Would You Buy a Special Edition?




For 2014, Triumph will offer a Special Edition model of the Tiger 800XC. Nattily dressed in black and red, the machine certainly looks sharp and sophisticated. But is such downtown finery fitting for a muscle-and-sinew adventure bike? Aren’t adventure riders just function junkies? Or are they susceptible to the same eye-candy cravings as the rest of us? What is the appeal of Special Editions, anyway?

Special Editions have almost become a tradition of their own, going back at least to the 1991 Harley FXDB Sturgis. They show up all over the motorcycle spectrum, whether it’s Kawasaki’s Vulcan 900 Special Edition or their Ninja 300 Special Edition. Ducati has their gorgeous-bordering-on-tacky “Tricolore” editions. Triumph has had Bonneville and Daytona Special Editions, not to mention their sell-out Steve McQueen Scrambler. Harley seems to have a special anniversary edition every three months or so. That’s fine, but I’m not sure fifteen years warrants an anniversary edition (ahem, Victory).

These are not “S” or “R” or “Luxury” models. The upgrades are almost always purely cosmetic, there is a limited production run, and there is a premium price. Those are the basic rules for making a Special Edition. Not too complicated, and they’re guaranteed to sell, if you’re starting with a reasonably popular base model.
It’s easy to dismiss these Special Editions as pure vanity purchases (“Look, I paid more!”), or ill-conceived investment bikes. That Special Edition bike will only be worth a premium years later under ideal market conditions, and one of those conditions is that you don’t ride it. Most of us do not buy bikes in order to not ride them.

Triumph Tiger 800 XC SE
2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC SE

There is something more at work here, however. Clearly, many people love owning Special Editions, and manufacturers love catering to those people. It may not be rational to pay extra for something that doesn’t ride any differently, but we all know this isn’t a rational purchase. Your choice of bike is as much a statement about who you are, as it is about how you ride. It is signing up for your stereotype of choice.

Buying the Special Edition model is a way of putting an exclamation point on that statement. It is an added deposit of loyalty. The best part about it is, only other aficionados will recognize this statement. This is not a way to brag to the world about your purchasing power, but a way to start a conversation with like-minded lovers of the finer points of motorcycle design. It’s not even very important that the Special Edition design looks that much better, just that it is, well, special.

So is it worth an extra $500, in the case of the Tiger 800XC SE, to get that special paint job and accessories, or is this just another rip-off? If you’re a cynic, it’s clearly a scam, but if you’re a romantic, and I think many bikers are, the extra grins may be totally worth it.

Do you own a Special Edition? If so, what model, and do you love it? If not, is there one that could tempt you?

Related Links:
Special Editions: Triumph, Would You Please Stop Exploiting Dead People?
New Triumphs Unveiled: Thunderbird Commander and LC, Tiger 800 XC Special Edition
AIMExpo: 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000 SE

  • Ty Schwab

    This. 2013 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 “One Millionth Edition” signifying the 1,000,000th Gixxer to roll off the assembly line. I’ve loved each Gixxer I’ve owned and while they may be seen as “Squid” bikes, they do everything well and I find them more comfortable than a CBR or R6/1. As a graphic designer, I’m a sucker for strategically placed color contrasts (re: the red nose). Get your Rudolph jokes out now. Plus, IMO the thing just looks badass. Other that obnoxious can. Sorry, not sorry.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      I actually like the red nose in person

    • Jonathan Berndt

      this was soooooooooooo much more tasteful than their current limited addition, the white one with the garish blue anodized side covers/polished frame etc…

      • Guest

        Reminds me of people who drink too much, too often….and their red noses…

    • Clint Keener

      I like this a lot too. All graphics should be so tasteful.

    • Pablo Perez

      Looks good to me.

    • MotoBell

      you a graphics designer and you like this? I am sucker for strategically placed red anything the rossa version of Prada glassess – yes! but c’mon this is ugly. yes red nose by itself ok.. but when combined with black and white and stickers

      • Ty Schwab

        I never said I was a “graphics designer”, I said I was a graphic designer. I don’t design motorcycle graphics. I design web pages and business logos. The stickers are navy blue, not black. And they are classic, a call back to the Gixxer’s glory days.

    • sospeedy

      Reminds me of people who drink too much, too often…and their red noses…

  • luxlamf

    I think there is a big difference between Co’s and their Special Editions and shows co’s horrid taste than others. The Ducati TriColore I always loved, on the other end of the Spectrum is the HD offering every year the CVO’s which are basically a attempt in defining what bad taste is in the MC community with horrid color combos and chrome and weight to appeal to those who stand around and polish instead of ride (and cost upwards to $10k More than the base model they are coming from) HD also is “Anniversary Happy” with “Celebrating” every 3 years with ” Special Editions” that cost more but only really offer cosmetics.) The Triumph McQueen bike is a true Horrorshow to me, Its a Scrambler thats 3/4 Bonnie and equipped like a badly designed BMW. I looked at this bike closely while deciding on my 2012 Scrambler purchase and hated it more and more every time I saw it. A great SE bike is different but not so much that it defeats the purpose of the bike IMHO, the Triumph Tiger above looks to be done well and not really that much done to be considered “Overboard”. But than again it also looks like they are trying to be a Ducati Hyper Motard.

    • dinoSnake

      Apparently you aren’t understanding the significant differences of Harley’s CVO Special Editions, why they cost $10k more.

      Yes, sure, absolutely, much of the difference is chrome and paint colors but CVO’s also come with Harley’s biggest engine, performance and tech packages available for the specific platform. The CVO series was the first to introduce the 110 ci, for example; they often come from the factory with a Stage 1 intake/exhaust setup and special ECU tuning to match. When ABS was optional on Harleys it was standard on CVO’s, etc.

      So there’s that huge price difference that you assaults you in color and bling…but underneath, there is *something* there. I would probably not spend that kind of money for it, but I guess there is enough of a market to justify the series.

    • Piglet2010

      I like my “Base” purple/white Bonnie much better than the McQueen version.

  • E Brown

    Typically, my first thought about most special editions is that I’d rather get the plain-jane model and spend the extra modifying the bike how I want, rather than the marketing dept. My second thought tends to be selling that down the line will be a slow, bitter experience as the owner learns used buyers don’t care he bought the special edition (“There are only 5000 with this paint scheme! What’s that? Well, yeah, you can get a kit on eBay for a couple hundred, but this is original! Excuse me? Sure, you can get a brand new one for the same money and the new suspension and engine updates, but they don’t offer this color anymore – hey, where ya goin’? Philistine!”)

  • Blixa

    If it makes you happy, why not?

    • Ben W

      100% agreed. Look at how many other areas we pay a premium for what often amounts to aesthetics. If that matters to you, go for it.

      I’ve liked some of the Special Edition Triumphs, Guzzis, and Ducatis for sure.

  • Joe

    I will say I recently purchased a Special Edition Bike. Although it had a special medallion, it really was just a color scheme difference. It was the only way to get the bike I wanted in black. But the cost was the same for SE or regular. Had there been a price increase I would not have made the purchase.

  • Fresh Mint

    Not sure if the hypermotard SP is a “special edition” but I think that was well worth the extra monies

    • cocoa classic

      The SP is more of a different model than it is a special edition. There’s more different than just cosmetics.

  • Pablo Perez

    One thing to keep in mind about Special Editions: even minor crash damage can be very expensive to restore back to original condition. I’m looking at you HD and your outrageous SE painted parts. On the upside, if you buy a second hand special edition bike, you can make a small fortune (sometimes) selling the (often discontinued) painted parts.

  • it_weenie

    I love a chance to buy the Senna Panigale.

  • Patrick Verlinden

    Bought a Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 SE this summer. Beats the normal version any day!

  • Charles Quinn

    As long as it doesn’t cost more than a paint job it’s an easy way to make your bike stand out. I own a plain VN900 and the special editions do look special. If you’re buying a bike that’s already uncommon I wouldn’t bother.

  • Ben Barbeau

    SE = Stupid Expense

  • Theodore P Smart

    I laugh at all the R1″Raven Editions” people are flogging on Craigslist — Buying a Raven Black motorcycle is NOT a special edition, it’s a black motorcycle is all.

  • Justin McClintock

    If it’s something more than paint and badges, sure. If it’s just paint and badges….not a chance.

  • Mark D

    The matte-green on that Scrambler looks great. The “Steve McQueen” signature? LAME.

  • Aaron Brown

    I own a 2008 Victory Hammer S I definitely paid more then a standard hammer but that year was first of a few special items and you don’t see them often especially that year. 75k miles later I still love her just the same if not more!

  • dinoSnake

    Yes, I own a “special edition” (actually a Limited Edition, #451 of 1000). This is the 3rd limited edition vehicle I have owned and was seeking my 4th one this summer but it didn’t work out.

    What is so special about special editions? Well, for two of the vehicles, it was function – turbos and AWD on cars not normally available that way. Big fun there.

    For my current LE, my bike, it was all down to looks – the standard model was just another black paint job, which would have made it my 3rd black vehicle. I wanted a change and the biggest change was the LE version, with colored frame as well as graphics. Perfect. A lot of other owners originally thought the color combo ugly, over the top, but I saw the possibilities of taking the design tri the final outcome and I get nothing but compliments. It does not add *much* function (but believe it or not it does add some – the blacked out wheels and frame color shaft swingarm are MUCH easier to keep clean than the standard) but was just pride of ownership here – sick of all black, my LE stands out.

  • Todd

    I reserved and purchased a Ducati Paul Smart 1000 a year and a half before they were in production. Arguably not the best motorcycle out there. But certainly the one in the crowd that gets all of the attention. If you compare the price of the standard Sport 1000 to the PS and figure out the cost of the Ohlins suspension and all of the plastics, it was a great deal. Plus, any time a used vehicle actually goes up in value, you know you have something good. I will never part with this bike.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Jealous! More for the bike than the PS limitedness!

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    I owned a 2008 Triumph Daytona 675 SE in Phantom Black and Gold…and it was a gorgeous thing totally worth the few extra bucks.

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    This is my Triumph Daytona 675 SE…yes, it was totally worth the few extra bucks for the ‘special’ edition.

    • Gonfern

      I had to get my phantom street triple r from a dealer 4 states away because no one had it new and no other color would do. Orange or grey just we’re not me. Totally worth it. Would I have paid an extra grand for it? Nah. But a little hassle to get something that you truly love looking at is no problem.

  • Gonfern

    A buddy of mine owns a Neiman Marcus edition Ducati 748. He paid an extra 2 grand back in the day for a piano black paint job. That’s it. A little over the top when the 748 came in black. He can say its one of a handful… Parked next to another black 748, no one will care.

  • Jack Meoph

    If you have the money and the need, I don’t see a problem buying the SE if it’s the bike you wanted in the first place. Triumph’s SE’s have been pretty tasteful for the most part.

  • Piglet2010

    I would only pay more if it was a Honda sport-bike with the red, white and blue paint scheme, e.g. http://www.totalmotorcycle.com/photos/2007models/2007-Honda-InterceptorVFR800FIa.jpg

    • juliansr

      hey, that’s my bike!

  • TheBoatDude

    Not sure I’d go out of my way to get an SE unless it had upgraded suspension and brakes (which would make it the “R” edition, in Triumph vernacular). The aesthetic is nice, but not that nice, IMO….

  • Aaron

    The Steve McQueen is a Bonneville, not a Scrambler.

  • Martin Buchmayr
    • Davidabl2

      So that’s the bike Jesse Pinkman bought before he threw away all his money? Cool.

  • KeithB

    I would not spend the extra dosh for a SE but would spend it on better clothing/helmet.
    Better investment.

  • Kr Tong

    The black red and chrome laden paint schemes on any vehicle should be banned for the next fifteen years. What’s special about something that looks like every other special?

  • Speedo007

    I prefer making my own special editions :)

  • juliansr

    There is something that went unmentioned about the special editions…a lot of the time they are a fully contented bike, already based on a top of the line bike, but with all the bells and whistles, quick-shifters, nicer suspension and so forth. no option left unchecked.

    It’s an easy way to get it fully loaded…and primed for posing.

    the paint…sets an individual tone and lets aficionados know you’re fully loaded with the volume turned up to 11… it also reduces the likelihood that you’ll bump into yourself at a club meet or bike night and frankly some of them are drop dead gorgeous.

  • devillock

    If I were to buy new, no, would not consider it. Maybe an “R” version but that depends on price and what the upgrades are. They usually have nice paint but not worth it imo.

  • grahluk

    If it rings your bell & you can swing it, good on ya.
    For debate’s sake though I’m thinking special editions come in 3 levels.

    1.Cosmetic SE-less common or commemorative paint schemes. Sometimes same bike in a different complexions. If it’s no more or not much more for different color bodywork or wheels as in the case of the Triumph D675SE’s black & gold then that’s a win. Or in if it’s the Tiger 800 here an extra $500 for a red frame might be worth it to someone it appeals to. It’s going to cost you waaay more than $500 in trouble and expense to strip a bike down, get it PC’d then put it together. Paying a hefty premium for cosmetics= sucker. Paying a little or nothing extra for something that pleases your eye=nice.

    2. The bolt on SE-Usually this is a win. In the case of the Triumph D675R you get the big name components instead of parts bin items for less than it would cost you to buy aftermarket & bolt them on yourself. In the case of the new CBR1kRR you get that and a little more attention to the engine build and parts selection. These kind of SE’s aren’t bad as they may incur a premium but you get the equivalent of the lavish home bolt on upgrades as standard.

    3. The true SE- The special you can’t build. R model Ducati’s come to mind with their different engine configurations. Nowadays you also get electronics packages the regular models don’t come with. Will these bikes make you any faster? Not likely, but they’re nice and if you have the money why not?

  • John

    A special edition CB500X with a 20lb weight reduction and 21″/18″ wire spoke rims and better suspension would be worth a nice premium. A CRF250L with the new 300cc engine might be worth $500 more.

  • Jay

    Sometimes special editions are a lie. BMW, some years ago, announced the end of production for their boxer-engined motorcycles. BMW felt that their future was the K-series in-line, water-cooled bikes and loudly announced that it was the end of the boxer; please buy the remaining few at a big premium. BMW customers, however, weren’t as enamored with the K-series as BMW management, and before you could say “liars!” BMW announced their new boxers; please buy more.

  • runnermatt

    I would if I liked the color option a significant amount more than the standard colors… basically if the SE looks better.

  • ThinkingInImages

    It depends how special “special” is. If it’s a tape stripe special, then no. If it’s a design change, limited run, special (that makes sense) – then maybe.

  • Dan Thomas

    Anyone remember that Bol D’or Rsvr – It was certainly a grower… Matte/Pastel purple… Now there’s a colour for excitement… ;-) Now… An MV F4 tambo or Senna… WOW!

  • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

    I would absolutely buy a special or limited edition… if it was the right bike. The only thing that kept me from a Steve McQueen Bonneville was his “signature” on the bike. Otherwise, it was everything I wanted on a Bonnie. And not buying a Ducati SportClassic SE (only 100 in the US) has always haunted me because I loved the paint job, swing arm, etc.