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Why Don't Tiny Motorcycles Sell In the US?

The best-selling motorcycle of all time is…wait for it…The Honda Super Cub.

Yep, a 50cc motorcycle which features a whopping 3.9bhp and can reach a top speed of a less-than-inspiring 50mph.

I’m a regular freak when it comes to searching for excellent bikes on, and I was thinking the other day about what kind of bikes I most often search for – and how I do those searches.

It suddenly struck me as strange that I always start my searches by excluding any bikes under 500cc. Before you accuse me of being an environmentally-unsound swine, I do have what I believe are a solid set of reasons for my motorcycle preferences, and I’ll lay them out for you:

  1. I’m old (if you think just a touch over 50 is old; and you do…) and riding position is crucial to my enjoyment of riding
  2. I’m not exactly compact or dainty at 6’4″ and pushing 250 pounds
  3. I like to go fast on a motorcycle and not quite so fast in a car (and I believe a bike has to be capable of  ‘doing the ton‘ – not that I ever go that fast – without hammering your eyeballs loose)
  4. It’s very hard to find used, small-displacement bikes where I live in the U.S. Midwest.
  5. And I just don’t care what kind of gas mileage a bike gets…it’s always better than a car

Feel free to hit me with the environmental criminal tag now, as I’m sure I’ve earned your tongue-clucking disapproval.

Here’s where my prejudice against small-displacement motorcycles gets dicey; I really, really like the idea of an easy to handle, lightweight, efficient machine.

Bikes from builders like Australian shop Deus ex Machina Customs appeal to me on a lot of levels. Their bikes tend to be small, light, efficient and feature a visually-tight cropped style. Nothing but motorcycle to see here, people, and leave the chrome for the dub culture guys and their cars.

Small doesn’t mean slow, it just means small, and that’s where I have to part ways with my vision of a tinier motorcycle future. Riding around here means hitting the highway, and if you’ve ever driven on Michigan highways you know that traveling a relatively speedy 80MPH or so means you’ll regularly be left in the dusty wake of all manner of vehicles.

In Michigan, and a lot of the wide-open Midwest, Grandma gets antsy when she has to slow down much below 70MPH on the highway. Add to that fact the certainty that you’re going to face a lot of truck traffic, some serious winds and potholes big enough to swallow a Prius and you may see my point here; big is better in many ways.

Not being the practical sort, and really, anyone who rides a motorcycle is not the practical sort, I’m still eyeballing smaller bikes all of the sudden. For years my father-in-laws has regaled me with tales of riding his hopped-up Yamaha SR500 all around the country – and keeping up with all the big bikes his friends favored – and I’m finally starting to consider the possibilities of smaller machines.

You can pick up small-displacement bikes, and some of them are very, very cool, for much less than $2,000 bucks, and that’s not a lot of scratch for a bike capable of putting the wind in your eyeballs in a meaningful way.

Will I actually buy one and ride it? Time will tell, but the idea has actually entered the field along the edges of my radar screen…


Deus Customs SR500TT





Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Top speed– 100+MPH
Horsepower – 30BHP
Engine Type  Parallel Twin
Cylinders  2
Engine Stroke  4-Stroke
Cooling  Liquid
Valves  8
Valves Per Cylinder  4
Valve Configuration  DOHC
Compression Ratio  11.6:1
Starter  Electric
Fuel Requirements  Regular
Fuel Type  Gas
Transmission Type  Manual
Number Of Speeds  6
Primary Drive (Rear Wheel)  Chain
Wheels & Tires:  
Front Tire (Full Spec)  110/70 R17
Rear Tire (Full Spec)  130/70 R17
Front Brake Type  Hydraulic Disc
Rear Brake Type  Disc
Technical Specifications:  
Wheelbase (in/mm)  55.1 / 1399.5
Fuel Capacity (gal/l)  4.8 / 18.2

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