New BMW GS unveiled on October 2

BMW has announced that the newest RXXXXGS will be unveiled at the INTERMOT show on 2 October. The reason for all the X’s in the bike’s name is…we don’t know what the engine will be. 1200? 1250? 1300? Air-cooled (Probably not)? Rumors have been of a 1250cc water-cooled boxer.

But whatever it is, when we first see it, we will also know what the future of the R1200RT, and the rest of the R-models will be. The GS is the iconic bike in the BMW line-up and the Boxer engine is the heart of BMW’s motorcycle. So, in about a month, BMW will not only be unveiling a new GS model, but also the future of BMW’s motorcycles.

It may be that we will see the end of nearly a century of air-cooled boxers.

Coming to America?

2010_Honda_CB1100_Wallpaper 3

If You were around in the 1970s, this bike might look familiar to you. It’s the return of the classic Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM), in the shape of the Honda CB1100, a bike previously only available in Japan. It looks like nothing other than a slightly modernized version of the venerable 750 Four, right down to the chrome fenders, and it brings back lots of childhood memories. Now a new generation will get to admire the UJM outside of Japan, as the French and italian motor press has revealed that the Bike will be available in Europe next year, where its already been sited in testing. If Europe gets it, can the US be far behind? Stay tuned.

2011-Norton-Commando-961-SE-Right-Angle

And speaking of motorcycles from my childhood, Norton is back with the Commando, now in a modern 961cc version, and the lads in Donnington have announced that the Commando 961 will, in fact, be coming to the US. Norton has announced that the three Commando variants have all completed both EPA and CARB durability testing, the first step in getting 50-state approval to import the modern resurrection of this iconic motorcycle.

Assault of the Ninjas!

2012-Kawasaki-Ninja400RcAccording to EPA certification documents, Kawasaki is preparing to drop a whole new set of Ninja models into the US market, as well as the big 1000cc version of the Versys.  Nothing has been announced by Kawasaki, but the US government isn’t subject to company secrecy rules, so this cat is out of the bag.

Kawasaki now has approval to sell the new Ninja 300R, the Ninja 400R that has been available only in Canada until now (the 2012 model of which is shown at left), a brand new version of the ZX-6R that is powered by a 636cc powerplant, and the new Versys 1000 that is currently a European-only model.

Now, the fact that that the EPA has approved all of these models doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be sold here. I’m not sure at all what purpose the the Ninja 400R would serve, for example, as it’s essentially the current Ninja 650R with smaller cylinders, meaning it has the same weight and size of the 650 with substantially less power, but not a substantially lower price. The Ninja 300R, however, pumps out 7HP more than the 250R.

The Versys 1000, on the other hand, should be a no-brainer for the US market, as the Versys platform is arguably one of the best all-rounders out there, and the increase to 116.4HP on the 100cc version should make it just about perfect for…well…just about any kind of street or highway riding you might do.

Finally, the ZX-6R is interesting in that the 636cc engine now makes it—officially, at least—ineligible for the AMA’s Daytrona SportBike racing class, which limits 4-cylinder bikes to 600cc displacement. The extra 36ccs displacement also add horsepower, brining the new model up to a claimed 129.4 HP.

There is a bit of a down note to all this, sadly, as both the Ninja 400R and Versys 1000 are NOT cleared for California emissions approval, so they cannot be sold there. I suspect Big Green will move quickly for CARB certification, however, if the big Versys sells well in the other 49 states, which it should, as it is, by all accounts, a great motorcycle.

Best Motorcycles of 2012

Motorcycle.Com has announced their picks for the Best Motorcycles of 2012. I note that the Honda NC700X I wrote about previously won a spot on the list as the Best Value in a motorcycle. The Other thing I notice is that BMW pulls away with some of the top honors this year. Best Touring Bike, Best Sportbike, best Sport-Tourer, and an Honorable Mention for Best Scooter. Their motorcycle of the year, however, is the quickest-accelerating production vehicle ever produced: The Kawasaki ZX-14.

The Versys has competition

Honda-NC700XFor a couple of years now, perhaps the best all-round bike has been the Kawasaki Versys. It’s a great beginner bike, a great bike for experience riders, a perfect commuter bike, has great gas mileage…the list goes on.

Honda’s new NC700X new aims to knock the Versys off that perch.

With a base price of under $7,000, a fully kitted out model, like the one shown here, will still run you just under $9,900. That’s with the standard transmission, of course. Honda also has an option with the second-generation DCT transmission, much like the one on my VFR, that also has ABS included in the package, for another 2 grand.

Motorcycle.Com has a full review of the bike, and they really seem to like it. In fact, they say Honda has done nothing less than bring back the UJM—Universal Japanese Motorcycle—with this bike, concluding, "its practicality, performance, comfort and value can’t be overlooked." And speaking of practicality, let’s include gas mileage in that, because the testers got better than 60 miles per gallon.

It’s interesting how quickly Honda has gone to include the DCT automatic transmission in its model line-up. Honda is betting the DCT will become every bit as accepted in motorcycles as it has been in automobiles, where the flappy-paddle gearbox is the standard option on pretty much all the high-end sports cars. I can tell you, from owning the DCT model of the VFR1200F, that the DCT works, and works well.

Other manufacturers should probably take notice.

Cardo Systems Scala Rider G9 Review

For years now, I’ve been using a set of Sony Bluetooth earbuds/phone remote when I ride. They’ve been OK for listening to my XM unit, or my phone, but, of course, far from perfect. The phone is pretty much unusable since all the other person can hear is the whoosh of wind, and me, faintly, screaming like a maniac.

So, after saving up for a few weeks, I plonked down $289 for a Scala Rider G9 Bluetooth unit from Cardo Systems.  For a price that steep, I thought, it better work great.

Happily, I can now report to you that it does.

The G9 is the latest and greatest from Cardo Systems, and they claim lots of great features for it.

Talk time: up to 13 hours

Standby time: 7 days

Charging time: 3 hours

Radio on time: 8-10 hours

Certified Waterproof and Dustproof (IP67)

Intercom conferencing with up to 4 other scala rider users (up to 1.6 km in Full Duplex)

4-Way (2 drivers and 2 passengers)

3-Way (3 separate bikers)

2-Way (rider-to-rider or rider-topassenger)

Intercom “One+8” – toggle between 8 additional G9 users

Click-to-Link: for spontaneous intercom connections with any G4/G9 user

Mobile Phone Conference Mode (rider, passenger, outside caller)

Mobile Phone / GPS device

MP3 Player – Stream stereo music via A2DP (cable connection also included
for older MP3 players) Plus: Built-in FM radio with RDS, 6 station presets and smart auto scan

Priority Management: No need to manually disconnect from intercom or music to receive incoming phone calls or GPS instructions!

iPhone™ Compatible – iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

Up to 1 mile / 1.6 km Bike-to-Bike intercom with flip-up antenna for extended range

Built-in FM Radio with 6 presets

Cardo Systems Scala Rider G9Well, I can’t speak to the 1 mile range on intercom, as I don’t know anybody else with one, but I can verify that, as a phone/mp3/gps bluetooth system, it works, and works well.

First off, unlike some of the other bluetooth systems, the G9 is fully iPhone compatible, and transmits great stereo using iPhone proprietary (of course) bluetooth system. If it works with iPhone/iPod’s maddening “We don’t follow the standard everyone else in the industry does” arrogance, it’ll work great with an Android phone, too.

The unit itself comes in two pieces. One piece is the mounting bracket, which contains both the boom microphone and ear speakers, and the other piece is the removable Bluetooth control unit. In addition to the boom microphone, the system comes with a wired microphone, which is useful for mounting on the chinbar of a full-face helmet. The boom mic works better with modular or other than full-face helmets.

You have two mounting options. There is a clamp mount which fits between the outer shell and padding of the helmet, but, if that’s not a possibility, the unit also includes an external glue mount. But, a warning about the glue mount: it’s permanent, and uses a bonding epoxy that, given 24 hours to cure, will be a permanent fixture on the helmet.

Once mounted, the speaker wires are run under the padding of the helmet to the ear cutouts in the padding. Since many helmets now come with speaker pouches built into the helmets, the speakers will fit quite nicely in there. The boom mike is mounted on a plastic coated metal gooseneck that’s plenty long and flexible enough to reach your mouth.

My helmet is a Shark Evoline 2 modular, so there aren’t speaker mounts, but I was able to pull out the cheek pads, and cut out the earhole padding, giving me the perfect spot to mount the speakers on the included Velcro pads that can be stuck to the helmet’s inner shell. There’s plenty of room with the padding removed so that the speakers don’t uncomfortably press on my ears. The speakers themselves are fairly small and thin, with reasonably substantial wires connecting them to the mounting unit.

The Bluetooth control unit slides onto the mount, and is removable for recharging. The rubber-covered control buttons are large and chunky, which makes them easy to manipulate with gloved hands. each button has multiple functions, which depend on tapping or pressing and holding the button to activate different functions.

Connecting the Bluetooth control to a phone is fairly easy and painless, and it mates in seconds.

Once on the road, you can listen to the built-in FM radio, your iPod/iPhone music, skip tracks, change the volume, make a phone call, or listen to your GPS, either via the buttons on the Bluetooth control unit, or via voice command. For instance, saying “Radio On” activates the G9’s built-in FM radio.

Which brings me to a drawback. If you start singing along to your iTunes, or start yelling at something infuriating you hear on talk radio, the G9 will shut everything down to listen to what you have to say, so it doesn’t miss your voice command. So, you have to remain silent, and just scream in your mind, instead of using your outside voice.

The sound is surprisingly loud, so you don’t have to turn the unit all the way up to listen to it. Just set it to a comfortable volume before you hit the road. As you go rise along, and the ambient noise changes, the G9 will raise and lower the volume appropriately, so you don’t always have to fiddle with the volume buttons, and you can still hear clearly.

Music sounds good on the speakers, although, given their size, some might argue that they don’t have quite enough bass response. That’s inherent with any small speaker size, though. There’s a reason your home stereo speakers have 12- or 15-inch woofers, after all. I would dismiss this quibble, as the wind noise inside even the best helmets are going to destroy any pretense of audiophile-level sound quality anyway. Personally, I think the sound quality is very good for such small speakers, and I don’t find them tinny at all. Indeed, I had to turn them down on the highway, because they can get uncomfortably loud.

The really important thing I noticed is that, unlike noise-canceling earbuds, you aren’t completely cut off from the outside world.  You have a better sense of situational awareness of the other sounds on the road.

To me, when you couple that with the usable volume and quality of the speaker sound, makes the Scala Rider G9 the best of both worlds.

Embracing Technology

After months of hemming and hawing, I went out today and picked up a Cardo Systems Scala Rider G9 Bluetooth system. I picked it up this afternoon from Cycle Gear, and, while I haven’t had a chance to ride anywhere with it, I did get it partially charged, installed on my helmet, and played around with it a bit.  So far the sound seems loud and clear, it was relatively easy to install on my Shark Evoline2 helmet, and I can control my iTunes music, make phone calls, etc. So it works sitting in my living room. The buttons are chunky, and easy to use with gloves. It’s also supposedly waterproof and dustproof. The volume is supposed to increase and decrease with your speed, but I won’t know about that until tomorrow.

It seems OK so far, though, so I’ll probably have a full review up in a day or two.

This Looks Interesting…

MY13_Trophy_Pacific_Blue-1The long-lived staple for Triumph’s touring motorcycle was the Sprint ST. It’s dead now. In it’s place is the new Triumph Trophy, and it looks like a motorcycle aimed squarely at the BMW R1200RT.

The new Trophy has…well…everything, because here in North America, we’ll only be getting the top-of-the-line SE model, which comes fully loaded.

This all-new Triumph rides on an aluminum frame fitted with a single-sided swingarm and shaft final drive, and it is powered by a retuned version of the same 1215cc, dohc, 12-valve three-cylinder engine found in the Tiger Explorer adventure bike. It offers amenities comparable to or even exceeding those of some other big-rig tourers: linked ABS braking; traction control; cruise control; a ride-by-wire throttle system; a large (6.9-gallon) gas tank; a windshield electrically adjustable over a 6½-inch range; 31-liter detachable saddlebags with an optional 55-liter top trunk that includes a 12-volt power port; heated seats and grips; an adjustable-height rider seat; provisions for mounting an optional GPS receiver; a centerstand; and electronically adjustable headlights.

2013-Triumph-Trophy-02

Needless to say, that makes for a bit of a complicated cockpit, but certainly no more so than the RT has. It even looks quite a bit like the RT, though the its triple powerplant puts out 135HP and 89 torques. That’s 25HP more than the R1200RT, but, it also weighs about 70 pounds more.

No one has gotten one for testing yet, and I have to admit, I’d love to be able to test it, because I’m very curious to see how it stacks up to the RT in comfort and handling. Whatever else you may say about the RT, the handling is unmatched. It’s practically telepathic. It’s the best touring bike I’ve ever ridden in terms of how ridiculously easily it corners. I’d love to see how close Triumph came to nailing that.

I’m also interested in the price, which we won’t know for another month. The thing about the RT has always been that, at around $20,000, that sharp handling and comfort comes at a steep price. And the thing about Triumph has been their ability to price their bikes at a price significantly below the competition.

If they can nail the handling, and still come a couple of K under the price of the RT, they may have a winner with this one.

I’d love a chance to spend the day on one, to see how well dialed-in Triumph’s first stab at an RT-killer is.

New PR2s for the VFR

The front tire on my VFR was finally getting a bit…baldy, so it was time to replace it. I went a ahead and just replaced both tires with a new set of Michelin Pilot Road II CT’s. Once again, the handling of the bike has been transformed. The more aggressive tire profile makes dropping into the corners a breeze, and the bike—heavy as it is—now responds just to shifts of body weight.

I chose the PR2 instead of the new PR3 because I’m in Southern California, and rain just isn’t really an issue here. It rains maybe 45 days a year. Yes, the PR3 is a better, grippier tire in wet conditions, by all accounts, but I don’t really face those conditions. And the price difference between the PR2 and PR3 is great enough to keep me perfectly happy staying with the older model tire.

Maybe I’m wrong, and some of you can provide some better guidance on the advantages of the PR3 over the PR2. But none of the service guys I’ve talked to seem to think the PR3 is worth the extra price here in SoCal.

Anywaym I’m way happier with the bike’s ride than I am with the Bridgestones. I know the Bridgestones—in both the BT021 and BT023 models—are really poular both as EOM and aftermarket tires, but I’ve never gotten why. I mean, I understand why they’re popular as an OEM tire: they’re cheaper, while still being reasonably grippy, and very stable, along with having decent tread life.

But every bike I’ve ridden with them just has a far more leaden feel. With both my old FJR and the new VFR, the Bridgestones required far more effort to initiate a turn, and were completely unresponsive to shifts in body weight. They would do anything you wanted them to do, but you have to provide a lot more steering input than I like. Very stable tires, to be sure, and very trustworthy, but they just needed so much effort to corner. Of course, having said that, they hold a line like nobody’s business.

But then, so do the PR2’s. They’re significantly more expensive, but much easier to live with on those twisty, turny country roads I ride on every day.

If you spend the majority of your time in town or on the highway, there’s nothing at all wrong with the Bridgestone BT021 or BT023 tires. But if you like to dive in and out of the twisties, they can’t touch the Michelin Pilot Roads.

The MV Agusta F3 finally arrives.

2013 MV Agusta F3It seems like we’ve been waiting years for it, though it’s been less than two, but MV Agusta’s new 3-cylinder, 675cc supersport bike has finally appeared in production form. You can catch the initial impressions from the guys at Motorcycle USA and Motorcycle.Com, if you’d like, or I can tell you that they all seem to like it. The one thing of note that needs to be addressed is apparently the chassis, which still needs some sorting out.

Still, a 129HP torquey triple, and a MV Agusta design that’s sex on wheels is a good start. That rear wheel, and stubby triple straight-pipe exhaust have me swooning. On the other hand, the bike’s diminutive size, and the contorted riding position would probably soon have me groaning.

Xelement Men’s CF-624 Armored Race Motorcycle Jacket Review

First, for full transparency, this is a solicited review. Leatherup.Com contacted me and asked if I would be interested in having them sending me some gear to review, and I said I’d be happy to. There is no payment or quid pro quo, other than that they’d send me stuff from time to time, and I’d review it.

cf624_1What they sent me this week was the CF-624 Armored Race Motorcycle Jacket. I’m going to assume that the "Race" is merely a style name, and not referring to actual race use as this is a textile jacket, not a leather one. I can’t imagine anyone going to the racetrack and wearing anything but full-on leathers. But it certainly has a racing-style look to it, and is a fairly attractive jacket.

The outer shell is a 600-denier nylon "Tri-Tex" material, comparable in weight and thickness to the shells that Tourmaster/Cortech or Joe Rocket uses for their textile jackets. The jacket has removable CE armor pads at the elbows, shoulders, and back, with additional foam protectors sewn into the shell in front, and down the back. It comes with a quilted, insulated, zip-out liner for colder weather, and when the liner is zipped out, the inner shell of the jacket is fully lined with polyester. One thing I always look for is the back zipper for connecting the jacket to riding pants—an item usually missing in the Tourmaster stuff I’ve seen—but present and accounted for in the Xelement jacket.

For warmer weather, there are four zippered vents: two in the arms and two in the back, that open mesh-covered vents for airflow. The outside of each shoulder also mounts a polycarbonate external protector that has integral screened holes to allow additional airflow. Each side has nylon pull tabs with velcro closures to cinch the waist to your size.

cf624_2The CE armor at the elbow and shoulder has a semi-rigid outer shell, with a softer impact-foam backing, while the back protector is a removable impact-foam pad. All of the armor is CE certified, however.

The bottom of each sleeve has a zippered closure for tightening, as well as velcro tabs.

The construction overall seems solid, with well-stitched and taped seams.

I would say it compares very well with the relatively more expensive gear from Tourmaster/Cortech, Joe Rocket, and even some of the Icon Motosports textile gear. For an $80 jacket, it seems like it’s a pretty good value, as that is about $50 less than comparable Tourmaster jackets.

There are a few cons. Personally, I’d like to see some additional, thicker cordura patches in the impact areas, as well as some adjustment snaps on the arms to tighten the elbow armor more firmly. Also, some reflective material would be nice, as this jacket has none at all. Having said that, I had a Harley-Davidson textile jacket that didn’t have those things—and no back protector besides—that cost double what this jacket costs.

One caveat about buying an Xelement jacket seems to be a common complaint that they run a bit small. I can confirm that. At 5’10" and 190lbs, I generally wear a size large, but this jacket in that size is a tight fit with the liner in, and just large enough to provide adequate freedom of movement without it. I’d recommend buying a size larger than you would usually wear.

A final thought. I am a bit of a fanatic about protection when it comes to riding gear. The least protective jacket I have is the Olympia Motosports jacket I reviewed a few months ago. It has more armor coverage, and 2000 denier cordura in all the impact areas. My second jacket is a full-on Dainese hard-armored jacket with a 1" thick hard back plate, and my hot weather jacket is a Pilot mesh jacket that I got before Pilot went back to making only custom race suits, and it has so much hard armor coverage that the mesh is essentially useless, as no air flows under the armor anyway. And, If I want to to wear an unarmored jacket, I have a Six-Six-One armor set that I wear underneath it. So, the Xelement jacket is not one I’d wear on a daily basis.

However, I realize that most of you aren’t as paranoid as I am about armor, and aren’t interested in shelling out $500 bucks for a Dainese jacket. So for the vast majority of you guys, this jacket will be perfectly fine. I’d say it’s every bit as good as a Cortech jacket at a much better price. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and better armored than many budget jackets. I would also note that a quick check of customer reviews at Amazon shows that—size issues aside—people rate this jacket well.

Oh, my chick also says it looks nice—and she’s far more of an authority on that stuff than I am.

Living with the VFR

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I could ride this thing all day and not get tired of it. It’s comfy for my 5’10"/195lb stature. It’s got a great stonkin’ engine. The DCT makes any kind of riding you want to do a joy.

This morning, a guy in a new CBR100RR pulled up next to me, and was checking out the VFR and all I could think was, "you poor bastard…your bike sucks."

Admittedly, he may feel differently.

I’ve been pounding around recently in manual mode, and man, this thing moves when you get the RPMs up over 5k. It pulls like a truck. The Sport mode in auto is nice, and has lots of get up and go, but in manual mode, when you just let it pull to the redline for every gear, it’s scary fast.

In parking lots, the DCT is about 1,000 times better than the FJR’s YCCS tranny. It’s easy to maneuver, though it does require a tad a foot-braking to keep it settled in low-speed maneuvering. It feels way lighter than 600 lbs, even trundling around at a walking pace.

Which I do as little as possible.

I’ve been asked about vibration. Yeah, it’s there in manual mode. It’s more noticeable at higher revs. But, to me, it’s part of the character of the V4, and I like it. And you really have to push it before the vibration becomes anything more than part of the background.

I’m immensely satisfied with the bike.