If you have been keeping up with current events you know that Honda has recently announced its entry into the adventure bike market with the new Africa Twin motorcycle, slated as a 2016 model. They are the last of the major motorcycle manufacturers to produce an adventure bike. BMW currently offers six adventure bikes (1200GS, 1200GS Adventure, 800GS, 800GS Adventure, 700GS, and 650GS), Triumph offers four versions of the Tiger 800 and two versions of the Tiger 1200, Suzuki sells two adventure bikes (1000 and 650 V-Strom), Kawasaki has the Versys and the KLR650 and Yamaha produces the Super Tenere adventure bike. With at least 17 adventure bikes already available and competing for your money, you might be wondering why Honda felt the need to bring another adventure bike to the market. Was there something missing from those other bikes or was there a hole in the market that Honda could fill?
The answer to the question is found in simple economics.
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, in 2014 a total of 483,526 new motorcycles were sold in the USA. Here are the sales figures by classification:
- Dual sport = 34,497
- Off-road = 81,013
- Street = 334,488
- Scooter = 33,528
Dual sport motorcycles did barely manage to outsell Scooters -don’t laugh because in 2013 more Scooters were sold in the USA than dual sport motorcycles – but aside from that the sales numbers for dual sport motorcycles are dismal.
In comparison, in 2014 BMW sold 40,622 R1200GS motorcycles worldwide.
Think about that for a moment. BMW sold more 1200GS adventure bikes than the combined total US sales of all dual sport motorcycles.
And that’s just the sales from BMW 1200GS. There are 15 other total adventure bikes that are selling well too. I wasn’t able to find data on total sales for the adventure bike class but let’s assume that BMW’s numbers are representative of the class as a whole. If so, it means the adventure bike segment is big and growing. If you were a motorcycle manufacturer which market would you want to compete in – a robust and growing market or one that struggles to outsell scooters? I can tell from basic observation of what the motorcycle manufacturers are doing that the answer to the question is “a robust and growing market”.
The adventure bike segment is very popular right now, as evidenced by the sales statistics. In contrast, the dual sport market has been languishing for the past 20 years or so. With only about 34,000 dual sport motorcycles being sold per year in the US there is little incentive for the major manufacturers to update their dual sport offerings. If not for new models from the smaller European manufacturers (thank you KTM and Husqvarna) there would be no modern dual sport bike available for sale in the USA.
Why did we get a new adventure bike from Honda? The numbers don’t lie and Honda knows how to read – their best chance of success with a new model is in the adventure class.