Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lamenting the Standard (Part 1)

It seems these days that bike riders generally want or like a specific class of motorcycle. There are those who like to ride hard and fast on sports bike. Some like the tall, ample clearance of a dirt bike. Many others like the sexy look and sound of a V-Twin cruiser. Some enjoy eating up the asphalt on touring bikes. There are others, like the trail bike, café racer, trials bike and pit bike. Then there is the hybrid dual-sport bike that will likely receive the official moniker of adventure bike before too long.

Aside from the adventure class of bike, each of these classes of bikes is very good at what they were intended for. But what of the standard? These are general motorcycles that aren’t great at one thing, but pretty good, or at least acceptable at several things. They are fairly comfortable on the road, handle well on gravel and depending on the bike, acceptable on trails.

Honda’s 919 is a nice blend of standard and sports bike; personally one I would like to have. Unfortunately 2007 was the last model year for us in the USA. Bikes similar to this, called the Hornet, are rather popular in Europe. Apparently there isn’t enough of a market here in the states for Honda to continue marketing them.

So, what new standard bikes are out there for us in the US market? Honda has only two offerings; the Rebel and the Nighthawk. While the Rebel is more cruiser than standard, it still does well in that category. Both bikes share the same drivetrain but suffer from having only a 250CC class engine. In all, gas mileage is super at over 80 MPG but the engine’s size can really challenge the rider when on the highway.

Honda Nighthawk 250

Alas, the Rebel used to be offered with a 450CC engine, and there used to be a 750CC Nighthawk. They can only be bought second hand now, but luckily the bikes are not complex and many repairs can be handled by the owner.

Honda Nighthawk 750

Yamaha offers the V Star 250, but with it’s V-Twin engine and styling, it is more of a baby cruiser. Unfortunately, that is the closest thing to a standard Yamaha makes.

Kawasaki offers the Eliminator 125. It is billed as a cruiser but the simple styling and simplicity makes it look a LOT like a standard. Unfortunately it’s 125CC engine limits it’s utility.

Kawasaki Eliminator 125

Coming up in part two, Suzuki, BMW and Triumph. Am I missing any currently produced standards? If so, let me know!

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