Nov 20, 2006

Motorcyclists: We need or we want?

A phrase I shall always remember is when I met Venu Srinivasan for the only time I have ever. I quizzed him about the four-speed gearbox on the TVS Victor GLX. He told me, with the everpresent smile that the bike didn’t need it. Too tongue-tied to respond, I thought to myself then that the bike would not pick up steam in the market.

The exact nature of the thought came to me a few days later, when it crystallised into a blog-worthy sound byte. Here it is.

Motorcycles are all about what riders want, not about what riders need.

There’s two ways to understand that. Let me take the more literal path first. What do riders (us) need. We need protection from spills and rains. So we need a BMW C1. Flop. We need just enough power to get from home to office. So we need a Hero Honda Splendor. Which motorcyclist dreams of one? The other is (was) TVS’ way of understanding it. Why have a five-speed gearbox when you could make do with four? When do you ever shift into fourth in city traffic? Etc.

But since then, TVS learnt that want is the cornerstone of motorcycle success, not need. Do you actually believe that everyone who rides a litre-four needs 190 bhp? Or the noise from the race pipe? Or six degrees of just-so suspension?

Enter the Apache. Fixed a lot of the flaws of the Fiero, add a few wants – like sexy looks. Forgot a few more, like a committed riding position, like clip-ons… did better than any 150cc TVS that went before it.

But here’s the reason why I brought this up. I think Bajaj, who have been delivering what is wanted by riders, has suddenly reverted to the needs platform. Which is one of the reasons why I think the Pulsar 150, 180 and 220 are excellent motorcycle, but I do not think they are as desirable as the first DTSi 180 or the first-gen P180.

We never needed the extra kick of the 180, but we wanted it. We wanted the 220 to be a bigger kick. Personally, I wanted it adorned with all manner of not-needed stuff. Like an outsize front disk, with a supercool radial mount calliper. Instead of a normal pair of footpegs, I wanted a genuine set of rearsets. Instead of the fast, civil 20 bhp, I wanted a top-endy, revving 25 bhp machine that woke up at 5000 rpm and kept you awake late into the night. You get my drift?

I think if we were to look back into motorcycle history, we’d find that motorcycles that satisfied our wants were always the great ones. The ones that satisfied our needs weren’t. Some of need bikes were great, so they sold in huge numbers, but never formed any emotional ties with their riders.

And I think any manufacturer, globally, who loses sight of the want-need perspective can’t excite riders.


Tanmay said...

Great!! I must say, you have expressed the desire of the bikers effortlessly. I must concur that 180 classic provided the thrust that motorcycling required in 2002. Now in 2007 (2006 is almost gone and I don't expect any miracle happening), we need a similar boost..something that is not coming out. I personally hate seeing DTSFI comining without monoshocks.

Nyctophobia said...

its true, in fact, even if u buy something you need (for a variety of reasons) u end up lusting after something you want, especially with bikes !!!

Yogesh Sarkar said...

Spot on

Bhavesh said...

Maslows theory of hierarchy!!!