How much is enough? When does a rational person look at what is available in motorcycle showrooms and say, “Okay, that’s enough for me.” Or even more paternalistically, that’s enough for you, too. What is too much? Is there too much?

There are bikes that are too dangerous to ride. I know this to be true. We had a long-term loaner Buell once, an S2-T, it cracked one of the welds that comprised its right pseudo clip-on bar. It was one hard countersteer or braking maneuver away from no longer having a right clip-on. Bikes are hard to steer without bars. Buell had issued a recall but somehow ours had slipped through the recall cracks. That bike was too dangerous to ride.

Kenny Roberts, Sr. once won the Indy Mile aboard a TZ750-based dirt-track bike that Kel Carruthers and a host of diabolical people from Yamaha’s Diabolical Department had assembled for him. It was, to hear him tell the tale, half the weight and twice the horsepower of the competition. He famously announced post-race that they didn’t pay him enough to ride that thing. The AMA subsequently banned that bike from competition. That bike was too dangerous to ride.

Okay, fair enough, bikes subject to NHTSA recalls to correct a defect that could put you on your head are too dangerous to ride. So is any motorcycle that Yamaha cannot pay Kenny Roberts, Sr. enough to ride. But what about the rest?

A two-part interview of KTM’s president and CEO, Stefan Pierer, by Alan Cathcart in Cycle News, inadvertently broached this issue; the response from Mr. Pierer got my attention.

“But let’s be honest,” said Pierer, “if your Superbike is reaching 200 horsepower or more, it’s impossible to argue that it belongs on the street. It really doesn’t, anymore … As soon as the RC16 is available for customers we will stop with the RC8. The design (of the RC8) is outstanding. I would say it’s still state of the art, and there is nothing else like it. It’s a classic Superbike. But with the increase in safety concerns, I’m afraid bikes like this don’t belong on the street, only on a closed course.”

Let’s not be hasty here, half the American SUV driving-texting latte-sipping populace probably doesn’t belong on public roads either.

Let’s not be hasty here, half the American SUV driving-texting latte-sipping populace probably doesn’t belong on public roads either.

Convinced that I must have misunderstood what I had just read, I went back and read it again. Cathcart was asking Pierer about KTM’s future plans, Pierer indicated KTM’s desire to compete in MotoGP, and he has concerns about the bureaucrats in Brussels in his role as a chief executive in the ACEM – think Euro-version of our Motorcycle Industry Council here stateside. Pierer cites the possibility of an EU-wide bike ban. The RC8 will be phased out to be replaced by what they are calling an RC16. The RC16 will not be homologated for the street. Why?

“No, because we at KTM think that a sport bike with such performance doesn’t have any place on the public roads,” Pierer further explained.

I was taken aback by that statement; I have heard and read similar sentiments before, albeit from much different sources. The message did not shock me, the messenger did. The president and CEO of a major motorcycle manufacturer just conceded the wrongheaded rationale of not only the pointyheads in Brussels that would like to ban bikes from European tarmac, but also of all the “safety” zealots here stateside that have tried to restrict or eliminate “race-design motorcycles” from public roadways. That’s a remarkable concession for a highly placed industry insider to make, and a first to my knowledge.

It is interesting on several fronts, not the least of which is that Pierer’s statements echo some of the very same language used by Senator John Danforth in explaining why he introduced his legislation, “The Motorcycle Safety Act of 1987.” In his introduction of the bill, Danforth explained his concerns to the U.S Senate and the American people in a lengthy printed statement;

‘“Mr. President, in 1984, the Japanese began selling what can only be described as “killer motorcycles” in this country. These are racing bikes that were developed for use on the track but they are being driven on our streets … Top speeds for some of these bikes can range up to 162 mph … the marketing of these killer cycles is a lesson in corporate irresponsibility.”’

Read Sen. Danforth’s statement in its entirety

A little over 30 years later Pierer’s words echo the Senator’s sentiments.

Senator Danforth didn’t emerge from some sort of mystical vision that compelled him to venture forth and propose eliminating performance bikes. The driving force behind the bill’s introduction came in the form of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an organization that represents and advances the interests of its members, namely the insurance industry.

Can you spot the “killer motorcycle”? Careful, looks can be deceiving.

Can you spot the “killer motorcycle”? Careful, looks can be deceiving.

The IIHS has perennially campaigned to have performance bikes eliminated from the marketplace, and it produced a guide for its membership, the insurance companies, to use in establishing blacklists of certain bikes that, in their view, the insurance companies should no longer offer to insure. Having failed to eliminate the bikes, I suppose, the next best thing from the IIHS’ point of view was to eliminate the insurance coverage for them. The rationale was simple enough; no insurance coverage results in no bike loans being secured against loss, and fewer loans means fewer high performance bikes on the road, or so their thinking went.

The IIHS was hoist on its own petard when its own “study”, which was not peer reviewed, was debunked. None other than USC’s Dr. Hugh “Harry” Hurt, the lead researcher in the landmark, “Hurt Report,” was one of the chief critics of the IIHS study’s methodology at the time.

Senator Danforth’s legislation was stillborn, and despite the best efforts of the IIHS, its campaign to eliminate performance bikes has not been successful to date. This is an issue that seems to surface perennially and is likely to continue to do so. Particularly now, as the world gets smaller in a global marketplace that ties our fates closer together, we have not only U.S concerns to take account of, but also the European Union as well.

Which brings us back to Mr. Pierer. He is obviously a thoughtful man and a smart businessman, and KTM is doing very well and manufacturing some world-class bikes. He has legitimate concerns about the future with an eye on Brussels and any forthcoming EU regulations that would affect KTM and their customers. All of this begs the question, how much is enough? And who, if anybody is going to put the brakes on? And should they?

“…we at KTM think that a sport bike with such performance doesn’t have any place on the public roads.”

If Senator Danforth was concerned with sport bikes in the 1980s that could top out at 162 mph, I can only imagine what his modern day counterpart would be like today – apoplectic maybe. While performance standards have continued to rise, performance numbers alone are not the sole measure of the “safety” of any motorcycle. We have witnessed other advances as well, everything from the rise of track days producing more competent riders, more advanced riding gear to protect the overzealous, and maybe most critically, the introduction of a whole host of electronic rider aids to keep errant pilots upright. The increasing prevalence of everything from launch control to bank-sensitive ABS and a choice in engine maps to account for weather and riding conditions results in what, I think, are arguably the safest bikes this world has ever seen.

Set the launch control to “civilized” and, amazingly, you get civilized.

Set the launch control to “civilized” and, amazingly, you get civilized.

Tell me what in your estimation is more dangerous: a 1972 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV shod with a single front disc, a hinged frame, and tires chiseled from granite? Or the newest iteration, a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 with well over twice the horsepower and enough new age technology to account for every ham-fisted move under power or brakes, upright or heeled over, wet or dry, that mankind can conceive?

A moped is a potentially lethal object in the hands of the irreconcilably idiotic – that’s a given – but a smart rider knows the throttle goes both ways. For every performance advance evident in today’s bikes, rider safety has rapidly progressed as well, and it is engineered into many of today’s machines.

The bottom line from my knothole is this: Full-tilt big-bore sportbikes are only as safe, or unsafe, as the person piloting them. I’m willing to concede that exercising top-shelf sportbikes to anything within their potential on public roads is virtually impossible for most mere mortals in almost all conditions. Not only would it be unwise to do so, it would also be damn near impossible. Track days are best for that sort of WFO exercise.

However, I think we, as riders, have to be careful in lending credence to any claim that such-and-such bikes do not belong on public roads based on nothing more than public perception or fears of future regulations coming down the pike. The arguments that propped up Danforth’s “killer motorcycle” bill back in the ’80s, and the same old tired tune trotted out by the IIHS that promulgated insurance blacklists, were specious back then, and are still without merit today.

Ride hard, be safe, look where you want to go…

About the Author: Chris Kallfelz is an orphaned Irish Catholic German Jew from a broken home with distinctly Buddhist tendencies. He hasn’t got the sense God gave seafood. Nice women seem to like him on occasion, for which he is eternally thankful, and he wrecks cars, badly, which is why bikes make sense. He doesn’t wreck bikes, unless they are on a track in closed course competition, and then all bets are off. He can hold a reasonable dinner conversation, eats with his mouth closed, and quotes Blaise Pascal when he’s not trying to high-side something for a five-dollar trophy. He’s been educated everywhere, and can ride bikes, commercial airliners and main battle tanks.

  • Old MOron

    Oh man, and I was warming up to a KTM purchase, too.

  • PMac

    Couldn’t agree more with the statement behind this article. And a bike that’s too fast for the road in my opinion, is probably too fast for the track too. In the same way Kenny Robert’s Yamaha was too fast. But the most important point is that, here in the US, we have a serious problem with a federal government using “safety” as a way to increase their already way to large authority over us. Same reasons they’re using to take away our guns. I have two parents, I don’t want or need any more.
    The only other thing I’d add is that “the streets” is a very vague word. We have streets out here in the great western half of the US where you can see straight for 10 miles in every direction, there are no guard rails, and the only thing blocking your view is 12 inch high sage brush. One could easily make the case that going 160mph on this “street” is safer than doing so at an organized track event.
    Good article.

    • VTR1

      Agreed. The last thing we need .gov meddling with is motorcycle regulations. If you wanna go out and buy an 2004 ZX10R and learn on that, then more power to you…. literally. The only person you’re probably gonna kill is yourself but it’s your call to make, Increased regulation will only cause motorcycling to cost more for all of us and will hurt the sport. Same as has happened with general aviation in the EU and now the US. If it ain’t dead yet, it’s got one foot in the grave and another on a banana peal!

      • JimBob

        Lol, I had one of those. Second bike though. Very dangerous to ride.

      • Tinwoods

        “Probably” huh? Sure, because a a piece of near-400-lb metal screaming down the road at any speed couldn’t possibly harm anyone but the guy riding it, right? Right?

        • VTR1

          Probably is correct by a long shot. A motorcyclist is estimated to be
          approximately 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die
          in a traffic accident according to NHTSA. If you’re on a motorcycle and are hit by a car, you’re three times more
          likely to be seriously injured, and fourteen times more likely to be
          killed. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of your emotional pleading for more government control of every aspect of every person’s life just because we must stop everyone from getting hurt at any time for any reason.

          • Will C.

            You’re cherry-picking.

            In 2008, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 51 percent of fatally
            injured passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.
            One-fourth of motorcycle riders (25%) involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were
            driving the vehicles with invalid licenses at the time of the collision.
            The percentage of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2008 who had
            BAC levels of .08 g/dL or higher — 29 percent — was higher than for any other
            type of motor vehicle driver.

            NOT being an idiot reduces your chance of dieing on a motorcycle by a lot of percents. Motorcycles attract idiots who want to show off and look cool; if you remove all of these people from the pool the fatality numbers aren’t nearly as damning.

  • Luke

    I see the logic behind both thoughts, but the exact same logic can be applied to cars. A 1000hp Bugatti? Really – on the streets? I think the difference is those cars are outside the reach of mere mortals, and really powerful bikes are not.

    I think the reasonable middle ground is probably a tiered license system like Europe (HD would throw a fit though if it was cc-based). Your first year or two really should be spent on a bike that is smaller and teaches the basics before you move up to a liter bike. Learning to ride on a even a 600cc sport bike is probably not a wise move for most riders. I wouldn’t mind special licenses for superbikes that are a even little tougher to get. But I wouldn’t actually support any change without some research first. Opinions are easy (and I have one), but I prefer to act with data.

    For the record, I just spent 2 years on one of the least powerful motorcycles in the US (TU250x), and just moved up to the FZ-09. Glad I waited – that FZ is a handful (and a righteous giggle machine).

    • Koczk

      In case anyone is interested…
      We have tiered licensing in Canada, and it’s not cc based. If you want to know just how bad we have it (compared to US riders), then read on…

      With licensing, you can ride any bike even as a brand new rider. You start on an M1 license (1 year with no passengers, no riding after dark, zero alcohol content) and then do a basic riding test to get your M2 (lasts five years, you can ride on any road, any time, but still no alcohol.) After a year with the M2 you can take your full M road test, which, if you pass, simply allows you to have a legal limit of alcohol in your blood, making it legal to ride to the pub for a brew.

      But when it comes to the bikes themselves, insurance cost tends to keep new riders from anything too powerful. Harleys et al are treated differently because they are not seen as ‘sport bikes,’ so their insurance is low. I, on the other hand, have a Kawi ER6 (649cc) and the best rate I get in Ontario is just over $2100/yr. I’m 27 with a clean driving record and have been riding for a few years. It’s ALL about the cc’s up here, to a fault. Had my Kawi had one extra cc and been an actual 650, my insurance woul;d have been closer to $3000 a year. And did I mention that I pay $2100 even though we have snow on the ground 4 months out of the year? There’s no ‘sleep mode,’ and if you cancel during the winter they treat you as a new rider when you re-insure.

      Yeah, you guys have it good.

      • JimBob

        That’s a per-province thing. No such regime in Alberta.

        • hunkyleepickle

          Yup. Actually, BC is based on cc, and declared value of the bike. It has nothing to do with the ‘style’ of the motorcycle. So a liter bike with a high value will cost you, while a ’04 ninja 250 will be cheap as chips. Both will kill you in the hands of a moron, mind you.

      • Luke

        Thanks for the context Koczk. In the US there are some state differences. In PA where I live, you have to wear a helmet for the first 2 years, and I don’t think you can have a passenger when you have a learners permit. But that’s about it.

      • DickRuble

        Yeap, we do have it a bit better, but we also have way more SUV’s on the road too,

      • Ben Mcghie

        In BC, I pay $1041 for an SV650 (er, 649) insured year round. Yeah, we don’t get months off either. Fortunately, I can ride it year round except for the 1 or 2 snow days. Our rates are predominantly based on ccs, but also have a factor for the class of bike. IE: a Harley of similar value and displacement will cost less to insure than a sportbike, because SPEED KILLS. Or some other crap reason.

        Here, you can get an unrestricted motorcycle license in as little as 2 weeks if you have a clean regular driver’s license. Written test, skills test (parking lot)… mandatory 2 week wait where similar rules to your M1 hold, then road test then you’re free.

  • John B.

    It’s important to keep in mind motorcycles don’t vote, but motorcyclists do. As such, it’s politically expedient to blame motorcycles, rather than riders, for injuries and fatalities. Motorcycle manufacturers dedicate significant resources to motorcycle safety. In contrast, riders often exercise poor judgment; e.g., among other things, not wearing a helmet or protective gear, consuming alcohol and/or drugs before riding, riding at excessive speeds, and failing to take a motorcycle safety class. As long as motorcycle fatalities remain stubbornly high and excessive speed accounts for a significant number of crashes we can expect politicians to propose limiting motorcycle horsepower. In my view, riders cause the vast majority of fatal crashes.

  • Josh

    Banning certain motorcycles because of their top speed? Shall we ban ferraris and lamborghinis too?

    • Kirk Harrington

      In the USA and Europe there doesn’t need to be an outright ban. All they have to do is raise the insurance rates so high that it’s cost prohibitive to purchase one.

      • Chris Kallfelz

        That’s exactly right.

        • john burns

          I wonder if “they” are as solid a block as they used to be, now that the www makes it so easy to find out everything about a potential insuree instantly? Personally, I feel safer on a new self-censoring R1 than I did 20 years ago on a crazy fast 800-pound GSX-R1100 on Red Flyer wagon tires that did exactly what I asked of it.

          • Greybeard1

            John…they were only fooling when they told you the 1100 weighed 800 lbs.
            Some editor had a corpulent foot on the scale when they showed you that.

            (what a maroon)

      • Chris Kallfelz

        That’s exactly right.

      • Matt

        Good thing we have competition to keep the rates down in the USA and the internet makes it easy to compare. Free market at its best.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Having moved from a 400 cc to fz1, sometimes i do think that 150 hp is too much, let alone 200+. Because in town you hit (i won’t say legal, but lets agree on “sane”) speeds with a very moderate twist of the throttle. And it is so easy, quiet and undramatic, that it doesn’t really give much thrill to people who restrict themselves. However, for the same people power does give a lot of comfort and sometimes even safety.
    But still, sometimes i miss dramatic 400 cc accelerations from a set of lights with a LOT of noise, shooting all the ammo from the short gearbox in a blink of an eye… just to find out that you aren’t really that far ahead from the cars 🙂
    Either way, there must be a choice.

    • Piglet2010

      Would I rather wring out a Ninja 250, or short-shift a ZX-10R at one-quarter throttle? Not a hard choice to make.

      • Matt

        Exactly the reasons I prefer smaller bikes on the street. How much fun can you have when you have to short shift to 2nd or 3rd and you are done?

  • Y.A.

    IDK man. If we are talking about riding within the confines of the law, I kind of see the point. Where can you ever even come close to unleashing a liter bike on the road? Most of em hit 90-100 in 1st gear or something crazy like that. I kind of see dude’s point. We are only human…. the lure of excessive speed is hard to ignore once that dopamine link has been created.

  • di0genes

    Mr. Pierer (and Mr. CEO of Kawasaki MC) are very smart guys and great salesmen. They will sell anyone with the money the absolute best and fastest bikes they can build, uncompromised by any requrirements of regulations for road vehicles. A dealer who wants to have one in their show room, can, where they will do what they are really designed for, bringing people in so the dealers can do their stuff, sell them a bike they can ride, or even more likely, a new helmet, jacket, bling or even an oil filter for the bike they rode in on.
    The flagship bikes that most motorcycle company already make are not the ones that put bread on the table for dealers or makers. For KTM and Kawasaki, if that means a 19 year old rich kid won’t be posting youtubes breaking the sound barrier on the local freeway on one of their bikes, I guess that is the price these companies are willing to pay 🙂

  • TalonMech

    I don’t mind manufacturers limiting their bikes top speed, or installing electronic nannies for ham fisted riders. But IMO the government should stay out of their and our business. The Corvette Z06 could come very close to 200mph if not exceed it. So should they be banned as well? Or are super cars exempt, since only the rich can afford them. Any motorized vehicle only goes as fast as the operator makes it go, and even the most mundane car or bike is capable of breaking speed limits, and injuring or killing the operator or others. Idiots will be idiots, and no amount of government meddling will change that.

    • Piglet2010

      While in theory the rich are subject to the same laws as everyone else, practice is a different matter.

    • Luke

      Cars do have way more requirements for safety though than bikes. Seatbelts, airbags, minimum required crash-test results, etc… We don’t even require ABS on bikes like Europe does.

      But I do think the real difference is that a Z06 is so expensive a normal person will never get one. Where a motorcycle enthusiast might decide to get a used truck instead of a $35K car, and use the $25K they saved on a new 200hp Ninja.

      I honestly think the 300hp number of the track Ninja has scared some manufacturers. Those bikes get all the press, but sell only a handful of copies. KTM would much rather have the “halo” models be in the $15K range than the $25K range. In the car world “track only” cars rarely get much attention (even the Arial Atom can be ridden on the street).

  • Stephen J

    I still remember the stupidity of the Danforth fiasco. I laughed as the data they should have waited for rolled in and contradicted the statements of Danforth and the IIHS. Sounds like some are too young or have forgotten. A warning to any company that feels inclined to support this idea: customers don’t forget or forgive. I will never be a GEICO customer, as I still remember their enthusiastic support of the Danforth bill.

    • Piglet2010

      You can also thank GEICO for the plod having LIDAR speed guns.

    • Kendall Sorensen

      GEICO was only for government employees back in the day, which I was, (U.S.A.), I had a Olds D88, pulled the driver door off backing out of my garage, (stupid me,LOL,) but still, my first claim, they paid and then canceled my policy. That was thirty years ago and I still hate those Mother f***ers!

  • Kirk Harrington

    In the late 90’s the insurance industry began the campaign to make it nearly impossible to insure a sportbike for comprehensive and collision coverage arguing that they cost too must to repair and the consumer had a tendency to wreck them frequently. When I entered the business in 2000 I could insure 1 in 40 customers for comp & collision and most of the time they were over 40yo, married and owned a home (Those are critical data points in the insurance business). When the insurance industry started figuring out that abs, tc and other rider aids were being introduced around 2005, 2006 the rates for those around 35 yo and up started decreasing. Since there were only a couple of models that were capable of the manufacturing gentleman’s agreement of 186mph the insurance industry took notice and tried for a few years to reduce rates again. At least for those at the magic 35yo and up range. Now, the industry is at a crossroads of increasing premiums again because you have a large number of 600cc and higher bikes that are capable of 160mph sustained. With the liter bikes now bumping 200mph it’s, in the insurer viewpoint, to much risk to insure these bikes without significant annual premium.
    I’ve been riding for nearly 35yrs. I believe that I am capable of handing a bike that can achieve 200mph. I, however, will never buy a bike with that capability because Pierer is correct in his viewpoint that these bikes have lost their street focus and are simply suberbikes with signals and DOT tires. Most riders do not have the capability and comprehension to operate this generation of superbikes on the street. Less than 5% of us have ever been to a trackday event, let alone several to understand the true dynamics of the bikes. Don’t get me wrong about my statements vs personal viewpoint. I love the advancements in design, technology and horsepower, but there is a point where you can take a streetbike and strip it of it’s street gear, play with the suspension and gear setting and compete with racing superbikes at the track. Jake Gagne is living proof of that in MotoAmerica Superbike/Superstock class.

  • Otto Maddox

    It’s all about freedom. Freedom includes falling on your ass if you make a bad choice.
    We have to get away from this nanny state mentality. This goes way beyond motorcycles though.

    • SteveSweetz

      It’s not quite that simple though, because you’re not only affecting yourself when you fall on your ass, society also pays for your mistake. For one, there’s the potential for a rider on a superbike to harm others in an accident – which, granted, is far, far less likely than with a car; but even if a rider hurts only himself, there’s still a price to pay for that. When a squid wipes out and doctors are obligated to patch him up, we all end up paying for his bad choice via distributed medical costs. Is it fair that my medical insurance is higher because some idiot bought a 200HP bike and wiped out on it? Ideally the motivation for such legislation is not about protecting an idiot from themselves, it’s about protecting society from the effects of that idiot.

      I’m not saying I agree with this legislation. I’m just saying it’s not as simple or cut-and-dry as “you should be free to make mistakes” when your mistakes can impact others.

      • Otto Maddox

        What you describe is exactly what’s wrong with the whole nanny state mentality. First you offer coverage for everyone.. then you start taking away freedoms because it’s expensive to cover free people making bad choices.

        Anyone on/in any vehicle can harm others using your logic.

        Doctors obligated to patch him up? More nanny state nonsense.

        Your insurance can raise rates on motorcycle riders or not cover motorcycle accidents where the rider is at fault. There are lots of ways to cover the risk and not impact others. We just choose not to.

        We, as a society, decide to cover all these people making bad choices.

        Can’t afford a doctor? Better make safe choices in your life.

        Let’s get rid of the nanny state. It’s the biggest enemy of freedom there is.

      • Stephen J

        A study of head injuries showed motorcycle riders paid a higher portion of their medical expenses then other groups such as horseback riders. So by your logic we should ban horse riding immediately because of the ‘social burden.’. I thought this defective approach had been laid to rest long ago.

        • SteveSweetz

          Please point out exactly where in my post I talk about banning anything. You seem to be arguing with a man made out of straw.

      • UltraEnlightened

        How much does your insurance go up due to motorcyclist needing to be patched up? How many motorcyclist actually need patching up verses car drivers? Seriously, if your insurance goes up at all due to motorcycle injuries, it is at most a few cents. Smoking, and the treatment of the diseases caused by that far outstrip the cost of motorcycle injuries.

        • SteveSweetz

          There are many mistakes that people make and we all pay for. Some exact a much heavier toll to be sure (smoking as you mention), but that doesn’t really have any bearing on my point. The fact that there are things with worse impact doesn’t automatically give something with a lesser impact a free pass from any sort of investigation/consideration. It’s like saying because there are murders we shouldn’t worry about car theft.

          • UltraEnlightened

            Perhaps you are right, but when you use your insurance rates going up as a reason to force people to wear helmets, well, aren’t you really being petty? Get rid of the helmet law in my state and I’ll send you a quarter every month. I am sure that would more than cover the extra medical cost you would pay on your insurance to cover me and all those who choose to not wear a helmet, get in a wreak, and need medical coverage that would have been avoided had we worn our helmet. Not trying to be snippy but I doubt the situation we are discussing would even raise rates by 1 cent a month. As for your analogy, if people were getting murdered and the police were spending as much effort to solve a car theft then perhaps people would not make such a big deal out of car theft and put more of their time into getting the police to prioritize. Above is a rant. Let me just say it this way, I think it is ludicrous to force other people to wear a helmet in order to save you 60 cents a year on your insurance.

      • pennswoodsed

        Your insurance is also higher because of every avoidable injury . Industrial, transportation and medical. It is also higher because

        people are getting multi million dollar salaries and whining about the cost of doing business.

    • Luke

      I agree that when we do things for fun that happen to be dangerous, that’s an individual call. But I do like when Gov’t gets involved in areas like vehicle safety and mileage goals. I’m happy modern cars are so much safer and that we are importing less oil. I wouldn’t be against mandatory ABS on bikes for similar reasons, and I’m all for helmet laws. Some of the “idiot riders” talked about on this thread have very nice families who pay the cost for the idiots poor choices. I want to see more riders get up, dust off, and keep riding having learned something.

      • Otto Maddox

        Using that logic why not make motorcycles illegal altogether? A helmet can only do so much to minimize the risk.

        Or why not make car drivers wear helmets? People can still get head injuries in a car crash.

        As far as “idiot riders”.. not sure what that means. If I had a family member who I thought was “an idiot” and he got himself hurt I don’t know why it would be my responsibility to pay for his mistakes.

        But the point your are missing is you can’t legislate away stupidity. Some people will always do something you think is stupid.

        This is something the nannystate just can’t figure out.

        • Luke

          I believe there is a reasonable center. Where to draw that line is a good debate, but to jump to “all laws are bad” or “all laws are good” is oversimplifying.

          The “idiot rider” I speak of is just a rider who takes high risks stupidly (the shirtless guy in the sport bike that passes you do 140mph on the highway who is clearly driving well past his/her limits, etc…). And that riders family WILL pay if he is the sole breadwinner and dies running over 3 school kids crossing the street to get to the bus. As will anyone else hurt/killed by him. And when that breadwinner dies, we will ALL pick up the tab for his family.

          I’m not saying you can legislate out idiocy, but there is a place for reasonable checks. We already have some (licensing, age limits, vision limits, etc…) and I don’t see those as being anything other than prudent.

          I see a lot of room between reasonable and “nanny state.”

  • Tod Rafferty

    Well reasoned. Pierer realizes that repeat customers will come from the 98% of customers who want real-world motorcycles, not the few who hope to be highway rocketmen.

  • spiff

    I agree with what someone here said about liter bikes not being dramatic. They are so well built/designed that they are boring at even higher than posted limits. That said one could argue they are the safest things on the street. Up until the moment of impact what vehicle has a better chance of out braking, out maneuvering, or straight up getting away from the problem? (Yes, I come from the school that horsepower can get you out of an accident.) All that said I have no urge to own a sportbike anymore for my own reasons. I do appreciate that the state was not needed for me to make that decision.

    Side note. I was at Death Valley years ago talking to a ranger. What bikes do they pull out of the ditch the most? Harleys. The road is unpredictable, and the land yachts have trouble dealing with last second direction change. (No, I don’t have anything against cruisers. Each their own.)

  • KSH

    Oh no no no not the RC8… it’s a perfect replacement for an aging RC51!!

    • Chris Kallfelz

      I have an enormous soft soft for a well set up RC51…Nothing that big should dance that well…Great bikes…

  • CrashFroelich

    Danforth’s bill was emblematic of the harm to freedom that can result from politicians and corporations getting too cozy. Any guesses as to how much in campaign donations and speaking fees he received, directly or indirectly, from insurance companies? Of course, all of that would pale in comparison to the potential graft represented by the Clinton Global Initiative. Possibly worst of all, the busybodies who think their personal sense of safety, justice, fairness, or other useless brain-droppings are justification for more government and regulations controlling the behavior of those with whom they disagree or whose actions they disapprove. We’re all going to die. Motorcyclists seldom take anyone else with them when they go. Toddlers drowning in in-ground pools is a far greater tragedy. Why do no politicians take up that crusade?

  • Jay Dee

    Here in the land down under we have a system named LAMS (Learner Approved Motorcycles). It works rather well. Bikes are assessed on their performance and respective weight as to whether they are learner approved. This has opened up the market to bigger, yet less powerful machines for the learner class. The ‘old’ system (I, too, am ‘old’) was based on CCs. Bikes such as the Suzuki RGV eventually killed off the old CC system. As a learner you could buy a 250. The RGV and those that followed from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Aprilia were the closest thing one could buy from a factory, that was road registrable, that mimicked a GP bike. Too many learners could buy a performance two stroke capable of up to 220kph. At the same time you could buy a Suzuki GN 250 four stroke single. No prizes for guessing which bike appealed more to 17 year olds! Once the LAMS system was introduced the high performance 250 two stroke class vanished as only an enthusiast would want one. The volume of sales went to a trickle and the factories read that loud and clear.
    I have just finished a complete restoration of an RGV. I will never fully explore its performance. I just enjoy owning it. I also own a Buell Firebolt that I will never fully explore its capabilities. Add in, a Honda GB400TT Mark 2, Honda CBR 125 and my next restoration – a Yamaha CT1 – 175. I just enjoy each for the ride. You do not need mega performance to enjoy motorcycling. Mega performance does belong on a track.
    LAMS does work well in Australia. Some buy a LAMS bike and as it is actually a bigger bike to start with they just keep it rather than upgrade to a more powerful machine.

  • Shlomi

    not sure i get CEO of KTM, for the last couple of years they rolled out the Super Duke with 180 HP, Adventure with 150 HP, and now the Super Adventure 1300CC and who knows how many HP. Now he tells us that super bike are too much for the street?
    What will be the use of the LC16 if it will not compete in WSB (no street legal bike….). and who will have money to buy GP bike (their 300 moto 3 replica is almost $50K). The guy is full of shit, and he has no contender in the category, so he dismiss it.

  • Paul Cypert

    Kuddos to KTM. They’re exactly right. Some of those bikes are for 1% riders, not for the masses.

    I’m completely in favor of a tiered license system that could be offset with either more coursework or time on the roads (maybe after a year or two at lower level). Sub 600 and over 600. I just don’t see any reason someone can jump immediately onto full size bikes. It would do more to support smaller bikes in the US and teach people they really can get by on them, have riders build to their level and also have more people doing schools and studying how to ride.

    Many countries do it…and have more people riding. It actually goes a long way to offset general thought on riding as it’s seen as more progressive and studied.

    • Piglet2010

      Yep, think if all those H-D Big Twin riders had to take advanced training to legally ride. 😀

    • Kendall Sorensen

      So tiered licensing for a 700 lb 900cc bike and a 400lb 599cc bike? Tiered licensing is like all other leftist, nanny state, feel good, bullshit regulations. Take a test, pass it and get your license. If you’re stupid enough to disobey Darwin’s prime directive, sayonara…….

  • Billlllyyyyy

    So Pierer says 200hp superbikes don’t belong on the road because of increased safety concerns.

    Right. This from the guy that fired the first and, at 180hp, biggest salvo in the supernaked wars, followed by a 1.3 litre 160hp dirtbike, and thinks it’s still cool for his company to sell you a 173hp superbike without even the option of abs, let alone traction control.

    Maybe he knows what’s going on in Brussels, though I fail to see how agreeing with the bureaucrats will help anyone’s cause. Or maybe he knows the rc16 won’t match the r1 on the road AND the track, so he’ll just focus on the latter and smokescreen with this safety and corporate social responsibility BS. And as long as his company’s website is plastered full of ‘ready to race’ slogans and shots of rc8s being backed in on public roads, it’s hard to believe it’s anything but BS.
    As an aside, I won’t buy a bike from a manufacturer that believes in arbitrary bans, and I’ll be letting my local KTM dealer know about it when I’m shopping for new bike next month.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Due to the cost of insurance, top shelf sport bikes are for serious riders who can afford to pay cash for them and self insure them. On a much lower level, that is what I have done since the late 80’s. Never carried full coverage on my sport bikes, paid cash and am way ahead at this point.

    The only concern I have with my plan is what if some uninsured idiot in a car takes me out? Arrogant of me perhaps, but I simply won’t permit it. Anyone who has ridden street for a long time accident free has avoided plenty of accidents that would have been some else’s fault. I do carry required liability and 500K in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage though.

    Riding a high performance bike is not for everybody. I rather like it that way.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      “Anyone who has ridden street for a long time accident free has avoided plenty of accidents that would have been some else’s fault. ”

      Absolutely true! When I’m not riding I drive a huge red pickup. I have way more close calls with oblivious drivers while driving that vehicle because there isn’t any way of dodging or outpacing traffic, taking side routes is zero fun and my concentration and perception is seriously compromised. When on my bike I feel safer than on my bicycle too: lights, horn, mirrors, attgatt and of course a handy vroom handle.

      I also sold my wr250x because I couldn’t drive that one without being an asshat:)

      • Luke

        I fear from reading this thread that my new bike is increasing my ass-hat-ery…

  • Patriot159

    “No, because we at KTM think that a sport bike with such performance doesn’t have any place on the public roads,” Pierer further explained.

    Oh, and the Super Duke is SOOO much ‘safer’ on the street due to it’s ‘meek’ performance.

    Me thinks Pierer is suffering from concussion syndrome from falling off his ‘unsafe for street use’ RC8.

  • Shlomi

    I agree that 150 Hp can not be utilized on the street, this is why I sold my Multistrada and bought Triumph Street Triple with only 100 hp….issue is that most Superbikes have the best suspension, breaks, and safety electronics that the smaller bike do not have.
    find me a bike with dynamic suspension, traction control, quick shifter, cornering ABS, etc with less than 1000cc….(beside MV).

  • B.Hoop

    In all honesty, I can’t be trusted with more than about 25 horsepower, and even then I ride like an a-hole…I just can’t keep ahead of traffic….

    If they want to make 300hp ultrabikes, let them. Just price them out of the hands of dipshits like me…

    • Kendall Sorensen

      I’m 65 years old and feel your pain.

    • DickRuble

      Let me point out the absurdity of the debate. Motorcycles are dangerous mostly to those who ride them. Not so much to other participants to traffic. Distracted driving by cell phone does not prompt politicians or cell manufacturers to ban sophisticated cell phones because they pose a danger to traffic. Same for alcohol. Guns are far more dangerous than motorcycles; to their owners and to others. I don’t hear any gun manufacturer limiting themselves to pea shooters because of that. If KTM feels their line of business should be inflatable motorcycles, so be it.. We’ll buy Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW HP4’s,

      • john phyyt

        Amen; to each and every point.

      • B.Hoop

        You pretty much echoed what I said. Just more wordy…

      • Daimyo

        Well said.

      • Manny Barqueiro

        Your last line hit the nail right in the head and the rest echoed my feelings very closely. No KTM’s for me anytime soon.

      • Seanzorelli

        So, I think we’ve all figured out that KTM won’t be marketing their RC16, not for safety concerns, but because they don’t think it would be profitable. But why say that, when you can score some corporate-responsibility points in Brussels, and also re-assure potential RC8 buyers that they need not wait for the RC16.

        • DickRuble

          They won’t be marketing it also because the RC8 did poorly against competition in comparisons but also in sales. They’re not riding a wave of confidence.

  • Tim Kern

    Stupid is as stupid does.
    When you out-ride your capabilities and the existing conditions (especially when you don’t know what’s just ahead), you’re being stupid.
    And if you think you can ride like a top racer and you’re not a top racer, you’re being stupid.
    And if you think you can ride on open streets the same as you ride on the track, you’re being stupid.
    And if you think you need a faster bike to go faster, and you’re not that racer, you’re being stupid.
    Don’t be stupid, and we’ll all get along.

  • DickRuble

    Senator Danforth’s legislation wasn’t meant to protect the public. It was meant to protect a certain manufacturer.

  • Will C.

    In 2008, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 51 percent of fatally injured passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. One-fourth of motorcycle riders (25%) involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were driving the vehicles with invalid licenses at the time of the collision. The percentage of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2008 who had BAC levels of .08 g/dL or higher — 29 percent — was higher than for any other type of motor vehicle driver.

    NOT being an idiot reduces your chance of dieing on a motorcycle by a lot of percents. Motorcycles attract idiots who want to show off and look cool; if you remove all of these people from the pool the fatality numbers aren’t nearly as damning.

    • spiff

      So natural selection is being implemented? We need these bike to ensure our species evolves correctly. : )

      • DickRuble

        Totally. If a dimwit wants to pay $30K to wrap a 200hp bike around a red oak, everybody wins. If only they could invent an expensive loud muffler that kills the owner, we would see some progress.

        • Will C.

          I’m not a fan of reckless behavior, but I don’t wish anyone harm either. My intent was simply to point out that a large chunk of the risks associated with motorcycles are entirely preventable. This is important because many people wrongly (in my opinion) assume motorcycles are a lot more dangerous than they actually are or need to be.

          • DickRuble

            Motorcycles are not dangerous. People are. Sounds like an NRA slogan. Joke aside, the stats don’t prove much. If 1/4 of the dead motorcyclists were unlicensed, you could say “3/4 of dead motorcyclists were holding a valid license”. If 29% were drunk, “the majority of the fatalities involved sober motorcycle riders”. Hardly the case for the safety of motorcycles. The stats don’t tell you what percentage of the unlicensed dead were also under the influence. These being said, there was a sharp increase of severe motorcycle accidents with rider age.

          • Will C.

            A significant number of fatalities are associated with poor choices; that is the only point I am trying to make. If you’re interested you can read the entire report for more information (which might prove more productive than speculating).

            The sharp rise in accidents in older males particularly is due to “second-wind” riders (I just made this term up right now). These individuals generally owned a motorcycle at some point in their youth and suddenly decided to pick up the sport again later in life erroneously assuming their skills are still intact; they buy a large and fast motorcycle and do not pursue any training. As a result they have a high rate of accidents.

          • jorzef

            second-wind riders = return riders

          • pennswoodsed

            As am I .That being said,a graduated license would help keep squids off Superbikes .

        • pcontiman

          I get the loud muffler complaint, I just want that texting/talking/daydreaming/eating/drinking air-conditioned airhead to wake up and realize I’m there before they turn right from the left lane like the last t/t/d/e/d/….When cars have a “motorcycle is present” alarm, I’ll get a much quieter muffler. My ears would appreciate it also.

          • My personal experience has demonstrated that loud mufflers are NOT sufficient to be relied upon as a safety device… In fact, they’re more likely to cause irritation to the other road users, potentially escalating their anger into a dangerous situation where the rider may be subject to road rage!

            Consider the following experience I had as exhibit A:

            I was riding South on I-5 in Seattle on my 2007 H-D V-Rod with Toxic Choppers “V-Lux” exhaust (without baffles), which is basically a straight pipe and was very loud.

            I was minding my own business, cruising in the 2nd lane from the right, keeping pace with a guy in a sedan next to me in the slow lane. Suddenly, and without warning — no blinker, not even a head check — the guy starts gradually drifting into my lane, directly into my path of travel and cushion of space! The same motion one would make when safely performing a planned lane change if there were no other vehicle occupying the space desired.

            Bear in mind that those pipes made the bike so very loud that children and women would cry when the bike was started. My neighbors literally did this when I first got the pipes. Standing next to the bike for more than about 1-2 minutes while it was running, especially if it was revved, would cause one’s heart beat to become irregular. Suffice it to say that even if the guy in the car next to me were COMPLETELY DEAF and could NOT HEAR the bike, he could FEEL it!

            Perhaps, in fact, he was fully aware of my presence. Perhaps he didn’t believe that I deserved to use the same road as him… It certainly became quite clear that he did not want me there, even to the point of attempting to take upon himself the decision of whether I should live or die. Fortunately, I did not rely upon those loud pipes to save my life and instead utilized my ever-vigilant attention and mental skill of projecting potential traffic pattern outcomes, engaging my quick reflexes and thereby narrowly avoiding a collision.

            Uncoincidentally, all 3 of my current motorcycles (2005 Yamaha FJR1300ATC, 2008 Buell 1125R, 2010 Yamaha FZ6-R) have stock exhausts.

            Here is a video from the exhaust manufacturer of the V-Lux pipes, both with and without baffles, though it hardly does justice to the true-life sound and feeling:

          • pcontiman

            No, I get it it. I was ran over in much the same way as you describe. I was just cruising at 30mph with the 2:1 python that is loud by not straight pipe loud. The one thing I do see is that while lane splitting (responsibly of course..) people will move to the side of the lane to allow me to pass. The only thing I can ascribe this to is that they can hear me coming. It won’t keep me from getting hit, but I’m hoping it helps sometimes. I’m not a fan of overly loud mufflers as they are annoying and will get us all into a legal spot where they are outlawed as most are now. If someone will send me a deep throated “Fast by Feracci” muffler, I’ll be glad to frankenweld it into the python….

      • By the time one is able to procure such a machine, they’re likely already well into their breeding years… Generally, the less educated are the ones who have more children.

    • UltraEnlightened

      In 2008, 59 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 49 percent of fatally injured passengers were wearing helmets at the time of the crash.

      I’m not sure I see a coloration here. This has always been a pet peeve of mine. How much more protection does a helmet offer verses no helmet? How much more protection does riding in a car offer verses riding a motorcycle with a helmet? If safety is the major concern then we should outlaw motorcycles altogether.

      • Will C.

        I can see how this might sound confusing. Intuitively I can see how you might think this statement merely means you have a roughly “50-50” chance of dying when you crash with or without a helmet on; you might be quick to dismiss the benefits because of this and assume the outcome is no better than random chance, like flipping a coin.

        Instead, try and see how half of all deaths have a common factor; the lack of a helmet. This means that motorcycle-related deaths could be reduced by as much as 50 to 60 percent simply by wearing a helmet and removing this common factor. Statistically this is actually a very, very strong correlation.

      • pennswoodsed


    • Max Wellian

      Another way to spin it is: 59% of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 49% of fatally injured passengers WERE wearing helmets at the time of the crash. And an astronomical 71% were riding sober.

      Kinda calls helmets and sobriety into question…

  • jackobean

    the more potent the more fun. I’m 50, have ridden 31+ years, have had 12+ bikes… recently test-drove Harleys, Bmws, Ducatis, KTM’s latest offerings. the Super Duke 1290 was easily the most fun. I, for one, don’t need a daddy to keep me from my bliss (via ban or law under threat of violence/death by police…). Bring on the juice I say!! :p

  • dcopperfield

    Ah Chris, have you noticed your closing signature line? “Ride hard, be safe, look where you want to go.” Perhaps you are a tad confused and contribute to the problem. Ya’ know, like “ride hard” and “be safe” seem obviously contradictory. #facepalm

    • Chris Kallfelz

      Mmmm, I’m not seeing the contradiction…But maybe we have different definitions of what constitutes, “Safe.”

    • I don’t view Chris’ riding while erect to be inherently unsafe. He’s been doing it for decades.

      • Chris Kallfelz

        No, no, of course not…It’s not even erratic…It’s dictating the traffic…No, riding hard is paying attention as soon as that visor goes down and taking as many variables out of it as you can. That’s all…

        Yeah, OK, left lane a little faster than traffic? Sure? I’m guilty…But the only way you can hit me is merging from the right or from behind, and I have a place to run most times. Is that illegal? Maybe, a little over the limit, it’s also safer and I am visible and dictating the situation insofar as I can.

        We can’t be seen, we need clean asphalt, we need lines of sight, and we need to dress for lack of success and ride…hard…

        To me? That is safe…

  • JMDonald

    The most impossible bike to ride was my first bike. A Honda Mini Trail. One small lapse of throttle control could spell disaster. I was 12 and had no problem embracing danger. What was I thinking. I obviously wasn’t.

  • This article reminds me of the small vs. big caliber gun debate… My point being life at the end of the day has to be counteracted with death. As to how fast or slow each of us arrive there is inherently our choice. or is it? lol

  • Mike Mongillo

    You could die on any bike or motorcycle no matter what H.P.!

  • Ted

    I liked the part “About the author” best.

  • pcontiman

    Have to think that high end race bikes for the street are not the top revenue producers at KTM but I could be wrong. No, we don’t need 200hp bikes but we don’t need 50cal pistols south of Alaska either. Some folks just like to have ’em. If you shouldn’t own a 200hp bike, Darwin will make sure you don’t for long. As for me, when looking at a ‘Busa, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my riding days in 2nd and 3rd gear because that’s ALL you’ll ever need on that bike. I can say the Ninja 1400 is one of two bikes that have ever really scared me, the other being the 350 Boss Hog. Never felt G-force on a straight line bike until I rode that 1400. I may just be a wanker. In the end, ride what you like. I settled on the 1200R sporty. I’d rather ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow…..Another 10-20 ponies would be nice though….

  • RPJ

    Isn’t it amazing that no one in the automotive industry ever says this about fast cars. No one ever says that the Corvette has no place on the streets today no matter how fast the car is. Why are we too many times our own worst enemies.

  • Having signed up for your classes was one of the best decisions I have made. It had been my dream to learn how to ride a motorcycle properly and I can honestly say that you guys helped make that dream come true. Not only did your classes teach me how to get going on a motorcycle, but i also learned how to be a smart rider. I am still amazed how in those two days I was able to learn so much. I was able to pass the State test easily and was on the road in no time. My motorcycle is now my preferred method of transportation.

  • octodad

    only fitting that insurance companies try to limit exposure. excessive speed has a place, on the track. when I am going at a good clip, and some hot dog blows by at 140+, not cool ….think helmet laws unconstitutional. should be mandated in your policy and charged accordingly. if you have no helmet clause, it costs more…