I‘ve been seeing this pop up for the last few days. Oberdan Bezzi is an Italian motorcycle designer. Sometimes his notions of what a future bike model would look like are just that: notions. But, he is a guy who has some hooks into the major bike shops in Europe, so, sometimes, he’s spot on.
In this particular case, the rumor is that BMW is working on a 12500cc successor to the current 1200cc boxer in their R-Series bikes. It would give the bike maybe, what, 10-15 more ponies, and an extra lb-ft or two? And, it would keep in tradition with past incremental shifts for the R-Bikes, from the 110 to 1150, to 1200. maybe it;s shave a few punds of weight off, too. I dunno.
If I was BMW, though, I’m not sure why I would. Instead, I think the move towards the HP2 boxer engine, with the dual overhead cams would be a better move. They already get 130HP out of that engine.
Of course, if you bumped up that engine to 1250cc, you’d probably get to 140+ HP out of it in the HP2 series.
And, lets’ not forget my previous trip down BMW rumor lane, which is that there will be a 1300cc HP2 boxer, and it will go into the RT and GS.
On my way home from work today, I had to make a few stops to pick up some things. One of those stops took me right past the Moto Forza Italian bike dealership, so, without anything better to do, I went in just to look around a bit.
They had your Ducatis, your Benellis, etc. They also had this bike. The very one you see pictured here.
It’s a 2007 MV Agusta F4 1000R. Unused. It has 9 miles on the clock. 174 HP. 82 lb-ft of torque. Sticker price…$14,999.
I told the guy I’d probably be getting an isurance settlement check in another month or so. He just laughed in my face, and said, “Oh, it’ll be long gone by then.” Thanks for the ray of hope, Ass.
So, how did they come by a new 2007 F4? Well, according to Moto Forza’s web site:
MV USA came up with a handful of new bikes that had somehow slipped through the cracks. Some were display bikes for trade shows, some bikes were used for promotional photographs, etc. This 2007 F4 1000R up for sale is one of these few bikes.
Some sorry SOB is gonna walk into Moto Forza in the next week or so and buy it. I hate him.
I just keep telling myself, “It’s got a archaic chain drive. This is 2009. What am I supposed to do, spend my Saturdays lubricating a chain like an animal? Who needs it?”
BMW recently announced that the new S1000RR superbike would be available for sale to the public in January, at a price that makes it very competitive with Japan’s Big 4. Now, it appears that this was part of an intentional strategy to go after the Japanese market share in liter-bikes. And they’re confident enough in the new bike to predict a 20% increase in sales–even in this shaky economy–and to let the Japanese know that the Bavarians are taking aim at them.
“We are going to take the Japanese head-on,” said Pieter de Waal, vice president of the company’s U.S. motorcycle operations, at an event last week in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
The motorcycle’s introduction puts BMW into a niche — informally known as “crotch rockets” — dominated by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha Motor Co. and the Kawasaki brand owned by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. The four Japan-based companies have 88 percent of U.S. market share in the superbike category, De Waal said. BMW’s offering will be priced at $13,800, close to the four most popular competing motorcycles.
While it’s always good to see Germans in a buoyantly confident mood, some observers say, “Not so fast”.
“For BMW, which has always had a reputation of being a very high-priced motorcycle, it’s certainly a lot closer to the Japanese bikes in price,” said David Edwards, Cycle World magazine’s editor in chief. “That may be for some people a reason to consider it, especially if its performance lives up to expectations. But I don’t think you are going to see a mass exodus of Japanese sportbike riders going to BMW.”
Perhaps, but a lot of the liter-bike guys are crazy for motorcycle racing, and if BMWs race version can show up the Japanese bikes on the track, it can’t do anything but help their sales. And releasing the bike for public sale here in the US allows them to meet the homologation rules for AMA Superbike, so I’d bet very good money that we’ll see a BMW race team hitting the tracks next season. If you really want to take on the Japanese–and the Italians, by the way–that’s the way to do it.
Although, having said that, Buell proved a few weeks ago that, while the AMA may have rules about homologation, they aren’t, you know, fanatics about them.
A few months ago, in April, the May edition of Cycle World magazine (link unavailable, it was print) printed a rumor on page 24 that Harley-Davidson was working on a V-4 power plant for…something. Even Cycle World didn’t know:
Harley-Davidson is rumored to be working on a new V-Four engine. It is unclear whether the engine is for use in traditional H-D products and/or for Buell.
It was an interesting rumor, but nothing’s come out of it yet.
Now, there’s a new rumor floating around, which is that the MoCo is working on a brand new café racer bike.
There might be a pulse after all in the town of Milwaukee. A&R has gotten word that the Sultan of Slow is working on a cafe racer motorcycle, similar to the classic XLCR 1000.
If true (and not flubbed like the V-ROD), Harley-Davidson may have found the happy merger of maintaining its brand identity, and manufacturing a motorcycle for people that never owned a black & white television. We secretly hope this rumor is associated with the Harley-Davidson V4 rumor we heard not so long ago, but that may also then indicate Hell freezing over and the Earth collapsing in on itself like a dying star…
We’re always cautious about rumors here, and even more so when they involve H-D doing something right; so as usual, time will tell on this one.
I, for one, hope so. H-D has such a great brand with so much potential energy, that they could be a powerhouse in motorcycling, if they’d just step out of the 60s.
I‘ve whipped up more free Motorcycle themes for WordPress. They’re free for anyone who wants them. To download the theme, just click the screenshot.
I call the first one “Monochrome”. It’s done completely in grayscale–no color at all.
The next one is called “Kneeslider” because of the header image. It’s all done in Buff and Blue. I think It’s a classy theme. At the moment, a variant of this theme is what you’re seeing on the blog now.
The ambient air temperature read 87° as I pressed the starter switch on the blue-on-white Buell 1125R, and prepared myself for the slight possibility of fun.
I say “slight possibility”, because the restrictions that Biggs Harley-Davidson in San Marcos, CA had set on the test ride were stacked against any serious test of the motorcycle’s capability. First, I was restricted to riding a pre-defined route that would prevent any serious test of the bike’s handling. Second, I was required to ride behind an accompanying Biggs employee, who would be riding a…wait for it…Street Glide. Now the Street Glide is a beautiful motorcycle, but any casual listing of it’s outstanding characteristics would not include “Sharp, high-speed handling”.
I was told, however, that I was lucky to be allowed to take a test ride at all, because “the insurance company classifies them as ‘superbikes’, we we were lucky to allow anyone to take a test ride.”
And you can believe as much of that as you please.
Starting up the 1125R rewards you with a decidedly un-Harley-like, yet recognizably V-Twin rumble. It’s a fairly unique sound, and after thinking about it for a while, I decided that it sounds sort of like a WWII aircraft engine.
The first few minutes I spent in the parking lot, doing a couple of figure-8s, and playing with the low-speed handling of the bike. For someone like me, who rides at low speed using the techniques from the “Ride Like a Pro” series of DVDs, the 1125R is resistant to the trail-braking techniques. That’s because the rear brake is essentially useless. There is no feel whatever, and even a hard stomp on the brake pedal rewards you with…nothing.
This was a recurring feature of the ride, since I tend to use my rear brake a fair amount, and I had to adapt my riding style to essentially ignoring the rear brake and concentrate on two-finger front-braking. I use my rear brake and engine braking to scrub off speed when approaching corners, and the 1125R doesn’t reward that technique at all, though the engine-braking is quite acceptable.
Conversely, the front brakes worked very well. They were grabby, and had plenty of feel. And the bike didn’t stand up straight under light front-braking.
Getting onto the street, another adjustment I had to make was the use of the clutch. It takes hardly any squeeze at all on the clutch lever for it to fully engage, and the engagement and disengagement is fairly abrupt, due to the small amount of required travel. By the end of the ride, I had adapted to it, but it took a bit for me to figure out how to shift smoothly, and not apply to much RPM before the clutch engaged.
Ergonomics are described by Buell as “athletic”. I’d describe them as fairly comfortable in sportbike terms. They’re certainly more relaxed than I expected, and you can ride the 1125r without leaning on your wrists, and laying on the tank. You are crouched forward, and pegs are high, but not so far forward, and not so high that it becomes quickly uncomfortable. It may be a racing bike, but it is a bike you can ride.
Even at very low speeds, the exceptional balance of the 1125R never gives you the feeling that you’re about to fall over.On the street, the broad torque curve is forgiving, and the engine responds promptly in any gear. Unlike the long-stroke V-Twins on most cruisers, the high-revving short-stroke Rotax engine rewards throttle inputs with prompt obedience, the power is linear, and willing to surge higher at the flick of a wrist. While lofting the front wheel on the 1125R could be done with ridiculous ease, the power is easily tameable. It doesn’t get out of control, and doesn’t surprise you. It merely does what you ask, when you ask.
I’ve read several reviews of this bike, and many of them have mentioned buzzing and vibration at certain RPMs. As far as I could tell, it had typical V-Twin character, with buzzing and vibrations everywhere. I expected that, and I don’t really understand why anyone would complain about it. You can drop in as many counter-balancers as you want, but no V-Twin with ever be electric-smooth. That’s just not the character of the engine type. As far as I could tell, the Rotax engine really showed off a lot of the character that makes the V-Twin engine so lovable.
Having said that, it’s not a smooth bike. The vibrations do make the rear-view mirrors essentially useless at speed. But, if a glass-smooth engine and perfectly clear rear-view mirrors are your deal, then a V-Twin bike probably isn’t for you.
Doesn’t make you a bad person.
As we entered the I-15 from Escondido, I could see my minder from Biggs drop his elbow as he twisted the throttle for all his Street Glide was worth. With a very slight twist of the throttle, the 1125R stayed right in formation with him. I did, however, find the mild acceleration amusing.
The 1125R is not only very stable at highway speeds, the way the fairing directs the airflow was perfect for my 5″10″ frame. There was no buffeting at all, just a nice stream of clean air at the top of my chest and shoulders. Dropping into a slight tuck made even that go away. The fairing design on the Buell is quite effective, which would make highway trips far less fatiguing.
While the route we traveled contained no twisties, while we came back on the Old Highway 395, I did do a little playing with the bike’s response to body position. Putting weight on a footpeg, leaning your upper body, even looking and shifting a butt cheek puts the 1125R in the mood to lean. there were a couple of turns on our route, and when going through them, the 1125R was composed, and tracked like it was on rails. It effortlessly took a line inside that of the Biggs minder and his Street Glide, and stayed on that line like it was on rails. I had wondered whether the relatively steep rake and short trail would make the Buell twitchy in corners, and as far as I can tell from my limited experience, it doesn’t.
The only major drawback to the 1125R was the leaden ineffectiveness of the rear brakes.In fact, it’s very stable at all speeds, and in all conditions–admittedly limited ones–I subjected it to. Even at very low speeds, the exceptional balance of the 1125R never gives you the feeling that you’re about to fall over. You can crawl this bike along in city traffic at walking speeds, and never take your feet off the pegs. You don’t usually think of sportbikes as particularly forgiving or confidence inspiring, but the Buell 1125R is exactly that. That, combined with the more forgiving ergonomics, make it a joy to ride.
Heat management on the Buell 1125R can be described with one word: Nonexistent. That bothers some people. Meh. I live in the desert. Everything’s hot. So, the 1125R has no lower fairing to generate the nasty heat away from you. Man up and deal with it.
The only major drawback to the 1125R was the leaden ineffectiveness of the rear brakes. I didn’t like that at all. As far as other negatives goes, I did notice that the gear shift selector read “Gear: –” for the entire ride. And, while the analog Tachometer dominates the dashboard display, you tend to have to hunt for the digital speedometer. On a bike that can cause you to travel at license-losing speeds at the drop of the hat, a more prominent speedometer might be helpful. Finally, the switchgear on the handlebars look amateurish and clunky, and sport annoyingly bright colors. They look out of place on an otherwise well-crafted bike.
On the plus side, this is a genuinely fun and–in sportbike terms–comfortable bike to ride. It’s definitely not a beginner’s bike by any stretch of the imagination, but for an experienced rider, the Buell 1125R is versatile enough to use as a daily commuter at nice, sedate speeds, and a weekend hooligan bike for more…ahem…energetic riding.
Honda has announced their 2010 line-up of the Gold Wing model. And for this exciting new year’s models, Honda has sent its top engineers back to the drawing board with this motorcycle, in order to come up with a number of big changes to the colors in which it is available. And why would they do anything else? As honda puts it, “How do you improve on perfection?”
This year, The Gold Wing is available in four colors instead of five: Basic Black, Gunmetal Gray, Dried-Blood Red, and International Safety yellow.
As an added feature, now that the Marysville, OH plant has been shut down they’re guaranteed to be manufactured in Japan.
This is a very exciting time for Honda, I guess.
Anyway, you can see the new lineup here, if you’re interested.
Confederate Motorcycles, the Louisiana-based maker of extremely high-end motorcycles, is all set to publicly unveil their newest model, on August 14th at “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering” in Carmel, CA. The new P-120 Fighter Combat is powered by a 1966cc V-Twin engine, that puts out 160HP and 145lb-ft of torque. As you can see from the pictures below, this model proves once again that Confederate is not…um…enslaved to conventional concepts of motorcycle design.
No word from Confederate on what the production number will be. They have production runs of anywhere from 35 bikes to 150 bikes per model, but whatever the number is, it’s going to be a very small number. And the price tag will be a very large number, i.e. in the 6-digit range.
Hmmm. You’d think that when you shell out 100 grand for a motorcycle, you’d at least get wheels matched to the design of the bike, wouldn’t you? Heck, for that kind of money, you’d kind of expect the motorcycle to have a rear brake, too.
Motorcycle.Com has just released this year’s comparo of the top sport touring motorcycles. This year, they pit the BMW K1300GT, Yamaha FJR1300A, Kawasaki Concours14, and the venerable Honda ST1300 against each other.
They declare the top bike to be…
Objectively the BMW is the clear winner to us. It makes markedly more power than the others despite not having the biggest engine. Our experiences aboard all four left no question the big K bike is the quickest steering and provides excellent braking performance. It offers very good wind protection, great ergos, an adjustable seat and handlebars, possibly the best passenger perch and very good saddlebags, to name only a few high points.
I’ve never been aboard the St1300 or the C14, but after tiding a K13GT and owning an FJR, I’d pick the FJR any day. I didn’t like the GT at all.
Harley-Davidson, whatever the company’s faults may be, have gotten one thing consistently right: Marketing. They are a marketing powerhouse. When you buy a Harley-Davidson, you don’t just buy a motorcycle. You buy a ticket to the “Harley Lifestyle”. The company’s marketing is ubiquitous and effective. But not perfect…
H-D’s CEO, Keith Wandell, admitted in an interview with The Business Journal that the company flubbed their forecasts of the recession’s impact on their customers’ buying choices.
[T]he company mistakenly thought the recession would push consumers toward Harley’s Sportster and other less expensive motorcycles.
The company increased production of those types of bikes, but retail sales “didn’t materialize,” he said.
Harley dealers currently have a glut of the mid-priced V-Rod models.
Instead, many consumers who have been buying Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been buying more expensive custom and touring bikes, Wandell said.
“It left us with a bigger imbalance,” he said. “We have a lot of inventory.”
As a result, Harley-Davidson will shut down final assembly operations of the Sportster and V-Rod motorcycles and V-Rod motorcycle powertrain production in Kansas City, and production of Sportster motorcycle powertrains in Wauwatosa, for 14 weeks this year, including all of the fourth quarter.
Let me put on my MBA hat here. (And yes, I do have one. An MBA, I mean. I don’t actually have the hat. But, I’m thinking of getting one made.)
Harley’s real problem, however, is not the occasional tactical marketing error, but a more fundamental strategic error that the company keeps compounding.I’m kind of stunned that the MoCo would make such a mistake about the buying habits of their customers. Sportsters certainly have their fans, but general, people buy a Sportster because they want a Sportster. I can see how someone wanting a Softtail might settle for a Dyna, but not a Sportie. At least with the Dyna they still get the Big Twin engine. Surely the company must know that the Sportster is called the “baby Harley” and “girls bike”. They must have some inkling that salesmen at dealerships constantly advise prospective Sportster buyers that they’ll quickly outgrow the bike, and want a Dyna in a year or so, so why not buy a Dyna that you won’t outgrow instead?
People who want a Big Twin–and often they already have a Metric big twin they’re looking to trade off–aren’t interested in scaling down to a smaller motorcycle. They want one of the big dogs.
And as for the V-Rod…well, I don’t know what they were thinking when they thought they’d see an increase in sales there. It’s a nice bike but it certainly isn’t the company’s most popular product line. Not by a long shot.
It’s strange to see the company make such an unusual tactical error, and now the employees are gonna pay for it, as the MoCo cuts production to align inventory with customer demand.
Harley’s real problem, however, is not the occasional tactical marketing error, but a more fundamental strategic error that the company keeps compounding.
The brand is an absolute icon for the baby boomers. Among the Gen-X set and younger riders…well, not so much. The MoCo has a serious strategic problem when it comes to marketing, in that younger riders just aren’t attracted by the Harley brand. Harley obviously knows that their customers are aging, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve started producing factory trikes, so that their customers can keep riding long after the ability to hold up a 750 lb. hunk of steel fades away.
But Harley’s challenge isn’t to figure out how to keep an aging band of retirees buying their products, but rather how to entice younger riders to the brand. It’s clear that, looking at the advancing average age of H-D customers, they haven’t figured it out. Or rather, if they have, they’ve declined to implement the obvious solution.
To properly understand the problem, we need to look back at a bit of history.
If you were born in, say, 1980, Harley-Davidson has never been the Big Dog motorcycle.I was born in 1964, so that makes me the very last of the baby boomers. When we were growing up a “superbike”–the term didn’t really exist back then–was a Norton Commando 800. A Harley-Davidson was a massive motorcycle with an ungodly large 1200cc engine. You started riding motorcycles with a Montgomery-Wards 125cc thumper, maybe graduated to a BSA 500cc, then you finally got the money to get one of the Big Dogs, a Harley.
In the 70s, that all started to change. The Japanese began producing game-changing bikes like the Honda 750Four, and the Kawasaki Z-1. Performance increased dramatically. By 1984, when Yamaha introduced the frighteningly powerful (for the time) V-Max, real superbikes were available. The mid-80s explosion of Sportbikes, like the Kawasaki Ninja, raised the bar forever in terms of new motorcycle riders’ perceptions about what a powerful motorcycle was.
Harley’s response was, and continues to be, incremental increases in engine displacement from 1200cc air cooled twins to 1600cc air-cooled twins, along with incremental improvements to frames, suspension, and, thus handling. But the styling and riding characteristics of the company’s products remained mainly stuck in the 1950s-1960s.
Don’t believe me? OK. Compare and contrast the two bikes shown here.
Can you think of any other product where so little styling has changed in the past 44 years?
So, if you were born in, say, 1980, Harley-Davidson has never been the Big Dog motorcycle. It’s been a manufacturer of heavy, slow, low-performance cruisers. You’ve grown up in a world of 150+HP superbikes–a world that did not exist when the boomers were young. Younger riders have an entirely different mental impression of how the motorcycling world is put together.
To thrive as a company Harley needs a product that is connected to the modern era, as well as the past. That doesn’t mean that Harley should jettison its classic styling completely. There’ll always be a market for that, because it has a definite appeal to some riders. But to grab younger riders Harley-Davidson–as a company, not a specific brand–has to have something else. It has to have a line of motorcycles that appeals to those younger people who want more sport than cruiser.
And, interestingly enough, Harley already has that with Buell motorcycles. And does almost nothing with them.
First, until last year, the entire Buell line–except for the now-defunct Blast–was limited to cast-off Sportster Evolution engines. Erik Buell’s division tweaked them as well as they could be tweaked, but the XB series of bikes has never–and can never, from a technical point of view–compete with 600cc sportbikes like the Yamaha R6. And I simply can’t believe that an old privateer racer like Erik Buell is satisfied with the performance of the products he’s been allowed to put out by his masters in Milwaukee.
And, to make matters worse, Buell doesn’t even have its own dealership network. Instead, Buells are relegated to the dark corner of Harley-Davidson dealerships, and the sales staffs often know little about the brand…and care even less. I’ve personally had sales people intentionally steer me away from Buells, to point me in the direction of a Softtail or Road King.
H-D needs to move beyond the cruiser world if it wants to compete in the future. And that means letting Buell have some more leeway to operate beyond the Harley-Davidson cruiser world.
Companies survive by making products the public wishes to purchase. They don’t survive on tradition. They don’t survive on selling lifestyles.They need to break into the younger markets by producing bikes that can compete with the Gixxers and Ninjas. That means giving Buell the go-ahead to dump the Thunderstorm engine in favor of water-cooled twins and V-4 or I-4 engines. Buell has some fascinating design ideas for sportbikes, but one of the reasons they’ve never been accepted is that, performance-wise, Buells suck compared to the Japanese brands. Buell needs a powerplant to mate with their technical innovations. The 1125 is a good start. Now, they need to make the next step.
They need to liberate Buell from the H-D dealership network, and open up dealerships where Buell enthusiasts work. It doesn’t matter how good the bikes are if their sales network doesn’t want to sell them. Making the customers force the dealer to sell them a Buell is silly, and it needs to stop.
Harley also has MV Agusta, the venerable maker of Italian sportbikes, including the F4 312RR, the most powerful production motorcycle in the world, as well as its parent company, Cagiva. Maybe figuring out how to get those Italian brands over here would be helpful as well.
Companies survive by making products the public wishes to purchase. They don’t survive on tradition. They don’t survive on selling lifestyles. The reason the MoCo’s customer base is aging and shrinking is because they aren’t making products the younger generation wants to buy.
But Harley owns the brands, and has the capability to make the bikes that will attract the younger generation of buyers. It only remains to be seen if Harley will continue to rest on the laurels of the brand’s prestige, or if it will become determined to compete in the new markets that the Japanese currently own.
Our cousins in The Old Country love motorcycles as much as we do, but they don’t love the same motorcycles, apparently. The French automotive magazine MotoRevue has released their list of top five motorcycles in Europe, and, as you might imagine, they’re quite different from the Motorcyclist picks of the year I wrote about a few days ago.
Three Italians–the Ducati Streetfighter and 1198, and the Aprilia RSV4–head the roster. One Brit bike, the Triuph Speed Triple, makes the list. And the 2009 Yamaha Star V-Max rounds it off.
Apparently, our European cousins are speed freaks. But then, they tend to have speed limits that are a bit less stodgy than those on this side of The Pond.
Yamaha’s Star brand of cruiser motorcycles has announced that the new, monstrously powerful 2010 V-Max is on sale as of today. Sporting a 1679cc liquid-cooled 65° V-4 engine putting out 200 Horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque , the V-Max is the 800-pound gorilla of cruisers.
There’s a downside to this power, though. 27MPG fuel efficiency off of a 4-gallon tank means a refueling stop after less than 100 miles, unless you want to push it. And the handling, while reportedly improved over the pre-2009 models, is still less than optimal. So, no touring or twisties for this beast, just simple hot-rodding.
There’ve been no changes to the V-Max from 2009, except the new Cherry red paint.