KTM quietly faces the ugly truth about bikes

Dailies -



KTM is utterly desperate for the youth market. So desperate, in fact, that KTM Nightlight Session is a two minute video that has almost nothing to do with the KTM 125 Duke that the video is supposed to be promoting. If it wasn’t for the beginning credits, nobody would guess it’s even a KTM project since all of the visible branding in the first half of the video is for pinkpark and Scott. Neither KTM branding nor the bike show up until the 50 second mark. And that’s if you’re really looking for it. So why is KTM making videos of the kiddies showing off their mad snowboarder skillz with some random shots of a bike that’s propped up next to the safety fencing? Because, for most kids, bikes aren’t cool.

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At first, I didn’t want to run such a terrible video, then I planned on a huge rant about how much FAIL this was as corporate marketing. But that’s when I had an epiphany. This video actually represents a turning point and KTM has finally seen the light. Of course the bike is merely used as a prop because KTM understands that it has no other choice if it wants to get its products and brand in front of a wider youth culture that is generally middle class or higher and embraces dangerous sports.

In the US, most kids don’t give a rat’s ass about motorcycles because management in the bike industry has historically ignored anyone younger than 35 in the old days, younger than 45 these days, and have completely dismissed anybody without grey hair as a viable market capable of pushing parents to buy or outright purchasing on their own. And while the prospects are slightly better in Europe thanks to programs like tiered licensing, the Nightlight Session video makes it painfully clear that KTM knows its place in the hierarchy of contemporary youth interest. Next to the safety fencing.

However, the takeaway from all this is that a proper OEM is actually branching out, which is incredibly positive. As such, Nightlight Session isn’t a silly video about kids on a mountain and desperate product placement, it’s about a company that’s actively going to where the kids are and showing them that there are these crazy things called motorcycles and that they might be fun, too.

For those of us who cling to the fantasy that everyone in the whole world obviously wishes they were cool bikers like us, KTM’s humble approach will be painfully jarring and likely ridiculed as a result of deep denial. But, isn’t realizing that you have a problem the first step to a healthy recovery?

  • JaySD

    I think there is a larger issue in convincing parents (and kids) about the fact they can ride a motorcycle safely. Even with helmets becoming much more mandatory and “cool” to use in board sports like skateboard and snowboarding the inherent perception of danger in talking about motorcycling is much higher. Even a 125 bike or 250cc bike can go plenty fast as you guys noted about bikes like my little WR250R. I was not allowed to have a bike until I moved out even though I wanted one because I recognized they were cheap transportation and infinitely cooler than any first car :P

    Marketing wise I think it is a good move on KTMs part both in developing these entry level products and in actually marketing them

    Now if only they could make the marketing convince marines that a small displacement bike could be cool and fun enough for them to learn to ride on instead of all going out and buying litre bikes

    • Myles

      I agree, even riding a little 125 is perceived (and probably is) as way more dangerous than whatever Xsport is exciting.

      I think the marketing teams need to take a new angle, and embrace it:

      Snowboarding? FOR PUSSIES! Skateboarding? MIGHT AS WELL BE ROLLERBLADING YOU LOSER! White Water Rafting? GRAB ANOTHER CASE OF RED BULL YOU MOUTH BREATHER! Motorcycling is the most INTENSE and AWESOME experience that man can overcome while we’re still waiting for the Alien Nazi Zombies to attack, sack up and visit your local dealer today!

      :Scene ends with a kid jumping on a 125 duke, ripping through first with the front wheel in the air (engine screaming), and knocking over a mailbox with his elbow:

      If everyone is into “badass” stuff, they just need to send the message that motorcycling is the most badass thing. It shouldn’t be too hard, because it is the most badass thing. IMO, the desire is what’s lacking – it’s an even greater obstacle than the safety.

      • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

        Too bad KTM is against that Press release about responsible advertisting.

        Because other industries (automobiles, energy drinks, stinky body sprays, etc) only show responsible legal behavior in their ads.

      • Roman

        “What other sport is there left where you can go out there and kill yourself? Where is it?”

        Ok, so that may scare the parents off a bit, but I’m sure the great minds in advertising can figure out a way of saying it…without actually saying it.

      • Gregory

        Is my KLR badass? It has a milkcrate, and I wear a reflective vest. Am I badass?

        Or maybe I should go for “hipster” look, instead.

        Portland, OR
        2008 KLR w. milkcrate

        • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

          I took the ninja into work today. Its 43, foggy, with a steady breeze and a light rain today. Riding a motorcycle is tough.

          That’s every day in Portland. You’re a goddamn hero, sir.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      Agreed. I don’t think it’s a lack of thinking that motorcycles are cool. I grew up desperately wanting a bike. My parents were terrified that I’d kill myself and refused to allow it.

      By the time I was old enough, I got one. Not everyone does, though. That excitement dies over the years and, once available, it lies dormant, waiting for a spark.

      Reaching the kids is more about getting parents on-board. Reaching the younger market that can buy for themselves is more of a social thing.

      • JaySD

        Even for those who choose to ride like us society labels us reckless. I am a parent of a young child and I have wrestled with whether or not it was responsible for me to take those additional risks. It’s a personal choice and I decided to continue riding but societies pressure will try to tell you to hang up the helmet or you are being irresponsible

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

          Absolutely, Jay. I deal with a lot of that in my corporate job. Some folks are aghast that I’d take such a foolish risk! But that’s part of the game. There’s a great amount of it and, I think that if you fail to capture people BEFORE they have children, you’ve mostly lost them until after the kids are gone.

        • Gregory

          Motorcycles aren’t that risky. Or am I fooling myself?

          I’m a “most of the gear, most of the time” type of rider. Not all the gear, and not all the time. But mostly.

          I don’t find motorcycles that dangerous.

          I think the key safety measures are: 1.) bright ugly orange yellow reflective vest, ALWAYS because frontal visibility is key; 2.) slow bike with little power so you don’t overpower yourself; 3.) NEVER after alcohol, strict rule; and 4.) mature metal riding state.

          Those four rules, more so than gear, keep me mostly upright.

          So… I can’t really see motorcycles being marketed as “extreme” or as “wild” or as “alternative” or anything like that. Motorcycles are just practical, sensible modes of transportation.

          And a load of fun, too.

          Portland, OR
          2008 KLR w. milkcrate

  • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

    You want to know what they did get wrong?
    The music.
    Garbage was cool when I was young (and i’m way to old to be doing any of these silly xtremz sports things).

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    I kinda liked it. So what if KTM doesn’t shove it’s product every second? There were some pretty cool boarders/skiers doing some pretty cool shit. The bike shots were almost distracting.

    Effective branding? Not in this country. But for European kids, who are marketed to by many bike manufacturers, maybe this cuts through the clutter.

    I bet the director is over 30, why else would you choose a Garbage song from 13 years ago?

    • robotribe

      Or, it’s a marketing attempt towards 30 y.o.’s who think they’re still in their 20′s.

      • F

        I’m with you an that. I’m 30 and that video is what I wish I were doing during the non-riding months even though, just like the girl in the beer commercials, I know I never will be.

  • Frosty_spl

    There should be other boardsports and BMX mixed in with shots of stunting the duke. It’s a disconnect.

    And Vampire Weekend for the soundtrack. Not this Garbage.

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Oh god, Vampire Weekend? Liking them should result in an automatic revoking of your M license.

      I think the euro teens would probably prefer Crystal Castles.

      • Myles
        • Roman

          So, for a moment last summer, wearing slim fitting NBA jerseys from the mid-to-late-90s was the thing to do? And to think my Jerry Stackhouse Sixers jersey could’ve been put back in rotation for the first time since middle school! Maybe in another 5 years….

          • Myles

            Last summer was the summer of the hoopster.

            It was horrible, because not one single hoopster actually followed NBA Basketball.

            • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

              If you wore a Larry Bird jersey, you got called a racist.

              • Roman

                To be fair, a good percentage of people who wore Bird jerseys back in the day, really were racist.

      • JaySD

        Is it bad that I kind of liked it?

        • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

          Crystal Castles? No, they are fucking awesome. Weird. But awesome.

  • Scott-jay

    As a gray rider and someone not in-the-business, why do I care if motorcycle market-place is shrinking or growing? Selfishly speaking.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      My guess: larger market means more bikes means more profit means more investment means more technology means better bikes means everyone is happy. That’s aside from the whole belief that more bikes on the road means more accommodations for riders means more driver awareness means everyone is happy.

      Really, it’s just about happiness.

      • aadmanz

        Yes, indeed, well on the larger market, more bikes thing..

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      You probably don’t/won’t if the types of bikes, gear, and events that exist are what you like.

      My dad also doesn’t care. He’s got his Harley and doesn’t give a shit about any other part of motorcycle world.

    • HammSammich

      Conceivably, if the market-place shrinks it could create a downward spiral: Rider choices reduced = fewer riders, ultimately reducing demand and further shrinking the market, which reduces choices further, and so on. I would argue that right now one of the few things keeping motorcycles from being outlawed by people who see them as too dangerous or otherwise unsavory, is the political power of the riders themselves. My concern is that the market-place could shrink so much that the political power of riders would drop below critical-mass and could open the gates to have them outlawed for all but off-road use.

      So your statement “selfishly speaking” is very accurate. I’m not a “gray rider” yet, but as a 30-something with 2 young kids, I want to do everything I can to share my passion for motorcycles with them, and hopefully get to ride with them (on their own bikes) by the time I am old and gray (or more likely bald if the current trend continues ;) ). I love motorcycling, and wish to share it with everyone. Maybe during your lifetime your interests are secure, but why would you want to deprive others of the joy you’ve found riding?

    • Kirill

      Because despite your generation’s insistence to the contrary, its not all about you. Some people out there actually care about future generations and want them to enjoy the same things they enjoyed.

      This “why do I care what happens in the future” attitude is why this country is going to shit.

      • Scott-jay

        Whoa, I’m a gear-head and quite thankful for seemingly living during one of motorcycling’s heydays, or bubbles.
        Growth as an absolute compass, is obsolete.
        Industrial boosterism reads like a new facet of motorcycling, to me.

        • Kirill

          Its less industrial boosterism and more concern that is reaching a dead end because there’s little interest in it from the younger set for a variety of reasons, including a complete inability (or unwillingness) to market to said younger set by the people that create the machines we love.

  • Cheese302

    I really like KTM, but in the unending acxle wrap around, the bike i would be interested in is the Duke 690, where as the street triple r is a little more fitting for me and about the same price. if the 125-250 came over here, i think i would pick one up for commuting purposes.

  • aadmanz

    Our tiered licensing system appears to be getting less kids on bikes because they have to start out on light bikes (and you have to be old to understand that those are actually fun)
    The upcoming extension of the system could make it a lot worse. No longer a 25kW (33bhp) limitation for under 21s, but 35kW for all starters and a mandatory new exam (in most countries) to step up to big bikes.

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      Interesting take. I’ve been of the opinion that a tiered system would boost young riders by removing the stigma of a small bike being “wussy”. Additionally, the lighter smaller bikes would be easier and safer for new riders to learn on.

      Maybe motorcycles just aren’t cool anymore.

      • aadmanz

        I guess in part it has done that, but if you are under 21 and want to ride a bike you have to factor in that you have to ride with limited power, making the choice for a bike over a car license or an iphone just that little bit harder..
        With the 35kW limit for all + mandatory stepup test, it will make getting your (full) license more expensive and more complicated thus further reducing the incentive to start riding..

        It will probably create a big group of interesting 35kW bikes though, just like there is a big market for 25kW bikes at the moment. Ninja 250 for example fits the 25kW power and power/weight limitations exactly.

        • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

          I’ve heard that the 35 kW limit is why BMW dropped the power on the 2011 G650GS. It was 36 kW (or 37 kW) which was listed on spec sheets as 50 hp (or 53 hp).

          I’m not sure what I think about the G650GS being a “beginner” bike.

          • aadmanz

            Yep, and the two tigers are both 70 kW (35kW restricted bikes cannot have more than double that originally)

            I think it doesn’t get much more beginner than a G650GS..

  • HammSammich

    Damnit Grant, get out of my fantasy world!!

  • Chris F

    I think it’s a desperate attempt at the kids. My wife sees this all the time in her line of work, fashion. Open up any Vogue and in the ads for other products will be vintage triumphs and select other bikes. Even though my wife is intimately familiar with all types of bikes, most of her friends aren’t and don’t want to be associated with those “Harley guys”. Doesn’t work. Kids who buy bikes already love them.

  • Kevin

    On a related note, why do you guys feel that tiered licensing has not been pushed into law at the state level? Which group or lobby would be against this?

  • Archer

    Hmm. My experience seeing the reaction of younger people when I roll up on my CBR must mean there is an usual pool of bike-loving kinds in my part of the country.

    Hmm. Wait a minute. I’ve experienced this in three states and five countries. But, Grant says kids hate bikes… go figger.

    Maybe kids DO like bikes, they just don’t like guys wearing $400.00 denim jeans… ;)

    • rustycb450

      Yeah I kinda have to agree… I’m not totally convinced of the ‘kids don’t like bikes’ argument. Where is the basis of this argument coming from?

  • Paul

    Seems just like any other Pepsi, Coke, Gatorade, etc commercial/video where they show an extreme sport and then try to tie their product into it at the end. I think it’s a natural way to appeal to a group when that group may have no other tie into to the product. Those that watch snowboarding may not also watch/ride motorcycles, but now they know of a brand named KTM and may investigate further or at the very least notice next time they see one IRL. At the very least they can associate KTM as “cool” for sponsoring/being affiliated with a snowboarding video.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      I see what you’re saying, but this is more like if Sea-Doo hosted a freestyle skate event in the desert for teens, shot a video and added some awkward cuts of the new jet-ski for beginners on a pedestal next to the vert ramp while the kids were going wild.

  • Thom

    Hmmn .

    Seems to me here in KC its the 20 somethings that are going ape ( ___ ) for Cafe Racers ( building their own as well as having them built , on mostly smaller cc M/C’s ) as well as what I’m calling the Moped Marauders ( highly modified Mopeds )

    As well as a plethora of under 30′s showing up at the Classic M/C show here ( and freaking out over my Big Sid and HoAMe T-shirts )

    But maybe thats just KC .

    Or… maybe its what the manufactures are offering , and not a lack of interest on the part of the kids .

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Pretty sure being old enough to buy beer and go to bars means you aren’t a kid any more.

      • Thom

        Grant ;

        When you’re over 50 , everybody under the age of 29 is a kid in your eyes . LoL

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      That’s totally different than what I perceive here in KC. At the shows (like the excellent HoAME show) there are a wide range of people.

      However, I don’t see many of the younger guys out riding other than the squid crowd.

      • Thom

        jpenny ;

        I’m here in Midtown ( Union Hill ) so maybe I’m seeing a different crowd of M/C riders , especially in the evenings and weekends .

        Also I wasn’t trying to imply only the young attended the HoAME show , but to point out they do show up in decent numbers .

        That is one Fantastic Classic m/c show for everyone else looking in .

        • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

          Gotcha. I’m in Midtown at lunch time or late at night where I am most likely playing in a bar and not paying too much attention to the traffic.

    • Myles

      Moped Marauders is an awesome way to put it. A bunch of kid’s in Richmond are transitioning from fixies to mopeds, and many appreciate “standard” motorcycles – but few actually ride or have any desire for getting that M class.

      In DC, I know all of four people in their 20′s who ride. Everyone is either buried under the beginning of their career or are disgusting hipster “artists”. The former keeps telling themselves “next-year” and the latter is generally dead poor (save their healthy allowance from wealthy parents).

      The latter fucking LOVE my bike, tho. I ride a Honda 599 (Hornet, CB600f) and the hipster women can’t get enough of it. “You’re bike is so cool! It doesn’t look like a transformer or my Dad’s Harley!”. When I was looking for my first bike I just wanted a Honda without bodywork and with a four cylinder engine. Who knew I’d crack the hipster code? And why the hell is the standard sector such a sales flop?

      • Thom

        Myles ;

        These Moped Marauder kids in KC are really something . Everything from Moped Choppers , to Moped Cafe Racers and Moto GP Mini Me replicas . They seem to ride the heck out of them as well .

        I came up with the term in an article I wrote for the IJMS on the back pages to see if this trend had caught on anywhere else .

        I think it fits . They look and act like a Biker Gang on Mopeds hence Moped Marauders .

  • Thom

    Having said that ( post 3:20 pm ) this KTM ad is like 95% of the ads out there today

    You don’t have a clue WTF they’re even advertising till you get to the end of the ad .

    I have a hard time comprehending WTH this new Advertising Tactic would be the least bit successful ….. but then again I am of a certain age ( over 50 ) so what do I know ???

    • Kirill

      Ad agencies seem to have largely ran out of ideas, so they’ve been diving deeper and deeper into the waters of surrealism and absurdity. It’s only going to get worse and may end up at a point where every commercial is basically a Piet Mondrian painting.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

    Product association, big news?

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    shit’s weak, KTM

  • Dan

    I was lucky,my parent’s recognized I was crazy at an early age. I got to start riding at 15. They figured it was safer than some of the other shit I was in to. The 60′s,the best of times!

  • walter

    It’s obvious.
    Someone in the marketing department figured out how to get a free ski vacation.

    “I’ll take our event banners to the mountain, park the little street bike, and film some skiers and snowboarders.”

    It’s marketing. It doesn’t have to make sense.

    • Thom

      walter ;

      I think you might of pegged it on both counts !

  • Tyler

    Speaking as someone looking to get into the hobby, I know what is stopping most people I know from getting into it: Insurance.

    Insurance for me on anything will be at least $2500/year. It’s brutal. Most guys my age (23) won’t even look into it because of the cost. If you can’t even get people in the dealerships, how do you sell them bikes?

    • Kirill

      What I did was pay cash for a cheap bike that’s unlikely to be stolen and get basic liability only on it. At 23, liability-only ran me about $360 for an FZR600.

      • Roman

        That’s the only way to go- liability only. I don’t think I’ve had full coverage on any of my bikes. Than again, I’ve never bought a new bike.

      • Tyler

        I just did a quick quote online for that bike: $1795 /year.

        Keep in mind, this is Ontario, Canada. It just snowed yesterday here, so you can only ride the thing for half the year, but have to pay for the whole year.

    • Thom

      Tyler – Get a smaller cc M/C . Hop the hell out of it and no one especially the Insurance companies will be the wiser , while you’ll be having a ball till you hit the next age/price bracket and can move up .

      Not to mention you’ll learn a lot more about riding as well as fixing/modifying a M/C which will also help lower your riding costs .

      Just check with your local Insurers to see at what cc the price break kicks in .

      • Tyler

        Insurance is crazy here in Ontario. This is a quote from the cheapest company, by far, that I could find:

        * 2008 Honda CBR125 = $ 146.32 per month
        * 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 250 = $ 166.02 per month
        * 2006 Honda CBR600RR = $358.21 per month

        I’ve gotten some quotes for cheaper 600s than that (about 3300/yr), and a bike like an SV650 will run me about 2800.

        I’m trying to avoid the 125/250 because I’m going to be doing some highway riding (that rules out the 125), and I’m also 6’3, so my knees don’t fit around the tank very well (in my opinion). I may still go that way, though.

    • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

      wtf? I spend $86/year on a ’79 GS750. And that’s a premium package with everything included. I did take a MSF course, fyi.

      • Tyler

        I didn’t say it made sense :(.

        Courses and license type don’t seem to make a difference, from what I’ve seen. Insurance goes down once you’re 25, and after 1 year of riding, though.

        However, once a lot of guys are over 25, they start focusing more on buying a house rather than buying a bike (pfft).

        • Devin


          Devin from Sudbury, ON here. You seemed to be misinformed on a few things.

          The course saved me $300 and some, the exact cost of the course (plus it got me a free M2 license for passing – a $100 value).

          MC insurance places are cheapest, but only if you are over 25 and experienced. Try an insurance brokers that carries Jevco – they deal in “high risk” drivers, and were the absolute cheapest when I started.

          Although my 1992 EX500 went from 600 to 1100 by the end – it now costs 402$ with another provider, but I am now over 25 with 6 years riding. A Street Triple was only $550 a year – they just really ding new riders here hard.

          The bikes to look at are Ninja/EX500, Ninja 250, Suzuki GS500 withOUT fairing, Suzuki.Kawi DRZ/KLR400 (Dual Sport).

          The cut on the tank for the 250 Ninja makes a lot of bigger guys feel right at home, I can barely flat floot the DRZ 400 at 6′ (and it has no tank buldge to get in your way) and all the bikes I’ve mentioned can do the 400 series highways.

          Also, the bikes you are looking at are way too new for cheap insurance and have plastic – plastic = $$$ in a drop, which they expect you to do. Buy an oldie without a fairing for cheap ins.

          I know it sucks, but for the student on a budget, this is the only way you get to ride.

          • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

            +1 for EX500s. In the US, I’m paying $35/mo for full coverage. 24, took MSF course, only been riding for 2 years. Those things are ugly, but they’re also dirt cheap to gas/insure/fix/maintain.

  • Miles Prower

    My friends who ride motorbikes either

    - Grew up in India, Asia, Central America, or South America.
    - Ride snowboards.
    - Both.

  • T Diver

    I think the reality is that motorcycles are considered luxury items. As such, they are not the ideal purchase for youths (according to finance/insurance companies). That’s probably why there is not a lot of marketing toward youths. Both my parents are MDs. They are not too psyched that I ride.
    Oddly enough, I used to work with a chick who’s brother became parapalegic – FROM SNOWBOARDING, not a motorcycle.

  • Steven

    KTM has to stay in business so that we mopedders can continue to buy their centrifugal clutches to put in our Puch mopeds.

    Isn’t it nice of the Austrians to use the same taper on every crankshaft made in the country in the last 40 years?

  • Alex

    Toyota sponsors action sports. How is this much different? Especially in the EU market. I don’t see this as such a disconnect.

    In the USA motorcycles are escapism, in the rest of the world they are a way of life. I don’t see this as off-marketing at all. KTM isn’t trying to tell EU kids that bikes are cool. They are trying to make sure their bikes are the ones they choose when the invariably go to buy one.

  • hops

    Seriously? It’s marketing, not a referendum on the future of motorcycling. What’s the big deal?
    Every brand tries to connect their product with other products or activities that customers might like. Whether it’s Ducati, or Honda, or HD (heaven forbid) they’re just trying to connect with people that don’t already ‘get it’ by seeing the value in their product.

  • http://kanai.net/weblog/ gkanai

    Dirt bikes are still very, very popular for non-urban youth. Maybe not as popular as snowboarding but certainly a big segment there. KTM does very well in the dirt segment afaict. The 125 Duke just isn’t really for the non-urban market.

  • Core

    Looking for a 250 starter bike.. or a sharp little starter bike in general… in the US. Well you can definitely tell that manufactures have ignored this segment completely.*sighs*

  • F

    I think KTM would be smart to push an electric version of that bike to this audience. Come up with a bmx/moto crossover (Project M85 or better the Derbi DH 2.0) only electric and push a “park-style” experience. Maybe even bmx type events.

    No gas they aren’t allowed to buy, now loud noises for the neighbors to complain about.

    Screw the kids…I’d be all over this.

  • Jason

    There’s a bike in the video? Hmmm must have missed it. :)

  • brutus

    k quick note from a snowboarder. THIS SHIT IS PLAYED THE FUCK OUT. jesus. nobody cares how many spins you can do you little rich gymnast. what age are they marketing to by the way?