America was founded on big, shiny ideas that were brought to life with massive amounts of torque used over vast expanses of territory. Our three “America Beef” contenders are fine examples of this. There are other kinds of touring bikes that can cover miles with a similar level of comfort, and many can do it faster, but none accomplish it with the same quality of movement and the relaxing cadence that US bike buyers continue to choose in huge numbers.
First, slow the hell down. I’m still trying to read and fully synthesize all the information in the February issue. I barely have 300 miles on my S1000RR, and I am already going to be steamrolled by a 200-hp Yamaha R1? All I can say is Suzuki better step up to the plate quick or else the GSX-R name will be quickly forgotten.
Kawasaki market research has determined that a primary concern for motorcycle buyers—first timers and experienced riders—is finding a motorcycle that physically fits. Picking a new bike is not unlike trying on a new pair of shoes, and it is here that the all-new Kawasaki Vulcan S Ergo-Fit concept provides a fresh approach.
By building the YZ250FX, a race-ready cross-country racer, Yamaha has taken a page out of KTM's playbook. That's a good thing because this new 250FX is essentially the award-winning YZ250F motocrosser with additions that make it appeal to the off-road market—namely, a six-speed wide-ratio transmission, an electric starter, and an 18-inch rear wheel.
Yamaha's other fresh entry in the off-road market for 2015 is the all-new $7,990 WR250F. It too is an offspring of the YZ250F motocrosser, and it differs only slightly from the YZ-FX. The WR is more of a classic enduro, intended for recreational trail riding and non-competition use.
Hand guards and hard bags are standard on this highly versatile new Versys
VERSYS 650 LT
For those of us able to look past the styling of the original Kawasaki Versys 650, what we saw was an incredibly well-rounded motorcycle with a lot of capabilities. And now, with a complete face-lift and other upgrades, the 2015 Versys 650 LT has arrived, looking much more attractive than before.
Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control has your back, even at deep lean
Bosch, at the end of 2014, released what it calls the first all-in-one motorcycle safety system: MSC. This Motorcycle Stability Control is based upon the basic capabilities of ABS and traction control but expanded it by the addition of lean-angle data to situations such as acceleration or braking in midcorner.
Viewing the trio of open-class road burners on the cover was a trip down memory lane. I vividly recall the day I spent aboard the uniquely styled BMW K1, the shrink-wrapped Honda CBR1000, and the mega-fast Kawasaki ZX-11, riding each for action photos in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Asked how he came to own 100 classic motorcycles, 39-year-old Jamie Waters replied: “About 15 years ago, I was living in Manhattan, with some disposable income and no means of transportation whatsoever. I missed tinkering and decided I’d start looking for a classic British bike to get started, with no real designs on collecting.
Sometimes you just want to look badass. And no other helmet on the market has more of a snarling face than Shark’s Raw ($289.95-$299.95). This helmet is a hybrid of an open-face and an old-school MX-style lid, featuring a built-in goggle with a Carl Zeiss antifog/scratch lens and customizable face mask (camo, Union Jack, etc).
With the popularity of ADV bikes and adventure-touring, billed hybrid helmets have become super popular. And this new lid from Touratech, the Aventuro Carbon ($649), is really three helmets in one. Without tools, it can be transformed from an ADV helmet into a visor-less MX lid or no-bill street protection.
Italian racing legend Valentino Rossi is famous for wearing special helmets at his home Grand Prix. Fans often have the chance to get a hold of replicas of his helmets like his new AGV Corsa “Wish” ($999.95), which is a tribute to his late friend Marco Simoncelli. The graphics are themed after Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album art.
For those looking for a premium-quality off-road/motocross helmet, Arai’s VX-Pro4 ($599.95) has to be a consideration. The R75 shell is constructed of Super Fiber, which has 30 percent more tensile strength than fiberglass. A wider/longer bill, revised venting, and Emergency Cheekpad Release System are among many new features.
Hybrid full-face adventure/off-road helmets like Shoei's Hornet have done a lot to keep the intrepid rider comfortable and protected in a very wide range of conditions. The new Hornet X2 ups convenience and versatility in a few big ways. Foremost is the new V-460 visor that’s longer and wider than the one used on the previous Hornet and, due to its size, got louvers added during testing in Shoei’s own motorcycle-size wind tunnel to help reduce lift and drag.
Each street-riding priority moves to the front of the list as your circumstances change, but this single priority should always be first: mastering your bike-control skills. When the worst happens and you need to get your bike stopped, or change your line, or hit that narrow gap, what you do behind the handlebar must be correct.
All my life I have heard tell of, "When men were men," which smugly implies that today's males are by comparison underinflated. While heroic storytelling has a tradition, this kind of thing makes me suspicious. We know that US astronauts were trained to land the space shuttle (they say experienced military pilots crash the simulator for about two weeks before they get a glimmer) but did not once have to take over from the automated landing system.
THREE AMERICAN TOURING BIKES BATTLE IT OUT IN CALIFORNIA RANCH COUNTRY: WHICH ONE’S THE WINNER?
CROSS COUNTRY TOUR
Two decades ago, if you were in the market for an American V-twin touring bagger—what your dad or older brother might have called a "full dresser"—you had but one choice: a Harley-Davidson. Now, though, there are three, thanks to a new Indian Roadmaster that has rumbled onto the scene to challenge the Harley Electra Glide Ultra Classic and Victory Cross Country Tour.
IT'S BEEN A LONG RIDE FOR THE MASTER OF... THE LONG RIDE
Really, who even suspected in 1975 that the GL1000 Gold Wing, a new-from-the-ground-up model powered by a 999CC flat-four engine, would go on to revolutionize the entire concept of motorcycle touring? To be fair, the designers and product planners at Honda probably hoped the GL might someday carve a solid niche in the market, though I doubt any of them actually expected things to turn out the way they have.
Hard-core, enduro-quality dual-sports with the moves of a ninja and the punch of a heavyweight boxer are a luxury to us in the Golden State. Actually, they’re a luxury no matter where you live, but strict California emissions and licensing regulations mean there are only a handful of bikes on the market that allow year-round exploration anywhere a motorcycle may legally travel.
It took us almost a year, but we finally pushed these two beasts to their breaking points—literally. For the first six months of this side-by-side long-term test, we cruised all over the western United States and Mexico with very few problems to report and only a few rider-induced mishaps that required repairs.
Big adventure bikes have an insatiable appetite for rubber. Each machine is on its fifth set of tires (including the stock sets). Due to the significant number of off-road miles, knobbies have won the day. After trying out Kenda’s (kendatire.com) Big Blocks (which were great in the dirt but not so grippy on road), we returned to our favorite ADV tire, Continental’s (contionline.com) TKC80.
There has been a lot of buzz about the KTM 1190/1190 R’s airbox ingesting dust and dirt during extensive off-road riding. The fact that the KTM’s second scheduled service interval wasn’t until 9,300 miles—and that access to the air filter requires laboriously removing the fuel tank—kept us from catching the issue any earlier.
Q: I have owned a 2004 Honda Gold Wing since new. It has 36,000 miles. It has always been well cared for and adult-ridden. I have used the same synthetic oil since the second oil change and do those every 4,000 to 5,000 miles. I have had absolutely no problem with the bike beyond alternator brushes.
BASIC SPECS: The Vision Tour makes use of an air-/oil-cooled, SOHC, 106-inch V-twin featuring closed-loop fuel injection and an overdrive six-speed gearbox. Its split dual exhaust with crossover delivers a pleasing rumble, the engine producing 88 hp and 105 pound-feet of torque on the CW dyno.
Even at age 44, three-time FIM World Speedway Champion Greg Hancock has plenty left in the tank
Consider career longevity among motorcycle racers. Dirt-tracker Scott Parker’s first and last Grand National championships came 11 years apart; Giacomo Agostini’s 500CC roadracing crowns spanned 10 years; Jeremy McGrath's run of Supercross titles lasted eight.
Editorial/Production: Offices are located at 15215 Alton Pkwy., Ste. 100, Irvine, CA 92618; (760) 707-0100. Editorial contributions are welcomed but must be guaranteed exclusive to Cycle World. We are not responsible for the return of unsolicited material unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.