Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Else Wonders How Big Of A Motorcycle Is Big Enough?

*Yamaha Stratoliner = 1854cc
*Triumph Rocket III = 2294cc
*Honda VTX 1800 = 1795cc
*Honda Goldwing = 1832cc
*Suzuki M109 = 1783cc
*Harley-Davidson (Big Twins) = 1584cc
*Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 = 2053cc

How big is big is big enough? In these times of high fuel prices, a dwindling and fragile oil supply and concerns over global warming, does it make sense that the motorcycle industry just keeps upping the ante? Shouldn't motorcycles get significantly better gas mileage than cars do? Many motorcycles don't.

Obviously the demand is there or they wouldn't be making bike engines bigger which means burning more gas. I would advocate for the demand to change. I would rather see manufacturers start thinking about fuel economy and pollution control rather than sheer power, speed and bragging rights.

I have a 1200cc Harley and not too long ago it would have been considered a monster, now its mid size. True, fuel injection has improved gas mileage on motorcycles but not near enough.

Scooters are thankfully making a modest comeback but even they don't get the gas mileage I would expect from the smaller engine size.

If I ever decide to replace my Sportster I'm likely to downsize rather than go bigger unless improvements are made by the manufacturers. I'm 50 and maybe it's my age showing, I don't know, but I have moved past the desire to have a cruiser that has an over sized engine and am not inspired to be riding a race engineered sport bike. Lots of us baby boomers out there, I predict, may start seeing things the same way. And as more commuters come into the picture, the demand for what we want out of our bikes will change. There is a lot of purchasing power considering the sheer number of us, and money talks.

I'll be looking for practical rather than bling. And I will be looking for performance up to a point. I don't need to go 200mph. Instead I want good fuel economy, adequate power and excellent reliability. Especially since I'm a commuter and not just a weekend warrior.

OK, I know some of you that have read this far are thinking I should just go out and get a Honda Rebel 250cc or the like. I am a cruiser enthusiast because I like the looks, the riding position, the rumble and implied power of the V-Twin engine. I want that, but I also want the improvements I mentioned. Don't think for one second the manufacturers can't do that. Of course they can.

Let your favorite motorcycle or scooter maker know what you expect out of the bike you will be purchasing in the future. The companies will listen if the demand is strong enough.

Will there be a solar and hydrogen powered chopper in your garage anytime soon? Probably not, but we should expect much greater efficiency in our bikes. Who knows what bikers will have in the more distant future to impress the ladies with. I'm sure there will always be a place for shock and awe vehicles. Human nature being what it is and all.
Motorcycle and Scooter Talk at Kano's eCoffee House


Steve Johnson said...

You say that "Obviously the demand is there". But I think you're mixing apples and oranges.

In the USA, motorcycles are recreational vehicles. That's why Americans demand lots of speed, power, torque, and bling. However, Americans don't demand fuel efficiency from their motorcycles.

In China, India, Africa, motorcycles are a necessity, purely for economic reasons. They demand fuel efficiency because they can't afford to waste fuel.

Even though gas prices are as high as they are in the USA, they still aren't "high". This is because most Americans are capable and willing to pay for the luxury of commuting solo in their cages. We still have a ways to go before gas prices can technically be defined as "too high".

When we get to the point where Americans can no longer afford the gas prices, they'll start buying two-wheelers en masse. That's when motorcycle makers will focus on fuel efficiency.

Kano said...

Steve- Thank you for your input. I agree with everything you say except I'm not sure how I am "mixing apples and oranges". Recreational or not, shouldn't motorcycle and other internal combustion engines be more efficient than they are? And should we as motorcyclists be indifferent to the effects our recreation has on the environment? Overconsumption has led to our dependance on foreign oil and I don't think anyone thinks that's a good thing (except those profiting from it).

I'm all for keeping recreational motorcycling as an option going in the U.S. and for as many people as possible. However, if fundamental change doesn't occur we may end up with the same fate as most of the rest of the world.

We make countless choices everyday. And with each choice comes a consequence either positive or negative on the world. And if more people put more thought into their actions this world may be a much better place. That's all I'm trying to express.

Steve Johnson said...

When you ask the question, "shouldn't motorcycle and other internal combustion engines be more efficient", I respond by saying that they should only be as efficient as consumers demand.

I don't agree that we have overconsumed oil. We've consumed as much as we've wanted to consume. I don't believe there is any kind of universal standard on how much oil should be consumed. Just because we're using a lot, doesn't mean we're using too much.

All Americans are concerned about the environment; it's just in varying degrees. My HD Ultra Classic gets between 40-50 mpg, depending on how I ride it. Compare that to the Toyota Prius Hybrid, which listed between 45-48mpg. Therefore, I'm doing more for the environment than most other people.

Kano said...

Steve-I agree with you that your Ultra Classic is better than a Toyota Prius Hybrid as far as fuel economy goes.

In the 1st paragraph of your 2nd comment you say "they should be as efficient as consumers demand". I don't disagree with you there either. In fact that is the main point I wanted to put across in my post is that we as consumers should demand better efficiency.

I'm afraid I've muddied the waters a little with my post and subsequent comments. Let me boil down our assumptions to the essence of what we do disagree on. Correct me if I'm wrong.

My opinion- Motorcycles are not as efficient as they could be and we as consumers should demand better.

Your opinion- The status quo on efficiency is OK, since we as Americans are primarily recreational riders.

My opinion- We Americans consume too much oil.

Your opinion- We are not consuming too much oil.

If that's it, then fair enough Steve, thank you for your opinions and contribution to the discussion. If I misinterpreted what you are saying I apologize.

Steve Johnson said...

I think its a great discussion, that's why I jumped into it. Keep those posts coming!

Steve Williams said...

The other day I was talking to a fellow I work with who is considering another Harley---a Road King. We talked a bit about size and he said since he is a big guy he needs a big bike. Not for power but for appearance. He says he doesn't want to look like a circus bear on a little motorcycle.

I stood there for a moment thinking that I was taller than he was and within 20 pounds of his weight and I'm riding a Vespa. Did I look like a circus bear and not even realize it? Was that why people were pointing and not because I was so cool???

Anyways, the reasons we do things are pretty varied and ring true perhaps to our own logic.

I agree with Steve that almost no one gives a hoot about gas prices, at least not enough to change much of anything. Most motorcycles in the US are toys and not ridden that much where the cost of gas is a concern. I have some friends with big gas guzzling muscle cars but they only drive them a thousand miles a year. Gas could cost 10 bucks a gallon and it wouldn't matter to them.

I bought my own scooter purely because it was more fun to ride than the motorcycles I had. Still is. It goes wherever I want to go and is pretty stingy on fuel. That's just gravy. Big enough for me though may seem idiotic to someone else though...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Kano said...

Steve J-I'm glad you did! Controversy adds interest and gives the readers something to think about. Stay tuned, more controversy is on the way!

Steve W-LOL, I had to laugh at the imagine you created in my mind about the circus bear!

As you 2 Steve's point out - I get it. Lots of occasional riders wouldn't care about gas prices or polluting the air. And even a lot of regular riders (especially in America) don't care either.

For those that do care; I was surprised to find out it's not as simple as smaller vehicle (car vs motorbike)equals less gas consumption and less air pollutants, which has long been my assumption. It's amazing to me that it would even be debatable.