A declining youth motorcycle market that seem more interested in tiny mobile screens than taking part in real life have worried motorcycle manufacturers for some time.
Along with the Great Recession that prevented those who wanted a motorcycle from actually being able to buy one, both effects have combined to cause a nasty downturn in US sales in recent years.
That in turn has forced manufacturers to produce exciting, affordable products that capture the imagination, and in 2014 we have seen some affordable yet cool new motorcycles hit the market.
Certainly the entry-level Star Bolt, the Yamaha FZ-09, and the Honda 500 models have struck the collective imaginations of many of us. But less obvious are the sporting machines aimed at the more experienced riders who are looking for some serious bang for their buck.
The typical buyer wants comfortable ergonomics, a more-than-healthy-feeling motor, sophisticated electronics such as riding modes, traction control and anti-lock brakes. They also seek good handling that will carry them safely and predictably through fast corners — without jarring them too much over normal road bumps either.
Kawasaki identified that growing market segment well and reworked their Z1000 upright naked urban machine into the inspired Ninja 1000. A full fairing with an adjustable windshield gives the machine a sporting appearance, and both rider and passenger a degree of protection from the elements.
The upright ergonomics are very comfortable, and the 1043 cc inline four motor is a torque-monster with a whopping mid-range that will stretch your arms nicely. The handling is predictable and neutral, and with the accessory color-matched hard bags attached the bike will happily take a rider and passenger on all-day rides without the need for a chiropractor at the end of it.
At $11,999 the Ninja 1000 is very affordable and the fit and finish certainly don’t make it look like a budget motorcycle. This is a high-performance, sporting motorcycle that real-world people can actually afford—now there’s a concept!
About Ultimate MotorCycling 2014 President’s Picks:
As President of Ultimate MotorCycling, I am a fortunate individual. Not only do I get to ride a huge variety of machines, I am also privileged to be a part of this fascinating industry that so intensely fuels our passions.
As 2014 draws into its last quarter a picture has emerged of various developments that have happened in the past year. Don Williams, our Magazine Editor, has already published his Top Ten Motorcycle Picks and somewhat naturally I agreed with him. When Ron Lieback, our Website Editor, challenged me to come up with picks of my own, I naturally gravitated more towards the industry happenings, although I do have some machinery opinions as well.
I find myself interested in those manufacturers who have the best feeling for the current motorcycle buyer; those who are trying to listen to market demand and not just thrust their latest whizz-bang machine at us; those who are trying to encourage new and returning riders to the fold; those who are trying to make the pie bigger.
So this is what I’ve come up with. It goes without saying that these are my personal picks and you may or may not agree with me; of course you may feel I’ve left something out. Respectful discussion is very healthy and I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion—good, bad or ugly. Thanks for reading and being a part of the Ultimate MotorCycling family!
To read the others, visit 2014 President’s Picks.