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?
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.
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.
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!