There was a mini fury about this bike last year when a news report stated the discontinuation on the H’ness. Luckily it proved to be false and Honda had took upon itself to give the range an update, without touching the image of the bike. Cue a lot of relieved Asian bikers who were fans.
Lo and behold: The H’ness 350cc 2022!
I actually like a Honda.
Aside from my worries about being a ‘Honda-bro’, I really like the look of this bike. Yes I know it looks similar to many other bikes that are popular in the East with its retro-classic looks, and I know the ubiquitous redesigned 20bhp engine is nothing to write home about…. But, this doesn’t detract from what is an attractive and affordable bike. Even the fact it has an LCD screen isn’t a put off as it’s tastefully done.
I think you’ll agree it’s an attractive looking bike, it would probably do Honda a world of good if brought into the UK market. My biggest concern is they would have their current mentality which seems to be: “Ahh people will buy it, it’s a Honda”. They promptly charge it out at £6k and everyone buys an RE instead. If they shadowed the Meteor or even the Hunter I bet you could hover up a good chunk of Jap bike fans to use it as a commuter or (for older riders) a lazy summer bike.
Rumours continually appear on a somewhat yearly basis that Honda will bring it to Europe. At the time of writing, this still hasn’t happened.
So, if made available would you buy one? Or is another 350cc retro offering with all the others?
While many people over the years have had various criticisms of HD and it’s riders, this isn’t one of those posts. I personally wouldn’t own one because of various reasons, but I fully understand the attraction and the issue. I’m not in any way trying to big myself up or state that I, a boring middle manager living in a strange backwater region forgotten by most, can in any shape or form reverse the current fortunes or market trends.
The crux of the problem.
I believe it was Fortnine’s video on YouTube which, in his usual style of being informative, factually correct, and humorous, presented us with undying and well researched evidence that the sales of HD were continuing the trend as it had for years. The company was slowly dying.
Without going into the past to chart the slow decline or offer various excuses, the situation looks rather grim despite being one (if not the) most iconic brands of the western world. Point at a random person off the street who doesn’t ride, and unless they know their classic bikes, they would probably name Harley-Davidson. Why even, does this blog post then?
Because it seems, every attempt to create something new either angers it’s current fanbase or fails to attract a younger one. In the case of the Nightster, both. Yeah I am picking on this model, it’s rather unfair to be honest, but it really helps illustrate everything they did wrong before I can make my pitch.
Ignoring the blatantly obvious crime that is that hideous leaf blower exhaust there, the bike literally struggles with low down torque. Starting at £13,000 probably wasn’t a particularly good way to try and sell it either, especially with economic situations being the only people who could afford one would be the existing customer base, who consequently…… don’t like it.
So as I see it the following reasons are why people don’t buy them, feel free to disagree here, though allow me to convince you:
Price/cost of running.
I don’t care how you voted in what, right now everyone is feeling the squeeze to our finances. An expensive and thirsty bike is only going to be bought by one group of people. You already cater for them, sadly the majority of them are getting to the age where their ability to find their teeth is more important than the ability to ride the motorcycle which already sits in the garage unused. With the weight issue, how many at that age want to be lugging a heavy motorcycle out for a few rides during the summer?
It’s not like you can entirely blame construction costs either as they are mostly made in China now, though I do understand big engines have larger costs. So make it smaller!
With smaller CC’s you can do the ultimate “Less is more”.
Hyosung are ironically all over this but suffer from a reverse issue that they’re not as well known as HD. It already looks like a Harley, they would just need to make something that sounds like a Harley. There is the general rule of thumb that we like a style of bike our dad rode, while this isn’t always the case, if you spent time helping your dad fix his, you’re half way there and you have confidence that if something goes wrong, you could fix it. Get the kids hooked early and offer some form of trade-in incentive when upgrading to a larger size. We’re all creatures of habit, if you had this on your CBT and loved riding it, you’re probably going to be tempted to stay for an upgrade at A2 or A licence.
A 350cc and 650cc incarnation could also open this up to younger riders, considering the absolute racket of insurance premiums probably puts off a lot of newer riders, the added £120 a year emissions charge isn’t going to help either. With that in mind they have probably grabbed a smaller capacity bike from the east. This is something the Indian bike market absolutely dominates and with the squeeze in finances the 300-350cc segment growing larger in the UK market, this makes even more sense.
The Jap bike fans on FB love to preach how no-one buys cruisers anymore. While the rule of thumb is that FB is really as far divorced from reality as it’s possible to be (without being David Icke), the smugness when the sales figures for the year showed that Royal Enfield’s Meteor was outselling even the BMW GS was palpable. Especially as it’s a cruiser….
BMW have a 310cc incarnation of the GS, something that certainly seems to be working for them in keeping younger riders within the scope of the brand. They can also get away with a higher price than most for a 300-350cc….. because Charlie & Ewan.
Harley-Davidson should be in reach for younger people and not just an unobtainable aspiration. Aside from a parent popping their clogs unexpectedly and leaving it to you in their will, in its current incarnation it will remain solely within the reach of the aforementioned age group. This would be a massive shame for everyone (except probably Indian) as even if it’s not your personal preference, you can appreciate the brand for what it is.
I hope the last shout isn’t building showrooms near nursing homes and instead a group of young folk grabbing a takeaway with the tagline:
“She rides a Harley-Davidson, just like her parents”
During the planning stage I noted that a YouTuber had similar fears to me and has their own theory about how HD could continue. I have curtailed some of my ideas as a result, and frankly in the explanations over their prior foray into singles, do it better.
Now this was originally going to be part of my earlier post but, over the course of writing it, it kinda devolved into basically a rant/rally. I also acknowledge that I am under the average age of motorcyclists, but that it hasn’t stopped me being a miserable old bugger.
I’m painfully aware that motorcycling does need to go with the times (to a point) in order to attract younger riders, not just those Deliveroo loonies on mopeds either, REAL riders. Without this it risks becoming a fringe old man’s club to argue about the specifics of ‘Sticky toffee pudding’ and biscuits. Eventually even electric Motorcycles will be part of that, just maybe not until they sort the range issues out.
For every jump forward in technology and lifestyle though, there has to be some sticking points to push back against.
Yup and this has to be it, helmets with augmented reality. Surely this is absolutely anathema to any essence of motorcycling, regardless of if you are one of the purists or already drive a large bike with most modern comforts, yes I’m looking at you heated seat/cruise control/massive fairings.
Now a useful turn by turn satnav is a hill I will die upon, we can’t all fit a massive AA roadmap in a pannier (I need that room for cheese!) and still requires some interaction. I won’t however, take away the sense of adventure, the engines tone, the wind against skin, picking your way across the countryside to the most remote chippy you could find.
With a heads up display, augmented reality, inbuilt personal assistants trapping off in your ear, rear cameras, not to mention your partner being able to ring and ask that killer question: “Which chippy are you going to?”
I’m clearly missing something here, why would you ultimately wish to ditch all the vital parts of motorcycling? You may as well sit at home and play some VR motorcycle game on the computer……
I’m not sure I can use the phrase ‘Pure motorcycling’, as I am pretty sure than Royal Enfield have put their mark on that. More specifically though, I don’t want this to be just about RE, and more about the general approach of so many Indian motorcycle companies.
Without pillaging the twitter accounts of various bike companies, you can take it from me that a very quick flick through them will provide you with some very wholesome biker & travelling content. Mountains, deserts, forests, tundra with 300-450cc bikes it’s all there!
We’ve got pics of proud riders in various gorgeous natural backdrops, vistas of the gracious hills of Ladakh and none of the usual trappings associated with much of the European motorcycling content. We could point out the lack of large touring bikes and the ubiquitous metal panniers, but it’s fairly inconsequential to the point I’m trying to make. Somehow the brands are doing such a good job encapsulating the essence of what it is to just ride.
Chicken or egg?
So have they played up to an already popular theme, or did they create it? They after all are not the only manufacturers with popular low CC bikes in the sub-continent: Benelli, Bajaj, Keeway, to name but a few. Yet, despite that fact it seems to be the home brands who have cornered this area without much effort.
Take the Benelli 400, roughly the same engine as the Mahindra & Royal Enfield offerings, a similar appearance and the same analogue controls so popular with it’s competition. The lacking brand appeal though seems to have truncated its sales and has prevented what should be it’s rightful place in the mountain passes with it’s competitors.
So did they?
In my humble opinion no, the brands just gave everyone what they really wanted. An affordable, no frills adventure on a great looking retro-classic motorcycle without any of distractions, just you and journey ahead. The appeal of certain brand and an undeniable heritage in some cases has essentially just stacked the numbers, in a different equal market I could quite easily see a more even mix of brands lining up to conquer the mountains.
So I made the mistake the other week of watching motorcycle content from across the pond. Against my better judgement that is, I find European and Asian motorcycle journalism to be much more objective. Indian motorcycle in particular is genuinely on the ball vastly more than UK based, they seem to keep an eye on international releases as well as its own domestic releases….Anywho….
A particular group of of reviewers from North America were meant to be reviewing the Royal Enfield GT 650, not exactly my favourite RE (although you know I love an Enfield!), I thought I would give it a watch. A few minutes in and one reviewer described it as “slow”, ok I’m pausing from what my usual rant would be about the complete lack of objectivity in describing a Cafe racer styled bike as “slow”. Ignoring the fact that’s about as helpful as calling a BMW GS “heavy” for review purposes, it highlights a strong and very prominent point when it comes to reviewing bikes: Actually how fast is your bike?
Neither fast or furious.
Bull by the horns here, do you do track days? Yes/no here folks it’s a really simple question. I follow some very fast and highly talented people on twitter who do, apart from being absolutely nuts, I’ve no doubt they are getting the absolute best from their bikes and can push several hundred miles an hour on a corner.
For the rest of us the answer is 70, just 70. If you’re on a 125, you might just make it.
Let’s be fair, unless you’re in one of those rich European countries, the last time the council filled in the pot holes, there was a guy in a white suit with his foot up against a window.
So you’ve got your replica race bike (CBR9001RRRR-RRRR or equivalent) and while giving it a good ‘Brarp’ down the high street, somehow dodging a surface that looks like it recently featured in the destruction of a Russian tank detachment and you get to the open road. Miles upon miles of tarmacked dual carriageway heaven just waiting for you to open the throttle….. But wait….
Worse still, some of these are theit average speed cousins so you can’t even cruise past and then ‘Brarp’ all the way to the next one and pretend you were doing 70 the whole time. Then the envelope of suffering hits the doormat and the fines spill out.
“Bastard” – Sean Bean.
That’s not even counting other road users, I legitimately saw the most Norfolk thing last week. A tractor overtaking another tractor on the dual carriageway, neither backing down and blocking both lanes for a good few miles. I’m not even mentioning the local old Doris who drives everywhere at 45mph. Motorway, D/C, single lane national, 30mph zone etc. etc.
So realistically speed is as useful as a Tesla in a power cut, as relevent as CC’s in an EFI market, as pointless as a ‘weight-watchers’ meal after 15 pints of lager…..
Ride what you want, but unless you’re on the track, your top speed is 70.