Bike Prices: ''Too High''? Factored Properly in Comparos?

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff
Saw in MO forum thread: "However, when you adjust for inflation, a good 600cc sportbike is only about 1,600 bukcs (sic) in 1970 dollars. Of course, the 1970 sportbike had spaghetti for a frame, horrid brakes, crummy electrics, shook like Ray Nagin in the Superdome, and made all of 35 horsepower on a good day. When you consider what you get when you buy a modern motorcycle, it's a pretty good value regardless of model or brand."

I became interested in bikes in 69/70. My heart's desire was a red Kawi H1. The electrics didn't die on me and it made more than 35 hp; almost any day was a "good day" for horsepower on an H1. The rest of MO's description is true for that bike. But it was $995. More comparable pricing (to $1,600) were the $1,495 Honda CB750 four and the Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 at $1,750. Those were THE four gofasts of that day.



Thirty-five years later, we get better technology, more reliability (than the H1 - the CB750 wasn't bad), and certainly more speed. But we ARE paying quite a bit more even adjusting for general inflation. Vehicle prices have outstripped the CPI quite a bit - a top-line, has-everything, biggest-motor Corvette could be had for $5,500 or so in 1970. It's ten times that today. I earned $2.075/hour at the A&P in 1969, enough to buy my first bike. They don't pay $21.00/hour today, and what they pay will NOT buy you a new 600 sportbike, even living at home with your parents (like I did in 1970).

Now, the second point regarding cost. MO, and virtually all their peers (as if they have any that measure up!) evaluate on the basis of engine displacement. Back in 1970, bikes of a given size were fairly similarly priced (H-D and BMW being the exceptions). These days, you can easily have a big difference - Ducati, Aprilia, etc.

An MO thread about the 636 Kawi "600" hit this point - is it a "cheater"? For size, yes. For the market, no - Kawi priced it with other 600's.

If Suzuki suddenly decided to price the GSXR1000 at the same level as the Kawi 636, would that be "cheating"? Well... no. If a bike is $8,000 and weighs 450 pounds soaking wet and has razor-sharp handling and goes faster than I can ever hope to, why do I care whether it's a 600cc or a 60cc or a 6,000cc? I don't - well, OK, maybe I do because the insurance companies do. Other than that? No. I don't.

So, MO, please go right ahead and extol the virtues of modern sportbikes compared to 1970's best. Your testers are certainly too young (and FIT - my tears flow....) to have driven an H1 "in the day", but I'm not - and you're right. Our bikes are much better. But do NOT think that we're level pricewise, because we actually pay a lot more.

And you might try a "bang for your buck" comparo sometime - maybe not requiring additional testing, but simply combining comparos from different recently-completed tests in a "best for your buck" article.

Love your work.

Triplesguy (H1, H2, & Buf)

Five bucks says a box-stock H1 doesn't make more than 42 bhp at the rear wheel. Any takers, come stink up the MO offices!

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Motorcycle.com Staff
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