Less kids are getting into motorcycling. Why are there so few decent small capacity bikes?
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..
Posted: 10/11/2011 at 17:31
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