Sunday, December 20, 2015

Go Big or Go Home... pfft

This is BIG!

Many years ago when we moved to the US we were shopping for a new car, but just couldn't find what we wanted; a small, affordable, economical hatchback. We are hatchback people, evidently the majority of Americans were not.

They say history repeats itself and much like the big, gas guzzling muscle cars of the '60s being shut down by the oil embargo of 1973, I suspected the oversized Sport Utility Vehicle trend of the '90s wouldn't last very long either and face the same fate.

Graph of oil prices from 1861–2007, showing a sharp increase in 1973, and again during the 1979 energy crisis. The orange line is adjusted for inflation.

Econo-cars were the norm throughout the '80s, but then for some reason either safety, consumer confidence, cheaper gas prices, or vanity took priority in the '90s, making the SUV so popular.
Bigger is better, right?

Small Ford Explorers turned into full size SUVs, creating a marketing niche for the Ford Expedition and bigger yet Ford Excursion. Remember the small 2 door Chevrolet and GMC S10 and S15 Blazer and Jimmy, downsized from the originals? Gone! Consumers were told we needed a full-sized Tahoe and Yukon, not to mention the fullsize family hauling Suburban and I won't even get into the Hummer H2 and H3 craze.

Fortunately Dodge was smart enough to stay with the midsize Durango.

If you wanted something more economical it was either the minivan or luxury sedan. The econo-cars of the 70's and 80's got fatter too, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima out sold the smaller Corolla, Civic, and Sentra.

Hatchbacks? Oh, you want an SUV, nobody really offers a hatchback. (Although Honda, VW and Subaru continued to make hatchbacks), I credit Ford as the different drummer and releasing their new Ford Focus ZX3 and ZX5. It wasn't until the early Y2Ks when the hatchback made a strong comeback, now you can't drive a mile or so without seeing another hatchback.

SUVs will forever be the soccer mom piloted, family ferrying, parking lot crowding, road barges they are, however Fiat 500s, Mini Coopers, Smart cars, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Scion XBs and IQs are chipping away, making their presence known.

So what does this have to do with motorcycles Brad?

Just as big SUVs dominated auto sales in the late '90s, big adventure bikes are now dominating motorcycle magazine covers, showroom floors, and most importantly Starbuck's parking lots.

(And yes, this includes my Tiger....)
A few years ago, after experiencing the SUV trend of the '90s, I'd inadvertently got into an argument with an online forum member whom stated there isn't a demand for smaller, under 500cc bikes. I told him there is a demand, albeit small, and that the motorcycle market isn't all about horsepower and testosterone. I did learn however, that forums evidently are.

At the time, you couldn't buy a bike between 250cc and 600ccs. The demand just wasn't there.... yet.

It took manufactures quite some time to realize that they needed to stop chasing the baby boomers, and look back at their new target market they were leaving behind. Some have stopped at the fork in the road and are building a new segment of sub 500cc bikes, while others are in the R&D stages.

Conchscooter wrote a blog post on smaller bikes and I've been thinking, I'd love to add a 300cc to 500cc bike to the stable, but I'm indecisive between the practicality of a Honda CB500X...

and the reminiscent old school Royal Enfield.

I was unaware of the reliability and maintenance issues Conch mentioned on the RE, so that makes me reconsider.

He mentioned the KTM 390 Duke, a very nice bike and quite tempting,

...but I'm leaning toward small adventure bikes and waiting for the 
KTM 390 Adventure to debut.

KTM 390 Adventure Concept (Photoshop)

Or for the CCM GP-450 to come stateside.


As well as the CSC RX3 Cyclone to gain some popularity.

CSC RX3 Cyclone

Rumor has it Honda is also designing a CRF250 Rally bike, once the 1000cc Africa Twin fad fades of course.

Honda CRF250 Rally

As Conchscooter mentioned, even BMW is getting in on the sub-500cc bandwagon with their 2016 G310R.

2016 BMW G310R

Now if only BMW will make this into an adventure or rally model, only time will tell.

So bigger isn't always better, it's an exciting time to be a motorcyclist.

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.  
~Vernon Howard