In 1960, when the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission of the United States Forest Service conducted the first U.S. National Recreation Survey, “off-highway motorized recreation” was not included as a recreational activity. A few people were driving into the back country with motorcycles or 4-wheel-drive vehicles but not enough of them to register as a population-wide activity.
Fifty years later, to say things are different almost gets it.
According to the 2008 Forest Service report “Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in the United States and its Regions and States: An Update National Report from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE)” retail sales of new All-Terrain Vehicles and Off-Highway Motorcycles more than tripled between 1995 and 2006, with 1,034,966 units sold in the last year for which statistics were available. An estimated 8,010,000 ATVs and Off-Highway Motorcycles were in use on back country roads and trails during 2001-2003.
We sure do like our internal combustion engines.
In the spring of 1967, Outdoor Life featured ads for motorcycles aimed specifically at fly fishers, with Suzuki touting them as an environmentally friendly solution to pollution.
Thanks to Suzuki trail bikes, you could be the first to drip refined petroleum products on untarnished nature, and you could be comfortable while doing it, because these Japanese-made bikes were “spec’d out specially for America’s longer roads and riders.” Waterproof brakes allowed riders to safely take the plunge into clear streams, where the big fish lurk. They wouldn’t guarantee catching fish but with a 12,000 mile warranty, an angler could cover a lot of stream bed chasing them.
Yamaha addressed concerns about safety, using the word three times in their ad, though who knows what “safety-approved” meant. Their electric starter must have made life easier for adventurous anglers at the end of the day but their ad didn’t need clever copy to convey its message. A simple list of features does the trick.
Those two bikes appear very different, as do the anglers who rode them. I notice the Suzuki fisherman wears a windbreaker and trousers while the Yamaha angler wears a jaunty hat, sporty vest and hip boots. On style points alone I’ve got to go with the Yamaha.
But gosh-darn it, them are foreign-made bikes! Couldn’t an American company produce a tough off-road motorcycle to compete with those Japanese machines? A company that embodies the call of freedom and celebrates our rugged individualism, appealing to the wild one in each of us and building a tough-guy bike for anglers who prefer jaunty hats? A company like Harley Davidson?
Get your motor runnin’.
Who’d a thunk it? I didn’t know Harley Davidson made a wimpy, non-Hell’s Angels bike.