Extravagance has its place…if you’re a one-percenter. But for the rest of the population, $28,000-a-pop Panigale Tricolores, $10,000 European enduros and just-shy-of-$40K factory-custom H-D CVOs just don’t jibe with economic realities.
Thankfully, the motorcycle industry has listened. In particular, the Japanese, who have taken quite a beating in the press the past four years for not matching the technological advances of European manufacturers.
Despite appearing to have been overly cautious while weathering the financial maelstrom of the past several years, Kawasaki and Honda now seem to be quite savvy for attacking the opposite end of the motorcycle market with bikes like the $4799 Ninja 300 (brand-new for 2013), Honda’s $4099 CBR250R ($4599 w/ABS) and new-for-’13, $4499 CRF250L.
“The entry-level market is very important to Honda and a segment where we’re seeing a lot of growth,” said American Honda’s Manager of Motorcycle Press, Bill Savino. “A lot of the younger buyers are coming in and looking for high-quality, inexpensive, fuel-efficient machines like the CBR250R and CRF250L. But we are also seeing a lot of people reentering the market after being off of motorcycles for three, five or even 10 years. These 250s and bikes like the brand-new NC700X are key to getting both types of customers riding.”
Future options for these consumers appear to be quickly expanding. Some of the following machines will soon be joining the sub-$5000 party, while others we can only dream about.
2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300
Team Green is upping the ante with its all-new Ninja 300, which impressed us at the bike’s launch and should prove to be a big hit for Kawasaki in the years to come.
2013/14 Yamaha YZF-R250
With all the movement in this entry-level area, we predict that Yamaha is planning to get in on the action in the U.S., as well. You heard it here first, because we aren’t just passing along the rumor; we’re starting it!
Yamaha currently sells numerous small-displacement sportbikes in other markets. In Europe, the YZF-R125—powered by a liquid-cooled, sohc, 125cc four-valve Single—has been sold since ’08, while in Southeast Asia, it’s the YZF-R15, a liquid-cooled, sohc, 150cc four-valve Single.
With small-displacement bikes in the limelight, the Tuning Fork company is surely considering filling the gaps in its lineup. Currently, the only models that play the part are the relatively pricey WR250R ($6590), ancient XT250 and TW200 dual-sports ($5090 and $4490), and $4190 Star V Star 250 cruiser.
If Yamaha decides to go the single-cylinder route, it already has the fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, 250cc four-valve engine from the aforementioned WR250R. The real question is whether Yamaha could price such a machine competitively (under $5000) using a variation of this engine, which currently has trick (read: expensive) features such as titanium intake valves, a forged piston and EXUP exhaust valve.
Consumers are demanding fuel-efficient, inexpensive transportation, and manufacturers see these machines as a way to ensure their own future livelihood by getting the next generation on motorcycles before it’s too late. Either way, unless fuel prices suddenly get cut in half, we expect to see an explosion of growth in this segment and can’t wait to see what other fun bikes the future brings.