New Yamaha Hybrid

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It was only a matter of time before motorcycling got a hybrid vehicle, and apparently that time has arrived.  Yamaha and Toyota are working on a motorcycle that reports indicate will bear the imaginative name “Prius”.

Yamaha Prius Hybrid Motorcycle
Yamaha Prius Hybrid Motorcycle

The “Prius” will be powered by a 250cc single-cylinder gas motor, as well as an electric power plant.  The gas engine will either power the drivetrain, or recharge the batteries, as needed.

From the pictures, it also looks like more of a scooter than a motorcycle, but this is the first low-emissions vehicle that doesn’t appear to be crippled with an electric-only engine with a short range.

Also, judging from the photo, it appears to have a shaft drive and an automatic transmission. So, I guess the final verdict on this is that it’s a hybrid scooter, rather than a hybrid motorcycle.

But, it’s probably only a matter of time until we see more of these.

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.


Europe’s Top Bikes

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Our cousins in The Old Country love motorcycles as much as we do, but they don’t love the same motorcycles, apparently.  The French automotive magazine MotoRevue has released their list of top five motorcycles in Europe, and, as you might imagine, they’re quite different from the Motorcyclist picks of the year I wrote about a few days ago.

Three Italians–the Ducati Streetfighter and 1198, and the Aprilia RSV4–head the roster.  One Brit bike, the Triuph Speed Triple, makes the list. And the 2009 Yamaha Star V-Max rounds it off.

Apparently, our European cousins are speed freaks.  But then, they tend to have speed limits that are a bit less stodgy than those on this side of The Pond.

2010 V-Max Released

Yamaha’s Star brand of cruiser motorcycles has announced that the new, monstrously powerful 2010 V-Max is on sale as of today.  Sporting a 1679cc liquid-cooled 65° V-4 engine putting out 200 Horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque , the V-Max is the 800-pound gorilla of cruisers.

There’s a downside to this power, though.  27MPG fuel efficiency off of a 4-gallon tank means a refueling stop after less than 100  miles, unless you want to push it.  And the handling, while reportedly improved over the pre-2009 models, is still less than optimal.  So, no touring or twisties for this beast, just simple hot-rodding.

There’ve been no changes to the V-Max from 2009, except the new Cherry red paint.

Economic Pain

The global recession just keeps on hurting.  Yamaha Motor Company announced that they have some problems, financially, and they substantially cut their profit forecast for the year.

Yamaha Motor Co., the world’s second- largest motorcycle maker, fell the most in nine months after the company quadrupled its forecast to a full-year loss of 182 billion yen ($1.9 billion).

The company dropped 9.9 percent, or 120 yen, to 1,096 yen at the close on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Yamaha, based in Iwata City, Japan, had previously forecast a net loss of 42 billion yen. It posted a loss of 74.7 billion yen in the first half.

The motorcycle maker cut its sales forecast by 12 percent as rising unemployment and falling wages reduces demand for Royal Star cruising bikes. Yamaha plans to close three factories in Japan over the next three years. The company cut its forecast for motorcycle sales in North America this year by 35 percent and lowered its prediction for European sales by 8 percent.

On top of the news from Yamaha, Honda also released some bad news today.

Honda Motor Co.’s domestic production of motorcycles is expected to fall 40 per cent on the year in fiscal 2009 as a result of stalled demand in Japan and delayed inventory adjustments overseas.

Honda’s Kumamoto plant, now its sole domestic manufacturing base for motorcycles, plans to produce 181,000 units this fiscal year, compared with slightly more than 300,000 units in fiscal 2008. The fiscal 2009 figure is also less than half of the facility’s annual output capacity of 460,000 units.

About 50 per cent of the motorcycles manufactured at the Kumamoto plant are for the domestic market, while 90 per cent of the units shipped overseas are for the North American and European markets. Owing to the global economic downturn, overseas and domestic demand has dropped sharply since last autumn, with midsize and large motorcycles among the hardest hit.

It’s a tough time to be in the pleasure/recreational vehicle business.

Decisions, Decisions…

With the money from my insurance settlement coming, I really am trying to figure out what to do.  I know I’ll pay off my FJR, but beyond that, I’m not sure which direction to go.

I rode the R1200RT, and absolutely loved it.  But I’d have to trade in my FJR to buy it outright.  I’m also really interested in a Buell 1125r, and I can get an ’09 white/blue one for a pretty good deal.  Good enough so that I can keep the FJR, and buy an 1125r outright.  I have a test ride scheduled for next Saturday on the 1125r.

Assuming I like the power and handling of the 1125r, I’m really in a quandary about which way to jump.  The Buell is the only sportbike that has ergos comfy enough for me to ride regularly, but, on the other hand, the BMW has all those cool amenities like cruise control, ASC, ESA, etc. that I miss on the FJR.

This may be my only chance to get a new bike with someone else’s money, and it’s a very hard decision to make.

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.