I love changes in the motorcycle industry. Keeps things interesting and fresh. Having read about the plethora of smaller motorbikes flooding the marketplace in recent years, I thought I would put a thought or two on keyboard.
Roo and I are not extremists. Oh sure, the pendulum swings far past neutral most times. Hell, we ride motorcycles! But almost just as often, the pendulum hangs straight down, maybe even swings a bit in the opposite direction (chill out lessons learned from the beagles).
But not so in our garage. Here can be found extremism in it’s purest form: size differential. We are lucky to be able to support two motorbikes, and they couldn’t be any further apart on the extreme scale. The big Honda ST1300 takes up lots of real estate in our one car garage, where the dimunitive Suzuki TU250 is dwarfed and shoved into a tiny space by The beaST.
“Move over little feller”
Doesn’t take a hard look to see that these two motorbikes are on the fringes of the extreme scale, relative to each other, that is. So, does size really matter? Yes, no, maybe, with an explanation.
There’s no replacement for displacement. We’ve all heard that before, usually from bikers in the States. But, you know, the times, they are a changin’, I think. Now we see more and more smaller displacement bikes being spoken about, advertised about, and ridden about, even here in the “bigger is better” U.S. Motorbikes sporting 650, 700 and 800cc engines are making their way onto the asphalt as the motorcycling fraternity ages, and as manufacturers market to a new and totally different demographic. This, I feel, is a good thing.
Want to really get a hit on what the future holds for U.S. (and possibly world) motorcycling? Look no further than Harley Davidson. HD is slow to make changes, possibly for fear of upsetting the Harley Faithful. Any changes to their product line are done in small, almost imperceptible doses. Until now.
Harley Davidson has unleashed a different niche of motorbike: the Street 500 & 750 Series. Mid-size displacement motorbikes aimed squarely at a completely different demographic of rider – 20 something to 30 something year olds. HD knows that the Harley Faithful are aging and dropping out, and won’t be able to sustain the Motor Company profit margin by themselves for much longer.
HARLEY DAVIDSON STREET 750
The Japanese brands have been on board with this for a couple of years now, and they have moved quickly. Honda has put out so many new, smaller displacement bikes into the U.S. market this past year that I just lost count. Ditto the other three, though not quite as many.
However, slow as they may be, when Harley makes a move, it’s time to sit up and take notice. As the Harley Faithful make up a smaller share of HD’s market, you will see their motorbikes change accordingly, as their Street Series is starting to show. This new market isn’t interested in riding big bikes that look like they just rode out of a 1950’s movie set. They want smaller, lighter, tech rich bikes. Retro style isn’t completely out with this group, they just don’t want it to be the main event. And HD also sees the future including electric bikes. Look at their Livewire Project. Keep an eye out. Harley Davidson takes a long view approach, and they see what’s coming.
Harley Davidson Livewire Electric Motorcycle
So, does size really matter? Personally, yes. I love riding big and small motorbikes. If I am going on any ride longer than 150 miles, I will throw a leg over the big Honda. Same is true if Roo and I are two up, day trip or weeklong trip, the beaST gets the call. Powerful, sure footed, stable, and comfortable, she gets us all over the country with nary a worry. Here, bigger is better.
Up to 150 miles, the TU is a blast to ride. Fun, with the feeling of going really, really, fast while staying within the speed limits and exploring questionable roads that I would never take the ST on. In town, she can squirt through traffic and parking is a breeze; I can almost pick her up and place her in a tight parking spot! Seventy miles per gallon of petrol helps too as gas prices start inching upwards again.
Sure, I know that long trips can be taken on any motorbike, and have. I’ve read where bikers have done Ironbutt Rallies on small displacement bikes, even Vespa scooters! Just not for this cowboy.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck at the Dakar Rally?
What are your thoughts? Is bigger better? Does size matter? Is there no replacement for displacement in our little counterculture? Love to hear your thoughts.