What dreams are made of
News from the Tokyo and Eicma shows
The Tokyo and Eicma salons last fall brought us, as usual, some material to lust for and dream about during the long winter months. A plethora of production models were unveiled, some of which might already be on the showroom floors in Canada by now. Other machines presented ranged from the just about ready to go on the production line Monkey 125 from Honda, inspired and a direct offspring of the legendary CT70 mini-trail that was once upon a time so popular and the very machine I bummed a ride on from a friend to get my first taste of motorcycling, to concepts like the Yamaha MOTOROïD electric powered, rider-assit equipped wonder cycle that will come by itself to its rider and conform to his or her anatomy. The artificial intelligence of a MOTOROïD style bike might be just what I’ll need when I’m an old geezer with eliquibrium and brainpower deficiencies; no four-wheeled electric “scooter” can come close.
Here is an overview of the motorcycles presented that piqued my interest.
Concepts, prototypes and exclusives/exotics
A concept motorcycle with a definite futuristic look that, upon closer inspection of the construction and technologies employed, can be built using the technologies we have now. The battery pack of the concept machine is obviously small by current standards but it can drive the rear-wheel-hub motor and propel the surprisingly heavy, 213 kg announced, futuristic machine with a solo rider aboard. Look at the frame, swing arm, rear suspension and rider accommodations; it is unique in design but can be built easily. The front forks are oddly shaped for sure but it is not out-of-this-world stuff. The automated and the assisted riding part is the unknown here. It exists, Yamaha has shown us the MotoBot that can ride on its own, but even with its “brain” inside somewhere, I can’t for myself figure out how the auto-balancing mechanism could be miniaturized enough to be hidden inside that sleek prototype.
Honda Riding Assist-e
A first version of the Riding Assist self-balancing bike was introduced by video sometime last year. The Riding Assist-e presented at Tokyo is now a completely electric concept; the first version was said to be hybrid-propelled. That motorcycle can walk behind you and navigate its way through doorways; we have seen that on video. You may also have seen the Japanese rider sitting on the Riding Assist-e at the presentation with both feet on the pegs and the side stand up; it is really auto balancing. That prototype performs as promised. A variable fork rake angle stretches out the front end at very low speeds to help the system ensure the rider-motorcycle combo ends up pot-over-kettle at a standstill. By the look on the face of the rider, a bit of concentration might be needed while onboard and stopped but it is a convincing demonstration of the technology deployed by Honda to move us in the near future.
Moto Guzzi Concept V85
Here we have a concept motorcycle that looks ready to go into production as is. And it should as far as I’m concerned! Really, the Classic Enduro-styled Guzzi, as they call it, should be a hit with its middleweight 850 cc 90 degree transverse twin pumping out a reasonable 80 horsepower. That new motor is said to be the platform that will power a few more Moto Guzzi models in the very near future.
KTM 790 Adventure R
Another eagerly awaited middleweight adventure model here but a bit of a bummer that it is still presented as a concept machine. There were high hopes that the long distance, off-road capable 790 Adventure R powered by the same parallel twin as the Duke 790 would be announced as a 2018 model as there is some definite interest for a lighter long-distance machine to go on a round-the–world expedition or just to the nearest unpaved playground, whatever you feel up to.
Yamaha Ténéré 700 World Raid Prototype
After the T7 prototype unveiled last year, expectations were that the FZ07 (MT07 nowadays) derived on/off-road Ténéré 700 would be a production model but no such luck yet. The serious-looking, Dakar-styled adventure prototype seems closer to production; finish is not the one-off level of the last year T7; a proper dashboard and switchgear, sleeker bodywork (still not a production piece but that could be easily replicated in not-as-noble plastic) and numerous details point to an easy transition to, hopefully, mass production nearby. The Ténéré 700 World Raid moniker comes from the fact that it will be ridden around the globe in 2018 by a team of factory tests pilots, going to an array of motorcycling events. Dear Yamaha, we want to see it up close here in Canada!
Indian FTR 1200 Custom
Here we have a tribute to the performance of the Indian Wrecking Crew riders on their FTR750 flat track race bikes that just about decimated the AMA championship last year. A Scout V-Twin 1133 cc motor wrapped in proper chrome-moly dirt track worthy frame with bonafide suspension, brakes, exquisite wheels and very close to the original racer bodywork. This is a custom motorcycle displayed to test the waters. Indian’s head honcho says that a limited production model, with maybe somewhat less expensive components but still using that 45 kg lighter (compared to a standard) Scout frame configuration is a real possibility. Start drooling now, you flat track fanatics!
Somewhere between pure prototypes and production motorcycles we have the ARCH Motorcycle offerings. The American company founded in 2007 by Gard Hollinger and Keanu Reeves (you likely know that name) has evolved from offering made-to-order custom motorcycles to limited handcrafted production runs with a catalogue that offers three models: the KRGT-1 that was sold on order since 2015 but gets significant updates, the sportier ARCH 1 that pushes the power cruiser theme farther still, and the exclusive Method 143. The first two models share the same S&S 2032 cc V-Twin while the top of the line Method 143 is moved by a 2343 cc motor from the same origin. The base model KRGT-1 is listed at $78,000 to which you may add whatever options you choose when ordering, while the price of the Method 143 needs to be discussed with Mr. Hollinger and Reeves. All of the 23 future owners of that limited production bike will get to enjoy the pleasure of rolling on a carbon fibre mono-cell chassis developed in partnership with race bike specialist Suter Racing, carbon wheels, proprietary FGRT Öhlin’s fork, MotoGP inspired titanium/carbon fibre exhaust system, and CNC-milled single-side swing arm and bodywork that is adorned with custom tailored leather trimming. The price? Well, if you have to ask this piece of rolling art might not be for you . . . though you could try calling your banker in Switzerland.
Honda Monkey 125
The little retro-looking fun motorcycle everyone wants to play with was presented as a concept bike in Tokyo. But frankly, it looks all ready to go into production as is, save maybe for the choice of knobby tires. If you still own a CT, it might feel uneasy parked beside the new-school Grom in your garage. The ’70s era CT likely thought Punk when he glares down that branch of its family but show it the Monkey 125 and it will believe it’s a reflection, although through a rejuvenating prism; Euro4 compliant fuel-injected laid-down 125 cc single, DEL lighting, LCD display and disc brakes sure bring the venerable and well-loved Mini Trail into the 21st century!
Honda CB4 Interceptor
The Café Racer concept Interceptor breaks the Honda tradition that linked the Interceptor name to the V4 motors of the company as this one is powered by the inline-four of the CB1000R. An exercise in style that is quite tasteful from my point of view, it’s to you to make your own mind up about this; it may influence the design of future models to come from the winged company. The detail seems a bit overboard, but a fun experiment nonetheless, to yours truly is the little turbine that is placed inside the ringed headlight. It is there to power the dash according to the presentation!
Here we have a production model that will be available shortly in markets around the world though not here in Canada, hence the inclusion in that section. The three-wheeler your mother warned you about, that peculiar contraption is said to be a twisty road weapon that will change the game for many riders. The front end is said to offer excellent feel under braking, makes sense with the two contact patches that are backed by ABS, and the Niken can lean to 45 degrees. The FZ09-sourced motor announces that it will be fun to paint parabolic black marks down the road when you deactivate the standard traction control.
MV Agusta F4 LH44
What you have here is an exclusive version of the already exclusive MV Agusta F4 RC. The changes are mainly cosmetic but no worries; the F4 RC based on Leon Camier’s factory racer is a pretty potent base to start from. The Lewis Hamilton MV Agusta collaboration is renewed after the previous LH themed Dragster, in a much sportier way this time. The white frame contrasts with a stunning Candy red paint job. Numerous carbon bits, anodized components and an Alcantra seat that graces the limited edition F4. Even Pirelli got into this one to provide red side walled, LH44 marked Supercorsas. Of course there is a numbered badge on every one of the 44 units for sale at a price of €44,144, roughly $67,000 of our lowly dollars.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, 701 / Svartpilen 401, 701
The white arrow, Vitpilen, and black arrow, Svarpilen, are finally going into production, three years after being presented as concept bikes in 401 guises. The street-fighter/urban Vitpilen 401 and its scrambler themed brethren, the Svartpilen 401, are built around their KTM Duke/RC390 cousin’s powerplants. They will come to the showroom floors first, to be followed soon after by their middleweight 701 versions. The 701 use the same motor as the Supermoto and Enduro 701. I tried both of the latter and can hardly wait to throw a leg over the more street oriented newcomers. Going to be fun bikes, no doubt!
The CB1000R evolved from the previously displayed Néo-Sport Café Concept and it is refreshing to see that Honda’s engineers did not stray too far from the original idea. A welcome addition to the popular sporty-standard category and a good test of your ability to refrain from exuberant riding.
Honda CRF1000L2 Africa Twin Adventure Sports
The updated CRF1000L, also know as the Africa Twin, gets a sidekick in 2018; the CRF1000L2 Africa Twin Adventure Sports. Made to take you around the globe, on road and off the beaten path, in more comfort and with more equipment, and still retain that advantage the first iteration had over portlier competitor; less girth and good off-road abilities. The bigger fuel tank, now 24.2 litres, bigger fairing and windscreen are the first sign the Adventure Sports is for going farther. Longer travel suspensions, more protection, heated grips, 12-volt outlets, extra lighting and other nice touches whisper in your ear “let’s go around the globe my dear.”
Ducati Panigale V4
The star of the Milan presentation, the Panigale V4 is a big shift for Ducati. There was the 2008 Desmosedici RR that was powered by a street-tamed V4 from MotoGP but it was clearly marked as a limited production model, produced at a grand total of 1,500 units. This time it is the motor that Ducati wants to sell to you in the near future, taking the torch from the well-recognized L-Twin that brought the company such success. That first Panigale V4 displaces 1103 cc, meaning it is not eligible for World Superbike. A 1000 cc R version will follow later; the L-Twin will be raced for another season before the factory team switches to the V4. But it does not matter to us, the Panigale V4 motor is quite close to the MotoGP of 2015, save for the longer stroke to lower revs and boost mid-range torque. A nice 214 hp at 13,000 rpm and 12.6 kgm of torque at 10,000 are impressive numbers for sure. Go for the optional track-only Akrapovic/Ducati Corse exhaust system and the power climbs to 226 hp. Where are my plane tickets for the official launch?
The Land Of Joy, as Ducati calls the Scrambler family, is getting pretty populated with the addition of the Scrambler 1100. An air-cooled Desmodue motor in the recognizable Scrambler platform, upsized to cope with the mid-range biased power, is part of a more sophisticated package. Better suspension and brakes and a more substantial presence will fit the riders who felt cramped on the original 803 cc Scramblers. Three versions were unveiled; the Scrambler 1100, Scrambler 1100 Special with cosmetics niceties and the Scrambler 1100 Sport graced with Öhlins suspensions.
Kawasaki H2 SX
Here is the other big draw of the Milan Eicma Salon. Sport Touring redefined as Kawasaki put it. It may very well be; take the over-the-top H2, massage it some, tune the motor for torque, stretch the wheelbase some, add cruise control, make ergonomics plusher and friendlier to a (brave!) passenger and offer optional side cases. The Autobahn missile promises to entertain you as you destroy the distances between far away points and maybe your licence, too.
The retro theme was a popular one and this is one very fine example. Based on the Z900, retuned for torque at the expense of some not needed top-end and styled after the original Z1 of the ’70s, the Z900RS, RS for Retro Sport, is a very nice blend of up to date yet nostalgic styling. Many will be fooled from a distance, thinking that they have the original big four superbikes in front of them until they realise there is no double shock arrangement out back. The Café Racer version will even draw more attention and sure looks the part.
BMW F750GS and F850GS
The F700GS and F800GS go into retirement after 10 years. To replace them BMW rolled out the F750GS and F850GS. The 798 cc parallel twin with 360 degree crank makes place for an 853 cc twin that now fires at 270 degrees, reproducing the exhaust note of a V-twin and also the traction characteristics. A new frame uses that new counterbalanced motor as a stressed member and now returns the fuel tank in the regular in-front-of-the-rider position, from the under-seat design of the previous model. Upgraded electronics, TFT dash and Bluetooth connectivity all brings the new GS to the forefront of the technological race.
BMW K1600 Grand America
A direct competitor to the new Gold Wing, the new addition to BMW’s K1600 offering bridges the gap between the more European K1600GTL and the K1600 Bagger. Borrowing from both of these, the Grand America sits lower than the GTL and adds a top trunk with passenger backrest to the side cases similar in style to Bagger units. As expected on such a land yatch, all the niceties you may need or want are standard or optional.
Triumph Tiger 800 & 1200
Triumph presented the updated Tiger family that still offers three models in each displacement. Both the 800 and 1200 have new LED lighting, TFT dash, updated switchgear with joystick control and illuminated for most models and new bodywork for better wind protection. The 800 gets a lower first gear and a new exhaust. The handlebars are 10 mm closer to the rider for improved ergonomics both sitting and standing and new stronger Brembo brakes help the whoa factor. The 1200 sees more refinement to the engine that brings the power up slightly but the up/down quickshifter is the most noteworthy. Keyless ignition and a weight reduction, two kg to a full 10 kg on the top-of-the-line XCA, rounds the changes to the 1200.
Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
There was the Switchback, pulled from the Milwaukee offerings, now Harley-Davidson rolls out the Sport Glide at Milan. Somewhere between the Low Riders and the Street Glides, the Sport Glide can tackle travelling as well as urban duties, thanks to its easily removed saddlebags and Batwing style fairing. This last member of the new Softail family is powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 107. One exquisite detail of the Sport Glide is the Machined Mantis wheel, the first time such wheels come on a Harley other than the CVO customs.
The slightly reworked SV650 takes on a new personality with this Café Racer addition. The two-tone paint, bikini fairing matched with panels mounted below the front part of the slightly larger fuel tank, the nice two-tone seat and reasonably placed clip-ons freshen up the well liked SV and attract attention in a cool, subdued way.