~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thinking Small

I started with one of these, a 60cc Yamaha
I've heard long time riders express concern about a dearth of new riders entering the sport of motorcycling.  I believe that one of the things that's become a limiting factor for new riders, especially women riders, entering the sport is the notion that people should start on a 250cc machine that weighs almost as much as the long ago Triumph 500 weighed. 

Too often new riders are told their first bike should be at least 500cc or 650cc.  To an experienced rider a 350lb - 500lb machine is nothing, to a new rider it's darned heavy and awkward, a choice that intimidates and makes it more difficult to develop the instinctive reactions needed to survive on the street.  Experienced riders have long forgotten how confusing it can be to coordinate clutch, brake, throttle, and seat position in an endless number of riding scenarios.  Adding too much weight and too much horsepower to the equation only makes it more intimidating and difficult, if not more dangerous.

Long ago many of us started on cheap 50cc or 100cc machines and developed a skill set that wasn't tied to lots of weight and horsepower.  As our skills grew, the size and performance of the bikes grew and we were more amenable to the higher costs.
My second bike. To me it was big.

"Don't buy a 250cc machine, you'll be bored with it in 6 months."

Our "bigger is better" attitude is holding people back because faced with the idea they might be bored with a major purchase within 6 months or spending even more on a bigger, more intimidating machine they opt to not enter the sport at all.   Telling them they must also have another $500 - $1000 in bizarrely colored, special riding gear adds to the idea that motorcycling is just too expensive when they are still uncertain whether or not the sport is for them.

The perceived bar to entry has been raised by the people within the sport and I believe it's keeping people out of the sport.

image via Honda.

I contend that the sport would be better off if we'd get back to starting people on 100cc motorcycles and letting them grow from there -- except that the bike companies no longer sell such machines in the USA (save as dirt bikes for kids).  100cc machines are fast enough, easier to handle, and less intimidating for many new riders for whom motorcycling is still quite an adventurous and "crazy" thing.  There are still lots of small displacement scooters being sold, why not small displacement bikes?  Bigger is not always better.  Starting small is a better, more logical way to get into the sport of motorcycling.  Back in the days of "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" it got millions of people started including me.

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