Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Why Anyone Waiting For A Factory Street Tracker Should Stop Waiting...
Well, sorry to rain on your parade, but Indian never will, and no other OEM will either. A GNC Twin race bike is so goshdarn handsome and lean with an incomparable stance, because it does not look like a conventional showroom-fresh road bike. And vice versa, homologated DOT/EU approved showroom bikes cannot look like dirt track racers, however hard they try.
No factory has built a good looking 'factory' street tracker, since the Bonneville TT of the mid-60s (except the early Honda FTR250s with the duplex frame, though the later FTR223s are kind of cute). When it comes to twins, nobody has come close. VT500 Ascot? Meh. Too heavy above the waistline. The H-D XR1200 was compromised, a midling effort, but not good enough. The Scrambler FT Pro isn't right either. Storz kitted Sportsters can look right, but they're not factory. Plenty of people can build great looking custom street trackers, but manufacturers cannot. The Zaeta is the only thing that comes close, but they're made, and sold, in tiny quantities, and they're singles.
Big factories need to sell reasonable quantities. The man on the street, the kind who buys brand new bikes, thinks they want something that looks like a road legal GNC bike, and perhaps they would right up until they read the first road test or lived with it for a week.
A dirt track bike has a 6 or 7-litre tank. These tiny tanks are essential to the looks, but no one would buy a road bike with a 50-odd mile range. Put a bigger tank on it and the looks are gone (see VT500 and XR1200).
Modern bikes require airboxes for fuel injection and noise regulations, not big K&N filters. Where does the airbox go? Indian are hiding the FTR's airbox in the tank area, but their race bike only needs to run 26 miles (a fast 25 miles and, they hope, a slow victory lap, but only 26 miles all the same), so their airbox won't ruin the looks. Road bikes need indicators, mirrors, front brakes, front mudguards, license plate hangers that extend beyond the back of the rear wheels, lights, electric starter, alternator and a battery big enough to start the bike repeatedly in sub-zero temperatures. It also needs a chassis strong enough to deal with a 30-stone rider riding through potholes for 30,000 miles, unchecked. And road bikes need a big wiring loom to run everything I've described and that needs hiding somehow. Also, GNC bikes have short wheelbases and steep steering. They're as twitchy as the cast of Watership Down. Look at the VT500's rake!
It is not impossible for a clever factory to build a trick street tracker. Ducati are pushing the edge of the envelope of what the public will tolerate with the Panigale, truly a racebike for the road, but it still has a proper tank range and all the legalities. Plus a lot can be hidden under a Panigale's fairing. A size zero GNC flat tracker is as naked as a jaybird. Look close enough and you can tell what it had for breakfast.
SB24). They have a brutal charm, and they're based on decent road bikes. I've ridden a Scout around Oregon, and can vouch for them as a good basis even if I didn't like the riding position of the road Scout. But Superhooligans are not GNC bikes. I do think the Superhooligan Scout would sell. I don't believe the buying public, those with $12,000/ £12,000 to spend, is ready for hardcore street tracker in the numbers that would make it worthwhile for a factory to build.
So stop waiting for the factory to release your dream street tracker and build your own. Or buy a Zaeta. G