Category Archives: Motorcycles

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.

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.

Ninja 400R (2011) vs Ninja 400(2018)

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 XSR900 – European Flare

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.

And Attractive Too … Ducati Panigale V4

Ducati Panigale V4

Ducati Panigale V4 Special

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.

Convertible Bonding – 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

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 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport GlideSwitchback  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

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

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

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

 

Industrial Design – 2018 Honda CB1000R

2018 Honda CB1000R

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 2018 Honda CB1000Rseems 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 that2018 Honda CB1000R 2018 Honda CB1000Rexpression – 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.

2018 Honda CB1000R

Gettin’ Comfortable – K1600 Grand America

2018 BMW K1600 Grand America 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 2018 BMW K1600 Grand Americabase 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.

2018 BMW K1600 Grand America