Lowside Column

Rennie Scaysbrook | March 6, 2019

The Changing Face of Motorcycle Riding


There may be plenty of perks in this game of motorcycle writing, but high pay is not one of them.

We get to ride the latest and greatest for a living, but rarely can a person who calls him or herself a motorcycle writer physically afford the tires, let alone the bike itself.

Motorcycles are luxury items. The key word here being luxury. They are not items deemed necessary for survival by the greater society—although I tend to think they are from a mental health point of view.

The last few weeks, my mode of transport has been a luxurious 2019 Suzuki GSX-R1000R. A stellar machine. It’s as fast, smooth, and safe, as any sport bike I’ve ever ridden on the street. It’s also sitting in dealer showrooms for anywhere between $15,500 and $16,500, making it unattainable for anyone of my ilk—even though I admit the performance is staggeringly good for the money.

The want of a new motorcycle is ever present. But lately, I’ve begun to look in the rear-view mirror. Depending on your financial situation, a second-hand bike can prove to be a wise investment. A quick scan on Cycle Trader has revealed some interesting options. For example, I found a four-year-old Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS out the door for $10,995 in Long Beach, California. This one was the limited-edition model, number 294 of 300, with a year’s registration and 2874 miles on the clock. That’s not even run in [broken in].

A 2019 ZX-14R ABS is the same bike—it hasn’t changed at all aside from the paint—and will set you back an MSRP of $14,999. And that’s before you consider the taxes, insurances and associated costs of getting a new bike on the road.

It, therefore, becomes a tough argument to go buying a brand-new machine, and I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy on the dealer floor who must move new bikes when he is undercut to such a level thanks to stock that hasn’t even aged, despite the number.

But what if you can’t deny the allure of a new motorcycle? I get it. It’s all yours. Unmolested. Untouched. Curiously, motorcycle manufacturers have been slow to adopt financing models like leases that have been commonplace in the four-wheel world for decades. But as the world moves away from the outright vehicle ownership culture, companies are being forced into new models to ensure they can keep selling bikes and keep the bottom line in the black.

Lowside COLUMN - The changing face of motorcycle riding.
There have never been so many ways to get onto a bike as there are now.

Take Ducati, for example. A little over two years ago Ducati launched its Ducati Premier Financing program, which aimed to slice the cost of ownership for potential customers. This works similarly to the BMW 3asy Ride Finance Program, which is modeled off the car world. With Ducati, a rider on good credit can enter a leasing program over three years at a drastically reduced monthly payment, then have one of three options at the end: buy the bike outright and pay the balloon payment, sell it privately and pay the remainder of the balloon, or trade it in on a new one and begin the leasing contract over again.

The latter option is one that’s appealing because Ducati gets a substantial trade-in they know the history of their second-hand inventory, they sell a new bike, and the rider gets a new ride, thus keeping them in the Ducati fold and the cycle of money continues.

The BMW model has been hugely successful, with the Germans increasing their sales numbers year-on-year as a result, and riders who simply can’t afford the tens of thousands to have BMW’s finest under them have the option to do so. Ducati has been on this bandwagon for a couple of years, but it’s still not commonplace for the Japanese manufacturers to do financing options such as these to explore getting new bums on seats.

Financing a motorcycle is different from a car. The most obvious point here being bikes don’t travel nearly as far in a given year compared to cars, thus making the number of miles traveled per dollar often higher than that of a car. Then you throw in other costs like insurances, riding gear, etc., and even financing—however cheap it is—comes into question.

That new bike thrill only goes so far when wages are stagnant, and everything increases in expense like rent and healthcare—for no good reason at all.

For example, every year, the smiling assassin who looks after my healthcare plan comes to my work looks me straight in the face and tells me my rates are going up and I will get less for them. I’m getting shanked with barbed wire directly up the date hole while she’s making money. It’s capitalism at its best. But I digress.

With money being tight across the board, it should come as little surprise to know that more Americans are behind in their car payments than ever before. According to CNN, the fourth quarter of last year saw more than 7 million car loans past due by at least 90 days. This number represents a 1.3 million loan hike in past-due loans from their previous peak in 2011 as the country pulled its way out of the Great Recession and unemployment was twice the level it is now.

This is worrying for the bike world because it all comes back to what people can afford to spend, rather than what they’re willing to pay.

Here’s another option for you. What about renting a bike? The shared economy is finally making its way to motorcycles on a grand scale, and even savvy dealers are getting in on the act. A friend of mine recently started renting her bike out on Twisted Road, a website that gives bike owners the chance to make money off their motorcycles that are sitting in the garage gathering dust and chewing up registration costs.

It’s a simple service. The owner has insurance on their bike; the renter proves they have a bike license and Twisted Road has an additional insurance policy that covers accidents and damages. The company charges a 20 percent fee on all rentals at checkout, and require a $1000 credit card hold the week before you ride. The best part is you can find a bike anywhere in the world. It’s different to something like Eagle Rider (who rents you the bike from their inventory). It’s AirBnB for bikes.

When many are brutally honest with themselves, they might get out a few times a year on a bike. Sad, but true. Renting thus makes more monitory sense than any financing, or outright ownership if all you want to do is go for an occasional ride. It even means getting on a 2019 GSX-R1000 for a while becomes an option.

Ownership culture is changing right before us, and some companies are getting on with this better than others. Regardless of whether it’s a traditional loan, financing, renting or even doing up the old shitter in the shed, I think we can all agree we should all ride more. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to do it.CN


Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.


Click here for all the latest motorcycle Industry News on Cycle News.


Rennie Scaysbrook | Road Test Editor Rennie Scaysbrook is our Road Test Editor. A lifetime rider, the Aussie made the trek across the Pacific to live the dream in the U.S. of A. Likes puppies and wheelies.