Is it just me or are "new" motorcycles just 0.01% better than "last year's model"??? New R1, old R1, new CBR600, old CBR600, new GSXR, old GSXR, what's the difference other than 2 kg, 10mm and 2 degrees at various points? I am sure I speak for a significant number of motorcyclists:
We are BORED of incremental improvements. We NEED new ideas. Evolution is no longer enough. Give us a new Ducati 916. Give us a new fireblade. Give us a new V-Rod (ok, I'll wait a few years for that, or will that be decades, considering it's a Harley?)
I can't wait for the motorcycle to turn our world on its head like one of the above did - sorry old(er) folks, I can't remember much before the 90s - too young........
These damn things LOOK the same as the last model. I'd be damned if I could make out the difference between a '98 R1, a '99 R6, and a '04 R1 - all at 20 paces (and for all you smarta**es out there, I have better than 20/20 vision.....
After the Honda CB750 and to a lesser extent the Kawasaki Z-1 (which saw duty as the days Roadracers through Tourers) and were the last revolutionary bikes in my eyes, it's been mostly refinement and specialization. That said as an "Ancient one" (I can remember from the 70's, lol) I am happy with the results. The bar has been raised to a level that I believe it's possible to buy a "good" Motorcycle from any Manufacturer. Viva La Evolution. There's nothing wrong with a better idea in fact if you have one bring it on. Tularis?, is one of the companies that may provide the next "revolutionary" idea but I believe that the best of todays motorcycles are so good we are still talking about an incremental improvement, I'd love to be wrong.
You have 20/20 vision but you still can not see the forest from the trees. How 'bout the new Triumph for incremental development? Its not exactly like 0.1% different from some other model. From 20 paces I can see the difference even with my left eye (-4.00). Just close your eyes and say "rune"
I would add the GoldWing to your list, as well as the first GSXR's that brought the repli-racer to the street. I think most people have tired of the 3 lbs lighter and 3 more horsepower "improvements". Yes, the bikes are certainly better than they were 30 years ago, but how much better are they than 10 years ago? Since the motorcycle of today is better than 99.99999999% of the riders, it just isn't getting any better for us, except down at the pub where you can quote the magazine articles. Different would be better, but most companies won't take the chances they did years ago. Sad.
I think the "next big thing" is going to be getting away from gas engines. Sooner or later a new fuel source will be developed and incorporated.
IMHO the biggest improvments in the last 30 years is in brakes, handling, and tires. Aside from the electronics and water-cooling there's not a hell of a lot of differance between a 10, 20 or 30 year old street bike engine and a new one.
The big leap was from pushrod twins to overhead cam 4 cylinders and horizontally split cases. The improvements in horsepower and top speed are really overkill for the street.
You got that right, longride. Honda used to be a company that took risks. And sometimes they paid off. The CB750 and Goldwing are prime examples. How about the CBX or the CX500/650 or the V-4s? They had limited success but none of them were failures. I guess that since the old man died the Board runs everything, like Disney. So you get extra caution and repeated formulas. Typical. Oh wait, my mistake. Honda's Big New Idea is the Rune. (snicker)
Yamaha used to come out with new ideas too. Remember the Vison? Now their idea of a revolutionary bike is air-cooled.
Honda and Yamaha (the biggest by far) are the most conservative. At least Kawasaki tries a bit with something like the ZZ1000. It seems that the smaller manufacturers are the most likely to take a risk. Tiny Suzuki offers an entire line of nice V-twins. Honda offers one and can't even make that one go. What a joke.
Count on the really tiny palyers (who can least afford it) to give an alternative. Guzzi, Aprilia, Ducati or Buell is where you need to look. Unless you just want cookiecutteurs.
Hate to break it to you, but there are larger differences than 0.01%. Most are evolutionary, but all around you can find examples that are as close to revolutionary as any of the bikes you have mentioned. Look at the changes in weight, stock use of slipper clutches, radial brakes, Honda's change of rear suspension mounting location and now the upside down swingarm on the R1. That was a very obvious distinction on the R1, and if you missed it, then you aren't looking very close.
Other changes you might want to note include the frame going over the engine on both the ZX-10R and the new R1. Btw, have you heard any of the old racers mention that most of the Liter Class bikes are good enough off the show room floor to beat the best 500cc GP bikes from 7-10 years ago?
Also, Sport Rider did a comparison of a modified 2000 R1 against a 2003. If the new bike wasn't quite a bit better, the suspension and exhaust changes alone would have made the old bike considerably quicker than the 2003 on the track.
If you want more changes, search on roadracingworld.com for the patent given on the Tularis. It changes the direction of travel for the rear shock in a dramatic way. It will be interesting to see if any major manufacturers follow suit. I have seen this bike in person, but am sure many have not so I will explain a bit. The Tularis is a bike built similar to 500GP bikes, using a Polaris Snowmobile Engine. It is extremely lightweight, which allows it to develop a power to weight close to a liter class bike.
If you add all of this up, it shows there are more changes happening now than before (at least in my opinion), but they are being made by more manufacturers. When everyone works to improve their bike, the changes by any one manufacturer are not as noticeable.