The Hedonic Treadmill for Motorcycles

5 min readDec 19, 2020

The Motorcycle Hedonic Treadmill — Why do we buy a new motorcycle to replace our existing, perfectly good motorcycle? Or why do we even start thinking about it.

I’d like to start off by saying that in recent years I have definitely been guilty of participating in buying and replacing very good motorcycles every few years. I realized that this had more to do with me than for any reason associated with the bikes.

So first, what is the hedonic treadmill? It is a psychological term for having to seek out new ways to satisfy the urges for a given feeling. Another term for this is hedonic adaptation. According to this concept we are usually chasing feelings of pleasure or happiness. It is like the old idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” except that you are trying to please yourself and not merely trying to impress others. We are basically trying to move up from our normal psychological set point.

You might buy a new motorcycle which makes you happy, only to discover that over time you are thinking that this old motorcycle just does not make you as happy as it once did, and maybe a newer motorcycle (same model newer features or a different model) would do the trick.

It is easy to fall into this thinking. In much of the world, including of course the West, we are encouraged to be part of a mass consumer culture. A culture where wanting the latest and greatest of a given object is common. A culture where slight differences in the style or function of a given product produced by competing companies can lead to one product being highly desirable and the other, not so much.

This type of thinking can be ingrained in us from an early age. I remember when I was a kid my Mom was shopping for my back to school clothes. Back then every kid wanted Levi jeans. My Mom was on a tight budget and bought us the much cheaper, but fully adequate Maverick jeans. I wasn’t too happy about it at the time as I knew I would get a lot of grief at school for not having Levi jeans. This of course was silly.

Motorcycle manufactures naturally try to take advantage of our tendency to engage in the Hedonic treadmill. For example, when the Harley Davidson Street Glide Special came out with the M8 engine in 2017, the engine had a 107 cubic inch displacement.


I like to cover a variety of motorcycle related topics that include the philosophy behind the enjoyment of motorcycling.