Mr Procter, congratulations, this is possibly the most important article anyone of your profession will write this year, and I couldn't agree more.. The Kawasaki 'Think even smaller' advert could be updated with a new picture, and price, and be run tomorrow! It's almost shocking to see how relevant it remains, and yet nothing like that has appeared in the national press recently (that I can think of).
Yes, there will always be a market for the 'dagger-eyed' sportsbikes, and fair enough, they capture the imagination of da yoof nicely; but there's a massive amount of people out there who's lives would be immensely improved by getting out of their cars and onto two wheels for their daily commute - not to mention the benefit to the environment and the state of the roads.
According to the RAC, "British commuters have the longest average travelling times to work in Europe - at 45 minutes per day," but "the main reason given for using the car to drive to work was that it was quicker than other options." How crazy is that?
I used to commute in and out of Oxford on a BMW R1150R - about half of the trip involved passing almost stationary queues of cars. I never understood why I felt so alone! I wanted to wear a sign on my back that said "This could be YOU! Ask me how." There must have been about 400 cars in our office car park. And about 4 motorbikes. And we had changing rooms, showers, even a dedicated parking area near the building.
As you so eloquently put it, it's not about getting more people to join our fraternity, as if being a biker is an alternative way of life. It's about simply getting everyone to embrace biking as a brilliant solution to some big problems. The more successful the industry is, the better for everyone - whether it's cheaper kit prices, better awareness of bikes by other road users, or simply more motorcycle parking bays. The fact is that car users are the majority, and anything that swings the balance back in the bikers favour is a good thing. For everyone.
There is another element to consider though, and that doesn't seem to be the fault of the manufacturers or their lazy hidebound ad agencies.. and that is a cultural one. If you take a look around the rest of Europe, they don't seem to have the same hang-ups about bikes as we do in the UK. In France, it's almost a rite of passage to own a 50cc scooter when you turn 15 or 16. Take a look inside any garage in Sweden and you'll probably find a motorbike. The Italians have their Vespas, and so on..
A couple of years ago I was working in Issy les Moulineaux, a sort of office district of Paris, and every pavement edge was covered in bikes and larger capacity scooters. And they don't care if it's cold or raining, they stick big mittens on the handlebars and install what looks like a sleeping bag for your legs (just on the scooters of course) - Fashionable? Not exactly, but very practical.
The industry could start changing UK attitudes to biking if they would only follow your advice and stop treating biking like it's difficult. And we as bikers could sometimes do a bit more to lose our 'alien' image and promote biking. We all need to reach out to our friends, family and colleagues, and get them to understand that we are just people who took some lessons, passed a test and bought a bike. We're not superheroes or freaks, we're just that little bit smarter than the rest ;-)