Half a century ago, ’bout this time every spring, you could hear them sing… High pitched Honda singles. Laughing two strokes. And the occasional baritone Trumpet, BSA twin, Norton, an old man on a /2, or a just plain old and outa rhythm Harley.  Like bird spotters we learned to tell a Yamaha from a Suzuki from a block away, and as soon as we saved up the money and conned mom or dad into signing we proudly rode our Japanese solo cylinder twiddlers. As soon as our savings would allow we traded up to polyphonic twins, triples, fours, and even the lusty and rare six.

Then most of us grew up, started families, and our savings went into houses and other utilitarian needs. The 80s recession didn’t help either, and while the song of motorcycles never went silent, a lot of motorcycles quietly sat stacked floor to ceiling in warehouses. Harley flirted with bankruptcy, Ford gave Yamaha a lifeline to keep their source for a high performance engine alive, and the all powerful Japanese banks told Bridgestone to stick to tires.

Then the kids grew up and we started to doubt our virility, and like old bucks in rut crashing into each others horns and “coyotes” that were probably aged beyond reproducing anyway we needed to at least nurture fantasies otherwise. For a decade around the turn of the millennia the loud bass of the Harley drowned out near all else on two or increasingly three wheels.Then our knees got weak and our home equities crashed and the boom was over.

In an environment of adequate resources the biggest animals dominate and squeeze out the smaller… Thus Harley sucked up most of the motorcyclist’s dollars. Now with resources like new riders and and surplus income in short supply, the smaller creatures should have the evolutionary advantage. But Harley, having adopted Buell and birthed first the V-Rod and modern 500/750 twins have eaten their own Buell and V-Rod and banished the 500/750 to India with the closure of their Kansas City hog farm.

With much of the world’s population migrating to places with year round riding weather, scarce parking, and inadequate wages to support cars the environment is right for small affordable two and three wheelers. Unfortunately most of the the makers of the world’s motorcycles are still waiting for the market for literbikes and bigger to recover to figure that out.

Extinction is forever… Somebody in the motorcycle business, please channel Soichiro…

 

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