Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

KTM To Stop Producing Superbikes For The Street. Is KTM Repeating Its “Long Way Round” Fiasco?

Is KTM, about to make another “Long Way Round” epic mistake? That’s the question that many KTM fans may be asking themselves after a recent interview with KTM CEO Stephan Pierer by Motorcycle News.  In the interview, Pierer states that KTM will cease production of its excellent and underrated RC8 Superbike once its successor, a V-4 track only superbike to be called the RC16 is ready for production.

Pierer was quoted as saying, “We’d like to produce a successor to the existing RC8 V-twin… In which case, let’s do the following: We’ll stick to making a Superbike, but only for closed course usage. So it won’t be homologated for sale as a street bike. So then to produce that we will take the best prototype development arena available, which is MotoGP. And for the 2016 season there will be new rules introduced when the playing field will be leveled with a standard electronic system, so then KTM can challenge Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia on an equal basis. So that’s the concept for development. We’ll call it the RC16 and it will also be available for the normal customer for track days or private use on track, but it won’t any more be homologated for the street. It’ll be a really serious sports and race item for closed course use only.”

Pierer further added, “As soon as the RC16 is available for customers we will stop with the RC8. The design 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.”  “…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.”  

I’m surprised and upset at Mr. Pierer’s statements, particularly his intimation that high powered motorcycles have no place on the street.  Frankly, his statement doesn’t even make sense.  KTM’s 1190 RC8 produces 172 horsepower while its naked 1190 Super Duke R produces 177 horsepower or 5 horses more than their superbike (note: the RC8 weighs 5 pounds less).  If power is really the issue why is KTM still producing the Super Duke R?  Shouldn’t it too be eliminated from KTM’s street bike lineup?

Now that I’ve said I don’t agree with KTM in this instance, It’s no secret that I am something of a KTM fan-boy.  I love their machines and KTM has proven its engineering and racing prowess winning world championships on the pavement and off road.  So I’m left wondering what KTM is really thinking.  They are going to spend the money to compete in MotoGP, the highest level of motorcycle road racing to hone their product and skills.  But once they have achieved their goals, they won’t let their main customers, the core of their success, have the opportunity to ride and experience their new machine except on a closed circuit?  Is KTM forgetting that many of their customers do not have access to, or the means, to get to closed circuits.  Are they forgetting that their customers may not be willing, nor have the funds to pay for track days each time they want to ride?

Once again, as with the Long Way Round, I am astonished at KTM’s lack of foresight and clarity.  A KTM branded V4 superbike might be just the thing that KTM needs to gain a Ducati like level of credibility on the street.  While the engineering knowledge gained in MotoGP may be good for the overall brand, in the US, KTM still suffers from a “it’s only a dirt bike company” mentality.  Bring on a world class superbike, and that mentality could be significantly changed.

So KTM, I beg of you, please do not repeat your “Long Way Round” fiasco by not offering your excellent bikes to people who want them.  You have an excellent brand and use the tag line “Ready To Race” extensively as a mainstay of your corporate thinking.  If you keep this up, you might want to change your tag line to “Ready To Be Average”.  Please KTM, don’t bar us from the door like you did Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman…again.

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