Can electric bicycles help pull motorcycles out of a hole?
Remora fish use suction to stick to sharks or whales. They help remove dead skin from the host while benefiting from the protection of the bigger fish. The relationship can sometimes be mistaken for a parasitic one. But look closer and you can see the vital role both play in the ecosystem. One supports the other. A Positive ‘Catch 22’. The idea is called Mutualism – the interaction between two or more species where each species has a net benefit.
The relationship between motorcycles and electric bikes, or ebikes, is an example in the business world. To the casual observer, it may appear as, at best competitive, at worst parasitic – it’s an either, or choice between motorcycles or electric bikes. But look closer and you can see an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship that may be the solution to one of the conundrums the motorcycle industry has had for the last decade or more – declining audiences.
The average age of bikers has crept up over the years, younger riders aren’t coming in to take their place, and sales are declining as the volume of consumers to target shrinks. All manufacturers are trying to attract younger bikers, either through A2 models or cheaper smaller alternatives. But the decline continues.
At the same time, interest in electric bikes has shot up over the last four years. That interest has led to demand as sales of electric bikes have shot up across Europe – in 2018, one out of four bicycles sold in Germany is electric.
It’s no surprise they are catching on. They’re a convenient and easy way to travel longer distances without getting sweaty or needing to invest in Lycra. Distances previously at the outer reaches of fitness are now easily within reach of electric bikes. Meaning more and more people are starting to get out of the mindset of public transport or cars, and into the mindset of travelling further on two wheels. Those new riders are getting used to the discomfort (compared to public transport or cars) and getting over their fear of being more exposed in traffic. They are getting used to getting dressed with the right safety equipment for the ride and getting used to securing their bike at their destination.
In effect, electric bikes are helping to break down some of those barriers to entry for motorcycles. At the Motorcycle Live show, there was a strong representation on the electric motorcycle front, including some great trials bikes from OSET, but as an industry, we need to work harder to build our mutualistic relationships with the smaller electric bikes and give non-riders an easier way into the two-wheeled world.