SOME VERY COOL BIKES JUST DON’T FIT INTO OUR NORMAL CATEGORIES
Ten categories aren't nearly enough to recognize all the notable machines on the market. Some don't fit our semi-arbitrary selection of greatness; others are just too weird but still deserve a nod. So, with no further ado, the Ten Rest Bikes of 2014.
I cannot believe the EBR 1190RX didn’t win your comparison with the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Seriously, 0.15 second is the blink of an eye, and that’s why you give the win to the Due? Come on, the EBR had a bad brake rotor. If you are going to pick a winner based purely on the track, just leave the street comparo out.
Yamaha grabs another gear and drops a cylinder to make the awesome FZ-09's little twin. We like this one even better.
Of the Big Four Japanese motorcycle companies, Yamaha appears to be the only one rebounding from the 2008 recession by building exciting new models that are fun to ride, stylish, and easy on the wallet. So far, although there are some exceptions, it seems there are two trains of thought: revamping existing models and taking little risk, or jumping off the rails-like Honda has done-and building motorcycles that are either practical to the point of bland (NC700X) or just plain odd (NM4).
It’s never been hard to figure out Ducati’s next move. Barring a brand-new family of machines— and even then the secret tends to get out—it’s usually a matter of discerning which engine/chassis combination is missing from the lineup. So given the new-for-2014 third-generation Monster 1200, a midsize version was due next.
Will Harley-Davidson’s Street 750 write a new chapter for dirt-track racing?
Eighty years ago, Harley-Davidson began racing and selling modified production bikes and revived-make that rescued-professional motorcycle racing. Brace yourselves, racing fans, The Motor Company looks to do it again. But first, two front stories. From Cycle News’ account of the Springfield Mile, “Kawasaki Outguns Unrestricted Harley-Davidsons.”
If you haven’t had a chance to see the excellent documentary of enduro legend John Penton, it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray in September (pentonmovie.com). Meantime, we caught up with the film’s narrator, Grammy winner Lyle Lovett, at the West Coast premiere in Hollywood.
Having sampled this personal-mobility machine firsthand, I’m tempted to call this electric contraption the Yikes!Bike. Forthose of us brought up riding motorcycles, the $4,995 YikeBike’s counterintuitive (bars at your side, rear-wheel steering) operation took some getting used to.
Our "Great Balls of Fire" cover story, a supersport 600 comparison, featured the Kawasaki Ninja 500, Suzuki Katana 500, Honda CBR600, and Yamaha FZR600. Over the years, I have personally owned two of those models, a Honda and a couple of Yamaha FZR600s, so it was interesting to see how the bikes that hooked me performed back then.
Leave it to Red Bull to create an action-sports event like no other. After shooting a proof-of-concept video in Southern California last year-and getting overwhelmingly positive feedback via YouTubeRed Bull has created Straight Rhythm.
Have you seen what it costs to replace an iPhone 5s? Protect your smartphone investment with a sturdy Element Case available in three Ducati-themed styles: Solace ($99.95), lon5 ($59.95), or Rogue ($99.95). Accessories such as the Quick Draw Sleeve with credit card holder and Fuse Dek bike-mount systems ncrease versatility.
S900A Smart Bar
If you travel by bike and like to take your electronic toys, the Givi S900A Smart Bar ($149) is a slick way to mount GPS units and smartphones. Choose one of five mounting kits (covering 74 bikes; $11 then choose one of six device-specific, weather-resistant holders with included bar mounting kit ($52 to $85).
8077 Brake Disc Lock
A compact, easy-to-use, motorcycle-specific lock is one that you won’t leave at home. Abus’ 8077 Brake Disc Lock ($179.99) has a 13mm hardened steel bolt, lock body, and locking mechanism, and also features a 100-decibel alarm that activates when attached to a brake disc and sounds when moved. Included: two keys and a case.
Built for motorcyclists, the new TomTom Rider ($399.95) has a glove-friendly waterproof screen, hands-free directions and calls delivered to your helmet via Bluetooth, plus free lifetime maps and a bright display for daytime visibility. Route info will notify you of speed cameras, and a "Winding Road" feature picks the curviest routes: Fun!
Arai’s Pro Shade
There are multiple options on the market to solve the age-old inconvenience of carrying a spare face shield, Arai’s Pro Shade ($100.95) shield is a simple solution that can be flipped down in the day and up at night and has a locking mechanism to keep it from doing so unwanted. Its shape keeps airflow clean and buffet-free when raised.
Protection. That's the primary purpose of riding gear. Yeah, it needs to keep you from getting too hot, too cold, and too wet, and style plays a role as well. But after all the sundry features of modern riding gear are touted, rider protection still is its main reason for being.
Risk tolerance, aversion to pain, and monetary budgets. These are probably three of the biggest reasons you don’t go faster around a track and why you don’t just run it in there, throw it on its side, and grab a handful. Too risky, yet you want to go quicker.
SMALLER ENGINES AND HYBRIDS IN CARS ARE BIG. WHAT’S NEXT FOR MOTORCYCLES?
Engine downsizing is huge in the auto biz because they have the new 54-mpg CAFE fuel economy standard looming over them. On average, cars use only 10 to 15 percent of their installed horsepower in daily use, so it makes sense to take that horsepower from the smallest possible engine.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON PLUGS INTO CONSUMERS FOR FEEDBACK ON ITS PROTOTYPE ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE
Harley-Davidson is known as The Motor Company, but nobody ever thought the name would be applied to an electric motorcycle. Meet the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle, a research project into the viability of an electric two-wheeler for the bar-and-shield brand.
Is battery capacity charging ahead, or will storing electricity in vehicles remain expensively out of reach?
Can we forecast how and when vehicles with electric drivetrains will make up a significant part of the US market? At present, they make up less than 1 percent, and the most often-cited reasons for this are limited driving range, lack of a convenient nationwide network of charging stations, lengthy charging time, and the high cost of the lithium-ion batteries used for energy storage.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS TO THE DAY LATER, WE RETRACE ERWIN "CANNON BALL" BAKER'S RECORD-SETTING CROS-COUNTRY RIDE
Back in 2010, AMA Hall of Famer Don Emde took note of the Motorcycle Cannonball, a cross-country ride for pre-1916 motorcycles that started in Santa Monica, California, and ended up in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 16 days later. As much as Emde approved of this event, which celebrated Erwin G. Baker’s 1914 transcontinental motorcycle record, he wondered why didn’t they traverse the country in the same time (11 days, 12 hours, 10 minutes) as Baker had on his Indian.
Robert Pandya, Indian Motorcycle’s external relations manager, knew he had to tackle Cannon Ball’s Trail on-what else-an Indian. So he acquired a preproduction 2014 Chief and prepped it with chopped fenders, scuffed chrome, and rattle-can paint that he rubbed down with Scotch-Brite pads.
IN THE LATE 1970s, an editor at Cycle World bought a certain Japanese superbike and was going to leave it in the crate because there is no way they are ever going to get faster than this! We’re glad to report he was wrong. In fact, magazine types have been saying these kinds of things since the dawn of testing.
It’s a 2015 model, but we rode it (see Ignition) in time for this issue, if not voting, and this 689cc parallel twin is crazy fun at an impossibly low price of $6,990. The FZ-07 is more basic and lighter than the three-cylinder FZ-09 and somehow seems the better for it. Its EFI doesn’t have ride-by-wire black magic to get in the way of tapping the broad, instant torque, and engine response does nothing to upset the great-handling chassis. Candidate for Best Standard next year? Definitely.
1200 ABS TRAVEL PACK
The Caponord makes no bones about being a streetbike that can wander down a dirt road. Dakar? No, just look at those 17-inch wheels. But as a swift, asphalt-oriented traveling bike, this spirited V-twin makes an excellent choice. Aprilia Dynamic Damping electronic suspension is superb, providing load compensation, highway compliance, and back-road composure automatically. One of the most comfortable, versatile motorcycles you can buy, at a competitive price of $15,499.
V-STROM 1000 ABS
Suzuki’s wallet-friendly 'Strom packs a whole lotta motorcycle into its $12,699 base price. While this 1,037cc machine doesn’t have quite the depth of performance or breadth of electronics its European competition possess, the broad capabilities of the Suzuki make it a great all-around motorcycle. Step up to the $13,999 Adventure model that adds saddlebags and better weather protection. Then seek the horizon.
A certain green company might have a lock on the 450 class, but Yamaha crushed it with the 2014 YZ250F. It was all new this year, getting a “backward” engine similarto that used in its big brother. But somehow it works a whole lot better here. The EFI is crisp and accurate, and midrange-to-top-end power is fantastic. More than that, though, is the incredible overall package that comes with its stable yet flickable chassis. It’s the 250 to have.
Is it possible to feel the tenacity of a motorcycle company’s founder in the factory’s finished product? After thorough testing of the EBR 1190RX, we have to say yes. Erik Buell is back, and EBR is making world-class superbikes right there in East Troy, Wisconsin. The fundamental mechanical package makes the $18,995 1190RX a racetrack weapon-it’s glued to the tarmac, and its killer powerband makes it easy to ride fast.
A fanciful look at some potential winners in 2015 and beyond
FZ-07 TÉNÉRÉ EDITION:
INDIAN SCOUT ADVENTURE:
POLARIS GDI800 SPORT:
SUZUKI “HIGHER” ’BUSA:
HARLEY-DAVIDSON LUCIFER’S HAMMER:
TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE MULE EDITION:
Think of it as a K1600 Roadster model but with the full might of BMW’s High Performance brain trust behind it. Make it light, let it rev, and give it a tubular handlebar. Accessory pipes must have six megaphone-style outlets and let that mad, six-cylinder sizzle out into the world unhindered to inspire us all to greatness. The Concept 6 showbike proves you took a swing at it.
Look, you already make this one, Kawasaki. While your sporty lineup gets all green and pointy and delivers great performance, your cruiser line looks like the 1990s crashed into a transport truck full of rattle-can primer. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the fantastic parallel-twin W800 retro bike inspires the younger neo-custom café crowd and makes a great counterpoint to all the Triumph Bonnevilles that have been given the pipe-wrap treatment.
Where have you gone, Big Red? We need a MotoGP-inspired, V-4-powered sportbike with gear-driven cams, production seamless gearbox, 200 rear-wheel hp, and all the electronic might we know you are capable of throwing at this thing. And make it 375 pounds. You can do it. You’re Honda. The entry bikes are great, but put “enthusiast” back in your vocabulary and connect the product we buy with the dominant machines in MotoGP. Three letters for you: H. R. C.
We first were pining for an 847cc-triple-powered middleweight adventure bike based around the FZ-09, but now that the lighter and lithe-er FZ-07 twin is here, we think you should start with that one. Do us a favor and make it with 21and 18-inch wheels so we can put proper tires on it. And we’ll see you in Alaska.
Oh, we are pretty sure there will be a Harley-Davidson Sportster fighter on the way from Indian any minute now. But you’re missing an opportunity with the “Scout” name if you don’t build an adventure bike that carries this badge. Think of a 130-horse liquid-cooled V-twin in a stout aluminum chassis. Keep its styling all-American with a touch of military-bike utility influence, and make the USA a player in one of the most exciting market segments today.
We’re saying “Honda,” but we really mean “Japan,” with the Big Four hardly playing in the dual-sport arena. We dig the fun and cheap CRF250L, but please apply a similar bargain-based formula to a 500CC single, give it decent suspension, and set us free with at least 35 hp and tractable torque. Target 300 pounds, 55 mpg, and give it a 3.7-gallon fuel tank. Better yet, make a full-on enduro racebike with lights, too, and throw some roost in the Austrians’ sandbox!
Clean two-stroke technology exists, and Polaris has it. Everybody’s stoked you’ve flexed all that engineering expertise on 800-pound cruisers with sub-5,000-rpm redlines (no, really, they are awesome cruisers), but it is so frustrating to watch these 150-hp two-stroke snowmobiles have all the light-and-powerful fun. Give us a liquid-cooled, direct-injected, 800cc parallel-twin engine with 150 horses and build it into a modern sportbike chassis. Should be easy to hit 350 pounds dry, right? Call it a Victory or Indian, if you must, but set us two-stroke lovers free!
Take a cue from your mega-high-performance fans and pump up your flagship “Ultimate Sport” machine with a factory turbo. Go 1,480cc with launch control, traction control, and electronic suspension with “Drag” mode that automatically lowers the front end and sets up the shock for a perfect launch. Give it push-button upshifts, or at least a quickshifter, and watch the 1/4-mile records fall with the first eight-second production bike. Paint it copper metallic like our ’99 long-termer was, and forget the top-speed-limiting “gentleman’s agreement.” Reign supreme.
Harley, you have built an empire on chrome, paint, and lifestyle, all orbiting around the gravitational pull of your historic 45-degree V-twin, tuned and engineered to deliver a sound and feeling that touches the souls of more motorcycle buyers in the US than any other maker by far. Electric what-ifs are interesting, but we need a Mark Brelsford/Jay Springsteen-inspired sportbike with liquid cooling, light weight, and killer performance. Think KTM 1290 Super Duke R meets Ducati Sport Classic meets American ingenuity.
BONNEVILLE MULE EDITION
The tooling is paid for, and sales just keep trucking along on the Bonnie and its variants. So why not have a bit more fun with your retro air-cooled twin and hire Richard Pollock of Mule Motorcycles—builder of the finest street-tracker customs in the land—to whip up the perfectly proportioned production Mile Replica?
LIKE A PHOENIX, HONDA'S AWARD-WINNING VFR800F RISES FROM THE ASHES
HONDA VFR800F INTERCEPTOR
We assumed it was gone forever, a beloved model Honda would never again produce. We were wrong. But we're thrilled to admit our mistake because not only is the VFR800F Interceptor back in business, but the 2014 version is better than ever. Considering that its 750cc and 782cc predecessors have a long, storied history of worldwide acclaim—including having won 12 Cycle World Ten Best awards—that’s high praise indeed.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO RIDE THE VERY FIRST HONDA VF750F INTERCEPTOR ON THE STREET?
Can it really be 31 years ago? It seems like yesterday. Ronald Reagan's in the White House, and I'm in the Cycle magazine garage at 780-A Lakefield Road, where I worked as an editor. The shop rat’s just unloaded a brand-new Honda VF750F Interceptor from the van.
When I crossed the finish line to win the Daytona 100-mile Superbike race in March of 1982, I decided it would be my last Superbike race. I was moving to Europe to compete at the top level of Grand Prix racing, the 500cc World Championship, as part of the brand-new Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), on the also brand-new NS500 V-3 two-stroke.
We couldn't resist. As soon as we realized these two models were both coming to market in 2014, we sent a flurry of emails to each company asking if we could arrange long-term loans. Then photographer Jeff Allen piped in: “Why don’t we do a long-term, two-by-two comparison and let these bikes go head to head all year?”
Q: I am looking for a little suspension adjustment advice. I picked up a very nice 2007 Kawasaki ZX-14 with a bit less than 10,000 miles. The suspension feels taut and in good condition. It just seems a little harsh and hard-edged for general sport-touring.
BASIC SPECS: The Kawasaki Z1000 from these years is powered by a liquid-cooled, dohc inline-four, an injected engine based on the ZX-9R’s powerplant but with a displacement boost to 953cc and revised tuning that translates into improved midrange delivery.
The old saying goes, “A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two is never sure.” I am a man of so many tire pressure gauges that I should be crying, confused in a corner. But I keep an anchor in reality by having one excellent gauge I periodically check for accuracy and use as a reference for those others in my shop.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is the fastest supercross rider on the planet. Why doesn’t he look happier?
When the final checkered flag on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, a series that had started with so much competitive promise had turned into a cakewalk of sorts. After surviving various assaults by Red Bull KTM riders Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen, past champs such as Chad Reed and James Stewart, plus long-shot challenges from Justin Barcia, Trey Canard, and Justin Brayton, Ryan Villopoto once again held the title firmly in his grasp.
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