2011 KTM RC8R

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.

2011 KTM RC8R
2011 KTM RC8R

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.

Big Bagger Showdown II

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero vs. 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom
2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero vs. 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom

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.

Big Bagger Showdown

2011 Victory Vision and Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Victory Vision and Harley-Davidson Road Glide UltraPhoto Credit: Motorcycle USA, Ray Gauger

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.

2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Blackline

2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Blackline
2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Blackline

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.

2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO

2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO

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.

BMW: They don’t exist yet, but you can buy them

2011 BMW K1600GT
2011 BMW K1600GT

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.

Another 800cc Naked Standard

2011 Yamaha FZ8
2011 Yamaha FZ8

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.

2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black

Via A&R, it seems that Ducati has been listening to prospective owners about what they’d like to see in the new Diavel.  As a result, Ducati has moved towards the Dark Custom movement with a new model of the Diavel called the Carbon Black.

2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black
2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black

Instead of bright paint and chrome, Ducati has gone to matte colors and black anodized metal. Additionally, they’ve dropped the white color from the line-up completely, in favor of this new black model.

To my eye, it’s certainly more attractive.

2011 Ducati Diavel

One day ahead of tomorrow’s EICMA SHow opening in Milan, Ducati has unveiled the new Diavel–formerly known as the Project 0803 motorcycle.  I’ve written about it a bit over the past few months as spy shots and finally an official photo was leaked, but now we can officially see the Diavel in all its glory.

We can also officially see the specs now, too.  Ducati has closely held them, but now that we can see them, they look pretty good.

There are some notable points to be mentioned.  First, while the Diavel uses the same 11° Testastretta engine that the Multistrada 1200S uses, power output has been upped to 162HP, while torque has been raised to 94 ft-lbs, compared to the Multi’s 87.5 ft-lbs. At the same time, while no lightweight, the Diavel is only 35 lbs heavier than the Multistrada, weighing in at 463lbs dry.

All things considered, the Diavel should be a screaming street machine. It might not have the same raw, straight-line power of the Yamaha Star V-Max, but I’d be willing to bet the Diavel will eat its lunch in the twisties, with its advertised 41° lean angle. And, who knows, maybe on a straight-line, the comparison isn’t that far off, either. After all, despite the V-Max’s 197HP and 123 ft-lbs of torque, it also weighs 685 lbs. It’d need all that extra horsepower just to keep up with the Diavel.

I’d suspect that with two riders of equivalent capability, the one on the V-Max would be watching the Diavel’s tail lights.  Until they disappeared ahead of him, anyway. I do know that’s a comparison I’d like to see.

Like the Multi, the Diavel also boasts the the three-mode output/suspension settings, allowing the rider to choose the restrained 100HP output of the Urban mode, the full power, but less aggressive throttle response and softer suspension of the Touring mode, and the full-on power and stiff suspension of the Sport mode.

And I can tell you, from personal experience, that the three settings really do transform the feel and operation of the bike.  And when you hit sport mode…watch out!

The drawback to the Diavel, from a US sales point of view, is that Americans seem to hate naked standards. This might be a bike that sells like hotcakes in Europe, though.

There’s also one more question about the Diavel that needs to be answered. What’ll it cost?

2011 MV Agusta F3

Hell For Leather has what they say is the first full photo of the new MV Agusta F3, the long-awaited 675cc triple that expands MV’s product line into supersport bikes.

2011 MV Agusta F3
2011 MV Agusta F3

HFL’s Wes Siler writes that the price is a relatively lofty €11,500, but MV is planning on giving you 140HP at the crank, in return.

The official unveiling of the F3 is scheduled for Tuesday at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy.

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Test Rides

Well, this isn’t something you see every day. Motorcycle USA, Motorcycle.Com and Motorcycle Daily all have the same featured top story.  Each of them have test ride reports for the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000. And they all seem to like it.

2011 Hawasaki Ninja 1000
2011 Hawasaki Ninja 1000

I’m curious to see how this bike will do in the US. The Z1000 on which the Ninja is based probably won’t sell well, because Americans really don’t like naked standards.

But the fully-faired Ninja is different. The power and performance of the Ninja 1000 slots it between the ZX-6 and the ZX10.  So it has at least supersport performance.  What is doesn’t have are the tortuous ergonomics.  Kawasaki seems to have made it comfortable enough for touring, withut neutering the performance.

In recent years, sport bike ergnomics have gotten increasingly tortuous.  The handlebars are low, requiring the rider to lay across the tank.  The footpegs are high, to allow for extreme lean angles, but that means the riders knees are pulled up to massage the ribs.  Nice for a track day or 20-lap sprint, but not so nice for a daily commute.  and touring, of course, is right out.

What Kawasaki has done is created a motorcycle with the full-on performance of a sportbike, but a more upright, comfortable perch.  Street performance can never really match track performance, so the race-inspired ergos aren’t really necessary. In most categories in which the Ninja 1000 competes against the ZX-10 in terms of street performance, the Ninja seems to be the equal, if not the superior bike, though the ZX-10 would undoubtedly stomp it on the track.

Kawasaki also has touring in mind for the Ninja 1000, offering full sets of color-matched hard luggage. It’s hard to imagine doing any serious touring on any of the ZX line.  At least, not with an on-call masseuse and unlimited supplies of Tylenol.

It seems to have more than reasonable performance for the street–indeed, more performance than most riders can even use. At the time time, it’ll have comfort and touring capability that no pure race-bred sport bike can possibly offer. So, the question is, will American motorcyclists buy it? Or will they stick with the high-revving, pain inducing ZX line?

2011 Hondas Unveiled…Sort Of

Honda is planning to unveils a new adventure bike at EICMA next week.  This new bike is based on the new V-4 platform that is currently embodied only in the VFR1200F.  Honda has been saying that this new platform will be the basis for a number of different motorcycles, and this new adventure bike will be the second.  There’s only a sketch of it, no photos or anything else.

2011 Honda V4 adventure bike sketch
2011 Honda V4 adventure bike sketch

You can tell it’s an adventure bike, because it has a beak.  Despite being an “Adventure” bike, Honda has indicated this will be an on-road bike.  Other than that, we’ll have to wait for EICMA next week in Italy to learn more. So, I guess this doesn’t actually count as an unveiling yet, especially as the new bike probably will vary a fair bit from this sketch.  In particular, the rear looks like they just slapped a CBR100RR  rear end on it. Surely, for an adventure bike, those pegs will be thicker and wider.  As always, I love me a single-sided swingarm.

What we do have firm details on, is the new CBR250R, an entry-level street bike that incorporates what appears to be a new design direction for Honda, following the controversial looks of the VFR1200F.

2011 Honda CBR250R
2011 Honda CBR250R

Note the multi-layered fairing and the frog-shaped headlight–design features shared not only by the VFR, but the adventure bike sketch above. I guess this is a look that will define the new generation of Hondas. In this case, the design is wrapped around a 250cc four-stroke thumper that puts out about 26HP through a 6-speed transmission. I really like the looks of this bike a lot, and it should be a great beginner bike, especially as this little guy also comes with optional ABS brakes.

A&R has a couple of more pics with the different color schemes.

Honda provided the tech specs below.

2011 Honda CBR250R / CBR250R ABS Technical Specifications:

Engine:
Engine Type:
249.4cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke:
76mm x 55mm
Compression ratio:
10.7:1
Valve Train:
DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Induction:
PGM-FI, 38mm throttle body
Ignition:
Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission:
Six-speed

Suspension:
Front:
37mm fork
Rear:
Pro-Link single shock with five positions of spring preload adjustability

Brakes:
Front:
Single 296mm disc
Rear:
Single 220mm disc
Optional ABS

Tires:
Front:
110/70-17 radial
Rear:
140/70-17 radial

Dimensions:
Wheelbase:
53.9 inches
Rake (Caster Angle):
25.0°
Trail:
95mm (3.74 inches)
Seat Height:
30.9 inches
Fuel Capacity:
3.4 gallons
Colors:
Metallic Black, Red/Silver
Curb Weight*:
359 pounds / 368 pounds (ABS)

*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel—ready to ride.