How To Turn Your Motorcycle Passion Into A Business
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Mark Twain and Confucius have each been credited with crafting this well-known homily, and certainly we have all day-dreamed about turning our avocations into a well-paying full or part-time gig. If your passion is motorcycles, you may be able to do just that with a little creativity and hard work.
How can I build a business around motorcycles?
The best way to start is to use the skills you have that complement your love of motorcycles. Are you mechanically inclined? If the answer is a flat no, then don’t spend a lot of effort trying to build a business in motorcycle repair unless you want to be the owner, not the labor. Are you artistic? There are several great ways to use your talents combining your love of motorcycles with your passion for creation and make money on top of it. Maybe you are a sales-oriented person, or more of a teacher. All these personality types can take advantage of different opportunities.
How much business is out there?
First, what is the size of the motorcycle industry itself? In 2019, sales of new motorcycles were down in the U.S. with motorcycles selling just under 450,000 units (-3.1%) and ATVs for the first time in this decade below 200,000, down 4.9%. The start of 2020 was strong, until the arrival of the Coronavirus effectively shut down sales in mid-March. However, the Motorcycle Industry Council reports that the market for used motorcycles is three times as big as the market for new bikes, which creates business opportunities for imaginative entrepreneurs. The Council notes that 10 million U.S. households have at least one motorcycle, which equates to over eight percent of households in the country and is an all-time high.
What kinds of business make sense?
- The dealer network for motorcycles is highly distributed. There are over 7000 motorcycle dealers in the U.S., including both single unit stores and separate locations of chains. Combined, they have annual revenues on average of $24 billion, including sales, service, parts, and accessories. If you are an enthusiastic biker with a flair for sales, you can choose to sell motorcycles or open your own shop. New bikes have a higher mark up, but also a higher overhead, and there is a large and growing market for used bikes. A used bike business might include repair and refurbishing to add value and increase the profit margin. Another sales option is parts. This offers a way to ease in with an online venture, selling parts via a website presence without the startup costs of a storefront.
- There is always a need for repairs, and not every motorcycle devotee has the skills to repair his or her own ride. In times of economic downturn, people are not so quick to sell, and may want to fix rather than trade in or up. As mentioned before, you don’t have to be the mechanic if you are more of the behind-the-desk kind of person, as long as you can hire the right talent.
- Motorcycle art. This category has several sub options as well. If you can paint a car, you can paint a motorcycle, and motorcycles are prone to being dropped, dragged, and scuffed. A basic paint job for a bike starts at around $800 and goes up—way up—from there. J.D. Power reports that custom artistry for a large touring bike can run as much as $35,000. If you have the skill to compete in that market, you can build a clientele by offering competitive pricing and fine work.
Perhaps you are a different kind of artist, though. The ownership of motorcycles now includes almost 20 percent women, and there is a market for motorcycle themed jewelry for both women and men aficionados. If you can create earrings, necklaces, bracelets or leather goods to appeal to the motorcycle crowd, you may be able to sell them via a website, or at a motorcycle shop or at the many clubs and runs that have proliferated across the country. Accessories and clothing are also a burgeoning area for exploration.
- Tutorials and videos. Admittedly, the chances are very slim that you will get rich by making YouTube videos fixing motorcycles, unless you are very good or very, very funny. But, it is possible that you could teach a course in motorcycle repair and safety at the local community college, or collaborate with law enforcement agencies to develop safety training and educational materials. If teaching is your talent, think of ways to take advantage of it.
- Motorcyclists love their bikes, and love to show them off, and to compare them with other bikes. There are trade shows, and other events for biking enthusiasts. These events need expert help, and they need labor as well. You may be able to run the show, or at least make it a part-time gig.
- If you love to ride, and know all the great places to go, share your knowledge. Organize trips for other enthusiasts. Offer packages, including tour guides, accommodations, and all the details taken care of. As boomers retire, they have more time for leisure trips, and many have the means to go in style. This idea can be as simple as a guidebook of local rides for beginners or a full-service package where you take care of everything for your clients, who just show up and ride along. You can take it a huge step further (when feasible) by organizing international trips that are built around motorcycle excursions.
- If you live in a popular tourist destination, particularly one that has attractive motorcycle rides, start a rental business. You will need the capital to purchase an inventory of bikes, but this could be a very profitable niche. It might be a good idea to consider joining up with a reputable insurance agent, since that will be a critical item for success. Keep in mind, this business could tie in well with touring packages and offers a place to showcase the jewelry mentioned previously. Think creatively, and the options multiply.
- Courier service. In some cities, like New York, bicycle couriers are popular due to heavy traffic. In others, larger distances make that mode unrealistic. Using a motorcycle for deliveries can offer the best of both worlds—easy to get through traffic jams (especially if you can lane split) but less physical than riding a bike all day). Advertise your availability as a fast, reliable courier for small deliveries—even specialize in motorcycle parts and accessories.
These ideas may lead you to some inspiration for you to transform your love of motorcycles into your business.