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Lunchtime debate: The new 200hp club is great news for motorcycling

Like ‘em or not, the latest crop of crazy superbikes spells a bright year ahead for us all, argues Visordown’s anonymous industry expert

A YEAR ago I wrote a piece on this site about the need for manufacturers to launch a host of crazily powerful new bikes simply to bring back motorcycling as an exciting talking point. I was roundly lambasted by readers as out of touch – but now it looks like the world’s biggest bike firms may have been thinking along similar lines.

Just look at the machines launched last autumn. The Kawasaki Ninja H2, in 200hp road-going form or 310hp, track-only H2R spec. The 200hp Yamaha R1 and R1M. The 205hp Ducati 1299 Panigale. The 201hp Aprilia RSV4RR.

Last year I said one of the biggest problems faced by the bike industry was that manufacturers had stopped trying to out-do each other, and suggested that a good old-fashioned power war might help ignite some 1980s-style excitement.  I even wrote the words: ‘Manufacturers are scared of really making a 200hp bike in case there’s adverse publicity from it.’

I’m happy to have been proved wrong on that point.

Of course I couldn’t use any of the new 200hp breed to their full ability. I daresay neither could you. I probably couldn’t use all of a 17-bedroom mansion with private racetrack and swimming pool in the South of France but I wouldn’t say no if a benevolent billionaire gifted me one*

Let’s not get bogged down in whether these new superbikes are pointless frivolities and how your CX500 is more economical and just as quick through traffic. Never should we let the craziness of 200hp bring a halt to motorcycle development. Looked at in isolation, the 250mph Bugatti Veyron is a stupid indulgence, but it’s also helped VW understand some new technologies that are now applied to everyday cars.

High performance machines, particularly those that meet the many parameters of road legal transport, drive technological advancements that benefit everyone.

And the fact is that, despite the best efforts of a series of nanny-state governments, frivolity hasn’t been banned. We’re not (yet) living in a puritan society where all forms of fun are to be frowned upon.

The new generation of superbikes may not sell in huge numbers, and often to people who won’t even use them, but those aspirational machines are key to generating new interest in all types of bikes.

Typing ‘motorcycle’ into the Google Trends website shows that searches for the term, which usually drop in winter, instead started to rise in late November. A blip? Or a predictable indication that public interest in motorcycling right now is greater than 12 months ago?

Of course, there have been the inevitable mainstream scare stories about the new bikes. We particularly chuckled at the Australian Daily Mail’s concerns that the miniscule number of Kawasaki H2s that are ever likely to hit the road over there will somehow lead to massive leap in motorcycle fatalities.

But those have been outnumbered by positive motorcycle show reports elsewhere.  

The new crop of superbikes has made motorcycling feel fresher, more buoyant and more optimistic than it has done in years. Soon we’ll see year-end sales figures, and there are realistic hopes they might show the first decent growth in years.

That means more motorcyclists. And that’s a brighter future for us all.

*Note to benevolent billionaires: if you’re reading, it doesn’t need 17 bedrooms or the swimming pool, to be honest. I’d accept four or five bedrooms at a push. But the private racetrack is non-negotiable.

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