Do Motorcycle Riders Crash Expensive Motorcycles Less Often?

May 26, 2022

Aprilia RSV4 sportbike.

The 1 + 1 = 2 Wheels article series began when we sent an email in which we discussed the brands that are the most reliable based on Riders Share data. The answer was boring: they were all pretty much equally reliable (all but one). People were super interested and asked all sorts of questions, so we decided to start this series. 

We discussed which riders crash the most - by brand, adjusted by age and other factors, vs. unadjusted. Proud Indian Motorcycles owners crash the least, but they are the oldest, too, on average. It turns out Ducati riders were the least risky once you control for age and other factors!

Why would Ducati riders crash less often than other riders of similar age and type of bike?

We all have different stereotypes about Ducati riders… Well, we suppose Ducati does hold two of the three spots in the MotoGP podium as of this writing, and the top spot for MotoAmerica.

It brings up a different question altogether: do people tend to crash expensive bikes less often? In other words, are Ducati riders better, or, is it just that better riders choose more expensive street bikes?

What the Data Says

We looked at crashes per rental day over the past two years (think thousands and thousands of trips). We grouped the trips by their average market value. We define market value using a database from Pricing Digest, which is similar to NADA - mostly based on auction prices. Auction prices are more reliable than website or dealer listings because they reflect what buyers actually paid for vs. what sellers want to get paid for.

We can't reveal the exact crash rates… if our competitors knew how good we are at managing the crash risk, they would probably give up and close down (lol). 

Instead, we created an index, where bikes prices $5,000 to $8,000 are 100% and the other buckets are size relative to the middle one. The findings indeed corroborate the story that people tend to care more when riding an expensive bike. The bikes under $2,000 crashed almost twice as frequently as bikes worth over $11,000.

Fig 1. Crash rate index vs. motorcycle value

Perhaps older, more risk-averse riders prefer expensive bikes?

On the surface, it appears the older the rider, the more likely they are to rent an expensive motorcycle; it is consistent in every bucket, except the lowest value bucket. Hmm…

We tried controlling for other variables, not just age, and still found market value correlated with crash rates. For you data scientists, yes, we partitioned the dataset and tested the model in a holdover to see if this was true. In fact, our machine learning included market value as a variable in rider vetting for a while… this was a terrible idea because we pushed risky riders into more expensive motorcycles.

We suspect it has something to do with income. We don't capture our customers' income data, but it's been long known in both academic and business circles that income correlates to low insurance risk. In other words, people that make responsible, smart decisions end up crashing less often and also make more money throughout their lives. 

Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone, however given that we can't measure anyone's risk gene yet, it's one of the best data points we have available - and one that insurance businesses aren't allowed to use.

Next on Riders Share - which motorcycle types are averaging the most miles per trip?