In response to rapidly rising gas prices, Americans are turning to motorcycles and scooters again, much as they did when regular passed the $4-a-gallon threshold in 2008.
Motor scooter sales were up almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), an industry trade group that just released a report tracking sales of 18 cycle brands sold in the United States. Dual-purpose motorcycles sales were up almost 25 percent during that period. These bikes are designed for on- or off-road use, and their ground clearance and ability to handle bumps make them popular with city dwellers. Plus, dual-purpose models are generally among the most fuel-efficient motorcycles, according to the MIC.
The group also found that replacement tire sales were up by almost 30 percent, which they say is a good indicator of how much riders who already own bikes have been using them. Sales of tires designed for road use jumped by 27.5 percent overall, with scooter tire sales up almost 50 percent over the first quarter of last year. The MIC tracks sales of nine brands of two-wheeler tires.
Overall, the MIC estimates that 11 million motorcycles were being ridden by Americans in 2009, a five percent increase over 2008.
If you'd like to join them, a good place to start is by looking into some professional instruction, such as a course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). If you're buying your first two-wheeler, a dealer should also be able to help find local instruction. Even if you're an experienced rider, a refresher is never a bad idea, especially if it's been a while since your last ride.
Either way, always wear the proper protective gear including a full-face helmet and protective gloves, jacket, and pants.
See our scooter and motorcycle buying advice, reviews, and Ratings.
Plus, see "Tips on buying and driving a motorcycle or scooter."