There’s a headline you won’t enjoy reading, especially if you’re a fan of KTM and their underrated 1190 RC8. KTM CEO and President Stefan Pierer has stated in no uncertain terms that he believes as a producer of sportsbikes, KTM has a serious responsibility to their customers regarding safety and that therefore means saving you from yourself.
That statement was made in an interview conducted by legendary motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart and published in CycleNews magazine. The interview is quite an interesting and lengthy read and was spread out over two issues, but it’s the second part of the discussion that’s a real eye opener.
Stefan Pierer’s shocking announcement came in response to a question regarding KTM’s return to MotoGP in 2016. Here’s the reason for returning to MotoGP:
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 streetbike. Okay? 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.
Just to make sure he was hearing things correctly, Cathcart pressed the KTM CEO and asked if there would be at least a homologated version of this machine? In answer, Pierer again said “No, because we at KTM think that a sportbike with such performance doesn’t have any place on the public roads.”
He goes on to say the following:
But let’s be honest, 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.
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.
So is Stefan Pierer just another CEO completely out of touch with reality and condemning KTM to a future of mediocrity? That’s a difficult argument to make, as Pierer has presided over KTM for a number of years now and its current success is no doubt in large part due to his leadership. He also stated that part of his reasoning is fear of European politicians who would ban motorcycles outright if they could. So in effect, his decision is perhaps one designed to avoid the issues from the 90’s where governments almost intervened to stop the top speed wars.
But it’s also a huge cop-out. KTM’s most powerful bike on sale is the 1290 Super Duke R which produces 177 hp (The 1190 RC 8 R makes 172 hp but weighs 5 kg less). That sort of power has been available in motorcycles since the Hayabusa was released over 15 years ago and the Suzuki certainly had none of the electronic aids that the Duke does such as traction control, lean-sensitive traction control, ABS and various engine modes when it was first released. So why is it now all of a sudden too dangerous for the public?
Secondly, does this dangerous amount of horsepower also encompass other types of bikes like sports tourers? Say, the 1290 Super Adventure which delivers 160 hp and was only just released? Or are motorcycles only dangerous if they’ve got sportsbike fairings?
We can understand being cautious of politicians and their desire to interfere, but to leave a motorcycle company who’s motto is ‘Ready to Race’ without a flagship sportsbike you can ride on the road? Does not compute.