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On The Eve of the Millennium: Thoughts on the Year 2000 Bikes and Beyond

In a few weeks, the world will see the model year 2000 bikes from all of the major manufacturers in Milan, Italy. There has been much speculation about these bikes, and it is now time to reveal them in the flesh (if the expected models even exist).

With this in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts about the direction motorcycles are headed on the eve of the millennium. Sure, these thoughts include MD’s personal biases, but, hopefully, include some solid evidence to back them up.

In street bikes, we are seeing an interesting evolution. For the past several years, we’ve had two polar opposites on the street bike spectrum. These include hard-core sport bike enthusiasts on the one end, and the hard-core cruiser enthusiasts (yes, primarily Harley-Davidson riders) on the other end. It appeared that there would never be any common ground between these two, other than mutual dislike and antagonism. MD has witnessed some slow but certain changes, however.

Cruisers are starting to handle better and get faster. Sport bikes are starting to include within their numbers machines than emphasize fun and visceral appeal over outright performance. Let me translate that last sentence for you – cruisers are becoming more like sport bikes and sport bikes are becoming more like cruisers. If you don’t believe us, just look at the quarter mile times posted by a Honda Valkyrie, the recent introduction of the Polaris “SportCruiser” and the enthusiastic reception by sport bike riders of Suzuki’s SV 650 and Motto Guzzi’s V-11 Sport.

If you ride a Harley, do you have to hate Yamaha R-1 pilots? If you ride an R-1, do you have to hate Harley riders? The answer is no. If you are a Harley rider, and you appreciate a faster, better handling cruiser, then you can appreciate the values cherished by hard-core sport bike riders. On the other hand, if you are an R-1 rider, and can appreciate the appeal of Moto Guzzi’s V-11 sport, then you can appreciate the hard-core Harley riders who focus on feel and image as an important part of the motorcycling experience.