Opinion: Motorcycle porn

That’s the name for coverage of expensive, exotic motorcycles online – “motorcycle porn” – because it’s the equivalent of high-click, low-engagement from viewers who can’t really hope for the real thing in real life. There’s also automotive porn, real-estate porn, and pretty much everything-else porn that will pull in a teenager with a phone who has to wait more than 30 seconds for something. It’s just as quickly dismissed and forgotten.

A potential customer tries on the Ducati Panigale V4 R for size at the Toronto Motorcycle Show.

I was thinking about this when CMG visited the Toronto Motorcycle Show on the weekend. I should snap some porn of the new Ducati Panigale V4 R, I figured – you never know when we might need it. The bike costs $48,000 before taxes, so nobody’s actually going to buy the thing, surely. It’s officially known as a “halo” vehicle for the maker: it’s something wonderful that you might aspire to own and ride one day, but in the meantime, you feel better about your much-more-affordable Monster or Scrambler because the same people who make those bikes are also capable of creating the V4 R.

Except Ducati expects to sell as many as 30 Panigale V4 Rs this year in Canada, and a dozen are already spoken for. This is no surprise for Ducati, which says it sold almost that many Superleggeras here, which listed in 2017 for $85,000.

The Superleggera started out with a rumoured list price of $100,000 but actually sold for $85,000. You could buy a Scrambler with the savings.

“Canada has a higher propensity for buying more premium product from Ducati than anywhere else in North America,” says Jason Chinnock, Ducati North America’s California-based CEO (who’s seen in our main photo, unveiling the Panigale V4 R). Canada is one of the top five regions for overall sales on this continent, together with California, New York, South Florida and Chicago. In fact, in Canada, “we sell more Multistradas, more XDiavels and more superbikes than we do Monsters. The balance of product is more premium than it is entry and accessible.”

It’s not just mainstream manufacturers like Ducati, Harley-Davidson and Honda that have customers who prefer high-end motorcycles. Customizers are doing okay, too. When the bottom dropped out of the U.S. market in 2008, because Americans found their access cut off to easy credit, Canadian builders kept domestic bike sales steady.

The Speed Trix team – including Michael Le Breton, Caroline Auger and Melanie Charlebois, seen here – has no problems building and selling very expensive bikes like this chopper.

“In Canada, it was a little bit slower but it’s always been steady,” says Melanie Charlebois, co-owner of Quebec-based Speed Trix, which brought several hand-built choppers to the Motorcycle Supershow in January. One of the bikes cost $85,000, another was $65,000. Both were made to order last year and were among the four or five the shop builds from scratch each year, alongside the several dozen they customize and the several hundred they maintain. There’s a strong business case for all of them, too.

“Someone who wants to buy a $40,000 bike at the dealer will still look like everyone else,” she says, “but if they come to our shop, they can buy a $40,000 bike and have something that looks very different and will fit them perfectly and will last for the rest of their life.”

As for trade with the United States, Charlebois says her Canadian shop stayed healthy back then. Americans bought in Canada because the exchange rate strengthened their dollar, and now they’re buying add-on custom parts for the more basic machines they bought 10 years ago. Any which way you cut it, people are spending serious money on bikes in Canada.

That’s an $85,000 Road King in red, and a $65,000 rat bike behind it, both custom made last year by Speed Trix.

“Canada is a very stable market for motorcycling,” says Chinnock. “People underestimate the value of that, but when you have uncertainty in other markets, you see that Canada is an incredibly stable market. I looked at the last five years, and it’s been flat. It’s strange to say that flat is good, but flat is better than the alternative. That gives us confidence.”

Enough confidence that Ducati will open a new flagship store in Montreal this April, including a motorcycle rental business and a café. The market is here, and what’s more, it always has been.

So we’ll keep taking photographs of expensive motorcycles, and we’ll keep publishing them at Canada Moto Guide alongside the photographs of more mainstream and affordable bikes. There’s something for everyone and if you’re not interested, you don’t have to look. But if you are and you can’t afford it, well – you can always dream. Just keep your hands where we can see them.

One thought on “Opinion: Motorcycle porn”

  1. Indeed the Panigale V4R is a looker, but those motoGP-esque wings are truly ridiculous looking, and, frankly, ruin the looks of the bike for me. Further to the “- porn” analogy – is it really necessary for the model to have “extra, add-on parts” to truly sell the fantasy?

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