’Tis the season when the motorcycle manufacturers unveil their new models for the upcoming year, although some, like Harley-Davidson and Victory, get a jump on the action by unveiling their bikes in the summer. Not too much to get excited about, as the trend continues toward building aggressive street-fighter-style motorcycles aimed at young male riders or large touring motorcycles that most women find too big to handle. However, there are a few gold nuggets that will appeal to women.
According to a survey done by Women Riders Now, the only large-scale survery ever initiated on female motorcyclists, the majority of women riders prefer cruiser motorcycles, followed by sportbikes and then sport tourers. Middleweight engine sizes (800cc to 1300cc) are most popular with women. And among the female riding population, the brand most favored is Harley-Davidson, with Honda coming in second and the other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers rounding out the list of favorites.
For 2012, we’re seeing mostly new color options for existing models or, as stated earlier, the introduction of big tourers like Victory’s Cross Country Tour and Yamaha’s Star Stratoliner Deluxe. Based on what women find most popular, here’s a rundown of new models we think are favorable to female riders.
Just unveiled last week is a new model in the Boulevard family, Suzuki’s cruiser line. The C50T Classic is similar in size and power to the existing C50T, an 800cc middleweight touring bike, but comes without the windshield, passenger backrest, and saddlebags that are standard on the C50T. The Classic retails for $7,999, $1,500 less than the C50T. Buying the Classic allows you to add the touring accessories that you want.
If you’re a follower of the Boulevard line, you’ll notice the Classic looks similar to the C50, a model that was last produced in 2009. That motorcycle has been reborn as the C50T Classic, with updated styling that includes whitewall tires and a studded seat.
Adventure touring is all the rage these days, with more riders than ever craving the ability to ride off the beaten path on gravel roads in addition to paved streets. In response to this demand, Suzuki updated its popular V-Strom 650 ABS model with a new iteration. The V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure includes a rugged accessory engine bar, an adjustable windshield, and aluminum side cases large enough to fit a full-coverage helmet. Next year (2012) marks the 10th anniversary of the V-Strom series.
While the 32.9-inch seat height is high for most women, Suzuki offers a low seat option that brings the seat height down to about 32 inches—still a stretch for most women. However, in the adventure-touring/dual-sport crowd, the V-Strom 650 is hugely popular because of its affordable price and great ride.
This summer, Harley-Davidson introduced the Dyna Switchback, a new model for 2012. The appeal of the FLD Switchback (FLD is the model designation) is that you can easily detach the hard saddlebags and windshield, turning this touring motorcycle into an around-town cruiser.
The Switchback is powered by a Twin Cam 103 V-Twin engine—that’s 1690cc for those who relate the power displacement in cubic centimeters. The motorcycle is loaded with exciting styling and riding enhancements that make this an appealing touring motorcycle for women who don’t have the muscle or might to handle Harley-Davidson’s big touring motorcycles, like the Road King, the Road Glide or the Street Glide. The Switchback is 94 pounds lighter than the Road King and has a low 26.1-inch seat height.
A favorite among many women when it was introduced 10 years ago was the V-Rod. Its silver-colored, jewel-like styling attracted riders who wanted to make a statement both in looks and in power. For 2012, Harley-Davidson is unveiling the V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition model, a tribute to the original 2002 V-Rod. The new model is powered by Harleys 1250cc Revolution V-Twin engine. Brilliant Silver Pearl bodywork and a color-matched frame are exclusive to the V-Rod line. Extra chrome and polished surfaces dazzle on the engine, exhaust and speed screen. A bonus is that the bike sits very low, at just 25.6 inches.
For 2012, Kawasaki is introducing an all-new Ninja 650, formerly named the Ninja 650R. Kawasaki is renaming some of its bikes—taking the” R” off the 650 and the 250, for example—because “R” indicates a race-inspired motorcycle or one meant for racing, which those two models are not. The company is adding the “R” to motorcycles in its lineup that meet this designation but didn’t previously use it in their names, such as with the Ninja ZX-14, now renamed the Ninja ZX-14R. The Ninja ZX-14R, by the way, is also revamped for 2012.
The updated Ninja 650 has a new frame, a lower subframe, a new fairing design and a “meaner” exhaust sound. Otherwise, the reworked-for-2012 Ninja 650 is pretty much the same as the previous Ninja 650R, which was a huge hit among women and men when it was introduced in 2006 (click here to read my review of the 2007 model). The bike’s more upright seating position and manageable power drew lots of riders who wanted the power and zip of a sportbike in an ergonomically friendly package. We’re told the main reason for the changes in 2012 was to update the styling to a more modern look.
Recently acquired by Polaris, the parent company of Victory Motorcycles, Indian Motorcycle is releasing three new models for 2012. All three are built on the same chassis, so styling is the main difference between them.
Seat height on all three models is 27.25 inches, with each weighing an average of 750 pounds. The bikes are all powered by Indians 105-cubic-inch V-twin engine. These are big cruisers, but women riders who appreciate Indian Motorcycles rich and diverse history as a motorcycle manufacturer may want to look into owning one, as the brand seems to have finally found a solid home under the Polaris banner.
Among the more niche brands, women have found the Triumph Bonneville quite favorable for its narrow profile, low seat height and nimble ride. For 2012, Triumph is offering a limited edition Bonneville T100 Steve McQueen Edition. Only 1,100 of these bikes will be sold worldwide.
To confirm the bikes provenance, each machine is individually numbered with a plaque placed on the handlebar clamp. Owners will also receive a certificate of authenticity with their machine. Click here to read WRNs review of the 2009 Triumph Bonneville SE.
I mentioned this company in a recent blog post, but it’s worth mentioning again, as these motorcycles make great beginner bikes and possess qualities women deem favorable (and women are the fastest growing segment of new riders). CSC Motorcycles, formerly named California Scooter Company, is rebranding for 2012, which qualifies it to be in our list here. The reason for the name change: the company’s bikes have a 5-speed manual transmission, making them motorcycles, technically speaking.
The term “scooter” in the company’s original name was meant as a slang reference—you know how some people refer to their motorcycle as a scooter? Company executives realized the confusion and are renaming the three models that make up its current line of motorcycles. I will have a full review in the coming months. In the meantime, visit CaliforniaScooterCo.com.