PowerSports Business

March 13, 2017

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Page 27 of 39

SOLUTIONS 28 • March 13, 2017 • Powersports Business www.PowersportsBusiness.com As of this writing, the powersports indus- try, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, is up 9.6 percent for the month of Janu- ary. Coming off a 2016 year of being down 2.7 percent, this is great news for our industry. Literally every category (street, cruiser, sport, etc.) but one (scooters) is up year-over- year in January. Most of the OEMs have an array of new models, and the excitement just a month now before the season kicks off is palpable. But why stop there? I'm about to give you another golden nugget for us to take stock in. Welcome to the bicycle industry. More importantly, welcome to the electric bicycle (e-bike) industry. Now stay with me on this, and I'll put a bow around it at the end. Electric motorcycles continue to make a bigger presence, with Zero Motorcycles leading the charge. From my conversations, purist motorcyclists simply cannot get behind these e-powered oddities. They don't sound the same. They don't rev the same. There's just not the "gruntiness" of a twin, or the "zippiness" of an inline 4. That said, if you've tried one, you know how much fun they can be. In the bicycle industry, electric bicycles are having a much larger impact and are much more accepted. However, many of the cycling purists feel exactly the same way. "You want to put a motor in that thing? Why ... can you not get up the hill on your own?" I must agree, I fall into this category myself. Or at least I did until this year. I was given two very strong arguments to embrace the electric buzz. The first was for health, fitness and rehab, and the second was companionship. Let me explain. First off, if an aging cyclist can continue on his bicycle with a little assist to get him up the hills, isn't that a good thing? Of course it is. Isn't rehabbing an injury with some battery assistance a good thing? Yep. And if I can actually commute to work now that I have a little "assistance," wouldn't one less car on the road be a good thing? Of course, but those categories must make up a very small portion of riders. The second piece of the equation hit me harder. What if couples spent more time together because the weaker of the two riders could keep up with the other, and they could share this activity together? Now that's valu- able ... they're starting to win me over. The home run for me came on a group ride in Arizona, as the IBD (Independent Bicycle Dealer) group hosted its annual training summit. Riding alongside my buddy Justin Gotlieb, we started talking about Specialized Bicycles. More importantly, we chatted about how Specialized has taken its entire line of high-end bicycles and given the consumer a powered vs. non-powered option. Think about that. They didn't power up a low-end, heavy model. They took their highest line of carbon fiber frames — designed for the purist — and motorized them. That's called being "all in" as an OEM. It is very apparent the electric bicycle industry isn't coming — it's here. Then Justin, a purist himself with his Ital- ian bicycle and componentry, tells me how much fun he had on one of the e-powered mountain bikes just weeks prior. Wait a minute. The "purist" is telling me how cool it was to slide the back end around a turn with his front leg extended? That's when it hit me. What he is describing is dirt biking. What is an electric bicycle? It's a cycle with a motor ... or, motorcycle. Justin, and many like him, considers himself "cyclist" and not a "motorcyclist." It never crosses his mind that he is a "motorcyclist." Why should you care? According to a study by the U.S. Bicycling Participation Report (commissioned by People For Bikes), 34 percent of Americans ages 3 or older ride bicycles. Compare that to the paltry 2.88 percent of powersports riders, and you can see the obvi- ous headroom. As more people power up their bicycles, they are covertly turning themselves into motorcyclists. We all know that once people get hooked on motorcycling, many are in it for life. The icing on the cake was a training I did at McGrath Motorsports in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Just weeks prior in Denver, I visited a shop called Good Turn Cycles. This is a bicycle shop where 100 percent of all bikes for sale are electric. I sat on a bike that I fell in love with. It had a chrome headlight, brown leather grips and seat, along with white-walled tires. The training in Iowa was at a motorcycle museum, and we got to tour the museum on a break. I stopped dead in my tracks at the 1903 Indian, which had a chrome headlight, leather grips and seat, and white-walled tires. I was reminded that Ducati's first bike was a Cucciola ("Barking Dog") as they slapped a small motor inside of an existing bicycle just after World War II. This is how motorcycling started! Honda did a fantastic job in the 1960s and '70s of making motorcycling far more socially acceptable than it ever had been. Don't look now, but e-bikes are doing the same thing, as what was old is becoming new again. Many Worlds colliding — and dealers can capitalize HEADROOM SAM DANTZLER See Dantzler, Page 39

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