Where Are the Motorcyclists in the USA?

02/18/2014 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS


Talking to a European colleague the other day, I had to remind him that the United States is just as big and diverse as the European Union, with our country’s states being as unique as the sovereigns involved in the EU. The same goes for motorcycling in the US, with our sport and passion taking different shapes depending on your geography of this Great Union.

It tickled my fancy then, when today I saw a breakdown of motorcyclists by state in the United States, especially when the results were displayed on a per capita basis. Of the 8,410,255 motorcycles registered in the United States (D.O.T. figure, as of 2011), which states have the most motorcyclists by volume? The answer shouldn’t surprise you as California, Texas, and Florida take the top honors, likely due to their mild winters and coastal routes.

But which states have the highest concentrations of motorcyclists? Now that is where things get more interesting: South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Iowa. You’re a no good dirty liar if you say you predicted those three states to be at top of the list — with each stating sporting 12, 17, 18 and people per bike, respectively.

You can scratch your heads about the per capita figures with us. Our colleagues at Motorcycle.com suggest that the states’ hosting of popular bike rallies could play a role in the per capita listings, meanwhile we have our own theories about the popularity of motorcycles amongst Libertarian/Tea Party minded folks.

Neither theory works outr perfectly well, as Florida should have scored much higher with its hosting of the upcoming Daytona Beach Bike Week, which rivals Sturgis as the biggest motorcycle rally in the USA, depending on who does the counting, and what year we are talking about when making the comparison.

Similarly, if politics were purely at play, Oklahoma and Tennessee would have scored much better in their per capita tallies, but instead they are firmly in the middle of the pack.

It would seem fitting generalizations to motorcyclists is just as difficult as fitting generalizations to the whole of the United States of America — no surprise there.

However, one stereotype plays well, and is perhaps the most alarming fact and figure that we see here: our lawmakers in the District of Columbia ranked dead last when it came to motorcyclists per capita — over 4.5x less than the national average. Now that says something, now doesn’t it?

If you have any keen observations of your won, please leave them in the comments section. Bonus points if you use an ANOVA in your analysis.

Ranking of Motorcycles per Capita in the United States of America:

Rank State No. of Motorcycles Population People per Motorcycle
1 South Dakota 69,284 816,598 11.8
2 New Hampshire 79,266 1,316,807 16.6
3 Iowa 173,929 3,050,202 17.5
4 Wisconsin 317,276 5,691,659 17.9
5 Wyoming 30,351 564,554 18.6
6 North Dakota 32,654 674,629 20.7
7 Vermont 30,070 625,909 20.8
8 Montana 46,996 990,958 21.1
9 Minnesota 240,288 5,310,658 22.1
10 Alaska 30,983 714,146 23.0
11 Idaho 62,576 1,571,102 25.1
12 Maine 50,318 1,327,379 26.4
13 New Jersey 330,470 8,799,593 26.6
14 Colorado 173,120 5,047,692 29.2
15 Delaware 30,494 899,792 29.5
16 Ohio 390,494 11,537,968 29.5
17 Oklahoma 127,140 3,760,184 29.6
18 Washington 220,856 6,742,950 30.5
19 Pennsylvania 404,164 12,717,722 31.5
20 Indiana 204,402 6,490,622 31.8
21 New Mexico 64,863 2,065,913 31.9
22 Rhode Island 32,989 1,052,528 31.9
23 Michigan 308,338 9,877,143 32.0
24 Florida 574,176 18,838,613 32.8
25 West Virginia 56,210 1,854,368 33.0
26 Kansas 81,354 2,859,143 35.1
27 Oregon 108,313 3,838,332 35.4
28 Nebraska 51,371 1,830,141 35.6
29 Arizona 178,890 6,413,158 35.8
30 Connecticut 97,960 3,575,498 36.5
31 Illinois 350,193 12,841,980 36.7
32 Alabama 127,255 4,785,401 37.6
33 Tennessee 168,408 6,357,436 37.8
34 Arkansas 76,293 2,921,588 38.3
35 Nevada 68,951 2,704,283 39.2
36 Virginia 195,722 8,023,953 41.0
37 Massachusetts 159,000 6,555,466 41.2
38 Missouri 140,936 5,995,715 42.5
39 North Carolina 223,209 9,560,234 42.8
40 South Carolina 107,864 4,637,106 43.0
41 Kentucky 98,475 4,347,223 44.1
42 Hawaii 30,098 1,363,359 45.3
43 California 801,803 37,338,198 46.6
44 Utah 59,355 2,775,479 46.8
45 Maryland 120,069 5,785,681 48.2
46 Georgia 199,586 9,712,157 48.7
47 New York 345,816 19,395,206 56.1
48 Texas 438,551 25,253,466 57.6
49 Louisiana 67,486 4,545,343 67.4
50 Mississippi 28,067 2,970,072 105.8
51 Dist. of Col. 3,523 604,912 171.7
Total 8,410,255 309,330,219 36.8

Source: The Motley Fool via Motorcycle.com

  • Mark

    As someone who grew up w/ motorcycles in North Dakota (#6), has family in SD, and in-laws in Iowa, and who has lived at various times in Texas and South Carolina, I have two theories:

    1. The worse the climate for motorcycling, the more passionate one is. You have to be if you want to ride more than about two months a year. A milder climate makes one a bit more blasé about riding. When the weather makes it tougher to ride, you really savor the chances you get.

    2. Relatively empty roads with little traffic make riding easier, more relaxing and more fun. They also tend to lead toward lighter law enforcement. Always a bonus, that last one.

  • Renato Valenzuela Jr

    New York is surprising. Especially considering there are as many people that live inside NYC (roughly 10M) than outside of it (also roughly 10M). I wonder out of the 345k bikes in New York State, how many are registered in the city. Because they. are. everywhere.

  • Richard Gozinya

    Far as lawmakers who ride, there’s really no corresponding affiliation that I can determine. Darryl Issa, Jon Huntsman, John Kerry, Gabrielle Giffords, Joe Manchin, Max Baucus, Tommy Thompson, Mitch Daniels, among others. Seems a more or less even split.

  • Stu

    Half the bikes registered in South Dakota are probably in a different state because you can get a plate in SD from interstate quite simply.

  • Norm G.

    re: “You’re a no good dirty liar if you say you predicted those three states to be at top of the list”

    i didn’t get the others but i called New Hampshire. see entry for Laconia Bike Week and the Loudon Classic.
    been around 90 years. that beats Daytona and challenges the IOM and for good reason. iirc correctly there’s no helmet law, no insurance requirement, and no state income tax. their state motto, Live Free or Die. see that should tell you something.

    also, there are other little things you gotta look for when assessing this stuff. i learned LOOONG ago, weather isn’t the slam dunk you’d think it is. something else to look at…? per capita income. know what else i use…?
    (and this is a big one) GEOGRAPHY.

    get yourself a relief map. you’ll see NH has the White Mountains. NY has the Adirondacks. NC has the Smokies (ie. home of the Dragon). Arkansas has whatever those things are…? and of course Cali from Redding down to Bakersfield is one giant narrow valley, but everywhere else is friggin’ Mountains. a friend of mine with family in Denver swears by the riding out there. can’t shut him up.

    it’s the 3-legged stool concept. wherever you have any 3 conditions intersect, you’ll tend to have sustainability. wealth, conducive laws, geography, weather, etc. outside the states, you have drivers like high fuel costs and city congestion.

  • Norm G.

    i would also like to see this table sorted simply by sheer number of registrations. the top 5 would be CA, TX, FL (not surprising), but then #’s 4 and 5 would be PA, and OH… both averaging 400,000. surprisingly not very far off from the staunchly independent republic of Texas.

  • paulus

    As a non-US citizen I have travelled and ridden in the states, by choice.
    My choices are interesting roads and scenery, scenery, scenery…. and the list supports that.

  • Jason Bertin

    Jensen – it would be interesting to now overlay motorcycle accidents per capita. Wonder if those top states like SD, NH, etc would have a lower accident per capita rate?

  • It’s no surprise that CA’s not at the top of the list. Once you take the Bay Area as the exception that it is, the rest of the state’s not really interested in bikes. LA is particularly *un*interested, which is surprising since they’re the only viable solution to ghastly traffic.

    SoCal *seems* to be a great place for bikes, but that impression is created because: 1.) the U.S. (importer) industry and moto-media are centered there; 2.) there’s a huge population and if you concentrate all their bikes in one place, like Rock Store, because they all just want to pose together, it can be impressive at first glance. But, I still have to wonder, is this road registration data? Maybe adding dirt bikes to the totals would raise CA above #43, which is pretty dismal.

    All in all, I’ve long known that the rest of the country is more into bikes than CA. SD and NH at the top? It shows that America is still all about cruisers. Sorry about that.

  • Heyzeus

    California has about 30 states worth of population or more. Trust me we have rabid motorcycle people here just like everywhere else. The biggest difference is I can ride when ever I want on some of the finest roads in the world. Just watch out for the idiots on the road. Some who don’t have to have insurance because they are not here legally. The Rock store is a very small part of our riding culture. Trust me we ride.

  • Kory L.

    I feel you have to look at two major factors.

    One is demographics. You would have to look at the average age in each individual state. You look at the South and you would see many are retirees. Obviously a demo that won’t buy a bike.

    Two, where are bikes manufactured. Look at a state like Wisconsin where Harley and Eric Buell have been building bikes for years. It’s part of the culture in the Midwest.

    However, there are other social factors at work, such as disposable income. Trust me. All of the marketing teams for the manufactures know all of these things and knows where every bike rider lives. You can thank Google and social media for that and us for responding to articles like this.

  • philly phil

    The chart should have been done by the number of bikes per person…

  • Baron Von Balzak


    You are correct on New Hampshire, except you are required to have insurance.

  • Norm G.

    re: “except you are required to have insurance.”

    granted, never lived there, but has there been a law change…? think Italy and the adoption of a helmet law back in ’02. that’s another good cross reference. registrations to helmet law.


  • KTM

    I haven’t seen so few motorcycles nowhere in the world as in LA. Considering the traffic and EU like abnormal city destroying huuuuge parking fees I have no glue why all those people don’t use scooters and bikes over there.
    Same time strange the only place you can see bikes and scooters is NY same time numbers show there is almost no bikes. Any way visible bike cluture is very minimal in US by some strange reason. Hope it’s getting better if not earlier then after the gas prices will start rising as next decade biggest rise will happen in US and this for sure will change transportation culuture and habbits in overal for the US. It will be good change and new progessive things will happen in normal way I expect.
    Same time there is already lot of bicycles in LA and of course NYC. More scooters please ;)

  • Damo


    Yeah. I live 40 minutes from NH and know lots riders from there. Insurance has been compulsory for a awhile now. Great scenery to ride in that part of New England, just don’t do it on a race rep, the road are seriously choppy when you go off the beaten path.

  • Norm G.

    re: “I have no glue why all those people don’t use scooters and bikes over there.”

    like London or Miami, why get around on a bike or a scooter, when you could drive a VEYRON…?

  • Gennadiy

    The statistics might be affected by the registration regulations that differ by state. Plated dirt bikes and road legal ATVs may account for a good chunk of registrations in states that allow or require them.

  • As a NH resident I’m not surprised in the least, actually surprised NH isn’t #1. Come hang out in my front yard on any given summer weekend day and let’s count the bikes that go by. There are HD, BMW, Honda/Kawasaki and Triumph/Ducati dealers within 10 miles of my house that have had thriving businesses for many years. Personally I’ve bought a bike from all but one of them, in one case 3 bikes.

  • Now that I read some of the comments… Insurance is not required in NH. As Norm G said, NH is the Live Free or Die State. We don’t need no stinking helmets, insurance or seat belts. Although, personally I wear a lid and seat belt by choice. I also carry full insurance on my bikes and cars, all are paid for in full too.

    I just registered my bike 2 months ago and wasn’t asked to show proof of insurance. When I get it inspected I don’t need proof of insurance.

  • This is some very interesting data. Thanks for sharing!