Why is the American idea of entry-level motorcycles so much different than the rest of the world?
It’s an interesting question really. We do have entry-level motorcycles that sell relatively well in this country. The biggest issue is we don’t encourage a system that makes that portion of the motorcycle industry profitable in the USA. The net effect is that we are left out in our selection of available motorcycles compared to the rest of the entry-level motorcycle world. Given the enthusiasm of Georgia riders to bring our friends and relatives to ride with us and even to get their own bikes, we need to consider the entry-level options.
In Great Britain and most of the EU the entry-level bike is classified by horsepower rating. That bike will not be over 33bhp (brake horsepower). It may sound underpowered, but the top speed of a near 500 lbs bike is still near 100 mph. When considering the fact that we are talking new riders, that’s still fast enough to get most in real trouble.
Speed almost always is what gets new riders in trouble first. They tend to ride too fast, oblivious to the speed, because the adrenaline rush tends to distract them from the pace they are keeping. Then suddenly, as the rider, you figure out that you are running too hot for the corner that is coming up on you.
This is the point where most riders make mistakes. Laying down a bike because you have entered the corner too fast is always bad and even on low cc bikes this is possible, but it is less likely because there is a “forgiveness” factor in a bike that has less horsepower. The power doesn’t tend to “come on” too fast.
In a self-awareness aspect, you realize that the motorcycle mechanically is working hard to keep its pace. You hear or “feel” the bike laboring. You know how fast you are going even if you never looked down at the speedo. This “feel” is your brain telling you the motorcycle is going fast enough.
On larger displacement bikes this “feel” is different. It takes your brain awhile to adjust to it. I’ll give you an example of this with myself. I once owned a 1987 BMW K100RS. This was BMW’s idea of a sport bike in the late 80s. Since the bike I came off of was an old 69 Triumph the BMW felt like a Superbike in comparison. I had been riding motorcycles for 23 yrs at this point of the game. The BMW was seamlessly fast and comfortable. It took me weeks to get used to the sound of the motor and the feel of the bike before I could tell by the sound of the bike how fast I was going without looking at the gauges.
Three years ago I bought a Kawasaki ZRX after I sold the BMW. WOW! This was absolutely Superbike territory compared to the BMW. It was scorching fast. It had insanely good brakes compared to anything I have ever owned and it was not easy to ride it under 80mph for the first two weeks because it so quiet compared to the Supertrapp exhaust that was on the BMW. I sold that bike because it was too easy to ride it fast and since I love riding with my daughter as a passenger I was thinking safety for her more than dumbing down the speed for me.
That’s where the Kawasaki KLR comes in. The “big trailie” is awesome. I stepped back to enjoy the ride and do something I’ve never done- trail ride. It took me nearly 30 years to realize that I didn’t need to go faster to have fun. I just had to change to a different style of bike. Small cc size is fun if you look at it properly. That KLR puts out roughly 40 hp. It’s a hoot. Most people that are seasoned riders forget the joy of going slower and the “newbies” (new riders for the uninitiated) are always thinking they need to go faster.
In Part 2, we will discuss how and why entry level bikes benefit you and start talking about the types of bikes that seem like a reasonable start for a newbie or returning rider.
Georgia on Two Wheels is brought to you courtesy of The Law Offices of Charles Scholle. Charles is a Gwinnett County bike lawyer serving the Atlanta area with offices throughout the metro region. Please contact our law offices for a free consultation.