Harley-Davidson aims to draw in a younger demographic by offering smaller, sportier, and cheaper.


This weekend's homecoming and 120th-anniversary celebration by Harley-Davidson is anticipated to draw tens of thousands of riders to Milwaukee's streets. The company, headquartered in Milwaukee, has been actively working in recent years to cultivate a new generation of riders, both locally and globally. Let's delve deeper into Harley-Davidson's strategy to inspire young individuals to embrace motorcycling — and assess its effectiveness.

For Sara Genske, riding a motorcycle is second nature; she's been doing it for over ten years. "I'm the first in my family," she mentioned. "It's very therapeutic, along with all the friendships you make." However, she acknowledges the challenge of involving younger people in the Harley community. "As the years go by, I think the median age of our chapter is 72 years old," she observed.

Kevin Carpenter, assistant director of the Milwaukee riding chapter, understands the barriers that deter younger riders. "Many of the younger riders are either intimidated by the Harley culture, the heritage, or the cost of the bikes," he explained.

Recognizing this challenge, Harley-Davidson has made a concerted effort to shift this perception by offering a range of smaller, sportier, and more affordable motorcycles. "A lot of people are discovering the joy of riding one, realizing how thrilling they can be," Carpenter noted.

Although Harley-Davidson experienced peak profitability around a decade ago, it faced five years of declining sales thereafter. According to Rich Kirchen, senior reporter at the Milwaukee Business Journal, the brand has undergone evolution to appeal to a broader audience, both riders and non-riders alike. "It's absolutely critical, and I don't think the company's quite there yet," Kirchen remarked.

Despite introducing different models and adopting a new retail strategy to attract younger customers, Kirchen believes the company's greatest profits still stem from its larger, traditional motorcycles. When asked about Harley's effectiveness in drawing millennials, Kirchen expressed skepticism: "At this point, I really haven't seen much of that."

Genske remains hopeful that ongoing rebranding efforts will result in a fresh wave of riders, enabling her Harley chapter to thrive in the years ahead. "Eventually, people are going to reach a point where they're unable to ride anymore, and we need new generations to come in and rejuvenate the chapter and the riding community," she emphasized. Additionally, in Ontario, where motorcycling is a popular pastime, there's a growing interest among younger demographics to embrace the Harley-Davidson lifestyle, suggesting a potential for expansion beyond traditional markets.