Who’s #1 in People-per-Motorycle and Why?

The Motley Fool, of all places, recently published a sorted list of motorcycle ownership, by state (from a 2011 DOT report). Hillariously, South Dakota is #1 with 12 people per bike. I say hillariously because having ridden through that state a bunch of times what I take from that data is that SD citizens ride 2 blocks from their trailer court to the nearest bar, where the bike stays parked until they walk it home that night. I’ve seen thousands of motorcycles parked in front of South Dakota bars, but damn few on the highway going anywhere. The few spotted on the road are mostly in trailers or drooling fluids in pickup beds. Like southern New Mexico’s reputation for being “the place where RV’s go to die,” freighter-loads of motorcycles get abandoned in South Dakota, usually in August.

Second place is New Hampshire? I’ve only been to New Hampshire once, in August, 2008. I spent two days cruising the hills (Easterners cluelessly call these bumps in the road “mountains.”) and enjoying the mostly empty two lane roads. I rode through Portsmouth, Manchester, and Concord searching for a decent bike shop where I could buy a replacement for a scratched Shoei face shield (managled by a vandal when the helmet was locked on the bike in Portsmouth). Not only did I not find a shop that stocked Shoei anything, but I didn’t find any dealers that didn’t resemble a biker gangbanger hangout. I made it all the way to Cleveland before I found an actual motorcycle shop with motorcycle gear in stock. Needless to say, I’m not much of an east coast fan. I did not see a single motorcycle on the road at any time in New Hampshire and the weather was perfect and I left the state late on a Saturday afternoon. So, what gives, New Hampshire?

In 3rd place, Iowa is a different case and I don’t really know what goes on inside the heads of Iowegians. When I’ve passed through the state, there is occasionally a lot of motorcycle activity around Des Moines. It’s all cruisers, noisy as hell, the slowest moving packs of bikers I’ve yet encountered (I even had to pass them in our VW RV a couple of years ago because they were plodding along at a pace below tolerable even for that miserable semi-transportation appliance.) The Fool had an explaination, somehow connected to Polaris and the “famous Iowa Grand Motorcycle Rally” (which I have never heard of). I can sort of believe that their other justification, “this Midwest state’s wide-open spaces make for a perfect landscape for Polaris’ and Harley-Davidson‘s famous cruisers” could be true. You have to travel a lot of miles to find an Iowa curve that might cause one of those hippobikes to bottom-out and scrape chrome. Every Iowa motorcycle I’ve ever seen exhibited absolutely no tire sidewall wear. Hell, even Iowa dirt bike parks are pretty much straight and flat.

The Fool claims that the purpose in collecting this “data” was, “. . . for the first time motorcycle enthusiasts can truly see in which states they have the greatest chance of passing by a fellow rider. For the motorcycle companies this data gives them valuable information on where they can most easily reach the greatest amount of riders and customers.” Good luck with that. If you’re not riding near a Black Hills casino or one of the biker bar hangouts, you could ride 1,000 miles in South Dakota and never see anything on two wheels, unless it’s a camper trailer.

The bottom of the list is more interesting, I think. The bottom five (not counting the District of Columbia at dead last) states are Georgia, New York, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Makes perfect sense to me. Those three southern states are home to the freakin’ most aggressive, least skilled drivers in the US of A. Riding a motorcycle in Texas is pure suicide, unless you’re part of a gangbanger parade. I lived and rode in Texas for three years and I doubt that 10 miles of that was on Texas pavement. Texas drivers are homicidal toward any vehicle that is not a pickup or SUV or semi. Even when they are not intentionally trying to kill you, their incompetence makes motorcycle commuting unappealing. Louisiana is worse and I can only assume that Mississippi and Georgia are a combination of stupid and vicious. Remember Easy Rider anyone? Oddly, Mississippi and Georgia are two of the 19 helmet law states. I’ve often heard the poser crowd claim that they’d dump their motorcycles if they had to wear helmets. Maybe this is evidence that’s true?

Rank

State

# Bikes

Population

People per bike

1

South Dakota

69,284

816,598

12

2

New Hampshire

79,266

1,316,807

17

3

Iowa

173,929

3,050,202

18

4

Wisconsin

317,276

5,691,659

18

5

Wyoming

30,351

564,554

19

6

North Dakota

32,654

674,629

21

7

Vermont

30,070

625,909

21

8

Montana

46,996

990,958

21

9

Minnesota

240,288

5,310,658

22

10

Alaska

30,983

714,146

23

11

Idaho

62,576

1,571,102

25

12

Maine

50,318

1,327,379

26

13

New Jersey

330,470

8,799,593

27

14

Colorado

173,120

5,047,692

29

15

Delaware

30,494

899,792

30

16

Ohio

390,494

11,537,968

30

17

Oklahoma

127,140

3,760,184

30

18

Washington

220,856

6,742,950

31

19

Pennsylvania

404,164

12,717,722

31

20

Indiana

204,402

6,490,622

32

21

New Mexico

64,863

2,065,913

32

22

Rhode Island

32,989

1,052,528

32

23

Michigan

308,338

9,877,143

32

24

Florida

574,176

18,838,613

33

25

West Virginia

56,210

1,854,368

33

26

Kansas

81,354

2,859,143

35

27

Oregon

108,313

3,838,332

35

28

Nebraska

51,371

1,830,141

36

29

Arizona

178,890

6,413,158

36

30

Connecticut

97,960

3,575,498

36

31

Illinois

350,193

12,841,980

37

32

Alabama

127,255

4,785,401

38

33

Tennessee

168,408

6,357,436

38

34

Arkansas

76,293

2,921,588

38

35

Nevada

68,951

2,704,283

39

36

Virginia

195,722

8,023,953

41

37

Massachusetts

159,000

6,555,466

41

38

Missouri

140,936

5,995,715

43

39

North Carolina

223,209

9,560,234

43

40

South Carolina

107,864

4,637,106

43

41

Kentucky

98,475

4,347,223

44

42

Hawaii

30,098

1,363,359

45

43

California

801,803

37,338,198

47

44

Utah

59,355

2,775,479

47

45

Maryland

120,069

5,785,681

48

46

Georgia

199,586

9,712,157

49

47

New York

345,816

19,395,206

56

48

Texas

438,551

25,253,466

58

49

Louisiana

67,486

4,545,343

67

50

Mississippi

28,067

2,970,072

106

51

Dist. of Col.

3,523

604,912

172

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