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.

Touring Comparo: Electra Glide vs. Voyager

[ad#Motobanner]

Motorcyclist Online has the results of their big-tourer comparison between the Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic and the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager.  I’ve long wanted to see a head-to-head match-up between the king tourer from Harley and Kawi’s new flagship tourer, and here it is.

Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic and Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager
Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic and Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager

The Electra Glide sports Harley’s now touring frame, which is supposed to noticeably increase stability and handling, while the Voyager is a brand new version of the Vulcan, with a brand new frame, too.

The Harley costs significantly more than the Voyager, and reading the write up, that extra money pays off in a better, more refined handling, greater rider and pillion comfort, and better brakes and luggage.  The Kawasaki, on the other hand, seems to have the Harley beat in wind protection, engine power (slightly), and lighting (a lot).

Overall, the Harley has better fit and finish–which is unsurprising to me, since I’ve always thought Kawasakis are a little rough around the edges.  They aren’t bad bikes, but, I’ve just never been a big Kawasaki fan.  But, it’s nice to see that it’s not just an unreasoning opinion on my part, and others seem to think Kawi could use a little improvement in the finishing touches.

Still, for $3,000 less, the Voyager’s no doubt put together adequately.

Both bikes, of course, are massively underpowered from my point of view.  But then, I’m riding an FJR with 200 pounds less weight, and twice the horsepower, so take that into consideration.

I will tell you where I would throw my lot in with the kawi on this one, though, and that’s the fixed fairing.  I’ve never liked the batwing fairing on the Harley’s.  They look great, but having 40 or 50 pounds of plastic hanging off the front fork never appealed to me.  And I’ve ridden the Electra Glide, and confirmed that opinion.

That’s why my next Harley will be a Road Glide.

Japan Outsources Motorcycle Production

[ad#MotoBanner]

According to Bloomberg, Kawasaki will be switching motorcycle production out of Japan, to Thailand.  The first production shift will be medium and large motorcycles as early as this year..  It seems that Kawasaki may also be joined there by Honda, which is also considering shifting production of medium-sized motorcycles to that country.

This will mark the first time a Japanese manufacturer has begun production for export in a developing country.  The company cites lower labor costs for the move.

Motorcycle.Com’s Best of 2009

[ad#MotoBanner]

The annual march of media bike choices continues, with Motorcycle.com weighing in with thir top picks of the year.  Their choices are interesting, and a bit different than I would have expected.

Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.
Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.

For the overall bike of the year, they picked the Triumph Street Triple R.

Best Sportbike honors go to the Kawasaki ZX-6R, with the runner-up being the Honda CBR1000RR.

The Ducati Monster 1100 gets the nod for best standard motorcycle, with second place going to the Harley-Davidson XR1200.

The best cruiser pick is the all new Triumph Thunderbird 1600, with the Suzuki Boulevard M90 taking an honorable mention.

The award for best touring bike goes to the BMW R1200RT, closely followed by the Honda Gold Wing.

BMW also take both first and second place spots for sport-touring, with the K1300GT winning, and the F800ST getting the honorable mention.

BMW stays in the winner’s circle for best off-road bike, with the top honors going to the F800GS, and the second spot going to the Aprilia SXV/RXV 5.5.

They also have picks for best eccentrics, scooters, technology, and more, so why not go there and read them?

2009 Sport Touring Shootout

[ad#MotoBanner]

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.


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.

Kawasaki Goes High-Tech

Kawasaki is reported to be working on some high-tech additions to the Concours14/GTR-1400 for the upcoming model year.

Kawasaki HUD System
Kawasaki HUD System

They won’t be officially unveiled until later this year.  I don’t know when.  It was supposed to be at the Paris Motorcycle show in October, but that event has been canceled.

Anyway, the new additions include an infrared night vision system, and a heads-up display for riders.

The heart of the system is a pair of infrared cameras mounted on the front of the bike. They allow the rider to “see” about 300 meters ahead of the bike, which is well beyond the viewing distance provided by the headlights. Not only will the system be able to find a heat signature before the rider is able to see it, but it will also provide an audible alarm to the rider. This will keep focus on the road rather than the gauge cluster.

Aside from the night vision the Kawasaki Engineering team is also working to design a helmet mounted heads up display. If they are successful, it could be mean riders will rarely have to look away from the road to check their speed or whatever they are monitoring at the time. The current design is mounted on the exterior of the helmet, rather than being part of it, meaning it could quickly become a popular aftermarket accessory.

It’s also supposed to have a bluetooth hookup to the helmet HUD, so there won’t be any annoying wires or whatnot.

Maybe I should reconsider an earlier post.  If you’re gonna have the heads-up display, and the infrared night vision, you might as well spring for the Batman suit after all.