2010 Aprilia RSV4 R Unleashed, Collapses

Aprilia introduced the slightly lower-spec street version of its V-4 RSV4 race bike, the RSV4 R, to the press at the Mugello Race Track in Italy.   According to Hell For Leather:

The RSV4 R is not Japanese. It will not make a beginning rider feel like Superman.  it will make them feel like a meek nerd who gets sand kicked in their face.

In other words, if you don’t know how to ride–and well–it’s not a “fun” bike.  Hard to steer, stubborn handling, etc.  If you push it to the limit, however, it’s apparently a blast.  As long as you know what you’re doing.

Unfortunately, it seems that if you push it to the limit, other problems arise.  The press launch of the new bike had to be cut short when “five of the bikes suffered terminal con rod failures” out of the 30 pre-production models present.  This now gives Aprilia the number one spot in press launch fiascos, pushing ahead of Buell’s 2007 1125R press launch, where all the pre-production bikes had fuel mapping problems.  At least the Buells didn’t have to be deadlined, causing the event to be shut down.

Aprilia says they’ve traced it to a manufacturing fault, and that the production bikes will be just spiffy.

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2010 Honda VFR1200F First Ride

Since Motorcycle-USA’s Ken Hutchison was already in Japan for the Tokyo Motor Show, he was conveniently available to go out to the Sugo racetrack and hop aboard the new VFR1200F at the press demo.  In return, he’s provided us with a nice first ride review that’s pretty comprehensive.

I’m not going to steal his thunder by quoting extensively from his review, but I was interested to read this bit about the new Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT):

When riding the DCT bike it’s clear that the system is dialed in. There are two modes to can select from while on the fly, D-mode for regular or street riding and S-mode for sport riding. In D-mode the bike shifts well-before it starts making real power. Instead, it just chugs along, shifting gears and accelerating in a mellow manner in order to maximum fuel efficiency and minimize strain on the rider. Don’t be misled into thinking the auto clutch is a snoozer. In S-mode the motorcycle is as fun as the standard version. To my surprise the bike shifts in a very intuitive manner, making both up- and downshifts precisely and effectively on the track to the point where I was comfortable letting the bike do the work while I focused on enjoying myself on the winding, twisty Sugo race track. The VFR never initiated an unwanted shift, and yet if you don’t agree with the gear it chooses then simply select a different gear with the paddle shifter. The bike reverts to manual mode as soon as you intervene.

It’s interesting to see this, personally, because I ride a Yamaha FJR1300AE, the one with the YCC-S electric clutch system.  It operates similarly to the Manual” mode of the Honda DCT, but I’ve really developed a love/hate relationship with it, and I’m ready to go back to a standard transmission bike.

The YCC-S has its positive points.  Upshifts are generally speedy and so seamless you don’t even have to let up on the gas to shift.  It’s also nice in city commuting traffic.  But, it also has its problems.  Downshifts are slow, and require attention, because kicking the shift lever, or flicking the handlebar shifter doesn’t necessarily result in an instant downshift.  Or, sometimes, any downshift at all.

And the YCC-S really does want to try and kill you in parking lots.  The clutch engages/disengages at around 2500 RPM.  Or 2700.  Or 2300.  Whatever.  So, you often find yourself at slow speed, maneuvering into a parking lot when the clutch engages, and you lose all power to the rear wheel–which is not something you’re keen to happen when you’re leaning over at 5 MPH.

So, I’m curious about Honda’s DCT system.  It appears to work fine on the track, but I’m wondering how easy it is to live with when pulling into the local Albertson’s or Safeway.  My experience with the YCC-S makes me wonder if it’s really all that great.

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2010 Honda Furys

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Yes, I know that the plural of “fury” is “furies”, but I’m referring to the model name, not the state of rage, so the title is OK.  But, it is still plural, because Honda has added two new Fury models to accompany the original VT1300.

2010 Honda VT1300CR
2010 Honda VT1300CR

The VT1300CR is a more relaxed version of the Fury.  The handlebars are swept back more for a more relaxed rider stance. The front of the frame has been lowered as well, so that, while the extreme rake angle still juts that front tire way out in front, it’s got a less extreme chopper look than the high neck that the original Fury sports.  The fenders are bigger, and more sculpted, but the tires are smaller (and wider), moving from a 21″ front and 18″ rear to a 17″ front and 15″ rear.  They’ve also moved the speedometer onto the tank, instead of mounting it between the bars.

2010 Honda VT1300CS
2010 Honda VT1300CS

The VT1300CS is a shorter, thinner bike than the CR, with 4.72″ shaved off the wheelbase, and 5.8″ off the width.  It also has smaller, less flashy fenders, but, while it keeps the 15″ tire out back, it goes to a 21″ tire in front.  It still has the low neck of the CR model, but narrower, less pulled back handlebars.

I’m not a big fan of the Fury, in general, but I know a lot of people like them.  And my chick thinks they’re cute.  It’s also one of the few big-boy bikes she can actually pick up off the stand, and flatfoot when she gets it up.

But that boring old 1300cc VTX mill just doesn’t do it for me.  This really seems like a bike that screams for one of the Big Twins.

2010 Honda VFR1200F

After months of anticipation, Honda released the images, specifications, and availability details of the new VFR replacement, the VFR1200F.

Let’s start with the pictures.  Shown below is the only version that will appear in the US,with its red livery.  Why the euros get multiple color choices, and we have to be satisfied with a single color is beyond me, but here it is.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

I have to say right up front that the looks don’t grab me.  The blunt nose with the odd-shaped headlight just don’t do it for me.  Maybe the look will grow on me, but the first impression doesn’t…impress.

The specs for the bike are more to my liking, and pretty interesting.

First up, it’s a serious step up in power from the current generation VFR.  Honda claims an output of 170HP at 10,000RPM and 95lb-ft of torque at 8,750RPM from the 1237cc V-4 power plant.  However you slice it, those are very respectable numbers, and a big leap from the current VFR.  The engine also sports variable cylinder technology that uses two, three, or four cylinders, depending on throttle input.  The four cylinders are set at different angles, with the rear two cylinders located innermost on the crankshaft and the front cylinders located outboard in order to narrow the rider’s seating position.

The buyer will have a choice of transmissions.   You can choose a standard 6-speed transmission, or spring for the dual-clutch 6-speed transmission, with  a manual mode that shifts via a finger paddle on the handlebars, a la the FJR1300AE, and two automatic options: one for sport, which takes each gear to the redline before shifting, or a short-shifting economy mode. Power gets from the tranny to the rear wheel via a brand new shaft drive system that sports an offset pivot point and sliding constant-velocity joint to eliminate driveline lash.

Rear suspension for the VFR is a Honda Pro Arm® single-sided swingarm with single gas-charged shock with a remote spring preload adjuster, adjustable rebound damping and 5.1 inches of travel.  Front suspension is provided by a 43mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable spring preload and 4.7 inches of travel.  But not, apparently, rebound damping.  The latter may be a consideration for some.

You may have already noticed the two-tone fairing.  That’s part of Honda’s new air management system. Honda calls this “layered fairing technology”, and explains it as follows:

By effectively increasing the speed of the air by channelling it through smaller apertures before it reaches the radiators, engine cooling is optimized and the hot, exhausted air is channelled away from the rider and passenger for a cooler, more comfortable ride. The heat generated by the powerful, enclosed V4 engine is also channelled away to keep hot air away from the rider.

Apparently, Honda gave some thought to heat management in precisely the way that Yamaha and Kawasaki did not when creating the first gen FJR and Concours14.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they gave as much thought to travel range, with the VFR1200F having only a 4.9 gal tank.  This is a serious deficiency if the VFR is supposed to do any serious touring.  Even worse is the claimed 36.5 MPG fuel efficiency.  Taking Honda’s claims at face value give the VFR1200F a maximum fuel range of 179 miles.  Both the efficiency and range seem a bit low for a bike that uses variable cylinder technology for economy.  In fact, that’s just plain low, no matter what.  This is the biggest disappointment I can see from the claimed specs.  It’s a gas hog with a small tank.  Great.

It’s also a pretty big bike–though significantly smaller than the ST1300–with a curb weight (full of gas and ready to ride) of 591lbs for the standard transmission model and 613 lbs for the super-tranny version.  It’s still lighter than an FJR or Connie, but significantly heavier than most sport bikes.

Bringing all that weight to a stop comes from dual full-floating 320mm discs with CBS six-piston calipers with ABS in front, and a single 276mm disc with CBS two-piston caliper with ABS out back.  Supporting it all is a vacuum-molded, cast aluminum chassis.

And if you want to add a little more weight, there are several accessories for the VFR.  There are fairing extenders to get your hands out of the wind.  Windshield extenders to do the same for your head.  There’s full luggage–albeit somewhat smaller than the usual run of touring bike luggage–for long trips.  There’s even a navigator, so you wont get lost.  For a brand new bike, Honda seems to have really gone all out to provide lots of farkles for it.

So, now we’ve seen the pics, and we’ve read the specs.  And I have just one question about the VFR1200F.

What is it?

Is it a sport bike?  if so it seems awfully big for it. Hustling a 600 lb bike through the twisties can be done, of course, but all that extra weight has inertia to match, which limits its canyon-carving ability.

Is it a touring bike?  Then why is the tank so small, fuel range so compromised, and the luggage so downsized?

Is it a ‘Busa-style superbike?  Then why only 170 horses?  Ultimately, a ‘Busa or ZX-14 will be admiring it in their rear-views.

The more I look at it, the more it seems like a niche bike without a…niche.

I really wanted to be impressed with this bike.  I thought that with all the new technology we’d be getting…I dunno…more.  What it is, though, seems like a bastardized compromise between a sportbike and a sport-tourer that does neither of those things very well.  For a sportbike, I’d want it lighter, with a shorter wheelbase.  For a tourer, I’d want better mileage and range.

Of course, if you want a compromise bike, it seems like the VFR1200F will deliver that in spades.

y effectively increasing the speed of the air by channelling it through smaller apertures before it reaches the radiators, engine cooling is optimized and the hot, exhausted air is channelled away from the rider and passenger for a cooler, more comfortable ride. The heat generated by the powerful, enclosed V4 engine is also channelled away to keep hot air away from the rider.

2010 MV Agusta F4 Sneak Peak

It won’t be officially unveiled until November, but MV Agusta has released a sneak peak photo of the 2010 F4.  It’s not much of a photo, and it doesn’t show much except the headlight, and the general shape of the fairing, front-on.

2010 MV Agusta F4 Teaser
2010 MV Agusta F4 Teaser

It looks a bit different, but it still has the essential Tamburini styling.  What is more important than the fairing is what’s under it.  An what’s under it may be nice.  We’ve already seen the 2010 Brutale, and that bike is essentially the naked version of the F4.  Since already know that the 2010 Brutale 1090R is pretty much brand new, with 85% new components, we can probably assume that the F4 is similarly new.

Still no word on anything like a specification for the new F4, of course.

I guess we’ll still have to wait ’til November for that.

Kawasaki’s 2010 Motorcyles

Big Green has released the details of the 2010 model line today, and some of the changes are pretty nice.  Some of them are simply…meh.

2010 ZX10R
2010 ZX10R

First up is the 2010 ZX-10R Ninja.  This is one of the “Meh” entries in the lineup.  Not much new to talk about here.    They’ve modified the bodywork a little bit.  They’ve changed the steering damper to a new–and presumably better–one.  And they’ve painted the muffler black.  Other than that, next year’s ZX-10R is pretty much status quo ante.

My best advice is to wait for a year if you want a big Ninja. Supposedly, Kawasaki is gonna put the bike through a complete redesign for the 2011 model year.  Until then, the new Ninja is pretty much what the old Ninja was.

2010 Versys
2010 Versys

Another “meh” is the 2010 Versys.  It has new headlights, that kind of have a BMW R1200R kind of feel.  But it’s is, again, pretty much the same bike as this year’s.

I think we’re done with the “Meh” bikes in the line-up, though.

2010 Concours14
2010 Concours14

There are some nice changes to Kawasaki’s premier sports tourer.  Not, unfortunately, some of the changes rumored earlier this year, like the night vision and HUD I wrote about a while ago.  Instead, the Connie gets something called KTRC, Kawasaki’s first-ever traction control system.  Also new is the the K-ACT II anti-lock braking system to control those panic stops, a larger windscreen to solve the complaints about the effectiveness of wind management, bodywork redesigned for better heat management, heated grips, upgraded suspension, and new Bridgestone tires.

Oh, and it’s blue.  Blue is nice.

2010 Z1000
2010 Z1000

The Z1000 is the bike where major changes have occurred.  The current incarnation of the Z1000 is OK…but just OK.  Nice, but the power is kind of soft and squishy.  The new Z1000 looks like a big step forward.  It’s pretty much a completely new motorcycle, in fact.

First, the engine is completely new.  It’s a 1043cc I-4 power plant adapted from the ZX10R, and it provides 136HP and 91lb-ft of torque.  That’s a serious improvement over the current incarnation’s 953cc mill from the ZX-9.  That means noticeably better acceleration, and improved top-end speed.

Next, the steel backbone frame is gone, replaced by an all-aluminum frame with a monocoque main spar.  Fuel storage is now beneath the seat, so the narrower frame and changed fuel tank offers a narrower profile for better knee gripping.  That’s helped by the narrow bottom and flared top of the…uh, whatever the thing on top now is, instead of a fuel tank.

There are lots of suspension changes, too, with the rear suspension being an all-new “horizontal” design, and more aggressive front-end geometry.

The styling has been updated, too, giving it a noticeable B-King vibe, but whether that’s a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder.

Something New From MV Agusta

There was a time when MV Agusta was one of the world’s premier motorcycle brands.  Not only did they make fantastic and beautiful motorcycles for street use, but Agusta was also a potent force–and for a time, perhaps the potent force– in motorsports all across the world.  Sadly, in recent years, Agusta has suffered a steep decline from those glory days.  Not only has MV Agusta essentially disappeared from the racing world, the company has essentially produced only two models for the past decade: the F4 sportbike, and the Brutale naked streetfighter.

This appears to be changing.

Earlier this month, the first spy pictures of a brand newMV Agusta 675cc triple sportbike appeared on the UK motorcycle web site Visordown.  Now, Visordown is reporting that they will be revealing a new MV Agusta superbike model in the next few weeks.  This bike will not be an F4 model, but a completely new Superbike-class machine, that is also expected to lead MV Agusta back to participation in WSS or WSBK racing.  Other than that, no one seems to have any idea about what this new superbike model will be.  We don’t even know if it will be a new model that slots in above the F4 in Agusta’s line-up, or if it replaces the F4 as an entirely new model.  All we know is that it’s on the way.

I’m not exactly sure what value MV Agusta brought to Harley-Davidson when the MoCo purchased agusta several months ago.  But it appears that Harley brought MV Agusta the opportunity to expand their decade-old line-up.

Honda VFR1200F Interview

Honda UK’s test rider Dave Hancock has done some extensive riding of the new VFR1200F.  He seems to like the new bike a lot.  He’s positively glowing about it.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M61ylXHrHME

It sounds like a wonderful machine, doesn’t it?  The thing is, while he’s talking about the bike in such glowing terms, I can’t help noticing that he’s wearing a red shirt.  And it has a big ol’ white wing on the left breast.  That says “Honda” right beneath it.  So, I gotta wonder if he’s, you know, the most objective source of information.

I’m just saying.

The Mysterious V-4 and the Return of the UJM

Honda has been hinting about it.  They’ve been dropping tantalizing videos about it. They’ve issued technical white papers on it. They’ve even had it out in semi-public places where the overly-inquisitive could take spy shots of its pre-production form.  But today, Honda officially confirmed that the new 1200cc V-4, V-Tec motorcycle will be a part of the 2010 Honda Line-up, and will unveil it to the world at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show in three weeks.  Named the VFR1200F, Honda says the new motorcycle is a dedicated sport-touring bike.  We still can’t see it yet, because Honda is keeping the final appearance under wraps until the Tokyo unveiling, but I’m sure all the VFR fanatics–and are there any other kind of VFR riders?–are now thinking seriously about getting hold of one as soon as their finances allow.

2010 Honda CB1100
2010(?) Honda CB1100

But that’s not all they confirmed today.  Big Red will also be bringing the CB1100 to the Tokyo show as well. It harks back to the iconic UJM bikes of the 1970s, like the 750Four or the Kawasaki Z900.  It even has the throwback chrome fenders.

Interestingly, it’s not water-cooled, but rather obviously an air/oil-cooled inline-4.

This is what motorcycles were like when I was a kid.  Naked bikes, ready to accept whatever customization you wanted to provide.

The only down side is that Honda hasn’t specifically said that this is a 2010 production bike.  Just that they will be unveiling it in Tokyo.  But I suspect they wouldn’t unveil it for no other reason that to say, “Glad you liked it.  We aren’t going to do anything with it.”  I suspect this is, in fact, an upcoming model, especially since it looks almost exactly like the CB1100F concept bike they showed off two years ago.

Can Am Spyder RT First Ride

Motorcycle-USA has gotten hold of a brand new 2010 Can Am Spyder RT and taken it out for a spin.  Not only that, but Adam Waheed has kindly furnished us with a ride report.

Like nearly everyone else who has ridden the Spyder, the big thing to get used to is cornering.  Other than that, Waheed seems to like it.  Especially the monstrous amount of cargo space than it offers for touring.

One of my favorite features on the Spyder RT is its sheer amount of cargo capacity. There are a total of five storage areas (hood, trunk, right/left side hard cases, and small cockpit glove box) that allow you to tote a tremendous amount of gear with you. Even better is the optional Spyder RT travel luggage (with roller wheels and handle) that neatly fits right into the compartment allowing for seamless luggage removal when you arrive at your destination. And for those who literally want to bring their kitchen sink with them, Can-am offers a pull-behind trailer with a whopping 164-gallon capacity. It’s so big that I could literally sleep in it! The trailer features independent coil-over suspension, aluminum wheels, carpet, interior lighting and separate front and rear lid access. Furthermore the trailer is set-up to work in conjunction with its VSS and can be color-matched to your Spyder.

And, of course, with an automatic tranny, electric windscreen, ABS brakes, and stereo, you’ve got about all the comfort features you could want, too.

2010 Can Am-Spyder RT, with optional trailer.
2010 Can Am-Spyder RT, with optional trailer.

If the Spyder doesn’t have enough room to take along everything you need for a trip, then you just aren’t doing it right.

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2010 MV Agusta Brutale Models

The new, redesigned, 2010 Brutale models have been announced by MV Agusta.  And by redesigned, I mean redesigned.  According to MV 85% of the components in the two models are new, including the frame, swingarm, and engines. The suspension has also been redesigned.

The US retail price for the 99R will be $15,000, and the 1090R wil be $18,000.

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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796

Ducati has officially announced the availability of the new Ducati Hypermotard 796 for the US market for 2010.  The b ike will have an air-cooled engine, and tip the scales at just 368 pounds.  According to Ducati’s press release:

A brand new model for 2010, the Hypermotard 796 incorporates many new features requested by Ducatisti worldwide; striking color selections, lighter weight, lower price point, lower seat height, and the inclusion of a super-light action APTC clutch. Whether it’s dicing through the daily commute or attacking the open roads, the 796 perfectly balances Ducati’s unrivalled twin-cylinder power and sportbike heredity with the lightweight and minimalist Supermotard concept. The Hypermotard 796’s engine is a brand new powerplant; air-cooled with 2 valves per cylinder as per Ducati tradition. Rated at 81hp and 56 lb/ft of torque, the engine promises to deliver an exhilarating ride without compromising the smooth tractability found in Ducati’s other L-Twin engines.

Continued chassis development to the Hypermotard includes redesigned top and bottom fork clamps, and an improved frame layout which eliminates almost all of the forged elements used previously on the 1100. This adds up to an agile, lightweight, 368 pound package that is guaranteed to attack corners.

The bike’s official unveiling will take place in Milan in a few weeks, and it should start showing up in US showrooms–with a price tag under $10k–in December.

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
A brand new model for 2010, the Hypermotard 796 incorporates many new features requested by Ducatisti worldwide; striking color selections, lighter weight, lower price point, lower seat height, and the inclusion of a super-light action APTC clutch. Whether it’s dicing through the daily commute or attacking the open roads, the 796 perfectly balances Ducati’s unrivalled twin-cylinder power and sportbike heredity with the lightweight and minimalist Supermotard concept. The Hypermotard 796’s engine is a brand new powerplant; air-cooled with 2 valves per cylinder as per Ducati tradition. Rated at 81hp and 56 lb/ft of torque, the engine promises to deliver an exhilarating ride without compromising the smooth tractability found in Ducati’s other L-Twin engines.

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Continued chassis development to the Hypermotard includes redesigned top and bottom fork clamps, and an improved frame layout which eliminates almost all of the forged elements used previously on the 1100. This adds up to an agile, lightweight, 368 pound package that is guaranteed to attack corners.