Adventure Motorcycling; boom and/or bust?


Discuss: there is no adventure bike boom from an article on Visordown;

“Manufacturers are falling over themselves to get a share of the supposedly huge adventure bike market. According to Visordown’s industry expert, who in his own interest cannot be named, they’re chasing their tails.

Something you’ll never see most GS owners do
ALL the best jockeys are lightweights, right? Well, what if a 28-stone bloater not only kept up with them but tore ahead, horse buckling under the load?

That’s an equestrian analogy for the sales success of the BMW R1200GS.

All the UK’s top 10 best-selling bikes are sub-125cc – except for the GS.

Between January and September last year, the GS wasn’t just the only bike over 125cc in the top 10. Add the two versions of it together and it was number one. The base model R1200GS came in at number two, while the R1200GS Adventure was eighth. Between them they sold 2,198 units, hammering Honda’s budget commuter, the CBF125, into a humiliating second place, with 1,526 sales.

Some call it an adventure bike boom. Certainly every other manufacturer is clambering to get on the bandwagon. But none of the rivals, however good, even dimple BMW’s dominance. Because people don’t really want ‘adventure’ bikes. They want GSes.

Take Yamaha’s Super Tenere, for instance. Only a tiny number found buyers last year, a trickle compared to the rivers of R1200GSes that appear to be virtually firing themselves out of dealer showrooms and into the garages of motorcyclists everywhere.

It’s not a UK-only obsession. The R1200GS outsells the next most popular bike in Europe at a rate of around two-to-one. And that includes cheap-as-chips scooters. In 2013, a total of 21,151 R1200GSes were sold in the EU, while the number two spot was taken by the 50cc Peugeot Kisbee, with sales of 10,971. It’s that dominant.

Like a Range Rover or an iPhone – similarly expensive options with capabilities far beyond the needs of 90% of owners – the GS has hit that all-important ‘want one’ button in the buyer’s psyche.

Owners will point to its practicality, its strong residuals, but 90% are just like school-run mums in their towering (and spotlessly clean) 4x4s. Never venturing off-road, they’re like the teenager using his iPhone 5S to play Angry Birds; don’t try telling us it’s the most cost effective and practical solution to your needs.

They’ve bought something over-qualified for the task in hand, not because they have any need of it but because they wanted it.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course. Motorcycles shouldn’t be purely about satisfying practical requirement; they’re about desire and impulse. Eventually the GS will fall from favour, to be replaced by something else. In the meantime it shows us that even in tough times people buy bikes out of passion, not logic.

Long may it be so.

But be in no doubt that this is all the ‘adventure bike boom’ amounts to. If the GS were pulled from BMW’s line-up tomorrow, said boom would vanish like one if its adventure kitted owners in a sandstorm.”

From Visordown. A good, interesting, direct article. However, I think Ben, or one of his subeditors misses the point. Adventure Motorcycling does not stand or fall based on sales of the GS, either in the UK, Europe or the US. Long before the GS, people understood the synonymous relationship between motorcycles and adventure. Many intrepid travellers crossed the world on all kinds of bike over the last century; notably Ted Simon on a Triumph Tiger (500cc).

It is only the recent industry that have hyped the GS. And you know what; it’s a good thing. It creates possibility and imagination: fires rider’s enthusiasm. As long as the bike is used for the right thing journeys then who cares if it isn’t an ‘adventure’ bike. Low sales numbers of the GS alternatives (KTM, Tenere, Explorer, V-Strom) don’t equate to a ‘bubble’ around adventure motorcycling. That’s just a temporary marketing phenomenon.  If the GS is a fantastic balance of function and form then so much the better.

Adventure Motorcycling has always been possible and now is here to stay, whatever the manufacturing industry produce.