DAYTONA BEACH — Faced with an impromptu Daytona Bike Week quiz, Deb James didn’t hesitate when asked to name the “Motorcycle Capital of Florida.”
The visitor from Terre Haute, Indiana, offered: “That’s obviously Daytona.”
A good guess, but no.
While Volusia County may claim the title this weekend as Bike Week concludes, the overall title could arguably go to Monroe County, home of the Florida Keys, based on registration data available from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
And it ain’t close.
The Story of Biking and Brotherhood shown first hand at funeral of Harry “Taco 1%” Bowman.You heard stories of road adventures, life lived, moments cherished with brothers, you felt the history and cherished it.
Monroe County has 119 registered motorcycles per 1,000 population. That’s 63 percent more than the next closest competitor, Seminole County, with 73.
One factor to consider, though, before investing in a Harley-Davidson dealership in the Keys, is motor scooters. They are a common mode of transportation on the 2-mile-by-4-mile Key West, and they are required to be registered as motorcycles.
Volusia County is third with 65 motorcycles per 1,000. Flagler County is next with 60.
Lake County, which hosts Leesburg Bikefest April 26-28, comes in 12th with 41 motorcycles per 1,000 residents.
The cluster of Seminole, Volusia and Flagler counties as 2-3-4 in the state doesn’t surprise Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida.
“It says, I guess … it’s more ‘Sons of Anarchy’ versus sons of accountants,” Snaith said. “Obviously, you’ve got major events in Volusia County, so the notion of owning a motorcycle might be more on the forefront of people’s thoughts than some rural county in north Florida.”
Nationwide, motorcycle penetration — the number of bikes per household — is trending up, said Andria Yu, director of communications for the Motorcycle Industry Council.
The Irvine, California-based organization rolled out its own data comparing the number of households to the number of motorcycle owners, showing it grew from just under 7 percent in 2014 to 8.02 percent in 2018.
In Florida, the number of registered motorcycles per 1,000 residents has been relatively stable over the past 10 years. But in Volusia that figure is down 6 percent, from 69 in 2009 to 65 in 2019. Yet Volusia’s 2019 total is actually up from five years ago, when it had dropped to 63.
Flagler County and the state, too, saw a similar dip, then rise in their numbers over the same stretch.
Richard Doty, a research demographer at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, grew up in Daytona Beach.
In addition to the recession’s effects upon what for many is a toy for those with disposable income, he suggested the shifts in registered bikes could have something to do with the state’s population growth and the boomer generation, which is now between the ages of 54 and 73.
“I’ve seen a lot of Bike Weeks and bikers, and not a lot over the age of 65,” Doty said.
That aging question poses one of the motorcycle industry’s biggest challenges.
“The ‘Easy Rider’ generation is pretty old and getting physically less and less able to ride,” Snaith said. “Will Millennials catch on at some point? Who’s to say how that will evolve?”
For now, though, it’s safe to say the Daytona Beach area maintains a strong biker culture.
Consider this: Florida has more than 1 million mobile homes and a little over 600,000 motorcycles. Additionally, the state has 845,000 registered boats.
Of Florida’s 67 counties, just four had more motorcycles per 1,000 residents than mobile homes or boats: Volusia, Flagler, Duval and Orange.