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July 15, 2011

Difficult Choices

by drivingfarce

I can scarcely believe how many times the phrase has been uttered by my lips for the past 5 years.  “What a great time to be a motorcyclist!”  I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now.  Due to my age, they probably assume that I’m either scratched or irrelevant.  The sad truth is, they’re probably right on both counts.

I urge you to peruse your local dealership.  (It doesn’t even have to carry “your” brand–the one you buy your chain lube and oil filters from.)  Scan the showroom.  Look closely.  Think about the specs these bikes offer. Torque.  Dry weight.  Fuel capacity.  Think back to the last time you last considered purchasing a bike.  I’m willing to bet that the specs on the new, “boring” models outshine the last hot-ticket item that you lusted after, but couldn’t afford.  Welcome to two-thousand…..what are we now?  The millennium pre-teens?  Either way–welcome to the reality that is today.  Chances are that the 1,000cc beast of a bike that you checked out in your teenage years is right there in front of you.  The horsepower numbers are all there.  The featherweight figures you dreamt about for the last ten years are just within your grasp.  Trouble is, the hot liter-bike you’re thinking of is not the bike that delivers the goods today.  It may not even be a full liter capacity.  Instead, it’s the Japanese Standard that offers everything you could possibly want.  The dull, boring, UJM.  And it is glorious.

The beauty behind this enlightenment is that the UJM is everything you’ve ever dreamt of, only boring.  However, this isn’t as depressing as it first sounds.  Take a moment to think about it.  You’ve always wanted a bike that would get you to work & back.  The occasional weekend excursion.  Low, low maintenance.  Cheapish insurance.  Wheelies for days.  Your bog-standard, boring FZ-1, CB1000, or Z1000 will absolutely blow your mind without blowing your bank account.  How fantastic is that?

For argument’s sake, let’s say you’ve got a bit more to give.  Maybe $12K?  Well, my friend, the opportunities are nearly endless.  Let’s take a look.  You want a superbike?  A GSXR-1000 is within your means.  Too “bland?” If you want a standard with character, then the Ducati Monster 1100 Evo is a wholly enjoyable beast.  Too exotic?  Then there’s always the Honda CB1000R, or Yamaha’s brilliantly unique cross-plane crank R1.

Life has been pretty good to you so far.  Or, you’ve been a very good boy or girl, and deserve what you’ve saved for. You have a pretty fat budget.  You can call the shots.   You don’t need to call the loan officer for approval of what you’re about to do.  You are in control.  Welcome to the world that most people can only dream of.  You might have $20k in the budget for the bike of your dreams. Rest assured, whatever choice you make is going to be a life-changing experience.  Think back over the last 8 years.  Remember all the guys on Metric Cruisers and Milwaukee Iron who rolled by you in traffic?  The ones who you snickered at under your Shoei?  Well, the tables have turned.  Those gentlemen that have spent their $11k on 10 year-old technology are furthering the greater cause of bikedom.  I am not about to fault them for their purchase.  They bought what they deemed to be the best bike available for the money. They may have been right.  In fact, they probably were.  What we don’t want to tell them is that big torque numbers from 2-valve, air-cooled twins is pretty cheap to come by.  (And brings a very big smile to the face.)   The money they spent on their good—really good—cruisers is indirectly subsidizing the sport bikes that are winning magazine shootouts left and right.  Okay, that may not be completely true.

The bikes that are winning the competitions are no longer the R1s, GSXRs, or even ZXs any longer.  Instead, they are far more untrustworthy, unknown competitors.  They have foreign accents that utter nuances like RSV, S1000, and 1098 that we cannot understand, yet we also cannot discount.  They are not to be taken lightly.  Approach slowly and ask them to produce their numbers and you’re in for a welcomed surprise.  Remember those big horsepower numbers you were craving for just a couple of years ago?  Well, add 20.  (Perhaps even 40.)  Those torque figures that seem to make the Earth go ‘round (and occasionally reverse rotation) are no longer relevant.  Times have changed.  What we expected to move the goalposts over the years have completely dropped off the charts.  We have more power than we know what to do with and unstoppable torque curves.   We have luggage.  We have fuel range.  We have bar and peg arrangements that make engineers look like they’ve been listening all these years.  It’s embarrassing.  I take that back. It’s not embarrassing–it’s intimidating.  With all these wonderful choices, what shall we choose?

Part of me wants to tell you to swing a leg over the BMW S1000RR for the next 5 years.  It will blow your mind every moment you want it to, if dyno curves are to be trusted. Another part of me knows that you would be far better served with something far more “boring” like an FZ-1.  If you want character, seek out a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer.  These bikes are not a compromise.  They are bikes that every single one of us has lusted after for the past 20 years.  There is just one terrible truth:  the standards have move on, even if our minds haven’t.  Thankfully, we are the beneficiaries.  Welcome to the wonderful world of motorcycles.  We cannot take credit.  We are simply motorcyclists, reaping the
benefits of years of development and stagnant markets.  We are not to blame.   We are here to enjoy it.  (And word on the street is that Eric Buell is back.)  It is a great time to be a motorcyclist!

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