Are All of the Interesting Motorcycles Used Motorcycles or One Off Specials?

Rickman CR750 - something interesting from the pre owned market

Rickman 750CR - something interesting from the pre owned possibilities

With all due respect to the motorcycle manufacturers out there, it's hard to name one current or anticipated model that is causing any excitement, but, this isn't a criticism, I understand their predicament. When the economy slows down and few people have the resources to buy a brand new bike, what are companies supposed to do? While a segment of the potential customers will always be able to buy whatever they want, in many, if not most situations, that's not the case. Interestingly enough, there's a really healthy market in used bikes.

Over in the sidebar, I try to find and spotlight a few used motorcycles for sale on eBay that are a bit special for one reason or another, they might be a low production model or maybe a well preserved or restored example of a classic that was popular when new or maybe newly appreciated now that they're unavailable. Occasionally, it's just something I like and it caught my eye. Whatever the case, they often seem far more appealing than anything you could get brand new off a showroom floor and frequently, as nice as they are, they cost less, too.

If a company is trying to turn out brand new models to sell, that's a problem. The better the bikes are that they produced in the past, the more fond memories we have of them, the more often we'll be swayed to buy a nice used bike and save the extra cash for something else, if there's any extra cash to save. If, on top of that, the older bikes are less complex and easier to work on, that's just a bonus.

Kawasaki W650 - a very popular bike on the used market

Kawasaki W650 - a very popular bike on the used market

Sometimes those pre-owned beauties are less than perfect, but they'll still bring more attention in a bike night parking lot than a brand new model someone else just spent many thousands more on at the local dealer. Maybe the cool factor requires a little history and patina, it's hard to bolt that on as it rolls down the assembly line.

As companies struggle to get you into the showroom, those used bikes keep looking better and better. You may not always find exactly what you want, though the large number of used bikes out there means it's possible you will. Trying to design a new model that will sell in high numbers has got to be an unenviable job right now and it's not their fault. Things will change, the companies and market will adapt, but what those changes will be isn't yet clear. I wonder.


  1. says

    Really? “Hard to name one current or anticipated model that is causing any excitement”? The Panigale is redefining performance bikes and aesthetics. BMWs S1000 and HP4 are making ultimate performance accessible to non-pro riders. The Multistrada set new standards in electronic control. Moto Guzzi is producing beautiful vintage-styled V7s. Honda and Kawi are warring to produce the best intro-level bikes, with the result that new riders have better choices now than any time in recent memory… shall I continue? We’re living in a golden age of choice and variety in the motorcycle world.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Stroll into a local dealer and check the floor traffic. Count the number of these new bikes “redefining performance” that are out on the road. See how many of the bikes you’ve listed are now for sale on the used market with low miles, it seems the excitement is short lived.

      This “golden age of choice and variety” isn’t bringing in the buyers.

      • trojanhorse says

        I love your blog, and generally agree with you. But I work for an OEM, it’s part of my job to analyze the market, and I have access to all the sales numbers. I’m sorry, but you are wrong. Be careful of drawing broad conclusions based on your anecdotal evidence.

        • rohorn says

          Random points, some of which might make sense:

          Pick up any early-mid 1980’s motorcycle magazine and you will see loads of ads for discounted models from both then current and several non-current years. These were almost all for standard UJMs, the very definition of practical, affordable, simple – and BORING – just like some see the current market. Hmmm.

          The 600 class has supposedly gone down the toilet. Not surprised – the literbikes weigh about the same, don’t cost a whole lot more, and have rider friendly electronics. It is way past time to see the 600s become much smaller – no reason why they can’t be under 300 lbs and closer to the size of a 250.

          The “interesting” bikes now were all flaming sales disasters when they came out. Virtually all of them were good concepts but half-baked. Would name a few and specify why, but that will generate far more reactionary noise than their market share would suggest. Make a list of high character/high performance bike makers from the last 50 or so years and you will have a list of companies that have always flirted with bankruptcy – or already have. Sorry fact is that the majority of the human race is pretty dull and low performance – Milwaukee figured out how to profit from that – (conclusion not polite).

          Did Honda ever sell a Superhawk for list price? There’s another bike for the “Make me a fun fast non-Ducati V twin – Whaaaa!” crowd that didn’t put their money where their mouths are – Honda produced that one for a long time, which I never understood. Same goes with the KTM Superduke (gone from the USA lineup for 2013) – their Superbike is a very very rare sight.

          Stopped by Erico here in Denver a few days ago – all the Panigales (including the R) had “Sold” signs on them, with one being taken by its new owner – the 2013 V7 chrome tanked cafe Guzzi is still there, parked across the 2012 one.

          • trojanhorse says

            Unfortunately I missed a few of your points. But from what I’ve understood –

            Regarding the 600s, sure, you can have one under 300lbs, exactly the size of a 250 if you want. We’ll make it mostly out of titanium, magnesium, and carbon fiber. Could I have your credit card number please? (i.e. strong, light, cheap. Pick two.)

            Toby nailed it. S1000RR, Panigale, Multistrada, CBR500R, Ninja 400, Street Triple, Daytona 675, off the top of my head. Not a half-baked concept or a sales disaster among them, in fact completely the opposite. To someone uninterested in any of that broad range, I’d say, maybe the bikes aren’t the problem :)

            • rohorn says

              I agree completely – I left out a lot over a combination of brevity and laziness. It was intended to be a reply to Paul, but I hit the wrong Reply link – thanks for replying.

              The “half baked” bikes I was thinking of certainly aren’t the ones you named, rather, the ones that generated lots of letters to the editors, but not a lot of checks to the dealers. Some of them were perfectly good bikes, but weren’t very good values to enough people. They may be in demand now, but a few bikes in demand by a few people does not a market make.

              I think a 325 lb middleweight supersport is possible right now without resorting to exotic materials – I’m just waiting for the manufacturing techniques used for making the much lighter literbikes to trickle down. That’s pretty much the history of middleweight supersport production anyway. Then again, it might be a 675 V3 or 750 V2 rather than a 600 I4. I could get excited about that. Could the rest of the market? I don’t know.

              I like seeing the parallels in motorcycling and aviation. Whenever I went to Oshkosh, the interesting airplanes were always – get this – one offs, custom builts, or classic/antiques (Including the warbirds). Nobody gets excited about a row of Cessna 172s. But guess what sells.

              Much of this excitement issue is thoroughly explained by Kevin Cameron. Check out his book TDC Vol 1, page 58: Diseases Of Enthusiasm. Or read it in the October 1987 Cycle magazine. Some will find it a very haunting article…

              • carboncanyon says

                An affordable 325-pound middleweight supersport? How? A 600 does not weigh 6/10’s of a 1000. The difference in weight between the vast majority of the parts is negligible; wheels, frame, suspension, bodywork, etc. are all pretty similar. Do you think the cost of building a 600cc engine is much different to a similarly spec’d 1000cc engine?

              • rohorn says

                When 600 supersports and superbikes weigh almost the same (With some superbikes weighing less than the 600s), then it is painfully obvious that the 600s weigh far too much. 8/10’s would be the figure I’m asking for – not sure where you pulled 6/10’s from. Cost? Not sure where you pulled that issue out of, either. But that’s one more reason why I’m expecting to see more triple and twin supersports.

              • carboncanyon says

                At first you were asking for sub-300 lbs, and that’s closer to the ratio 6/10 (or 600/1000) than 8/10 when you consider that the claimed wet weight of most current superbikes hovers around 450 lbs.

                Also, the reason why I brought up cost is because you said “no reason why they can’t be under 300 lbs and closer to the size of a 250″. I’m just pointing out that cost is the major contributing reason.

                My point was this: a 600 isn’t going to weigh significantly less or cost significantly less than a 1000 just because the displacement is 6/10. That’s all.

              • rohorn says

                Understood – hope this clarifies what I meant:

                The theoretical “Under 300 lb” bike is for the supersport equivalent of a Panigale R – and you are right – it would not be cheap at all. Do all supersports have to be cheap? Probably. Given the choice on the track (Or even the street) of the same weight and a lot more power – or the same power and a lot less weight – I’d take the latter, even for the same price. Would anyone else? Probably not. Oh well. But that’s what one-off specials are for!

                As far as the x/10’s thing goes, we’re probably getting the same results from different points. And I agree that slightly smaller parts cost the same to make as the bigger ones.

                I’m not holding my breath for anything I’m imagining coming from the Big 4 in the next few months, but it seems that whenever model lives are extended, the potential for bigger changes in new models is there. I’m guessing/hoping some engineers and designers are still employed and busy in Japan and/or elsewhere, even if the toolmakers aren’t at the moment.

        • Nicolas says

          I’d be interested to know where the market is, these days. Can you share the highlights ? (without putting your job at risk).

          • trojanhorse says

            Fair enough. I’ll assume you meant specifically the U.S. market.

            The current market is rising slightly but still only up a minor percentage from 2010, which was the low after a 55% crash in ’09.

            Literbikes were less hard-hit than 600s. The Japanese still dominate the literbike and supersport markets, but the Europeans suffered less and now have a larger slice of the pie, due in no small part specifically to bikes like the S1000RR and Panigale.

            Harley’s “street” models (the flashy ones with less function) got brutalized but the “touring” models (with hard bags etc) are actually doing pretty well.

            Adventure Tourers, i.e. Multistrada, R1200GS, Tiger, etc are currently doing very well.

            One thing the sales data doesn’t reflect is the used market, which is thriving. Also, some customer segments are far less sensitive to recession, and if you appeal to them with the right bike, they’ll buy it even in a downturn.

            So in my opinion the data appears more doom-and-gloom than the actual situation. I think a lot of companies take an overly simplistic approach, overreact to drops in sales figures, and subsequently find themselves scrambling to accelerate production schedules once they realize their error.

            The smart ones use economic downturns to take advantage of cheap assets, streamline costs, and invest in their future lineup.

            It’s not a strategy for the risk-averse, though – and the Japanese factories have become paralyzingly risk-averse. Until that changes I’m afraid they will be constantly behind the curve and watching their market share trickle away to bolder competitors.

            • says

              Can you say whether the bike co.s seem to be doing anything to take advantage of the activity in the used market?

              • trojanhorse says

                Not that I see, they’re not. A surprising fact that I’ve found to be true – in general, motorcycle OEMs are MUCH less sophisticated than you would think they’d be, in terms of market analysis, planning, general strategy, etc.

      • Mike says

        He has a point as regards to the new offerings for new riders. Hopefully they will entice youth to embrace motorcycling for what it used to be, affordable & fun.
        As for the top of the line all out bling bikes he mentions… they can only be purchased & insured by the people who are least likely to have a long term use for them. They are jewellry for rich old men. Just like high end sports cars. The difference being that the bike is less comfortable, & does not forgive the slower reaction timing that comes with age like a four wheeler does. Once they realise this, the bike is on the used market with low miles.

      • JSH says

        The bikes that interest me the most right now are in a segment that has been ignored in the USA for far too long. I’m interested in the CBR250R (w/ ABS), NC700X, CRF250L, and Ninja 300 (w/ ABS). My local dealer doesn’t have any in stock because the are already sold when they arrive. He does have the CBR250R and Ninja 300 w/o ABS but sells every ABS model he can get.

        I’m also interested in the Honda 500’s and hope to check one out at the local dealer when they start shipping. However, considering the number of people that come in asking about the 500’s I have no doubt he will have trouble keeping them in stock. These customers just walk out the door, uninterested in the sport bikes and cruisers that he has sitting on the floor.

        I think Honda has really hit the mark over the last couple of years by offering inexpensive motorcycles with ABS. I just wish Honda would offer the NC700X with ABS but without that stupid automatic gearbox in the USA.

  2. Ax1464 says

    I don’t really understand people’s need for their motorcycles to be “exciting”. For me, the excitement comes from the riding.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Perhaps another word would be “anticipation.” It’s what a company tries to create in the mind of potential buyers so they’ll run in and buy the brand new model. If their current bike already has the qualities they’re seeking, there’s no reason to buy something else, and the huge variety of used bikes makes it very easy to find what they need if they’re looking to trade up or add to their collection.

  3. SKoo says

    Well, there are some exceptions to the above.

    Countries in Europe are adopting new driving license legislation that favours sales of small (<125cc) motorcycles. Here in the Netherlands these bikes traditionally never really sold well. Dealerships now stock and sell more and more of those small-scale beauties from Japan and Italy.

    Of course, these bikes are not meant for highway use and large distance travelling. For some reason BMW has always catered to this segment without too much influence from recessions. Perhaps BMW buyers have the kind of jobs that aren't prone to economic downfalls.

    Check the 2012 BMW sales figures here:

  4. says

    You read my mind. I’ve been uninterested in the current lineup of bikes for years. For me the perfect combination of character, style, performance, and ease of repair peaked in the mid to late 90s. Everything since then has been getting overly complicated, ugly, and offering performance waaaay beyond the capabilities of anyone outside of a WSBK starting grid. On the opposite end we have the dull, expensive bikes that are made to appeal to inexperienced riders – the NC700 is probably the best example of this trend. There are few bikes that fall between those extremes that are appealing to me.

    I also miss the death of big sporting V-twins. I don’t want an inline-anything. And I already have a Ducati. One of my friends was shopping for a new bike, I steered him to buying a clean used SV1000S. For the price of a new scooter he got one of the most underrated bikes of the last 10 years. And you know what, if he gets tired of it I’m considering buying it from him for my next ride.

    There is only one modern bike I want – the Duke 690. It might look like a cubist sculpture, but I love the simplicity of a tight chassis, light weight, and stump-pulling torque, all for ten grand.

    • says

      +1. My feelings exactly. Technologically refined as all of the new hyper bikes are, and even some of the newer cruisers, I don’t feel the need for active suspension, multi adjustable engine mapping and whatever computer controlled bells and whistles they want to lump into an already over performing machine. I’ll never use it and don’t care to brag about it to my buddies. If anything it’s one more thing I have to remove in order to change my air filter.

      I’m also a big fan of sport twins, and owned a handful of TLR’s, Superhawks and SV’s in the past. Currently I’m rebuilding a pair of oil cooled GSXR’s. For the simple fact that they were just great all around bikes. They’er inexpensive, available, look great with and without bodywork, highly adaptable to whatever you want to do with it, great performers and they have character.

      A lot of the newer models I don’t see that with. It’s all edgy plastic and electronics. The soul of the motorcycle is left on the design room floor.

    • Mr Paynter says

      Ditto on the dukes, I am cutrrently selling my 09 ER-6n as I’ve had a few issues with it and the local dealership has put me off using them specifically, so I am looking at the Duke 390, for all the same reasons and specifically because I dont need anything more.

      Smaller, more affordable bikes are where it’s at right now for me!

      Less fire breathing liter-bikes, more fun, light, capable machines!

  5. DanP says

    There are interesting bikes out there of course, but they are largely peripheral and outside of most people’s budgets. Currently, the big main-stream manufacturers all seem to be producing homogenous looking, overweight, over priced and over complicated models. If you compare today’s offerings to say the bikes of the seventies and eighties there’s no question that there was a greater range of choice. Look at say the latter half of the seventies and early eighties. Some models just seemed as though they had arrived here from outer space with no earthly pre-decessors. The Kawasaki z1300, Honda CBX, Goldwings, Suzuki GT 750, Suzuki RE5, BMW flying bricks, Norton Rotarys, Honda VT250 and the Honda CX500 all spring immediately to mind. These were radical machines that caused a stir. At the same time the Japanese manufacturers also had in their ranges 4 stoke singles, twins, v twins, triples, fours and sixes, two stroke singles, twins, triples and fours. Not only that you could have shaft, belt and chain drive variations on themes and many layouts were available in water cooled and air cooled form. There was even a degree of flirtation with turbo-charging. Yes, you can still find radical bikes in current manufacturers; ranges, but not to the same degree as you could in the past. I think that manufacturers have lost their way a bit, especially with regard to aesthetics. Bikes should look good, too much plastic, no appreciation of how great an exposed engine can look, and little thought paid to the look of a motor mean that I too prefer to scan the used ads rather than maufacturers’ current brochures. Individual aspects of motorcycle design (e.g. Braking, handling, tyres, safety, engine efficiency etc) have improved hugely and rightly so, but somehow this has made moderm machines, at least to my eyes, have less soul.

  6. says

    The OEMs are at fault to some degree b/c of these missing opportunities (admittedly, these are from my somewhat niche interests in 2-wheels, but maybe others agree?)

    1. Moto Guzzi: why have they not built a MGS-01 for the street? The Ghezzi-Brian Supertwin used the V11 engine and is an incredible bike! Accessible performance & style is a missed opportunity. All types of bikers just stared at the MGS-01 at the IMS Shows.

    2. HD: air-cooled sport tourer. While the sophisticated sport tourers from BMW, Kawi, Honda, etc. are incredible, Simplicity is a missed opportunity. e.g. BTR Moto’s track bike weighs under 450 lbs. using an HD Twin Cam engine. Use that as a baseline and achieve a stylish, air cooled simple Sport Tourer capable of very good performance (120 ft lbs of torque).

    3. Triumph: liter sportbike using a triple. Uniqueness is a missed opportunity. The 675 has provided a very successful customer base to re-introduce the liter triple.

    4. BMW: nostalgia is a missed opportunity. The baby boomers should have another option for a cool, manageable bike to ride. Build an R-series bike that emulates the 30’s. This opportunity was lost 5-10 yrs ago.

    5. KTM: something as simple as color choice is a missed opportunity.

    6. Victory/Motus: diversification for the former/mass production for the latter

      • JasonB says

        Absolutely! The current R1 motor is a real gem, and it’s frustrating that Yamaha hasn’t seen fit to create a sport touring model around it. I’m also an example of the subject here- I’m a long time contented Blackbird owner waiting for something to replace it with. That said, I am however eagerly anticipating the possibility (inevitability?) of a production bike created around that recent 3 cylinder engine show concept. That could be a unique, truly different game changer for them- we shall see.

    • says

      btw…It was a trip to walk into Ride West BMW recently. The caliber and diversity of machinery that BMW is producing is impressive. So, the throwback 30s-era bike would be icing.

      • Medicated Steve says

        Yes, I agree. The Harley thing is so aggravating on so many different levels. Their loyal customers are the only reason they’re still around. I’d take a Kawi Vaquero over an HD dresser anyday and I’ve never ridden one. I have ridden an Ultra Classic. How about just the whole idea of displacement vs engineering. The R1 is just about the only bike I really liked in the last few years and only because of the cross-plane crank. lol Ktm. Yeah but in the dirt market they have it pretty much pinned. I see a whole bunch of them when I go riding regardless of where I go. This new indian is another example, I WISH they would produce an inline 4 crossplane with the classic fenders and all. In response to trojanhorse, I have personally seen dealerships close or downsize into smaller buildings over the last few years. The Honda dealership near me may as well be run out of a storage unit at this point.

  7. JeCo says

    I agree but there are a couple gems out and coming..

    Sportster (they are selling)

    KTM 1290 SDR
    BMW R1200R Custom
    Anything EBR

    I do believe we are in a time of DIY motorcycles.. lot cheaper when starting with a used bike.

    • Medicated Steve says

      omg EBR? Yeah if you want a second mortgage. Those bikes, just like the older ones, won’t be worth the money. A lot of cash for something moderately competitive.

  8. blackbird says

    Two bikes in my garage. Both mostly home made. One is a very high performance Honda Blackbird sidecar and the other is an XR600r with a Nighthawk 450 engine with lights and road legal. Both of them are huge fun to ride. I’m so happy with my bikes’ function that thoughts of a new one never enter my mind. Even if I could afford any new bike I can’t think of one I’d want. Manufacturers seem to have outsmarted themselves with their recent offerings. More passion needed. Less regulation.

  9. mark says

    One bike comes immediately to mind that doesn’t fit your argument: the Triumph Tiger 800 XC. Combined, the two Tiger 800 models have been a huge success for Triumph, and the XC is hard to find used because owners absolutely love them.

    The thing that’s keeping away buyers right now is the economy (though despite that, Triumph, Ducati, and BMW have managed to do very well, because they have models out that people ARE excited about). Also, a great many people would argue that the Japanese OEMs have overengineered their bikes to the point that they’re riding appliances devoid of anything that makes them unique or gives them character. This is one of the reasons a lot of people are buying Triumph, Ducati, and BMW instead.

  10. says

    There’s a lot to be said for finding a mint low mileage used bike. You feel like you have struck gold. It’s much more satisfying than buying a new one. Very often a used bike has had most of the glitches sorted so that you can just get on and ride. And your saving money at the same time

  11. Phil says

    I traveled and worked the IMS series of consumer shows this year and though these aren’t “Soon to be released,” but recently released, they all had a lot of people talking:

    Honda CRF250L
    Honda CB1100
    Ninja GPZ300
    MV Brutale 800
    Kawasaki ZX6R
    BMW K1600
    BMW R1200 GS

  12. says

    Meanwhile, the vintage bike market is skyrocketing.

    That must be saying something, but the manufacturers aren’t listening.

  13. Todd says

    There’s no way I could replace all the used bikes in my garage with new ones. There’s 11 bikes in there that have together cost me less than one new bike.


  14. '37 Indian says

    Your example of a used Kawasaki W650 is a good one, they were great bikes, but strangely only imported into the US for 2 years. However, they are still available in other countries as the upgraded W800. The reviews for the W800 are as good or better than the W650. So why aren’t they available here? Seems it would be a direct competitor to the Hinckley Triumphs, which seem to be selling well. I talked to the owner of my local Kawasaki/Yamaha/Honda/ Suzuki dealer a few weeks ago, he said that motorcycles weren’t selling, but side by side ATV’s were. That’s the majority of what you see on his showroom floor. . If I was in the market for a new bike, I’d be real interested in the new Polaris Indian as long as the price is reasonable, and we haven’t even seen the complete bike yet. I’m hoping it’s as good as the motor is, then it should be an instant classic.

  15. Dano says

    20/20 hindsight, it’s an amazing gift. We all kick ourselves over what we have owned and let go. Who would have thought that the ’69 750 sand cast that I let go would be one that I now kick myself over the most.
    Not buying that mint Triumph Hurricane for $500 bucks 15 years ago is now an obvious mistake. Trying to find a W-650 in fair shape for a reasonable price today is another problem all together.
    That’s part of the reason I’m working on the ’78 Goldwing, it’s to nice to get rid of and it rides fine for weekend jaunts.The ’72 Triumph Daytona is mint and so much fun to ride that when I think of selling it I get the ,”you will regret it”, thought stuck in my mind…again!
    The ’06 H.D. Decker is the daily ride and will never fit into the ‘sought after’ category but I love it.
    Thought I wanted a BMW 1600 GT, to expensive and fast for me. I do like to Motus though but I’ll have to hit the lottery something equivalent. To me that would be an investment bike.
    Being completely honest, I haven’t been into a dealer to look at new bikes for about 2 years. I walk past them to get to the parts department but that’s the extent of dealership visits.
    I’m happy reading the reviews in Cycle World and Rider magazine.

  16. says

    In the heydays of the 70’s, there were new motorcycle offerings everyday with new and different features every time – the CB750 Four (now in colour with interesting sound), Benelli 750 Sei 6-Cylinder (Italian red), Kawasaki Z1 (fast), Münch Mammoth 1000 (agricultural farm offering), BMW R100RS (first decent motorcycle fairing), Suzuki GS1000E (awesome acceleration), etc, etc.

    Today, to be honest, most motorbikes are SIMPLY BORING. Few manage to raise the eyebrow of a seasoned motorbiker. Many are just variations of a theme by the manufacturer just to encourage the wallet to come out yet again, often only to give an inferior performance, compared to a past gem.

    Part of the reason is that we live in a different age now. We have EU-driven new emission regulations and rulings (together with lengthy tedious documents which explain their complex, ambiguous and confusing details to those interested enough to read and consisting of literally thousands and thousands of pages of words to wade through, without a single picture or diagram in sight) which force manufacturers to throttle power, performance and acceleration in an effort to comply with new standards. It seems that by 2020, the motorcycle will probably have the performance of the moped of today, with the bland look of a plastic multi-coloured blob sitting between two carbon-fibre flat discs for wheels and producing almost zero pollution, of course.

    Also we have (in Europe first, other countries to follow) the complex method of motorcyle testing and licensing (CBT, Theory Test, Practical Test, A1, A2, A, 15kW, 35kW and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2 kW per kg, etc, etc.) which, like the RDA for vitamins, assumes a Mr. or Ms. Average Motorbiker who can be quite simply graded in order to reduce road accidents. It assumes all the time, that people can be just put into categories like Amazon items and that in the end it will result, with all the heavy paperwork detail and complex regulation, in somehow helping a young rider not prang into the first car driver that turns across into his path maiming him or her for life.

    With all these tricky and bureaucratic hoops to jump through, it puts many young people from ever wanting to own or ride a motorcycle. As far as the motorcycle itself, within a motorcycle class type (motocross, adventurer, etc), they all look the same now anyhow, except for the colour (eg: KTM is the orange one). Their performance, sound and handling are all similar because they have to meet now the new regulations in that class type.

    On the other hand, it has to be said that the Kawasaki W650 (W800) and Honda CB1100 are genuine attempts, I think, to return to the idea of the individual characters that 70’s motorcycles seem to have possessed. Of course, with the EU emission regulations and standard to obey, the Honda CB1100 will feel to the older biker like it has only the half the power of the 70’s equivalent (say, that of a CX500) but who cares – at least they all look a lot better than many of today’s plastic-blob bikes.

    I’m quite pleased with my strange-looking (er… B-king looking) Suzuki Inazuma GW250 because in its own way, it’s trying to be a bit different and individual and for that I must give Suzuki some credit.

    • Tim says

      You made at least 2 comments about new bike power/performance. Have you heard or read about the performance & power of dozens of models from 600cc – 1200cc bikes?

      How about chassis, suspension, and tire performance?

  17. Wave says

    As a new rider (about 6 months) I’m very keen for the new Honda CB500 to come out. I think it will be the perfect compromise of power, economy, comfort and price for a brand new bike. My current bike is a 1985 Honda CBX250, which is ‘interesting’ but lacks in power, braking and suspension. Other bikes which interest me are the KTM Duke 690 as mentioned by JEC, the Honda CB400 (absolutely beautiful but I think I’m too big for it) and the factory 400cc+ Supermotards like the DRZ400-SM.

  18. says

    I’ve been motorcycling my entire life. I love motorcycling, and motorcycles.
    I don’t even think about buying one of these “things” that are now euphemistically called “motorcycles”.
    I have absolutely no desire to buy any of them, or even go to look at them.

  19. joe says

    The new Guzzi California is creating a lot of interest and looks good as far as cruisers go. Nice lines and a simple air cooled engine was the draw card for me.I would have considered one but found out they have added fly by wire throttle and a bunch of electronic gizmos.That’s put it off my list,I’ll stick with my Beemer 1150 GS and Hayabusa.

  20. SausageCreature says

    It’s true that for a few years after the real estate market meltdown and subsequent banking crisis, the new model releases by the biggest players (read: Japanese) were greeted mostly with yawns or, at best, quizzical looks.

    That’s changing now, though. Most notably, Honda and Kawasaki are releasing models that, though they might not impress performance minded magazine testers, have piqued public interest. Personally, I’ve had my eye on the CB1100, which just hit local dealers in the last two months. Surprisingly, I may have missed the boat this year, because they sold their fist shipment within a week and already have buyers lined up for future shipments. Same deal with the 250’s and 500’s. The only NC700X on the floor had a sold sign on it.

    Oh sure, I could have ridden away that same day with a current or previous year 600RR, 1000RR or GoldBarge. Plenty of those still available…perhaps that sort of excess isn’t necessarily what buyers want anymore.

  21. Cowpieapex says

    As an old rider (about 30 years) I think you’ve highlighted precisely whats going on here.
    The excitement is in the heart of the cyclist.
    When I was young I scoffed at the $10,000 HRD for sale at the shop where I bought parts for my $1,500 Ducati 750 I knew I was riding the crest of a wave of motorcycle excellence.Them were the days m’boy!
    This past summer while riding through Wyoming with my brother we swapped rides for a stretch. His, a 1975 Triumph T150V 750 triple I passed on to him years ago now a well preserved daily rider worth as much today as that HRD of years ago. Mine a virginal VRSCR (Streetrod) picked up for much less. My memories of the old Trident were of a thoroughly modern superbike with a feral growl and great high speed stability. I really couldn’t get off that bike soon enough. Sure power was adequate but the old style suspension seemed to skim rather than hug the surface and 1970s weight distribution meant sharp handling was accentuated by a high center of gravity making the ride more fidgety.
    Every time I re-ride one of the classics I’ve loved in the past I’m reminded that time moves on. I remember how the Z1 nearly “ripped my arms off” never imagining bikes pulling the front at 100+ at will on throttle alone.
    Don’t think that these classics of my own past don’t stir my soul, its just that the future classics are being made now.
    Don’t miss the bus.

    • Hooligan says

      The difference between the 1975 T150 and the modern equivilent – The Street Triple is like night and day. I know, I had a T150 and I’ve got a Street Triple R.
      Now the Street is an exciting bike to ride, it also has soul. It handles and stops like a bike should. It brings a warm glow of happiness. I agree there are reliable modern classics out there at the moment, for a resonable price.

  22. mark says

    what about electric bikes?
    you can actually fix/change/modify electronics and electrics. People here seem to only be obsessed with mechanical – i understand this as to me a mechanical bike is the most robust and i dig that but its not the end-all – alot like what gizmos can do and those people are going to be more comfortable with after-market pimping/modding/inventing that side of it.
    i love my xt600 but thank god for the wizardry that is out there.
    People have been hacking electronic devices for years – add it to a bike and people will happily hack away – example power commander and similar products.

    • carboncanyon says

      +1. The electric bikes are available and interesting. They’re simpler and cleaner to maintain. There’s something very appealing about the ninja-like (no pun intended) silent speed.

      • Jeff says

        Nowhere near interesting enough.

        Not all, but how much of the new bike execution can be summed up in the new VMax? Loads of anticipation leading to “oh, ok”.

          • Jeff says

            A steel trellis frame & a FFE.

            They have done nothing with FFE which could help them reduce weight, which would help their performance.

            Mission is the only one that has any style, the rest of them are appliances or the 2 wheeled equivalent of an ’85 Pontiac Fiero. You pick.

  23. says

    The new Honda 500s are really fun… I rented a CB500X here in Thailand a few weeks ago. Punches above its weight, for sure.

  24. B50 Jim says

    The problem seems to be getting more consumers interested in buying bikes. This might be a lost cause. The automakers are noticing a disturbing trend among young buyers — the kids just aren’t as interested in driving as they once were, and significant numbers of them aren’t getting licenses unless they have to. When they have the world at their fingertips via the internet, preferring to spend their time texting one another and take public transportation, driving is a low priority for them. Motorcycles aren’t even on their radar. We old geezers can’t fathom this; when we were young we couldn’t wait to get out licenses and the freedom it brought. My dad taught me to drive his Chevy 60 Series truck when I was 12 and I can’t imagine not driving, but the kids see driving as something they might have to do sometime. This is a major shift in social behavior, and it could doom any campaigns to get more consumers on bikes. While the manufacturers are searching for the right combination to get new riders on bikes, the market might be moving away from personal transportation altogether. That’s a tall hurdle for manufacturers to jump.

    • todd says

      it aint all that bad; I did see an old CB350 at the local highschool yesterday – in the student parking lot, not just the teacher’s lot.

      When I went there as a kid, there were all sorts of us that rode (legally or not), teachers too.


    • carboncanyon says

      +1. I found this from an NBC article (

      “Where 69% of 17-year-olds were licensed back in 1983, that was down to 50% in 2008″

      I think where my opinion doesn’t quite match B50 Jim’s is the reason behind it. I think the amount of traffic and the cost of driving are putting kids off. I still remember gas dipping to 80 cents a gallon when I was 16. Even with a gas-guzzling Jeep I could easily afford to drive my own car, and it afforded me the freedom to get away and have fun. Driving is an expensive chore today; who wants to pay to wait in traffic?

      Another consideration in why they’re not interested in bikes is the percentage of kids who can operate a manual transmission. I couldn’t find any figures, but judging from the number of cars that don’t even offer stick anymore I’d say it’s precious few.

      I do think it’s much more daunting to learn how to ride today than it was when I learned. Huge 18-wheelers, distracted soccer moms in their SUV’s, insane traffic, bikes were much less powerful… how do we help?

      • B50 Jim says

        My take on the issue is that there is a societal shift that no longer emphasizes the personal freedom that driving and riding affords us. Young people are increasingly connected with others all over the globe, and driving isn’t necessary for them to meet as it was for us. “Getting your license” once was a major rite of passage, the first step into adulthood, but young people now experience things of the adult world at an early age. They’re not itching to grow up as we were because they’ve seen much of it already via social media, popular entertainment and the internet. Tragically, many of them are involved in “adult” behavior like drinking and sex before high school, so driving isn’t high on their list.

        I’m not sure if operating a manual transmission would be a serious impediment; I taught two of my sisters and two former girlfriends the mysteries of a clutch and transmission, and none of them needed more than 10 minutes to pick it up. But if shifting a bike would intimidate a beginning rider, Honda has them covered — or a prospective rider could try a large scooter with CVT.

        I agree about daunting conditions to an extent, but I know young people don’t see hazards the way we older folks do. Their concept of mortality isn’t well-formed; just watch them doing extreme sports and other risky behavior. I learned street riding on my B50 in 1974, and the bike was daunting enough, but I learned in a small-town setting and on country roads. Still, I was just 22 at the time and wasn’t overly concerned with semis barreling toward me. As for fuel prices, at the time gas cost 35 cents a gallon and I could fill the tank for pocket change, but I bought the bike used for the princely sum of $750, which wiped out most of my bank account. I think that anyone wishing to ride or drive will find a way to pay for it.

        • carboncanyon says

          Interesting. I’m not sure if I agree with the statement:

          “Tragically, many of them are involved in “adult” behavior like drinking and sex before high school, so driving isn’t high on their list.”

          Neither activity is a new development for young people, and to be honest booze and girls were some of the reasons I wanted a car at that age.

  25. sfan says

    Maybe the flip question should be… what contemporary bikes will endear & be coveted ten, twenty & thirty years from now? Seems like some candidates have been mentioned above.


  26. TinMan 2 says

    Its all about the economy, at least in the U.S. the corporations are leading the way in the race to the bottom. Common working people just dont make the kind of money they did in the past. That is why the “premiun” brands, Ducati, Harley and BMW are doing well and the mass market brands (Asian) are dying. The well off are still buying new bikes, just not run of the mill bikes, they want to showcase their wealth in their Cars, Homes and Bikes. The Gap between the Rich and the Working people has not been this large since the 1930’s.

  27. Monkey Wrench says

    Meh, this just sounds like every “back in my day” conversation I’ve ever had with my Dad or Grandpa. I’m sure I’ll be having the “back in my day” conversation with my kids someday about the Panigale or HP4.

  28. Thom says

    What I feel regarding new motorcycles is that they are too complicated. I don’t want ride-by-wire traction control wheeliecontrol abs multi-map complexity on what is (let’s be honest) supposed to be a dangerous symbol of freedom. Plus, it makes the bikes cost more. Ever notice how the bikes that sell the best are either the simplest, or the most honest? (ie. Not trying to look or act like another bike…)

    • Zack says

      “Plus, it makes the bikes cost more.”
      This doesn’t explain why the most expensive bikes I’ve seen at dealers are H-Ds. Ducs, BMWs, Triumphs, all give you a lot for your bills. H-D on the other hand seems to give you a two-wheeled version of the new Camaro for around $20K: heavy, under-efficient, and big-engined; and asking to see one with as simple a technology as ABS is almost as useless as walking in and asking where the scooters are.

  29. says

    Have been swinging wrenches at Japanese motorcycle dealers for 39 years and the last few have been really rough. Here in western NY the cruisers rule, the Honda and Kaw 250’s sell out, and that’s about it. I see some good things coming from Honda, we have sold 3 F6B’s already and just got our first 500 in.

    There are a bunch of old Gold Wings running around here and service is busy from April through middle of August. Japanese only dealers are selling side by sides and cruisers and no where near the volume. Look at what is happening with Suzuki. The only service rep we ever see is from Honda.

    I know I am an old fart, but I don’t see this business ever coming back to what it was in this country.

  30. Nicolas says

    Interesting. Thanks for developping the info.

    I wonder what’s the actual part of the “look at me” and “bragging rights” in these sales figures, like if you’re a sportsbike rider you have to own the latest and greatest uberbike to impress your pals (even if, as mentioned before, very few people can actually exploit the capabilities of the machine, and especially on open roads), and like if you cruise around on a sunday morning you need an “adventure” bike with all the bells and whistles of an RV …
    Now the observations on the success of the newest 250s and 500s would tend to demonstrate the opposite, maybe nowadays people are attracted to the value of their ride, not their sex appeal … who knows

  31. OMMAG says

    I don’t think that the most interesting bikes are either new or old because I cannot see any example of a bike that is perfect for me in either realm. The one thing that old bikes have over new is sheer numbers. I’m sure that for every year I can remember there have been a handfull of machines that really captured my interest. Take 5 bikes and multiply by 60 (for the years I have interest in) and that is over 300 different models of motorcycles. As opposed to the five or six current model bikes that I find compelling.

    BTW … My local bike shop .. Yamaha … Ducati … BMW … Triumph has a pretty good selection of new and year old bikes right now.

    I’d have a hard time picking my favorite from the floor inventory.

    Although there is a brand new 2012 YFZR1 for a very discounted price. I’ve been scouting out handle bar, and exhaust mods available in the after market. I’d have no problem srtripping off the lowers and cutting the main fairing and windshield to make room for some superbike style bars and risers. A low exhaust to keep heat off my butt would be nice. Clean up the rear with a proper seat for two up riding and drop the foot pegs out of the cramp inducing zone.

    Like someone already said or implied …. what I want is a FZ1 without the pork and the softer engine … or rather a usable version of the R1. It’s there …. but I have to make it myself.

    Which brings me right back to where I started with motorcylces. The bikes of the 60s and 70s …. none of them were what I really wanted … and a lot of other enthusiasts felt the same way. We all ended up taking those bikes home and looking for ways to make them right. The only difference between then and now is that we are taking the racy crap off bikes with what is almost (arguably) too much performance for the street just to make them more comfortable. Instead of back then … when we used to be looking for more performance and often adding uncomfortable crap to make the rider postion …. more performance oriented. Personally … I never liked the full crouch position or actual clip-on bars. I also never really wanted my bikes to be solo riders without proper passenger seating, foot pegs and something for them to grab onto (other than me).

    Other than for racing … almost every bike I built from 1969 through 1990 had a two up seat with a step for the rider pocket and a low-flattish bar. I relocated the foot pegs whenever possible to fit my own comfort zone … a forward lean position without a tuck and crouch.

  32. Farmer Pat says

    I have two theories about motorcycles. 1. 30HP is the minimum requirement for a street going motorcycle here in Ontario, and 2. 750cc is enough for 98% of the riders. I’m stuck in a time warp where the most interesting bikes are the ones from your high school years. I happen to have 6 bikes from 1980 – 1984 . My fav is the 1987 Transalp, one of the newer ones in the fleet. I’ve been riding something for 42 years. I have not paid for a repair yet…get the wrenches out, and figure it out, like duh !!

    I had my bike license for 6 months before I got my car license. My son got his handgun license last month, and still doesn’t drive at 18 yrs of age !! Kids !! Heck, I taught my older sister to drive a standard (1968 chev pickup) when I was 13.

    I kinda like the NC700, i.e. it interests me, but I won’t be buying a new one… I also like the Enfields… I scan eBay & kijiji everyday looking for that “interesting” bike……

    The most interesting bikes are the ones we build in our garages, 90% passion, 10% Japanese :-)

  33. Thom says

    My brother works at a local Japanese-bike dealership in the service department. The owner is a guy I went to middle school with. Point being, in the last week , I’ve talked to both, and they were very clear that they can’t keep ninja 300’s, CBR500s, or CB1100’s on the floor. Interesting mix of genres….

  34. Paul Crowe says

    Just jumping in on this interesting discussion to let everyone know I’m still here, but my time has been consumed by a big project that demanded my full attention. I’ll be back up to speed here soon.

  35. SKoo says

    So, what is the answer to Paul’s question “Are All of the Interesting Motorcycles Used Motorcycles or One Off Specials?”

    Having followed the different reactions to this post, I guess the answer is: No. More people think that there are new bikes for sale that they consider “interesting”.

    Personally I would like to join the commentors saying: an interesting ride is more important than an interesting bike.

  36. Thom says

    I just stand by my previous comment… New bikes have gotten too complicated, and too expensive. I have a little interest in the CBR500 without ABS, otherwise I’ll stick with my 40-year old Yamaha.

  37. scott says

    These comments were good for my perspective – I guess I’ll just keep on pluggin’ away on my all farkled up DL650 Vstrom, and keep my freak flag a’flying…..Yeah, I got the whole vibe thing, and the weird-strom has it in spades.

  38. Clawbrant says

    I for one am quite sure that 10 years from now I will be scouring the classfieds for a used 8 valve Griso or a 690 Duke or some other interesting bike that none of us buy new because we all spend our money buying old bikes off ebay and craigslist. Until then I am just going to keep riding my 1983 Suzuki Tempter 650 and tell anyone who will listen about how much of a shame it is that no one bought them in ’83 and they had to stop selling them here.

  39. James says

    I agree with monkey wrench as a sixty year old and been riding since i was 16 i finally bought the bike i want 2011 multistrada (and not what i could afford) how anybody can say this bike is not exciting or lacking in soul is beyond me . Bikes of the 70’s and 80’s are overated no handling, poor brakes and not that reliable. A case of looking through rose coloured specs. Triumph, Ducati, Bmw are all making really good exciting bikes with loads of soul or character what ever you want to call it but with added bonus of getting you round the next corner without throwing you into the ditch!