Erik Buell readies for a comeback

His non-compete agreement with Harley-Davidson is still active, but Erik Buell Racing is already looking ahead to February, 2011, when he can once again begin making street bikes.  The marketing for the EBR 1190RS has already begun, however, with a cool new EBR logo on all the standard clothing.

EBR 1190RS Promo
EBR 1190RS Promo

The 1190RS is supposed to deliver 180HP at the rear wheel, putting it smack dab into competition with the Ducati 1198, BMW S1000RR, and other superbikes. That’s about all we know about the bike so far, though EBR is promising more info next week.

What we don’t know yet, is how EBR is actually going to manufacture it.  EBR has the bike in pre-production/prototype form, but so far EBR doesn’t have a manufacturing facility that is capable of producing anything like an acceptable number of bikes. Especially bikes that can be built with enough economy of scale to make them affordable to anything other than the extremely well-heeled rider.  Nor do they yet have investors who are willing to pony up the money to build one in these tough economic times.

The marketing for the bike is also being done not through the EBR web site, but rather through Erik Buell’s Rat Pak Records web site.  That’s an interesting strategy, i.e., an apparent attempt to market a bike that Buell isn’t legally allowed to produce.  If Harley-Davidson really wants to push it, they would have an excellent chance to get an injunction against EBR/Rat Pak to cease and desist marketing the 1190RS immediately, especially since there’s not any appreciable degree of real separation between Eric Buell, EBR, and Rat Pak.

I have to say, though, it would be sweet to finally see an American street bike that has the same power specs as the S1000RR hitting the road.  I’ve dropped a line to EBR see if we can set up a brief discussion about the company, the 1190RS, and other possible subjects of interest.

ATK Unveils a New Cruiser

Previously, I’ve reported on the American dirt bike manufacturer ATK getting into the street bike business. Previously, ATK had a deal to assemble and badge 250cc and 650cc Hyosung (S&T Motors)  sport bikes and cruisers here in the US. Well, last week, during Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, ATK unveiled an entirely new cruiser, a 700cc bike for the US market.

ATK 700cc Cruiser
ATK 700cc Cruiser

Not only that, but S&T’s chief operating officer, Jimmy Park, piloted the new cruiser to a speed in excess of 100MPH on the salt flats.

Details and specs on the new cruiser are lacking, but presumably will be released in due course.  The full press release from ATK is here (PDF).

Harley-Davidson introduces the 2011 lineup (Updated)

Harley-Davidson unveiled their new model year bikes today, expanding the product line to 32 motorcycles. OK, so its really more like 32 versions of the same 4 motorcycles. Whatever.

Still missing from the Harley lineup for 2011: a beginner bike of any kind, and more specifically, one that can be used in the company’s proprietary Rider’s Edge program for training beginning riders. H-D indicates such a bike will be available within three years. I doubt that’s very comforting to dealers who need the bikes for the program now, however. And I’m not sure that Harley is going to like the image of riders on Honda Rebels taking their proprietary training.

Anyway, the full press release can be found here.

The three new models are shown below.

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson XR1200X
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster XR1200X
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster Super Low
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster Super Low

Of the three new bikes, only one is relatively new, the XR1200X–which has been out for almost a year–one is an “Ultra” trim model of the the existing Road Glide, and one is a lowered Sportster 883.

The Super Low is the bike Harley-Davidson now says is suited for beginning riders. Personally, I think anything over 650cc is a bit too much for a beginning rider.  If you positively have to start riding a V-Twin, I’d recommend the V-Star Classic or the Suzuki S50, both of which are substantially lighter, and substantially less expensive–$1500 in the case of the V-Star–than the Super Low.

If you really want a good beginner bike, skip cruisers and sport bikes altogether, and get a Kawasaki Versys. It’s 100 pounds lighter, it sits the rider up high enough that you can see over traffic–and traffic can see you–far more maneuverable and confidence inspiring, and still costs $500 less than the Harley.

In my opinion, you need some miles under your belt before buying a Harley–or a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, or a Honda VTX 1300, for that matter. Later on, if you want a big cruiser, then save your pennies for a Road Glide. As far as I’m concerned, the Road Glide is the nee plus ultra of big V-Twin  cruisers.

A Big Upgrade for Victory

2011 Arlen Ness Signature Victory Vision
2011 Arlen Ness Signature Victory Vision

Victory Motorcycles–the other American motorcycle company–has announced their 2011 model line, and the big news is that they’ve dropped the smaller V-Twin, and now provide every bike in their line-up with the big 106ci V-Twin, as well as a new 6-speed transmission.

Riders also have a choice of bikes sporting Stage 1 or Stage 2 factory tunes as well.  Stage 1 engines put out 92HP and 109 ft-lbs of torque, while the Stage 2 tune provides 97HP and 113ft-lbs of torque. In  general, the bigger, touring models will have the Stage 1 engine, while the smaller (relatively) bikes will have the Stage 2 cams, making their street cruisers pretty…uh…rockety.

All of the bikes will also sport the upgraded cockpit instrumentation found on last year’s Cross Roads, and the service interval has been increased to 5,000 miles.

Check out Victory’s web site for the details.

Suzuki Comes Back to the US for 2011

The bad economy and poor sales forecasts for 2010 led Suzuki to suspend sending any new 2010-model bikes to the US, in lieu of reducing the inventories of 2009 models.  But, this afternoon, Suzuki announced that, for 2011, they’ll be back on our shores, and they previewed the first wave of  what they’ll be bringing with them next year.

First up, new versions of the Boulevard M109R and M109 Limited power cruisers–in my opinion, some of the most beautifully-designed, modern-looking cruisers in existence. Next, the Hyabusa is back, although with what appears to be mainly mild cosmetic changes. The V-Strom is also back with a new 2011 model, as well.

Welcome back, Suzuki!

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WANT!

BMW has announced two new motorcycles built on a brand new Inline-6 powerplant.  The K1600GT will presumably replace the K1300GT, while the K1600GTL will replace the K1200LT.

The powerplant is definitely the atttraction on these bikes. Weighing in at only 226 lbs, the motor puts out 160HP at 7,500 RPM and…wait for it…129 lb/ft of torque at 5,000 RPM.  BMW also indicates that over 70% of maximum torque will be available from 1,500 rpm.  So, right from a standing start, we’re talking 90 lb/ft of torque. That’s arm-wrenching acceleration worthy of a literbike.  Indeed, compare and contrast to the 193 HP S1000RR, whose maximum torque is 83 lb/ft at 9,750 RPM.

Alas, there are no pictures of the bikes from BMW yet, except for a couple of crappy concept drawings that I’m uninterested in showing, as they are probably more misleading than accurate.

But from the specs, it looks like a monster power-tourer, with about 5 more horsepower hitting the ground at the rear wheel, and 27 lb/ft more torque than the current power king of sport-tourers, the Kawasaki Concours14.

The only remaining question will be how much it’ll set back your wallet to acquire the Beemer.

ATK Signs Deal for Street Bikes

Back in November, I wrote that US dirt-bike maker ATK and Korean conglomerate S&T inked a deal for ATK to assemble ATK-branded street bikes at some select Harley-Davidson dealerships.  It’s a dealer-level deal, and has nothing to do with the Motor Company itself, just some dealers put together by ATK’s CEO Frank White.

This week, we get an update, with ATK and S&T formalizing a deal for 33,000 motorcycles over the next four years.  The models below are the ATK-assembled and badged bikes whose parts will be brought in from Korea:

There will be two 250cc models, a sportbike and cruiser, and two similar 650cc models.

According to Frank White’s statement in the ATK Press release:

White is quick to explain that The Harley- Davidson Motor Company does not endorse or support this joint venture in any way. White states; “Nevertheless, our new products fit the current Harley-Davidson dealer need and move to offer both the dealer, and more importantly, the retail customer, a complete staircase of V-twin based products, which only acts to complement the current Harley-Davidson product line-up.”

“The approach is simple; get new and younger riders to go into the Harley-Davidson dealerships,” explains White. “We want to capture those customers who are initially looking for a smaller displacement motorcycle, at an affordable price, and then over time these new riders will develop the aspiration for a traditional Harley-Davidson.”

HD may not have any part of this deal, but I’ll bet they’re watching it closely.

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.

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.

California gets some company

Via Motorcycle Daily, it looks like California will no longer stand alone in the US in allowing lane-splitting.

So kudos to the Arizona legislature for honoring the Goldwater legacy of personal liberty tempered by individual responsibility with Arizona House Bill 2475. Introduced by Harley-Davidson-riding Representative Jerry Weiers (say “wires,” R-District 12), the bill will legalize, for a one-year probationary period beginning January 1, 2011, lane-splitting in stopped traffic. It will only apply in counties with populations greater than 2 million (according to 2006 population estimates, this is just Maricopa county, with the Phoenix-Glendale-Scottsdale megalopolis). The bill sailed through the Transportation committee (which Weiers chairs) and the House Rules committee, and has been read to the State Senate as well. It's looking like there is little opposition to the bill so far, which makes sense: those who lean to the left should like the message of encouraging the lower environmental impact of motorcycle transportation, and those on the right should appreciate the individual-rights angle.

I don’t like lane-splitting in moving traffic, mainly because here in Southern California, no-signal-no-looking-lane-changing idiots are likely to run you over.  On the other hand, I almost invariably lane-split at stoplights.  As long as you exercise reasonable prudence, it’s not a big deal.

Harley-Davidson Racing

Vance & Hines and the AMA Pro Racing series have teamed up to create a brand new racing series for the Harley-Davidson XR1200.  Granted, the XR is the only Harley that can be said to have any pretensions to being a racing bike…of some kind.  A&R has taken the press release of the big announcement, and helpfully translated it, line by line, as follows:

“We have racing in our DNA, Harley-Davidson has racing in their DNA and we are truly thrilled to bring Vance & Hines and Harley-Davidson back into AMA Pro Racing,” Terry Vance, a prolific champion as both rider and team owner, said of the new series. “The XR1200 has proven to be an exciting platform for spec racing in Europe and this class will be a perfect cost-effective platform to showcase new talent on a national stage. Many of the finest motorcycle racers all over the world got their start in the AMA Supertwins class of the 1990s.”

Translated: We’re going to just lie for a minute and then justify this series with some loose mentioning of racing in the company’s past, which an entire generation doesn’t remember because it happened before they were born. First one to mention flat-tracking loses the argument…

AMA Pro Racing Chief Operating Officer David Atlas welcomed the new series, “Adding another element to our events with a series of this caliber will be a great benefit to our sport. The specification of the XR1200 package will put the premium on the rider’s ability and will provide a great new class of racing that has ties to the past.”

Translated: We’re actually telling the truth now. This series will really showcase a rider’s skill, especially while they try and maneuver a 600lbs motorcycle through chicanes with some of Milwaukee’s finest engineering from the 1950’s.

Read the whole thing, it’s priceless.

Oh, by the way, the big purse for the winner is…$2,500.  So, building an XR1200 into a race bike will be, like, totally worth it.