You Can’t Ride 55 … kph

It is often the differences in speed that cause the most serious incidents. Perhaps this bit of news will mitigate some of that.

Ontario is looking at new regulations regarding traffic laws. The province is considering increasing the maximum speed limit allowed on major highways from 100kph to 120kph. Police groups seem eager to be part of the discussion and would like to see some proof that increasing the speed limit does not affect public safety rather than simply allowing people to get places faster. What we would most like to know is the effect on the outliers. If the speed limit is increased, what is the speed of the top ten percent of traffic – it isn’t going to be 120 kph.

What seems like a better idea than raising the speed limits – although it doesn’t have the wow factor – is the increasing of  fines for people who go too slow in the fast lanes as this, what’s the phrase – level of obliviousness,  poses far more risk to other road users as traffic continuously changes lanes to get around the slower vehicle. The minimum fine will be increasing from $60 to $150. The maximum fine will remain at  $1000 – how slow do you have to be going for that fine?

Let’s be careful out there.

The Salt Lake City Split

You are heading south of the border. You have been overtaken by a sense of brash derring do inspired by two cans of energy drink and a triple espresso. Your dream is to try lane splitting. Like, right now! Gotta keep moving! Where’s the next Starbucks? You could jump in the deep end of the pool, and we are talking the really deep end, and head to LA. Eight lanes of freeway traffic moving in the same direction as you. So far so good. Eight lanes of freeway traffic moving at 15kph, not so good. However, California was the first state to allow lane splitting and it has been happening for years. You will see motorcycles on the freeway splitting lanes between tractor trailers and Mercedes driving soccer moms and starlets. There are rules but from a casual glance, it seems pretty interpretative by variation. On the other hand many vehicles drivers seem to be aware that a motorcyclist might just be coming up that painted line between lanes on anything between a Gold Wing and a Vespa. Having been there and done that, it can be a little hairy for the uninitiated. Good news! You can now dip your toe into the kiddie pool for lane splitting and head to Utah where the state is allowing a trial lane splitting period on roads with speeds below 45mph – so no  freeway jaunts allowed. If it turns out not to be in the liking of the populace not on two wheels, the law can be repealed in 2022.

 

That’s Different – GS Trophy Switches Saddles to the F850GS

Perhaps it was ho-hum seeing the R1200GS tackle every log, rock, river, mud bog, dirt track, windswept no-man’s land and jungle thicket with relative aplomb. The bike could pretty much tackle everything that was thrown at it in the previous versions of the GS Trophy leading some to believe it was going to be predictable. Albeit seeing what those teams and individual rider’s had to endure to be crowned the winning team, predictable it most certainly wasn’t.

To make things different, BMW has announced that the 2020 GS Trophy which will be taking place in New Zealand will feature teams aboard the F850GS.  We don’t think it is going to make the course easier, we might go so far to say it might lead to the coarse being even harder. The F850GS is a smaller, lighter machine which will tempt organizers to route the teams through even more challenging terrain and challenging special tests.

It is all about being hard and that is what it will be. Three new teams will be saddling up for the competition in 2020 and the global women’s teams will also be back in action.

NO NEW 125 NEO

If your heart was set on the smallest of the “Neo Sport” bikes from Honda your minimal displacement in Canada will be with the CB300R as the CB125R found in Europe and elsewhere in the world will not be making it to our shores in the discernible future. The CB125R is an aggressive looking machine with many of the styling cues found in the three larger bikes in the line of which the CB1000R is the big daddy. The only machine doing small displacement street duty in Honda’s Canadian line-up is the Grom with its air cooled 125 and most definitely sits in a different category than the CB125R which has more in common with the sportier CBR125 which has been out of the line-up for  years.

Not Done With Three Wheels

The three wheeled revolution is not over at Yamaha as the company has announced that they will reveal a new version of the Tritown concept at the CES show in Las Vegas in January where the world is introduced in a slow but steady progression to eventual robotic overlords. Okay that is going a little far but Yamaha is also introducing various autonomous transportation devices including a PPM (public

the 2017 Tritown concept will be getting updated at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas for that enjoyable last mile.

personal mobility) device that will be controlled by an AI conductor which will recognize your facial featured – once you have registered them – and interact with you. The conductor will then stop and start the device dependant on passenger gestures (that seems open to much interpretation) . Yamaha will also be introducing improvements to their line of unmanned, autonomous helicopters with anew  model capable of carrying 70kgs with increased collision avoidance and foul weather stability capabilities (will this be the promised Amazon aerial delivery service?). Which all makes a three-wheeled Segway type device not quite as exciting – but hold on, one line in the press release states the TriTown’s aim is “making last-mile travel enjoyable”. Hey, that sounds ominous…..

 

NEW! 2019 Kawasaki Z400

2019 Z400 Kawasaki

Aren’t you just so cute…. oh yes you are! Oh right it isn’t a puppy. Kawasaki is adding a junior member, a lightweight, a half-pint partner to the Z line-up of naked steetfighters with the arrival of the 2019 Z400.  In our opinion 400cc, or in this case 399cc, is the ceiling of the a category that would be considered “small” and the good thing about that is 400cc and the accompanying 34 horsepower ought to be enough to cover most of your riding needs if you are within a budget or just want a bike that is simple and light with the added  benefit of some good looks. Yes you could add a bunch of bodywork to the Z400 and find yourself on the Ninja 400 with the same parallel twin motor and other bits and pieces but the Z400 just looks more purposeful sans the plastic.Kawasaki z400 2019

 

NEW! 2019 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

RSV4 Factory – Should you watch Aprilia’s short promo video for the RSV4 Factory, it suggests the bike may have come from outer space. Judging from the 217hp Aprilia has crammed into the 199kg (curb weight) chassis and the carbon fibre winglets that mimic those found on track machines and the H2, the company wants to be able to get the RSV4 back there. To keep everything under control while remaining earth bound, the RSV4 Factory comes with a complete suite of rider aids including on-the-fly traction control, launch control, wheelie control, quick shift, cornering ABS, and oddly for such a track specific machine, cruise control.

Aprilia needs to keep the momentum going as the company continues to compete in MotoGP against much larger competitors including Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati. The advantage, of course, is that none of those bikes arrived from outer space.

Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

In the enthusiastic words of the press release:

The RSV4 project has always pursued a stated goal: to be the absolute best and fastest uncompromising superbike, the one that comes the closest to Aprilia racing bikes in terms of performance and effectiveness. A premium product at the top of its category dedicated to extremely demanding customers who want top shelf performance and refined technical equipment, provided thanks in part to the use of prestigious materials like aluminum, titanium and carbon.

 

In line with the exclusivity of this model, the Aprilia Style Centre has worked hard to make the RSV4 1100 Factory unique and recognizable even by its colors and attention to detail. The color combinations aim to enhance the exclusive nature of prestigious materials such as carbon (on the front mudguard, the side panels, the exhaust terminal guard and the aerodynamic winglets), in contrast with the titanium finish of the street-legal Akrapovic exhaust terminal, the same color as the forged aluminum wheels. For the graphics of the superstructure, an attractive total matt black look was chosen that enhances all the beauty of the sculpture-like twin-spar frame and swingarm made of aluminum. Given the incredible performance achieved by RSV4 1100 Factory, for the first time on a factory superbike, Aprilia introduces aerodynamic winglets on the fairing, thanks to the developments made by Aprilia Racing on the RS-GP prototype from which they are derived. The particular shape designed in the wind tunnel and the inclination at which they are mounted take advantage of the downforce of the channeled air to let the winglets increase stability at high speeds, contributing to decreasing the tendency for wheelies coming out of turns and at the same time increasing stability in hard braking

Quick Escalation – Tariffs and Motorcycles

It’s gone from bad to worse in a day. Harley-Davidson was quick to state they would move some production overseas to get around the tariffs that are being levied on the company’s motorcycles by the European Union in response to the US tariffs on European steel and aluminum. The US administration was quick to respond to Harley-Davidson’s announcement claiming that the company would be taxed like never Harley-Davidson street 750before if they tried to bring offshore built motorcycles back into the United States.

Is this what the motorcycle industry needs right about now? Harley-Davidson was already feeling the crunch of changing demographics and falling sales volume just like the rest of the industry in North America. There is no getting around the aging of the market. For Harley-Davidson, the Street 500 and 750 models were suppose to address the issue by getting the “young riders” back in the game but those two bikes haven’t turned the tide. Europe represents the largest share of Harley’s market outside of North America. Cutting that market off would be hugely detrimental. Harley-Davidson stated the company would not pass the price increases along to European consumers – hoping perhaps the issue would be resolved. But it is only getting worse.  The US is now threatening potential tariffs on European automobiles which represent some big and powerful players – Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW….  The logical expectation from that scenario is that European motorcycles would be lumped into the same tariff action – tit for motorcycle tat. Up goes the price of every European marque which would have a substantially negative effect on the industry considering the market share the US represents for brands like Triumph, Ducati and BMW. If one was aiming to squeeze riders this would do it as there are no US built alternatives to non-cruiser motorcycles and therefore shrinking the sales of motorcycles even further.

Is anyone going to blink in this trade debacle that will do far more damage than good? Will calmer heads prevail? We don’t seem to be seeing any.

Jack, Jim and Willie : Tariff Collateral Damage

Caught in the cross fire of trade tariffs aimed at US goods from specific regions of the USA that will most affect Republican states, the likes of Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Harley-Davidson are the unintended victims of the aluminum and steel tariffs that have been imposed by the US on European commodities.  The EU has reciprocated with tariffs of their own on targeted products that are most likely to cause a lot of “noise” – ie making European motorcyclists pay a lot more for a Harley, a sip of Tennessee whiskey or Kentucky bourbon,  peanuts or orange juice. The list goes on. Motorcycles have repeatedly come under tariff threats through the years often related to disputes that have nothing to do with motorcycles. The idea is that riders will complain to whoever is making the rules – or in this case case, workers in American factories will complain as they  face the real possibility of dwindling markets. While we in Canada will not be directly affected by the tariffs, the possibility that the US will inflict tariffs on European motorcycles would be a bigger concern as many of those manufacturers have North American headquarters in the US. If these tariffs drag on it may nudge Harley-Davidson to move some production of the US built bikes offshore as to avoid the punishing tariffs. That wouldn’t be good either.

Level the Field – The Boxer Cup

2018 Boxer Cup with rNineT Racer

It could be argued that it is the form of racing that most emphasizes the skill of the rider   rather than the technology and highly secretive advantages of the bike being ridden. In almost all other realms one machine is going to have an advantage over another in one regard and perhaps a disadvantage in another regard. The engines can be different configurations, the weights are going to be different, the power outputs are going to be different. Yes, the best riders still often rises to the top but often a limitation is the capability of the bike rather than the capability of the rider. An  idea is often presented – most likely by a manufacturer – to build a series around one of their machines i.e. the Harley-Davidson XR1200R and the Honda CBR250 here in Canada. It often sounds like a great idea and a good promotion for the brand but there is a downside – the costs can really start to add up and the question inevitably asked is “did it sell any more bikes?” to which the answer comes back  “probably not enough”. That isn’t to say that the manufacturers don’t keep trying.

For the spectator the racing can be very enjoyable. The bikes are all the same and therefore competitive so it is the skill of the rider that makes the difference- separates the 1st from the 2nd and 3rd if you will. BMW has run the Boxer Cup featuring the R1200S previously in both North America and Europe and they have just announced after a long hiatus that the series will be returning to Europe for a 2018 season. The bike utilized for the new Boxer Cup series will be the retro inspired rNineT Racer. To insure that all the bikes are identical, each race machine will be prepped by Motorrad Germany with a couple of upgrades, most significantly to the suspension and steering. The only item that individual riders will be able to change is the stickers on the bike. The Boxer  Cup series is limited to thirty entries with a couple of spots left available for guest racers. Not only will the bikes be identical but the rNine T Racer also levels the playing field by putting a limit on knee and elbow dragging due to the protruding cylinders.

Start your engines and may the most talented racer win. If you are up for the series yourself you will need a racing licence from some FIM sanctioned body. Once you have that in your pre-race clammy hands, BMW will actually rent you a bike for the duration of the season. We do not think that your credit card will cover the deductible so read the fine print. Good luck!