It doesn’t take more that a ten minute ride from the airport in Buenos Aires to be reminded how much more popular European and Japanese sport bikes are around the world than the classic American cruiser. Harleys certainly have a strong worldwide following that continues to grow, particularly in Japan, but from the Avenue De La Porte Neuve in Monaco to Via Prenestina in Rome, it is still far more common to be passed at blinding speed by a Ducati Panigale or Yamaha FJR than a Fatboy. I guess it’s no surprise, given that many of these marques are more “local” to those streets than a machine built in Milwaukee. They also reflect cultural differences and preferences for more modern design and technology. I can’t deny how sexy some of these beasts are — sleek, brightly colored, parts molded like tightly fitting couture miniskirts… But somehow it feels like the differences are more profound in the riders than bikes themselves. They crave speed, agility, a flashy persona that brings to mind unbuttoned shirts and gaudy gold neck chains. The very antithesis of the Harley experience.
Personally, I like sitting upright, kicking my legs out on extended pegs, black leather and t-shirt, taking in the breeze and scenery under as minimal a helmet as legally allowable. The sport guys (and gals) like to be hunched over, legs tucked up underneath their torso, face and body completely encased in colored armor. Still, we are, all of us, about the ride. Funny, though, how different that ride can be. We have Cadillac, they have Ferrari. We covet Nascar, they cheer Formula One. (Well, I’m with them on that front, but that’s another topic.) Levi’s or Versace. Football or soccer. Chicken soup or vichyssoise. Whatever. I’m not ignoring the fact that there is a huge segment of sport bike riders herein the US. In fact, the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) reports that 166,601 bikes were imported by us last year (I do not have the breakdown, but you can bet a huge percentage were sports styled). North American Ducati sales were up by 43% in 2011. I won’t speculate that this is a trend, because Harley sales last year increased by 6.2%, so they won’t be run off the road anytime soon.
Fact is, as long as there are different personalities who gravitate to motorcycles, there will be a market for every imaginable style. Those of us who like v-twin cruisers won’t be jumping ship to keep up with trends. We like who we are, what we represent, where we’re going, and how we get there. — Mark Mormar