BIKE LIFE

THE WAG IS ALL TAIL, NO DOG

Cycle World - - Front Page - By Peter Jones

Like any per­for­mance-mo­tor­cy­cle fa­nat­ics, my rid­ing bud­dies and I were nuts with ex­cite­ment when the (mo­tor­cy­cle) mag­a­zine re­views came out, an­nounc­ing that yet an­other man­u­fac­turer had re­leased a new sport­bike that was es­sen­tially a “race­bike for the street.” I wanted one. We all wanted one. It was what we dreamed of rid­ing. And we did. Kawasaki GPZ900 Ninja, Honda VF750R In­ter­cep­tor, Ducati Paso, Suzuki GSXR750, Yamaha FZ750! Gimme, gimme, gimme.

That was the early 1980s. Times have changed.

To­day, no one who I know wants a “race­bike for the street.” Nei­ther do many who I don’t know. In fact, there aren’t very many who even want a race­bike for the race­track. On top of that, there aren’t many more who want to watch an Amer­i­can se­ries of peo­ple on race­bikes on race­tracks. This isn’t my opin­ion; it’s a fact borne out by mo­tor­cy­cle and ticket sales.

Last sum­mer I at­tended a me­dia in­tro­duc­tion of a new naked bike that was based on an ex­ist­ing sport(race)bike. Same frame, same sus­pen­sion, same lots of things. But it had a han­dle­bar, broader torque curve, less peak (un­us­able) horse­power, and a com­fort­able seat. Dur­ing the tech­ni­cal pre­sen­ta­tion, this brand showed us journos a graph of the plum­met­ing sales of its sport­bike, next to the ris­ing sales of naked mo­tor­cy­cles in gen­eral. This may have been a cry for help.

Also last sum­mer, I at­tended the Road At­lanta round of the Motoamerica road­rac­ing se­ries. Dur­ing that event I in­ter­viewed the man­agers of each of the fac­tory teams, ask­ing one if his brand were road­rac­ing in Amer­ica be­cause it was a busi­ness de­ci­sion or if they were do­ing it due to the ro­mance of the sport. He said that they were rac­ing for the ro­mance. I like that, be­ing that I’m a ro­man­tic guy. But emo­tional choices tend to have more cost than profit. Pas­sion is great but only if you can af­ford to do it.

I love sport­bikes. But years ago I tore the body­work from my 2006 GSX-R1000 and in­stalled a one-piece han­dle­bar. So maybe I need to re­word my en­thu­si­asm: I love crazy horse­power, I dig tech­nol­ogy, but I don’t much care for my pas­sen­ger to sit on back with her arms wrapped around my head.

At that event at Road At­lanta I had an epiphany. I saw Wayne Rainey there, one of the own­ers of Motoamerica, and I felt sad for the plight of this faded sport. Rainey has nearly given his life for road­rac­ing, lit­er­ally, and few to­day care about his com­mit­ment. It’s heart­break­ing.

With all of the above in mind and Rainey in sight, my epiphany was: Get rid of the “race­bikes for the street.” Just like when Rainey won his first Superbike cham­pi­onship, rid­ing a Kawasaki GPZ750, Motoamerica should make its superbike se­ries for street­bikes that race. Race the types of bikes on Sun­day that peo­ple ac­tu­ally want to buy on Mon­day.

Han­dle­bars will do two things: Put rac­ers on bikes that have greater rel­e­vance to en­thu­si­asts and make the se­ries look dif­fer­ent than any other. Okay, this might not help, but it’s bet­ter to be newly wrong than the same old wrong.

Aprilia Tuono V4 1100, BMW S1000R, KTM 1290 Su­per Duke R, Yamaha FZ-10, Suzuki GSX-S1000—THE list goes on. All naked. All sit­ting in show­rooms and garages na­tion­wide. Once again, the past might be our fu­ture.

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