Another Barn Find

So, this motorcycle shop owner over in Aalst, Belgium died, and the shop’s contents are going up for auction.  That means that Troostwijk, an industrial auctioneer in Antwerp, had to go in and take stock of the shop’s contents.  When they did, they got quite a surprise.  Because they found eleven–count ’em, eleven–brand new 1975 Norton 850 Commandos, unassembled, still packed away in factory crates.  Oh, and a Matchless, too.

1975 Norton 850 Commando
1975 Norton 850 Commando--Still sitting nicely in its factory crate.

And that’s not all.  According to MCN:

The hoard also includes an ex-Peter Williams 1974 Norton works ‘space frame’ racer, a still-crated bike, a 1989 Rotax-powered Matchless G80, dozens of other Nortons and Triumphs, as well as masses of spasres [sic] and workshop machinery.

Anyway, for some reason, the auctioneers now think the estate auction may be slightly more profitable than originally thought.

If you’re going to be in Belgium, and you’ve got thousands of dollars on hand, you can find more information about the auction at Troostwijk’s web site.  Better hurry, though, if you’re planning to get to Antwerp in time.  The auction closes on the 26th.

Honda’s new VT1300 Cruisers

2010 Honda Sabre II
2010 Honda Sabre II

Honda is really jumping into the mid-size cruiser market by really ramping up their product line of VTX1300s, introducing three new models. Motorcycle USA’s Bryan Harley has gotten to take them all for a spin, and he’s written up his impressions of them, concluding:

Honda’s 2010 VT1300 Series covers the gamut, from what Big Red hails as its ‘big impact bike’ in the form of the Fury to a boulevard-cruising pro-streeter in the guise of the Sabre. The range includes a big-fendered cruiser with more traditional styling and a bike factory-equipped for the long haul. The styling of the VT1300 Series is a big leap forward for the traditionally conservative Japanese manufacturer. But the bikes maintain Honda’s reputation for performance and reliability. It’s an ambitious venture for the company, but Honda believes that there is enough variation in the VT1300 Series to appeal to almost every area of the cruiser demographic. With almost 83,000 VTX models sold, it’s hard to question their reasoning.

The three new models add to the “factory custom” movement Honda Joined by producing the Fury last year, and these new bikes are built around the same idea: producing a more distinctively-styled bike, with Honda’s reliability, at a price point below $13k.

As far as I can tell, these new models look like Honda met its goals.

2010 Honda Interstate
2010 Honda Interstate

All of the bikes are powered by the same 1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin, with a SOHC and single-pin crankshaft, and three valves per cylinder.  Vibration is kept in check through the use of dual balancers. New for these models, however, the VTX powerplant now uses a Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system that features a single 38mm throttle body, with an auto enrichment circuit, doing away with the old CV carburetor.

The three new models break down as follows:

The Sabre is a boulevard cruiser with a nicely raked front end.  In fact, that 33° rake on the front end stretches at the wheelbase to a whopping 70 inches.  The fenders are nicely chopped, and the frame leaves lots of space between the top of the engine and the steering head.  It’s definitely designed as a street custom.

The Stateline, on the other hand, is a much more traditional-looking cruiser, with longer fenders, a larger front tire, and blacked-out engine parts.  it’s still a bit more aggressively styled than the old VTX, but not unpleasantly so.

Finally, there’s the Interstate, which is essentially the Stateline, but with a  more touring-oriented accessory package, including leather covered hard bags that have a hidden latch system and 22 liters capacity, floorboards, a heel-and-toe shifter, big honking brake pedal, and a windshield.  And, even with all that, it still comes in under $13,000, which seems like a nice value for the money.

2010 Honda Stateline
2010 Honda Stateline

So, what could possibly be wrong with any of these bikes?  Well…they’re still a VTX.

Now, look, I understand a lot of people like the VTX.  After all, Honda’s sold 83,000 of them.  But that VTX 1300 engine really is a deal-breaker for me.

The thing about that powerplant is that it’s just gutless at the top end.  When the rev limiter kicks in you’re maybe doing, 85 or 90, and you’ve wrung everything out of her that you’re going to.

Now, maybe in town that’s OK, but the the Interstate, especially, has designs on doing some touring.  And out here in California, when you hit the Interstate, 80 or faster is just the normal rate of traffic flow.  The VTX just won’t offer you anything in terms of passing power at the high end, if you’re already bumping up near the rev limiter just keeping up with the flow.

I understand that not everybody is into the sport-touring, triple-digit sightseeing deal, and that’s fine.  But even my Sportster could top 120 on the highway.  I know.  I did it.  The VTX1300 isn’t a bad engine, it’s just not a very powerful one, even compared to the 1200cc mill on the Sportster.

For just a bit more money, you could spend $12K on a Harley Super Glide, another $2000 or so on the touring accessories, and for one grand more, have a Big Twin that will handle the highway much better than the VTX.

The VTX1300 obviously has its afficionados, but the Interstate seems like a stretch when it comes to touring.

WSBK or MotoGP aren’t risky enough?

You’d think that, if you were spending big money on a world-class motorcycle racing team, you’d prevent your riders from doing things that might endanger their health during the racing season, but apparently not.

Reigning world champion Valentino Rossi joins his teammate Jorge Lorenzo on the “recently bitten by a dirt bike” list. Rossi crashed his dirt bike yesterday in Italy and reportedly injured his back and shoulder in the fall.

Perhaps these motorcycle racers have some sort of adrenaline junkie problem.

As hard as that is to believe.

BMW: Getting it done

While most motorcycle manufactures are mired in the sales doldrums due to the worldwide economic recession, BMW is bucking the trend.

The BMW Motorcycle segment clearly exceeded last year’s sales in the first three months of this year: Sales were 20.9% higher at 20,840 units (17,232). In March 2010, 11,541 motorcycles – an increase of 26.8% – were delivered to customers (prev. yr . 9,100).

And in some countries, such as the UK, sales are setting records, with 1,539 motorcycles sold in March, up 50% over the same month in 2009.

Enthusiast Publications

If you’re interested in reading about motorcycles, or in learning how to ride better, the New York Times, of all places, has a list of books and DVDs about Motorcycling.

Included in the list is:

  • Alan Cathcart’s American Dream Bikes
  • Roland Brown’s Superbikes of the Seventies
  • Kevin Cameron’s The Grand Prix Motorcycle: The Official Technical History
  • Keith Code’s A Twist of the Wrist II DVD
  • Abe Aamidor’s Shooting Star: The Rise and Fall of the British Motorcycle Industry

All of these offerings seem worthwhile, and the Kieth Code DVD on precision cornering techniques is supposed to be very useful in improving one’s riding skills.

Motorcycle Thefts Drop

This seems like good news: The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported today that motorcycle thefts declined by 13% in 2009, with a total of 56,093 stolen last year, compared to 64,492 the previous year.  The most popular bikes for thieves were Hondas, with 13,688 reported thefts, or 24.4% of the total.

In a blinding glimpse of the obvious, NICB reported that the months with the fewest thefts were December, January, and February.

Well, I guess if you’re stealing a bike in January, you want to ride bad.

Cleveland CycleWerks New Models

Via Paul Crowe, I see that Cleveland CycleWerks has plans for some really exciting beginner/commuter bikes designed and slated for release very soon.

CCW Misfit
Cleveland CycleWerks Misfit

First up is my favorite, the Misfit. It’s a 250cc thumper that appears to be priced somewhere around $2400.

CCW Heist
Cleveland CycleWerks Heist

Next is a nice little bobber called the Heist, another 250cc bike with a price tag around $3k.  I like the peanut tank.  The hardtail would take a little getting used to, though.

CCW Hooligan
Cleveland CycleWerks Hooligan

The Hooligan is a motard offering.  It probably looks nice, but its hard to tell with the horrific CCW watermark plastered all over the picture.

There are some other models in the works, including a cafe racer styled bike, a muscle bike, as well as another hardtail.

Assuming the build quality of these Chinese-manufactured bikes is up to par, CCW may have found a nice niche to sell into.

2010 Victory Vegas LE Review – Motorcycle.com

Pete Brissette of Motorcycle.com got to spend a week on Bike #1 of 100 brand new 2010 Victory Vegas LEs.  He loved it.

2010 Victory Vegas LE
2010 Victory Vegas LE

First off, The Vegas LE dumps the standard 100ci V-twin for the more powerful Stage 2 106ci mill, which provides a generous 97 hp at 5000 rpm and 113 ft-lb at a lowly 2750 rpm.  That’s 12 horsies more than the 100ci powerplant, and 10 ft-lb more, too.  Victory claims that putting the 106 into the Vegas makes it the fastest Victory yet.

As you can see, the styling is updated a bit, too, dumping a lot of chrome and replacing it with black powder-coated trim.  It looks like it has just enough, but not too much Arlen-Nessiness in the design.  And, frankly, it doesn’t take a lot for there to be too much Arlen-Nessiness.  He can go a little overboard with al the swoopy curves and what-not.  The Vegas LE, though, looks to be about right in the design department, right down to the blacked-out, curved pipes.

In fact, my real quibble with Victory’s motorcycles is the shape of the jugs.  They just look like somebody stuck two blenders on top of the engine.  Technically, however, the air/oil-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, SOHC V-Twin is a thing of beauty.

Brissette concludes:

The Vegas LE possesses lots of powerful, low-end grunt by virtue of the most potent standard engine Victory has made to date. Yet the LE is largely a standard Vegas model and so enjoys the better handling and steering provided by the standard Vegas’ 180-section rear tire versus the chubby 250 found on the Jackpot model.

So, it has the big power of the Jackpot mated with the standard Vegas’ good handling. The LE is the perfect blend.

I can’t argue with that.

Sadly, Victory is only making 100 of these, and I suspect they’ll all be gone quickly.

2010 BMW K1300S vs Honda VFR1200F Shootout – Motorcycle.com

Motorcycle.Com has the results of their shootout between the BMW K1300S and the Honda VFR1200F.  On paper the bikes are a really close match with the Beemer putting out 146.8HP and the Honda throwing out 146.4 HP.  BMW has the edge in torque, though, with higher torque all along the rev line, except at the tippy top, and maxing out at 89.6 ft-lb compared to the VFR’s 82 ft-lb.  The BMW hit max torque 700RPM shorter, too.

On the other hand, they write that the Honda is easier to ride, more maneuverable, more comfortable, and carries its weight better than the BMW.  Both bikes sport about 5-gallon tanks, so neither one is all that impressive when it comes to touring range.

So, what’s the bottom line?

“Although the BMW may not have the utter refinement of the Honda, I wouldn’t be ashamed or regretful of having a K1300S in my garage if I’d purchased one and then later had the chance to ride a VFR1200F,” says Pete. “Furthermore, the practical techy options like anti-spin control, ESA II, etc, that have real-world application raise the K13’s’s price by only $1,800 more than the Honda’s, making a case for the BMW being the better value. Frankly, the BMW’s Premium Package option is simply worth the added cost over base MSRP, especially so if you amortize that $1,800 across the term of a loan.”

The price on the Honda is the kicker.  For what you get for the money, I’d agree that the BMW is probably a better deal.  You really do have to ride a BMW to really get how good the ESA is.  And the BMW cruise control really is excellent.

I really wanted to like the new VFR a lot, but this 1st-gen model doesn’t seem to quite have “it” at the price Honda’s asking you to shell out.

How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 2

A&R presents part 2 of  How to Save Harley-Davidson.  Folowing on their marketing advice, they start by pointing out the problem with Harley’s product line.

35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout. [One of the reasons for Harley’s stock price increase over the last few weeks is rumors of an impending private-equity buyout.– Ed.]

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.

If you count the new Trike, Harley really has 5 motorcycle models, although one of the Models, the Sportster, has two engine sizes, albeit they use the same engine with different cylinder bores.  Essentially, those five bikes come in 35 factory option packages.

As A&R points out, what Harley doesn’t have is any sort of light, performance oriented machine, like a cafe racer or scrambler.  I would go a step further and say they also don’t have any sort of lighter, entry-level cruiser.

Even if HD has no interest in getting into modern sport-oriented bikes–and there’s nothing wrong that attitude–they don’t even offer a lighter, smaller-engined entry-level cruiser.  Their”entry-level” offering is a 600-lb, 1200cc Sportster.  And whatever else it may be, the Sporty is by no means an entry-level motorcycle.

They already have the basic tools and expertise to build smaller, more performance oriented cruisers, and entry-level bikes.  But they’ve invested so much of the company in catering to the baby boomers, they arean’t offering bikes that appeal, by and large, to new entrants into motorcycling, or to riders that want even a small amount of get-up-and-go in their rides.

That’s been a fantastic strategy for the past 30 years, and it’s served the company well.  There’s only one problem with their strategy of selling to the Baby-Boomers.  The Baby-Boomers are starting to die.  So, it’s not a market with a lot of growth potential moving forward.

Another Literbike Shootout

Motorcycle USA Motorcycle.Com has posted their 2010 Literbike shootout, comparing the newest European bikes to the top Japanese 1,000cc rockets.  From Europe, they test the Aprilia RSV4 R, and the BMW S1000RR.  From the Land of the Rising Sun comes the Honda CBR1000RR and the Kawasaki ZX-10R.  Like nearly everyone else who’s riddewn it, they give the top marks to the BMW.

BMW S1000RR. If you want the literbike with the most power, best brakes, a wonderfully compliant chassis and best available options in 2010, these are the only letters and numbers you need to know.

Everybody loves this bike, it seems, in the sportbike set.

And yet, in World Superbike, where the S1000RR is in its second season of competition, its riders have been on the podium…um…not a single time.