So far, the year 2020 has been about as reliable as a homemade two-stroke engine. Whatever your opinions are about the COVID-19 pandemic, odds are that it has disrupted your business and personal life to at least some degree. And if you’ve attempted to purchase a new bike in the past five months, you’ve likely encountered what can best be described as a super weird buying environment. Aloop is here to help shine some light on how the motorcycle market has been affected, and what you as a buyer can do. Let’s answer some common questions:
Why is inventory so low at motorcycle dealerships during COVID?
If you’ve walked into a dealership recently, you’ve probably noticed a very sparse offering of motorcycles on the floor—and there are two reasons for this. One main factor is that during the global pandemic, almost all the major brands’ factories were closed between March and May of 2020. Japan, Asia, South America, Mexico and domestic US factories were all equally affected. Additionally, many, if not all, of the subcontracting factories—companies that make electrical components, tires and the like—were offline as well. This production stoppage meant a huge disruption in the flow of new motorcycles, and as a result the pipeline totally emptied out. There were no units in transit over the ocean, nothing to resupply the domestic US warehouses, and the dealers’ lots emptied out as a result.
The other reason showrooms became empty is that demand for bikes has increased dramatically. People who were locked inside for 3-4 months have emerged craving exercise, fresh air and entertainment. Along with all other categories of outdoor recreation, motorcycling has seen a huge increase in public interest. Many people aren’t just buying a first bike either, they are replacing a worn out older machine or getting back into a sport they left years earlier. Taken together, these two factors created the perfect storm for bike shops; no supply, excessive demand. Every shop in the country was affected. The amount of lost sales can only be guessed at, but it’s a gigantic missed opportunity for the industry.
So, when will motorcycle dealerships’ stock be replenished? After COVID?
Manufacturers have told us that they are running the factories at full capacity now, but clearly that’s not exactly true. Maybe the reason lies with the larger network of suppliers that the OE’s rely on, since you can’t ship a new unit unless it’s 100% complete. Even a missing light bulb will stop a machine from being ready to sell. The pipeline is still producing just a dribble, and this is at a time when dealers are crying for much larger deliveries than they had received over the prior two years. Eventually, things will slowly return to normal, but this could honestly take 12-24 months. Time will tell.
I’m trying to find a specific new (or used) bike, but just can’t locate one. What should I do?
If you want to buy a bike this year, you must do some serious looking! For new bikes, we recommend you start with CycleTrader.com. It allows you to search for any make and model bike within a certain search radius. It draws from dealership inventories as listed on the dealer’s own websites. Be aware that many dealers don’t keep their sites up to date, but at least this will give you a place to start. Once you have a list of places that say they have your bike, we’d recommend a phone call. The marketplace is so hectic right now that many dealers won’t respond to an email inquiry in a timely manner, or will just send an autoreply. Just give the dealer a quick phone call (the Cycletrader website will list the dealer’s phone info on each unit’s detail page), and they will likely be glad to give you the most current information. Another way to find dealers for a specific brand is to visit the manufacturer’s website and go to the dealer locator. You can usually set this for a certain search radius as well. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a dealer in another area that has the bike you’re after.
For finding used units, we like to start with Craigslist.org. If you’re looking for a specific model you should search the model designation several ways—for example, searches for “XR400”, “XR-400” and “XR400R” would all yield different search results. Search all these terms separately and you’ll harvest all ads that have been listed with the model designation you’re after. Remember, you can also do a negative search on Craigslist, like “-harley”. Just use the minus sign before the term you don’t want returned.
Another helpful tool is called searchtempest.com. It allows you to search many local craigslist areas at one time. Be careful, if you cast the net too wide you’ll have more search results than you can handle. We generally set the search radius to 500 miles to start, and then move out from there. You’ll get a lot of duplicate results, but once you learn how to use searchtempest.com it is an amazing help when you know what bike you’re looking for.
Oh, and for those of you who love to browse facebook marketplace, we’ve found that FB edits and personalizes your search results so dramatically that two buyers in the same market area will almost never see the same searched units appear in the results. You might get lucky, but searching FB marketplace is not going to be as effective as the other methods just discussed.
Has COVID made this a buyer’s or a seller’s market for bikes?
Supply and demand will always dictate the value—and selling price—of a motorcycle. With demand so high and supply so low this is not the year for bargains. When the seller has many other buyers lined up in the wings, or thinks that he can sell the machine quickly, you’ve lost all leverage in trying to get a deal. If you find the bike you want I wouldn’t sweat the price too much. Get it and have fun. Once you’re out on the trail you won’t be too worried about what you paid, you’ll just be happy you own it. One compensating factor is that if you’re financing the purchase, interest rates are super low right now, and banks will stretch that loan out for up to 84 months in some cases.
In terms of aftermarket, a ton of parts seem to be backordered. What gives?
Our Aloop parts are all made here in the USA, mostly in Colorado, and we have kept our backorder situation to a minimum. But overall it’s the same story as with bikes, the accessories market has been slammed. I’ve talked to other US-based aftermarket manufacturers who have two to three month’s worth of sales tied up in backorders. While the accessories pipeline is mostly empty as well, at least it’s shorter, since domestically produced parts don’t have to travel by ocean. If you know what part you need, get it on backorder soon, and then be patient. And in this instance, it may be smart to order from a dealership rather than direct from the manufacturer. The dealer likely has a stocking order placed and can fill your order from that. So in essence, you’ve skipped ahead in the waiting line. Plus, your local dealership can really use the business this year.
What do you recommend?
We strongly recommend that you ride this pandemic out—literally, go riding! It’s an odd time for our country—and the world as a whole—and just watching the nightly news for five minutes will make it clear that good vibes are needed. Dirt bikes are one of the surest forms of happiness that you can find, and no matter what the parts situation or the purchasing environment, pretty much anything with two wheels should put a smile on your face. Go twist a grip, try not to get wrapped up in the news, support your local bike shops, and be patient—things will likely get back to normal in about as much time as it’d take you to build that homemade two-stroke engine!