Dec 21, 2013 View Comments by


I’ve always been attracted to bikes with less than universal public appeal and appreciation for some reason. How many people do you know who seriously considered purchasing a Cagiva Elefant? I rest my case. I didn’t buy the Cagiva, mainly due to the bike’s seat height and the uncertainty of maintenance issues, but I came close to taking one off of a local dealer’s hands back in the mid-eighties. I did, however, buy a 1983 Yamaha 550 Vision.

The Vision came out in 1982 and was a 550cc water-cooled V-twin. It boasted a redline of around 10,000 rpm, monoshock rear suspension, shaft drive, and adjustable handlebars. Its appearance was a bit futuristic for the early eighties, with a rectangular headlight and angular lines, and sales were relatively dismal if I recall correctly. Yamaha spiced things up in 1983 with the addition of a stylish and functional fairing, which featured louvers to direct warm air onto the rider if desired. I purchased a leftover black and gold ’83 model for $2,600 and change.

The bike made sense for a lot of reasons; it was extremely affordable for this newly married homeowner (especially when heavily discounted as a left-over model), sporty, and versatile enough to serve a variety of functions. It was ahead of its time in many regards, and perhaps still would be today if reintroduced in updated wrapping. The bike was, at least to me, a balanced package, and perhaps that was the weakness that led to its downfall. The balance that I’m talking about is the blend of affordability, versatility, comfort, real-world performance, and reliability that all of my favorite bikes have possessed.

My 1990 Honda Transalp (a bike that I owned for twenty years), and my Suzuki 650 V-Strom are also “balanced” bikes. The V-Strom is the only one of the three bikes to receive the popularity and attention that it deserves, at least in my humble opinion. The problem is that balance doesn’t seem to sell very well in this country. We’re a country of extremes, and most of the attention goes to whatever bike has momentarily edged out the competition in terms of performance, features, or styling. While competition between manufacturers has resulted in numerous significant improvements that we enjoy on recent models, it’s a shame that many very good bikes fall by the wayside for the sole reason that they don’t offer stellar, chart-topping performance in any one area.

Perhaps the situation is beginning to change, as I’ve noticed a slew of new mid-sized, reasonably priced offerings in the showrooms the last few years. If so, I welcome the change and hope that these bikes will spur an increase in sales and attract new members to the riding community. One doesn’t need to have 150 horsepower or spend twenty grand to have a great time at 65 mph, and that’s the beauty of “balanced” motorcycles. Look at it this way; why spend double or triple the money on a bike with a capability that you only use a fraction of one percent of the time?


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