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Jet Lag

A few days ago, I wrote an article about naked bikes for 2001, and casually mentioned that many new naked bikes don’t make it to the United States. Most manufacturers have labelled the United States as a market unfriendly to naked bikes. This is based on historical customer tastes in the Unites States, not necessarily the current market conditions.

I received a few e-mail from readers who would like to see more naked bikes available in the U.S. This reminded me of thoughts I have had about the inability of most manufacturers to gauge changes in market conditions, and react to them quickly. I have personally wondered why certain types of bikes have not been manufactured in the past.

Why not take a big-bore sportbike, such as a Yamaha R-1 or Kawasaki’s ZX-9R, for instance, relax its ergonomics a bit (higher bars and lower pegs), give it a slightly larger fairing for better wind protection, tune the motor for a bit more low end and mid-range torque, and put some attractive, removable, hard saddlebags on it? Voila! Instant cutting-edge sport tourer. The removable bags and the slightly larger fairing add fifteen to twenty pounds to the package, and you’re left with a bike forty to fifty pounds lighter than a VFR800, with a lot more power and better handling. I’ve been thinking about this one for years, but it never seems to happen (although Aprilia may be coming out with just such a bike based on the RSV1000). This seemed like an obvious idea to me years ago, when it became clear that the sport tourer market was expanding more than some other market segments.

What about a big-bore, single-cylinder streetbike with comfortable ergonomics, light weight, and nimble handling. Seems like something easily doable by several manufacturers, and at a low price to boot. Aside from dual sport bikes that are not designed to perform well on the street, big-bore singles have been ignored. Why? Our own reader response indicates there is very significant demand for such a bike (with more performance than Buell’s Blast).

If manufacturers think naked bikes and singles won’t sell simply because they didn’t sell ten years ago, they are ignoring the fact that the motorcycle market place, like everything else in this Internet age, changes very rapidly. Like Chrysler in the auto business, the lone, brave manufacturer who will take a chance and try to lead the market, rather than follow, might turn out to be feisty Aprilia in Italy (although, Yamaha has done a pretty good job of this lately). Most of the manufacturers seem incapable of seeing the growth of nitch markets, or simply too afraid to be the first to jump in and satisfy demand in these markets.

These are just some thoughts I had this morning, and I’d like your comments. Let me know what other market segments are being ignored by manufacturers.