Best Reason To Keep Playing the Lottery: Bimota Tesi 3D
Best Forties Throwback: Harley-Davidson Cross Bones
Best Poor Man's Globetrotter: Kawasaki KLR650
Best Green Weenie: Vectrix
Best Italian Oddball: Moto Guzzi Griso 1100
HEY, IT'S A DIRTY, THANKLESS JOB BUT IT has to be done. By our own loose count, something like 450 models of motorcycle were offered for sale in the U.S. this year. The Cycle World staff sampled maybe 100 of the newest and most interesting. From that number, we've selected the Ten Best Bikes of 2008, which you can read about on page 64.
"ARE YOU DRIVING OUT TO CALIFORNIA to pick up that Velocette?" my friend Mike asked over the phone. "No," I said. "That would take at least a week, plus all the mountain passes between Wisconsin and California are closed with heavy snow right now.
Now THAT DAYTONA MOTORSPORTS Group has bought AMA Pro Racing, you can bet they are considering who their wider audience will be. Every year in the spring a large population of "lifestyle" motorcyclists descends upon Daytona, bringing prosperity to the region but buying few tickets to the races.
Yesterday's mail brought May's Cycle World and coincidentally my very own Vincent poster ordered from Carl Hungness Publishing after seeing the New Ideas bit in the March issue. I say coincidentally because what do I see when I open the magazine but David Edwards' beautiful Up Front column, "Mythbusters," on the legend that is Vincent, certainly worthy of framing and hanging alongside the poster.
Have you ever picked up a stock front or rear brake disc from a late-model Harley-Davidson? It's heavy! A DOT-approved W8Less full-floating metal-matrix-composite rotor ($320) scales-in at just 1.9 pounds—60 percent less than the cast-iron discs currently used by The Motor Company. Claimed benefits include improved acceleration and handling, cooler running, less noise, reduced dusting and greater durability. Proprietary pads ($55) are required.
Fuel Riding Shoes
Comfort, protection, support and style in a riding shoe? The Shift Fuel ($100; sizes 8-13) features synthetic and split-grain leather upper, plastic ankle protection and a molded outsole. A rubber guard protects against shifter rash, and a hook-and-loop-backed strap keeps laces out of harm's way.
Securing your late-model European or Japanese sportbike for transport in a trailer or van has never been easier. The Pit Bull Trailer Restraint System ($280) is a no-straps-needed, two-piece design. Simply capture the axle with the model-specific pins, roll the bike over the bolted-to-the-floor base plate and gravity latches lock the restraint in place. Floor-mounting hardware and security pins are included.
Good vision is a must for anyone who rides a motorcycle. Whether you're concerned about being blinded by the sun or hit with debris kicked up by cars or trucks, the prescription-ready Kaenon Hard Kore ($209) with its polarized, impact-resistant, proprietary SR-91 lens material has you covered. Style isn't sacrificed, either. They're so cool-looking no one will realize you're actually wearing safety equipment.
Power Pod 2.0
Take the Formotion Power Pod, double its outlets and you have the Power Pod 2.0 ($120). Adding a two-pronged SAE plug to the existing 12-volt cigarette-style socket means you can power electric clothing or a battery trickle charger along with your cell phone, MP3 player or GPS without the need for further wiring to the battery. A universal mounting bracket is included. A handlebar mount ($20) is optional.
Fuel Plus Trip Computer
Gas gauges have a well-deserved reputation for inaccuracy, but there is a solution: Developed for fuel-injected motorcycles, such as Harley-Davidson FLs, the Honda GL1800 Gold Wing and BMW K-and R-series models, the Fuel Plus Trip Computer ($487) uses a backlit liquid-crystal display to relay exactly how many miles worth of fuel remain in your bike's gas tank. It also notes trip distance, time and average speed, fuel economy, engine temperature and monitors the electrical system.
Drying your freshly washed motorcycle just got easier. The hand held Blaster SideKick ($100) features a 120-volt, 1.3-horsepower motor that delivers 18,000 cubic feet per minute of dry, filtered, warm (25-30 degrees above ambient temperature) air. At 9.5 inches tall and weighing just 3 pounds, it's small enough to fit in most saddlebags or top cases for use on the road.
WHAM! AFTER SO many teasers, rumors and spy-camera photos, here is the BMW S1000RR, which is going racing in World Superbike in 2009. Look closely at the photos and you will see no funny business, no punch-pulling jointed swingarms or other uniquely BMW-traditional features that could ever be used as excuses for not succeeding.
Grab your TV remote and saddle up with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. In 2004, thirsting for adventure, the nuts-for-bikes actors circumnavigated the world on BMWs, documenting their on-and off-road ups and downs in print and on film.
SOMETIMES SMALLER IS better, as just might be the case with Benelli's new three-cylinder engine. After abandoning the original Formula One-inspired but overly aggressive 899cc powerplant a few years ago in favor of the torquey 1130 that powers most of the Pesaro, Italy-based company's range, a new version of the midsize Triple is back in the lineup in the TnT 899.
When I was fifteen and a half, dreaming of a Grand Prix ride, I raced around behind Yamaha's corporate office on my RD250, clad in blue jeans and skateboard pads (with sheet-metal sliders made from a filched stop sign!), scraping the street hoping to land a support ride.
Perched high above the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco were the Honda Aspencade and Yamaha Venture Royale full-dress tourers featured on a "gatefold" cover. The Yamaha was considered the first real direct competition for the Gold Wing and was decked out with all the amenities that marathon touring requires.
A LITTLE MORE THAN two years after Honda unveiled its DN-01 Sport Cruiser concept at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show in 2005, a handful of journalists was allowed to test ride the 680cc machine featuring its Human-Friendly Transmission (HFT), an infinitely variable hydro-mechanical "gearbox."
After showing off some really pretty prototypes of its SuperSingle racebike over the past year, Roland Sands Design (www.rolandsands.com) is now geared up for production. Not only are the bikes and/or parts to build your own available for sale, but a new WERA race class called 450 SuperSingle has been added for the 2008 season.
UP: To eBay junkies, for bidding on more than 45 one-of-a-kind items donated by Red Bull Athletes to benefit the Wings for Life charity. More than $565,000 was raised to help fund cutting-edge scientific research aimed at prevention of and healing spinal cord injuries.
THERE WAS MUCH excitement in 2005 when Honda introduced the CRF450X enduro bike, based on the award-winning CRF450R motocrosser. But to Honda's dismay, the X wasn't received with the same enthusiasm as the now-seven-time Ten-Best winning 450R. By no means was the X considered a bad bike; it just missed the mark slightly and therefore didn't top any comparison tests.
Zero to 180 mph on three miles of empty concrete, lapping a world-class racetrack and life on the street with the planet's most powerful production motorcycles
F4 312 RR 1078
WE WERE IN A LAND WITHOUT LAWS, A PLACE WHERE the only true limits were imposed by physics. Parked before us were nine of the most powerful production motorcycles ever made, while stretching out to the horizon and beyond was a 3-mile strip of smooth concrete, waiting to be devoured in great gulps by our amazing collection of rapid hardware.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a replacement for displacement. It's called a turbo, and for sustained mind-(and connecting-rod-) bending horsepower, nothing beats it. John Noonan has for years been boosting 'Busas, with records at Bonneville and other Big Flats (four different 200-mph clubs) to show for it, which made him a perfect guy to invite to Lemoore's 3-mile runway.
YES, THE VYRUS 985 looks like it crash-landed in the New Mexico desert, probably somewhere near Roswell. It's all Stealth Fighter angles, aerospace-grade alloy and alien technology. What does this do? How does that work? Where did it come from?
A year ago we were confident in our selection of the CBR600RR for this category, and a year later, our belief has been further reinforced. Serious challenges came from the opposition but they Simply couldn't outduel the fantastic Honda on road or track. While competitors struggle to keep weight off their midsections, Big Red's middleweight tips the scales at a feathery, class-leading 384 pounds dry. Combined with impressive midrange power and a competitive top-end, it delivers superior performance in day-to-day riding. An excellent chassis makes this one of the sweetest-handling motorcycles made, while the speed-sensitive electronic steering damper keeps everything in check. The benchmark is set. Again.
STREET TRIPLE 675
Expectations run high for a MotoGP-derived Ducati Desmosedici RR or a perennial AMA Superbike Champion Suzuki GSX-R1000, less so for entry-level machinery. Such is the mindset of performance-first enthusiasts. So when an example of the latter delivers unforeseen thrills at a price most anyone can afford, word spreads quickly. Associate Editor Blake Conner returned from the European press launch of the Street Triple singing the praises of Hinckley's newest naked bike, lauding its sweet-running engine, balanced chassis and upright riding position. After riding the 675-based all-rounder, the rest of the staff agreed: The Street Triple is not only this year's biggest surprise, it's our Best Standard.
Where to begin? How about, "These are the nicest horsepower and torque curves we have ever seen." Or perhaps, "It moves with an athletic confidence and over-powerful ease like nothing else on the road. One minute it can whisper along in its overdrive sixth gear so smoothly and quietly at 80 mph it is almost like the bike isn't running. The next it is tearing out of a corner, front end light, leaving a black line and a shower of footpeg sparks in its wake." The fact is that sport-touring is about delicious movement, freedom to go slowly and relax or to turn the throttle and run, with just enough of your favorite stuff in the saddlebags. The Kawasaki Concours 14 does all that and more, elevating the performance level of the class to new heights
Simply outrageous best describes Ducati's Desmosedici RR, a modern marvel of moto tech that defies all rules of logic. Sure, this MotoGP refugee represents complete and total overkill on the street, but even more astounding is t this bike need not even exist. With no homologation rule within the sport's premier class, the D16RR provides 200 of heart-pounding proof that the storied Italian manufacturer truly is fueled by passion in its pursuit of performance pnce. We called it "magic in the streets" and "a masterpiece with a warranty." How could we not consider the world's reet-legal MotoGP replica to be anything less than the year's Best Superbike?
Taking dual-sport honors last year with its 525 EXC proved that KTM was serious about this market segment. Outfitted with all of the requisite equipment for street legality, the EXC gave consumers a competition-worthy motorcycle that didn't mind a little asphalt thrown into the mix. For '08, the Austrian company took a different approach with the brand-new 690 Enduro. The updated engine not only offers more power for the street equation but has a three-position ignition-map selector to tame those ponies for attacking the dirt. By offering a much-enhanced street ride while still meeting the demands of off-road riders, KTM has improved the breed, finding just the right balance and putting an emphasis on the "dual" in dual-sport.
Adding a steering stabilizer to an enduro bike is something most off-roaders do right after purchase. Honda Simply eliminated the chore by adding its very own Progressive Steering Damper to the 2008 CRF450X. Of course, that alone was not enough to turn the always-close-contending X into a CWTen Best-winner. The X received new steering geometry and a slimmer profile that enhances rider control. The now-nimble chassis complements the lively motor, turning the X into a refined off-road tool. It rips in the desert, shreds through the trees and can even be raced in tough off-road events, proven by winning the latest Baja 1000. A bike that truly does it all off-road.
When it comes to outright moto performance, the CRF450R is at the top and has been for seven years. Shocking for such a competitive class, in which yearly updates steadily increase performance for every model. This year, the ever-refined CRF fought off the fastpaced world of technology, namely, a fuel-injected Suzuki that boasted tractable power. Still, there was no match for the strength of the proven Unicam engine that received its own tech-advancements by means of a multi-map ignition system. The chassis was also updated with new triple-clamp offset and the addition of a steering damper for precision cornering. On track, the CRF can be ridden the hardest, pulls out of corners the strongest, and its suspension is ready for anything Ma Earth can throw in its way. The CRF450R is motocross.
It's pretty easy to build a fat-tired, raked out custom; even private owners and one-man shops have put together some stylish examples. The hard part is building one that has the requisite fat-tired, raked-out look but that also feels and behaves like a "normal" motorcycle. And so far, no one has done it better than Yamaha with its Star Raider. Despite its 40-degree fork angle, 210mm rear tire and 71-inch wheelbase, the Raider handles amazingly well. The raked front end doesn't flop side-to-side, and the rear tire offers no noticeable resistance to turning. Combine that with the Raider's thunderous, torque-laden 1854cc V-Twin engine, and you have one of the most satisfying rides of its kind ever built.
This isn't just a motorcycle, it's an institution, a rolling example that more can be more, kitchen sink jokes be damned. The Gold Wing has been winning Ten Best awards—16 in all—longer than some CW staffers have been alive, way back to 1977 when it was a naked roadster that made fairing-meister Craig Vetter a millionaire. When someone at Honda got smart and started equipping the Wing with the touring paraphernalia that owners were adding anyway, the modern big rig was born. Purists and pundits—given fresh ammo a couple of years ago when an airbag was added to the bike's long list of features—may well scoff. Yet, the amazing thing is not how much of a two-wheeled car the Gold Wing has become, but how much motorcycle remains.
WOW, WHAT A YEAR IT'S BEEN, HUH?! NEW REPLI-RACERS, NEW STANDARDS, new cruisers, new touring bikes, new middleweights, new sport-tourers, new musclebikes, new dirtbikes, new scooters. From expensive exotics to campground runabouts, we have been treated to an amazing array of machinery.
That the Hypermotard won neither Best Standard nor Best Open-class Streetbike, two categories for which it was strongly considered, was no fault of its own. Rather, it's an indication of the depth of this year's talent pool. Putting aside the award-winning Pierre Terblanche monster-motard styling, in function the air-cooled V-Twin is a new-age standard, a corner-carving, traffic-topping all-rounder with few back-road or urban boundaries. We can't get enough of it.
Forget about being conventional: How 'bout electric-start on a two-stroke and two-wheel drive? Really! We don't know how far all-wheel-drive motorcycles are going to go, but we do know they work, offering a distinct advantage in numerous off-road environments. Christini has made a mark with its AWD system. And now you can choose from the new KTM kit or the original Honda design and literally get pulled to a new level of riding.
Seems like a lot of Kawasaki model are on the 20-year plan—they get upgraded every two decades whether they need it or not! This year, three long-runners got some love: the KLR650, the Concours and this li'l screamer, the Ninja 250. Your $3499 buys you big-bike looks, an enhanced powerband, better suspension, slicker shifting and fuel-mileage readings above 50 mpg...well, when ridden with restraint. Yeah, good luck on that!
Concept bikes come and often go—as in gone forever, even after a well-received stint on the show circuit. Suzuki gets a solid B± for the faithful follow-through in turning its B-King show-stopper into mass-produced reality. While the original concept called for a blower, the B-King's naturally aspirated Hayabusa-based motor by no means disappoints when you open its throat and flex its muscles.
No question this is one of the most daring motorcycles of the year, perhaps the decade. And while it is true that the Victory Vision's styling is a polarizing issue, this ultimate bagger's road manners are not. The Vision Street (and its top-trunk-equipped Tour stablemate) elevates American-style touring to new levels with excellent handling, superb comfort and a powerful V-Twin. Love the styling or hate it, the Vision always looks good from the saddle.
A little Gixxer performance for the big-cruiser crowd
"THIS IS THE closest thing to a Harley-Davidson Suzuki has ever built." That statement was delivered to the assembled motorcycle press by Mel Harris, VP of American Suzuki's Motorcycle and ATV Division, during the introduction of his employer's new C109R and C109RT Boulevard cruisers.
AFTER ALL THE HAPPY TALK IN THE world's moto-press about the Street Triple following its launch last year, I wondered if the folks at Triumph hadn't, perhaps, routed everybody though Amsterdam for a couple of days worth of "recreation" before and after the trip to Italy.
BRIDGESTONE WON THE MOTOGP TItle with Casey Stoner and Ducati last year, so expectations for the Japanese tire-maker's new DOT-approved Battlax BT016 "hypersport" street tires were understandably high. We flew to Jerez, Spain, one of the few racetracks on the MotoGP schedule where Stoner hasn't enjoyed top-rung success, to test the latest radials on both road and track.
WHEN DEBUTED IN 2006, THE KAWAsaki ZX-14 stood motorcycling on its ear: 170 horsepower at the rear wheel, 2.5-second 0-60-mph acceleration, a 9.8-second quarter-mile and a top speed—admittedly, electronically limited—of 186 mph.
WONDERFUL, TESTOSTERONE-ELEVATing device, the modern repli-racer, flagship of the fleet. But just try going anywhere on one of the darn things! Most have all the carrying capacity of your wife's trendy little evening bag. Sure, a tankbag helps, but when its time to really get your swerve on, having a lump of nylon jabbing you in the gut is little distracting.
What began as a series of unique concepts is now a potent prototype. We ride the latest MotoCzysz C1.
THIS PAST JANUARY, I COMPLETED A TOTAL OF 10 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on a pair of MotoCzysz C1 prototypes. I further witnessed a test rider from the small Oregon-based outfit start and finish an additional 70 laps on the same two machines.
Q Thanks very much for your crystal-clear response to Marcio Matandos' question regarding counter-steering ("Counter intuitive") in the May issue. I have been trying to reconcile my layman's understanding of this process to my 30 years of actual riding experience.
NHTSA Recall No. 08V141000 Honda VT600 Shadow Model years: 2006-07 Honda V1750 Shadow, VTX1 300 Model years: 2007-08 Number of units involved: 38,934 Problem: These motorcycles may have an improperly manufactured fuel control valve diaphragm, possibly allowing the valve to drip fuel.
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