That’s the title of a thread I recently read on a popular adventure rider forum. Why should the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers be ashamed, you ask? This is what the guy who started the thread had to say.
“They are just GIVING the large bore thumper dual sport category to KTM. All the large US dual sports are 20+ year old bikes; what’s up with that?
Hell my 1994 (that’s right, 20 years old) KLX-650 will absolutely PUNISH the KLR, DR, or XR; street or off road.
The KTM’s are the first bikes that are actually better than the 20 year old KLX. So the question is, why?
Why do the Japanese seem to not care about this category of bike? Kawasaki I can pretty much understand, the KLX enjoys a good following and good sales. So if it’s working and selling, why change? But I don’t see very many NEW XR’s or DR’s on the street, so what’s up with those?
I actually like the XR’s engine; simple as can be. Put it in an aluminum frame, and a better suspension and it would be awesome.
Meanwhile the KTM is just OWNING it.”
I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen a similar thread or comments from the adventure riding community. However, I candidly have to throw the “bullshit” flag. Here’s why.
“KTM is owning it.” That’s a true statement. But, what’s wrong with KTM owning the market on modern, big bore, dual sport thumpers? It appears to me that KTM is doing a fine job – they are giving the market a variety of choices in this category and are constantly updating their products. So, what’s the problem? You say you want a modern big bore thumper? Great, KTM is listening and has built one just for you.
Every time I’ve seen this sentiment expressed over the past few years I ask – why? The European manufacturers (KTM, BMW, Husky, Beta, Husaberg) have all produced modern dual sport bikes in various flavors over the past few years that have been superb, modern motorcycles. Those motorcycles are, by and far, significantly higher performing than any of those currently offered by the Japanese manufacturers. Why not buy one of them? What are those European bikes missing that the riders clamoring for the Japanese to build a modern big bore thumper feel that they need from the Japanese manufacturers?
The truth of the matter is that if you really, truly wanted a modern, big bore thumper then you would either have one in your garage already or you would have serious plans to buy one. There has been no shortage of high quality, modern, big bore thumpers to choose from – in the past 8 years Husqvarna has offered the finest dual sport bike ever made – the TE 610 – and two other equally fantastic models – the TE630, and the TR650. KTM has been selling (and upgrading regularly) the awesome 690 since 2008 and the RXC and EXC line (400/450/520/525/530/500/620/640) years before that. BMW came out with the superb G650 X-Challenge in 2006 and the smoking hot G450X in 2008. That’s a whole lot of modern, big bore dual sport bikes to choose from. The bottom line is if you really wanted one, you would have one – they’ve been readily available for a long time.
There must be some other reason that riders keep hollering for the Japanese to make a modern big bore thumper. What could it be?
My guess is money. I suspect that those riders who claim to want the Japanese to build a modern thumper think that the Japanese will build a modern thumper that will compete against the European boys and then sell it at the price of a KLR. Modern dual sport thumpers cost $9000 – $10,000. A typical Japanese old school thumper costs about $6500.
It’s just not going to happen. You aren’t going to drink Champagne on a Beer budget. If the Japanese build a modern big bore thumper it’s going to cost somewhere around $9000 – $10,000. The costs of designing a new bike and then tooling up a factory to produce it is going to put the price up to where the European bikes are selling. If you really want a modern big bore thumper you should go buy one from the Europeans – otherwise you will be waiting forever for the Japanese to come out with the mythical WR450R at a price of $7000. They may eventually get around to building a new thumper but when you see the price tag you won’t be happy.
But even if they had to sell them at the same price as the European brands, it doesn’t explain why the Japanese still choose not to compete.
“Why do the Japanese seem to not care about this category of bike?“
I think the short answer is money. The Japanese apparently don’t think they will sell enough of them to make the profit they want to make.
My guess is that they have seen American dual sport riders claiming to want modern dual sport bikes while simultaneously avoiding buying in large numbers modern large bore thumpers from the European manufacturers and the Japanese have concluded that those same Americans won’t buy modern large bore thumpers from the Japanese either. For example, even after Husqvarna went to all the trouble and expense to build damn near the finest dual sport bike ever produced (the TE610 / 630) American riders shunned it en mass. At $8000 it sold so poorly that Husky eventually had a fire sale to get rid of the last ones produced. The same goes for a couple of BMW dual sport models (the X Challenge and the 450). And so on. A modern Japanese dual sport thumper is going to cost about the same as one from KTM or Husqvarna and is going to perform about the same (performance, reliability, capability, etc). My guess is the Japanese have seen that most Americans won’t spend that much money on a modern thumper and have decided it’s not worth the investment. Sure there are some who will spend the money to get better performance – it’s the guys currently riding a KTM or a Husqvarna. But there aren’t enough of those guys, which is why the KLR continues to outsell every modern dual sport thumper by such a large margin that it’s not even a contest.
If every rider who claimed to want a modern dual sport thumper from the Japanese would buy one from the European manufacturers, in short order the Japanese would have modern dual sport thumpers available for sale.
In modern times large numbers of riders wanted adventure bikes. BMW was pretty much the only option for those riders, so despite a relatively high price that’s what riders bought. They wanted an adventure bike and to hell with the cost. BMW sold so many adventure bikes that it proved that the market for relatively expensive adventure bikes was there. Which got the attention of the Japanese, who are all now building adventure bikes.
Perhaps one day there will be enough riders wanting modern large bore thumpers that they are willing to pay the price and willing to buy one from those manufacturers making modern large bore thumpers, even if those manufacturers aren’t Japanese. When that happens we will see the Japanese upgrade their products.