News coming out of India and Southeast Asia (which Cycle World is bizarrely taking credit for starting, despite being months late to the party), is that Yamaha is set to debut a 250cc sport bike for the world market. Said to be visually similar to the Yamaha YZF-R6 (concept sketch above), the quarter-liter four-stroke machine is certainly a response to the recent offerings from Honda and Kawasaki.
Expected to be a 2013 or 2014 model, we will almost certainly get our first glimpse of the bike, or its concept, at the upcoming 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. With details about the “Yamaha YZF-R250” being scarce, we would wager a 2014 launch date, but as always, time will tell. Expect pricing to be sub-$5,000 though, with optional ABS.
With advent of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 this year, and the Honda CBR250R last year, as well as the news of the KTM 390 Duke for next year, the small-displacement sport bike segment in North America is starting to gain traction with the OEMs. With bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 250R topping the single-model sales charts in the United States, it is not as if quarter-liter bikes, and their progeny, have struggled in North America, but the small-displacement learners have been handicapped from being marketed as such: small-displacement bikes suitable only for new riders.
With motorcycle OEMs bringing a new level of sophistication to the small-displacement realm, a sort of quarter-liter renaissance may well be upon us, and it could very well become “cool” to ride a motorcycle with less than 600cc in the sport-biking community. This sentiment certainly seems to be the case with the KTM 125 Duke, which debuted in 2010, and has been winning hearts ever since.
Even Suzuki seems to be getting in on the action, with news that the Suzuki GW250 will be coming to Canada next year (and the United States as well?). Reading more like a stop-gap measure until the Japanese brand can offer a more compelling 250cc offering to go against the Honda, Kawasaki, and now Yamaha, Suzuki doesn’t quite seem to understand what all the fuss is about, but is at least getting with the program.
Will we see the same from the other European brands? Or will the misconceptions regarding “brand dilution” prevent the marketing hacks from seeing the potential in this space? Time will tell on this one as well.