TOKYO >> Motorcycles have been making a comeback on the nation’s roads. Jump-started by pandemic demand for socially distanced commuting and leisure, domestic moped motorcycle sales soared in the first half of this year and are on track to hit the highest level in more than two decades.
From January to June, 143,959 bikes were sold in Japan, a 28.2% increase from the same period in 2019, and experts say annual sales are poised to exceed the 290,000 mark for the first time since 1998.
Bikes with engines from 51cc to 125cc have accounted for slightly less than half of sales. These are utilitarian vehicles commonly used to get around town in the course of daily life.
Motorcycles have been gaining particular traction among people in congested urban areas who want to avoid crowded trains when commuting and shopping during the pandemic.
Female motorcycle enthusiasts are said to be on the rise, a trend fueled in part by the popular anime “Super Cub,” about a girl’s life-changing travels on a motorbike.
Dealerships have struggled to keep up with the surge in demand. Delivery lead times have been running around two to three months at the SCS Ueno Shinkan dealership in Tokyo.
Sales of more powerful mid- and large-size motorcycles have also been brisk, rising to 76,187 units in the first half of 2021, a 21.2% increase from the same period in 2019.
The focus on motorcycle touring as a form of socially distanced recreation has enticed members of older generations to hop back in the saddle as well.
Hinomaru Driving School in Tokyo reported a 50% jump in students registering for classes from January to August, compared to the same period in 2019.
“The rise of teleworking has given more office workers a chance to enroll,” said Hinomaru President Waka Tomita.