Comments on new bikes for 2011

Here in the USA we don’t get all the bikes that the Japanese manufacturers make.  Sometimes that’s a real shame, in my humble opinion.  But I understand the manufacturers have substantial costs involved in bringing in a new model and, despite what I think, they don’t believe it will be cost effective to sell a particular model on this side of the pond.

Sometimes they take a chance.  A few years ago Yamaha announced they were bringing the FJR1300 to the states, after selling it in Europe for a while.  Yamaha was smart, they asked customers to pre-order the bike, and they only brought in a limited number.  The limited supply of bikes sold out quickly, and Yamaha didn’t have to worry about excess units gathering dust on showroom floors.  From my armchair perspective, the FJR1300 was a gamble that worked.

For 2011 there are a few truly new bikes coming to America.

The Ducati Diavel is Ducati’s first stab at a cruiser in quite a while.  Ducati’s previous effort at an American style cruiser was a styling disaster.  The new Diavel, on the other hand, is quite a smart looking machine.  It’s not your typical cruiser, more of a power cruiser I suppose.  The look is chunky and mean, like a pit bull with wheels.  No ape-hangers here, the bars pull back only a little, and the front end has rational geometry that looks cool and should also handle well too.  The 300 mm wide rear tire might appear to cause difficulty going around corners, but I’ve got to believe that the bike will handle decently.  Hey, it’s a Ducati, right?

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I’ve seen online discussions about who the Diavel is supposed to be aimed at.  Traditional Ducatisti looking for something different in their garage?  Or is Ducati trying to expand their customer base to new customers?  I suspect the latter.  Time will tell if the Ducati Diavel is successful, but I’m optimistic.  I think Ducati has carved out a new niche in motorcycling.

On a side note, the seat on the Diavel is awful.  It’s practically a big “U” shape, effectively locking you into one position.  Uncomfortable for my 6’1 body.  The good news is that Ducati has created an opportunity for aftermarket companies to build seats for the Diavel.

The Honda CB1000R is a new naked bike from Big Red.  I saw one of these at the Isle of Man a couple years ago, and really liked it.  Over the years there have been many so-called naked sportbikes sold in Europe that have never made it to these shores.  I’ve heard a lot of guys complain that, if only the OEMs would bring in such-and-such a bike, it would sell like hotcakes.  But you have to remember bikes like the CB1000, Hawk NT650, W650, GB500 and B-King, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but sold in numbers too small to justify keeping them in the lineup for more than a year or two.  Again, the jury is out on how well the CB1000R will sell.  I’m not so optimistic about this one.

The Yamaha Super Tenere is also coming to America after years of availability on Europe.  Europeans have a different attitude toward bikes, riding them to work much more often than we Yanks do, no matter what the weather.  The big adventure bikes have been popular in Europe for years, and are starting to catch on in the USA.  Yamaha is taking aim squarely at BMW’s R1250GS, with a more palatable price point.  Will non-Beemerphiles line up at their Yamaha dealership for a Super Tenere?  I’m not terribly optimistic about the Super Tenere either.

And then there’s the Honda CBR250R.  It’s a very neat looking little sportster.  Tiny compared to most other full-size motorcycles.  It’s only competition is the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, which has been selling well in America since God was a small child.  Many years ago Honda also sold the VTR250, which was quite a forgettable little bike that didn’t last long.  My guess is that the time has come for a bike like the CBR250R.  Have you seen gas prices lately?  After one more spike in gas prices, I suspect Honda dealers will be scrambling to keep enough CBR250R’s in stock to meet customer demand.  I think Honda has a winner here.

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