Motorcycle sales rev up

David Whalen
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Rising fuel prices among reasons for local bike boom

For Darryl Young, there's something indescribable about being on a motorcycle, alone on an open road.

"You get out there on the road and there's no phones ringing like there might be in a car."

Young owns Avalon Motorsports, a St. John's motorcycle training organization that opened in 2004. He just bought a new Suzuki M109 cruiser.

Since he opened Avalon in 2004, Young has seen registration jump from roughly 25 in the first year to 274 last year. Young projects at least 400 registrations for 2008.

Motorcycle enthusiast Darryl Young who operates Avalon Motorsports, a motorcycle training business, says he has seen a constant increase in bikers taking courses. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

For Darryl Young, there's something indescribable about being on a motorcycle, alone on an open road.

"You get out there on the road and there's no phones ringing like there might be in a car."

Young owns Avalon Motorsports, a St. John's motorcycle training organization that opened in 2004. He just bought a new Suzuki M109 cruiser.

Since he opened Avalon in 2004, Young has seen registration jump from roughly 25 in the first year to 274 last year. Young projects at least 400 registrations for 2008.

"It's unbelievable," Young said. "The interest is just exploding."

Across the city, motorcycle dealers have been experiencing a boom.

It seems changing demographics, the economic upturn, and steep fuel costs are all at play.

Ross Young, manager of Fun N' Fast in Mount Pearl and no relation to Darryl, saw a 57 per cent increase in sales from last year - for the period from New Year's Day to mid-May.

Young said there are two big markets for motorcycles. The first is the younger generation who are buying bikes for the first time. The second is baby boomers, many of whom had bikes before getting married and starting families and who want to rekindle the passion.

"They've come around full circle. The kids are grown up and the family obligations are out of the way and they want to get a motorcycle again. We see a lot of that."

Some owners say customers are considering motorcycles solely for their fuel efficiency. Bill Green, manager of Honda One Motorcycles and Power Equipment, has seen it first hand.

"I had a fella and his wife in here and the two of them were looking at a bike just because of the fuel prices," Green said.

Dick Cooper, co-owner of Cycle City and Recreation Ltd., said there's a definite resurgence in the industry. He believes that with fuel prices skyrocketing, demand for motorcycles' lower gas expense will follow.

"No doubt the fuel is going to have an effect over the next couple of years for sure," Cooper said.

Green said demand for fuel-efficient bikes is so high, Honda One has began offering a 50 c.c. scooter. He said demand is also strong for the 125 c.c. sport bike.

"You can get upwards of 70 miles a gallon, and people like that," Green said.

Avalon Motorsports is riding the wave. It just implemented a scooter training course.

"Ten dollars can ride you for a week of work," Darryl Young said.

Another trend witnessed by retailers is the increasing female market.

Not long ago, motorcycling was a male-dominated activity. Steve Ryan, manager of Atlantic Recreation Ltd., said women now want the handlebars to themselves.

"In years past, ladies were on the back of the bikes. Now, ladies are buying their own bike," Ryan said. "Four or five years ago it shifted to another gear and every year it's been increasing."

Ross Young said hot pink paraphernalia is about as popular now as the black stuff.

"We sell more female motorcycle clothing now than we ever did. There was a time when we practically sold none of that."

Darryl Young isn't riding any bandwagon. His love of the hobby has less to do with economic shifts than it does with gear shifts.

It's a passion he finds difficult putting into words.

"If you ride you know. But, if not, then it's one of those things that's really hard to explain."

david_whalen@hotmail.com

Organizations: Power Equipment, Atlantic Recreation

Geographic location: St. John's, Mount Pearl, Cycle

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