It seems to be Diavel week here, what with the big Ducati press launch in Marbella, Spain. The UK’s foremost motorcycle writer, Kevin Ash, got to ride the Diavel at the press launch, and he seems to like it.
And, by “like it”, I mean that it sounds like he wants the Diavel to come with candles, a bottle of wine, and a condom.
The first ride reports are trickling in from the Ducati’s press launch for the Diavel in Marbella, Spain. Visordown’s ride review tells me exactly what I wanted to know about the Diavel. My main concern in looking at the specs of the Diavel was the handling. It’s a bike with a long wheelbase, and a big, honkin’ 240-section rear tire. That just screams “slow turn-in!” to me. But, according to Visordown, Ducati has somehow done something special that those specs don’t capture.
The real ace up the Diavel’s sleeve is its handling. A massive 240-section rear tyre and a long wheelbase are not the ideal ingredients if you want a bike to handle, but – and I’m not sure how – the Diavel doesn’t suffer one bit…What really stood out to me was that throughout the whole day, I didn’t think about the bike’s handling once. It went exactly where I wanted it to, not once did I feel like I was running wide, or that I could do with more ground clearance. There are no footboards gouging the tarmac here, no concerns about getting home with half of your exhaust chamfered off. It doesn’t just handle well for a cruiser, it handles well for a sportsbike…When the rear Pirelli can’t cope, Ducati’s Traction Control steps in and gently corrects your over enthusiastic demands, keeping the rear wheel in line and most bikes struggling to keep up.
Sadly, there are no Diavel’s available yet on this side of the pond, but my crystal ball tells me that sometime in the near future, I’ll be begging Balz Ringli at Moto Forza for a Diavel test ride.
One of the things the Europeans do as a matter of course, and we in the US do very rarely, is to ensure that beginning riders are restricted to smaller-displacement motorcycles to get some experience before stepping up to the big boy bikes. All too often, this results in a new rider purchasing a Gixxer 1000 as a starter bike.
This is an extraordinarily bad idea. I do a lot of work with the US military, and the number of kids who come back from the sandbox without a scratch, and then promptly smear themselves and their new Fireblade across the pavement is truly troubling.
And it’s not just kids. Because I do a lot of work on a military installation, and ride a motorcycle as my primary transportation, I had to take an MSF course in order to ride my bike on base, as per DoD rules. One of the guys in my MSF course was a 40-something Navy retiree, who had decided to buy a motorcycle, after having never ridden before. His choice for a first motorcycle: A Buell Ulysses. He said he trucked the bike home, unloaded it, and decided to try it out on his residential street. He started it, gave it some gas, then released the clutch…at which point he grabbed a handful of throttle and went on a very short but terrifying “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, that ended a few seconds later in a crash. He decided that maybe he should take the MSF course before getting back on.
The Ulysses is a great bike. Not a beginner bike. And it’s tame compared to a literbike.
Beginners who are interested in sportbikes really do need to start off on the lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable bikes. But, for years, the only really decent beginner sportbike was the Kawasaki Ninja 250. Now, however, new riders have a choice, with the introduction of Honda’s new CBR250R.
Visually, the new CBR250R is a much more attractive bike. Unlike the rather dated look for the Ninja 250, the CBR250 looks modern. Indeed, it looks like a miniature of the VFR1200F. The Honda also has a linked ABS option, too.
So, how do the two bikes stand up to each other head-to-head? Well, Motorcycle USA tested them to find out, and the comparison makes for interesting reading.
The world motorcycling press is gathering in Marbella, Spain for the unveiling of the 2011 Ducati Diavel. Already, reports are filtering in, including from Motorcyclist Magazine, who give us their first look and test ride reports.
What’s interesting to note from this report is how serious the Ducati guys were about building a cruiser-style bike that didn’t sacrifice performance. Ducati officials relate it to the commitment they had to creating the the new Multistrada 1200S, making it a bike with serious, Ducati performance. Based on my experience with the new Multistrada, they certainly did that. So, how’d they fare with the Diavel?
Well, Motorcyclist seems to like it.
Overall, the Diavel is surprisingly easy to ride fast, aided by Superbike-spec Brembo radial-mount brakes, a firm, 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, a perfectly controlled Sachs shock and generous cornering clearance allowing a claimed 40-degree lean angle. Slicing and dicing through downtown L.A. traffic on a busy Friday morning, it felt much more like a broad-shouldered Monster than a V-Max or any other so-called “sport cruiser” that has come before.
It looks better, too. The level of fit and finish is the finest we’ve seen on any Ducati-maybe on any bike…It’s an impressive machine that attracts attention even from non-riders who don’t know a Ducati from a Dodge. That’s the one trait it does share with a custom chopper: Everyone notices this bike.
Sadly, I haven’t has a chance to ride the Diavel yet, so, for now, I’ll take their word for it. What I do have are lots of lovely pictures, shown in the gallery below. That should satisfy any Diavel jones you might be feeling.
Austria’s big motorcycle company, KTM, has been trying to break into the literbike class for a couple of years now with the RC8, a bike that’s a bit of a departure for a company mainly known for its off-road products. Sadly, though, the KTM, with its unusually geometric styling, has been a hard sell. Not for the styling so much–although it takes a bit of getting used to–but for the rather iffy performance of the bike itself.
On paper, it looks like an equal contender to the V-Twin Aprilias and Ducatis. On the track, though, it’s been a bit disappointing. Iffy and snatchy throttling, and overly stiff suspension have amounted to a bike that one wants to love as a top-flight literbike…but can’t. Especially for the rather premium price that comes with the KTM logo.
For 2011, KTM says they’ve made a host of minor changes that completely transform the character of the bike. Is that true? Well, Motorcycle-USA’s Adam Waheed and Steve Atlas took one of the new RC8s to the track to see.
Their judgement is that a new crankshaft and flywheel, remapped throttling, dual spark plugs, new slipper clutch, and a suspension overhaul have radically improved the RC8.
What remains to be seen–and hopefully we’ll see it soon–is a head-to-head comparo of the RC8 with its superbike brethren.
One thing to note about the RC* is the placement of the exhaust, which is slung directly under the bike at the centerline, the same as the BMW S1000RR. Or as practically every Buell motorcycle, where that configuration appeared first.
I’m just saying.
Once again, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide shows up in a 2011 bagger showdown, this time being pitted against the Kawasaki Vaquero by Motorcycle.Com. They compared the two bikes head to head and found out a couple of interesting things.
First up, is the issue of power. If you shell out a cool two grand extra for the 103ci Harley PowerPak mill, then the power and torque curves of the two bukes are practically identical. That tells us two things: That the PowerPak package from Harley-Davidson gives you competitive engine performance, while the standard 96ci engine is underpowered relative to other bikes in the class. Of course, we’re talking about heavy touring cruisers here, so power may not be your priority when it comes to purchasing. And if it is, that $1995 premium for the PwerPak seems a bit…steep.
The other thing we learned is that Harley-Davidson’s new chassis and geometry for the baggers has really improved their handling quite a bit. The Road Glide has always been the best handling of the big Harleys anyway, so this improvement must be particularly noticeable. Having said that, the Road Glide’s suspension seems to still be a bit “meh”.
The big difference between these two bike is the price. With equivalent engines and accessories, the Vaquero comes in at a miserly $16,499 compared to the lofty $22,149 sticker price of the Road Glide. That means for almost the price of the Road Glide, you could by a Vaquero for touring…and a Versys for commuting.
Motorcycle USA has published their head-to-head comparison of the Victory Vision and the Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra.
Visually, these could not–except for size–be two more different-looking motorcycles. The Road Glide is a blast from the past, showing of the signature Harley-Davidson style that has been little changed since the 1960′s. Some say that’s a bad thing, demonstrating a lack of willingness to push their designs forward from Peter Fonda’s Captain America hippie-era. The Victory Vision, on the other hands, looks as if it comes to us from 40 years in the future, rather than 40 years in the past. Some say that’s a bad thing, too, making the Victory an exceptionally execrable example of Arlen Ness-iness gone wild.
Underneath the looks, however, both of these bikes are designed to do one thing and do it well: eat up the day by effortlessly cruising the highway.
Both bikes have their admirers and detractors, of course, but what’s surprising in the MotoUSA test is that they both do it equally well. It seems that which bike to prefer really comes down to a matter of taste. their that closely matched.
Personally, if the day ever comes when I want to dip my toes in the cruiser well, the Road Glide will be my bike of choice.
Sadly, though, if I got rid of my FJR, my inner hooligan would incline me to look for something a little…faster. For instance, I certainly intend to personally test the new BMW K1600GT when it becomes available.
Motorcycle Daily asks if Steampunk might be the next customization craze in motorcycles. Steampunk, for those who don’t know, is the melding of very high-tech devices with a very 19th-century Victorian sense of design. Here’s a good example:
Yep, it’s a Steampunk PC. And, here’s another one:
It looks Old Skool with all the bare metal, and the nice bronze bits showing off some golden accents, but that engine is the Rotax powerplant from the Aprilia RSV Mille.
Now I don’t know if Steampunk is the direction that customizing is going–it’s as good a direction as any, and better than most–but it certainly needs to go somewhere other than where it is.
The trouble is that the manufacturers are now making “custom” motorcycles. Harley-Davidson has an entire line of “Dark Custom” motorcycles, and even the Japanese are getting into the act, with bikes like the Honda Fury. They are going by the oxymoronic name of factory custom motorcycles, which ignores the elemental fact that if it’s a factory motorcycle, it can’t possibly be a custom one. What the manufacturers are doing is taking their styling cues from the custom builders, and making factory copies. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it does devalue the currency of a customized motorcycle, in that you can now get the same styling…for a lot less money. And, of course, the whole point of a custom motorcycle is that it doesn’t look like a factory motorcycle.
Well, that’s not always true. For instance, the Honda Fury is put together too well.
Look at how nicely integrated the chrome engine covers and frame are. That obviously came from a factory, not a custom shop. It’s designed well, but it has no…soul.
So, the custom shops–who should be all about soul–need to find a different direction to travel. If the makers are going to co-op the current custom style, then the customizers need to head in a new direction.
And, quite frankly, they should probably do that anyway. At the end of the day, we’ve probably completely drained the well of creative design based on the 1950s, with springer front ends, coil-wrapped rear shocks, and the like.After all, we’ve been drawing from that well for fifty years. How much more expression can we get out of it?
To my mind, the Steampunk movement opens up new, untapped design vistas for customizers. Almost no one has really worked creatively in this area yet, and the ornate beauty of Victorian design, mated with modern frames and engines offers the possibility of some outstandingly beautiful–and unique custom bikes. As Motorcycle Daily’s Gabe Ets-Hokin writes:
Taking the best from our favorite eras can only be a good thing. The power of a BMW S1000RR with the looks of a Ducati 750 Sport? How about the durability of a Honda CBR600F2 with the handling and looks of an MV Agusta? Or the shriek of a Honda RC166 with the fuel economy of a BMW R1200R? There’s no reason why it won’t all be possible.
No reason, indeed.
Harley-Davidson has introduced another cruiser to their Dark Custom line at the NY Motorcycle Show. This time, it’s a Softail model called the Blackline.
Unlike most of Harley’s Dark Custom line, the Blackline sports a fair bit of chrome, including the redesigned, round air intake cover. Also redesigned is the shaved down fuel tank.
Like most Harley’s, the Blackline is powered by the standard 96ci V-Twin, which outputs 89 ft-lbs of peak torque at 3,250 RPM.
The H-D web site doesn’t have any information about the bike, but a motorcycle journalist from the Milwaukee Sentinel who was there, offers this info he received from H-D:
Key features of the 2011 Blackline include:
New Powertrain styling
Powertrain is finished in gloss black powdercoat on the rocker box covers, the crankcase, the outer primary cover, and the transmission side cover. The cylinders are silver powdercoat with machined highlights. The derby cover and timing covers are chromed.
Rigid-mounted, counter-balanced Twin Cam 96B™ V-Twin engine with Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), rated at 89 ft. lbs. peak torque at 3250 rpm.
6-Speed Cruise Drive® Transmission.
New round air cleaner cover in brilliant chrome.
New Black Denim powdercoat frame and swingarm.
New Profile Laced Aluminum wheels with black anodized rims. Front wheel is 21 x 2.15 inches; rear wheel is 16 x 3 inches. Dunlop® D402 tires are MH90-21 front and MU85B16 rear.
New FX front end with black powdercoat triple clamps and black painted fork lowers.
New Split Drag™ internally-wired handlebars mount directly to the top triple clamp.
New Asymmetric five-gallon Softail fuel tank is clean on the left side, with a low-profile fuel fill on the right. Die cast “Blackline” trim panel flowing down the center of the tank is just high enough to cover the fuel pump hardware.
New Analog speedometer on a triple-clamp mount that also holds indicator lights. LCD screen on the speedometer includes low-fuel warning and “miles to empty” display function.
New Bobbed rear fender with combination stop/tail/turn lights in black housings, and a new composite license plate holder and light module that mounts on the lower edge of the fender.
New Raw forged rear fender supports are finished in Black Denim powdercoat.
New One-piece, two-up seat and passenger pillion. Laden rider seat height is 24 inches, the lowest two-up seat offered by Harley-Davidson. Gap between the nose of seat and fuel tank exposes the top of the frame.
New headlamp in gloss black shell.
Ducati announced the updated Monster today, known as the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO.
For the first time, the Monster breaks the 3-digit horsepower wall, with the Desmodue engine putting out 100HP at 7,500RPM, and 76 ft-lbs of torque at 6,000 RPM. It puts that upgraded power to the rear wheel through a 6-speed transmission hooked up to a chain drive. That’s a pretty decent power output for a bike that only weighs 373 lbs (dry).
With the extra power comes some extra safety, too, with the Monster coming equipped with Ducati Traction control and a Brembo/Bosch ABS braking system.
Ducati has also redesigned the seat and moved the handlebars up, in order to increase rider comfort.
At least, as comfortable as a naked standard can be, anyway.
More info is available at Ducati’s web site.
The 2300cc triple in the Triumph Rocket III will no longer be the largest-displacement production motorcycle in the world after this year. Motorcycle Daily is reporting that a company in the Czech Republic (which they refer to as both FGR and MGR) will be producing a V-6 motorcycle, the Midalu 2500.
The reported specs of the 2442cc V-6 powerplant in the Midalu 2500 are reported as 240HP and 160 ft/lbs of torque, while the overall weight should be in the neighborhood of 600 lbs. The steel trellis-framed Midalu 2500 is also supposed to use top-of-the-line components. The price isn’t yet known, but whatever it is, you probably shouldn’t get too excited. Production is expected to be quite low, and sales will probably be restricted to the EU.
It looks kind of like a Ducati Diavel…for real men.
Since BMW announced the new straight-6 K1600GT and K1600GTL models, they’ve become one of the most hotly-anticipated motorcycles of 2011. So much so, that BMW has announced that they will take pre-sale orders for them, starting today. All you have to do is go to the BMW web site and fill out this pre-sale form. Just so we’re clear, you’re entering the pre-sales program for a motorcycle that isn’t actually in production yet. They also have another form to fill out if you just want to receive updates about the bikes from BMW.
It takes quite a lot of confidence to start taking pre-sale orders for a bike you haven’t actually built yet, but it seems that BMW’s confidence is warranted. BMW Motorrad USA announced their 2010 sales results today. Somehow, in a year of economic recession, plunging motorcycle sales, and despite making about the highest-priced motorcycles one can buy, BMW did…good.
BMW Motorrad reported a 12.3% increase in motorcycle sales in 2010.
The German manufacturer shipped 98,047 units in 2010 compared to 87,306 motorcycles in 2009. BMW reported growth in almost every market including a 4% increase in the U.S. despite a double-digit downturn for the industry.
Leading the sales charge for BMW was the S1000RR, their new–and conventional–literbike, which sold 10209 units to become BMW’s highest-selling model.
Honda asked some bike designers to go all out with their visions of the Honda Fury, the factory chopper Honda’s been touting for several months now, as well as the new Stateline and Saber. They got these:
There’s nothing wrong with these concepts visually, if you don’t mind a bit of motorcycle with your Arlen-Nessiness. But, at the end of they day, they’re all 65HP VTX1300s. No machine based on the VTX1300 can possibly be “Furious”. Of course, I’m a grown-up, so I realize that there’s not much marketing magic in calling a bike the “Mildly Annoyed”.
On the plus side, you would at least look good tooling along at 45MPH on one of these babys. Just don’t expect things to turn out well if someone offers to race you for “pinks”. Not that anyone would, because, you know, who’d want to take one of these away from you? Their best-case scenario is that they’d win a VTX 1300.
Yes, yes, it’s a Honda, so I’m sure it’d be finely crafted, smooth, and reliable as all hell. But the VTX1300 platform is, in a word, boring. It’s as dependable a platform as you could ask for…but who would. Honda’s a fine company, and they make some great bikes (see CBR1000RR or Gold Wing), but the VTX1300 is far closer to “workmanlike” than “great”.
The BMW F800S is not the the only 800cc European naked standard making its way to our shores this year. Yamaha is following up with the FZ8.
The FZ8 is powered by a 779cc I-4 powerplant that puts out a reported 105HP and 61ft-lbs of torque, which is plenty peppy for an urban bike that weighs 464 lbs. The engine itself is derived from the pre-crossplane R1.
It’s nice to see the manufacturers bringing back a lot of these mid-sized commuter-capable bikes back to the US. And who knows, with oil prices on the rise again, it might be the perfect environment to do so.