Grab a copy of your fav motorcycle mag and it would seem that smaller is in. Petite bikes are becoming very popular both inside and outside the United States. Well, they were always pretty popular abroad and in other countries, just not necessarily here since Honda's Cub hit our shores. Remember, this is the land of "bigger is better" and super-sizing everything.
Yamaha's small twins, Kawasaki's little Ninja, Honda's cute Grom (sounds like something the stomach does when hungry) are becoming bigger sellers than probably most of us mega-enthusiasts would previously admit. This is a good thing and not anything else. Smaller bikes attract new riders and new riders bolster the industry for many years by doing what? Buying bigger and bigger bikes. That is, until they Super-size. Then, where do they go?
Super-sizing isn't necessarily a terrible thing but seriously, when Kawasaki cranked out that Vulcan 2000, seriously... seriously! 2,000 cc's? Meh.
Ok, that Honda CBX back in the day was damned cool. Sounded like a formula race car, went like heck too. But, that was only a literbike! 1,000 cc's. Small, by today's comparo's. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
Super-sizing bikes up to levels where they're more difficult to control (especially at slow speeds) is problematic at best. Only a relative few in perspective of overall motorcycle riders will jump to that extreme. Sure, riding a Harley Ultra-Classic FLTCUyada yada two-up with wifey is fun on the highway. Not so much in the parking lot.
Technology has helped a bit, better tires, suspensions, braking systems and smoother throttle response (well, mostly) make controlling these behemoth machines a bit easier. But when is big, too big?
Proof is in the sales figures, folks. According to webbikeworld, total US sales figures for dual-sport machines between '12 and '13 was up a whopping 13.7%. Harley reported a 2013 sales figure up 4.4% from the previous year, 5.7% in the last quarter of '13 alone. Not bad! But smaller bikes are indeed selling more than bigger, with the exception of scooters, which plummeted 18.6%. Hard-core folks may not even accept that a scooter is even a motorcycle so they're probably grinning right now. But, scooters are indeed part of the two-wheeled fun world and it's unfortunate that their sales are down. It can be suggested, though, that scooters have been a "gateway bike" for the slightly larger, but way smaller than super-size, middle-weight segment of the market.
Page-flip that motorcycle mag again. See articles on these middle-weight machines? You bet you do. They're definitely assuming part of a niche market, the smaller, nimbler, better on fuel than even a Toyo-pet Yaris, affordable transportation. Especially in the warm-weather states. Kick the tires at any Asian marque's showroom, you'll trip over a bunch of 'em before making it to the parts counter.
Perhaps this is the time for such a shift in motorcycling culture. Bigger is better may not rule the day. Fact remains, though, smaller bikes are hard to swallow if the rider is in the 6-foot plus range -- with, the exception of the dual-sport with it's tall stance and upright ergo's. See a sales patter here? Don't necessarily buy the rhetoric from the magazine's editorial staff that a 6' plus frame is comfy on a tiny twin. This month's motorcyclist magazine has an article by Roland Brown that states exactly such possible nonsense; hey, at least it's an opinion. Sure, comfy for about an hour and only if the rider is under 40 years old. The rest of us get all stove-up and can't tolerate that kind of position. Mr. Brown doesn't look all that un-cramped in the images... hmmm.
So where does this leave us?
The summary is, smaller bikes are a player in the future of motorcycling here, have been for a long time elsewhere. They're great for beginners and shorter-folks, us taller towering inferno's of riders can't get ourselves into the same positions we did back in the day on RD125's, zipping down a 4-lane with the throttle wide open and two pipe-shaped trails of blue smoke billowing from behind.
We should all applaud the moto-co's for manufacturing these smaller, cooler and nimbler bikes that sort-of reconcile us back to the early days where a big bike was a 750cc. It worked just fine for us back then, why not now? And, we need to petition our favorite friends at Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki to import these interestingly cool smaller bikes into the U.S. and not leave us wanting all the time.
Except remember, we're the "super-size me" culture. Maybe we've been our own worst enemy regarding things that are smaller. Remember the old adage? Good things come in small packages. Well, many good things do, if you get the drift. We've probably shot ourselves in the foot by purchasing only big bikes and big helmets and big warranties for too long.
The time for super-sizing motorcycles is probably long gone. It's time for rehab and to stop suckling the teat of the what's larger must be better mentality. Let's support this movement to get these fun bikes into the U.S. Gives the shorter-folks some way-cool machines to straddle and we in the taller category, well, we'll figure something out. There's always ibuprofen.