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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Life in the Slow Lane

It seems that the motorcycle press has been obsessed with sport bikes this year. The redesigned R1, the new CBR929RR, the redesigned ZX-9R, the new GSX-R750, the redesigned ZX-6R, the Aprilia Mille, etc. Advancements with these bikes are, to some extent, objectively quantifiable. Is it faster in the quarter mile? Can it turn a faster lap at Willow Springs? Does it make more horsepower? More torque?

Sure, there are subjective measurements, as well. How does it handle? How much “feedback” does it give the rider? Looks play a part too, but a sport bike has to perform.

Cruisers are not getting as much press in the general interest publications, lately. The problem I have with cruisers is that their design seems to be evolving in only one direction, i.e., “retro”. By definition, “retro” limits design. “Retro” is all about making a copy — a copy of the past. Obviously, there is a market for these bikes, but, eventually design within the cruiser category has to evolve into something new.

There are examples of bold design in the cruiser segment, but not many and generally not from the major manufacturers. It’s all about who can make the best “interpretation of a classic”. After a while, who cares?

If re-designing Ducati’s classic 916 (now the 996) is an impossible task, how hard is it to take production cruisers in a new direction? Apparently, harder still. At some point, the cruiser buyers are going to be looking for something new — not just the latest interpretation of a classic. When will this happen? This is an area where product designers can really shine.

We think the public is ready for a bold design move in the cruiser category — something like the Yamaha MT-01 concept introduced at the last Tokyo show, and discussed in our earlier article dated October 28, 1999. What do you think? Send us an e-mail.