Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bikes: Where are the good little ones?

In the good ol' U.S. of A. the lack of a structured licensing system makes a hash of sportbike demographics. In most of the rest of the world, small- and medium-displacement sportbikes are the most common of their genre, with 900-1000cc machines occupying a rarefied niche at the top of a pyramid. Not so stateside, where the big bikes are almost as common as their midsize siblings, and the small-displacement class is nearly non-existant. Now, I have nothing to say against good old-fashioned Darwinism; in the grand scheme of things, I think it's swell that the brash young squids of America are dissuaded from such girly conveyances as 100+bhp 600's, and goaded by their buddies onto blistering literbikes where they can remove themselves from the gene pool with alacrity, but the downside of this is that there's almost no market in America for smallbore sportbikes. Anywhere else in the world, the sub-600cc market is crammed with bikes that, while smaller and lighter than the >600 types, are still full to the brim with all the necessary sexy goodness of a modern crotch rocket: stiff, twin-spar alloy frames; wide, radial-shod wheels; tree-trunk-like forks; et cetera. In los Estados Unidos, however, the smallbore sportbike market is populated almost solely by low-spec machines like the EX250 and 500 from Kawasaki, or the vanished Bandit 400; bikes designed to make a buck by selling last decade's technology to beginners on a budget. The rare exception, like Yamaha's late, lamented FZR-400, dies a fast death in the marketplace, only mourned by those who judge a sportbike's qualities on factors other than how long of a top-gear wheelie it can pull two-up on the interstate.

I spent last night on the porch curled up with a couple of older issues of Performance Bikes and Bike from the UK, reading head-to-head tests of GSX-R400's, ZX-4's, and NC35's, and wishing the market here wasn't so driven by the eager-to-impress squid. Ah, well... If wishes were horses, beggars would ride...

...Aprilia RSV250's.

4 comments:

T said...

I'm guessing most of us are too fat for small bikes. Just a thought, tho'.

DirtCrashr said...

XR650L - E-start dual-sport earthquake bike. Forget about only riding on the asphalt part of the street - with one of these you can ride up over a curb, across the median, over the lawn, through a hedge, and go where you will. Also you get a whole lot of suspension that you can learn about. You sit up tall and look eye-to-eye with the guy in the Grand Cherokee. Mercedes mirrors are about at foot height. A big over-powered and heavy sport bike in the rain is a handful, on a dual-sport bike you can get on the power or spin the rear and learn to back it into corners. I used to read all the go-fast Brit magazines when I did the crotchrocket thing, but that all changed and a new horizon opened up. Trunk-like forks are no good if you run into things instead of jumping over them, and stiff suspension down't let you land a jump without bouncing you right off again. Start with a Motard style or dirt-wheels like the Husky 610. Anyhow that's why I have a KTM300 now instead...

Anonymous said...

Well, when you look at the German homepages of Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki or Yamaha, you won't find any modern (state-of-the-art) 400 or 500cc sportbikes either. :-(

T.Stahl

DirtCrashr said...

One man, one cylinder. One big helping of torque and you're up on one wheel.