In my posts previous, I lamented the fact that the CB1100 is unlikely to succeed because it doesn't fit into a "niche."
Well, as I got to looking around, I realized that it DOES fit into a niche. It's a niche that has been very slowly growing in the US motorcycle market but I think it's safe to say that there are now enough bikes in that category to qualify for their own market segment:
"Retro Bikes." Think about it, when Kawasaki introduced the Zephyr in the late 80s- early 90s, when Honda introduced the CB1000 in 93, when Suzuki had the naked Bandit 1200 and Kawasaki had the naked ZR-7, there really was no "retro" market segment as such. All the effort and money for "retro" styling was going to the red-hot "Cruiser/imitation Harley" segment.
But as cruisers are becoming somewhat old hat, several manufacturers have started pushing "retro" style bikes. I would argue that Triumph really kicked off the trend in 2000 with the Bonneville, which has steadily grown from one to about 5 different models (Bonnie, Thruxton, T100, Scrambler, America, Speedmaster) and has well established itself in the US motorcycle market.
Around the same time, Kawasaki brought out their retro-styled ZRX-1100 (later 1200), Eddie Lawson replica. Although it had a "modern" (water cooled) engine, it had the old-fashioned tube frame and dual rear shocks that most true "sportbikes" hadn't used in almost a decade. Although the ZRX is gone now, it was quite a popular bike for a while (and still is - try buying one used and you'll see just how 'in demand' they are!)
In 2008 Moto Guzzi introduced their retro-style V7 Classic in a couple of different configurations. This year they've released the V7 Stone with a bigger gas tank and cast wheels but it still has the classic styling.
On the small end of the market, a few years back Suzuki replaced the cruiser-styled GZ250 starter bike with the retro-styled TU250.
Given all that, I think I may have to revise my earlier pessimism. Retro bikes do
seem to be something of a viable market niche. I only hope Honda has the fortitude to stick it out and to market the bike so people actually buy it.
If Honda's CB1100 catches on, and if Triumph continues to do well (and they've been doing great, despite the global recession), one can only wonder what may happen next. Maybe Kawasaki could bring the W800 to the US market? Who knows (not sure if people would buy an imitation Triumph when they can buy the "real thing" unless there is a significant price difference.) Better yet, perhaps Kawasaki could be persuaded to bring out a modern version of the venerable Z1, or perhaps Suzuki could revisit their GS series of bikes, or Yamaha could think about bringing out a "modern" XS11.
Personally I would like to see more smaller size bikes in the 500 - 750cc class, as I think that size represents a perfect compromise in terms of size and power vs. weight. However, I can understand why MC manufacturers tend to move to larger bikes - it's the same reason car and truck manufacturers would rather sell a big SUV or pickup - the profit on the larger item is bigger.
Still, we could be seeing the beginning of the "next big thing" in motorcycling. Or at least we can dream!