Motorcycle Enthusiasts: Taking the Pulse

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus

Likely as not, a lot of you reading this magazine probably aren’t aware that as we go about the business of putting together articles and coming up with ideas about what we think should be in Motorcycle Classics, we survey readers to see if they agree with us and to get their opinions on what direction they think we should be going. Vintage motorcycle enthusiasts are an opinionated bunch—no surprise there—and we learned early on that if we’re going to try to deliver the kind of magazine you really want, we can’t operate in a vacuum.

To that end, every other month we send out a couple of short surveys. The first queries readers for their opinions about stories in the making and stories we’re hoping to put together. We ask you to rate your interest in a subject and a headline, and then use your feedback to help us decide what bike or bikes we should feature—or not at all. Once you’ve helped us decide what some of our stories should be and how interested you are in them, we follow up with a second survey asking your opinion on possible cover images for the bikes you’ve selected. We’ve learned a lot in the process.

One thing that’s abundantly clear is that the majority of classic bike enthusiasts still love the usual British suspects; Norton, Triumph and BSA always rate high: If the surveys are any indication, you can’t get enough of the bikes you once rode, still ride, or would like to ride. European classics are almost as strong, with major players like BMW, Ducati and Moto Guzzi the most appreciated. There are surprises, too, such as the view held by many readers that vintage Japanese bikes, even if they are appreciated at some levels, still aren’t seen as classics. That’s interesting to us given the long history of Japanese bikes in the U.S.—almost 60 years now—and the impact they had and continue to have on the market. 

Besides getting opinions on stories and covers, we use our surveys to get direct feedback from readers, asking you to chime in with your thoughts on the magazine; good, bad or ugly. The direct replies we get highlight what a diverse lot you are, underscoring the fact you’re a hard-core group of enthusiasts with varying opinions on what should and shouldn’t be in the magazine. For every person who says “no more Triumphs, they’ve been done to death,” three more chime in with “more Triumphs and Nortons,” followed by someone who writes, “Too many articles on European bikes! Most of us have and are interested in Japanese.”

The feedback we get is incredibly helpful, yet I’m convinced we’re not getting the full picture. Right now, over 5,000 of you are on our advisory board. That’s about 12 percent of our readership, and about 20 percent of the 5,000 of you who have already signed on regularly respond to our issue surveys.

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