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Biker holding helmet with motorcycle on sunset.

Student loan debt has been hindering millennials for years; now it’s causing harm to the motorcycle industry. According to MarketWatch, the motorcycle industry has been increasingly struggling due to millennials’ disinterest in purchasing motorcycles in light of financial burdens.

Over the past year, Harley-Davidson Inc. has been dropping in stock by as much as 29%. Sales have also decreased by 6.7%. The famous motorcycle corporation announced it would be closing its U.S. factory as a result.

Bernstein analysts say the reason for the slide in sales could be due to the aging out of baby boomers as the lead target audience.

Young millennials and Gen-Z/Millennials, born between 1990 and 2003 respectively, are two-thirds as likely to be interested in motorcycles as baby boomers during their pre-family stage, Bernstein says. Yet, an interest in motorcycles may not be enough to keep the industry alive.

“The average millennial has almost twice as much student debt today during their ‘pre-family’ life stage as did the average Gen Xer,” said Bernstein analyst David Beckel.

“That may not sound like a large enough increase in debt to sway one from buying a motorcycle,” Beckel said. “But for the individual 20 million millennials with student debt, the difference between $15,000 and $26,000 of student debt is $130/month, which is the equivalent to a monthly loan payment on an $8,000 bike.”

In 1990, 50% of college undergraduates had taken out student loans with an average borrowing of $15,000. By 2012, up to 70% of undergraduates had taken out student loans with an average borrowing of $25,000.

With that kind of debt, it makes sense for 80% of millennials to be happy with the idea of lab-grown diamonds when it comes to engagement rings compared to baby boomers and Gen Xers.

The typical new motorcycle will cost around the same as today’s average student loan debt, which makes it difficult for young millennials to purchase cars let alone a motorcycle. It’s for this reason that many who are interested in purchasing a motorcycle often opt for used bikes.

Approximately 78% of motorcycle usage is on-road riding while 41% is off-road riding, which makes used bikes seem like the better investment.

Bernstein analysts additionally theorized that rebellion, the characteristic often attributed to motorcycle culture, doesn’t appeal to debt-burdened millennials like it used to appeal to older generations prior to starting families.

“If you aren’t getting married, chances are you are not thinking about having children any time soon,” said Beckel. “And therefore the need to ‘rebel’ against the inevitable onslaught of permanent responsibility is lower.”