Opinion: Bikes in the pipe

The season’s still strong, but we’re starting already to get excited for next year: the first of the big European bike shows opens in a week’s time and we’ll get to see what’s coming to showrooms in the spring.

It’s not that we’ve got money burning a hole in our pockets to buy the new bikes. It’s that with every year, there’s always a progression forward as we see where our passion is headed. Some of it we’ll hate but some of it we’ll love. All of it will affect how we ride in the next decade.

Zac’s given us a rundown today of both confirmations and rumours, and we’re just itching to find out which are which. Of course, next week’s Intermot show in Germany is the smaller of the two, with November’s EICMA in Italy being the show where we expect to see the most new product. Not just bikes, but clothing and accessories and new solutions to age-old challenges, all in public at last.

There’s been much discussion recently about the future of motorcycling, especially here in Canada. Bikes are a luxury item for most, and when times are made challenging by an uncertain economy, they’re among the first to suffer the effects. We have fewer dealerships than we used to, and while the choice of machine is broader than ever, the price of admission is higher than it’s ever been. Graduated licensing across the country – which is welcome and essential – can make it more of a drawn-out process to get a licence in the first place, while the high cost of insurance is a surprise to many. Unlike other countries where snow is rarely seen and bikes can be used as affordable year-round transport, in Canada, nobody needs a motorcycle. The best way to get somebody riding is to make the bike as good and appealing (and affordable) as possible.

Harley-Davidson’s new Streetfighter concept shows how The Motor Company wants to appeal to a new kind of rider.

That’s what we’ll be seeing at the shows: bikes that are more appealing than ever. Harley-Davidson, for example, wants to attract two million more riders to its motorcycles over the next decade and to do that, it will have to introduce product that expands its lineup and appeals to people who’ve not considered a Harley before. Every maker is hungry for new riders. Their bikes are already known by reputation to existing riders, but those current motorcyclists, in Canada at least, are aging and diminishing in number as younger people struggle to afford the price of entry.

And so, every year around this time, the spirit of motorcycling takes another step forward as the bikes and technology grow better than ever. We have a rule here at Canada Moto Guide that no motorcycle or piece of gear can ever be described as “perfect,” because there’s always room for improvement. It doesn’t matter how impressed we might be with a bike’s handling or power or comfort, there’s always an engineer somewhere working to make it that little bit better. Sometimes, it’s a tweak to the engine mapping; other times, it’s an entirely new machine. Fortunately for us, they keep on coming.

So read Zac’s piece and see for yourself what we might expect for next spring. If we hear of any other news, or juicy rumour, we’ll let you know about it right away through the week.

5 thoughts on “Opinion: Bikes in the pipe”

  1. I’m glad to see both Indian and H-D introducing something outside the usual feet-forward cruiser realm. Hopefully they will be competitive in price and performance with Japanese and European brands. The kind of people that buy comparable Japanese or European sport bikes either will not pay a premium just to “buy American”, or don’t consider these brands to be a plus worth paying for. I know if I was in the market for a “streetfighter” type bike, I would not much much, if any, of a premium to have “Indian” or “Harley Davidson” on the gas tank – unless they deliver something extra for the money in terms of fit and finish, styling, performance, etc.

    H-D to a great extent trades on a name. No doubt, H-D builds the best H-Ds you can buy. And maybe even some of the best bikes in a couple categories (cruisers, touring cruisers,… well, that’s about it). Except now Indian arguably builds a better Harley, at least in the full-boat touring cruiser department.

  2. It would be good to see some proper 400cc bikes in the “simpler” category, and I hope for a full-sized 400 machine that a full-sized person would be comfortable riding. 400cc in BC is an insurance cut-off point, so a 450 wouldn’t be too appealing.

  3. Bikes are getting more complex and heavier every year. I’d like to see some more smaller, simpler bikes that new riders and enthusiasts that like to do their own maintenance would choose. Honda needs to either put the 300 engine in the Rally or come out with a 450 version. It looks like the KLR might be finished so I’m hoping whatever Kawi has for a replacement follows the kiss rule as well. Now that the CRF450L is out, maybe Suzuki and Yamaha will come out with something to compete and replace their aging lineup.
    I’m suprised to say this, but one of the most interesting bikes for me right now is the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Too bad dealers are few and far between.

    1. Quite the different bikes you list there. One can be rebuilt using a Leatherman tool (slight exaggeration), the other one has 600 mile oil change intervals (no exaggeration)…

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