#308 – When 200 is the new 160

A few surprises, a few reassuring constants for 2015.

When 200 is the new 160

Without a crystal ball, or a crystal headlight lens, there is no way of knowing how 2015 will play out. What can be said for certain is there are more model releases from a broader spectrum of manufacturers than we have experienced in years. There are new entries in just about every segment of the marketplace, and if you don’t stray from a genre the odds are there will still be something new for you. The OEM motorcycle shows will be exciting venues this winter.
Perhaps the most surprising for its breadth of new offerings is the dramatic and eye-opening resurgence of the sportbike class. As you’ll read in ‘Circuit’ deeper into this issue, it seems that 200 hp is the new 160 hp which was the new 140 hp. You get the picture—200 hp is now the benchmark for entry into the big leagues.
This past fall, Ducati, Kawasaki, Yamaha and BMW announced bikes that had out-of-the-box 200 hp capacities. (Okay, BMW said 199 but who is going to quibble?) With its track-use-only H2R Kawasaki showed they could go above 300 hp if they really wanted to, but the street version will get by with just 207 (ram-air) assisted hp. Why the boon?
In Europe in particular it seems that the sportbike category is where the glamour resides as an announcement was made that Mercedes-AMG had purchased a 25 per cent stake in MV Agusta in order to create a long-term partnership. Consider the Mercedes deal, Audi’s purchase of Ducati and BMW’s juggernaut Motorrad division, and it now seems that luxury car brands must also have an elite sport motorcycle division. The 200-hp club will only grow.
The other end of the sport spectrum is also burgeoning for 2015, which makes a little more sense even if it doesn’t have the cachet of the 200-hp club. Small displacement is the volume segment and literally where many new riders will begin. Get them started on a Honda CB300F, Yamaha R3, KTM RC390, Kawasaki Ninja 300 or Suzuki GW250F and they are far more likely to stay with their entry brands—it’s often said that the key to long-range success is to gain the early loyalty of the elusive new rider (nova caballarius if you prefer Latin). Harley-Davidson is also hoping for sightings of nova caballarius around the Street 750, which is finally getting its official Canadian nod.
Also surprising in 2015 is the liquid-cooled Indian Scout, which indicates that Polaris thinks the resurgence of the Indian brand is based on the heritage motifs of the Chief, Chieftain and Roadmaster models, but the future probably isn’t.
Still another eye-opener is the number of new models that BMW and Yamaha have launched for 2015: there are five or six each depending on what you consider to be truly new, but both companies are offering more choices.
It is good to see BRP take its first dramatic new approach to the Spyder. The three-wheeled line has proved to be a success but the time had come for something new, and for 2015 we got just that with the F3.
But it is also good to have something solid that has remained constant. The almost ageless Hayabusa continues in a new colour scheme— that’s just fine because it is what it is and it is good. And on the cover we have the 2015 SE Triumph Rocket III. Launched 10 years ago but conceived in an entirely different environment, it isn’t just a big bore cruiser whose time has come and gone—it’s the Rocket III, a wholly unique entity that doesn’t easily fit in any category. It doesn’t even fit as a category among Triumph’s other motorcycle offerings. It is just out there. It is what it is and it is also good.