By Anita Stiefel
Photos Contributed to LIVE Lee and By Anita Stiefel
Any motorcycle enthusiast will tell you that straddling a seat, feeling the wind against your face and hearing the roar of the engine is a feeling of freedom that transcends the usual, mundane task of getting from point A to point B. For many people, motorcycles are an extension of their identity. The type of bike ridden, how its ridden and even the gear adorning the rider — all of these elements can be forms of self-expression, reflecting personality and values.
Americans purchased half a million motorcycles in 2021, up 9% over 2020 sales, according to Statistica, which reported that the global motorcycle market was estimated to grow to $136 billion in 2023 as the market continued to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues. Statistica also notes that while sales of motorcycles is climbing, the average price has remained stable.
But move over motorcycles, there’s a new best-selling powersports vehicle in town.
Steve Prichard, sales manager of Extreme Powersports Opelika, said while motorcycle sales remain steady, the most popular products he sells right now are ROVs, followed closely by ATVs.
Generally the powersports market is segmented into the categories of motorcycles, dirt bikes and scooters, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), jet skis and snowmobiles.
“That right there is the number one thing we’re selling right now,” Prichard said, pointing to a 4-seat, camouflage-painted ROV. “And four-wheelers are second.”
The ROVs segment now holds the largest share of the powersports market and “is anticipated to exhibit consistent growth due to the ability to handle both utility and luxury tasks, advanced rollover protection systems, versatility in off-road applications (including forestry and agriculture) and the presence of multiple seating configurations,” according to Fortune Business Insights.
ROVs, also known as UTVs (utility terrain vehicles) in some parts of the country but better known regionally as “side-by-sides,” are steadily gaining in popularity, according to the Recreational Off-highway Vehicle Association, because although they are intended primarily for recreational use, they have “carved a niche in the workplace, including farming, construction and just about anywhere there’s a job to be done.”
“Current models are designed for a driver and may have seats for one or more passengers,” states the ROV Association website. “Their performance and durability make them ideally suited for a variety of outdoor recreational activities and work applications.”
Side-by-sides have a steering wheel, non-straddle seating with seat belts, a safety frame and foot pedals for acceleration and braking. They are typically designed for two people, but there are also models that can accommodate four and six.
Also hot on the market are ATVs — more commonly known locally as “four-wheelers.” Whereas, side-by-sides are “driven” and are to be operated by licensed drivers ages 16 and older, four-wheelers are “ridden” like a motorcycle and are manufactured in variety of sizes, even for small children. They are primarily made for one passenger who straddles the seat and steers with a handlebar.
Kim Stringer of Auburn has experience as an owner of motorcycles, four-wheelers and side-by-sides.
“My motorcycle is strictly for fun,” she said, showing off a chopper she custom-built herself. She’s owned several motorbikes through the years, from dirt bikes to street cruisers.
“But, before I retired, I used four-wheelers to get around in the woods behind my house, for hunting and maintaining the property, and then the side-by-side was good when I had people with me or cargo I needed to carry.
“They’re basically toys, yes, but you can justify having them because they can be used for work, too,” she explained.
Extreme Powersports Opelika has a wide selection of new and used ROVs, ATVs and motorcycles to choose from on the lot and in the store, located at 1110 Frederick Ave., along with dirt bikes, scooters, reverse trikes, go carts, jet skis, power equipment (generators, lawn mowers, etc.) and more. The website, www.extremeopelika.com, keeps the extensive inventory updated regularly, making shopping from home a breeze.
The company offers sales, parts and service for all the top brands — Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, Polaris Slingshot, Ranger, RZR, CF Moto, SSR Motorsports, TrailMaster, Hammerhead, Kayo, GEM, Benelli, Can-Am and Sea-Doo. Its industry-recognized staff has decades of powersports experience, and its offer a wide range of aftermarket parts and accessories for those who want to customize their vehicle and ride in style.
“We have expanded our capacity to handle today’s customer and business demands,” the Extreme Powersports Opelika’s website states. “We pride ourselves with great service, products and knowledge so that you feel comfortable doing business with us. We value and respect our customers and offer the best service and products available in the area.”
Prichard said the business stays equally busy on both the sales side and the parts and service side. They also have a finance department that can help make purchases affordable. Extreme Powersports Opelika also has two sister stores in Columbus, Georgia.
Pictured is Steve Pritchard, Sales Manager, Opelika