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


  1. Replies
    1. I'm drawn to the 390 Duke, and would be tempted to pull the trigger, but I love to explore remote gravel roads. KTM needs to get that adventure bike into production.

  2. Brad, I've only been on the fringe of awareness about all of the bikes above except for one and that's the CSC RX3 which I've been following very closely. In fact, a fair amount of time has been spent on that website and user forums (especially ADVrider) about the bike.

    I'm all in.

    1. The CSC RX3 really piqued my interest when CSC announced it, but the odd wheel size turned me off. Why wouldn't they offer standard tire sizes?

  3. Excellent post Brad! Funnily enough, a Revzilla article has just started a thread on an NZ bike site discussing the trend away from big bikes. This is the link: . I'm a great supporter of light, maneuverable bikes with a bit of grunt (mainly because I'm an old codger!)

    1. I rarely ride in traffic anymore, nor do I ride in large groups as I used to so the grunt is no longer a necessity for me. I much prefer to ride slow on a light, maneuverable bike and talk to the squirrels so a happy sub-500cc is big enough for the highway yet small enough to turn around in the weeds.

  4. A fellow Uralisti with several motorcycles in the garage recently got one of the CSC RX3s, he seems to like it a lot. I'm with you on the thought that the behemoth motorcycles are sometimes too much for conditions. Then again, I drive the pickup truck of the motorcycle world so what do I know.

    1. I'd love a Ural, and is still on my list of bikes for the ultimate off road camping rig. I'm waiting for the CSC RX3 to gain better footing and support base before pulling the trigger.

  5. Troubadour

    I actually almost bought the CB500X when I was looking at bikes in the spring before I bought the NC700s. I did a 45 minute test drive and was extremely impressed with the pick-up, it had great handling and it was the bike until the very well priced NC700 came my way. The CB500 is the little brother/sister to my bike. I wouldn't hesitate on the Honda. The nice thing about this bike is for you tall people it has a 32 inch seat height. I've ridden a few mid range the 300 and they handled well. Personally it was never about high cc's. I am very happy with my 700. I lije that BMW is doing a 300, but then it is going to be more than likely going to be more expensive than a comparable Honda offering.

    1. Thanks for sharing your review. I'm up for the CB500X, it has such potential and checks off nearly everything on my list; if it would just stop raining long enough to go for a test ride.

  6. Try as I do, Troubadour, I will never understand BMW’s R1200GS/GSA. Is it really able to realize its advertised application, or is BMW just selling fantasies? Only once in the 3 to 4 years that I’ve been seriously dual-sporting have I seen a 1200GS/GSA on anything but pavement. It makes me wonder if there isn't actually some magical, adventure bike land to which only a 1200GS/GSA title of ownership will grant a rider access.

    IMHO: A dual-sport should be, at most, 800cc. I imagine a sweet spot somewhere between 400cc and 800cc--powerful enough for gear-laden travel at highway speeds (for when slab is unavoidable) and possessing nastiness-capable suspension. I sure as hell would NOT want to try to lift anything heftier than a gear-laden F800GS in off-road conditions, especially as I mostly ride alone.

    I’d never heard of CCM or CSC… It’ll be interesting to see what direction you take.

    1. Yep I agree, at most an 800cc. I'd love something a bit more dirt than my heavy Tiger, yet a bit more highway capable than my XT250.

      I am leaning toward the Honda CB500X.

  7. I think that the huge advantage of the huge dual sport bikes is having the option to venture where you might otherwise not with a cruiser or other huge, heavy bike. Most probably will never see more than dirt roads but there's nothing wrong with that. I'm interested to see what you end up with...

    1. I've taken all my bikes down gravel roads, cruisers are quite easy with such a large front wheel, sport bikes on the other hand require a little more finesse.

  8. Totally agree with this Brad. Yes, bigger bikes do have their place, but not all the time. I am currently working on a 750cc bike from 1980 and I am making it lighter, more maneuverable and more fun!

    1. Thanks, bigger isn't always better, especially when you have to turn them around or pick them up.

      I've been working on a 900cc bike I'd like to cafe as well.

  9. I like road bikes so my selection was aimed at street bikes obviously. I think you can get too small certainly in the US where distances are vast and connecting roads between good bits are long. But then again a trailer is a great asset for that...
    I am
    I am impressed by the new Speed Twin, watercooled lower horsepower better mileage and twenty pounds lighter than my Bonneville, plus it has tubeless wheels. Oh dear!

    1. I have discovered the advantage of trailering bikes, for the same reasons you mention.

      I haven't seen the Speed Twin yet. looking forward to it.... maybe a Scrambler Twin, or an adventure twin is in the works.


Comments are more than welcome, however, thanks to an increase in anonymous spammers of late, you now must be a registered user to comment.

Thank you spammers!