How big is the motorcycle business?
Big. Multibillion-dollar big.
Motorcycling accounted for more than $10 billion in total sales of gear, accessories and vehicles in the United States in 2012, according a report released by the Outdoor Assn., which tracks the economy of outdoor leisure activities. Sales of "trip-related" products and services -- food, lodging, transportation and such -- totaled another $32.5 billion.
The "ripple effect" of dollars generated by motorcycle enthusiasts -- including wages paid in the manufacturing and service industries related to two-wheel sports -- accounted for more than $102 billion.
Those numbers, according the Outdoor Assn., are only for recreational uses, and don't even include expenditures for motorcycles used in industry (fleet sales of Harley-Davidsons to the local police) or non-leisure activities (sales of Vespas to the individual scooter-commuter).
These numbers may not be surprising to anyone who's actually participating in motorcycle riding or racing. The cost of a new dirt bike can approach $10,000, while the cost of a competitive street bike can be double or even triple that. Throw in the cost of the safety gear -- helmet, boots, gloves, goggles, chest protectors, racing leathers and more, requiring two full sets for the rider who enjoys on-road and off-road action -- and pretty soon you're talking about serious money.
It's not just the motorized two-wheelers that are spending big, either. According to the same report, the motorcycle numbers are edged out slightly by the bicycle numbers. Cyclists spent $10.5 billion on gear, accessories and vehicles in 2012, and $70 billion on "trip-related" products and services.
They just didn't make as much noise doing it.