2010 Honda Gold Wing

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Honda has announced their 2010 line-up of the Gold Wing model.  And for this exciting new year’s models, Honda has sent its top engineers back to the drawing board with this motorcycle, in order to come up with a number of big changes to the colors in which it is available. And why would they do anything else?  As honda puts it, “How do you improve on perfection?”

How, indeed.

This year, The Gold Wing is available in four colors instead of five:  Basic Black, Gunmetal Gray, Dried-Blood Red, and International Safety yellow.

As an added feature, now that the Marysville, OH plant has been shut down they’re guaranteed to be manufactured in Japan.

This is a very exciting time for Honda, I guess.

Anyway, you can see the new lineup here, if you’re interested.

2009 Sport Touring Shootout

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Motorcycle.Com has just released this year’s comparo of the top sport touring motorcycles.  This year, they pit the BMW K1300GT, Yamaha FJR1300A, Kawasaki Concours14, and the venerable Honda ST1300 against each other.

They declare the top bike to be…

Objectively the BMW is the clear winner to us. It makes markedly more power than the others despite not having the biggest engine. Our experiences aboard all four left no question the big K bike is the quickest steering and provides excellent braking performance. It offers very good wind protection, great ergos, an adjustable seat and handlebars, possibly the best passenger perch and very good saddlebags, to name only a few high points.

I’ve never been aboard the St1300 or the C14, but after tiding a K13GT and owning an FJR, I’d pick the FJR any day.  I didn’t like the GT at all.

The RT, on the other hand, was a dream.


Honda Ends US Motorcycle Production

For the first time in 30 years, Honda motorcycles are no longer produced in the United States.  The Marysville, Ohio plant opened by Honda in 1979 has shut its doors.  All Honda motorcycles for the US market will now be imported from Japan.  Honda blames the closure on the global economic recession, and the tighter credit environment which has stifled demand for cars and motorcycles.

Motorcyclist’s 2009 Picks of the Year

The mavens at Motorcyclist magazine have announced the winner of the award for 2009 Motorcycle of the Year, as well as their other picks.

Motorcyclist's Motorcycle of the Year: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1
Motorcyclist's Motorcycle of the Year: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

The bike picking up the top award this year is the Yamaha YZF-R1.

Modern sportbikes are engineered so close to the edge of the performance envelope that we’re conditioned to expect incremental changes: a shaved pound here, an added pony there. It’s almost unimaginable that any sportbike could surprise us with a novel riding experience that realigns our understanding of what a liter-class sportbike is, and what one can do. The 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 is exactly that sort of bike-which is why it’s our Motorcycle of the Year.

Other notable picks include:

Ben Spies as the Motorcyclist of the year.

The Kawasaki ZX-6R as the best sportbike of the year, closely followed by the Ducati 1198.

The Ducati Streetfighter as the Best Naked Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson XR1200 Sportster.

The Kawasaki Concours14 as the year’s Best Touring Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

Best Adventure Bike honors go to two BMWs, with the F800GS in the top position, and the R1200GS Adventure in second place.

The Best Dreambike is the Aprilia RSV4, with the BMW S1000RR as the follow-on.

Best Bang For The Buck goes to Kawasaki, with the ER-6n as the winner, and KLX250SF as the second-place finisher.

For Best Cruiser, Motorcyclist goes strictly for muscle this year, with the Star (Yamaha) V-MAX ruling the roost, and the Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle in the supporting position.

Best Dirtbike is the Husaberg FE450; second best is the Honda CRF450R.

Best New Technology is the Honda Combined ABS system, followed by the Ducati Traction Control.

And, finally, the Best New Product honors go to the Gopro Motorsports Hero Wide Camera, with the Bazzaz Performance Z-FI Traction Control taking the runner-up position.

Honda’s new V4 Web Site

Honda Europe has set up a new web site to set up the rollout of the new V-Tec bike I wrote about last week.  There’s not much to it but a tantalizing video that shows a few close-ups of pieces of the bike.  But it’s clear they’re getting set up.

If you’re interested, here’s the video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T8BFaXddCQ

Based on the images in the video, MCN’s artist conceptions were a bit off.

Yakima PD Dumps Harley

Harley-Davidson has seen a lot of competition for the police bike market over the last few years, most notably from BMW, starting with the R1100RT-P to R1200RT-P.  Honda has been making inroads on Harley’s market share, too.

Yakima, Washington is now is the latest police agency to dump the Harley bikes they’ve been riding, to switch to the Honda ST1300-P.

The California Highway Patrol’s dismissal of the HD bikes in favor of the R1100RT-P back in 1997 was the first major blow to harley’s dominance of this market in the US–although Kawasaki had made some inroads with the CHP with the Kawasaki 1000 Police Bike.  And once the CHP made the switch, most other agencies went along with it too, either wholly or in part.  And, since California tends to be a trendsetter in police operations, as in popular culture, that gave BMW a big and continuing boost with agencies all across the country.

It’s difficult to see how the MoCo reverses this trend with their current lineup of bikes.  Police bikes generally have to do things that civilian bikes usually don’t. As Yakima PD spokesman Sgt. Gary Jones puts it:

“We have to be able to go over the curb, sidewalk ditches and [the] low ground clearance on Harley got hung up on breaking the stand kicks,” said Sgt. Jones.

Apparently, reliability was an issue to, as the (poorly written) story notes:

Riding more than 50,000 miles [per year], officers say, the Harley Davidson’s only lasted a few years and maintenance was costly. Agility is a top priority for the way police use motorcycles.

The trouble with Harley’s touring bikes, which are the generally used models for police purposes, is that they reflect design trends of 60 years ago.  Now that’s something about which HD is proud, and it’s also a key selling point for their rider community.  But that very design makes them, in the modern world, less suitable for police use when more up-to-date bikes are available, with their shorter wheelbases, higher ground clearance, lighter weight (not that the ST1300 is a lightweight bike by any means), and significantly better handling and performance.

The Buell division does make the Ulysess available in a police model, and that seems like a fine choice, especially for rural agencies, where dual-sport capability might be a positive point.  But it’s not particularly well suited for a daily urban environment, sine the bike’s tall height is somewhat inconvenient for constant stop and go riding.

What HD does have going for it the tendency among some government agencies to buy American, but that’s solely a political, not technical decision. Having been a Harley owner, and having ridden the Sportster, Road King, and ElectraGlide, I’d take the R1200RT over those bikes any day if performance and handling ability are a major criterion.

It’s hard to see how the MoCo stays competitive in this market over the long term–except, of course, for the politics of “Buy American”.

VFR12000: It’s Official

According to the UK’s Motorcycle News web site, the 1200cc V-Tec Honda I mentioned previously looks like the replacement for the ST1300–or the Pan European as they call in The old Country–and maybe the current Interceptor (VFR) as well.  MCN has pics and some info, though the full lowdown will be in the print version of the Brit mag.

Honda’s V4-based Pan European replacement will be the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world when it’s released next year.

Full details are in the new issue of MCN, but what do you think of the looks?

Leaked Honda design drawings have shown the bike’s distinctive duck-billed styling, which we’ve made real using CGI.

The colours are our guess – but the look is the real deal. Less controversial than the sports-touring version spied testing recently, it’s still a distinctive-looking beast.

One notes that “the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world” (in the dictionary, see “redundant”) still has a manual turnscrew at the back of the bike to adjust the preload.  Or as one wag at the STN Forum put it, “That’s Honduh-Speek for ‘The most needlessly complicated valvetrain in the world.'”

Pics of the new bike are below.  My initial impressions:

1) Hmm.  No tip-over wings. We’ll never hear the end of that from the ST1300 guys.

2) Looks like Honda figured out a way to get rid of that backlogged inventory of GL1800 rear-view mirrors.

3) I have to say that if the bike actually ends up looking like that, then Honda did a fantastic job of ensuring that bags aren’t too closely integrated into the bodywork.  The tail looks great with the bags off.

Finally?

So, every year, you hear the rumors: “There’s a new VFR on the way.”  “It’ll have five cylinders.”  “It’ll be a 1,000cc V-4 superbike.”  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

There’s something about the venerable Honda VFR that provokes fanatical loyalty from it’s fan base.  And, for years, they’ve lived on rumors that the VFR will be upgraded in some fantastic way, and that the 782cc V-Tec equipped V-4 would get a new, massive power injection.  Or another cylinder.  Or something.  whatever it is, it would be wonderful.  Sadly, they’ve never gotten  it.

Until now.

Honda VFR1200 Development Bike
Honda VFR1200 Development Bike

It appears that Honda is lining up a 1200cc V-Tec bike,, not only as a replacement for the VFR, but perhaps, according to some high-ranking Honda officials, a new line of bikes.

There’s only a few spy shots of it so far, but it seems to have gotten the VFR fans into an absolute tizzy, despite the fact that the headlight looks like the head of some sort of South American jungle toad.

Anyway, it sounds impressive.

The new bike is said to be a sport-touring mount powered by a V4 engine with displacement around 1200cc. It is claimed to have variable cylinder technology, allowing it to “turn off” two cylinders (presumably the rear bank) while cruising in order to save fuel. European publications are claiming that the engine will have power “approaching 200 horsepower”, but considering Honda’s corporate philosophy and the intended market, we seriously doubt it.

Snarky asides about Honda aside–true or not–this is an interesting development.  Not only does it call into question just how powerful the new VFR will be, it also calls into question the future of the venerable ST1300, with its 125HP V-4 (but non V-Tec) powerplant.

The ST1300 could certainly use a more powerful engine to push its massive weight down the road, and for touring purposes, variable cylinder technology implies the possibility of 50MPG at 70MPH.  Combine that with the ST1300’s 7.8 gallon tank, and you have a highway cruising distance of 390 miles between fill-ups.  A lighter, more powerful ST1200 V-Tec would seem to be the perfect reply from Honda to Kawasaki’s Concours14 and Yamaha’s FJR1300.

And, it doesn’t need to have 200HP.  165 is enough to make all the C14 riders green with envy.

The new bike is said to be a sport-touring mount powered by a V4 engine with displacement around 1200cc. It is claimed to have variable cylinder technology, allowing it to “turn off” two cylinders (presumably the rear bank) while cruising in order to save fuel. European publications are claiming that the engine will have power “approaching 200 horsepower”, but considering Honda’s corporate philosophy and the intended market, we seriously doubt it.