A blending of sport and adventure – July 24, 2006

Percentagewise, the sport touring market is a fast growing segment in the motorcycle industry.
Baby Boomers, experiencing the aches and pains of a barely street-legal repli-racer, are the largest demographic of buyers looking toward performance motorcycles with a greater sense of adventure while still maintaining a “not my dad’s motorcycle” style.
Overall sport touring numbers are small compared to their sport bike counterparts. Nevertheless, manufacturers are not ignoring the smaller niche, and are continually marketing sport tourers to not only riders, but offering dealer incentives to help move bikes at a brisk pace in the United States.
Triumph Motorcycles’ vice president of marketing, Todd Andersen, admits the sport touring market is relatively small, accounting for less than 2 percent of Triumph North America’s overall sales. The Triumph and Sprint combined make up 5 percent of the British maker’s sales, but Andersen says each model is showing healthy growth.
“The Sprint ST has been a strong seller for Triumph for most of the last decade,”?Andersen said. “We introduced a completely new version in 2005, which has really set the standard for the sporty end of the segment.”
Like Triumph, Ducati gives its sport touring bikes, the ST3, ST3 ABS, and ST4 potent engines in an ergonomically friendly package. It’s a combination that is attracting repli-racer converts and first-time sport touring buyers. The models are a smaller category, too, but are seeing steady growth from riders looking to ride longer distances for multi-day adventures.
Ducati North America’s Nick McCabe says, “Sport touring bikes come prepackaged as easy to ride and user friendly, but with solid performance.”
The Suzuki sport tourer of choice technically isn’t a sport tourer. Glenn Hansen, Suzuki’s communications manager, reports “any Suzuki sport bike can be a sport touring bike.”
“Many owners of the Hayabusa and the Bandit models carry soft bags and use their bikes for touring,” he said. “The Suzuki V-Strom is more of a touring bike, and it can be purchased with hard bags to make it a very sporty touring ride.”
Hansen noted that Hayabusa and V-Strom sales are up overall this year, a sentiment echoed by the other Japanese manufacturers.
Kawasaki’s Russ Brenan said the touring trend is going more in the direction of V-twin touring models and sport touring models like the Concours, whose sales were up from last year.
Brenan added a side note that reflects on the smaller sport touring sales numbers.
“In the United States, it seems everybody wants a full-blown race bike that is barely street legal (sport bike) or a true cruiser bike,” he said.
While Brenan’s belief is an honest viewpoint of the U.S. on-highway motorcycle market, it isn’t fazing bike makers or their sport touring efforts. Says Yamaha’s Brad Banister, who proudly boasts that “nothing in the market can compare” with their Baby Boomer-friendly FZ1 and FJ1300 sport touring models, “growth numbers don’t tell the whole story (of sport touring sales) because we always sell out of production.” psb

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