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Why Are There Less Motorbikes in Canada?

Published by Tamar Hela.

Why Are There Less Motorbikes in Canada?

Motorcycles are a popular mode of transportation globally, with millions of riders worldwide.

However, the motorcycle culture and use of motorbikes varies significantly across different countries and regions due to diverse climates, regulations, cultural attitudes, and industry landscapes.

In Canada specifically, there are several factors that have influenced the adoption and perception of motorcycles over the years. This blog post analyzes some of the key climatic, regulatory, social, and industrial determinants shaping motorcycle culture in Canada.

Motorcycles have seen growing popularity globally in recent decades, with millions of motorcycles manufactured worldwide every year.

Canada plays host to an established yet modest motorcycle community and market compared to other major countries. This can be attributed to several unique Canadian conditions.

This blog post is that motorcycle culture in Canada has been influenced significantly by the country's varied climate and geography, regulatory environment surrounding motorbike licensing and safety, cultural perceptions of motorcycles and similar motor vehicles, and opportunities and challenges faced by the domestic motorcycle industry.


Climate and Geography

Canada's diverse climatic zones and terrain have played a role in motorcycle usage patterns across different regions. Varied geography ranging from coastal to mountainous to prairie areas means motorcycling conditions and seasons vary considerably. For example, the west coast province of British Columbia enjoys a milder climate conducive to year-round riding, while provinces like Manitoba and Ontario see harsh winters cutting the riding season short.

The seasonality of motorcycle use in Canada stems from this climate factor. Motorcycle sales tend to surge in the spring and summer months when better weather allows for more riding. Motorcycles are only really used during the summer months for comfort and safety reasons.

This seasonality influences the Canadian motorcycle market and culture compared to more temperate regions where motorcycling remains feasible throughout much of the year.

Comparatively lower rates of motorcycle ownership and use exist in Canada's colder central provinces compared to coastal British Columbia and southern Ontario.

For instance, Statistics Canada reports over 816,443 motorcycles registered across the country. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have the highest rates while just 3,500 were registered in the Northern Territories. The geography and climate challenges of the Prairies like extensive snow and short riding seasons discourage motorcycling as a popular mode of transportation in those regions.

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Regulatory Environment

Canada has implemented regulations around licensing, insurance, speed limits and equipment standards that both facilitate and restrict motorcycle usage to varying degrees compared to other nations.

For instance, obtaining a basic motorcycle license in Canada involves completing an approved safety course, vision test, and knowledge test, which is more stringent than some U.S. states with less rigorous testing protocols.

However, insurance requirements for motorcyclists are costly in several Canadian provinces due to higher risks.

For example, basic liability insurance for a 600cc motorcycle in Ontario would run a new rider $2,000-3,000 annually according to insurance quotes. Such high insurance premiums deter some from motorcycle ownership, though some provinces like British Columbia have implemented reforms to make rates less prohibitive.

Regulations on equipment such as mandatory helmets, eye protection and high-visibility gear have helped make motorcycling in Canada safer compared to places without such rules. However, critics argue some regulations could be relaxed without compromising standards to foster a stronger biking culture.

Comparing approaches across different jurisdictions provides insights on optimizing regulations.

Safety Concerns and Perception

While the number of motorcycle crashes has declined over the past decade according to Transport Canada, riders still face greater per-vehicle fatality risks than car drivers. On average from 2014-2018, 228 motorcyclists lost their lives annually on Canadian roads. Certain risk factors attracting public concern include lack of protective equipment in some crashes as well as impaired riding and exceeding speed limits.

There remains a perception among some in Canada that motorcycling is mainly a recreational activity as opposed to practical daily transportation.

However, advocates highlight the environmental and congestion benefits of motorcycles alongside cars. Shifting attitudes will depend on factors like improving safety, addressing affordability barriers through insurance reforms, and emphasizing motorcycling's role in sustainability goals.

Culturally, motorcycling in Canada navigates a complex relationship with images of freedom and risk-taking alongside concerns around noise and safety. However, a growing community events scene points to evolving perceptions of motorcycles and riders as lifestyle choices rather than stereotypes. Increased diversity and inclusion on the riding scene could help foster a more positive culture.


Industry Challenges and Opportunities

Domestically, the Canadian motorcycle industry is still small in scale compared to major global manufacturers. For example, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) is one of the largest Canadian producers and exported over 115,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2020, predominantly consisting of off-road motor vehicles.

However, advancements in new types of motorcycles like electric powertrains and connectivity present opportunities for growth.

BRP has invested in developing electric motorcycle models for urban commuting use cases. Meanwhile, tech trends around rider assistance, autonomous features, and vehicle tracking could shape the future of motorcycle design and experience.

Shifting consumer demand towards sustainable transportation also plays to the strengths of motorcycles' fuel efficiency. Promoting electric models and integrating motorcycles into multi-modal commuter solutions could help drive uptake.

At the same time, maintaining affordability through accessible purchase and insurance costs remains crucial for industry expansion prospects.

Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the evolution of factors like climate change impacts, regulatory innovations, technological disruption and shifting social tides will collectively influence Canada's motorcycle landscape in the coming decades. While motorcycling currently enjoys modest popularity concentrated in certain regions and demographics, several possibilities exist:

New types of motorcycles like electric motorcycle adoption could surge nationally if battery technologies advance to provide longer ranges suitable for Canadian commutes and infrastructure expands to enable convenient charging. This could help mitigate weather constraints and transition motorcycling into more of an everyday transportation solution.

Alternatively, stricter safety regulations or insurance hikes stemming from crash concerns may dampen enthusiasm, albeit unintentionally. Ensuring policies balance justified regulations with enabling affordable access will influence ridership levels.

Changing attitudes towards urban mobility, environmentalism and thrill-seeking leisure activities will also determine whether motorcycling participation diversifies or declines as a recreational pastime. Strategic industry efforts promoting cultural inclusion and sustainable models could stimulate interest.


Final Thoughts

Canada's motorcycle culture has evolved alongside unique geographic, regulatory, social and economic conditions compared to other motorcycle hotbeds internationally.

While ridership remains modest nationally due to various enabling or restricting determinants, the intersection of climate change, technological disruption, policy shifts and evolving norms open possibilities for both uptake and expansion of riders and challenges ahead.

Factors like seasonal limitations, insurance affordability, industry competitiveness and public perception will influence whether riders maintain a stronger niche as transportation evolves in Canadian society in the decades to come.

Continued analysis of diverse international approaches can offer lessons for optimizing motorcycle regulations, safety practices and inclusive marketing to suit the Canadian context.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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