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Tasting the Change

Right now “retro” is where it’s at as Yamaha has confirmed with its new “Sport Heritage” segment that will take over from the phased out Star Motorcycle brand.

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Retro and crossover is ‘in’

RA_17_SCR950_Grey_0A19[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s we finish up this issue I am finalizing plans to head down to Mid-Ohio for Vintage Motorcycle Days to greet the Sisters’ Centennial Motorcycle Ride when it makes a stop on the way across the country. I look forward to VMD for a lot of reasons, but mostly just to be a fan of vintage bikes and all things retro.

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Right now “retro” is where it’s at as Yamaha has confirmed with its new “Sport Heritage” segment (see OEM Update on page 38) that will take over from the phased out Star Motorcycle brand. We heard about Star going away a little while ago, but nothing was confirmed. So we waited and then watched as some of the consumer magazines broke the news.

The market is changing quickly, and motorcycle buyer’s tastes seem to have changed along with it. Young people (I’m mainly talking millennials) don’t want to ride the same old bikes their dad’s and granddad’s rode. And the only thing changing quicker than a millennial’s beard wax is technology (I say this as a guy who proudly sported a mullet in the ‘90s!). We can’t underestimate the role of social media in this either.
Motorcycle.com recently posted a story about the 600cc sportbike going away…in the UK. My guess is that a lot of things are going away in the UK, but sportbikes are the least of the concerns with the historic Brexit vote and all…but I digress. The sportbike may be going away because tastes have changed. A 600 cc sportbike is not retro or crossover or even all that entry-level. So Honda is discontinuing the CBR600 in the UK because no one buys them anymore (maybe because it hasn’t been updated since before the recession). While this is happening in Britain and may only be isolated there, it could be a sign of things to come if manufacturers are faced with making a model update.

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This brings me back to Yamaha. They are making a more concerted effort to build cross platform bikes. Sportbikes today are just stripped down naked bikes like the FZ-09 or GSR-750. And while Yamaha still has the R1 and the R3, how many R6s have they sold? Maybe I’m wrong, but tastes seem to have changed. Manufacturers are starting to clue in on this… Or is it the other way around? In the U.S. we are cross platform crazy. We want a crossover SUV and a crossfit workout, and now apparently a crossover sportbike. The FZ-10 is the latest example of a bike that can do it all. It’s got a sport mode, commuter mode and a touring mode built into the ECM so you can ride however you feel like that day. Technology can be a beautiful thing when it is applied right. And so can a crossfit sportbike built for millennials and social media pages. The sportbike isn’t dead, it just wears different clothes.

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