Honda VFR1200F: Shamu?

Man, the guys at Hell for Leather really don’t like the VFR1200F. They took it out to the track, supposing that, since Honda says the bike has tons of sporting pretensions, it’d be kind of fun.  Turns out, they thought it was terrifying.

Their four main complaints:

  1. Suspension is too soft
  2. Ground clearance for cornering sucks
  3. Controls are unpredictable and fueling is monumentally bad
  4. The ergos are poor.

Wes Siler sums up:

It’s nowhere near fast enough to be a Hayabusa or ZX-14 rival and doesn’t handle nearly as well as either of those bikes either. The riding position is more forward-leaning and uncomfortable than a Kawasaki Concours 14 and the Honda doesn’t come with luggage as standard. It kind of looks like a rival for the BMW K1300S, but that bike would run circles around Shamu in a corner and feels notably quicker.

What we’re left with is a bike that’s got a sporty riding position, but corners like it’s made out of jelly. A bike that’s got a big engine, but isn’t terribly fast. A bike that’s as heavy as a tourer,  but looks like a sportsbike. A bike that’s supposed to be friendly, but is difficult to ride.

That’s more or less what I’ve been saying.  An interesting bike that fills some incomprehensible niche. An all-round sports-touring bike that does neither well. I just don’t get it.

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Good news from–and FOR–the MoCo

Harley-Davidson announced its 2nd quarter earnings today, showing continuing improvement in key areas, blah, blah, blah. Forget the financial stuff.  What leaps out at you is this statement:

Harley-Davidson is the U.S. market share leader of on-road motorcycles among young adults.

Now that’s very interesting, indeed, considering that the average rider age of Harleys has been increasing steadily. Without attracting younger riders, H-D is in for a long, slow decline as their current riders die off. But the phrase “market share leader of on-road motorcycles among young adults” can mean a lot of things.  What is it really telling us?

The Kneeslider’s Paul Crowe did some calling around and learned:

[T]he relevant statistics are from R.L. Polk and were covered on the earnings call yesterday.

· . . . in the U.S., no one is reaching new customers better than Harley-Davidson.

· Based on recently provided Polk data, we have been the heavyweight motorcycle category market leader in new motorcycle sales to young adult men and women ages 18 to 34 since at least 2006.

· We have also been the heavyweight market leader since at least 2006 in new motorcycle sales to women riders, Hispanic riders and African American riders ages 35 and older. Of course, we are also the market leader among Caucasian men ages 35 and older.

· And when it comes to new motorcycle sales to young adults in ALL sizes of on-road motorcycles, Harley-Davidson has been the U.S. market share leader since 2008.

While talking to Bob Klein, I also found that a lot of this is directly attributable to sales of the Iron 883 and the Forty Eight.

That’s very, very positive for the Motor Company.

More Ducati Spy Shots

I recently mentioned the new Ducati that’s going to be unveiled later this year.  There was one lame spy shot, and a concept drawing of the Ducati Project 0803 motorcycle.  Well, today, we got another spy shot, this time courtesy of Italian motorcycling site Moto Sprint.

Ducati Project 0803 Spy Shot 2
Ducati Project 0803 Spy Shot 2

This is much better, despite the camouflage paint splotches and masses of black electrical tape.  Nice looking exhaust. Interesting side-mounted radiators. Single-sided swingarm.

The American press has been calling this a new model of the Monster, but I think that’s just notional.  Over in Italy, they’re just referring to it as a maxi-cruiser.

Maybe it’ll be called the “D-Max”.

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2010 Yamaha Super Ténéré First Ride

Janie Omorogbe got to ride a new Yamaha Super Ténéré from Portugal to Morocco, and wrote up her impressions for Motorcycle USA.

The Super Ténéré has been a long-awaited entry into the adventure bike category–long-dominated by the BMW R1200GS.  Available only in Europe at present, a lot of people on this side of the pond have been eagerly awaiting news of it.  Well, how we have some.

Most of her impressions of the bike seem positive:

[T]he Super Tenere is pretty capable and it’s extremely comfortable…The torque curve is as steady as a surgeon’s hand and the power delivery is predictable and measured…[A]ttacking twisties is actually really good fun, not only because of the superb braking system which allows you to grab a fistful at the last moment, (within reason of course) but the bike also has effortless handling…At a faster pace, the Super T feels planted and secure…It’s fun, comfortable and easy to ride.

So far, so good.  Alas, all is not roses with the Super Ténéré , however:

But ask for more aggression, and the ST just won’t play ball…[I]n the mountains, the ST almost throws in the towel, wheezing through the thinning air indecisively. At “normal” altitudes, the bike behaves far more predictably…although it definitely has less punch than BMW’s latest GS…The onboard technology is as limited as the optional extras list…The screen is adjustable, but doing so is not exactly a two-minute job. Where the GS just needs you to twist a couple of knobs, the ST requires an allen key, screw driver and the removal of a side panel.

So, the engine is a bit sluggish, and there aren’t a lot of farkles.  But that’s livable for many riders I suppose.  What may not be livable is surprising, especially when compared to BMW:

But in the UK the biggest stumbling block isn’t its performance but its price. Compared to BMW’s R1200GS, it isn’t any better, it has fewer options and it is more expensive.

Well.  That’s not good.  The big knock on BMW is that they’re generally priced as if they were crafted from purest unobtainium. Now that may be unfair, considering how many technical and comfort doohickeys BMW puts on their bikes. After all, you pay for what you get, and with BMW, you generally get a lot.

But if Yamaha is producing a less capable and less farkled-up bike, and still charging you more for it…well, then I afraid that’s just not on, as our British cousins like to say.

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