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Power Standards: The Modern Hot Rod Motorcycle

More and more entries into the power standard/naked bike category appear each year. Yamaha has its R1-powered standard, and Kawasaki has punched out its ZRX1100 (to a 1200). The Honda CBR929 engine will soon be transplanted into a standard/naked, and Suzuki is rumored to be readying a Hayabusa-engined standard, as well. Why is this niche in the market place booming so greatly, and where is it booming?

Europeans seem to have been in the standard/naked craze for several years. They are viewed as hooligan bikes, and the starting point for customized hot rods, if you will. Like many other categories, the standard/naked category seems to be in the midst of a displacement war. First there were 1100s, then 1200s, then 1300s (such as Yamaha’s FJR1300) and, soon, at least one 1400 (the rumored Suzuki).

This category has traditionally done less well in the United States, where Kawasaki’s Zephyr series, for example, was essentially a flop several years ago. But tastes change, and Americans may be ready to embrace the standard/naked category with higher volume purchases. There is always a “chicken and egg” argument — i.e., does demand in the category lead to the delivery of better bikes, or does the delivery of better bikes create demand in the category? With very little to choose from in this category, Americans haven’t really had the opportunity to push volume in this segment in the last ten years.

With Yamaha and Kawasaki already committed to the U.S. market with updated, big-bore standards, following Suzuki’s lead with the Bandit 1200, will the U.S. finally see the depth and variety of models available to Europeans? Probably not, at least until the new models from Kawasaki and Yamaha prove that there is a significant increase in U.S. demand for these types of bikes.