January 8 2009.

Figures from the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) reflect the resilience of the motorcycle market in the economic downturn, ending 2008 just 4,866 registrations short of 2007.

A total of 139,715 motorcyles, mopeds and scooters were registered in 2008, only 3.4 per cent down on 2007. The figures for December showed a 19.1 per cent decline to 6,706 registrations for the month. The UK car market plunged 11.3 per cent last year.

Beneath the headline figures, some significant trends are emerging. Mopeds ended the year 1.5 per cent up, suggesting increasing 'utility' use by commuters and those with relatively short journeys. Scooter registrations were also 1.1 per cent up, and the adventure sport and touring categories increased by 5.7 per cent and 8.6 per cent respectively.

"With a robust performance very close to 2007, the motorcycle market and industry is providing further evidence that powered two-wheelers offer a credible and very affordable transport option," said the MCI's Sheila Rainger. "We will all continue to face financial pressures in 2009, and with rail fares increasing by as much as 11 per cent and incentives such as bikes being able to use bus lanes, motorcycle use is more relevant and practical than ever."

Consumer needs have moved towards the wider use of motorcycles for practical everyday purposes, as well as fun and freedom. This is reflected in a fall in market share of the high performance supersport sector which now accounts for under 17 per cent of the market.

The year's top selling model was the Honda CBR 1000RR, but as further evidence of motorcycling's relevance, five of the best-selling models of the year were small-capacity motorcycles, mopeds and scooters with engines of less than 125cc. The biggest-selling manufacturer in 2008 was Honda with 20,107 registrations, followed by Yamaha (17,031) and Suzuki (16,132).

Sheila Rainger added: "There was a big increase in motorcycle tests in 2008, and dealers selling new and used bikes to people taking to two wheels for the first time. The industry is well-placed to offer people a cost and congestion-busting alternative for everyday transport and this year, we will be campaigning hard to urge people to join in, as well as working to increase safety and transport provisions for motorcyclists."