Updated: May 10, 2011, 1:09 PM ET

Motorcycle sales finally on the rise

By BJ Smith
ESPN Action Sports
Archive

Chad ReedSupercross Champion Chad Reed wasn't offered the support he needed to race the 2011 season so he started his own team.

The motorcycle industry has not been immune to the rocky economy but it finally received its first good news for unit sales in over two years. Motorcycle sales among major brands rose 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council's (MIC) Retail Sales Report. This report tracks sales among 18 leading brands being sold in the U.S. This was welcome news to an industry that experienced 14 years of rising sales from 1993-2006. Total sales of all new motorcycles and scooters topped the one million mark for six straight years through 2007 according to the MIC's Press Relations Manager Ty Van Hooydonk.

In February 2009 the MIC issued a release that said the off-highway motorcycle market dropped off 30 percent in 2008. While the aftermarket industry remained strong, the decline in new unit sales forced the manufacturers to cut racing budgets, which was one of the factors that led superstars like two-time AMA Supercross Champion Chad Reed and former FIM World Motocross Champion Christophe Pourcel scrambling for rides before the start of the 2011 AMA Supercross season. The OEMs simply didn't have the money to pay them. Reed formed his own team, Pourcel stayed home.

The popular scooter segment saw the biggest gain, up nearly 50 percent. Sales of dual-purpose bikes, built for on- and off-highway use and generally among the most fuel-efficient motorcycles, increased by almost 25 percent. Tire sales, a strong indicator of motorcycle use, were up as well during the first three months.

"Nothing compares to a motorcycle for combining fun with saving money," said Tim Buche, MIC president and chief executive officer. "There's no more enjoyable way to get to work and get around, and rising fuel prices have given our customers yet another great reason to ride."

Motorcycle and scooter tire sales increased 29.4 percent in the first quarter, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council's Quarterly U.S. Motorcycle Tire Sales Report, which tracks nine major tire brands. Total on-highway tire sales rose 27.5 percent, while scooter tires jumped 48.6 percent.

The MIC Owner Survey estimates that 11 million motorcycles were in use in 2009, a 5 percent increase over the 2008 motorcycle population of 10.4 million. Motorcycle miles traveled also increased 5 percent from 2008 to 2009 with a total of 27.6 billion miles. The percentage of U.S. households with at least one bike rose from 5.4 percent in 2003 to 6.8 percent in 2009.

MORE ACTION SPORTS HEADLINES

MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM