The Mysterious V-4 and the Return of the UJM

Honda has been hinting about it.  They’ve been dropping tantalizing videos about it. They’ve issued technical white papers on it. They’ve even had it out in semi-public places where the overly-inquisitive could take spy shots of its pre-production form.  But today, Honda officially confirmed that the new 1200cc V-4, V-Tec motorcycle will be a part of the 2010 Honda Line-up, and will unveil it to the world at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show in three weeks.  Named the VFR1200F, Honda says the new motorcycle is a dedicated sport-touring bike.  We still can’t see it yet, because Honda is keeping the final appearance under wraps until the Tokyo unveiling, but I’m sure all the VFR fanatics–and are there any other kind of VFR riders?–are now thinking seriously about getting hold of one as soon as their finances allow.

2010 Honda CB1100
2010(?) Honda CB1100

But that’s not all they confirmed today.  Big Red will also be bringing the CB1100 to the Tokyo show as well. It harks back to the iconic UJM bikes of the 1970s, like the 750Four or the Kawasaki Z900.  It even has the throwback chrome fenders.

Interestingly, it’s not water-cooled, but rather obviously an air/oil-cooled inline-4.

This is what motorcycles were like when I was a kid.  Naked bikes, ready to accept whatever customization you wanted to provide.

The only down side is that Honda hasn’t specifically said that this is a 2010 production bike.  Just that they will be unveiling it in Tokyo.  But I suspect they wouldn’t unveil it for no other reason that to say, “Glad you liked it.  We aren’t going to do anything with it.”  I suspect this is, in fact, an upcoming model, especially since it looks almost exactly like the CB1100F concept bike they showed off two years ago.

Can Am Spyder RT First Ride

Motorcycle-USA has gotten hold of a brand new 2010 Can Am Spyder RT and taken it out for a spin.  Not only that, but Adam Waheed has kindly furnished us with a ride report.

Like nearly everyone else who has ridden the Spyder, the big thing to get used to is cornering.  Other than that, Waheed seems to like it.  Especially the monstrous amount of cargo space than it offers for touring.

One of my favorite features on the Spyder RT is its sheer amount of cargo capacity. There are a total of five storage areas (hood, trunk, right/left side hard cases, and small cockpit glove box) that allow you to tote a tremendous amount of gear with you. Even better is the optional Spyder RT travel luggage (with roller wheels and handle) that neatly fits right into the compartment allowing for seamless luggage removal when you arrive at your destination. And for those who literally want to bring their kitchen sink with them, Can-am offers a pull-behind trailer with a whopping 164-gallon capacity. It’s so big that I could literally sleep in it! The trailer features independent coil-over suspension, aluminum wheels, carpet, interior lighting and separate front and rear lid access. Furthermore the trailer is set-up to work in conjunction with its VSS and can be color-matched to your Spyder.

And, of course, with an automatic tranny, electric windscreen, ABS brakes, and stereo, you’ve got about all the comfort features you could want, too.

2010 Can Am-Spyder RT, with optional trailer.
2010 Can Am-Spyder RT, with optional trailer.

If the Spyder doesn’t have enough room to take along everything you need for a trip, then you just aren’t doing it right.

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KTM Adds Streetbike Division

The North American Division of Austria’s KTM Motorcycles has announced they are forming a new Streetbike division.  Obviously, this is an indication that KTM is planning to enlarge their current dirt-heavy offerings with an expanded offering of on-road machines.

KTM is expected to unveil a new streetbike at the EICMA show in Milan Italy.  It will be a completely new bike, not an update of an existing model.

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2010 MV Agusta Brutale Models

The new, redesigned, 2010 Brutale models have been announced by MV Agusta.  And by redesigned, I mean redesigned.  According to MV 85% of the components in the two models are new, including the frame, swingarm, and engines. The suspension has also been redesigned.

The US retail price for the 99R will be $15,000, and the 1090R wil be $18,000.

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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796

Ducati has officially announced the availability of the new Ducati Hypermotard 796 for the US market for 2010.  The b ike will have an air-cooled engine, and tip the scales at just 368 pounds.  According to Ducati’s press release:

A brand new model for 2010, the Hypermotard 796 incorporates many new features requested by Ducatisti worldwide; striking color selections, lighter weight, lower price point, lower seat height, and the inclusion of a super-light action APTC clutch. Whether it’s dicing through the daily commute or attacking the open roads, the 796 perfectly balances Ducati’s unrivalled twin-cylinder power and sportbike heredity with the lightweight and minimalist Supermotard concept. The Hypermotard 796’s engine is a brand new powerplant; air-cooled with 2 valves per cylinder as per Ducati tradition. Rated at 81hp and 56 lb/ft of torque, the engine promises to deliver an exhilarating ride without compromising the smooth tractability found in Ducati’s other L-Twin engines.

Continued chassis development to the Hypermotard includes redesigned top and bottom fork clamps, and an improved frame layout which eliminates almost all of the forged elements used previously on the 1100. This adds up to an agile, lightweight, 368 pound package that is guaranteed to attack corners.

The bike’s official unveiling will take place in Milan in a few weeks, and it should start showing up in US showrooms–with a price tag under $10k–in December.

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
A brand new model for 2010, the Hypermotard 796 incorporates many new features requested by Ducatisti worldwide; striking color selections, lighter weight, lower price point, lower seat height, and the inclusion of a super-light action APTC clutch. Whether it’s dicing through the daily commute or attacking the open roads, the 796 perfectly balances Ducati’s unrivalled twin-cylinder power and sportbike heredity with the lightweight and minimalist Supermotard concept. The Hypermotard 796’s engine is a brand new powerplant; air-cooled with 2 valves per cylinder as per Ducati tradition. Rated at 81hp and 56 lb/ft of torque, the engine promises to deliver an exhilarating ride without compromising the smooth tractability found in Ducati’s other L-Twin engines.

<script language=”JavaScript” type=”text/javascript”> document.write(‘<a href=”http://clk.atdmt.com/UIM/go/159266308/direct/01/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://view.atdmt.com/UIM/view/159266308/direct/01/”/></a>’); </script><noscript><a href=”http://clk.atdmt.com/UIM/go/159266308/direct/01/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://view.atdmt.com/UIM/view/159266308/direct/01/” /></a></noscript>

Continued chassis development to the Hypermotard includes redesigned top and bottom fork clamps, and an improved frame layout which eliminates almost all of the forged elements used previously on the 1100. This adds up to an agile, lightweight, 368 pound package that is guaranteed to attack corners.

Reading Between the Lines

Just before I left for vacation, I reported that an informed source had told me that the board members and top executives at Harley-Davidson were considering whether or not to keep Buell Motorcycles as part of the Harley-Davidson corporation.  Naturally, I became the most hated man in Buell World for a day or two.  Court Canfield even dropped in to tell me what an ass I am.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to catch up with my source since I got back from Alaska, but I did notice this story in Friday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  And when I did, I also noticed this line near the bottom of the story:

Erik Buell said he didn’t renew his employment contract with Harley-Davidson, although he isn’t planning on retiring.

Probably means nothing.  No doubt there are any number of sound reasons why Erik Buell didn’t renew his employment contract with the MoCo.  I am curious, though, as to what they might be.

Ural Loses the Sidecar

Ural Motorcycles are known around the world for their 750cc, boxer-engined, sidecar-equipped adventure bikes.  Now, they are going to give us an old-style, go anywhere, do anything motorcycle without a sidecar.  Named the Ural ST, for Solo Tour, the new bike is supposed to be a lightweight (460lbs) capable all-rounder, much like the Nortons and BSAs I remember as a kid.

2010 Ural ST
2010 Ural ST

Despite dropping the sidecar, it’s still pretty much the same Soviet copy of the 1930s BMW R71 that Commie spys ripped off from the Nazis just prior to WWII.  That means its 70 year-old technology is drop-dead simple to maintain–not that you’ll need to worry much about that, since it’s a design that’s as reliable as hell.

It puts out 40HP and 38 lb-ft of torque, so it’s obviously no speed demon in modern terms.  But, Wes Siler and Grant Ray, of the Hell for Leather motorcycle blog, got to take a ride on it, and they made a key observation, saying it has “a breadth of ability utterly absent from modern motorcycles….capable on gravel or dirt despite road-based tires.”

I suppose that younger readers may find this a bit hard to imagine, but right up into the 1970s, practically all motorcycles were like this.  Apart from the big Harleys, which were more or less purpose-built for highway cruising, here simply wasn’t the level of niche specialization that you see in motorcycles today.  There were no sportbikes, cruisers, power-cruisers, sport-tourers, etc.  There were just…motorcycles.

If you wanted a dirt bike, you put knobby tires on your motorcycle.  If you wanted a touring bike, you picked up a pair of leather saddlebags and threw them over the rear fender.  If you wanted an adventure bike, you got knobby tires, and welded mounts to some surplus .50 caliber or .30 caliber ammo cans and bolted them to the frame for tough, waterproof saddlebags.  Then you hit the road.  Or the dirt.  Whatever.

The Ural ST harks back to those simpler days, with some adjustments for modernity, like a Marzocchi fork, Brembo brakes…and EPA and CARB compliance (Yea, I said “CARB compliance, which means you can get it in California, too). And if you’re going to be in Seattle in the near future, why not give Ural’s office there a call.  They may let you ride one and get your feedback for the production model.

Best of all, the list price is expected to be about $8,000.

Motus Motorcycles, Part Deux

Brian Case, the chief designer of the new Motus Motorcycles has written me, and he offers the following response to my previous blog post:

We have not set a production price yet and will not be able to determine pricing until engineering is closer to completion. Our goal will be to set an affordable price to a wide range of motorcyclists. The Motus will be a premium motorcycle with premium components and the highest level of engineering. What does that mean? It means we can’t publish a price. We wouldn’t want to promise the public a price and not be able to meet it.

I can tell you we would like our motorcycle to show up on the radar of a rider looking at a fully-loaded K1300GT. However, we know BMW sold over 11,000 GT’s in the US last year and we will not likely sell that many in our first year. So, it may take a new brand like ours a couple of years on the market to reach higher economies of scale. We will be offering a base model (MST-01) and premium model (MST-R) right from the start and we feel that the respective price points will be crucial to the success of the launch. We don’t believe a startup motorcycle company can compete on price with established giants like Honda or BMW, so we have to pick other battles and at the same time not price ourselves out of a market.

You’ll notice the sketch I drew on our website. Yes, it is a teaser but only because we are more comfortable showing progress after we have completed it rather than creating false expectations. I overlayed this sketch on top of an actual CAD model of our powertrain and chassis designs that are in development. We chose to orient our proprietary V4 engine transversly in the MST-01 chassis as oppossed to longitudinally like a VMax, or the upcoming VFR1200. This has afforded us the opportunity to design a very unique, purpose-built and compact sport touring platform that will easily stand apart from even the latest mass-produced OEM sport tourers. The highly visable dual headers will extend down from the exposed cylinder heads on each side of the machine to symbolize the unique design statement of the transverse V4. Our next major announcement will be to unveil a running prototype of the liquid-cooled V4, and the sound, the sound we hope will be nothing short of spectacular.

He further comments:

Also, I forgot to mention, there are indeed side hard bags proposed in the concept and the bike will be suited for two-up riding. The rear trunk will be optional, which will include a back rest for the passenger.

Everything he wrote to me sounds quite reasonable.  Manufacturers of new motorcycles are always in a bind, of course, because without millions and millions of dollars in capital–and I mean miiiiiiiillions–they can’t even have a glimmer of hope at reaching economies of scale in production that any of the major players can achieve.  That inevitably means a high price.

That’s just an economic reality, especially if you plan on making a high-quality product, which Mr. Case, et al., clearly are.

I’d be really interested, though, in seeing just how close they can get to something like an affordable price.  If we are indeed talking BMW GT range, that implies $24k or thereabouts.  And, of course, a Gold Wing can run you well into the thirties all maxed out with bells and whistles, so $30k wouldn’t be too far out of line.

I really like the idea of the V-4 engine.  It’s a strong platform as Aprilia has already shown, and as Honda is planning to show.  You can pull monster torque and HP out of V-4, while maintaining a smooth engine feel.

I’m rooting for these guys, and I’d really like a test ride when they have one ready to go.

Motus Motorcycles takes A Step Towards Reality

I mentioned back in April that a new US Sport Touring motorcycle was being created by a new company called Motus Motorcycles, with Brian Case as the chief designer.  After that, absolutely nothing seemed to happen.  The web page was a single landing page with the company logo, and a message saying that they were working on a really neat sport touring motorcycle.

Well, that has now changed.  The web site is now three pages, and the front page shows this:

Motus Motorcycle Artist Concept
Motus Motorcycle Artist Concept

Obviously, this is some sort of artist’s concept of the Motus.  It must be.  Clearly, those exhaust pipes can’t actually brush the ground like that.  This is the most information about what the thing is supposed to look like since the initial announcement.

I’m not seeing a pillion seat there, so this looks like a sport tourer for the moody loner.  Come to think of it, I don’t see any saddlebags there, either, so now we’re looking at a sport tourer for the homeless moody loner.

So, let’s take the picture with a grain of salt.  We’ll probably all be happier that way.

In any event, there seems to be some movement, because the Motus web site’s “News” page now links to a press release from motorsports pros Pratt & Miller, which says:

Motus Motorcycles’ decision to partner with Pratt & Miller Engineering for development and manufacturing of their new motorcycles further confirms their commitment to delivering highly engineered and reliable machines.

Pratt & Miller Engineering’s 20 year history of success in motorsports was a determining factor in this partnership with Motus Motorcycles. Pratt & Miller Engineering has won numerous championships in the American Le Mans Series, Rolex Grand-Am series, NASCAR and six 24 hours of Le Mans victories in the GT1 category. In addition to motorsports, Pratt and Miller Engineering has played a prominent role in automotive, commercial, aerospace, and defense projects such as unmanned vehicles and the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

“With their vast experience developing high performance, lightweight vehicles, we quickly identified Pratt & Miller as the perfect partner to engineer our lightweight, high-performance motorcycle,” said Brian Case, VP and Design Director of Motus Motorcycles.

Motus MST series motorcycles will incorporate many of Pratt & Miller’s race proven technologies such as a balanced and optimized 4130 chromoly space frame and lightweight carbon composite bodywork. A combination of computer aided engineering tools such as CAD, finite element analysis, and multi-body simulation will be implemented throughout the design process. All prototypes will be developed in house using the latest rapid prototyping techniques and many proprietary processes that Pratt & Miller has developed.

“These advanced engineering tools integrated with our advanced manufacturing capabilities will help set Motus apart in terms of performance, safety and durability,” said Pratt & Miller spokesman Brandon Widmer.

Long story made short: Motus seems serious about producing a top-notch motorcycle.  Whether they can do so at a price that competes with the FJR1300 or Concours14–or even the BMW RT or GT bikes–is a question that is still unanswered.  If they end up with a $50k price tag like the Roehr 1250, then I’m pretty much uninterested.

New Honda V-4 Seen In the Wild

We’ve seen pre-production spy shots.  We’ve had technical details released.  Now, motoblog.it has captured what looks like a production version of the motorcycle tooling around in the wild.  Click the thumbnails below to enlarge.

It looks nice, and has interesting tech.  So, how much torque and horsepower?  Inquiring minds want to know.

The front headlight still looks like a mutant frog, though.