Bike of the Year is over,
let the arguments begin
Blog: Harry Fisher
Well, that’s another Pirelli SA Bike of the Year out of the way so let the arguments begin. No matter which bike wins, it will always be controversial because everyone has their own ideas about what is the best bike (or what definitely isn’t the best bike). These opinions are based on brand loyalty and what bike the individual is riding or likes to ride.
And that’s fine. We’ve always said that one of the main goals of the competition is to get people talking, arguing, discussing and hopefully this translates into them putting their money where their mouths are and walking into a showroom to spend some of it.
Of course, the other main drive was to give something back to the manufacturers/importers for all the help they give us; we can’t do what we do without their help and input and if they are successful, then so are we, the ones who rely on their marketing spend to make the show in the first place.
So, KTM has become the first two-time winner in the award’s five year history. We would have loved to have kept the streak of first-time winners going but it had to end somewhere. To be honest, the fact that it took five years for it to happen says a lot about the state of the motorcycle industry as it is today, with such an amazing standard – and variety – of bike coming from every single manufacturer. If we had been doing this in the 1970’s we could be fairly certain that it would be a Japanese-made sports road bike that would win every year but, happily, there is today a fantastic choice of motorcycles out there across the board and, while sales might not be that healthy at the moment, there is no shortage of innovative thinking going on in design studios around the world.
Who is leading this progress by design? The manufacturers would have you believe that they are making what their market research tells them we, the customers, want. But I’m not so sure. Technology is moving forward so fast that features we never knew we wanted – let alone demanded – are appearing on bikes; there is hardly chance to catch ones breath before the next astonishing development is upon us.
In reality, I think the manufacturers are telling us to a large extent what we want, driven in part by this progress in technology. But a lot of it has to do with keeping up with the Joneses. For example; look at adventure bikes. You could argue that BMW started the whole craze with the first GS model – the R80GS in 1980 – inspired by the Paris-Dakar rally that started in 1978. In actual fact, it was a Yamaha that won the first and second events, BMW taking top honours in the third and Honda the fourth. But it was BMW who pursued the idea of a large-capacity engined bike with on-road comfort allied to off-road ability and made the idea their own for many years. Nowadays, however, almost every manufacturer worth its salt has an adventure bike in its catalogue, recognising that to not have one is to miss out on a large slice of the sales pie.
It’s the same in every category you can think of; whatever you have, we must have also. Yes, the public is buying them so, in a sense, they are dictating what is being made but it is also true that the manufacturers are making them to attract the customers.
The KTM 1290 Super Adventure R is a very good adventure bike, as it should – and needs to – be. Can it really be that the Austrians have out-BMW’ed BMW? Maybe but the point is moot. If you are a BMW fan, then you will remain a BMW fan, no matter what the opposition does and the same goes for KTM owners. However, the fight for market share is fierce and the development of these bikes reflects that. What might be seen as unfortunate is that with this fight for supremacy comes ever more complication, power, size and weight; elements that are not necessarily useful off-road. To my mind, it can only have one outcome; the rise of the small adventure bike, a charge led by Kawasaki with their Versys 300 and Honda with their CRF250 Rally and soon to be made even more interesting with the imminent arrival of the BMW G310GS and Suzuki DL250 -Strom.
Just when you thought you had reached the top, the goalposts move again and we are off on another adventure. Quite literally.