You see it in used bike ads all the time. It’s usually in a short phrase that includes words something like this, “low miles, never down.” Now it’s pretty easy to understand “never down” but “low miles” is an awfully subjective thing. No? Likewise, many of us have friends whom we’d label as “high mileage” riders. What does “high mileage” mean? I have a friend who, since the beginning of July has completed the 11,000+ mile Iron Butt Rally and subsequently ridden to Oregon (from here in Pennsylvania) for the BMW Owners National Rally and back. 18,000+ miles in about 3 weeks. I’m pretty sure that’s “high mileage.” But what does the rest of the world view as high mileage, or miles, on a motorcycle?
I checked to see what the well respected Kelley Blue Book had to say about mileage when valuing used bikes. Their take on the subject goes something like this – for smaller displacement bikes (which tend to be weekend “toys”) the average usage tends to hover around 3000 miles per year. Further, KBB, sees typical annual usage for larger touring or sport-touring bikes in the 5000-6000 mile range. Then there is some sketchy NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) data floating around that says the average annual mileage of the entire US motorcycle fleet (at least the ones registered for highway use) is perhaps closer to 2000 miles per year.
Upon digesting the “well researched” info above, I decided to collect a little bit more data from real-world source close at hand. At Martin Motorsports one day last week there were 36 used streetbikes on the showroom floor. They ranged in age from a 1982 model to a barely used 2013. The highest mileage unit was a pretty tired 1991 Honda CB750 with 77,000+ miles on the clock and the lowest was that 2013 (A Yamaha XT250 Dual Sport) which had logged just 377 miles. Average miles for all 36 units? 13, 607. Perhaps more interesting in the context of our current discussion is this number – 2136. That’s the average miles per year for the entire group of pre-owned bikes that happened to be sitting on the sales floor on that particular day, and it doesn’t seem to be too wildly out of whack with the NHTSA number. The bike with the highest average miles per year was a 2011 Triumph Tiger 800 that had clocked over 27,000 miles in barely 2 1/2 years of service. The lowest? A 2006 Yamaha XV250 (a tiny beginner type cruiser) that had logged an average of only 223 miles per year.
So what does all this say about our riding habits? Obviously, on the average, bikes get used way less that cars (which average aver 10,000 miles per year – so sayeth NHTSA.) Some bikes get used virtually not at all (we all know of the owner whose bike has languished in the garage, under a blanket, for years.) Others get used almost continuously and accumulate insane mileages each year (can you really afford to burn down a new bike in just a couple of seasons?) Some riders think they ride “a lot” when they accumulate 3000 miles in a year. Others (like some friends in the BMW crowd) think that they are somehow less than “worthy” because they only ride a paltry 10,000 miles in any given year.
Riding, and in particular style of riding, is a very personal thing. But, in any case, the end of summer is coming at us pretty quickly – let’s all get out there and ride some more miles while we can! Everyone can help get that average miles per year number up!!!