Kawasaki Goes High-Tech

Kawasaki is reported to be working on some high-tech additions to the Concours14/GTR-1400 for the upcoming model year.

Kawasaki HUD System
Kawasaki HUD System

They won’t be officially unveiled until later this year.  I don’t know when.  It was supposed to be at the Paris Motorcycle show in October, but that event has been canceled.

Anyway, the new additions include an infrared night vision system, and a heads-up display for riders.

The heart of the system is a pair of infrared cameras mounted on the front of the bike. They allow the rider to “see” about 300 meters ahead of the bike, which is well beyond the viewing distance provided by the headlights. Not only will the system be able to find a heat signature before the rider is able to see it, but it will also provide an audible alarm to the rider. This will keep focus on the road rather than the gauge cluster.

Aside from the night vision the Kawasaki Engineering team is also working to design a helmet mounted heads up display. If they are successful, it could be mean riders will rarely have to look away from the road to check their speed or whatever they are monitoring at the time. The current design is mounted on the exterior of the helmet, rather than being part of it, meaning it could quickly become a popular aftermarket accessory.

It’s also supposed to have a bluetooth hookup to the helmet HUD, so there won’t be any annoying wires or whatnot.

Maybe I should reconsider an earlier post.  If you’re gonna have the heads-up display, and the infrared night vision, you might as well spring for the Batman suit after all.

The Exploding RT, and Boxer Rumors

A reader from South Africa–isn’t the web just amazing!–has sent in an interesting story about his horrific run of bad luck with the R1200RT, and he also asks me an interesting question.  I thought I would address him in a new post instead of the comments.

Hi Dale,

I am a 54 year old bike rider now and in October/November 2006 I purchased my first R1200RT, strickly ran in the bike as recommended, at about 5000 somthing km while running flat out (230km/hr)up a long hill, at sea level, the engine blew up, right hand cylinder it later turned out. BMW Motorrad led me to belive that it was my fault to an extent, they offered me their demmo RT with 355km on the clock at nost cost although this was a 07 model. I completed the running in procedure to 1000km and proceded to enjoy the bike. Planning on doing a long trip with the ODO at just less than 10,000km I had it serviced for its 10K. 3 days after this service and still not on 10K, running the same hill also flat taps as previous the engine blew, again the RH cylinder with identical damage as the first. After a big fight and quite a lot of money I got a new 09 RT full house, ran it in as previous, blew this motor at less than 3000km, only difference I was on a different hill. Yes, the same cylinder with identical damage as the previous 2 bikes. Completely dishartened as I truely love this machine, I had it repaired kept it for a month after which I traded it in on 1200GS. The GS is a different beast, also good but nothing like the RT. Anyway in this time I found out that BMW are bringing out a new RT,to be released in Germany Nov/Dec this year, it’s apparently top secret, I’ve tried searching the web for any bit of info without any success, I’m waiting in anticipation for it as I know I will have it. Perhaps you know what BMW are doing and could advise me!

Also please advise if you know about other RT owners blowing their motors, especially the R/H cylinders.

Regards
Deryck Siddons
South Africa

Your story is horrific, Deryck.  Actually, it sounds outlandish, because I’ve never heard of the RT, or any other of the boxers, having a problem with the cylinders blowing.  Now, if you’d told me that your final final drive started spewing lubricant and bursting into flame, I’d have nodded my head and said, “Yeah, that seems to be going around.”  There’s been a lot of controversy over BMW’s final drive in the 2005 and 2006 models, and whether there was a fundamental design flaw that BMW refused to acknowledge, but quietly fixed.  But I’ve never heard of any sort of problem with the boxer engine, which is, after all, going on its ninth decade as BMW’s banner power plant.

Indeed, here in the states, we have something called the Iron Butt Association (IBA), where motorcycle riders take their bikes on a ridiculously long trips in a ridiculously short time.  The three big IBA events are the SaddleSore 1000 (1,000 miles/1,600 km in 24 hours), BunBurner 1500 (1500 miles/2400 km in 24 or 36 hours), and the 50cc Quest (coast-to-coast in 50 hours).  In the last Iron Butt Rally (11,000 miles/17,600 km in 11 days) in 2007, 5 of the 72 participants who completed the Rally were riding R1200RTs.

So, you seem particularly unlucky.  I suggest that you not take up piloting helicopters.  Or skydiving.

I’m just saying.

The New BMW R1300RT?
The New BMW R1300RT?

As for rumors of a new R-Bike from BMW…well, I wasn’t going to actually write anything about this, but I actually have heard something about a new R1300RT.  As far as I know, the only place where this has been reported is at a French motorcycle news web site called MotoStation.  Back in February, they reported that BMW was working on a new R1300RT for release in June 2010.

They even have a photoshop of the new bike…and you can believe as much of that picture as you please.

Interestingly, they also say that the R1300RT will switch over to the same type of boxer motor as that which powers the current HP2 Sport, with its two camshafts, instead of the current single camshaft.  That should up the horsepower to around 130HP, with…oh, let’s call it 95-100 lb-ft (13.1-13.8Kgm) of torque.  More or less.

Whether all this is real or not, I really can’t say.  You know how some of the motorcycle web sites are.  In the UK, MCN has been predicting a new model of the Honda Interceptor (VFR) every year for five years.  They’ve become a joke because of it, at least on that issue.

So, yes, there’s rumored to be a new 1300cc boxer for the RT in the works at BMW for next year, which is to say the 2011 model year.  Whether those rumors are true, I really can’t say.  MotoStation is the only place that’s reporting this, and they haven’t made mention of it again since February.  If it’s true, then they’re doing a good job of keeping this hush-hush in Bayern.

I am, however, deliriously proud of myself for converting the English measurements to the heathen  metric system for you.

Harley Davidson XR1200 Ride Review

I should have posted this earlier, but Chris Chornbe took a ride on the Harley XR1200 Sportster, and he gives a comprehensive report on the newest Sporty experience.  He concludes:

This bike is best suited for those who want a Harley-Davidson branded motorcycle, yet also want a bike that is fast, handles well and is a real competitor for sport-oriented riders. It isn’t the best available in its class, but yeah… it’s serious and it’s well worth a look.

Given the non-adjustable suspension that is good enough but needs work for enthusiasts, the ride comfort, features and aftermarket support – if I had to buy a twin-powered naked, I would opt for the Buell (for similar money), or the smaller Ducati (for less money) and forego this bike, simply on price and its lack of better suspension. But hey… it’s a Harley! And that is not an insignificant point of fact. It ooozes Harley sexiness while still being something of a new breed. It’s a good bike. Period.

Read the whole thing.

Another R1200RT Test Ride

I took a trip down to San Diego BMW Motorrad today to see what kind of deal they’d give me on a R1200RT, so I could compare and contrast it to North County BMW.  Turns out that they want to do a deal a little more than North County does.  Not only did they offer me a black RT with a couple of more options than the one at NC BMW, they offered me more for the FJR, and came up with a deal that cost $900 less.  So, if I buy one of these things, I think San Diego BMW is the place to go.

Anyway, while I was there, they offered to let me take another RT test ride, which, of course, I did.

This time, since we were in the urban setting of San Diego, I did some different things with the bike, and tried out some of the options a bit more, so I could get a better feel for the details, instead of the overall impression, like I did last week.

Handling in the city was still fantastic, of course.  For a 571 lb bike, it really is flickable.  On the FJR, I feel like I need to lean down a bit over the tank to lower my center of gravity a bit to get the bike into a more maneuverable attitude.  That just isn’t necessary with the RT.

I went down the long open stretch of Kearny Villa Road.  There’s no cross traffic, it has a 65MPH speed limit, and it’s a bit of a bumpy road for some reason.  It was the perfect place to try out the ESA option.  On the sport setting, the suspension transmitted every bump in the road right to the seat of your pants.  But push the ESA button to set it to “Comfort”, wait about 10 seconds for the suspension to adjust, and all the little bumps in the pavement just disappear.  It had a really nice, smooth ride, even on a relatively bumpy stretch of road.  So, the ESA really does work as advertised.

I also found an empty parking lot to try out some slow-speed maneuvering in.  The handling of the RT shines just as well at slow-speed, tight maneuvers as it does on the twisties.  Give it some gas, find the friction point on the clutch, apply some trail-braking, and you can do lock-to-lock figures 8 with no problem at all.

This is in sharp counterpoint to my FJR AE.  Since the AE has an auto-clutch, you have to keep the RPMs above 2500, and apply lots of trail braking.  This really requires very fine throttle control, because if you let the RPMs drop too low, the clutch kicks in, and your trail-braking is instantly transformed to “stop now” braking, right in the middle of your lean.  This is not a good thing.   At very slow speeds, the RT is supremely controllable in comparison.

I really can see why cops love the RT as a police bike.  It’s very confidence-inspiring, and makes you look like a better rider than you are.  It rewards you for doing the fundamentals right, and doesn’t require you to learn quirky little compensatory riding habits to make up for the bike’s shortcomings.

Airflow management is quite a lot better than the FJR.  Even with my Scorpion EXO-1000, which is a sort of noisy helmet, the RT is noticeably quieter with the windshield at the lowest position.  At highway speeds, you can bring the windscreen up to the point where the wind noise almost goes completely away.

I really like the boxer engine.  The I-4 powerplant certainly has it’s charms, but the boxer has a lot going for it, too.  It has a really low center of gravity, which makes the bike easier to pick up, hold up, and maneuver.  The noticeable torque and low-speed vibration gives the bike a much more visceral feel, but wind it up, and the balancers kick in, the vibration goes away, and it feels much more like an I-4 powerplant than a twin.  It seems like a better motorcycle powerplant than the V-Twin does, because the weight distribution is more friendly for a motorcycle, because it’s down so low.

I fiddled with the rear-view mirrors with a little more rigor this time, and got them aimed properly.  I’m still not overjoyed about seeing the handlebars in the top of the mirror, and the top of the saddlebags at the bottom, but once they are adjusted properly, they give you an acceptable field of view at whats going on behind you.  At speed, they are rock-steady.  And their placement is part of the RT’s terrific wind management, so they perform an additional useful purpose, keeping your hands out of the airstream, unlike the FJR.

Street performance on the RT seems similar to the FJR AE, with a couple of exceptions.  From a standing start, the FJR responds much quicker off the line–although that could be just my unfamiliarity with the clutch on the RT, which would improve pretty quickly.  They both seem to hit 50MPH in about the same time, according to the “One Missisippi, Two Mississipi…” Timing method.

The FJR has taller gears, however, and doesn’t need to shift into second gear until about 60+ MPH or so.  The RT hits the rev limiter in 1st at just slightly above 50 MPH in first.  The RT’s 60-80MPH roll-on in 4th gear takes about 3.5 seconds.    The FJR AE does it in about the same time in 5th gear.

Interestingly, the better air management on the RT doesn’t give you the same feel of acceleration as the FJR does.  The RT is doing pretty much the same thing, stoplight-to-stoplight, as the FJR AE, but it feels less dramatic doing it.

“Dramatic” is a good word to describe the difference between the bikes.  I think that comes as a result of different design philosophies.  BMW puts a premium on rider comfort, while Yamaha puts a higher priority to giving you a more sporty feel.  So, when you do X on the Yamaha, the bike seems to be saying “Woo Hoo!  Isnt this fun?!”  When you do it on the BMW, the bike says, “Well, we are proceeding at quite a clip, aren’t we?  You comfy enough?  That nasty wind isn’t bothering you, is it?”  The FJR has drama.  The BMW doesn’t.

They’re equally fun, but the fun comes in different ways.  The RT really is about the handling.  It acts like it wants to lean into the turn for you.  It’s as if the RT senses what you want to do, and then does it instantly.  The FJR, on the other hand, wants to be told what to do.  It wants you to dominate it, and it rewards you with the gratification of accomplishment in making it do your will.  In short, the RT is a sub, the FJR is a dom.

And there’s lots of fun in exploring both of those personalities.

Yakima PD Dumps Harley

Harley-Davidson has seen a lot of competition for the police bike market over the last few years, most notably from BMW, starting with the R1100RT-P to R1200RT-P.  Honda has been making inroads on Harley’s market share, too.

Yakima, Washington is now is the latest police agency to dump the Harley bikes they’ve been riding, to switch to the Honda ST1300-P.

The California Highway Patrol’s dismissal of the HD bikes in favor of the R1100RT-P back in 1997 was the first major blow to harley’s dominance of this market in the US–although Kawasaki had made some inroads with the CHP with the Kawasaki 1000 Police Bike.  And once the CHP made the switch, most other agencies went along with it too, either wholly or in part.  And, since California tends to be a trendsetter in police operations, as in popular culture, that gave BMW a big and continuing boost with agencies all across the country.

It’s difficult to see how the MoCo reverses this trend with their current lineup of bikes.  Police bikes generally have to do things that civilian bikes usually don’t. As Yakima PD spokesman Sgt. Gary Jones puts it:

“We have to be able to go over the curb, sidewalk ditches and [the] low ground clearance on Harley got hung up on breaking the stand kicks,” said Sgt. Jones.

Apparently, reliability was an issue to, as the (poorly written) story notes:

Riding more than 50,000 miles [per year], officers say, the Harley Davidson’s only lasted a few years and maintenance was costly. Agility is a top priority for the way police use motorcycles.

The trouble with Harley’s touring bikes, which are the generally used models for police purposes, is that they reflect design trends of 60 years ago.  Now that’s something about which HD is proud, and it’s also a key selling point for their rider community.  But that very design makes them, in the modern world, less suitable for police use when more up-to-date bikes are available, with their shorter wheelbases, higher ground clearance, lighter weight (not that the ST1300 is a lightweight bike by any means), and significantly better handling and performance.

The Buell division does make the Ulysess available in a police model, and that seems like a fine choice, especially for rural agencies, where dual-sport capability might be a positive point.  But it’s not particularly well suited for a daily urban environment, sine the bike’s tall height is somewhat inconvenient for constant stop and go riding.

What HD does have going for it the tendency among some government agencies to buy American, but that’s solely a political, not technical decision. Having been a Harley owner, and having ridden the Sportster, Road King, and ElectraGlide, I’d take the R1200RT over those bikes any day if performance and handling ability are a major criterion.

It’s hard to see how the MoCo stays competitive in this market over the long term–except, of course, for the politics of “Buy American”.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I yield to no man in my advocacy of the philosophy of “All the gear, all the time” (ATGATT).  When I went down after being hit by a driver who ran a stop sign, back in December, I ended up in much better shape than I otherwise would have because I was in full gear.  As badly as I got worked, not wearing all the gear would have ended up worse.

But still, there are limits, and I think Universal Pictures has transgressed those limits with this:

Dark Knight Motorcycle Suit
Dark Knight Motorcycle Suit

Yes, it’s a replica of the Batman motorcycle suit that Christian Bale wore in “The Dark Knight”.  And it apparently isn’t just a pretty piece of clothing. According to Universal, the suit is a real, functional set of leathers.

  • Strong Cordura Mesh Base with Heavy-duty 4 way stretch Spandex inserts.
  • Removable CE Approved Body Armor in both Jacket and Pants
  • Highly detailed, removable lightweight interior lining.
  • Form Molded Leather and Kevlar Armor Sectons [sic].
  • Made from Quality Tanned Cow Hides

It looks like it even has knee pucks for racing. So, granted, it’s functional, and with CE armor, provides appropriate protection.

But if you buy and wear a Batman motorcycle suit, I can’t really decide if it’s just super-geeky, or…teh ghey.

The English Invasion (Updated)

2010 Triumph Thunderbird
2010 Triumph Thunderbird

Other than Triumph’s web site, no one seems to be reporting this, but as of this week, the very first Triumph Thunderbirds have arrived in the United States.  The first bikes arrived on Tuesday, so that means that there is a very high likelihood that some of them will be on showroom floors at Triumph dealerships this weekend.

So, along with the Bonneville, and Thruxton, Triumph has now bought the venerable Thunderbird back to life, and back to the US.

The new Thunderbird is a 1600cc parallel twin, and, while I can’t find any actual specifications on it, the engine supposedly puts out “in excess of 80 HP”, and “in excess of 100 lb-ft of torque”.  Stack that up against, say, a Road King.  Harley doesn’t like publishing horsepower stats, but the RK has around 96 lb-ft of torque.

That makes the Thunderbird competitive in performance.  And, at $12,499 for the standard version and $13,299 for the ABS version, it’s very competitive in price.

UPDATE: The Motorcycle Daily web site has a write up on an initial-production Triumph Thunderbird. They note the following about the bikes powerplant:

[T]he new Thunderbird is powered by a new water-cooled, parallel-twin engine that displaces 1597cc, with a DOHC 8-valve head. The engine makes 85 horsepower and 14,90 Kgm (108 ft/lbs) at 2750 rpm. For those who want more power, Triumph offers a kit that adds 12 horsepower and more torque.

Sounds like a beefy ride.

$12,499 for the standard version and $13,299 for the ABS version

Germany Attacks Japan!

Ever since BMW announced it would begin producing a liter-class sportbike to compete with the Japanese, people have been waiting for the BMW S1000RR.  The one question was what the price would be, as BMWs tend to be a bit more…extravagantly priced than their competitors.  Those questions are now answered.  And the price is competitive.  So is everything else.

We’re very pleased to announce the pricing on the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR: MSRP*: $13,800.00

Options:

  • Race ABS (excluding DTC): $1,000.00
  • Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) Combined: $1,480.00
  • Gear Shift Assistant: $ 450.00
  • Anti Theft Alarm: $ 395.00
  • Motorsports Paint Scheme: $ 750.00

The options include either standalone new 4-stage Race ABS or Race ABS combined with multi-stage Dynamic Traction Control. Other must have options include the truly awesome Gear Shift Assistant that allows clutchless upshifts during acceleration, Anti Theft Alarm and the WSBK-inspired Motorsports Paint Scheme. This new Superbike from BMW weighing only 404 lbs, and putting out a massive 193 hp, is one of the most potent, sophisticated and lightest sport bikes ever unleashed on the planet. The new S 1000 RR is the most powerful production 1000cc sport bike in the world.

So, let me see if I for this right.  BMW is going to put out a 404 lb. bike with 193HP, and they are going to charge just $800 more than Honda’s 178-horsepower  CBR1000RR?  That’s pretty aggressive pricing.

The styling is pretty aggressive, too.  It’s not bad looking, either, if you don’t mind that the headlights look like a pirate with a squinty eye.

All in all, it looks like another German act of aggression.  And, at 193HP, I think that it needs a suitable nickname.  I propose the name “Kalmarmörder”.*

____________________

*Squid killer.

“Laaaaasers”

Frickin' Laser Beams!
Frickin' Laser Beams!

“Is it too much to ask for an frickin’ engine with frickin laser beams? Really, people. What do I pay you for?”

The technology behind the Internal Combustion Engine continues to move forward.  Brit scientists working for Ford Motor Company have found a way to eliminate the spark plug.

In a breakthrough that may make vehicle starting issues due to fouled plugs or inclement weather a thing of the past, engineers at Ford have reportedly teamed with scientists at Liverpool University to develop a laser beam ignition system to replace ye olde spark plug. The researchers claim their technology is more efficient, more reliable, and it will enable vehicles to start easier in extreme temperatures and damp climates.

Apparently, the lasers can also spark ignition at multiple points inside the cylinder simultaneously, resulting in a more efficient and complete ignition.  Ford plans to implement this technology in their car models in the next few years.

I wonder how this new technology would mate with the DART Motor.

VFR12000: It’s Official

According to the UK’s Motorcycle News web site, the 1200cc V-Tec Honda I mentioned previously looks like the replacement for the ST1300–or the Pan European as they call in The old Country–and maybe the current Interceptor (VFR) as well.  MCN has pics and some info, though the full lowdown will be in the print version of the Brit mag.

Honda’s V4-based Pan European replacement will be the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world when it’s released next year.

Full details are in the new issue of MCN, but what do you think of the looks?

Leaked Honda design drawings have shown the bike’s distinctive duck-billed styling, which we’ve made real using CGI.

The colours are our guess – but the look is the real deal. Less controversial than the sports-touring version spied testing recently, it’s still a distinctive-looking beast.

One notes that “the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world” (in the dictionary, see “redundant”) still has a manual turnscrew at the back of the bike to adjust the preload.  Or as one wag at the STN Forum put it, “That’s Honduh-Speek for ‘The most needlessly complicated valvetrain in the world.'”

Pics of the new bike are below.  My initial impressions:

1) Hmm.  No tip-over wings. We’ll never hear the end of that from the ST1300 guys.

2) Looks like Honda figured out a way to get rid of that backlogged inventory of GL1800 rear-view mirrors.

3) I have to say that if the bike actually ends up looking like that, then Honda did a fantastic job of ensuring that bags aren’t too closely integrated into the bodywork.  The tail looks great with the bags off.

Buell Releases Factory Racer

Buell 1125RR Racing Bike
Buell 1125RR Racing Bike

Buell’s 1125 has been racing for a couple of years now, and not without some success.  The race bike version, the 1125rr has been limited to the various Buell racing teams, though.  Until now.

Buell has announced that the 1125RR is now being released as a factory racer.  It won’t go to the general public, but it will be available to licensed racers.  So, you won’t be seeing it on the street, but you could be taking one out on the track, if you have the appropriate credentials.

How does it differ from the regular 1125?  Well,  according to Buell:

The Buell 1125RR features a modified Helicon 1125cc 103mm bore x 67.5mm stroke liquid-cooled 72-degree V-Twin engine. Power increases come from components including a larger airbox and intake manifold, revised valves and camshafts, a higher compression ratio, titanium exhaust system and other weight-reduced components.

Now, I’m not all that interested in a race bike–most people aren’t, after all, but I really like the looks of that fairing.  It’s about 1,000 times better than the street version’s odd fairing and forward scoops.  That’s not an uncommon complaint, and if you have a Buell 1125, maybe you’re thinking I’d rather have that fairing than the stock one on my bike.

Well, you can. It’s Buell part number M2000B.08AZ.  Apparently it’s some high-quality, lightweight fiberglass deal.  At least it better be high-quality, since it costs $1,499.00.  But if you want it, you can have it on your bike.

Interesting Bookmark

Have you ever wondered about how your bike’s street performance might stack up against another bike.  Well, the folks over at Motorcyclist Online are there to help you out.  They have the actual dyno results and performance numbers of every bike they’ve tested.

I was reminded of that again, because, after my test ride of the BMW’s, I really wanted to see how they stacked up to each other in street performance.  The results are interesting, because one of my concerns about buying an RT–assuming my insurance settlement is enough to cover it, of course–was whether I’d find the performance anemic compared to my FJR.

According to that actual tests that Motorcyclist has performed, the results are:

Bike HP (HP @ RPM) Torque (lb. – ft. @ rpm) 1/4 Mile (sec. @ mph) Top Gear Roll-On  (60-80 MPH)
BMW R1200RT
101.1 @ 7500 78.0 @ 6250 11.68 @ 118.8 4.30
BMW K1200GT
127.6 @ 8900 79.3 @ 8100 11.30 @123.7 3.80
HD V-Rod 109.3 @ 8250 74.3 @ 7000 11.31 @115.0 4.05
FJR1300AE 127.2 @7900 89.6 @ 6800 11.86 @ 118.8 4.02

Well, I must say this comes as a surprise.  First, it seems that the AE is slower off the start than the RT, with a 1/4 time that’s 2/10 second slower than the RT.  Where the RT loses out is in the grunt at rolling from 60-80 in 6th gear, as the FJR does it 3/10 second faster rolling on in fifth.  I suspect that a 5th gear roll-on would be closer on the RT.

Another surprise is how close the performance between the K1200GT is to the Harley V-Rod.  That’s about a dead heat.  I suspect the K1300GT has some performance increase though. But for a cruiser (sport-cruiser?) the V-Rod is pretty hot.

But, based on the numbers above, I don’t see that the performance difference between the RT and the FJR AE model, like I have, would be particularly noticeable.  And based on handling alone, I can already see that I can hustle the RT faster through the corners than I can the FJR.

Can you hear me talking myself into it?

I really want to know what that insurance settlement is gonna be, now.