Off The Radar Bikes!
Or: When bikes quickly hide and then….suddenly, reappear!
When it comes to the motorcycle industry in the West (Especially the U.S.A.) it’s seems that there are so many great, versatile, speedy, fun, competitive and even fashion statement motorcycles that get ignored!
It reminds us of our music education and learning of all the “One Hit Wonders” or cool albums that EVERYONE claims to think were goofy or not “Cool”, and yet they sold billions in the 1980’s! Well…….then WHO exactly bought all those records hmmm……. ? Add in the fact of so many young bands that were using technology at the time, and were, ironically, considered “One-Hit-Wonders” in their own right (U2 and RUNDMC come to mind!) but, one could argue (This is NOT a thesis on popular music!) that the appreciation of these groups changed much of the industry as a whole.
Enter our “Radar Detection” of the not-so-glorified but, nevertheless, still exciting Moto-steeds of the Twenty-First century.
“Why?”, you may ask, does the industry Not cover these bikes more etc. over time.Is it merely a case of certain bikes not acclimating themselves well to that of the hyper-paced, super-slabbed highway’s and wide open spaces of that of North America? Are the needs of MOST riders in the U.S. only
to be found in the liter class with every available electronic doo-dad?
Triumph Scrambler “Revival” circa 2006! What a bike style to bring back on radar……..BUT would Triumph capitalize as well as DUCATI? (More importantly, how long will the “Scrambler” trend stay on top of the “Wave”?
We at Motosquirrel believe that it is purely a financial issue. When it comes right down to it, the major OEM’s sort-of have a dual role to play when it comes to supporting new riders, new trends, new racing, ever-changing technology and so on. There is a strange dance or balance struck between a manufacturing industry which must take at the very least a few seasons to develop product, research trends, design study, prototype, tool-up, consumer study, gain investment loans, do product line studies, profit projections, influence market, costing, manufacturing, third-party contracting, emissions testing/submission, distribution, dealership priming and follow-through for new models, MORE advertising, international product launching……..the list of the tentacles involved for ANY manufacturer of mass produced motorcycles in order to launch a “New” model is huge (And too large to fit into an article!). Needless to say, it can take a long time for the biggest companies to respond to trends.
Now you see it……now you don’t! Depends on what part of the world and what part of the world NEEDs or is even legally aloud to climb aboard an “Entrance” model! Can anyone say…..A2 “Owned”! Ha! (Here in the U.S., a Duke 125cc would get stolen as a “Pizza Bike”…..just joking!
The top cycle manufacturer’s pay close attention to the stream of interests that are at street or customer level, especially at the small builder/customizer and racing level. If they watch these streams of behavior close enough, they can time there behemoth manufacturing and delivery processes to take advantage of the in-coming wave! Kind of like giant surfers!
So……how does our Motosquirrel “Radar” fit in you may ask? With the enormous responsibilities and costs denoted before herein, it is no wonder that the Big OEMs follow-through with their most cost effective “Forays” first. Questions like: “Do we have a powerplant that can work for a small-displacement Super-moto already?”, can we attain some of this from our own parts bins at first?, can our third-party provide this part at a smaller scale/size for half the price of new-retooling etc.? Are all valid when considering a new model program.
It is easier for an OEM to react to the market with parts and processes that they already have, AND, most importantly, if there is already a market for example, an upcoming 250cc Super-moto, they just might “Go-For-It” or roll the dice and see what sells. Timing is everything!
Where the “Radar” starts pinging:
BUT, here is the Catch twenty-two! Why then, do we as the rider/consumer, get all enthusiastic at a product launch at it’s inception only later to find lackluster
industry attention paid to that very same bike, say a year or so later? After jumping on this “Cusp of A Wave”, how is it that we do NOT hear about these products more over a longer period of time? Sure, we see a product launch or two, perhaps some initial excitement for the first season of a launch, and, possibly, some decent critical reviews as well, but NOT the over-the-top sustained advertising we may see with other models……But WHY?
Just as it can be quite a quick and direct matter (Sometimes a massive amount of work and kudos to you custom/bespoke builders- this is example only!) for a small bike customizer to get, say a fender and gas tank chromed over a few days and then voila! Pop it on his/her bike and make a dramatic change, conversely it is like pushing over a mountain for an OEM to produce quick changes at scale.
So…….when Motorcycle marquees have had their own “Mountains” of motorcycles been built, established, profiting and working together as a product line-up over a great period of time (Think “Big” BMW GS series)…..well they don’t want any outsider bike (Including their own!) to change the system.
Umm……Kawi…better late than never? This is a Big head-scratcher! Why would a company keep this out of a line-up when it is a threat to none of there home sales in our humble opinion…….(KLX300SM shown)
And……….when considering that the profit margins for wholesale/franchiser manufacturer’s and dealership are relatively quite small; it is no wonder that, although they don’t mind sticking their proverbial ADV proboscus “Beak” (To use BMW GS Motorad as example) to check in on what their “Customers” are doing almost methodically, reduntantly, throughout any season(s) and EVERY season with lengthy programs and adverts; we are never going to get “Caught Up” on the latest happenings and trends, say, in the “World” of their very own baby 310 GS as example. It IS…..however (In the case of the GS)….wait for it…currently ”Off the RADAR”.
Yes, this (As an example of hundreds of bikes by many OEM’s) 310gs proves the point of the Motosquirrel “On-the-Radar” and “Off-the-Radar” exactly.
The intro of the baby GS of a few years back is a great illustration of a behemoth company like BMW using their sourcing, machine knowledge, market growth studies as well as growth areas to develop and respond to a growing trend in the need for smaller displacement ADV bikes that will appeal to overseas markets (Meaning Asia), while still providing a “Gateway Drug” or beginner bike for the first-time buyer of the Motorad line-up. In many cases, the entrance models barely beget a profit. It is an investment in introducing the customer into a brand/dealership and their growth up the product line and, hopefully, profitability for the manufacturer (No new concept here but part of understanding “Radar”).
How much bike do you need? Yeah- Sure! If you ride Two-Up consistently, a Big GS makes sense. But the middle sized (More Off-The-Radar) bikes make the most sense for most riders! But hey! Some folks show off their yachts only twice a year anyhow!
In order to get the public excited (As an example of MANY yearly launches in the industry), OEM’s will explore market strategies, build the hype, blast the “Launch” signal, make the trade shows and……get YOU the consumer curious about this new model.”The Bike” is put “On-Radar”!
Off-the-Radar: Once the foundation or the entrance of the launch model is introduced for about a season, all the hype quickly fades…….but why?
Again, it is this strange dual dance that ALL moto-co’s must do. In order to stay relevant they must respond to change (In the case of BMW, admittedly, they like to introduce new gadgetry to NEW riders- this approach is highly unusual- BUT more on this in another article!), but in order to stay alive and sell the bike-lines with the most profit margins (Usually in the 10,000 to 18,000 dollar range where the numbers times profit are the sweet spot) big companies like Honda, BMW, Yamaha etc. cannot impinge on their own importance and must pay dogged attention and apply it to their staple line ups year after year.
So, what bikes do we at Motosquirrel consider “On-The-Radar” kind of bikes? Clearly these are your staple year-to-year steeds that every buyer must consider a solid investment etc. They are MOSTLY not spontaneous purchases. These are the motorcycles that are introduced whether in print or on video and described with sentences resembling: “This years CBR1000rrFFWW (Place myriad of nomenclature here) introduces a few changes from last year based on blah blah blah feedback from customers/dealers that said people wanted a bit bigger windshield, seat profile or rear set adjustment etc. etc. They are ALL, usually wonderful bikes, admittedly. And, since they “Bring home the Bacon for most dealerships and manufacturer’s- you are only going to see MINOR changes through the seasons. It is no sweat off their back and are also a “No-Brainer” for a customer to purchase as well. And….. the minor tweeks keep the staple bikes relevant and “On-The-Radar”.
Can a bike model/series be “Off-The-Radar” then “On-The-Radar” and then “Off” again? Absolutely! Any combination of attention paid by consumers or manufacturers is possible over time. Remember, the better companies out there are always looking to street level to see what there customers are doing. Harley, for example, pays close attention to how there customers customize or have their bikes customized for them in order to plan what options they will eventually sell on there own trademark lines. There are, most importantly, the cases of several bikes that REMAIN past their trendy date but are still available in a line-up. An example of this can be found in the Honda (Place chopper name here). It was offered when the climate and culture was into “Choppers” both on and off screen. It is a great bike, but definitely “Off-The-Radar”…..for now!
The ORIGINAL “Off-The-Radar” bike! In more ways than one. Here, the venerable KLR shows off it’s camouflaging prowess: Equaled both out in the field and at home. Either way, you should have a “Deck” of bricks! Photo provided by wikipedia (Hyper linked photos beware!)
After being “Off-The-Radar” for almost three seasons…….THE KLR LIVES ! and is being detected by all who can handle such a monster! (Kawi listened to their riders and updated this model with many improvements too lengthy to mention here. Please visit your local Kawasaki dealer! (But is it too late?)
A good example of “On, Off, On, Off and then……you get the idea! Is the venerable Kawasaki KLR! Developed as a sort-of working man’s GS in the late eighties/early nineties it was quickly smacked right up there on the Radar screen! Blip Blip….bloop bloop you could hear the Radar Pinging! Kawasaki was definitely promoting that bike…and as it sold over time it developed it’s own cult-like following. Eventually it found it’s own market and sold itself etc. But, as the early 2,000’s introduced new mid-sized displacement ADV options by competitors; some with new gizmos and features not available on the KLR (Think Yamaha Tenere, F650, KTM 690 class bikes etc.) either the KLR owner had to respond, with there own farkles for on-road and off-road, or Kawasaki would eventually have to respond with an updated model.
For almost twenty years the KLR was “Off-The-Radar”, meaning this was NOT a brag to the world bike that you needed to check-in on like that of the U.S. Presidents whereabouts on any given day etc.! It had a life, likeability and sellability of it’s own! But….in order to remain “Relevant” Kawi’s KLR crew would need to give this bike some greatly needed updates (In 2007???). Were they Earth shattering? Not-so-much but they WERE a needed response to a market with which they could lose to better bikes. New wind cutting fairing: check!, more relaxed ride height: check!, better………better……better BUT almost all based on what customer modifications were being made out in the field. This updated and put the “2008” KLR back on the radar. Suddenly, the moto-press, adv enthusiasts and, especially KLR-heads woke up and took notice! KLR was back “On-The-Radar”! (Sidenote: The Venerable KLR falls “Off-The-Radar” in season 2019 2020 without ANY production whatsoever …..only to be resurrected and put back On-Radar again this year in 2021 being hailed as a 2022 bike to be available mid-year (We will believe it when we see it on showroom floors and in the woods!)
Is this the penultimate example of not only a particularly and very “Off-The-Radar” bike (That of the Ducati Scrambler of decades ago) that has made a comeback, but is also an example of a company In-Tune with the habits of riders and knew when and HOW to strike gold? Will this Scrambler’s various styles still be valid in another 5-10 years? Maybe not……but that is why Ducati is now offering “Bigger” scrams and more modernist street-fighter models as in the new “Nightshift”. Hey…….where did the “Icon” go? Falling Off-The-Radar…
Falling “Off” the radar is not necessarily a bad thing for either you, the riding enthusiast or, for that matter, even the top-most marquees out there. On the contrary, it can be a great sign that a wonderful bike is so good, for so many people that it becomes ubiquitous in it’s use and everyday importance.
The question is how will YOU improve your ride before the Big Bike Co does! Or will you wait for that “Newly Updated” model to make it’s way back on the Radar with the improvements that you already knew should be there!
Will you, the rider, make yourself richer with the money saved by buying the bike that is Off-the-Radar? Or will you make the industry richer by buying the latest version or newly introduced model that is seasonally, like clockwork “On-The-Radar”? It’s your choice, but either way Motosquirrel wants BOTH the industry and YOU to win together!
Keep Us On YOUR Radar!
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