18th February 2021

The Future of Classic Bikes

Whenever classic bike fans get together, online or face to face, the conversation invariably drifts round to what the future holds. The pessimists predict the collapse of the classic movement, while the optimists insist ways will still be found to keep our hobby alive, even thriving. So who is right? What will the future bring?

The biggest factor will be legislation. The government’s future plan to restrict new cars and vans to electric drive makes no mention of motorcycles, but the message is clear. Eventually, liquid fuel may become difficult and expensive to obtain. In the medium term, riding classic bikes on the road will remain popular as a specialist hobby, like horse riding, rather than a means of transport. In the much longer term (perhaps 2050 and beyond), we may become confined to track days. It may become the norm to transport your classic to the track in your electric van or camper and fuel up at the circuit.

The next issue is demographics. It’s often said that today’s young riders will have no interest in classics, but nobody under 90 currently riding vintage bikes (pre-1931) was around when those machines were produced, yet they love them dearly. More significant might be the cultural shift, with virtual experiences supplanting so many real world activities, and a generational trend away from motor vehicle ownership of any sort.

Related to this is the potential loss of the skills needed to maintain or restore classic bikes. Owners clubs already help with advice and parts supply and may ramp up their activities to fill the void. Local night school courses could provide basic mechanical skills if demand exists. Some steam railways even run apprenticeships in the engineering skills needed to support their activities – a lesson perhaps for the classic bike world?

And what of prices? As always, it comes down to supply and demand. While all the above trends may reduce overall demand, at the top of the market there will never be enough machines to go around. The premium models like Brough and Vincent twins and racing machines with pedigree, such as ex-factory bikes, will always have historic value. Lesser machines may well suffer from oversupply depressing prices but, on the bright side, this will bring them within the reach of many more potential buyers, pulling a new cohort of less wealthy owners into the classic movement.

For investors, a general drop in prices may drive them to find somewhere else to put their money, leaving the classic world to the true enthusiasts. Genuine fans, disappointed by the falling prices of their cherished machines, should take some comfort from the thought that, had they bought a new bike instead, they would have willingly accepted massive depreciation as part of the cost of ownership, and probably wouldn’t have enjoyed riding their machine half as much.

Having said all of the above, it’s important to remember that classic bike ownership is an absolute passion and one that’s full of nostalgia, thrills and friendship. Something that is in fact very often passed down through the generations. While prices may go up and down, what cannot be replaced by new vehicles (or no vehicle at all) is the experience of classic bike ownership and all the highs (and lows!) this can entail, which is why at FJ we’re confident that people will be enjoying their classic bikes for many, many more years to come.

What do you think the future holds for the classic bike industry?

 

The future... it does look dismal but for those of us who have ridin bikes out the 70's, 80's and now a '93 Kawasaki GT750. For the last decade. A charismatic, unstoppable tank, as dependable as a day after a night. Just keep riding the bikes until parts become obsolete. Usually luckily there is someone out there that usually has offers. Anyway keep it on road and ride, ride, ride... Winters, summers and fall! Life is too short to do enjoy any less.

Angel William, 03/01/2022

50 years of biking, from Brit's to big Japanese motorcycles, still have the drive to ride my classic bikes, never a better sound than the brit twins and triples, will be a sad day when the sounds of these bikes are eroded from our roads, glad I have had the best years of the bikes, music and our way of life.

jim, 01/11/2021

I love classic bikes and I'm I suppose quite young at 46, we have about 10 bikes, my sons who are 7 and 14 years old also love them, I took them to Stafford bike show this year and we all had a fantastic day out, but I must admit there wasn't many young ens, there...Well I will do my bit to keep things going and I'm passing bit on to my sons...That's all we can do is live in hope that it's passed down..My late father would be proud.

Ash, 30/10/2021

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