Seven Ways To Make Motorcycling More Popular In America

Illustration for article titled Seven Ways To Make Motorcycling More Popular In America

In the interest of motorizing my fellow Americans, I asked our readers: what would increase the mass-appeal of motorcycles here? We got a heap of (generally intelligent!) responses, here are the ones we kept circling back to.


People who ride even the most unassuming motorcycles in this country are looked at sideways as rebellious outliers. The reaction I got rolling up to my first job out of college on a 450cc upright Suzuki is the perfect case in point; It was an environmental non-profit, at which the Saab and Volvo-driving senior staff simply could not believe anybody “wore a tie and rode a motorcycle!” I offered that my vehicle’s carbon footprint footprint was a small sliver of theirs but only got “just don’t scare the kids in the park with that thing,” in response.

We all know motorcycling’s not for everyone, and sadly some folks are physical incapable of enjoying the activity. But I still fantasize about an America where bikes are a bigger part of the infrastructure. Reducing our collective fuel burn, cutting a hole in our traffic gridlocks, and getting more people laid.

Seems like I’m not the only one, either. Here were some of the most recurring and coherent ideas we found in the hundreds of responses to yesterday’s question; “What would honestly increase the mass appeal of motorcycling?”

Start ‘em young

Driving is freedom, freedom is what the youth is hungry for. If young people were incentivized to go for motorcycles they’d not only get comfortable with riding them, but they’d be more aware of other bikes when they got to driving cars.

Of course, this might involve some parental intervention. Kids, try yelling “Mom, come ooon,” and then pound the dinner table with your fists. Or just wait until your parents get divorced and then lean on their guilt when they find the machine you’ve hidden in the garage.

As suggested by infinityedge:

Change the law so that you can get a motorcycle license at 14, but can’t get a car license until you are 18, or even 21.

If everyone starts out on a motorcycle, many more will continue motorcycling throughout their life.

Not only will motorcycling be associated with fond memories of youth, it will provide a wonderful selective pressure to cull dumbasses prior to breeding.


Sell more practical safety gear

I don’t care what Wes Siler says, putting on proper armor and/or weather-appropriate attire is a royal pain in the ass. But you’ve gotta do it. Unlike your car, which you can drive naked without a significant decrease in personal safety.


Riding armor has come long way in terms of being “all-day wearable,” but it’s still very expensive and a pain in the butt to lug around. Maybe someday we’ll get lighter motorcycle clothes, or what about some kind of locker system put up near moto parking spots?

As suggested by colorfulyawn:

Oh, yeah, the gear is probably another thing keeping the popularity of motorcycles down.

I can hop in my car wearing board shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt. I don’t want to have to put on special clothes just to drive somewhere, and once I get there I don’t want to carry a helmet around with me.

And LVPoen:

So the solution is an Iron Man -suit. You can get those at Toys-R-Us, right? We need to get the consumer version manufacturers to offer adult sizes.


Make motorcycle licensing mandatory

If you can see the road from a motorcyclist’s perspective, you’re a lot more likely to see the motorcyclist you’re about to run over.

As suggested by NinjaIceberg:

I’ve thought about this idea before. I feel that if everyone knew what it would be like to ride, drivers would at least be more empathetic to the rider. And if they start riding, bonus. Before I started riding, I never thought about what a rider goes through. Now, I can put myself in the riders’ shoes.


Replace bad drivers with autonomous cars

When lanekeeping and blindspot alerts and self-driving tech gets good enough to see bikes, we’ll all be better off.

As suggested by Brian, The Life of:

#1 answer: when there are a LOT more self-driving cars than there are the kind piloted by meat sacks.


Offer tangible incentives to ride

Paying for parking sucks, especially in a metropolis like Los Angeles. It also costs a fortune. Neither of those things are true for bikers though, as the city’s got a few free and convenient parking solutions open to two-wheels that cars just can’t fit in. More of this will make motorcycling more enticing to everyone.

As suggested by GuileKlein:

Free parking and the ability to park just about anywhere was a huge part of why I went back to two wheels after moving into a city where it is a pain in the ass to park a car.

Legalizing lane sharing/filtering would probably be a huge draw, especially in places with awful traffic.

Maybe some kind of registration or tax incentive. Moped/scooters are registered as bicycles here (around $20, I think), and between that and parking at bike racks, they are pretty popular.


Get people off their asses

I bet a list of “how to improve the health of Americans” written by an ER nurse would include “ban motorcycles.” But I know one of the few things that will get me into a gym is the reminder that it’ll make me a better biker. Also, it sucks getting laughed at when you can’t pick your dirt bike up when you dump it.

As suggested by atfsgeoff:

Motorcycling is not popular in the United States because frankly, it requires effort and a basic level of physical fitness. Both of these things preclude a huge portion of Americans from utilizing motorcycles as daily transportation.


Keep new riders off high-powered bikes

A stipulation on motorcycle licenses that says “you can’t go over 750ccs until you’ve been riding for a year” would cancel a lot of people’s interest in bikes at all. It’d also cripple motorcycle sales and I’m guessing most big bike brand’s financing departments.


That said, riders who get their license and a 1300cc superbike in the same day are extreme safety hazards to themselves and others. If we could only sell people on starting slow, we might have fewer hooligans doing donuts in t-shirts on the highway, and a better image for bikers in general.

As suggested by d1sturb3d:

The solution is learn how to ride before buying the biggest fastest bike out there and thinking you’ll be fine. The attitude of young riders is the problem. Fast cars are expensive to buy unless you build them. Fast bikes are dirt cheap and considering how exposed one is and how most do not spend the money on protective gear, you are going to see a machine that doesn’t take any BS put you down hard. Motorcycles punish stupidity unlike cars that have driver aids.


Image via Chris Yarzab/Flickr

Andrew is Jalopnik’s off-road and adventure guy. He has lots of great and terrible ideas to give you! Hit him up at or on Twitter.


Get rid of car pool lanes and have a motorcycle lane so we don’t have to worry about cars killing us because they’re not paying attention to the road.