Is it time to retire superbikes?
Motorcycling has evolved considerably since the halcyon days of the Sixties and Seventies when two wheeled motorized transport shook off its black leather jacket Marlon Brando stigma and became the way "to meet the nicest people on a Honda." We live in a drastically different world now than the one that saw motorcycle enthusiasts' jaws drop at the first sight of the CB750, Z1-900, or Gold Wing.
As motorcycles grew in displacement and performance, the aura of the superbike grew and grew. While at first a superbike was defined as a 750 or 900 cc Universal Japanese Motorcycle with a transverse four cylinder dual overhead cam engine, this definition soon expanded to include a wide variety of faired street racers as the Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Suzuki GSX-R1000, and Yamaha YZF-R1 and the Ducati 1098. Then came the eyeball flattening hyperbikes such as the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14, Honda CBR1100XX, and Suzuki Hayabusa which technically fit more into the rocketship category than any two wheeled street legal transportation has a right to.
The vast majority of superbikes see the track as often as bling bling SUVs see the trails... which is never. The owner of the hand waxed, 16 coats of clear lacquer Escalade cruising around town on $8000 worth of chromed wheels is about as likely as go mudbogging as the Hayabusa rider is likely to tape on numbers and go fly around the corners of a racetrack. The breathtaking levels of speed that these superbikes are capable of can only be legally and legitimately experienced on a racetrack, but unfortunately most of their immature daredevil riders choose to test their limits on public highways endangering not only their own lives, but those of the innocent motorists around them.
Even gigantoid cruisers such as the outrageous 2.3 litre Triumph Rocket III and the gargantuan six cylinder Gold Wings fit into this market segment whose time has come and gone. When I'm in Italy I regularly drive an automobile with an engine barely one quarter the displacement of this Hulk Bike. It is difficult to erase from my memory the sight I witnessed there a couple of years ago when a maniac riding a Hayabusa at well over 150 mph crammed his bike directly into the back of a Fiat Uno carrying an entire family. No one survived that crash, and although it can be argued that the Suzuki rider had it coming, what fault did the poor family in the Fiat have, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
We are entering an era of extreme fuel scarcity and ecological responsibility. We have pushed this planet to the limits and now it's pushing back. We need to not only minimize our carbon footprints but we also need to realize that the excesses of the past have no place in a threatened future. Just like monster V-10 pickup trucks and Hummer H1s have to retire to museums where future generations can gape at how wasteful, boastful and shallow humanity must have been, superbikes also must join the ranks of the extinct. Too much power, too much speed, too much fuel, too much danger.
If we want to be realistic about it, there truly is no reason for a motorcycle to be any larger than about 500cc. That size will carry two large people and a couple of saddlebags at the legal speed limit anywhere they want to go. With some fine tuning, manufacturers can market half-litre motorcycles that will do anything that a sane, reasonable rider will ask of them and return well over 60 mpg and maybe as much as 70 mpg.
And... yes... I'll have to bid adieu to my Harley soon as well. It will break my heart. But very unfortunately it is all too necessary.
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