Honda & Nottingham Trent University

With the inevitability of lockdown measures being eased, many of us could soon find ourselves having to make the busy commute back to our workplaces.

The Government has advised commuters to consider all other forms of transport before using public transport, meaning increasing numbers of people are looking for safe, reliable and quick modes of transport during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Car-sharing, cycling and walking have all been discussed when it comes to commuters or travellers getting from A to B, but one solution has been missed, and that’s powered two-wheelers.

Motorcyclists across the world already know the benefits of two wheels - they’re affordable, economical and can help ease congestion. However, the list of advantages has been expanded even further now that being socially distanced is high on people’s agendas. Now, choosing two-wheels is a safer alternative to public transport as it allows individuals to remain isolated and at a safe distance from others outside of their households, while enjoying the freedom of the road and having a little fun in the process.

The article below goes into some detail to dispel some of the myths and rumours about motorcycles for both young people and prospective riders looking towards buying a motorcycle for the first time. All of which is great to get you started on your journey to #UnlockYourFreedom with a Honda motorcycle.

Visit to find our latest finance offers including, as well as more information for you to find the right bike for your needs.

It might not come as too much of a surprise to learn that the average age of a motorcyclist in the UK is a little on the high side, but just how high that number is might provide a bit of a shock. The average age of a motorcyclist in the UK is now 54. That's right; 54 years old. The obvious question this raises is why so many young people are shunning or ignoring motorcycles, so at Honda, we recently teamed up with some expert academics and Nottingham Trent University to gain an insight into how young people think and feel about motorcycles and riding them.

The idea for Honda week was hatched between Professor Alex Stedmon of Open Road Simulation Ltd and Honda UK PR Manager Iain Baker after Alex had presented at a motorcycle safety conference in Birmingham in early 2019. The pair met during a coffee break, and later that year Iain contacted Alex with the idea for reaching out to young riders about the potential appeal of motorcycles to them or the barriers that may be preventing them from getting on two wheels.

As Alex had recently become an independent consultant, he looked for a local venue for what soon became known as ‘Honda Week’. 

As Alex already has strong contacts at Nottingham Trent University's new, high-profile and state of the art  Engineering Department and it's close to where he lives, it was the natural place to set things up and with help from staff (Prof Neil Mansfield and Dr Dale Richards) the whole event just seemed to fall into place!

About Alex Stedmon

Alex Stedmon is a professor of Human Factors, with a specialism in motorcycle ergonomics and rider behaviour. When speaking to Alex, it quickly becomes apparent that he's a real motorcycle enthusiast and not just someone with a purely academic interest in the subject.

"I've been on motorbikes since the late 1980s when I was seventeen or eighteen or so, and I had a little 125 on-the-road trials bike," Alex admitted. "Back in those days you could ride a bike for two years before you needed to take a test, but then I kind of got into driving and cars and stuff and went to university and took a bit of a break [from bikes]."

It wasn't until around 1994 that Alex rediscovered his love for two wheels. The mother of a friend at university had a motorbike in her garage she didn’t use. Alex and his friend got chatting about it, and basically, he was told he could have the bike if he wanted it. Unsurprisingly, Alex was only too happy to take his friend and his mum up on the offer, but it turned out to be an even more generous offer than he expected.

Alex explains, "I went down and picked it up in a little old van, and the bike was an old Honda CG125 that had only been ridden for about 500 miles. It was brand new and had just been left in the garage. What had happened was the guy's mum had fallen off, lost confidence in riding, left it in the back of the garage and never touched it, and it had just sat there for, I think, about ten years. So, I got this almost brand-new motorbike for free, and all it needed was a bit more fuel in the tank, a quick check over and new tyres and it was fine."

Alex then took his bike test, and a lifelong biker was born.

The aims of Honda Week

The idea of Honda Week was to bring motorcycles to the university so young people could experience them first hand, and so, from a research perspective, the team could gain an insight into their perceptions of motorcycling and some of the appeal factors and barriers to motorcycling.

Despite being a self-confessed motorcycling enthusiast, Alex didn’t go into the study with any preconceptions of what he might discover. Alex told us, "Alongside my day job, I also work as an expert witness. I'll look into road accidents, causality, and rider and driver behaviour, and with that, you totally keep an open mind and look at what science can tell you about certain situations."

There were, however, several areas the team wanted to explore. As young people at university, it would probably have been their first time away from home and their first big opportunity as adults to do as they want. For example, would they be more willing to consider getting onto two wheels because they'd moved away from home? Is there something about the way they feel about the way their parents may react? Or is there something about the way their parents may have ridden bikes in the past that may be making them wary of trying it themselves?


The study was carried out over five days with five different Honda bikes, and there was a rolling road experience on the last day.

"The idea was we'd get as many students as possible into the engineering department at Nottingham Trent," Alex told us. "While they were there, they could look at the bikes, sit on the bikes, they could fill in questionnaires and take part in little workshop activities we were doing. And then on the Friday we had the star of the show, the unique rolling road, this meant people could ride a motorbike under full supervision, totally safe, and without the need for a license."

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As for the initial results of the study, Alex says, "As an initial take-home message, I would say the interesting thing was that when people had answered the initial questionnaire earlier in the week, around 50 percent of them said they didn't want to own a motorbike in the future. That was their initial gut feeling before the week had kicked off. "

However, by the end of the week when the students had spent time looking at and trying the bikes and thinking about them more carefully, that proportion actually switched around. At the start of the week, 52.2% said they wouldn’t want to own a motorcycle, while just 21.7% said they would. By the end of the week, those answering no dropped to 31.3%, but those who now said they would like to own a bike had risen to 50%.

"It would be nice to say the week had a direct impact on people's perceptions of motorcycling, such that if they were a no at the beginning of the week, they changed to a yes by the end of the week," Alex commented.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, around 50% of those who took part in the study said they had parents who rode motorcycles or who'd ridden them in the past. Despite this, a large proportion still had negative connotations about motorcycles and riding. "We thought that maybe if people's parents had ridden in the past, that might be a more positive influencer if you like," admitted Alex. "But then when if asked them if their parents would approve, there was a strong sense of disagreement and they thought that their parents would worry. I think there's definitely an underlying issue there that they'd be doing something their parents wouldn’t feel positive about, and that's potentially a barrier to motorcycling."

From this, Alex suggested it might be that parents needed to be educated with more information about motorcycling, the safety technology onboard today's bikes, and the graduated training you have to progress through in the UK these days that they perhaps didn’t need to complete before they started riding.

The idea was to put the user at the centre of everything, so the first exercise was an initial questionnaire that asked each participant about their attitudes to motorcycles, their appeal or otherwise, what barriers might be preventing them getting into bikes, and what social media influences their ideas and attitudes towards bikes and riding.

Next up was a design questionnaire with images of different motorcycles. This one asked participants about the various appeal of different types of motorcycles, how each made them feel, how practical they seemed, how comfortable they looked, and how safe they appeared to be.

Then there were young rider workshops where real perceptions of motorcycling, comfort and safety were discussed, and this also included the rolling road experiences. The final part of the study was where the team conducted eye-tracking experiments using specialist equipment to monitor participant reactions to different bikes and to collate this data into visual heat maps.

Honda and Nottingham Trent Uni

Honda and Nottingham Trent Uni

The bikes

Of course, motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes and suit a wide variety of different people and uses, so the participants needed to be exposed to a good range of different machines. The five bikes we supplied certainly covered all the main bases. There were three of Honda's smaller 125cc machines, a Monkey, PCX125 and a CB125R, and then they went up in size and power to a CBR650R, a Naked Neo Sports Café CB1000R, Africa Twin and the awesome Fireblade.

While the Monkey, CB125R and PCX125 are entry-level bikes, the CBR650R, CB1000R and Fireblade were included to represent the more "aspirational" class of motorcycles. When it came to the perceptions of the CBR650R and Fireblade the results were encouraging, if not entirely surprising.

Alex says, "They came across as being limited in practicality and limited in comfort, and they would potentially feel quite vulnerable on these bikes from a general motorcycling perspective. But, on the flip side was, from a more affective and emotional response, they felt these bikes were exciting, they weren't boring, and in the case of the Fireblade they'd prefer one to owning a car."  

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Drawing firm conclusions from a relatively limited sample of people is always going to be open to challenge. However, one thing that does appear to be apparent from the study is that people can quickly become more open-minded and enthusiastic about motorcycles and motorcycling when they are properly exposed to them.

At the start of the week, for example, 63.6% of respondents said they saw motorcycles as exciting. Once they'd been through Honda Week that number rose to an even more impressive 81.3%.

Perhaps more interestingly – and possibly more importantly – some of the initial negative impressions also saw a big turnaround after the students were exposed to the five Honda bikes and information about them.

By the end of the week, when asked if motorcycles were safe, the amount of respondents who said they were had increased by an impressive 38.2% from the number who agreed with the statement originally.

One of the most encouraging results of the week for those with an interest in seeing more people taking up motorcycling in the future was the turnaround in the response to the statement "I prefer a motorcycle to a car."

Before they went through Honda week, only 9.1% agreed with the statement. By the end of the experience though, an impressive 37.5% said they would prefer a motorbike. "Something really interesting in terms of the appeal of motorcycling is it sometimes goes beyond the practical limitations of them," Alex noted. “It’s all about understanding what users want and need from a product, that’s basically what Human Factors is about”.

It really does appear from Honda Week that the more young people are exposed to motorcycles and the possibility of taking to two wheels, especially away from a dealership or salesroom, the more enthusiastic and positive they become to the whole concept. Although the obvious reservations are still prevalent and understandable, greater education of the enjoyment and benefits of motorcycling could see a lot of younger people taking to two wheels in the future.

Andrew Mineyko

UK National Motorcycle Sales and Business Planning – Department Manager at Honda Motor Europe Ltd

“This was a great project to help us understand some of the potential barriers that new riders may experience and looking at it from a totally new perspective. We would like to thank all the people that participated, particularly those at Nottingham Trent University, who contributed to making this a really interesting event. Our first take on it was that it was maybe not the answers we were expecting, it highlights the need to make powered two wheelers more visible to the younger generation and make PTW part of their options when it comes to considering their transport solutions. "
As a result of the study and event, over the coming months and years, we are looking forward to expanding this research further, as attracting more young people to the PTW market is key for the future success of this important sector."

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