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Pandemic Revs Up Interest For Land, Water Powersport Vehicles

DIRT BIKES of all sizes have been selling out at the Coleman PowerSports in the City of Falls Church. The sales have mainly been driven by former riders rediscovering their love for the sport, and introducing it to their family in the process. (Photo: News-Press.)

Braving a global pandemic isn’t enough excitement for some, which explains why the powersports industry’s sales have spiked nationally throughout the past seven months.

“The entire industry as a whole, nationwide, has just exploded,” Barry Gailliot, general sales manager at Coleman PowerSports, said. “The ones nationwide that have shown the most growth are the ones that are catering to off-road.”

Everything from dirt bikes and ATVs to jet skis were garnering strong interest at the Falls Church location ever since April, according to Gailliot.
In May that trend went “full throttle,” per Gailliot, especially because the City’s Coleman PowerSports is one of the few dealers inside the beltway, giving it a share of the Washington, D.C. and Maryland markets as well.

He stated that there’s been a huge increase in year-to-date sales for all of his off-roading and watercraft equipment.

The big picture view of the industry shows how wide spread the trend actually is.

A Cycle World report in June spoke with executives about the jump in attention they’ve gotten from consumers.

The president of the Motorcycle Industry Council said that this year’s powersports sales were better than the past three years.

A Honda executive said that its off-road sales have been consistently up since the pandemic set in.

And the head of Ducati North America said its numbers at its dealerships in New York City, Los Angeles and the Bay Area were up roughly 25 percent.

One shop owner told the Fremont News-Messenger, based out of Fremont, Ohio, that he has experienced sales that feel similar to the late ‘90s and early 2000s, easily doubling numbers during the pandemic than what they would normally be selling.

Since 2008, the shop owner told the News-Messenger, the industry had fallen off a cliff, with many shops going out of business, going from around 12,000 dealerships in the country to around 6,500 to 7,000 now.

A SHORT TRIP to Leesylvania State Park by Woodbridge was suggested as a good place for jet ski ing because of its cleaner,, higher quality water. (Photo: News-Press)

Gailliot back here in Falls Church said that, outside of a few brands, everyone in the industry has benefitted from the sales resurgence.

What makes this trend even more intriguing is that it’s less so new riders than it is old riders who are coming back to the sport — and bringing their families with them.

“Families that ride together are the families that are communicating and really having a good time,” Gailliot said.

He continued, “When you really think about it, it’s their golden years of childhood. Those are the memories that are built into their kids for the rest of their lives. We’re finding that older parents in their 40s and 50s, who grew up riding, those are the best memories they have with their family. And they wanna share that with their kids.”

The family aspect of this is why side-by-sides, or off-roading vehicles that seat four people, have been Coleman’s sneaky bestseller. Understanding how affordable purchasing a dirt bike or jet ski is has also helped its appeal.

For a middle-of-the-line dirt bike, Gailliot said that will run someone about $8,000.

For a kid’s bike, it can go anywhere from $1,500 – $2,000.

As he put it, to meet the monthly $150 payment for a dirt bike, all you have to do is skip out on that weekend trip with the family or avoid eating out twice a month. Suddenly, you’ve got a dirt bike in your shed.

Of course, there is a bit of commitment to off-roading if new (or better yet, returning) riders want to get the most out of their purchase.

The closest dirt bike trails — the Taskers Gap Trail and the Peters Mill Run Trail — are about 90 minutes out west in the George Washington Forest along the Virginia-West Virginia border.

Another option is the MotoCove ATV Trail in Gore, Virginia, which again, is right near the West Virginia border. It has trails as short as two miles and as long as 22 miles.

There’s less travel involved with jet skis. While Gailliot said they can be used anywhere in the Potomac River, he did recommend that going down south toward the Leesylvania State Park near Woodbridge would be a better call. It may be a bit more active at that launch point, but he said the water quality is a lot higher.

But new buyers will have time to mull it over. Gailliot said that people who’ve put down their deposits in July likely won’t be receiving their vehicle until November. Inventory has been tight, which is why Coleman has about 25 watercraft pre-sold.

With the cold weather slowly setting in, the industry as a whole will cool down as well. But Gailliot doesn’t anticipate demand will bottom out, particularly because the outdoors are maybe the only place that coronavirus guidelines deem safest.

“No one really knows how things are going to unfold or what restrictions are going to be put in place, so they’re just doing it” Gailliot added. “They’re putting their phones down, and actually going out and riding.”