The roads fell silent in March 2020 as the UK went into full lockdown. As we shut the doors to our houses, unable to go anywhere unless it was essential, our motorbikes would remain parked in our garages and on driveways for the foreseeable future.
As ever-changing restrictions continue, we look back on rider behaviour during that period and how it’s impacted on what we’ve all done since.
To find this out, we conducted two surveys of riders during 2020. One back in May, during the first full lockdown and a follow-up one in September, post-lockdown. Here’s what we discovered...
Although motorbikes are one of the best ways to travel while social distancing, full lockdown meant there were very few places to go. As everything from offices and shops to restaurants and bars shut, unless we were key workers, we had little reason to leave our homes except for our one walk a day.
When the first full lockdown ended and restrictions were eased in June, life was far from back to normal and it still isn’t. Many haven’t returned to offices and won’t for some time. While places have started to open up again (for a second time) some have only been venturing out tentatively while others don't yet feel comfortable enough to go out at all.
But, for riders that wanted to, they could enjoy being back on their bike, in the knowledge that they could do so fully in line with the rule to stay two metres apart. They could breathe in the fresh air after being stuck inside stuffy homes and admire the British scenery after looking at no more than their own four walls for the past few months.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in April, nearly half (46.6%) of those currently employed were working from home - the majority (86%) in response to the pandemic.
During lockdown, only 8% of those we surveyed rode more or the same as normal, likely to primarily be key workers and volunteers.Unsurprisingly, the majority only made essential journeys or didn’t ride at all.
In the 12 months previous, while most riders said they rode for pleasure, close to half (42%) had been using their bikes for commuting.
During lockdown, that itch to get back out on the bike meant 21% of those who replied intended to ride more for commuting than they already were.
This was because they:
Hadn’t ridden enough this year (68%)
For social distancing (30%).
In fact, more than half now recommend to non-motorcyclists that they should consider getting a bike, as it’s one of the safest ways to commute. There was a huge demand for bicycles during lockdown with sales increasing by 63% in the UK, so perhaps once those that are cycling for pleasure need to make longer journeys or start their commute they will consider the benefits of a motorbike as a more practical commuting solution.
Riders were keen to get out on their bikes when restrictions eased. Almost half were already riding during lockdown and a further 34% started riding again as soon as it ended. Some waited a short time and a few (7%) are still shielding or don’t feel comfortable (7%) but a large proportion (48%) said they hadn’t got around to it yet.
“Lockdown was a tough experience for me and my family. Working from home while looking after two young children and switching from parent to teacher was strange. My bike was my 'get away' whether it was just standing in the garage looking at her, sitting on her and getting the feel for it, tinkering or just taking her out for the Sunday blast to clear the cobwebs.”
As countries started to shut borders at the beginning of lockdown, all holidays were postponed. As restrictions eased, a few jetted straight off in search of sun, sea and sand but were still limited with countries including Australia, for example, off limits for visitors.
However, a YouGov poll commissioned by Sky News found that two-thirds of Brits did not intend to travel abroad at all this year with only 16% still intending to do so.
Many took the opportunity to explore more of the UK, heading off on day trips and staycations that would require neither a passport nor quarantine.
Before lockdown was announced, 55% had one or more motorbike tours planned. Just over half (55%) planned to stay in the UK but 44% were heading off to Europe.
The majority of these (85%) were self-planned with 82% hoping to go with friends or family members.
Following the lockdown announcement, 74% were either not going to go or unsure whether their trip would still go ahead this year and 20% planned to change their trip to the UK.
“My favourite place to ride my bike is The Peak District as I can ride there and back in a day. I have managed to get out to quite a few places post lockdown, but I have also had some trips cancelled due to Covid 19. I was due to go to Spain on my bike this October but it was cancelled. From what I have heard from my friends, Spain is a motorcycle paradise.
Among them was the nation’s PE teacher, Body Coach Joe Wicks. He took his bike for a tour of the Scottish Highlands along with his brother and dad. After daily exercise classes on his YouTube channel during lockdown, he said, on Instagram: "Riding my motorbike is the one thing which completely slows down my busy mind and really relaxes me, so five days of it is just what I need."
The furlough scheme was put in place to help preventredundancies this year and, in June, there were 9.4 million on furlough. This equated to more than one in four workers in the UK. As companies slowly started to recover they were able to begin welcoming staff back but from the end of July until mid-August, the Office for National Statistics found that 12% of those were still on furlough.
Only 80% of wages were being received as part of this job retention scheme and redundancies did become a possibility, if not a reality, for many. Redundancies in the UK rose at the fastest rate since 2009 and fromMarch, more than 695,000 have been let go from their employment. It’s understandable, then, that many are now watching the pennies and only making essential purchases and so no wonder that fewer people are spending their money on bikes.
Not only are bikes off the shopping list for the moment, so are clothing and accessories. The majority (66%) didn’t buy any during lockdown and 77% weren’t planning to post-lockdown either.
While they may not be able to purchase a new bike, this break from riding has left many feeling like they could do with a refresher before they hit the roads again - which is perhaps why some are yet to venture out.
Additional training will be particularly beneficial for those that had only just passed their test pre-lockdown. While they are no doubt desperate to ride their bikes for the first time, 29% feel they could dowith extra training and the majority (80%) want to do advanced road riding.
Only 80% of wages were being received as part of this job retention scheme and redundancies did become a possibility, if not a reality, for many. Redundancies in the UK rose at the fastest rate since 2009 and from March, more than 695,000 have been let go from their employment. It’s understandable, then, that many are now watching the pennies and only making essential purchases and so no wonder that fewer people are spending their money on bikes.
The majority of riders either didn’t ride or only made essential journeys during lockdown.
Nearly a quarter now intend to use their bikes more for commuting - partly for social distancing reasons with public transport off limits.
Over half would recommend to non-motorcyclists that a bike is the safest way to commute.
Some still haven’t been out on their bike since lockdown ended. Almost half just haven’t got around to it yet but a few are shielding or don’t feel comfortable.
More than half had one or more motorbike tours planned this year but the majority of those weren’t sure they would still go on it. Most that did go post-lockdown went on one in the UK.
Most didn’t purchase the bike they were planning to buy this year and financial constraints have meant they couldn’t get clothing or accessories either.
Many riders feel they could benefit from advanced road riding after lockdown.
With the pandemic far from over and rules changing constantly - the future is still uncertain. Only time will tell what this will mean from motorcyclists but one thing is for sure, they are one of the safest ways to travel now.