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ADV News7 Expectations of Millennial Adventure Riders

7 Expectations of Millennial Adventure Riders

 Millennials want to ride the world too but they see it through a different lens.

Published on 11.19.2018
Being a millennial adventure rider, I sometimes feel like the industry speaks a different language. Although concerns are constantly being raised about the decline in motorcycle sales, it often feels like a large portion of the market – women, young people, families, people of color – is simply being ignored when it comes to adventure motorcycles. Is that true, and what could the industry do better?

To find out, I interviewed over two hundred millennial adventure riders from North America, Europe and Australia via personal conversations and messages, emails, and social media. Here are some of the most often mentioned needs of millennial ADV riders that would bring us on board more efficiently – and a lot faster:

1. Experience Over Things

“Instead of buying a $20,000 bike and traveling for a month, I bought a $2,000 used motorcycle and rode it around the world for 1.5 years. For me, the priority is freedom, and a cheap used bike gave me more of it than a brand new one because I could afford to travel” – Luka, 26

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle


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Price tag is an important factor when buying a bike: most millennials prefer to collect experiences rather than things. The ability to go out and explore on a smaller, often second-hand bike is more important than the comfort of a large, brand new motorcycle. Low pay, student debt, high housing and insurance costs all contribute to the fact that while millennials love motorcycles, they simply can’t shell out $15,000-$20,000 for a luxurious BMW R1200GS or a similar machine. $6,000-$8,000, on the other hand, would bring a lot more of us to the dealerships!

2. Going Smaller and Lighter

“350cc to 450cc class ADV bike with real off-road ability and useful for adventure would be a great start!” – Ryan, 33

Most millennial adventure riders would pick a journey across the Andes or along the Trans American Trail on a light, off-road capable bike over a road tour of the Alps on a 1,200cc motorcycle any day.

Exploring the world, discovering more remote, out-of-the-way places and riding trails less used is an important element of the adventure for most millennial riders, so they seek out motorcycles that would take them off the beaten path.

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle

3. Changing the Image

“When making any purchases I always consider value for money, environmental impact and how much the item will contribute to my overall sense of fulfillment and happiness. Sustainability matters, but just as important is a company’s position on social inclusion and participation. I try to avoid spending my money with businesses whose values do not fit with my own” – Chantelle, 36

What if, instead of pushing the same old image of a middle-aged white male charging around the world on a big, imposing motorcycle, the industry started offering a new perspective? As a millennial rider, I’d love to see the renaissance of the 70’s Honda ad with the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

When asked why they ride, millennials all offer similar answers: freedom, discovery, community, the zen-like feeling of focus and being in the moment while riding. Very few mention values currently being advertised by the industry – the “cool” factor of power slides against stunning backdrops and going for the bigger and the faster instead of the more affordable and sustainable.

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle

“How come you see more travelers on older KLRs or DRs out on the road than on big ‘Adventure’ bikes? Yet featured content in magazines and other outlets mostly show the newest bike models only”, says Franziska Jenetzky (37).

More attention towards training and learning, families and community, minorities, young people, mini adventures – all of this, it seems, might have a more meaningful and long-lasting impact.

4. Gearing Towards Sustainability

“Fossil fuels need to go”, – Karl, 28

Riding around the globe on a motorcycle is the most delicious freedom there is. But experiencing the world in this way makes us acutely aware of the many environmental issues we are facing, and most millennials would love to swap their current rides for electric bikes as soon as possible.

Renewable energy is the future, and most of us would love to see adventure motorcycle manufacturers making more of an effort to go electric!

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle
Courtesy Zero Motorcycles

5. Being Part of the Community

“I didn’t need to stay connected when I traveled 10 years ago as a backpacker. However, I noticed that I am lately a lot on social media now”, – Franziska, 37

Being part of the community and building their own “tribe” online seems to be an important part of travel for a lot of millennials. Posting regular updates, keeping in touch with friends and family, helping each other out with tips and advice – all of this contributes to the need to be able to get online while adventure riding.

6. Style Matters

“I don’t think it’s enough that your bike is reliable and versatile or that your gear is waterproof. Adventure riding isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle, and a lot of people want to look good doing it” – Aleksandra, 37

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle

Although most younger riders put priority on adventures and experiences rather than material things, looking good is also important to them. And this doesn’t just go for female ADV riders who generally have less options when it comes to bikes and gear: a lot of millennials who love adventure riding also want to look good while doing it. Quality gear needs to look less like a Power Ranger meets Astronaut mix and more like stylish lifestyle wear while remaining functional.

7. New Rider Focus

“The industry is marketing bikes to itself. Why is there hardly any effort to attract new people to riding?” – Nathan, 29

Riding a motorcycle is exciting – so why more people aren’t doing it? Motorcycle shows, rallies, and similar events are great to build and strengthen the existing riding community, but what about attracting new riders?

Millennial Adventure Motorcycle

In South America, you can buy motorcycles and scooters just about everywhere – from kitchen appliance shops to shopping malls. In Greece and Italy, small displacement motorcycles and mopeds are a common means of transport for entire families, so bikes aren’t seen as an exclusive hobby requiring special skills. Rather, motorcycling is perceived as a fun, cheap and easy way to travel, commute, and go on adventures, easily accessible to everyone regardless of status, gender, age, or economical ability.

If the motorcycle industry began selling bikes in spaces where more people would see them as opposed in specialized dealerships, if motorcycle events were more active in inviting people who could potentially become riders, not just riders themselves, and attracting families, as well as marketed motorcycles as a fun family hobby, that might just tip the scales.

Millennial adventure riders want bikes that are smaller, lighter, off-road capable, affordable and attractive. We want ethics and inclusion when it comes to marketing, and we hope for ingenious designs and sustainability when it comes to new adventure motorcycle models. Will the industry listen? Only time will tell.

Photos by @rtwPaul, Rob Dabney & Stephen Gregory

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte
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42 thoughts on “7 Expectations of Millennial Adventure Riders

  1. 1-3 – I’m there with ya. Cheaper, smaller, less intimidating. Great.

    4 – Betcha Karl doesn’t actually do any adventure riding, but wants a cool looking bike for commuting. Or, he is too much of an EV fanboy to have any sense. Seriously. The definition of “adventure” is “away from electricity”.

    5 – How is this a function of the bike? What do you want, a satellite link built in? Or some sort of an auto-posting widget for FB? Take your phone with you and post as normal.

    6 – Yah, awesome. What’s “look great”? I think a lot of styling choices gear makes make are questionable, but this is really a meaningless statement.

    7 – Yes, absolutely. But. It’s not that bikes aren’t sold in enough places. That is seriously putting the cart before the horse.

    It’s not that “motorcycling is perceived as a fun, cheap and easy way to travel, commute, and go on adventures, easily accessible to everyone regardless of status, gender, age, or economical ability” because bikes are sold everywhere. It’s the other way around – bikes are sold everywhere because people see motorcycling as accessible.

    You know why they see it as accessible? Because there, it is. Because a motorcycle license is a motorcycle license, and not an endorsement on a car license. Because in a lot of places mopeds and scooters need no license. Because a kid can actually get a moped as a means of transport before he gets a car, or even instead.

    In US, motorcycling is not accessible to everybody. Only to people willing to go the extra mile for it.

    I actually tried to get my son a moped permit at 16. We gave up on it. It was too hard.

    Crappy regulations basically strangle the moped market, and the manufacturers aren’t really supplying it. Can you think of a single cool looking moped? All you got is plasticky scooters.

    • And the US motorcycle industry will not change until we Americans start viewing motorcycles as daily transportation rather than recreational toys. I wish I had a dime for every time a fellow “motorcyclist” questions my sanity for riding everyday no matter the weather and NOT owning a car or truck I’d be able to afford a new R1250GS and a Panegali (I do rent a truck to haul my dirtbikes to the track though)

  2. I’m a millennial and I couldn’t care less for electric motorcycles.

    A huge one left off this list is the height of the bikes. You pretty much have to be 6’6 to ride any dual sport in the market today. It’s really hard to get thrilled about ADVing as a beginner when you can’t touch the ground and your skills aren’t up to par to compensate.

    • Some of the height issue can be attributed to the price point that the market will bare. The manufacturers go cheap on the second most expensive “part” of the bike; the suspension. My MX bikes tower over any ADV/Dual Sport out there yet at 5’8″ and age 56 I have no issue with the unladen seat height because properly set up the bike drops 4 inches when I am on it. There is no reason a ADV/ Dual Sport to not have at least a couple inches of sack in the suspension and every reason they should. They can still be sprung to handle the weight of luggage by using progressive springs and “wallow” can be dealt with through better valving and shock/fork design, but there goes the price point shooting northward. Your statement on E-Bikes is understandable since we are 15-20 years away from viable battery technology for them to be truly usable

    • Spend less on the bike, take the extra you saved and spend it on a basic adventure riding course.

      On my dirtbike (ktm450) i installed a taller seat because it needed it. When coming to a stop i always had to drape a thigh over the seat to flat-foot the bike and im 6’. This is normal and correct.

      New riders think if they cant flat-foot 2 feet at a stop light its too tall, but its not.
      I see new riders dragging two feet leaving and stopping at a stop light. Completely unnecessary and dangerous. If they put weight on that foot while moving it would get thrown and wither twist an ankle or throw it into the chain or tire. A disaster waiting to happen.

      Please, new riders, take an adventure riding course. Youll pearn more in 2 days than in 2 years of riding on your own. Theres some very affordable ones available.

  3. Interesting read and some valid points if we are talking “post-millennial’s” but for true millennial’s they are the generation that is the driving force behind 4-wheeled vehicles (which I do not own) that are so over laden with tech that the cost of admission has ballooned to the level of absurd. They would rather sip Starbucks and text while driving a luxury SUV or Pick-up than straddle anything on just two wheels, except maybe a $5000+ bicycle just to show up their rivals.

    • How fascinating! My experience has been the exact opposite – on the rod, I keep meeting millennials riding smaller bikes or bicycles, volunteering as they go along, and getting involved in all kinds of community projects both abroad and at home. We do love our Starbucks though:)

  4. You are speaking right out of my mind. Thanks for the good insight into the more realistic world of travelling aside from 20k $ show room bike SUVs. Especially your “going lighter” advice is warmly appreciated.
    Please go on with your good work. And travelling, of course 🙂
    Kind regards,
    Svendura

  5. In the U.S. we are already blessed with all options mentioned in the article and more. Those options include inexpensive yet capable machines like the Honda CRF 250L, Suzuki DR and DRZ, Yamaha XT250 and others. All can be purchased used at very reasonable prices and new, many fall within the touted $6000-$8,000 range currently available at dealerships. In years past OTASCO, Montgomery Wards, Sears and others sold ultra cheap motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. The market drives such choices by vendors and for a number of reasons the market did not support those purchases. Poor quality, lack of qualified service, replacement parts availability and space utilization relative to profitability are some of the reasons they have gone away, leaving dealerships that have invested wholeheartedly in the industry as our best option. All motorcycles are fun and for infinite reasons. We are free to choose which reason suits us best. For some it is the thrill of riding a high strung, $10,000.00 plus street legal dirt bike weighing 250 lbs and for others it’s a vintage Norton or vintage looking Suzuki TU 250X with modern technology and reliability. Some prefer the robust feel and technical challenge of a massive KTM or BMW dual sport. We are only limited by our willingness to work for and invest in what we want. I would never lament someone’s ability to have a better ride or judge them for having an expensive machine, nor would I look down upon someone who couldn’t afford more than a beat up KLR. I’ve been all those people myself and I welcome them all. As for gear, again, we are blessed with options beyond belief and they are growing all the time. Manufacturers are catering more and more to female riders as their numbers and voices have grown. Inexpensive gear is available through places like Cycle Gear…even wear Frog Togs if we like (I have and will likely again) and we can pick loud or muted adornment as we wish.

  6. Item 4 is unrealistic. I’m not criticizing you, but so far the industry is pushing a pipe dream.

    Electric adventure bikes? We’ll likely get to mars before batteries can offer a reasonable range for street bikes, if ever.

    Let’s say you have a range of 300 miles. Don’t do that out west, a R1200GS (not A) doesn’t have the range required to get to from station to station without carrying extra fuel. Typical range; 250 miles. Where exactly are you going to find a charging station or an outlet? Let’s say you find an outlet in a remote area. Does it have the amperage to charge the battery on it’s grid?

    Not only that, the weight of batteries goes up to produce a better range and they’re made of lithium. Lithium has an environmental impact, its mined, it completely depends on a large infrastructure to produce that energy, still generally derived from coal. Then there is the law of diminishing returns, it takes energy consumption to produce energy. We still don’t know if the electric grid can sustain the load if electric vehicles went up 10%. The current grid has issues not even related to electric vehicles.

    Expended batteries are toxic and should be disposed of properly. Sure they can be recycled, but this again requires energy to do so, not even including the energy to transport them to the facilities to recycle it.

    Electric batteries may be the future, but are they really going to fix anything considering the issues stated above? I doubt it. It’s a cool idea that may be completely impractical long term and may in fact have a far more detrimental impact.

    Keep this in mind. Nobody thought plastic would have the environmental impact it has today. It was cheap to produce and nobody thought of the need to recycle it. Throw them away after use. An entire industry and a nation didn’t have the foresight to think 25 years down the road. Now there’s a huge patch of plastic waste in the Pacific. What impact will lithium batteries have in 100 years? If we believe technology can solve this problem, why didn’t it predict any results in the future? They didn’t care because it was profitable “in the moment.” Solving these issues is way harder after the fact.

    I don’t think electric vehicles will ever have a reasonable range for anything other than general city commuting. I might be wrong, but it doesn’t look like it.

    Otherwise your article is pretty decent advice and reasonable to people in your age group. I’m glad you are getting your generation into motorcycling. Nobody started out on a 25K motorcycle, we started out of little 125/250CC bikes and we generally have fond memories of them.

    You’re 100% correct, you do not need a high dollar motorcycle with 1200 plus CC’s to enjoy motorcycling. A lot of people my age tend to forget this simple truth. I’ve been tempted to get a little G310GS and beef it up a wee bit.

    Thanks carrying that torch to your generation. We need people like you willing to get out there and spread that message.

    • Electric vehicles can have decent range. Today that decent range comes at the cost of weight and money. Case in point – Tesla. However, since we are talking adventure, where you are away from civilization by definition, that limits things more.

    • For now it might sound impractical but they are developing bikes with solar panels that could make riding beyond the beaten path possible. Eventually the technology will be further refined. Might take sometime but I wouldn’t say is unrealistic.

      • Given how little the efficiency of solar panels has changed in the past few decades this is probably unrealistic. The current solar panel surface area required to charge a battery of the size needed to power any of the currently available electric motorcycles would be very large. Anything that would be small enough to actually carry on a motorcycle would take at least several days to charge (particularly when you consider that even the sunniest areas only have sunlight a fraction of the 24 hours that make up a day). The relative strength of the sun in a given region also has a huge impact on the rate of charge. None of the above takes into account the very limited range of current battery powered motorcycles or the impact of limited traction surfaces on battery life. This technology might be available eventually, but it is probably decades away if it ever comes to fruition (assuming we do not find much better alternatives).

  7. A lot of your points don’t apply to millennials but to riders in other countries where people are used to riding smaller cheaper bikes as the main means of transportation. That is not the case in the U.S. where the main mode of transportation is four wheels, no matter how beat up it is. That’s how the whole transportation infrastructure is setup: roads, lanes, speeds. Motorcycles are usually not considered in that setup and are an oddity. It is hard to ride mopeds and small bikes on most highways due to the speed of the traffic. Easier to carry groceries, shopping and kids in a car or minivan than on a small bike. Millennials in the U.S. currently don’t care about driving, much less riding. It is a concept foreign to them. Smartphones seem to be their main focus. Pretty soon phones will come embedded in people’s heads so they don’t have to hold them in front of them. Maybe then their hands will be free to ride motorcycles.

  8. I absolutely love articles about millennials. They always make me laugh. First off, the anecdotal quotes you selected could have come from any rider of any age of any ethnicity. Millennials didn’t discover cheap lightweight bikes over heavy GS… that honor belongs to people like Paul and others who learned through experience that lighter bikes are more capable. And, wake up, the moto industry isn’t just not speaking to millennials, it’s not speaking to armies of adventure riders. You think it’s millennials with their panties in a bunch over the Tenere 700 delays? Or the long stated desires for a unicorn bike? You’re not special in being ignored. Oh, speaking of experience, that whole “Experience over things” slogan… except when it comes to millennials and their electronics, right? Because, last I checked, it’s millennials who get in line around the block at the Apple stores every time a new iDevice comes out. $1000 for a phone? Why not a trip to Costa Rica instead? Or does that fly in the face of the Slogan? The Experience over things mantra is a made up slogan for a group of people who simply spend money on different things. Even funnier is “Style matters” and the attempt to justify the superficiality of that statement. Oh oh, remember, we value experiences over material items, but when we do demean ourselves to desire a “thing”, it’s really important that our vanity be served. Can’t look bad when we do our selfies, after all! But really, the funniest aspect is that, like all articles about millennials and riding, its always someone else’s responsibility to make the change. It’s the industry’s fault. It’s the bike manufacturers’ fault. It’s the clothing manufacturers’ fault. Try to hear this part: yes, those statements are true, but just once it’d be nice to hear a millennial write an article in which they take responsibility for, well, just about anything, instead of how they’re so uniquely different and how their unique needs are ignored by a callous uncaring world. Reality check: you’re not that different, your list of expectations are not that different than the rest of us.

    • Excellent, excellent response! You wrote my thoughts. I was working on a response but I’m one of those middle-aged, veteran “white men” that worked over the holiday responding to domestic violence calls and pulling people out of car crashes…

    • I want to hang with this guy! Well spoken! I’m 56 now but still remember the first time my neighbor let me ride his Honda SL70 around the yard. I was hooked forever. Finally saved up enough money at 13 to buy a used Honda XR 75 and I’m probably 35 bikes in by now; many of them bought used because I couldn’t afford the latest and greatest. I’m guessing many of the millennials referenced here didn’t have those early experiences as they didn’t want to leave their video games or smart phones to do anything active or adventurous. I do hope, for the sake of the motorcycle industry they can be exposed to the experience of twisting a throttle.

  9. The current motorcycle buying generations have a wealth of options. Bikes such as the XT250/XT225, DRZ400, DR650, KLX250, CRF250L, CRF250 Rally, KLR650, WR250R are all good choices (several of these models are readily available on the used market as well). The KLR and the CRF250 Rally already come with decent wind protection. Basic wind protection in the form of a small wind screen can be added to all of them relatively cheaply. If you want to be an adventure rider pick up one of these bikes for a few grand used and get out there and do it (that is how most of us that are a bit longer in the tooth got started). There are many riders from the millennial generation out there doing just that right now. Read a book, attend a talk, or go to class by one of these riders (or ideally all three). If it is truly about the experience you don’t need a $25,000 125+ horsepower thing to have an adventure or to be an adventure rider.

  10. I’m not sure what the definition of mellenial is but when I grew up we had the younger generation and the older generation. I grew up riding and racing (54 years to be exact) and I never owned a new motorcycle until I was almost 30 years old. Used bikes, as well as new bikes are out there, no matter what type you want to ride. I’m at a point in my life that I can afford the nice new bike, house, car, etc. The adventure bike of choice for me, so far, is a KTM 500, (I own 5 different bikes) but the next adventure bike is coming soon. Maybe the new 790/1090/1290, who knows. One bike can’t do it all, at least not on a “very well” basis. One thing I do know, for me, is that my cell phone is in my back pack. The reason bikes and gear is designed towards an older crowd is because that’s who can afford to purchase it.
    A friend of mine owns a couple of Honda dealerships in Texas and he told me that the Vet riders are what is keeping motorcycles alive. They can afford to pay for the bikes and the gear.
    Again, supply and demand. I don’t do facebook, instagram or starbucks, and still seem to make it day to day.
    This isn’t a knock against the younger generation, as my 2 kids (29/32) would self destruct if they lost their phone and couldn’t get on facebook, instagram etc. We all have one thing in common and that’s that we have a Passion to be on 2 wheels!

  11. Bullseye! Excellent article that goes to the point! (NEW!) Motorcycle sales are down, but riders are more than ever. The “problem” is that, many people rather prefer buying used and old-styled motorcycles instead of new, because new motorcycles have become tasteless!