Motocross and speed bike racing on cable television has also helped draw in customers, especially younger riders, and events such as the annual Ride to Work Day — scheduled this year for July 17 — help motorcycling enthusiasts raise awareness of the sport as a mainstream activity.
Manufacturers themselves have looked for new ways to spread motorcycling's appeal.
Companies such as Harley and Honda routinely sponsor events for their customers, and some even offer rental programs, so prospective riders can try a particular machine.
Bad economic times will eventually affect sales, says Brown. But he thinks riders are more likely to stick with the sport than those with other hobbies.
"I would say more people in general tend to stay with motorcycles than boat buyers or whatever other things people might get into," he says.
Looking for Adventure …
The enduring popularity of the sport comes from the feeling of riding on two wheels in the open air, riders say.
"People in general are looking for an escape from everyday life," says Thiede, and he says motorcycles fill that need. "You throw the cell phone in the tour box and just go."
"It brings you the open road," agrees Greg Van Brookhoven, a salesman at Bergen Sport Cycles in Lodi, N.J. "The wind in your face is certainly the feeling of freedom."
Even the terror attacks last September may have sent more people to motorcycle dealerships.
"The 9/11 thing certainly sparked sales quite a bit," Van Brookhoven says.
"People think that life's too short, and I'd like to do what I love."