SHOWTIME: a reality check…

This ravishing combi of old skool aircooled and glorious design was the single item we most wanted to ride away on from this years shows… bar none.  Ditch the mirrors and chuck on a Rizoma – sorted.  There were plenty of other notable contenders, but….

…. ‘Let’s not suck each others dicks just yet’, as Mr.Wolf eloquently put it….

  • 2013 KTM 1190 ADVENTURE  =  212 kgs claimed dry weight
  • 2013 KAWASAKI Z800  =  229 kgs wet
  • 2013 HONDA CB 1100  =  248 kgs wet
  • 2013 BMW R 1200 GS = 238 kgs ‘for road’

All is not quite lost, however.

  • 2013 TRIUMPH STREET TRIPLE = 183 kgs wet

which is more like it. Since we launched, we’ve bored people to tears with our conviction that minimal weight is inextricable from maximum fun on two wheels. We’ve lamented the grossing out amply in evidence everywhere we’ve looked – apart, ironically, from the declining sportsbike sector. We accept that this is largely the consequence of two factors: emissions regs and the related decline of the stroker. We’re constantly told that weight loss costs, which we accept . So how come a 675 triple is 46 kilos lighter than an 800cc four?  Sadly, the industry hype machine – broadly speaking, the motorcycle press – have to some degree colluded in the supersize race by minimising problems associated with grossness.

” You don’t notice the weight ” is one of motorcycle journalism’s great untruths. We beg to differ. Physics dictate that given two otherwise identical bikes (and riders),  the one carrying less lard will have the potential for greater corner speed.  The lighter machine will also be far more adept once the tarmac turns into a trail.  The GS brand within a brand owes much of its original success to a supposed capacity for all terrain work: one can’t imagine Ewan  and Charlie enjoying such decent viewing figures had their riding been confined to motorways, and their camp sites the local Travel Lodge. Clearly, the current GS is already well capable of eating tarmac at a decent pace, so why not make less weight the key design parameter – at the expense of greater power?  Why not try and restore the bike’s identity by at least giving punters the option of adventure riding – after all, it isn’t as though BMW don’t have perfectly decent tourers in their line up.  And make no mistake – the big GS is a modern tourer wearing adventure clothes. Anything which might be used off road does not need superbike levels of power or braking force: far from it.  The truth which dare not speak its name is that the big trailie class has finally reached the evolutionary cross roads towards which it has been heading for some years. In general big power, big weight, water cooled machines are totally incompatible with off roading unless the pilot really knows what he is about. We forget that the Mondo Enduro tribe circumnavigated using DR 350s and wrote the book on off piste adventures. Less really is more when the road turns into a pitted track. The 2013 big trailie class will be diverse, but nothing in it will weigh in under 200 kgs dry, never mind wet. This simple fact tells you everything you need to know: these vehicles are designed primarily for road use. The sole exception will be the R version of the new Adventure, which will still be more at home on tarmac than following a footpath across a salt marsh.

You want a GS which can handle the lanes?  That’ll be an 800 then. Even the F is a better bet off piste than the big GS…..

We’ll tell you why the class has morphed. It isn’t because Europe’s tracks, trails and lanes are getting more rider friendly. It’s because Europe’s roads are themselves turning into trails. Get off the EEC or central government funded main road and take a look round. Suddenly the craters are in evidence. It’s also because increased traffic density puts a premium on size and visibility. The rise of the big trailie has a pre Ewan and Chuck genesis, because riders were gradually realising that they had become a really effective contemporary transport solution. Much more unforgivable than a portly trailie is weight where there is no excuse for it – for example in a naked middle weight. The Z800 / Street Triple kgs comparison explains in an instant how Europe bested the Japanese in motorcycle design, a supremacy which the latter were finally supposed to be combatting. It’s a shame that Kawaski, who have done so much to turn things round, should be responsible for this 2013 behemoth.

There are grounds for hope, as our forthcoming series on motorcycle design trends will reveal – it’s just that many of the new bikes the public have experienced at  shows in the last couple of months have had much of their potential for fun eliminated. The 2013 Street Triple shows that emission regulations are not solely responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

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