Bandit9 postie bike
Customised postie bike

Are motorbikes too big and powerful?

Are motorbikes too big and powerful? It seems a dumb question, right? After all, for years we’ve chased more and more engine capacity and greater horsepower. So why would we suddenly think bikes are becoming too big and powerful?

Yamaha MT-07 motorbike
Yamaha MT-07 is hooligan fun in a smaller package

However, it seems that a downsizing trend may be on the rise. Sales figures for the past couple of years have revealed the biggest growth areas – in Australia at least – are among learner-approve motorbikes in various segments including sportsbikes, nakeds, adventure bikes and cruisers.

Many in the industry are welcoming this trend thinking that motorcycling is attracting a new generation of rider. Let’s hope so. But one industry expert thinks there might be anther trend happening – downsizing.

Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries motorcycle spokesman Rhys Griffiths believes many riders have tired of “bigger and faster” and are downsizing to more practical yet fun bikes. An example is the sales success of the current crop of 500cc Hondas.

He says there are many reasons for this. One is the fact that litres sports bikes are no longer viable in these days of heavy speed camera use and double demerit points. He also believes the ageing motorcyclist population is seeking more manageable bikes that are still good fun thanks to their power-to-weight ratio rather than their outright power.

Motorcycle manufacturers are certainly waking up to the popularity of mid-sized bikes for their fun value, rather than going for all-out power. Yamaha’s MT range is a prime example of hooligan fun in a more manageable size and impressive power-to-weight ratio.

Kawasaki H2 sportsbikes motorbike
Kawasaki Ninja H2

Of course, there will always be those riders who want ultimate power and the motorcycle manufacturers will continue to supply them with niche product if only to assert their technological prowess in the industry. An example is the coming 220 horsepower supercharged Kawasaki H2 Ninja which is tipped to break the 300km/h self-imposed speed barrier. Why? Because they can!

Meanwhile, back here on Planet Earth riders are not necessarily becoming more practical, but finding fun and fulfilment in bikes that aren’t just suited to race circuits. Witness the rise in the popularity of postie bike adventures, scooter races and the customising of small-capacity cafe racers and street trackers. Even traditional heavyweight cruiser manufacturer Harley-Davidson is getting in on the act with a Street 500 coming in February.

In fact, I’ve found myself among their legion. I’ve just sold my BMW R 1200 GS, an exceptional bike – probably the world’s best – but probably too heavy, expensive and powerful for the sort of bush-bashing I really want to do.

Triumph Bonneville motorbike
MotorbikeWriter’s new bike – a Triumph Bonneville

Instead, I’ve bought a 2010 Triumph Bonneville for toddling around town and up the canyon passes on a Sunday and will have enough money left over to buy a Kawasaki KLR650 or Suzuki DL650 for those bi-monthly adventure weekends away with the boys.

Downsizing the weight and power, but upsizing the diversity and fun!

  1. Remembering back to the supercar scare of the early 70’s when those cars barely had 300 HP and today you can buy a Falcon or Commodore with 450BHP off the showroom floor. Real supercars have gone from lowly 2 or 300 HP to in excess of 1000BHP in the same period. So it should be no surprise to see bikes following the same pattern.

    Do we need MotoGP levels of power on road bikes ? No is an honest answer. But people want them anyway. My V-Star 1100 has enough to shred a tyre and break the legal speed limits and only has about 50BHP…. same as a 1974 RD250 or CB500 had. But today’s bikes are much lighter and smaller generally so deliver power more efficiently..and they have great brakes compared to the death traps we survived riding on back in the 60’s or 70’s.

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