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.
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.
Amid all the speculation that Volkswagen was going to have to unload some assets to pay for the emissions scandal that saw the company facing fines around the world that were reaching into the billions, the idea was floated that Ducati owned by Volkswagen division Audi would be worth somewhere around the $1,000,000,000 mark (it looks so much bigger with all the zeroes). Sell off the Italian motorcycle icon and add the profits to the punitive pool. Several bidders were said to be in the running for the red-hued brand, while some came and some left, but there appeared to be genuine interest in the marque. It seems for a price the profitable company would be a good fit for another manufacturer with deep pockets and the need for an instant icon in the motorcycle world.
Sorry to disappoint but Ducati won’t be on the block after all. Volkswagen and we assume Audi have decided that the profits and prestige of the Italian marque along with their other Italian arm, Lamborghini, will be staying in the Audi fold. BMW has BMW Motorrad (as well as Mini and Rolls Royce) proving that having a cool motorcycle brand in the portfolio makes any car manufacturer look good.
The all new 2018 790 Duke has a 105hp parallel twin engine which is also new. The Duke is a naked streetfighter with a tubular frame, a cast aluminum subframe and the engine acts as a stressed component. The bike is light. It is going to feature more software than you can wave a riding glove at including riding modes, a track mode, ride-by-wire, abs, traction control, engine brake control and a quickshifter system. The bike is going to be light, fast and nimble. The only questions is whether this bike is the 790 model that riders are waiting for? The question is made especially significant as KTM while revealing the new 790 Duke is also previewing a concept called the Adventure 790R. Think about that for a moment. Take all that good, light and fast stuff including the 105hp motor and put all of the above in an ADV bike that isn’t a behemoth. Is there anything about that equation that a serious ADV rider would not appreciate? Despite how far KTM has excelled on the pavement, it is still the dirt side of the mix that holds the company’s DNA and for many the segment in which KTM has few equals. Yes the Adventure 790R is a “concept” bike but there would be few that would raise a hand if asked if the bike was going to stay that way.
If there is one thing the electric motorcycle business needs in a big way it is style. That may be on the way as a new player joins the electric bike field – Curtiss Motorcycles. While the name is new the company is not. Confederate Motorcycle – one of the remaining big names in the boutique custom industry – is exiting stage left and re-entering as Curtiss Motorcycle Company.
With the move Confederate isn’t stating that the age of the big American v-twin custom bike has passed but it is sadly evident that the glory days of the segment are gone along with names like American IronHorse, Big Dog, OCC and others. Through tough times Confederate persevered and sold 1300 of the company’s bikes. The designs were so outside the boundaries of what any other company was doing they almost deserved their own category but the bond that held them together was the big gas powered combustion engine. Under the new name the pulsing twin is going to be replaced with the near silent whirr of an electric power plant reportedly with the technical assistance of Zero Motorcycles – the purveyors of electric police motorcycles.
Is electric the correct direction? Your guess is as good as mine but that segment of the motorcycle business can only grow. For rolling art rather than the eating up countless highway miles, electric does fit the bill. If the business model continues along the model of building stunning bikes for the short haul, Curtiss Motorcycle can only bring much needed attention to the electric bike segment and more importantly make the bikes desirable for more than their environmental friendliness.
So why Curtiss? Glenn Curtiss held the land speed record for any vehicle back in 1907 by achieving 134 mph with a V8 motorcycle he built. While extensively involved in motorcycling, he was most widely known for his innovations and pioneering role in the aviation industry. For more about Glenn Curtis visit his museum’s website.
Should you be inclined to own the last of the Confederate Motorcycles, the company’s website states there are 5 Confederate FA-13 Combat Bomber models remaining. The official opening of the Curtiss Motorcycle Company is scheduled for spring 2018.
Yamaha is taking the long way around in unveiling what will be the company’s middleweight adventure touring machine. The Tenere 700 “World Raid Prototype” will be doing a world tour in 2018 as the specifications are finalized for the production version of the bike. We think that the sooner the better would be the best approach as several manufacturers are either upgrading their current middleweight machines (BMW and Triumph) or introducing new ones (KTM and Moto Guzzi). There are so many reasons to embrace the middleweight ADV segment – less expensive , lighter weight, smaller and more manageable machines – that another entry into the segment would be a winner. It looks like the 700 version of the Tenere will be a little more hardcore than the offerings from Suzuki and Honda in the segment with more emphasis on the off-road side of the ADV equation. The bike’s platform is based on the FZ07 / MT07 and includes the 689cc CP2 engine.
When do you determine that a sea change has taken place? Well this might just be one such change at Harley-Davidson with the release of the 2018 models. A few years back the Rushmore Project changes to the touring models were significant. Last year the release of the Milwaukee-Eight marked a significant moment. I suppose you could even argue that the arrival of the Street models was an important milestone although perhaps more for other markets than North America. All these could however be viewed as progressions. Increasing market share with the Streets, increasing performance and rideabilty with the new motor. But for 2018, the dropping of the Dyna line-up to be replaced by a revised stable on a new Softail platform … that is historic. We’ll look further into the historic change with the the upcoming issue but for now we will just stand back and gape at two of the new iteration of old names – the Fat Boy and Fat Bob. Wow
If you found yourself bored while riding your GS – if that is even possible – BMW may have a solution to some of your difficulties. Beginning with the 2018 models, a TFT display will be an option to replace the standard instrument cluster on the R1200GS and GSA models. The 6.5 inch screen will offer navigation, cell phone connectivity, music and other info you may need (speed, tach, temperature – you know, the actual motorcycle riding stuff). However, should you really want to tackle touring at a higher level, BMW still recommends that you install the Motorrad Navigator GPS unit which comes with the enviable new features of “Avoid Main Roads” and “Winding Roads”. The downside is your cockpit will look a little Star Trek-ish with a combined 11.5 inches of computer display space.
Setting aside the arrival of the resurrected Rebel in 300 and 500 guises, the most interesting new machine from Honda may be the CRF250L Rally. It plays on Honda growing commitment to Rally racing – a commitment that includes giving Monster Energy naming rights for the 2017 rally season. The pint sized Africa Single is an obvious extension of the great Africa Twin that appeared last year. Yes there is a lot of the standard CRF250L found in the Rally but that is far from a bad thing. The proven liquid cooled 250 is a versatile engine and the long travel suspension able to soak up the rough stuff. Improvements for longer hours in the saddle include a floating windscreen and a bit more body to provide additional weather protection. The front wheel gets a bigger disc to aid in stopping from higher travel speeds and significantly, the bike’s ABS system features the ability to turn off the rear wheel ABS which is exactly what you need when descending some treacherous loose gully. One of the keys to success for what looks like an excellent option for light adventure touring will be customer willingness to pay the premium over the standard CRF250L for the CRF250L Rally which currently stands at $800 in the US market. We have to wait to see how that currency conversion works for north of the border but you have to be looking at something near $1000 CDN.
K1600B – BMW has followed Honda down the bagger road by shaving, cutting and blacking out the company’s big dressed touring bike. Like the Honda F6B, the K1600B is intended for the US where both companies believe that a cruiser-ish bagger will appeal to the market. There is lots to like about the BMW – it still has the massive hp of the silky smooth K1600GTL but it has lost a some weight which should – even with the feet forward riding position – offer up sportier performance. If you are looking to thank some-one outside the BMW fold for the arrival of the K16B look no further than the ubiquitous Roland Sands who framed the idea with his Concept 101 bike last year.
In true bagger fashion BMW is said to have a whole garage full of accessories to personalize the K16B – unknown at this time whether any will involve tassles.
BMW’s list of highlights around the K1600B include:
• 6-cylinder in-line engine according to EU4 regulations with an output of 118 kW (160 hp) at 7 750 rpm and a maximum torque of 175 Nm at 5 250 rpm.
•Bagger design with eye-catching stretched streamline-style silhouette and low rear section.
•Low rear frame for reduced vehicle height, dropped passenger seat height (- 7 cm) and typical bagger look.
•Fixed side cases with a new compartment design, rear central cover and integrated light units in US-American styling.
•Chrome-plated parallel silencers with ribbed end caps.
•Folding rear mudguard for easy wheel removal.
•Effective wind and weather protection with wind deflectors stretched further back.
•Typical short bagger-style electrically adjustable windscreen.
•Electronic suspension Dynamic ESA with automatic damping adaptation and “Road” and “Cruise” damping modes as standard.
•Reverse assist for even simpler manoeuvrability as an optional equipment item ex works.