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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Least cool bikes of the Milan show


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

Talkback: The future. But we can't have it