Friday, October 08, 2010


Are we starting to see the beginnings of sportbike backlash?

Ah, modern race-replica sportbikes. They're sleek. They're light. They're unbelievably fast. They handle like nobody's business. And in many cases, they're becoming a generic, boring punchline in motorcycle culture.

At least that's how I'm perceiving the judgments being recently laid out against them by others; both riders and non-riders alike. It seems there's a growing backlash against sportbikes, fueled by a decade of super popularity, a whole lot of bad press, and a snot-nosed sportbiker archetype that's embarrassingly easy to pigeonhole.

We've done it to ourselves. Heck, ten or twelve years ago, I myself was doing far too much 150-plus mile per hour riding on the street, far too many wheelies, and far too much bragging about it. And let's be honest, it was an easy thing to get sucked into. The power, acceleration, and bullet-train stability of a full-on repli-racer is something to which a person can get easily addicted.

Unfortunately, we all know that activities catering to addictive behaviors will eventually draw-in a bad element, and with sportbikes, the bad element arrived in droves. Before long, no one with a daily commute found it unusual to see at least one group per day of insufferable sportbike douchebags acting like complete imbeciles on the freeway. Throw in lots of high-speed police chases, gory crashes, a million stupid YouTube videos and the stunting culture, and even someone as proud of his motorcycles as me stops telling people I even have a repli-racer sportbike. It becomes guilt by association:

"Oh, you ride one of *those* motorcycles? Well, one of you guys went by me doing a wheelie the other day and scared me so bad I almost crashed! I had my infant son in the car!"

"Those things should be outlawed. I watched a chase on TV the other day and the guy on the sportbike ran into the side of a truck at over 100 miles per hour. EMS had to scoop him up with a shovel!"

"The kid across the street from me crashed his and was in a coma for two months. You shouldn't ride those things!"

From my perspective, I'm seeing a lot of guys my age and younger getting out of sportbiking and buying other types of motorcycles. One by one, I'm watching as more and more of my longtime riding buddies turn up on the scene with Harleys and BMWs and adventure bikes. They've simply had enough and have "shifted gear", so to speak. And to my surprise, I seem to be doing the same. I love my ZX7R, but it sits in the garage a lot more these days as I ride my Z-Rex and old-school KZ. People don't leer as much when I ride those bikes, and the cops tend to be less interested in me, too. That's always a good thing.

I'm also noticing a swell of interest among the younger crowd in reviving the café scene. That's very cool, and seems to provide a way to enjoy spirited bikes while successfully divorcing away from the sportbike and stunting cultures. It's even making its way to TV more and more often, which I think is a strong sign:

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