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 before 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.
Hold on, you exclaim to yourself. Why is everyone getting so excited by the new Ninja 400? Wasn’t there a Ninja 400R just a few years back? Yes, you keened eyed observer of motorcycle lore, Canadian Kawasaki did indeed have a Ninja 400R in the early days of this decade but it was a quite different beast and its longevity wasn’t….long. The Ninja 400R was an effort to fill a gap. At the time there was a Ninja 250 and a Ninja 650 (it is worth noting that none of these Ninja’s were of the fire-breathing ZX variety – again, totally different beasts). It was obvious back then as it is now that a 400cc class bike would be an excellent option and at the time would be a bump from the 250 and offer a broader riding experience. The hitch was that the 400R wasn’t really a new bike but rather a Ninja 650 with a 399cc engine. The engine was a liquid cooled, 8-valve parallel twin variety providing 43hp and 27ft-lbs torque. Those numbers are going to sound vaguely familiar when we tell you that the engine of the new 2018 Ninja 400 is a 399cc liquid cooled, 8 valve parallel twin claiming 48 hp and 28 ft-bs of torque . So that would a 5hp increase and a smidgen more torque. Enough to get excited about? Depends on how excited you get. The big news is that the old Ninja 400R (based on a bike with a much larger engine and not so sporty aspirations) was a portly 448 lb curb weight. The new Ninja 400 in comparison is a lithe with much more sporting curb weight of 366 lbs – assuming both those curbs are comparable that is a whopping 82lbs lighter. With it’s slipper clutch, the Ninja 400 is obviously intended to be ridden a little harder. That weight difference alone is worth a few extra horsepower.
For interests sake, the Ninja 650R is available in the Kawasaki line-up. It has been on a bit of a diet itself and is down to a curb weight of 422 lbs with a 68hp output. That does make things a little more interesting. Of course there is also the Ninja ZX6 but like we said it is a completely different, less comfortable and fire breathing beast – designed for the track and not the real world. It weighs 422 lbs as well but comes with 129 hp.
Abarth and Company is a European high performance shop based in Turin, Italy and is famous for racecars and high performance automobiles. The company has a long and storied history going back to 1949 in racing, rally and hillclimbing. In Canada the company would be most recognizable for the Abarth version of the Fiat 500 but their history includes many other significant automobiles and would be somewhat comparable to the Shelby brand in North America. While now own by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Abarth took on the motorcycle world with a limited edition 2017 European model Yamaha XSR900. A fairing, seat cowl, low clip-ons, unique paint scheme and Akrapovic exhaust are some of the changes from the stock XSR900. Would this rank as our favourite version of the XSR900? It is a very interpretation of the bike that has proven a favourite of custom shops.
The visitors who experienced the all-that-is-motorcycles show in Italy, aka EICMA, were treated to an extensive selection of new motorcycles but, with what has to be considered home ice advantage, the new Ducati Panigale V4 was given the nod as most attractive bike at the show. We have to agree that as red Ducatis go, it is a fine looking motorcycle but beauty has to be more than skin deep and in this case the beauty beneath the skin is the first V4 engine to be mass produced for a Ducati motorcycle. The horsepower wars are very much alive and kicking and Ducati like the other manufacturers in the fray was up to the challenge. There are several ways to go about the objective of bumping up the ponies ranging from supercharging to turbocharging to simply building a bigger engine but Ducati chose the option of adding an extra two cylinders to their V configuration – they had already done so with their racebikes so the template was ready and the results successful … successful enough for second place in the 2017 MotoGP standings. The power increase is accomplished with two additional cylinders but a decrease in displacement to 1103 cc. The Panigale V4 will be coming to market in three guises – base, “S” and “Special”. The base and the S version will arrive with 214hp and 91.5 lb-ft of torque while the Special with a race package bumps the hp to 226 and the torque to 98 lb-ft. The dry weight ranges from 386lbs for the base model to 381lbs for the “Special”. Too keep all that horsepower connected to the pavement the bikes come with riding modes, power modes, cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control, engine braking control and slide control.
While the Panigale V4 will surely prove to be a worthy adversary, it is going to be interesting to see who launches the next salvo in this revived quest for world horsepower domination.
Harley didn’t spill all the beans when they announced the new models back in August. The more to come included the just announced 2018 Sport Glide that converts in moments from a light weight touring machine to a leaner cruising bike. The new offering which would replace models like the Switchback gets the all new softail frame and the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine. The touring components consist of rear hard bags and more stylishly significant, a removable small fairing in the front that mimics the look of the big touring bikes- which more than one rider will wonder whether it fits other models. Other goodies include an inverted front fork and an adjustable rear mono-shock, LED lighting, ABS and keyless ignition. The Canadian MSRP for the black bike comes in at $22,299 with colour option being $22,749
Length 91.7 in. (2,329 mm)
Seat Height 26.5 in. (673 mm)
Fuel Capacity 5 gal. ( L)
Dry weight 670 lb. (304 kg)
Engine Milwaukee-Eight™ 107 Engine
Displacement 107 cu. in. (1,746 cc)
Bore 3.937 in. (100 mm)
Stroke 4.375 in. (111 mm)
Engine Torque 108 ft-lb (146 Nm)
Transmission 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Wheels Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminum
Tires Front 130/70B18 63H BW
Tires Rear 180/70B16 77H BW
You can be forgiven for not remembering that Honda had a litre class naked bike in the Canadian market as the previous CB1000R seemed to play peekaboo in the company’s line-up. There it is! No hold on, what the….? The previous model – an aggressively styled streetfighter – has been replaced for the 2018 model year by a beefier looking machine that is less angular sword and more swinging mace – but you know, in a good way. Amid the visages of bikes like the MT-10, Z1000 and GSX1000S, Honda’s offering was beginning to look a little staid so the infusion of a new character has come at the right time. The 2018 is definitely more unique in appearance and seems to take some cues from industrial elements with a little retro thrown in – as is the style this year. The new CB1000R in fact looks like a modern update of the CB1100 heritage sport bike that is also refreshed for 2018 and appears alongside the CB1000R in Honda’s stable. Everything about the new CB1000R looks big – the round headlight, the radiator shroud, the muffler, the fuel tank. However, the magic of engineering has allowed the new bike to be lighter than the old bike. What is that expression – ride naked but carry a bigger, lighter stick? The engine is still based on the CBR1000RR with the ride by wire system allowing for four riding modes and torque control. All that and it is claimed to be more comfortable too. That would seem to be a winning proposition.
It is a convoluted road that leads to this bike. Start with BMW’s ultra luxurious and expensive K1600GTL, a fully loaded, fully dressed and sportier than most touring machine. So far so good. Call Roland Sands and collaborate on a bagger based on the K1600 platform. Roland is cool, the end product is cool, a lot of people decide they would love to have a production version of the Concept 101. BMW complies with said wish and the K1600B is born. Meanwhile on the other side of the world Honda is wondering what to do to extend the Gold Wing platform so they also create a bagger from the Gold Wing and call it the F6B. Let’s stop there and assume that everyone is happy for a moment. BMW and Honda both have baggers that offer a comfortable relaxed riding position, the smoothness of a 6 cylinder engine and are awash in black paint. Yet there is always a BUT in these scenarios. In this case the BUT is Honda’s development of an all new Gold Wing – one that is lighter, faster and sportier and comes base as a bagger while the “Tour” version of the Gold Wing is the bagger with a top case. Some pundits have asked if the Gold Wing demographic really wants is a sportier, faster and lighter Gold Wing. The proving ground and profit margin for the Gold Wing and similar dressed touring bikes are the long, empty roads of North America where comfort plays a big part in the equation. Better is always good but should it come at the expense of comfort? But the Gold Wing demographic may be changing. This is where BMW introduces the K1600 Grand America – a bike which in the name and profile states it is intended for the North American market with a focus on comfort and an “American” riding style. The result is the K1600B with a top case. The bike gets several features found on the other K platforms including electronic suspension with a setting for “Cruise” which results in a “very soft damper set-up and pronounced comfort”, reverse assist, led lights, and the silky smooth 160hp engine. There is an interesting footnote to this as this quote from the press release states: Based on the principle of “The American Way of Riding”, the top speed is limited to 162 km/h or 101 mph. This takes into account the fact that customisation with additional fittings in the rear section – as is popular in this vehicle segment – can impact significantly on wheel load distribution, so in terms of riding dynamics, stability and safety are guaranteed in all situations.
It will be interesting to see how the story of these two machine shakes out as they are two apples in the barrel of apples and oranges that constitute the fully dressed segment. Honda has obviously upped the technical ante with the new Gold Wing but the K1600 Grand America is an interesting addition.
The 2018 Honda Africa Twin A/S, officially known as the Adventure Sports, is a beefed up version of the original. Designed to take you further, faster and fiercer (?) , the A/S version of the Africa Twin features a larger and taller fairing, heated grips, power outlets, a larger bash plate, light bar, an additional 1.4 gallons (US) of space in the fuel tank, a 1.2 inch taller seat and .8 inch more suspension travel. The Adventure Sports version of the Africa Twin isn’t stealing all the spotlight as both it and the standard version also get other improvements like a lighter lithium-ion battery, increased levels of traction control, a redesigned airbox and lighter balance-shaft weights which are said to give the bike a little more character under acceleration. That all sound pretty good and seeing as both KTM, BMW and Ducati have beefier versions of their adventure bikes it seems like a good decision on Honda’s part. A subtle change that Honda has made illustrating they were really doing a little thinking in this offering (and a change which also will apply to the standard model) is that the gauges have been placed at a flatter angle so when a rider is standing on the pegs the gauges are easier to see. The amount of time spent standing is often extended in some situations so this small change will be good news to some riders who use the bike for its intended purpose. The changes aren’t going to be inexpensive so expect to pay at least an additional $2000+ for the Africa Twin A/S, …. errr, Adventure Sports
There is something about the new Moto Guzzi V85 that makes you want to smile. The new bike is the latest entry into what could loosely be described as the burgeoning retro off-road / ADV segment. It is a segment that began a long time and a couple of motors ago with the Triumph Bonneville Scrambler. That machine while long-lived doesn’t have quite the smile factor. Maybe it is the length of time the bike has been around, perhaps it is because the scrambler never came as a surprise but an expected extension to the Bonneville family. Then there is the Ducati Scrambler that is said to exist somewhere in the “Land of Joy”. That land of joy thing looks like way too much work with the need to stay eternally young, eat gelato and be a little too casually stylish. Way to tiring an effort to smile after all that. Then there is the scrambler version of the rNineT which is without a doubt a funky machine but is just a little too precise to crack a smile, a little too serious perhaps – oddly more so than the original rNineT. The new Moto Guzzi V85 seems to be another matter. Looking at the machine we can’t decide if it is suppose to be retro or simply unencumbered with doodads. And the fact that it less like a motorcycle with an engine than an engine with a motorcycle bolted to it is definitely a plus. The engine by the way is a new 855cc mill with around 80hp. Should be enough to get this retro / enduro / ADV machine rolling. We love the red trellis frame and the suggestion of grab handles around the headlight. Guzzi hasn’t release too much in the way of specifics about the bike but we know that it is going to be a little quirky and worth a smile or two.
Suzuki has made it official that the 2018 Hayabusa will be a carry over from the 2017 Hayabusa which was a carry over from the 2016 which was a carry over from 2015 which was a carry over from ……. okay, you get the point. During the bike’s 19 potent years as the original go-for-broke, large displacement sport bike, it hasn’t had too many changes. There were some improvements and revisions but it is undeniably the same machine that was launched to dropping jaws and itchy throttle hands in the last millennium. The fact that its styling was so unusual back then and nothing else looked like it is why it still looks darn good today. The rumours are swirling that there is a new Hayabusa in the works and some pundits felt sure that it would arrive as a 2018 model but that will not be the case. A supercharged all-new Hayabusa is still somewhere just over the hill via that twisty road. If it is a supercharged bike that debuts as the new Hayabusa, this may be your last chance to get the big, gorgeous 1340 cc inline four -the engine that was a favourite for drag racers. land speed record attempts and companion to extended swingarms. Kawasaki’s H2R has illustrated that the need for top speed has changed to smaller displacement, not-so-normally aspirated high tech power plants rather than the no-replacement-for-displacement old school approach. But it was that approach that made the Hayabusa so appreciated. It was a massive, hawk nosed missile with an eye towards aerodynamics intended to punch a big hole through the air. In the past 19 years has everyone who wanted a Hayabasu bought one? Probably not or Suzuki would not keep building them. The bike has long since paid for its development costs so it represents a substantial bargain compared to other bikes in the “sport” category. If this is the last of the old school Hayabusas, no matter how good the replacement, the original will be missed.
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