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.
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.
For 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.
Motorcycle Daily has taken the new , VFR800-based 2011 Crossrunner out on the road to put it through its paces.
The Crossrunner was introduced last fall as a 2011 model at the EICMA show in Italy as bike with offroad pretensions–and pretensions is pretty much all they are. Really, this is a street bike, although one powered by the 782cc V-4 VTEC mill that powers the European version of the Interceptor. That’s not a bad heritage for any streetbike.
Unlike the VFR, however, the Crossrunner sports comfy, upright ergonomics to go along with its V-4 character.
The pluses appear to be a bike that, like the Suzuki Bandit, offers you a torquey engine with 100HP, a relaxed riding position. The down side for the sporting enthusiast, is the 530lbs wet weight, but in general it seems like it would be a fun bike.
If I was to tell you how packed my schedule has been this week, you’d be so bored you’d want to slit your own throat. So I won’t. But I do have time to take note of a few things.
The ATK/Hyosung GT650R I’ve been evaluating for ATK is doing fine. I’m convinced that, given some ergos more forgiving to my 46 year-old frame, it’d be a fine commuter/city bike. It’s easy to ride, with predictable performance, and has a surprisingly comfy seat.
The Honda CBR1000RR is about the deadliest racing weapon imaginable in the hands of Casey Stoner.
Is the new Kawasaki ZX-10R good enough to beat the BMWS1000RR in a head-on comparo? No. Seems like a close call, though.
I got my FJR back from the shop on Saturday. Embarrasingly, I had managed to hang my good luck bell in the perfect place…to cut the main wiring harness with the edge of the bell in a full-lock left turn. I’m glad I was backing out of a parking space, instead of trying to do a U-Turn, when the engine went dead.
Instead of spending money on a second bike, I’ve begun wondering if I shouldn’t just get an exhaust system, PowerCommander, and K&N Air Filter.
Honda has announced the new 2012 Gold Wing, which I guess is the premier, non-Harley touring bike.
There was some talk that Honda would be coming up with a big redesign of their flagship bike, but…not this year. The changes are essentially these:
- Less curvy, more angular styling
- Increased wind protection, which I didn’t actually think was possible.
- New saddlebags with 7 liters more space
- Redesigned dashboard
- tweaks to the suspension.
Other than that, it’s pretty much unchanged.
The base model pricing comes in at $23,199, which is 1 shiny dollar cheaper than the Wing’s new competition, the BMW K1600GTL.
Honda, of course, has an entirely different take on the amazing amazingness that is the 2012 Gold Wing, and if you want to read that, Honda’s press release is below the fold.
Wes Siler, of Hell For Leather, has already been pretty vocal about his unpleasant experience on the new Honda VFR1200F, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see him not only back one one, but liking it. What he likes, specifically, is the one thing I’ve been leery about, which is the new Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). Owning an AE-model FJR with the electronic clutch, I’ve found it convenient in city traffic, but a bit scary in parking lots, as I’ve mentioned many times before.
This new DCT, however, seems to be a different beast.
The thing that makes this transmission so brilliant is that it actually, honestly, really improves control over the bike at low speed. Yes, some hydraulic pumps, two clutches and an electronic brain are better than my left hand at smoothly, predictably modulating power. Tight u-turns become a cinch, barely requiring your concentration. Pulling away at a crawl is as easy as twisting your right wrist. Coming to a halt, you just stop, the transmission simply cuts the power unobtrusively and instantly.
And that is precisely the bit of information I wanted to know about. The FJR AE has a problem with slow speeds. Once that tach drops below 2500RPM in first, the clutch engages and you lose all power. This mainly happens inevitably when you’re leaned over a bit pulling into a parking space, making the FJR AE want to flop over on it’s side. The key is to give it some throttle, and stomp on the rear brake to slow down. This requires a fair amount of hand-foot-eye coordination. That seems to be completely unnecessary with the Honda.
Of course, it also comes at a steep price, bringing a DTC-equipped VFR to a sticker price of $17,499. That’s perilously close to BMW territory when it comes to pricing. But, without the BMW’s large-capacity bags, heated seat, grips, ESA, traction control, and usably large fuel tank.
With gas mileage in the 30s, and a 4-gallon tank, the VFR is hardly the best equipped “touring” model of the sports-touring category, unless “touring” to you means stopping every ton for gas. And the available luggage for the VFR is pretty small compared to the rest of the bikes in the sport-touring class.
It seems like a great, powerful bike with some great technology, but the high price and assorted drawbacks don’t impress–at least, not in a good way.
The rumor, of course, is that Honda already has a sport-tourer version of this bike in pre-release (as well as an adventure version). Perhaps they’ll rectify some of the current range and luggage issues with that bike. I suspect, however, that the drawback of high sticker price won’t be solved.
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.
…A&R reports that:
Honda Motor Co. is all set to unload a choice piece of property in Kern County this year (Southern California residents should find this statement funny), as the company has put up for sale the Honda Proving Center of California (HPCC). Consisting of a total of 4,255 acres (give or take a few), the proving ground facility consists of a 7.5 mile oval, a 4.5 mile track of winding city roadway, skid pad, MX/SX track, support facilities, offices, warehouses, and plenty of desert terrain just to name a few of the highlights.
So, if you’ve got the money, and are looking for your own private race track, here’s your chance.
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”.
Motorcycle Daily has a new ride review of the “Baby ST”, Honda’s NT700V. This twin-cylinder light tourer–called the Deauville in Europe–is really less of a tourer than a mid-sized all-rounder with nice luggage capacity.
Comparing the NT to other motorcycles is a bit hard to do, since it really is a unique bike. It’s not as good looking or as fast as BMW’s F 800 ST, but it is less expensive considering the extras that are included in the NT’s base price, and would serve as a better all-around bike out of the lot. Compared to Suzuki’s V-Strom or Kawasaki’s Versys it’s a bit expensive, but then again it has superior creature comforts, shaft drive, and bags. This new import from Honda may just fill a niche that those bikes don’t; great for the more rational riders among us who are turned off by the idea of a 700+ pound touring bike or cruiser, and excellent for the novice or thrifty commuter looking for a usable, maintenance-free workhorse. Whether these riders come out of the woodwork to buy up NT’s by the boatload remains to be seen, but I can’t deny the bike is a pleasure to ride.
It seems like it might be a good choice for the beginning rider, or even the experienced rider who doesn’t put a premium on sport performance.
Motorcyclist has named the new Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) on the Honda VFR1200F to be the best new technology of 2010. The magazine gushes:
The DCT is not the first automatic motorcycle transmission, but it is the first to offer performance that will satisfy even the most demanding sport rider. Borrowing heavily from Formula 1 racing technology-and generating more than 100 patents in the process-Honda has created a transmission that offers full-auto or semi-auto (the rider selects shift points using finger triggers) operation and delivers quicker, smoother, more transparent shifts than any manual gearbox. Honda’s DCT is everything a conventional automatic transmission isn’t. It’s light, fast and intuitive, and genuinely enhances the sportbike experience.
That seems like pretty high praise, and you have to assume that, being motorcycling professionals, the folks there know what they’re talking about.
I have no direct experience with the DTC. Indeed, I don’t know of an shop in the local area that even has a VFR in stock that has it, so I don’t even know where I could go to test it.
Having an FJR1300AE model with the electronic clutch probably isn’t a close enough comparison to make an educated guess, but I’d like to try out the DTC, though, to see how it compares.
Honda didn’t show up at last year’s EICMA show in Italy, citing the world economic crisis. This year is going to be quite the reverse. Honda has announced that it will not only be returning to EICMA, but it will be debuting eight motorcycle models at the show as well.
There’s no official word on the bikes that will be unveiled, but one of the most likely candidates will be the new VFR1200 model that is slated to replace the ST1300, which has long been Honda’s flagship sport-tourer. The new model of the VFR will probably include both the dual-clutch transmission, and the cylinder management system that has been touted by Honda for the last year.
The Spanish Motorcycling web site SoloMoto is touting an exclusive (in Spanish), which is that Honda will replace the venerable ST1300 with a touring version of the new V-4-engined VFR1200F. They state that their information is that a presentation of the new model will be held at the international motorcycle shows in Cologne or Milan (October or November respectively).
They report that the new model will be available with or without bags, as well as with or without the new DCT transmission option. Compared to the new VFR, this touring model will have higher handlebars and more relaxed seating position, suitable for touring. Based on the drawings they show, the preload adjustment for the rear suspension will be moved to the right side of the bike, and the front braking system my be different from the current VFR, due to having inverted forks. They also speculate that the rider’s seat height will be adjustable, and that the windshield will have electrical height adjustment. The new bike also seems to keep the dual-layered fairing of the current VFR.
So, for all you ST1300 lovers, Honda may be providing you with something to love even better.
Let’s just hope that while they’re piling on all these touring amenities, they give us a fuel tank larger than the VFR’s 4 gallons.
Man, the guys at Hell for Leather really don’t like the VFR1200F. They took it out to the track, supposing that, since Honda says the bike has tons of sporting pretensions, it’d be kind of fun. Turns out, they thought it was terrifying.
Their four main complaints:
- Suspension is too soft
- Ground clearance for cornering sucks
- Controls are unpredictable and fueling is monumentally bad
- The ergos are poor.
Wes Siler sums up:
It’s nowhere near fast enough to be a Hayabusa or ZX-14 rival and doesn’t handle nearly as well as either of those bikes either. The riding position is more forward-leaning and uncomfortable than a Kawasaki Concours 14 and the Honda doesn’t come with luggage as standard. It kind of looks like a rival for the BMW K1300S, but that bike would run circles around Shamu in a corner and feels notably quicker.
What we’re left with is a bike that’s got a sporty riding position, but corners like it’s made out of jelly. A bike that’s got a big engine, but isn’t terribly fast. A bike that’s as heavy as a tourer, but looks like a sportsbike. A bike that’s supposed to be friendly, but is difficult to ride.
That’s more or less what I’ve been saying. An interesting bike that fills some incomprehensible niche. An all-round sports-touring bike that does neither well. I just don’t get it.
Honda is really jumping into the mid-size cruiser market by really ramping up their product line of VTX1300s, introducing three new models. Motorcycle USA’s Bryan Harley has gotten to take them all for a spin, and he’s written up his impressions of them, concluding:
Honda’s 2010 VT1300 Series covers the gamut, from what Big Red hails as its ‘big impact bike’ in the form of the Fury to a boulevard-cruising pro-streeter in the guise of the Sabre. The range includes a big-fendered cruiser with more traditional styling and a bike factory-equipped for the long haul. The styling of the VT1300 Series is a big leap forward for the traditionally conservative Japanese manufacturer. But the bikes maintain Honda’s reputation for performance and reliability. It’s an ambitious venture for the company, but Honda believes that there is enough variation in the VT1300 Series to appeal to almost every area of the cruiser demographic. With almost 83,000 VTX models sold, it’s hard to question their reasoning.
The three new models add to the “factory custom” movement Honda Joined by producing the Fury last year, and these new bikes are built around the same idea: producing a more distinctively-styled bike, with Honda’s reliability, at a price point below $13k.
As far as I can tell, these new models look like Honda met its goals.
All of the bikes are powered by the same 1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin, with a SOHC and single-pin crankshaft, and three valves per cylinder. Vibration is kept in check through the use of dual balancers. New for these models, however, the VTX powerplant now uses a Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system that features a single 38mm throttle body, with an auto enrichment circuit, doing away with the old CV carburetor.
The three new models break down as follows:
The Sabre is a boulevard cruiser with a nicely raked front end. In fact, that 33° rake on the front end stretches at the wheelbase to a whopping 70 inches. The fenders are nicely chopped, and the frame leaves lots of space between the top of the engine and the steering head. It’s definitely designed as a street custom.
The Stateline, on the other hand, is a much more traditional-looking cruiser, with longer fenders, a larger front tire, and blacked-out engine parts. it’s still a bit more aggressively styled than the old VTX, but not unpleasantly so.
Finally, there’s the Interstate, which is essentially the Stateline, but with a more touring-oriented accessory package, including leather covered hard bags that have a hidden latch system and 22 liters capacity, floorboards, a heel-and-toe shifter, big honking brake pedal, and a windshield. And, even with all that, it still comes in under $13,000, which seems like a nice value for the money.
So, what could possibly be wrong with any of these bikes? Well…they’re still a VTX.
Now, look, I understand a lot of people like the VTX. After all, Honda’s sold 83,000 of them. But that VTX 1300 engine really is a deal-breaker for me.
The thing about that powerplant is that it’s just gutless at the top end. When the rev limiter kicks in you’re maybe doing, 85 or 90, and you’ve wrung everything out of her that you’re going to.
Now, maybe in town that’s OK, but the the Interstate, especially, has designs on doing some touring. And out here in California, when you hit the Interstate, 80 or faster is just the normal rate of traffic flow. The VTX just won’t offer you anything in terms of passing power at the high end, if you’re already bumping up near the rev limiter just keeping up with the flow.
I understand that not everybody is into the sport-touring, triple-digit sightseeing deal, and that’s fine. But even my Sportster could top 120 on the highway. I know. I did it. The VTX1300 isn’t a bad engine, it’s just not a very powerful one, even compared to the 1200cc mill on the Sportster.
For just a bit more money, you could spend $12K on a Harley Super Glide, another $2000 or so on the touring accessories, and for one grand more, have a Big Twin that will handle the highway much better than the VTX.
The VTX1300 obviously has its afficionados, but the Interstate seems like a stretch when it comes to touring.