While there isn’t a class for the machine in AMA Flat Track, Honda’s European R&D staff have come up with a concept flat track machine based on the venerable air cooled CB1100 which still fills the retro niche in Honda’s line-up. The bike is intended to pay tribute to the most American form of motorcycle racing – the dirt oval. Whether this concept CB1100TR would in fact usurp the current dominance of Indian’s 750 Scout is one of those things we will never know.
BMW continues to roll out its interpretation of what the next 100 years of what two wheeled transport will look like. The latest is a zero emission electric scooter called the Concept Link. Besides styling that according to BMW “breaks all current viewing patterns” what does the new scooter bring to the future paradigm? Connectivity – the scooter knows what your day has in hold for you and will plan the fastest way of getting you there. Keeping you informed of what the scooter has planned will be a touch screen display and a heads up instrument projection on the windscreen. The scooter also comes with a accessory jacket featuring sensors in the arms that tell the scooter to do lings like open the storage compartment as you wave your arms about. Concepts are by definition, ideas of what may be to come and while reality – and production – may not match the envisioned future, some features make it to the “real” world. Start waving those arms.
Yamaha’s retro flavoured cafe racer illustrates that attention to detail gets results as the XSR900 garnered a “Best of the Best” Red Dot Award for 2017. The Red Dot Awards are for industrial and product design and cover the entire spectrum although it is not unusual for motorcycles to get a nod for great looks. It is the details and care that went into making the the XSR900 something special that drew the judges’ appreciation as underneath the steampunk exterior in the same chassis as propels the FZ-09. We have to give the nod to the yellow and bare metal colour schemes from 2016 models over 2017’s blue and black offerings.
If you have ever wondered where the current trend of ADV bikes proudly sporting “beaks” originated, Suzuki claims that the first stylistic probobiscus appeared on the legendary DR-BIG 750, a monster of a machine that arrived in 1988 with serious dualsport credentials including a massive single cylinder engine, extensive bodywork and that now famous protruding beak. The DR-BIG was a striking machine and was ADV before ADV was cool. The Suzuki proved that big is sometimes better. In a nod to good breeding, Suzuki has added that same beakish nose to the V-Strom 650 in a move that gave the 2017 medium sized Strom a family resemblance to the V-Strom 1000 (as we all “knows” a good nose runs in a family). Even the new V-Strom 250 will sport a beak of its own should that smaller offering be made available in Canada somewhere down the road.
Rumours have surfaced in the last several months of a new and improved DR-BIG – and not just 750 or 800cc big but up over the 1000cc mark. The V-Strom is arguably Suzuki’s most popular offering but a machine in the company’s line-up with a nod to more serious off-road ability in the vein of say the Africa Twin would be appreciated by some.
In a tribute to beaks and noses here are just a couple more contemporary examples to evaluate your bird spotting skills.
It may serve as an unfortunate indicator of what we may be seeing often in the years to come. The American Motorcyclist Association has announced that the organization is fighting a 100% tariff on motorcycles that will effectively double the price of European motorcycles with displacements between 51cc and 500cc sold in the United States. There are many manufacturers that would be affected by these tariffs including Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Husqvarna, KTM, Piaggio and Vespa among others. What is the cause of this sudden potential impediment to riding? Beef. Or more specifically hormones in beef. Europe doesn’t like the hormones that go into building bigger, stronger, faster cattle and have placed sanctions on imported US beef. Looking around for something on which to retaliate the Office of the United States Trade Representative chose – of all things – motorcycles. In what might be one of the larger understatements of the year, AMA vice-president Wayne Allard stated “there is no logical link between motorcycles and beef”. Beyond a tasty steak after a long ride Mr. Allard has that right. This confounding tact of a tariff on motorcycles has been taken by the USTR before. In 2008 they tried the same thing but eventually backed down due to opposition and instead placed tariffs on European food stuffs which to many would seen more appropriate.
How you make ask does this affect us in Canada? Often times models brought to Canada are dependent on the same model being brought to the US. If some or all of those models become too expensive to sell in the US, we may not see them here either. With luck and effort this new assault on motorcycling will be defeated but in the long term it may be a fight repeated. An active tariff on motorcycles has been seen before in the United States as in the 1980’s when Japanese bikes over 750 cc were subject to them. Unlike the current issue, that tariff was an effort to protect a domestic industry .
So that would be the end of our favourite Victory model, the Hammer, as Polaris announced that as of now the company will be winding down the brand and will focus “motorcycle” efforts on the Indian and Slingshot labels. The company pledges to supply parts for 10 years and honour warranty coverage. Of the move, Polaris CEO Scott Wine states “Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands. Ultimately this decision will propel the industry-leading product innovation that is core to our strategy while fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.” It seems that’s the way business goes.
Ducati announced that 2016 was their best year ever with a small gain in total deliveries over 2015. The total number of bikes delivered was 55,451 with the biggest share at 8,787 going to the United States followed by Italy and Germany as the next largest markets. The hipster oriented, “Land of Happiness”, less expensive Scrambler line accounted for 28% of Ducati sales while it looks as though as a single model (as opposed to a family), the XDiavel might be one of the most popular models in Ducati’s stable accounting for almost 10% of total sales – not bad for a cruiser that doesn’t want to be a cruiser or is it a sport bike that doesn’t want to be a cruiser? Whatever… but with those kind of numbers, these two ought to be smiling!
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the world’s gathering place for the latest in whiz bang new gadgetry, Honda unveiled a self balancing motorcycle that uses technology from Honda’s long-running robotic program that brought forth our favourite robot, ASIMO. The bike is intended to not fall over …. obviously. The odd part is that it is intended to not fall over at a stop. It seems like a lot of trouble to go to just so that those who forget to put their feet down at a traffic light won’t suffer the embarrassment of being labeled a doofus. But wait, there’s more. Not only do you not have to put your foot down, the rider can also take his hands off the bars! To be fair there is likely future useful applications of the technology – perhaps in the trials bike arena. Imagine a trials bike that wouldn’t fall over. It would be a major game changer.
Yamaha is introducing a new scooter in Asia with the intent of creating – although some would claim adding to – a new category of sport scooters. With a visual flair reminiscent of the R6, the new GDR155 certainly has the looks if not the displacement or manual transmission of its larger wheel diameter counterparts. The knee dragging, stoppie loving, wheelie wanting, step through crowd will find a 155cc liquid cooled motor and a lightweight 116kg chassis in their new scooter. Yamaha is hoping that this model will be a stepping stone to larger, more powerful sport scooters. The GDR155 is being offered in Asia only with no word that there will be a North American model. The likelihood of that is about the same as that of a long and extended burnout. But hey, you never know.
In a not unusual move in recent years, Victory charged its dealer network to come up with a customized Octane. It’s a good exercise for a manufacturer as suddenly the dealers are showcasing the potential of a platform and able to think much further outside the box than would the manufacturer themselves dare. Not to appeared biased towards the other Victory dealers from around the world and despite what the voting may have suggested, we have to go with our favourite which is a Canadian effort from Mathias Marine Sport in St. Mathias, QC. As was proven with Harley-Davidson Street Challenge, you just can’t go wrong with a simple board tracker/ scrambler look. Suddenly the Octane which looks bulky in its natural form sheds the pounds to become an agile retro machine. Nice work guys. Images of the other bikes can be found on Victory’s website.
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