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The Impact that Covid-19 has had on Motorcycling

The onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on the broader economy. Businesses have had to drastically alter the way that they operate, and millions of workers have found themselves professionally housebound for the foreseeable future.

Certain sectors, like e-commerce, have done remarkably well. Others, like hospitality, have been hit hard. So where does motorcycling fit in?

What is clear according to Nick Broomhall, the Communications Manager at Carole Nash is that “PTW sales have done well during the post-lockdown period, especially in the smaller capacity commuter-type segment, which seem to be benefiting from the move away from public transport.  Indeed, certain sectors of this market are already ahead of 2019.”

Dealerships

Motorcycle dealerships have had to implement all of the same precautions as other retailers. Social distancing measures were enforced, consultations took place from behind Perspex screens, and appointments were by booking only.

During the lockdown, motorcycle dealerships were hit hard, with some forced to close altogether. Many of these businesses pitched in with broader efforts against the virus by providing emergency repairs for key workers. It’s likely that the same pressures will apply during future restrictions.

Bike sales

Since the lockdown has lifted, sales in motorcycles have surged. The demand for new vehicles, built up over the course of lockdown, has been behind this uptick, which has sustained through June, July and August.

But it isn’t just pent-up demand that’s responsible for this uptick. Given that overseas trips have been made markedly less feasible by the virus, many British holidaymakers have elected to go on long road trips through the British countryside – and what better way to do this than with the help of a motorcycle?

Another factor is safety on public transport. Rather than share a train carriage with dozens of potential plague-carriers, may Brits have elected to instead invest in smaller, more mobile vehicles to get them across urban centres. This is evidenced by the fact that sales of scooters are actually up 4.3% year on year, ahead of bike sales in general, which are down 11.7%.

Track days

Track days are going on, but there’s a missing element: spectators. In line with other sporting events, track days have been restricted to riders only since May 26th, with strict anti-contagion measures in place. Registration for these events now takes place online, and limits on the number of bikes and people in a given garage have been introduced. According to Carole Nash, a specialist motorcycle insurer, these rules “[raise] serious questions about the future of motorcycle events as we know them.” Given that people’s attitudes might not change, even if the medical situation does, it’s difficult to see a full recovery happening in 2021.

Touring/group biking

One recent change that’s put something of a downer on social biking and long-distance group trips is the recent government requirement that only six people be allowed to meet up at any one time. Of course, it’s difficult to think of a more socially-distanced activity than motorcycling, where you spend most of your time several metres apart from one another, your head protected by an enormous helmet. Nevertheless, the rules have put a dampener on touring, before the changing weather has had a chance to.

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