The future. But we can't have it

Less kids are getting into motorcycling. Why are there so few decent small capacity bikes?

Posted: 10 November 2011
by Ben Cope
You're 20 and late for work. Again. Call in the Duke 200.
A prototype Moto3 250cc racer but it's not likely to spawn a new breed of baby sportsbikes

It's no secret that we motorcyclists are getting older. We're ageing because less people are passing their bike test each year (roughly 30,000 last year compared to 50,000 for the 10 years before the new two-part test) and so not only is the pool not growing it's not even being replenished and so the average age isn't being diluted down by yoof.

When the going gets tough in any situation, you really get to see who's got their shit-sorted and who's light enough on their feet to adapt to change. Survival of the fittest and all that. Right now, the going in the industry is the toughest it's been in years, possibly even decades. Unfortunately there are many decision makers in the industry that are so stuck in their ways they make Stone Henge look like a (con)temporary installation.

So when I saw the new KTM Duke 200 at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan it sat there like a glimmer of hope but also served as a huge frustration. Why? Because its one of so few small capacity bikes to get people up the motorcycling ladder.

If you're young and you want to get into bikes these days, you have to be really committed, more than ever. When I got into it a decade ago, there was a logical progression from a 125, to a 400 and then a 600. After that, the world's your oyster.

Granted there are still some cool-looking 125s and these are selling well across the board, not just to the youth. After that, where do you go? The choice is limited to a small-crop of 250s that lack resemblance to their bigger brothers and therefore forfeit their owner any sort of respect from their peers. Or you can jump on a 600 Supersports, except you can't because there's no way you'll be able to buy and insure one. Do kids lust after a Gladius, a CBR600F, an FZ8? Gimme a break. A 125kg, 200cc, 25bhp KTM Duke 200? That's more like it.

In a recent interview with Masanori Aoki, the father of Honda's NSR250 MC28, the CBR400 and a whole host of 'pocket rockets' he shrugged off the chances of a new supersports 400 appearing any time soon, saying that while people at Honda wanted to make one, the head honchos would never approve the idea. Instead Honda are opting to produce automatic motorcycles, presumably for those who find changing gear a bit of a chore.

At the EICMA show there was a total blackhole when it came to new bikes to help inject a bit of youth into motorcycling. If you want a 200bhp superbike, a V4 adventure-style softroader, a £15k brutal naked, a £9k scooter or myriad 'Gimme a slice of that BMW GS action' copycats then you're spoilt for choice.

Something desirable, affordable and achievable for those earning around £15k and whose share options are based around a portion of chips between three and not a FTSE 100 company. No chance.

KTM are a small player in the UK, granted. Their first-half 2011 sales over 500cc (therefore stripping out their off-road market) put them in 9th place, with 657 sales, behind Ducati in 8th with 1390 sales. Triumph lead the charts with 5,118 sales - the Street Triple and Tiger 800 making up a big slice of this. 

So yes, the KTM Duke 200 is coming to the UK but it's such a shame it doesn't have a raft of competitors, like we had with 400s 20 years ago. It's an even bigger shame none of the major manufacturers are looking to get more kids into bikes.

Small capacity motorcycles are the future, but looking at the new models at EICMA, we're desperately short.

We all had to start somewhere..

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ktm duke, small capacity motorcycles, small engine sportsbikes, youth

Discuss this story

I wouldn't be so sure that the KTM 200 Duke won't be available in the UK as dealers in the UK have prices for the 200

Posted: 10/11/2011 at 17:31

Yer right Stuart, 200 Duke will be on sale in Europe, pretty daft the author doesn't know that, as it was told by KTM at the pressconference at the EICMA this week.

Posted: 11/11/2011 at 08:35

Pretty daft the author didn't bother to check the interweb either!
£3995 available soon at redline motorcycles.

Posted: 11/11/2011 at 11:08

Think the point was that it is the ONLY one that is coming this way and nothing else is out to compete or think about competing with the 200 ..

Posted: 11/11/2011 at 11:53

As someone who's just getting their license, commuting and trying to keep costs down, this is a winner!!!

Posted: 11/11/2011 at 12:09

Although there aren't enough smaller bikes, there a few: CBR250R, Ninja 250R, KLX250, YBR250, WR250X, WR250F and Honda may bring the new CRF250L to Europe too. So quite a decent choice really, although I completely agree that there are probably too many big bikes to choose from.

Posted: 11/11/2011 at 12:56

Am not sure if the article has been updated since but the author clearly states that this is coming to the UK, his problem is that there aren't more.

And I fully agree with him. Another point is that these bikes should be rugged as, thanks to the joys of youthful over-exuberance, these are going to get dropped and incurring a large bill for the replacement of fiddly fairing panels is not going to go down too well.

But, these bikes don't just appeal to new/younger riders. I am in my 30s and would love a small 'd*cking about' bike. The kind of thing that I would consider taking to work on a snowy day. An no - I don't mean a crosser, I mean something that I don't need a ladder to get on to. Something with a decent seat which I could ride with jeans and an open face lid. Something with a small, simple engine.

Posted: 12/11/2011 at 11:10

Aint it booo......tifuellllll!
If I was a teen now I would definitely have one of these, what a hoot!

Posted: 15/11/2011 at 17:52

Not enough choice, this is true, heard a rumour earlier this year that Triumph were working on a 300 cc for the Asian market, they then denied it. The manufacturers need to realise not everyone has bags of money for big cc bikes and cheap smaller capacity all rounders are what's needed with a dose of cool so the young un's can afford to own and. E proud of their machines. Not just talking 125 commuter clones from china either! Most of the big manufacturers have their roots in smaller kit that got their nations motoring in similar financial times, back to basics me thinks !

Posted: 19/11/2011 at 01:05

The editor must have missed the made in Spain stand by Rieju full of 50cc and 125 cc Sports, Sms and Enduros for all tastes !

Posted: 22/11/2011 at 14:09

fall in love with 200 duke...

Posted: 22/01/2012 at 05:01

This is something I and a small group of friends have been bemoaning for years (especially the one who wants a cruiser-type bike but doesn't want to have to deal with the weight, thirst and insurance cost of a monster engine when it's unlikely to ever be ridden over 80-90mph) ... and weirdly, it seems that the EU license changes may actually have had one good side-effect in bringing us a little of this, in the four years since the article was written.

Still waiting for a reasonable slew of engine options like what are available in other geographical zones ... they're just bolt on parts after all, not welded into the frame, so why can't a bike that's 125 by default offer a 100cc for someone who never needs to exceed 50mph and wants something tuned more towards frugality (and with slightly cheaper insurance) without dropping down to a much slower 50 or 80cc, and a 150cc for those like myself who want a little more speed for commuting on quicker roads without wasting loads of fuel or having to put up with something heavier, wider, and harder to manouevre in city traffic or moving to a higher tax band? (It's sometimes a struggle to maintain 60 on a 125 ... I just want those few extra mph, to maintain 65-70 without needing a sports tuned engine or to thrash it on the redline, not to go ton-up) ... Cars have 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 litre engine options and all that after all. And bikes have the advantage that it would be fairly easy to deliver the frames and engines to the garage separately and just have the dealer spend a half hour bolting it in and connecting up the chain, pipes and cables, so there's very little wastage or delay.

Or indeed for properly economic 250s, which wouldn't be too much further up the tax and insurance ladder, and do offer perfectly good performance; the boggo 125 is like a basic 1-litre car with a bunch of bikes on the roof rack (something I have actually done...) in terms of acceleration and top speed, and a 250 would be like an old 2-litre or a more modern 16v 1.6 doing the same. I've owned a 1.6 litre 16v supermini, it was enjoyably rapid, and the only thing that spoiled the fun was traffic... I think you can do the math here.

Things like the Inazuma and CB250F are having a go at filling the gap, but it's early days yet and they're imperfect. Somewhat overpriced (though the secondhand Suzis are getting affordable now), and not quite as frugal as they should be, especially as the performance is that of an economy vehicle.

Posted: 19/05/2015 at 15:46

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