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In Search of Utility: The Over-Kill of Modern Motorcycles: Readers’ Responses

Some thoughts about simple, practical bikes on November 5, 2001 yielded quite a response from MD’s readers. Read them below.

  • Don’t kid yourself, the American demands power. Just look at
    the cruiser market. Fun, relaxed riding but the aftermarket is
    swamped with power parts and even the manufacturers are even
    getting into it with the power cruisers. To be honest, the most
    fun I ever had on a motorcycle was on a Yamaha CT175 enduro. My
    Vmax didn’t even come close in smiles per mile.

  • I just read the subject bit on the motorcycle daily page. I’m inclined to agree with your (implied) point that most of us don’t need GSXR1000’s in our garage. The only problem is that when ‘they’ built the smaller, lower power bikes, no one stepped up with the $$ to buy them. Honda’s CB-1 and NT650 Hawk are great examples of this. Personally, I’m looking for a Hawk right now, but they are keeping their value because so few of them were purchased in the first place.

    Suzuki seems to be having success with the SV650, and I hope that this prompts Honda to bring back the hawk (but with an engine that makes comparable power to the SV, and maybe a 929 style ‘trunk’ too). Small, light, fun. Oh yea… tell ‘em to keep the SSS, even if it costs a few bucks more.

    Oh yea, while I’m dreaming… have them bring back the VFR/RVF400 (and to the USA this time), and replace the ’02 VFR800’s belt driven cams with the gears that are half of the VFR’s soul.

  • Great piece of writing and very profound. Other than the fact that my
    ’99 BMW F650 wasn’t exactly
    a bargain price bike (yeah, maybe by BMW standards) it is however a
    fantastic example of how less is
    more or maybe less it juuuussst right. I’ve ridden several larger 500
    plus pound bikes and just could
    not get comfortable. I’m six feet tall and have plenty of leg to
    straddle most any bike (even my YZ250
    MX’er) but, these bigger bikes just don’t feel good weaving in and
    around town or even on the 55 MPH
    back roads I ride here in Wisconsin. Because of the general public’s
    bigger is better mentality, I’ve
    considered following that line on occation however, I all I have to do
    is go for a ride on my “baby beamer
    wanna be” and I quickly come back to reality…I love this thing, oh
    yeah and it gets just under 50 MPG!

    My rule of thumb can be best be summed up as “if it’s over 500, it
    better have four wheels”.

    Have a great day, love your web-site!

  • in complete agreement with your thesis regarding the loss of utility in
    modern motorcycles, but I’d like to suggest that the phenomenon is not
    solely related to increases in horsepower. Here are a couple of other items
    to consider:

    1. No rear rack. Sportbikes as a class, and even the new “standards” are
    not built with the ability to carry much of anything. Whether you’re going
    to school with a bag full of books, to work with a briefcase, to the gym
    with your workout clothes, or to the store for a couple of bags of
    groceries, these bikes are unsuitable by design.

    2. Loss of handling. Motorcycle manufacturers, and customers, now think of
    handling only in terms of a bike’s stability during high-speed cornering.
    In terms of overall utility, handling is more than that. Handling includes
    nimbleness–the ability to pull a U-turn in a 2-lane street, for
    example–and ease of riding in stop-and-go traffic. “But I don’t ride in
    stop-and-go traffic,” the squids exclaim. Of course not–it’s hell to do on
    a sportbike. Utility bikes are those that can be ridden everywhere,
    including in town, and in traffic, and on potholed roads, and in the rain.
    More than that: they are the bikes that are a pleasure to ride everywhere,
    including in town and in traffic and on potholed roads, and in the rain.

    Here are a couple more thoughts, unrelated to bike design:

    Change the traffic laws. Many locations are faced with multi-million or
    multi-billion dollar changes to transportation systems to accommodate
    increased volumes of automobiles. Get those people on bikes instead. Open
    up more car-pool lanes to bikes. Provide free parking downtown for bikes.
    If incentives like these are put in place, more people are likely to want
    bikes that are suitable for commuting or for running errands–and the
    manufacturers will, one hopes, respond. The actual or potential
    environmental benefits of motorcycles should be emphasized also (fewer
    resources to build, better fuel economy, lower emissions) to broaden their
    appeal.

    And here’s an idea that’s really on the outer limits of reality. Graduated
    licensing for new drivers is becoming more common. Take that to the limit,
    and require all new drivers to ride a motorcycle for 2 years or 8,000 miles
    before they can be licensed to drive a car. This will teach them to pay
    attention and to control themselves, while on a vehicle that is less likely
    to injure others. Their skills, and sense of responsibility will be much
    improved by the time they graduate to a car. There probably ought to be
    displacement or horsepower limits on these bikes to limit new riders’
    potential to damage themselves. Older drivers will give motorcycles more
    respect because their son or daughter is, will be, or has been, on a
    motorcycle. Overall motorcycle ridership will increase, traffic laws will
    be modified appropriately, environmental benefits will accrue, and everybody
    will be happier and healthier, riding their utility motorcycles everywhere
    in the fresh air. (Oh, is it time to wake up now?)

  • Dual sport bikes fit your description. Cheap, light, utilitarian.

  • I’d like to think you were right about small utility bikes. I believe the
    bike makers will never bring small utility bikes to the US. Let’s face it:
    they already make these bikes, but US buyers have in the past ignored them.
    So the manufacturer stops getting them US approved. I really would love an
    under-500cc Honda, like the V-TEC CB400 that Europe and Japan get. However
    I’ll take a bet that bike never comes to the states. Nor the 10’s of other
    like it, from many manufacturers.

    The other side of the equation is this: It’s now possible to purchase a used
    80’s or 90’s standard in moderate sized CC’s for very little money. They
    run forever and don’t have high insurance bills. You can buy several for
    the price of a current sportbike. You can get shaft drive standards that
    don’t exist in the US anymore (except for the high dollar BMW). You can get
    hydraulic valve adjustment, water cooling and electric start by just looking
    in the classifieds. This is where I live: my garage has a ’89 PC800, a ’92
    KLR650 and a ’89 NX250.

  • I saw a seasoned rider on a Ninja 250 in the Texas Hill Country town of Camp Wood this past weekend. I felt like
    he knew something we didn’t on our 1000cc V- Twin Sport Bikes.
    Your point is well taken.

  • Amen! Why do you think the SV650 is so popular? I love mine, and keep
    up w/ the big bikes no problem in the twisties…plus I’m having fun
    thrashing it and feeling like I’m in control, w/ no minimal worries of
    highsiding, etc. My last of many fast bikes was an R1, and the SV is
    plenty fast enough to have fun on public streets. As an added bonus, it’s
    “fun zone” is quite a bit slower than the R1/R6, etc., which IMO is
    important if keeping your driving record clean and avoiding accidents
    matters to you. I won’t even mention how much more economical it is to
    own and operate, you already know that.

  • I think this is something manufactures are really missing out on. I just
    bought a Ninja 250R (Ninjette). I am 6’3″ 200 lbs and you know what this
    bike is, perfect.

    I am not a commuter, just a weekend trip up the Angeles Crest Hgwy at legal
    speeds. Bike cost me $3400. Way cool toy!!!!

  • Well stated! Whatever happened to the UJM?

  • I have never written you, but I thought I might on this one. I agree with you that the lighter/faster/bigger thing is a bit out of hand. Granted, the technology is outstanding and I think they should continue along those lines – however, I think that they should also continue to find that simple bike that is so much fun. One of the bikes that I really like is Kawasaki’s ZR-7(S). It is simple, easy to work on, doesn’t hurt your back, and I think would be a blast to tour on. Or Suzuki’s Bandit 600 series. These bikes are relatively inexpensive, use older (but reliable) technology and really give you the essence of motorcycling.

    Great article!

  • excellent point on the 1000cc tire/pocketbook shreding machines.
    go back to 1985 and you could buy a fj600 for $2495.00
    that would do it all. I love technology but the price
    that you pay seems to be over-kill.
    Sad but true the value days are over.
    Tell the MFG’s to bring back air cooled,simple forks
    and good looks.

  • Dirck, all the first streetbikes I rode on, and the one I learned on,
    were CB350s. They were ubiquitous in the San Francisco Bay Area of my
    youth. And I recall them being considered pretty big motorcycles. I’d
    guess they were classed as middleweights, with the British 500s and 650s
    as the heavies (not counting Harleys, of course). I saw one at the Del
    Mar Concours and I couldn’t believe how _tiny_ it looked!

    I think what you’re seeing, though, is that utility isn’t a concern in
    modern motorcycles. They’re sold strictly as recreational vehicles,
    two-wheeled sports cars. Performance and image are paramount, and the
    sound of a little motor just isn’t “right”.

  • Amen on that. When I lusted for a GP racer-type roadbike, all you could
    get were GPZ 550s and some awful Honda Interceptors. I looked north to
    Canada, and they had what I needed: an RD350LC, 200 +lbs, nearly 55
    horsepower, and it took me to school like nobody’s business. (I imported
    it legally, but the DOT in Texas didn’t look close enough) Today, every
    other knucklehead on the street has over 100hp at the back wheel, and
    everytime they use it, they break a few laws (both man-made and common
    sense). In Japan, through HP & speed limits, they found the solution
    early. Imagine a YZF250 or YZF400 that revs to 15,000rpm. How much LESS
    fun is that than a Hayabusa? Zero. Scooters ARE cool, even though they
    won’t wheelie and there aren’t too many “replica” scooters available.
    Small engines that work hard are much more fun than huge engines that
    loaf, unless you drive a barge. I’ve ridden R1s and RGVs and GSXRs and
    they are fun, but you’re a bull in a china shop everywhere except on a
    track. If Honda made a 414 and a 616 along with their 919, I’ll bet the
    414 would be the most fun to own. If you need a big motor to tour, grab
    the ST or GW or BMW, save the little bike for town & country. Here’s the
    recipe: build a 300-350lb(max) bike, with 60-90hp, standard riding
    position (with options for “sport” bars and single seat cowls), and
    offer (drum roll here…) different motors. I’m talking high revving
    in-line fours, or narrow V-twins, or big nasty singles. Displacement to
    be determined, and priced accordingly. Like BMW builds its cars, you can
    get a 3 series car with a 1.6 litre 4 cylinder, all the way up to a
    333hp screaming 6 throttlebody M3. There are 8 different engines
    available (in Europe 8, U.S. 4), and the price goes from under $30k to
    nearly $60k! Different strokes, different folks. I think the
    racer-replica will not go away, but I think the horsepower race
    shouldn’t be the driving force of the line. It’s about fun, utility, and
    individuality. Between smaller displacement high-technology bikes and
    scooters (with no less technological advancements), the manufacturers
    should look back to the root of all motorcycling. Take a look at the KTM
    Duke II, for a good example of a really fun utilitarian bike. It’s not
    pretty, but it wasn’t meant to be. It won’t sell well because of the way
    it looks, not because of the lack of fun you get from riding it.
    Thanks for the ear

  • Hear, hear!

    I ride a Ninja 250, and find it to be just about the perfect commuter vehicle. Cheap to own, insure, ride, and fuel. AND it has two wheels, a motor, and more power than I could possibly use while lane-splitting grid-locked traffic.

    I, too, wish the manufacturers would listen up! The US version of the bike has been virtually unchanged for 14 years. (Although that means parts are cheap and relatively plentiful ;-)

  • Never was a truer word spoken!

  • Exactly. I ride a Honda CB250 to work every day. I took it last
    summer on a 1000 mile trip to Lake Tahoe and back. I even passed three
    cars going up Sherwin Summit. (Yes, they were moving.) My insurance
    costs are minimal, ditto for fuel costs. Tires last 7000-8000 miles.
    250 Touring and Commuting are my way on the highway.

  • I agree 100% percent with your article. A few summers ago, I rode a
    250cc Vespa (basically a scooter) around southern italy and had the best
    time. In some villages, the roads are so steep that i had to walk the
    Vespa up the hill while giving it gas. It was a blast. Great article.
    Have a good one. ciao.

  • As a older (53) motorcyclist I remember that 305 Honda was a mid-sized
    bike that you could take cross the country and a Triumph was a huge bike.

    It is impossible to buy a smaller easy to learn on and still fun to use
    bike these days.

    You hit it right on the head.

    Maybe the manufacturers will realize to grow their market, then cheap
    entry level bikes with the performance of the old 350 CB would be a great
    way to get people into motorcycling… the HD Buel Blast is close, but I bet
    the Japanese could build a great bike to lure the youth of America back into
    motorcycling…a $20,000.00 V-rod is a dream to all of the youth, why not
    give them something to start on and have fun before they are 53 like me and
    finally have enough money to buy one of these dreams.

  • Can you say supermotard :)

    Love the mag.

  • I couldnt agree more with your editorial.

    I’m not against the mega sports bikes in any way, they’d be great fun to
    ride, but I believe you dont NEED them to enjoy motorcycling.

    I used to lust after the biggest and fastest.
    I started motorcycling on a 250 twin that could only just do 65mph flat
    out. I used it to travel around Melbourne and a weekly round trip of
    200 miles to my hometown. I absolutely loved those experiences.

    They kicked off a passion for motorcycling – they were the most incredibly
    buzz.

    Later I bought a RZ350 which was fun at times, but I couldn’t work out why I
    couldnt replicate the feelings I’d had on the old 250. I decided I needed
    more power/better handling.
    A GPX750 nearly did the trick, but at times it was hard work to enjoy at
    normal (legal speeds), ong tours, and commuting.

    Finally, I rode a 250 Majesty on a whim. It’s a ‘giant scooter’ – long
    wheelbase, 12inch wheels, single pot, feet forward etc (top speed about 70
    mph) – it was a blast. It didnt handle bumps too well but in general riding
    around (most of my riding) it was great – even handling the weekly round
    200mile round trip beautifully.
    I bought one and kept it for 12 months when a move home inspired a change to
    a more distance + two up focused machine.

    Importantly I’d learned what gave me the greatest enjoyment from my riding
    MOST of the time and decided to maximize that.

    I traded for an XJ900 Diversion. It’s comfy, fast enough to be fun, handles
    well, is simple, reliable, easy to ride, cheap to own and I am finding it
    gives me that hard to describe, blissful experience that I suspect many
    choose motorcycling for. And importantly does it for every mile.

    Anyway, thats just my experience, but also, didnt people LOVE riding
    motorcycles before the current capabilities came along?

    People riding the old 350 Honda, XS1100’s etc probably got just as much
    enjoyment from riding as anybody does now.

    I’ve learned motorcycling doesnt have to be on the latest, greatest and
    fastest to be the greatest experience I;ve ever known.

    Love your site.
    Please keep up the editorials – its great to hear what people think
    especially if they are independant as you guys seem to be.

  • i asked myself that question when went looking
    for a bike this year. the answer: a Yamaha trx850.

    loads of grunt but not too much power. very easy to ride
    through the mountains :-)

    i like it, i wish they still made them :-(

    sv650 looks cool though,

    sensible doesn’t sell lots of bikes

    i guess the reality is that high performance bikes
    make more money than low performance bikes.

    it seems sad though cause they are very dangerous
    and few people realise how dead a bike accident
    can make you when they buy a rocket.

    maybe you could follow this theme through and see
    if the future of road bikes is good or bad?

  • You’re showing your age in more ways than one!

    I too have come full circle in my 31 plus years of riding (I’m 47). You name it, I’ve owned it from Montesa Cota trials bikes to V-twin cruisers, a Goldwing and several sport bikes including an RC51.

    I’ve enjoyed all the bikes that I owned but they all were narrow focused and not really good but for one thing. I really enjoy riding fast and doing some track days. I also like taking my bike to the mountains of North Carolina twice a year (I live in Fla).

    My GSXR, VTR, RC51 etc. were way overkill for the street and left me sore and tired at the end of a long day of riding (I sold them all). I’ve finally come to my senses and gone back to basics! I bought the best, most fun bike that I’ve ever owned, for the street. How a manufacturer can build a bike that handles so well that an experienced rider can enjoy it while at the same time make it affordable, civilized and comfortable for the novice is amazing! I am having the time of my life with this bike! I’ve done some minor carb tweaks along with a full Micron exhaust. I installed a Ventura pack system, Givi windscreen and upgraded the suspension and tires. This bike has enough power to keep me entertained with half mile long wheelies through the gears. Brakes that’ll allow easy stoppies. Comfort for 500 mile days. 200 miles between fuel stops while burning 87 octane fuel. It’s so much fun to get to run up through the gears and not have to go 160 mph to use them all! I almost bought a KTM Duke 2 but canceled my order and ended up with a much better all around street bike. My bike doesn’t stand out in a crowd with tons of chrome or racerboy bodywork but it will cruise OR corner with the best of them! I can afford to own (and I have) any bike I wish. Simply put, the most bang for the buck bike right now is my blue (naked version) 2001 Suzuki SV650!

    FINALLY, my search is over, I’ve found my TRUE love!

    PS: Thanks for such a fantastic web site!

  • Yeah, I’m old, but I remember when a 650 was a big bike. The Honda CB450 was a work of art. If you want the reason why we are getting bigger more powerfull, quicker, and more dangerous machines (in the hands of babes) then find the nearest Cycle Magazine (generic) writer and look him in the eye. A 450 now would be a ‘beginners’ bike not suitable for a full review. A one paragraph statement of its inadequacies and maybe a small photo would be all you would see. Rider magazine had a semi review of the new Honda Reflex 250cc scooter. The other major mags just had the one paragraph. The new Silver Wing 600 scooter should have trumpets playing when its introduced, but in the good old USA it too will be reduced to the one paragraph. If its not a sportbike Kill it. No one needs more than they offer- its all about profit margin. To the advertisers and the wantabe racers employed by the magazines (the shills).

  • Thank you for saying to a broad audience what I’ve come to learn from my ownexperience. I sold my 2000 GSX-R 750, and replaced it with a 2000 SV-650S. Icouldn’t be happier! I haven’t enjoyed riding this much since 1983 when I
    was a
    seventeen year-old in the U.S. Marines aboard my 1981 KZ-550. The best
    riding
    memories I have are the ones that recall exploring the small towns around
    Marine
    Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. A simple, reliable bike, a
    bedroll
    to use wherever I stopped along the way, and a couple of bucks for gas,
    eats, and a
    beer before bedtime, ah, those were the days! Riding along on my new SV at
    an
    enjoyable pace, reminds me of those earlier days. I hope that the younger
    riders allow themselves to make some of these types of memories, rather than to
    succumb to the “horsepower hype” of today. I hope they learn to appreciate the smell
    of a newly cut field first thing in the morning, as the dew glistens over
    everything in sight, or the change in the temperature and humidity right before a rainstorm,
    these are things only felt by those of us lucky enough to be on our bikes, those poor
    bastards locked up in their soundproof, airtight, climate-controlled will never get
    the wonderful opportunity we have, we should enjoy all of it! Thanks again.

  • Yes by God I do remember the Honda 350’s. I rode a
    SL350 for many years and never enjoyed motorcycling more. The SL350 was the
    most fun per mile bike Honda produced. They could make the same type of bike
    today, based on the XL650, but perhaps with the now popular Supermotard
    styling. I believe that that type of bike would sale and sale BIG TIME. Not
    every rider is concerned with 1/4 mile et.’s, critical weight, lap times,
    etc. The overwelming majority of us just want a fun, cost effective method of
    transportation. I believe if the Big Three would step up to the plate and
    deliver a 500cc – 650cc Supermotard style bike for commuting, around town
    type of riding, the riding public would respond.

  • Hi!- There are new,modern,small
    displacement(relatively),lightweight,simple machines that are easy on
    the pocketbook-they are called dual-sports. A friend of mine bought one
    of the first Honda XL350 s and put a Bates seat, flatter handlebars,and
    street tires on it and had a heck of a good street bike-it was
    maneuverable,nimble,and affordable. With companies like Acerbis making
    bigger gas tanks and Tourotech making luggage they become a viable
    alternative. So, the big question becomes-Do I own one? No, although I
    seriously considered a BMW 650 GS, I bought a BMW R1100 RT. I’ve been
    riding since 1964 and don’t want to mess(literally) with a chain again.
    But I do agree with you that too many of today’s bikes are too big.
    Look at some of the bikes Europe gets that we don’t-mid displacement
    street bikes that can be fitted with luggage. Oh well, the pendulum
    will swing back either because of insurance or fuel costs. Thanx for
    the opportunity to express my thoughts.

  • Are scooters big sellers? I’d like to see the numbers. Here in NJ we did
    have a boon in mopeds in the seventies, but that died.

    I have always motorcycled for transportation and fun. Frequently I ride with
    baggage, in dry and sometimes wet weather, with and without a passenger,
    sometimes long distances, sometimes all the above at once. To do these
    things I always wanted the most comfortable machine for all these instances.

    I’ve always bought used motorcycles, and there are no used scooters here in
    the NYC area. My first bike, a Honda CB160, didn’t have a windscreen or
    luggage rack. My second bike, a Suzuki 350, had a tail trunk and with extra
    padding on the seat, vibrated less on the highway thanks to the taller
    gearing a 350cc engine could pull. My third, a Honda CB550, had less
    vibration, a back rack, and thanks to a quieter engine a front windscreen.
    (Windscreens are very effective sound reflectors)

    My quest for the best motorcycle for me has led to my current ride – a 1981
    Honda GL1000 Gold Wing Interstate. It has a frame mounted fairing, a flat
    four 1100cc engine, rack, backrests, floorboards, and three separate pieces
    of watertight hard luggage. My search has led me (and perhaps the
    manufacturers) to an overly heavy and bulky ride; a 700lb ‘scooter’.

    Now that Honda is persuing scooters with a large enough engine so that me
    and my passenger aren’t eaten alive by the other traffic on the road I may
    yet find myself a scooter buyer. If I can find a good used one. *Grin*

  • I have never ridden one… but I think the Aprilia Moto 6.5 would be a total hoot as a city and play bike…

  • Hello! YES–I remember!! I had a CB450, and at the time, it was THE big
    Japanese bike. In ’81, I sold it to get my next bike, my 1981 CB750K(still
    mint, in the garage parked next to my ’00 ZRX1100).
    Back in ’81, you could walk into a Honda or Kawasake dealership, see CB125,
    200, CM400, or a KZ200, 450, etc, etc.
    There are NO “small” or “entry level” streetbikes as present. Very few
    “do-it-all” bikes either. You look at the repli-racers or Harley-clones.
    Back in the day, my 750 was a do-everything bike, and 20 years later, my ZRX
    si the same–big power, comfortable riding position, “That LOOK”, etc.
    I feel that while the manufacturers feel what they offer is market-driven, I
    believe that their short-sightedness has ultimately cost them market share.
    Look at Toyota—they have entry-level cars(Echo, Tercel), and if you stay
    in the family, you can work your way up to Avalon. Beyond that, you can buy
    into Lexus. The newbie starts out small, gets age and $$, works his/her way
    up, and if happy with the product, can stay in the Toyota family. Toyota gets
    and more importantly, keeps a buying customer.
    These days, the manufactueres and the magazines make the customer feel that
    anything less than 600cc’s is not a real motorcycle, but a toy.
    Note that in many road tests of bikes, reference is always made about
    bigger cc models, and not just the bike being tested. Cumulative
    effect?—“Why settle for fewer cc’s?”, and many would-be owners are turned
    off of motorcycling. Sorry for the rants and ramblings.

  • I remember the Kawasaki 350 A 7 SS that I had in 1970. It was great fun
    with it’s 40 – 42 hp and with the way the power came on when it was on
    the “pipe”. It was fairly sophisticated with it’s disk valves, just
    like a GP bike of the time. It was light and I could leave the stop
    light with the throttle pinned in many cases and enjoy the rush and not
    get in too much trouble with the law. I would like more bikes like the
    SV 650 which have some of the spirit of those old 350 and 450s with
    modern handling and braking. Thanks for bringing the topic up.

    Rick, who is still looking for one of those Kawasaki A7 s in
    running condition.

  • Guess what ? There are already motorcycles like the ones you’re talking
    abount on the “In Search of Utility: The Over-Kill of Modern Motorcycles”
    article. Honda has the CB500, Suzuki the GS500 Kawasaki the ER5 both twin
    cilinders 500cc naked bikes. Very fun and very usefull. Here in brazil the
    biggest seller (more than 50% of the total motorcycle market) is the Honda
    CG125 a 125cc single cilinder bike with nothing more then 15hp. But why do
    they sell so much ? because they are very usefull to ride in big cities like
    Sao Paulo. And most o fthen are used to work in moto-delivery activities. In
    Sao Paulo every bike is faster then a car even a 100cc motorcycle.

  • I got to thinking of this the other day. The bigger car gets more glamour
    than the midsize one (e.g. BMW 750il vs 5 or 3 series) The bigger truck is
    more macho than the “smaller ones” (I’ve been perfectly happy with my 94
    Dodge Dakota, prefer it to the Ram, and even over the later, larger Dakotas.
    It fits me & my needs.) And you’ve covered the bike scene.

    How do the manufacturers, or for that matter the press, convince the buying
    public that an SV650 will more than fill their needs, when for a few grand
    more (what’s that mean in monthly payments or insurance) they can get “The
    MONSTER”?

    I ride a 1974 V7 Sport Guzzi. Physically a small looking bike, but still
    capable of stuffing inside of most squids that are still learning to control
    what they have. Oh, by the way, when I bought it 20 years ago it replaced a
    cafe bike I made from an SL350 Honda.

    Indeed, the bike makers have a conundrum complicated by the squid rags that
    glorify faster bigger better. Keep plugging at it. Some people learn with
    age, some don’t.

  • I just finished reading your article about the overkill of modern
    motorcycles. All I can say is bingo, amen, right on, etc.!!! I
    haven’t bought a new bike, ever. Partly this was because I couldn’t
    afford new. With the last bike I purchased though, I bought used
    because there wasn’t anything PRACTICAL out there.

    I have a 1982 Honda FT-500 Ascot; it’s a big single. In addition to
    fun, I also use my bike for commuting. It’s got enough power to
    outmaneuver and out-accelerate traffic, and it’s gobs of fun in the
    twisties too. I got it used, fixed it up, and, for 90% of my riding,
    it’s the best bike I’ve ever owned. A Seca 750 or Nighthawk 750 would
    be my ultimate machine; either could do ANYTHING I’d ever ask of it.

    If I’m going to spend thousands of dollars on a motor vehicle of any
    kind, it had BETTER have some practical value to it! In order to
    justify laying out that kind of money, I need to be able to use it in
    real life, not just the weekends. I don’t have a wife telling me to
    do so, either. To buy something like a Hayabusa just offends my
    sensibilities; it’s practical value is questionable, at best.

    Of course I remember the Honda CB-350! I remember WANTING one when I
    was little. Only problem was this: when I was ready to buy one, it
    was no longer made. I also remember the Yamaha XS-400, the Kawasaki
    KZ-400, and the Suzuki GS-450. Each of those bikes meets your
    description of solid, basic, economical, and reliable. Each of those
    bikes would suit my needs perfectly.

    I’m out of here. You’re right on the money, sir! Out of all the
    bikes out there, the ones that suit my needs could be counted on one
    hand with fingers left. Have a good day..

  • Good article. It struck me that the points you make partly explain the
    popularity of Suzuzi’s SV 650. Since I bought mine in August, I’ve put on
    close to 6000 miles and only ridden my BMW R11GSA about 350 miles in that span.

  • Well Dirck concerning your article on The Over-Kill of Modern Motorcycles
    I’d have to disagree somewhat. I’m twenty-five now but I started riding
    when I was fifteen on a Suzuki GN-125 and yes I had a blast riding it around
    town. Due to my age and Florida’s laws I could not get anything bigger than
    150cc. This was good for keeping me alive but I always wanted something
    that could really get going. Then right after I graduated college I bought
    a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, great bike and exactly what I wanted when I was
    younger. Recently I just purchased a 2000 Aprilia Mille with the chip and
    pipe upgrade. Simply put I don’t much care for my Kawasaki anymore. In
    fact I’m going to trade it in on a bigger displacement bike, just haven’t
    decided what yet. Point is, if you’re an experienced rider and have the
    cash a bigger bike is a lot more invigorating to ride. I think the
    popularity of scooters deals a lot more from low cost of entry rather than a
    decision based on fun-factor. I do agree that well made low displacement
    bikes would have a market with folks but I’m betting most would be new to
    the sport of motorcycling. Just look at the 600cc sport bike group, with a
    few exceptions aside most are young guys. I think looking back we all
    remember things in a good light and don’t remember or at least didn’t
    realize at the time how crappy (maybe scrappy is a better word) our first
    bikes were. Fun yes, but fun now that we’ve sampled better fruit and can
    afford a faster ride, I’d have to say no. Overkill? Thank you sir may I
    have another.

  • I currently ride a Suzuki DRZ400. It has plenty of power and handles great
    in 80% of the pavement riding I do. I used to have a Suzi 600. Fast, low
    bars, boy racer. Yes, it was fun but I had to ride it to a section of
    twisty road and then I had to take it a little easy. I could go fast on a
    road course but how often do I get to do that?

    So I think that 400 – 650cc has enough power. I want light weight and
    feather-flick handling. Supermotard has a lot to offer. Thanks for your time.

  • Personally, I like smaller bikes. Here in BC, Canada, insurance rates for basic liability are based on displacement, of all things. It costs less to insure a 100 hp 600 than it costs to insure a HD 883, for example.Theft insurance costs extra, with rates based on replacement cost. Because of high insurance costs, I have never owned anything over a 750.

    That said, I do not think the North American market cares for smaller displacement bikes that are “simple machines that are easy on the pocketbook, while providing plenty of utility and fun”.
    Ask Suzuki how many GS500Es it sells, compared to say GSXR600s. Or Kawasaki EX250 or 500s compared to a ZX6R. I hardly ever see any of these perfectly nice twins on the road, but lots of the 600s. There is also the Rebel 250 and Buell Blast, but at 6′ tall those last 2 are just too small for me. (I loved the Blast, but my legs are just too long for it) It is also fairly expensive.

    There are also bikes we never get because of the North American demand for HP (real or perceived).
    We probably will never see a “retro” Kawasaki 250 called an Estrella here. It is even better looking than the W650. Or the Yamaha BT1100 Bulldog, a beautiful new standard. We were never even offered the TRX 850, either.


    There are only 3 scooters available in Canada right now Yamaha Vino, BWS and a Honda Dio, all only 50cc. In Vancouver, where I live, the top speed of little scooters is lower than the flow of city traffic, so I have to wonder how safe I would feel.
    I did ride an older 80cc scooter for a whole year, it could keep up with traffic and was great fun. If I could find a new scooter that could go about 40 mph top speed, I would buy one.

  • We’ll see what the sinking economy does to the design and displacement of
    US-bound bikes. I think there is a direct correlation to displacement in
    engines and wallets. Less $$$ in the wallet means smaller bikes. Larger
    demand for smaller bikes means more development for smaller bikes. Perhaps
    this sinking economy will herald the start of a push for motorcycles with a
    more utilitarian design rather than that of pure ego bikes. The leader in
    this field could certainly be Honda, with their 250 and 450 engine tooling
    ready to roll. Me, I still love to ride my ’73 CB450. It’s fun, fast and
    bridges that gap between good looks and function. I just can’t see buzzing
    to the store on 954, can you?

  • Interesting train of thought Dirck. I wonder what the difference in the first years cost would be
    between buying (and running (inc. insurance) and of course outfitting
    yourself with an appropriate set of Hayabusa leathers and helmet) that
    Hayabusa compared to that of a nicely optioned Hyundai ACCENT. I wonder how rational the average motorcyclist really is?

  • Finally! I’ve spoken for years how there is quite the difference between 30 years ago and today. Not just the more modern motorcycles we have today but the lack of small displacement bikes (street). There used to be hoards of Honda 50, 65, 70, 75, 90, 100, 125, 160, 175, etc. bikes along with Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Bridgestone 80’s, 90’s and 100’s in various flavors along with their various models running further up the scale. Maybe even throw in a Yamaguchi or two for good measure. In those days almost everyone cut their riding teeth on those smaller bikes and the fun we had. It was a blast. Some even served duty offroad when needed, venturing down paths and roads yet unraveled. It’s like remembering the fun had camping out with your buddies and the storm that rolled in and dumped more rain in one night than the entire previous year. It may not have always been pleasant in the past but those memories will never fade. Today a starter bike may well be a 600 class sportbike for many. A bike that is faster and more powerful than any offered back when. I say bring back those entry level bikes that just have to be less intimidating to get started with and introduce an easier path for new riders to get started. Thanks.

  • Scooters? What are you talking about? I thought the article was on the SV650…

  • There’s another reason for, as you put it, “new, modern, small displacement, lightweight, simple machines that are easy on the pocketbook, while providing plenty of utility and fun.” Have you tried to get someone into the sport lately? What to they start learning on – a 100+ HP Super-Sport 600???? A 2,000-pound cruiser? Geeeez…


    Fortunately, my lady friend who learned to ride is 5’10”, so a Bandit 600 worked. If she had been any shorter we would have had a hell of a time finding a suitable starter bike.

  • Comments to your latest (11-5-01) article about the need for lower price, smaller
    displacement motorcycles.

    I agree that there is a big need for more entry level motorcycles, but unfortunately utilitarian motorcycles like the CB’s of yesterday do not have much
    retail support. Honda offers the vererable CB750 for only $5,799.00, which we in
    turn sell for only $4,999.00, yet even at this low price, and even though everyone says what a great deal for a great bike, we can only turn 2-3 of these for sale each year. The market wants (and the magazines push for) hot, cool looking, faster models each year, this of course has raised the price of lots of motorcycles as you know. There needs to be bigger emphasis on the quality of the bikes being produced, there price point, there insurance point, there ease of use for certain levels of riders. I am glad the top speed war is over, now I hope soon the horsepower war can also be over, so that the manufactures can try to improve brakes, finish, lighter weight, comfort, ect., ect.


    My last comment is that you mention that the Superbikes have been 900cc for awhile and are now creeping up to 1000cc, actually Superbikes were all 1000cc and over for years any only in the last few years did we see 900cc come out again with popularity (other than the last 7 years of the CBR900RR), quick background:
    Early eighties: Kawasaki GPZ1100, Suzuki GS1100, Yamaha FJ1100.
    Late eighties: Kawasaki Ninja 1000R, Yamaha FJ1200, Suzuki GSXR1100, Honda CBR1000F.
    Early nineties: Suzuki GSXR1100, Yamaha FZR1000R, Kawasaki ZX11.
    Late Nineties: Yamaha R-1, Suzuki GSXR1100
    Year 2000 and up: Yamaha R-1, Suzuki GSXR1000

    Kawasaki was the only one with a “under” 1000cc Superbike in the eighties, while of course Honda with the CBR900RR and then Kawasaki again with the ZX-9R came out in the mid nineties, trying to show that size doesn’t matter. Ciao.

  • Fact: These bikes DO exist. The downside is that they are not cheap.
    SUPERMOTARD. While not big in the states, give it time. The bikes are not
    rockets, but you ask for bikes that put a smile on your face, are easy on
    the pocketbook, while “providing utility and fun”. Might there be a market
    for this?

    Hmm. I traded in CBR600, for a TL1000, then that for a house along with my
    CR250. Then the SO said pick one bike for now until we are settled into the
    house. My choice…what can I take off road, ride on the street, and
    maintain sensible (read, keep my license) speeds?

    Aha, Supermotard. Hence a CCM 604e. E is for electric start baby. 300 pounds
    wet. 0-60 who cares? Top speed…~100MPH, but not much fun. Wheelies? Hell
    yes. Stoppies? Now I know what all the fuss is about, talk about addicting!!
    Run out of road, still not a problem…

    You are more than welcome to have a go…

  • If you want a simple, easy to ride, practical motorcycle, why not pick up
    something like a GS500, 500 Ninja, Bandit 600, or SV650? Or a KLR650? If
    you want some style too, how about a W650 or Bonneville? Utilitarian bikes
    are out there even though they don’t make the headlines. Perhaps someone
    with a motorcycle-related Web site will take up your call and give some
    press to these machines :-)

  • personally am in complete agreement with you. I don’t need or want a
    Hyubasa derivative that looks like a street fighter – I want a GS500
    that looks like the Boost King!

    But when Honda gave the US motorcycling public the GB500, the Hawk GT,
    the Ascot and the Transalp – motorcyclists said no thanks. Meanwhile,
    Honda’s VTX and Goldwing are big sellers. Harley’s Buell Blast made
    quite a splash in the press, but they’ve only sold a few thousand of
    them this year – contrasted with 22,000 Fat Boys.

    There’s a glimmer of hope here and there, however. The Ducati M600 and
    BMW F650 have become those companies’ best sellers. So hang in there,
    and thanks for the editorial.

  • HELLO?!? Have you seen the Buell Blast? I bought one for my wife, and I find myself begging to ride it! It’s FUN, with a capitol F-U (which is what I have to say to most motojournalists)!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. With the increasing congestion on today’s roads and the price of gas (and motorcycles) bound to get higher in the longterm, we don’t need these high powered bikes. What we want or are induced to buy, however, is another matter. And we the consumer pay for it. There are some good, sensible bikes out there (i.e. Kawasaki EX500, Suzuki GS500) that would be perfect for most people. But let’s face it, the American commuter will never switch from an SUV to ridng a bike. Especially when you consider that approx half the working force is female. Ain’t gonna happen. In my city less than one percent of the public rides bikes and even less than that commute on one. The American public is just a different animal and we get what we demand. That’s marketing.

  • Your article entitled “In search of Utility: The Over-Kill of Modern
    Motorcycles” has struck a chord with me.
    I own a 1981 Kawasaki GPz550 which I cherish. However, time has taken it’s toll
    and I’m anxious to test the technology twenty years of racing and science has
    afforded the industry. I set out looking for a 750cc sport-tourer with an
    emphasis on sport that would allow me to hit the twisties on Saturday mornings
    and cruise the countryside with my girlfriend in the evenings. Since 1996 I had
    been enamored with the Honda Interceptor, so my first thought was the Honda
    VFR800Fi – but in 2000 the bike only came in yellow. In 2001, I discovered they
    were developing a new model and decided to hold off in hopes off a sexier design
    than that didn’t evoke images of Japanese cartoons. Wrong again. I turned my
    attention to the European manufacturers who are better known for sport-touring
    and sleek designs; only to find high prices and lower reliability. Suzuki has
    the SV650 and the Katana 750, but they just don’t get me any more excited than
    riding my twenty-year old GPz. Kawasaki surprised me this year with the
    ZZR-1200. It’s a great looking bike and has a good focus on sport-touring – too
    bad its soooo big! The Aprilia Falco 1000 looks great and handles well, but is
    a bit expensive. Ditto on the BMW R1100s. Why can’t someone make a 750cc bike
    that can handle two-up riding plus saddlebags, but still inspire me to drop the
    pegs to the pavement when flying solo? I commend Dirck Edge for bringing this
    concept to the attention of manufacturers. Maybe now that we are in a
    recession, the big manufacturers will take a closer look at this untapped
    segment of sport-touring.

  • Good point. Reminds me of a older fellow who works in the next building from mine. He rides a very old Honda 350 with a big box on the rear rack. He rides every day he can in Idaho weather (a real biker?) While I love my CBR 900 RR (I can dis the cages with a turn of the throttle) I need some more utility and humane riding position. While I will not go so far as finding a Honda 350, I sure could go for a Yamaha FJR 1300!

  • As the owner of a big-block Vespa (200cc’s) and three motorcycles I can
    attest that you are absolutely correct: the Vespa is more fun, more often,
    than any bike I’ve owned, and as someone who started riding before the
    CB350 existed, that’s a few motorcycles. It’s a pity that the marketing of
    motorcycles, like many other products, has fallen prey to “tail fin
    syndrome,” aka bigger-is-better. Like the ’59 Cadillac and the Stegosaurus
    however, 700-pound plus bikes will eventually meet their end, and in my
    opinion, none too soon.

    Oh yeah, in case anyone infers from the above that the three motorcycles I
    own are GS450’s with milk crates tied to the back: two of ‘em weigh
    slightly less than 600 pounds each, something of which I am reminded when
    pushing them around after a week of riding only the 200 pound Vespa.

  • I certainly do remember the CB350, had a 70 model as my first bike. Funny but thats the only bike I regretr having sold. It would beat every car in town except my buddies 70 Road Runner with the punched out 440. Would I trade my superhawk or CBR 929 for one? NO WAY!!!!!!!! However I do have a Royal Star in the garage also, and I think I read somewhere that it was underpowered, but I seem to think that I will have it around for longer than either of the other bikes. In fact I already have.

  • If the motorcycling press would start evaluating motorcycles in terms of
    their utility, I think that would be a good start to reversing the
    “bigger/faster is always better” mentality that is all too typical.
    Instead, we mostly see riders in $1500 leathers and $500 helmets popping
    wheelies and peg scraping, while deriding anything less than 600cc as a
    “beginner’s bike”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I own an R6 with matching leathers and visit the race
    track now and then. But the bike I ride the most is a R1100S with ABS,
    heated grips, and saddlebags. And I also have a 71 CB350 that I bought to
    remind me of my first bike, but that gets frequent use also. We need more
    talk of how bikes like these are great for commuting, Sunday breakfast
    rides, and getting back-and-forth to school while not draining one’s pocketbook.

  • There are plenty of good, small displacement bikes out there, especially in
    places like Japan. But manufacturers are increasingly churning out
    big-displacement machines because that’s what consumers are demanding. You
    can see this happening with the CBR900. Honda aimed for a machine that
    perfectly balanced power, handling and weight, but was forced by the sales
    successes of the R-1 and GSXR1000 to bore the CBR out. And reviewers also
    have played a large part in this trend. Your enthusiastic ZRX1200 review
    sums up nicely why people love the power of liter-class
    machines.

    Considering that the new Suzuki Burgman 650 is following on the heels of the
    successful Honda 600 Silverwing, which followed the Yamaha 500cc T-Max,
    which followed the Suzuki 400 Burgman, which followed the Yamaha 250
    Majesty, I reckon the same thing is happening in the scooter class.

  • There ARE still bikes out there that are simple, practical, and fun.
    Five that immediately spring to mind are the ZR-7S, the SV650, W650,
    Nighthawk, and EX500. The market segment may be small, but it’s not dead.
    If more people purchase these, the manufacturers will expand more into the
    market. But so long as people _say_ they want do-it-all bikes while going
    out and _buying_ a CBR954 or a VTX1800, there is no incentive for the
    manufacturers to expand this segment.

    Motorcycle mags that call a 75-hp 750 four-cylinder a “beginner’s bike”
    (MD is less guilty than most of this) share part of the blame. New buyers
    are indoctrinated with the idea that a 75-hp bike would be “too slow.”

  • They want 400 pounds and 200 horsepower. I want 200 pounds and 50 horsepower. Thank you for your understanding of technological and social implications
    within the industry. The added value that you offer is insight.

  • Amen!

    I just got rid of a TL1000S, while fun, it had a motor that kicked out soooo
    much power it could not be used anywhere near it’s potential on the street.
    I am not sure why people don’t understand the concept of overkill, and with
    bikes like the GSXR1000, the overkill is extreme, especially for street use.

    My new SV650 will top out at 120 mph, run an 11 sec ¼ mile, costs $5K and
    probably won’t be stolen – helping with its low insurance costs. More than
    enough for the street is the point.

    Yes, 190 rear tires are cool looking, but my TL shredded them every 3000
    miles and they are costly to replace, and they turn in only with lots of
    resistance. We don’t like to admit it, but sportbikers pose as much as the
    Harley guys. Want to see as poser – look for the squid with the squared off
    rear on his immaculate ‘Busa. Want to see a rider – look for the bug
    splattered, brake dust covered battered bike with the tires feathered to the
    edges with an equally road-tainted rider – often on a much smaller,
    supposedly less capable bike.

    I say bring out high tech smaller bikes. I would love to be able to buy a
    new FZR 400, VTR 250, updated GS500, etc for the track days and still be
    able to get parts without problems and have a smaller, capable bike that’s
    fun to ride and sub-$5,000 MSRP!

  • Concerning your article on motorcycle overkill, I think you are slightly off
    the mark with your comment, “Now, if the manufacturers would just start
    making new, modern, small displacement, lightweight, simple machines that are
    easy on the pocketbook, while providing plenty of utility and fun. Hey, there
    might even be a market for bikes like this.”

    I am writing this email from Japan right now and was fortunate to have the
    opportunity to attend the Tokyo International Motor Show. I can safely say
    that the issue is not that such bikes aren’t being built. They just arent
    being imported to the U.S. There is a nice variety of 250cc to 400cc street
    bikes here in Japan that look like they’d be a lot of fun to ride.
    Presumeably they are not imported to the U.S. over concern that there is a
    lacking market for them. But they certainly do exist. And they look great!

  • Your article on small light motorcycles hit the nail on the head. I can not agree more. We had a VTR250 Honda and wish we hadn’t sold it.
    Maybe the new 600cc scooters are the answer.

  • Ever wonder why scooters are so popular? Yeah, I know, there is a bit of a
    sales slump in Europe right now, but scooters are big, and big fun.
    Scooters have two wheels and a motor . . . just like a motorcycle. Most
    scooters, however, have relatively tiny engines and tiny power outputs. They
    might do zero to sixty in nine seconds (if they can even get to sixty), while your
    garden-variety Hayabusa does it in three seconds flat. The scooter rider might
    just have a bigger smile on his face, however.

    I seriously doubt that. I have had the experience of riding a large variety of
    bikes in order of ownership: Cushman scooter, Honda trail 55, Honda SL 125,
    Bultaco Sherpa S 125, CB 350, CB450, Bultaco Pursang 250, CB750, CR 250,
    Bultaco 370, Honda VF1100S (V65 Sabre). The little bikes are indeed fun, but
    only to a point. They are beginners bikes and are fun at the beginner level.
    Once you have put in enough time to become an experienced rider and
    sampled the wonders of a large displacement bike, you will never, I mean never
    find the same satisfaction from a little bike or scooter. Little bikes and scooters
    can be “fun” as a diversion to normal riding, but that’s as far as it goes.

    “Bigger is better” seems to have pervaded every aspect of motorcycle
    manufacturing.

    That is because it is true. Bigger is better. The torque and horsepower of a
    large displacement bike is truly advantages not to mention a safety factor, as
    well as addictive.

    Open-class sportbikes were roughly 900cc for years, but now all of them are
    creeping towards 1000cc.

    It’s about time they did. Little 600s and 750s may put out a hundred
    horsepower or more, but the usability of the power range is limited.

    Sport tourers on the lighter end of the scale are also now 1000cc, typically. We
    all think we need more power and torque.

    That is because we really do, doh. Yeah it is fun to wring out the engine to its
    maximum horsepower in a little 3000 rpm range( but it gets real tiring after a
    while}, but it is way, way more fun to have an engine that pulls hard from 3500
    to 10,500 like my 1985 V65S Honda does.

    We need to feel like King Kong on our bikes, blithely dismissing the cage
    drivers with a quarter turn of throttle.

    Yes we do, and how do you suggest we do it differently? If I didn’t have this
    option I wouldn’t ride motorcycles on the street at all.

    Does anyone remember when Honda’s CB350 twin was a big seller? It had
    style, performance and utility. It could get you where you wanted to go, and you
    could have a lot of fun getting there . . . okay, so you don’t remember. Just
    trust me.

    Oh I remember, I remember all to well. I remember waiting hours for my
    hands and butt to recover from being numb. I remember barely fitting on the
    back of the seat as a passenger. And no I don’t trust you. I have been there
    and done that.

    The point is this. Good, cheap transportation can be plenty of fun. You don’t
    need mega displacement and mega horsepower. Maybe, it took the resurgence
    of scooters to remind us of this, but it’s true.

    Please don’t include me in your “us” as motorcycle riders in general. And no it
    is not true. The resurgence of scooters is an attempt to make money not to
    appease motorcycle enthusiast and to attract beginners. Give me 1100cc, 100
    horsepower or more(at the rear wheel) or give me no more motorcycles!

    Now, if the manufacturers would just start making new, modern, small
    displacement, lightweight, simple machines that are easy on the pocketbook,
    while providing plenty of utility and fun. Hey, there might even be a market for
    bikes like this.

    They already do, what is your point? Yes I remember the days of wishing for
    more power so I did not have to pull over and let cars by, the lack of comfort,
    being blown all over the road by little wind gusts, and many nights spent
    dreaming of a real motorcycle, but I really do not ever want to go back to that
    day. And yes little bikes and scooters have their place, but in this bikers mind,
    only for a beginner.

  • Several of us at work wish we could buy a new 1984 Honda Nighthawk, 1986 Yamaha Radian or a 1984 Suzuki GS700E. One guy just bought a used Radian for $1200 in pretty good shape. I did own a used 1984 Nighthawk in 1998. These bikes should be brought back at what would seem like bargain prices compared to the 1000-1300cc bikes.

  • Your Nov 5. article read as if small motorcycles are not available in the US at this time. Some that are….

    Honda 250 Nighthawk

    Honda Rebel 250

    Marauder 250

    Virago 250

    Kawasaki 250 Ninja

    Buell Blast 500 Single

    Suzuki GS500E

    Kawasaki Ninja 500

    If somebody wants a small motorcycle the manufacturers have product at this time. But, I agree that more bikes could fill the category in the 500 cc range.

    However, one might argue that American buyers (who regularly drive Lincoln Navigators weighing in at 8000-9000 lbs) are more likely to offer up cash for something grossly excessive in size, weight and price. Just based on 20th Century history anyway.

    My favorite bike of all time, the Kawasaki Zephyr 550, sold for precisely two years in the U.S. before going belly up in this country while becoming a huge success in Europe and Japan. Light, agile, fast, fuel efficient and good looking. Americans did not want it. Kawasaki was rumored to be angry that they imported the bike after various magazines called for just such a bike and then Kawi was not able to sell it.

    The manufacturers are aware of past sales success by offering excess to those who want it.

    Thanks. Excellent web site.

  • I do remember the 350 Honda–they were top of the line for awhile if I
    remember correctly. I totally agree with you and would love to see
    downsized motorcycles with popular big bike features. For instance I love
    my 750 VFR but covet the shaft drive and other comforts of an ST1100, but I
    don’t want the extra weight for around town. And having raced 125 class, I
    know that performance is mostly the rider. How many people can ride a
    Hayabusa at full throttle for more than a a few seconds?

    Good article!

  • I really enjoyed your editorial “In Search of Utility”. I live in San
    Francisco, where scooters are pervasive. There are also a HUGE number
    of old Honda Hawks riding around town (there is even a Hawk-only
    shop). Looking at a old Hawk parked next to any recent sportbike is a
    striking contrast. The weight, riding position, gearing and powerband
    of most modern bikes is very intimidating to new casual riders.

    Personally, I am not wild about riding scooters. They look very cool,
    but I don’t like the small wheels or feet first position. I wish
    there were motorcycles in that size/utility/cost range that I could
    point my friends to when they express an interest in riding. Frankly,
    a scooter is better for them than a CBR600.

    I have ridden bikes for 28 years, and read motorcycle mags for most
    of that time. The motorcycle market seems to have REALLY divided into
    niches in the last 15 years. Manufacturers are not trying to bring
    any NEW riders into motorcycling (except for Buell). Instead they
    scramble for the existing consumer with ever-increasing performance
    bikes which are just too out of the main stream for most new riders.
    Unless you come into riding with a vision of being Joe Racer or Jane
    Cruisergirl there is not much on dealer floors to keep your interest.

    I know it is silly to talk about this when bike sales have been up
    for the past few years. But I also see a LOT of low mileage sport
    bikes and cruisers in the paper for sale. I have to think that given
    more pragmatic choices in bikes that new riders would stay on two
    wheels.

  • I wholehartedly agree. I have made this same comment many times in the last few years as the ‘displacement wars’ have gone on and on. Where will it end? Who on earth needs a two wheeled street vehicle that can exceed 200mph? With the new influx of standards, let’s hope it bleeds over into more bikes made for RIDING. I can’t wait to take an in person look at the new Honda 919 and the Suzuki V-Strom. These bikes both go in the right direction with the exception (it appears) of a way to mount hard luggage. Let’s hope this goes a step further with still lower displacement with good mounting points for luggage.

    I’m glad there are at least two of us in the world to share this view. Keep up the good work!