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Old 12-26-2011, 08:57 AM   #1
jas67 OP
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US Street Motorcycle - lack of mid-displacement bikes and standards

I was just killing some time, looking at what bikes are offered in the US.

Being a fairly new rider, when I bought my V7, I was quite frustrated with the lack of mid-displacement (400-500cc) bikes in our market, and the lack of standards.

There is a huge void between the 250cc beginner bikes (not that they're limited to beginners, the TU250X is a nice all-rounder) and 700cc and bigger cruisers and sport bikes.

One of the bikes I was considering for my first bike was the venerable Suzuki GS500 -- a great all-rounder, good beginner bike with enough more power than the 250's to keep the new rider's interest for a lot longer than a 250.

Suzuki still offers it in the rest of the world, but not in the US. They also still offer the excellent SV650 and Bandit (650 & 1250) elsewhere in the world, but not here.

The only bikes that they offer that are "standard" bikes are the TU250X, GZ250 (which is more a cruiser with its forward controls), and the GSX1250FA, which they call a standard, but is fully-faired sport bike with a little more upright seating than the GSXR.

Looking at Kawasaki, nothing between 250 and 650. The Ninja 500, and excellent mid-displacement bike is gone from the US Lineup. In fact the only bike they offer suitable for a beginner (not counting the KLX250 dual sport) is the Ninja 250R. No standards of any kind or even cruisers under 900cc. The W800 retro-standard, available elsewhere, but not in the US. Even at 650cc, if they brought back the W650, it'd be a great bike to have here.

With Honda, it is as similar story, cruisers, sports, and dual sport, but no standard, and nothing between 250 and 600cc. Even in Europe they don't offer anything between 250 and 600cc, but at least they get the CBF-series, which are a naked standard bike. Honda offers the CB400SF in their home market, which would be a great mid-displacement bike to have here in the US:
http://www.honda.co.jp/CB400SF/

Yamaha, same deal. The "Star" cruise line has a 250, and then 900 and bigger. On the Sport side, they have the Sport Touring FJR (1300cc), and the FZ, and YZF series sport bikes -- all larger than 600cc and way more bike than a lot of people need/want. In the Dual Sport side on things, they offer the Super Tenere, and the various 200-250cc models, again nothing in between.

OK, so that is the big four. Moto Guzzi, of course offers the Nevada 750 and V7 Classic, both 750cc bikes that have power similar to the big-four Japanese mfg's 500's, so these both qualify (all the other bike from MG are 1050 and bigger). BMW, well, they cost too much anyway, but you get litre plus bikes from them unless you go dual sport with the F650 (is it still offered, or just the F800).

Anyway, you all get my point, enough of my rant. I am quite happy with my V7 Classic, but I'd like to see more offered in its market.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:15 AM   #2
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Your observations are spot on. I am just not certain there is a market in the US for those bikes though. Who would buy them and in what numbers?
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:19 AM   #3
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This topic has been rehashed many times on this forum, and you're not alone in your frustration.

The general consensus seems to be that bikes in that displacement range simply do not sell in the US. The main problem seems to be that a 400-500 bike is nearly as expensive as a 600-750 -- so people buy the 600-750 and spend the extra $0.5-$1K. There is a big enough difference in pricing between a 250 and a 600 that people are still buying 250s, mostly to "learn" on.

I would love to see lots of bikes in the 300-600 range but until something really major changes in this country, it just won't happen.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:28 AM   #4
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I have the same complaint. 35 to 45hp is the perfect size street bike if the weight is kept at ~350lbs or lower. It's small and light enough to be practical around town, yet big enough to handle extended freeway riding without feeling small. A bike that small can be easily belt driven so you can get rid of the high-maintenance chain drive also. Anything bigger than ~40hp is diminishing returns AFAIC. A bigger bike won't do anything the 40hp bike won't do on US roads, but it costs more, is heavier, gets poorer gas mileage, and is harder to handle around town.

Kawasaki made a 450cc four-stroke parallel twin with belt drive in the late 70s that was the perfection of all practical street motorcycles. Where are similar bikes today?
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:31 AM   #5
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In ye good ole daze of olde when men were men and sheep ran scared, a Yamaha RD400 was a superbike.
I think sportbike kulture has Jersey Shore'd motorcycling. Instead of moving up through the ranks of cc's after wringing out everything you could from your small displacement dirt bike bike or standard UJM, people get the permit and go right to the R6. Going wide in a corner and making an insurance clam out of it follows shortly thereafter . . .
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:15 AM   #6
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Without graduated motorcycle licensing to give new riders the taste and joy of riding a lighter and smaller bike, new riders who want a crotch rocket jump on liter+ bikes, or those looking for cruisers want the biggest and the "baddest"... form over function... European riders have a much bigger choice of bikes because it's more about riding than posing.
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:25 AM   #7
jas67 OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LuciferMutt View Post
This topic has been rehashed many times on this forum, and you're not alone in your frustration.

The general consensus seems to be that bikes in that displacement range simply do not sell in the US. The main problem seems to be that a 400-500 bike is nearly as expensive as a 600-750 -- so people buy the 600-750 and spend the extra $0.5-$1K. There is a big enough difference in pricing between a 250 and a 600 that people are still buying 250s, mostly to "learn" on.

I would love to see lots of bikes in the 300-600 range but until something really major changes in this country, it just won't happen.
I see your point about a 400-500 bike being nearly as expensive as a 600-750. However, the 600's available here are the higher-reving 60+ HP 600's, and the 750's 70+ HP and are usually 4-cylinders. A more relaxed 40-55 HP 600-750 twin (like that on my V7) would be less expensive to make, and make for a great street bike.

Also, I'd say a bigger frustration of mine is the lack of standards. Most street bikes are firmly in either the cruise or sport segment. I guess, maybe some of the "Adventure" touring models could be used as standards, and, the Honda NT700V (although it isn't a naked standard, the ergos are standard, and the HP reasonable) are probably as close to a "standard" as we'll get.

Another poster brings up fuel economy -- as with cars, that isn't as important to a lot of buyers in the US market, as other parts of the world, where the fuel tax is way higher, making fuel cost 2-4X what we pay.

I love my V7, but 50-52 MPG on the highway just isn't very impressive to me when our Jetta TDI Sportwagon, with it's huge cargo capacity and 5-passenger (including driver) capability gets 44-45 MPG highway (real-life experience, EPA rating is 42).

The TU250X guys are seeing high-70's to low 80's. I would think a nice modern version of the CB350 or CB450 could get mid-60's, and be just as fun to ride as my V7, and way more capable on the highway/freeway. I get upper 50's to 70 MPG with my 250cc scooter (Kymco PS250), it's fun to ride, handling-wise, but uninspiring from the acceleration standpoint compared to my V7).
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:44 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jas67 View Post
The only bikes that they offer that are "standard" bikes are the TU250X, GZ250 (not a standard with its forward controls), and the GSX1250FA, which is a standard, with an upright riding position.

THEY DON'T SELL!!! There you have it.
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:48 AM   #9
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I think the best you can do nowadays is something like a DR650/KLR650 on the "light" side, or a Versys/WeeStrom on the heavier side. There's also some 650cc SMs out there too. Not much between 250 and 600 though.

Not the same thing, of course, but not too different either.
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
Without graduated motorcycle licensing to give new riders the taste and joy of riding a lighter and smaller bike, new riders who want a crotch rocket jump on liter+ bikes, or those looking for cruisers want the biggest and the "baddest"... form over function... European riders have a much bigger choice of bikes because it's more about riding than posing.
Europeans also have much greater fuel costs, which makes a few MPG a big issue, as well as displacement specific registration and insurance.

I remember one time when in London (the UK one) walking through a motorcycle-only parking garage. They variety of bikes was astounding. One think was really obvious: these bikes were ridden, daily and sometimes hard. (You don't see too many bikes here with rust from road salt, aka "followin' the council.")

We will likely not see the mid-displacement machines until there is a major shift in perceptions. Bikes are not "toys" in many places. They often are here.
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Old 12-26-2011, 11:23 AM   #11
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It's tough for a new rider because they are influinced by pier presure to get a Gixxer or a Ninja, bigger the better . And then they end up losing skin or worse and think their parents were right.
I was at the grocery once and the bag boy asked what bike I was riding. KLR, does it all . What do you ride ?
"I don't have one yet but, I'm saving to get a Gixxer 1000.
Hmm, have you ridden anything else yet ?
"No , but my buddy has a friend with one and he says it's the best."
Don't get a 1000 anything,for a first bike. They have hurt guys that have been riding for years, because they have so much power and demand so much respect they catch even experienced riders off guard.
Get something other than a crotch rocket, when you can use all it has to offer , then move up. If you jump straight into the fire , you will get burned. You have to learn in steps to use the power.

Kid says " Uh O.K."

T.M.I. of reality for him to digest.
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Old 12-26-2011, 11:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
Without graduated motorcycle licensing to give new riders the taste and joy of riding a lighter and smaller bike, new riders who want a crotch rocket jump on liter+ bikes, or those looking for cruisers want the biggest and the "baddest"... form over function... European riders have a much bigger choice of bikes because it's more about riding than posing.
You were so close until that last sentence. There's a lot to be said for the forced experience of graduated licensing. I'd love to see it over here, as I think it would weed out a lot of the people who have no business riding a bike.

But the fact of the matter is that European riders ride in very different circumstances than Americans, namely much more expensive fuel and nothing even close to the Interstate system we have. I don't trailer, so I have to consider long-distance comfort when I'm getting a bike, as the trip to my group's get-togethers are rarely less than 1,000 miles. By way of comparison, you can get all the way across Ireland in 2 hours, or London to Paris in 5.

Truly, I'd love to have a garage full of bikes to meet all my different needs, but I don't have that luxury. Similarly, if I lived in the UK or Europe, the riding environment, and therefore my needs would be dramatically different. A 500cc standard makes far more sense over there than it does here.
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Old 12-26-2011, 12:46 PM   #13
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It's all about the market.

For every 5 people on ADV that say they want one, none have ever bought one and 5000 people have ignored them when they WERE on the market.

Ninja 500 was a piss poor seller.

GS 500 was a similar problem.

Honda used to have their 450 Rebel, which was supposed to be a step up from the 250 Rebel. Guess what, people went straight to the 883 or 1200 Sportster instead.

Engine size does not always equal performance. An 883 Sportster is about just as fast as a KLR, which is hard pressed to outrun a Ninja 250.

Smaller displacement bikes have been bought and sold a dozen times before they acquire 5000 miles. Training bikes, except for the diehard few who keep them.

So Honda can make one bike, sell it to one person and 7 people will learn to ride on the same bike. Not a lot of incentive for the manufacturer to try to make 6 more bikes. There ain't shit for profit from small bikes.

It cost just as much to manufacture a 1200 cruiser as a 700cc. Guess what? They can charge $2k more for the bikes.

If you can't do the math in your head, perhaps repeating 3rd grade is on your horizon.
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Old 12-26-2011, 01:09 PM   #14
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One thing missing from this constant whining is that technology has made the 500s irrelevant. The Kawi 650R and Yammie FZ6R, for example, are simple, 70hp, ~450lb bikes with low seat heights, good brakes, and decent suspension. Neither have clipons - rather they have nice upright handlebars.

The are so easy to ride that when Kawi needed a <400cc bike for certain Canadian Provinces with an insurance penalty for bigger bikes, they simply sleeved down the 650R and left almost the entire chassis alone. Voila! Ninja 400R.

Beyond that, the Kawi Versys is really just a standard 650 twin, Yamaha's FZ8 is a sleeved down FZ1 and not really a rocket. The Kawi Z1000 and Ninja 1000 are about as standard as you can get, with Ninja 1000 getting an adjustable windscreen and available hard bags.

Suzuki and Honda really aren't participating in this market in the US, but Honda may offer the NC700S and NC700X in the future. Both standards. The Shadow RS is pretty much a 750 standard.

Aprilia sells the 750 Shiver, Ducati the 696 and 796 monsters. Triumph sells the 800 Tiger, 675 Street Triple, and entire Bonneville range. BMW the F800R and F650GS. Guzzi the V7 cafe, V7 classic, V7 scura. Sounds like the new KTM Duke isn't coming stateside, but the SMT 990 is just a big standard.

If you can't find what you want, you are beyond help. Market availability of any and every niche is as good as it has ever been.
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Old 12-26-2011, 01:24 PM   #15
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My GS500 was a pleasant bike and easy to work on. Fast enuff for any sane riding situation and smoking random R6-MTV kiddies. Just a little too small for long legged people. I lament the loss of standard UJM types because bikes today are too stupid looking for non-pokeman fans to ride. It seems they forgot about older people who arent into anime cartoons. But, as mentioned earlier, I guess we get what we ask for as USA consumers. Our scooters suck too, if its any consolation . . .
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