The lack of riding has been getting to me... so I've been doing a bit of writing. Stir the pot... run away...
The Future of Sportbikes?
The Honda Griffon and Suzuki G-Strider are two concept bikes that seem to be causing quite a stir on the web these days. Why? For one in comparison to the relatively stayed and conservative form of the sportbike they are really different. Place a scooter in one teleportation pod of classic sci-fi fame, place a sportbike in another and the result is, well, something that looks like it should have sci-fi fame all of its own. These bikes are at first glance are as strong a merger between the traditional motorcycle and the scooter as you’re ever likely to see in the real world (or on the sci-fi channel) and they seem to feature the best of both class of two wheelers.
The G-Strider’s scooter inspired foot forward riding position has been pushed further down giving the fully faired machine a minimal frontal area that a sportbike could only dream of. The center of gravity on this creation is low owing to the low slung 916cc twin lump and seating position. The potential for amazing handling is staggering. Suzuki has even topped it off with a 220 rear tire That just spells acres of low slung lean – with no footpegs to scrape or hang off of to boot. The 750cc Flat 4 Honda Griffon is sporting similar attributes, but with what appears to be Buell inspired breaking and low maintenance considerations like shaft drive.
Aggressive styling and solid displacement set these new scoots apart from conservative mega-scooters like the Suzuki Bergman or the Honda Silverwing. The choice of tires speak well of stability and handling, as does the low slung center of gravity considering the engine placement and frame. A sit down (and indeed almost in) seating position suggests handling characteristics that may well have been taken from Dan Gurney’s Alligator reputed to be an amazing handling piece of technology itself. So if physics is anything to consider these puppies will corner with the best sport bikes. They will corner different and maybe even better but a bit of rider adjustment will be in order – thing shoulder shift like a power cruiser rather than hanging off. It’s probably pure sacrilege to speculate this amongst the hardened sportbike crowd, but we’ll take our risks.
Then just when you’re convinced they are sportbikes, or close to it, the scooter side of things hits you upside the head. The Honda Griffon utilizes a continuously variable transmission. The Suzuki is just a plain old automatic, though if the Bergman style push to shift is available there’s no reason automatic can’t equal good fun.
So is this the low-slung future of the sportbike? Probably not. For one despite all our bluster and bravado we sportbikers are a pretty conservative lot in the end. We really like innovation provided it fits our notions of what a sportbike should be. Sure, we’re all agog at the latest race inspired incremental increase in performance, but major innovations haven’t grabbed us in the past. The Yamaha GTS1000 for example, while a sporttourer, didn’t inspire a plethora of market demand wishbone style front ends, nor has the BMW telelever; despite extremely desirable handling characteristics. So the market probably won’t embrace these as sportbikes.
And that is fine, they don’t have to be.
The Griffon and the G-Strider are something new; indeed they may be a new class of bikes. Low center of gravity, feet forward comfort, passenger considerations, good displacement, and in a package that is user-friendly and innovative. While these bikes probably won’t replace the sportbike, they’ll certainly complement them nicely.