikes include -
As a society we have become far more risk-averse than 30 years ago and motorcycles are commonly seen as far too dangerous.
The government sees the risk stats and has deliberately made the path to a motorcycle licence increasingly complex and expensive - particularly for younger riders - which means that only the most determined and enthusiastic will bother.
Insurance costs for the young have skyrocketed and although this has also happened to cars, a car is still seen by many as a necessity rather than a high risk, left field choice.
My view is that motorcycling can be broadly split into two categories -
Commuting - which will be dominated by scooter sales, which are the best selling type of two wheeled transport.
Leisure - This is where the big bike sales mostly go. This market will naturally be dominated by the over 40’s as this is when most people reach the point of having maximum disposable income. It also often coincides with a desire to break out of the daily rut of work and routine and start having more fun “while you’re still young enough”.
I don’t think motorcycling is dying. I think it has simply evolved from being “cheap daily transport” into a combination of convenient commuter tool and leisure/lifestyle choice.
Good points, well made, as they say.
I hope for the future scooter commuting becomes more popular in the UK. Once experienced, even if the rider then goes to/back to four wheels, it changes the perception and respect for bikers. I believe this is the difference we see between the UK and Europe where scooter use is more common.