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Updated: 48 min 40 sec ago

Supercharged Kawasaki Z Coming

6 hours 15 min ago

Could the upcoming supercharged Kawsasaki Z, be similar to the SC-02 Soul Charger shown in this 2015 sketch? (Kawasaki/)

Supercharging has been part of Kawasaki's strategy for nearly a decade, first using a roots-type supercharger in the Ultra 250X Jet Ski in 2008. While it stands alone as the only major manufacturer using the technology, it's about to increase the number of supercharged motorcycles with a brand-new forced-induction machine.

Kawasaki first revealed its supercharged H2 engine at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2013 after several years of development and two years before it reached production. Now it looks like Tokyo will again be used as the stage for the unveiling of the next generation of supercharged machine. A teaser video released on Kawasaki’s official YouTube channel confirms that the next bike will be part of the firm’s Z range, showing the logo in front of a spinning supercharger compressor wheel.

The video's title—"Supercharged Breaking News: More Kawasaki major news arrives soon—Feel the Force!"—eliminates any lingering doubt that it's coming.

However, there’s still a mystery over precisely what the bike will be. The Z name suggests it will be an unfaired model; in various markets Kawasaki sells the Z1000, Z900, Z650, Z400, Z250, and Z125, all sharing similar naked styling, not to mention the retro-styled Z900RS. Only one bike, the Z1000SX, carries the Z name in Europe (Ninja 1000 here in the US) and has a full fairing, but the sport-touring role is already covered in Kawasaki’s supercharged range by the H2 SX so we can be confident the new machine won’t go down that route.

Naked Styling

Back in 2015, Kawasaki dropped two major hints about the direction it planned to take the supercharged range in the future. The SC-01 Spirit Charger and SC-02 Soul Charger were both only shown as sketches but depicted high-end supercharged four-cylinder bikes using derivatives of the existing H2 engine, single-sided swingarms, and H2-related details including a distinctive reverse-raked headlight. Of the two, the SC-02 Soul Charger is likely to be closer to the upcoming supercharged Z, since it was a true naked bike whereas the SC-01 featured a half fairing.

H2-Based Engine

While there’s speculation that Kawasaki might opt to make a smaller-capacity supercharged bike in the future, the chances are the new Z will feature a derivative of the existing H2’s 998cc inline-four. Why? Because new engines cost a fortune to develop and any cost saving found in manufacturing a smaller engine would, at this stage, likely be outweighed by the need to recoup its R&D; costs.

Bear in mind that since the start of its supercharged project Kawasaki has taken the bold step of developing all of its technology in-house. Rather than turning to an existing supercharger manufacturer, the firm has designed and made its motorcycle-specific blowers unaided. As well as ensuring that the superchargers are well suited to motorcycle applications, the move means Kawasaki has an edge on any rival that decides to jump on the supercharging bandwagon later on. With tightening emissions rules emerging as a growing problem, particularly for firms making high-revving, normally aspirated superbike engines, Kawasaki’s supercharger gamble might well pay off over the next few years.

We’ve already seen a remarkable reduction in cost of the tech since the launch of the original H2. The H2 costs $29,000 in 228-hp base form and a massive $55,000 as the 305-hp H2R. In contrast, the H2 SX is a much more affordable $19,000, so by increasing the production of the same engine to cater for the new Z model this promises to further amortize the development costs and reduce the price to the consumer.


It’s not likely, but possible, that the supercharged Z model Kawasaki has teased could be a stripped down H2, shown here without any body work. (Kawasaki/)

How Much Performance Can We Expect?

If the analysis that the new Z model will bear a version of the existing H2 engine is correct, it should be safe to assume that something in the region of 200 hp should be an easy reach. The lowest-tuned version currently available, in the H2 SX, makes 197 hp. While other bikes can match that figure, Kawasaki’s supercharged engine has a huge torque advantage over similarly sized normally aspirated designs.

The most powerful naked bike currently available, MV Agusta’s 208-hp Brutale 1000 Serie Oro, makes a peak of 85 pound-feet of torque. Ducati has already promised that next year’s 1,103cc Streetfighter V4 will be more powerful still, suggesting it has the same engine specification as the 214-hp Panigale V4, but even then it will manage only around 91.5 pound-feet. The H2 SX easily beats both with 101 pound-feet at 9,500 rpm despite being the weakest of the supercharged Kawasaki engines. In H2R spec the boosted Kawasaki motor is good for 121.5 pound-feet.

So unless Kawasaki’s new supercharged Z is massively detuned, it’s got to stand a strong chance of being the highest-performing naked bike on the market.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Zero DSR Black Forest Edition First Look

6 hours 36 min ago

New for Zero Motorcycle’s 2020 US lineup is the DSR Black Forest Edition, which is dubbed “an adventure-ready dual sport.” (Zero Motorcycles/)

Zero expands its lineup for 2020 by adding a new DSR model to its dual sport segment, and updates the rest of its bikes with new colors and graphics as well as improvements to its Cypher operating systems. With the new addition, the brand now offers eight all-electric models.


A DSR by any other name: The Black Forest Edition basically adds hard cases, a touring screen, and hand guards and paints it all black. (Zero Motorcycles/)

Zero released its 2020 model year lineup earlier this week, and while much of the press release was littered with phrases like “refreshed colors and graphics” there was one juicy nugget of info in the headline; the company is adding a model to its dual sport segment. The newcomer is the DSR Black Forest Edition, hailed as the “most capable adventure-ready electric motorcycle on the planet.” But those are Zero’s own words, so maybe we should take a closer look between the lines.


Outfitted with Pirelli MT 60s, the Black Forest Edition should probably do fine on mild forest roads, but don’t expect much from those “accessory bars.” (Zero Motorcycles/)

The DSR Black Forest Edition isn’t really new—it’s just new to us Yanks. Call it the reintroduction of the popular Black Forest DSR adventure bike, which for 2020, Zero is presenting as a global model. Before this you could get your mitts on the BFE only in Europe where it was rolled out in mid-2018, designed exclusively for the growing segment of European riders who were increasingly keen to tour on electric motorcycles. At the time, it had the longest range of any electric dual sport—a claimed 163 miles of city range (which sounds odd if you’re talking about a dual sport)—and if equipped with Zero’s Charge Tank, allowed for faster charging (at Level 2 charge stations), up to 94 miles of range for every hour plugged in. That combination of longer range and faster charging, Zero argues, is what makes electric touring possible—though we’d surmise that riders in Europe have access to a more developed network of Level 2 charge stations than we do here.


Putting out 70 hp and 116 pound-feet of torque, the 489-pound blacked-out DSR should get you through the woods in plenty of time. (Zero Motorcycles/)

But obviously the global 2020 Black Forest Edition isn’t just about range; it’s got to fit the touring mission in other ways too. An up-spec DSR 14.4 kWh model at its core, the BFE gets murdered out in Black Effect paint and heavily accessorized with choice adventure-oriented gear. Included on that list is a full set of premium aluminum lockable hard cases (by Givi) an adjustable touring-style windscreen, a touring saddle, a pair of accessory bars, hand guards, LED auxiliary lights (for off-road use), and a headlight protector. The bike comes standard with the powerful ZF14.4 battery but not, unfortunately, the Charge Tank, which is a $2,495 option. So with that base configuration, you’re privy to 70 hp at 3,500 rpm with a punchy 116 pound-feet of torque and a top speed of 102 mph. Range is a claimed 157 miles in the city, and 64 miles on the highway. Touring silently on this blacked-out electric will cost you $18,995.


Pinching pennies? Opt for the standard DSR which still packs the 14.4 kWh power pack but rings in at $3,500 less. Throw on some textile saddlebags and call it good. (Zero Motorcycles/)

If that’s a bit rich for your blood, you can take comfort in the fact that the regular old DSR, which also has the 14.4 kWh power pack, rings in at $15,495 for 2020—and that’s $1,000 less than last year. It’s not all farkled out like the BFE, but it does get bold new graphics this year, plus you’ll have that extra $3,500 in your pocket. As with all DS models, both DSRs are preprogrammed with Eco or Sport modes and performance can be fully customized using the Zero Motorcycles app.

RELATED: 2020 Zero SR/F Electric Motorcycle First Ride


The street-biased SR also gets a price drop, new colorway, and a bigger power pack as well as the series-wide improvements to the operating system. (Zero Motorcycles/)

The remaining returning models also get a new coat of paint and some also get bargain pricing. In the street line, the 2020 Zero SR also gets a price drop to $15,495 as well as an upgrade to the 14.4 kWh power pack, while the entry-level 2020 Zero S comes exclusively with a 7.2 kWh battery and is priced at $10,995.

RELATED: 2019 Zero Models Released


The lowest-price Zero, the lightweight FX dual sport gets updated for 2020 with new graphics in the Dune colorway and retails for $8,995. (Zero Motorcycles/)

Zero's latest Cypher operating system made its debut on the SR/F electric we rode earlier this year, and included an updated phone app that allowed for smoother customization and connectivity options for the bike. For 2020, Zero has trickled that tech down to all of its 2020 models which will feature the updated app to bring an upgraded level of connectivity to all its bikes.

Categories: Motorcycles

2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

7 hours 3 min ago

2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (Courtesy of Ducati/)

Ducati’s popular Scrambler line comprises 10 air-/oil-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder V-twins, of which seven are low-slung-exhaust 803cc models while the three others displace 1,079cc and are fitted with underseat mufflers. Introduced three years ago, the Scrambler Cafe Racer is the raciest of the middleweight bunch, its clip-on-style handlebars providing more of a hotted-up back-road sportbike look than the upright ergonomics and rugged, off-road attitude of its semi-knobby-tired brethren. In fact, the number 54 emblazoned on the side-mounted plates pays homage to Bruno Spaggiari, the Italian racer who won the 125cc edition of the 1958 Nations Grand Prix at Monza on a Ducati.

The Scrambler Cafe Racer’s teardrop-shaped gas tank incorporates interchangeable aluminum side panels, and the seat has a removable cover for the passenger section, providing a solo appearance should you want it. Blending retro looks with modern technology, this motorcycle rolls on sportbike-size wire-spoked wheels and radial rubber. The Brembo braking system utilizes a 330mm front disc with a four-piston monoblock Brembo caliper and includes Bosch cornering ABS. Café racer-esque handlebar-end-mounted mirrors provide an interesting contrast to the radial-mount front master cylinder. The engine features 7,500-mile maintenance intervals.

Likes: Lightweight and light feeling, quick tip-in; LED lighting a plus

Dislikes: Missing the jingle-jangle dry clutch sound of Ducatis of yore

Verdict: A sporty-looking, sporty-riding air-cooled V-twin with a rich history

2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Reviews And Comparisons

“When looking to create a café racer, Ducati had to look no further than its own history for the blueprint. The 1980 900SS, with its black-and-gold paint scheme, is a bike so beautiful even our own Peter Egan owns one and says it takes his breath away every time the lights in his garage come on.”

The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Is Everything You Want Out Of A Cafe Racer, Almost

The 2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon Evolves

Ducati Scrambler Icon Updated For 2019

2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Competition

With the “classic heritage” motorcycle craze continuing to rev up interest, motorcycle manufacturers are building sporty models styled after this increasingly popular genre. Like Ducati, BMW, Triumph, and Yamaha, for example, have exploited their own history, using the boxer- and parallel-twin platforms to create the retro Racer, Thruxton, and XSR700.

2018 Yamaha XSR700 Review

The 2019 Triumph Speed Twin Is A Revelation Of Right Thinking

BMW R nineT Racer and R nineT Pure Ride Review


2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (Courtesy of Ducati/)

2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Specifications And Pricing

The Scrambler Cafe Racer is offered in just one color, Silver Ice Matt, with a blue frame, blue seat, and further complemented by black-rimmed wheels. A broad range of factory accessories is available, including heated handgrips, waterproof saddlebags, a flatter more passenger-friendly seat, gas-tank protection, and a throaty Termignoni exhaust.


2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (Courtesy of Ducati/)
2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (Courtesy of Ducati/)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

Price $11,995 Engine Air-cooled, SOHC, V-twin Displacement 803cc Bore x Stroke 88.0mm x 66.0mm Horsepower 73.0 hp @ 8,250 rpm Torque 49.0 lb.-ft. @ 5,750 rpm Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 31.7 in. Rake 21.8° Trail 3.2 in. Front Suspension 41mm; 5.9-in. travel Rear Suspension Preload adjustable; 5.9-in. travel Front Tire 120/70-17 Rear Tire 180/55-17 Wheelbase 56.5 in. Fuel Capacity 3.5 gal. Claimed Dry Weight 397 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

Seat Height 31.7 in. Wet Weight 433 lb. Rear-Wheel Horsepower 68.2 hp @ 8,300 rpm Rear-Wheel Torque 45.7 lb.-ft. @ 5,700 rpm 0–60 mph N/A 1/4-mile N/A Braking 30–0 mph N/A Braking 60–0 mph N/A

Categories: Motorcycles

Riding A Real Factory 1972 Ducati 750 Imola Racebike

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 11:35

Riding an actual factory Ducati Imola 750 racebike is stressful and joyful at the same time. (Seth DeDoes/)

When Ducati showed up at the Imola 200 with a glass-sided transporter containing seven brand-new V-twin Formula 750 racers in April 1972, no one could believe it. The small company was known mostly for its single-cylinder streetbikes, making such a big factory effort outlandish for the time.

Those racebikes used desmodromic valve trains for the first time in a big V-twin, a technology that is still Ducati's signature today. To eliminate valve springs, the desmo's unique camshafts both open and close the valves, eliminating high-rpm valve float and potential spring breakage.

To Build A Brand

Although based upon Ducati 750 GT architecture, the Imola racers were actually hand-built in Ducati's race shop, using special steel frames, sand-cast cases, lightweight crankshafts, high-flow twin-plug cylinder heads, high/low exhausts, racing suspension, revolutionary triple disc brakes, and, suiting the psychedelic era, silver metalflake bodywork. Today, just two or three original 1972 Imola racers survive with this unique gelcoat finish, in which the metalflake was molded directly into the fiberglass.


A closer look at the orginal, and irreplaceable, fiberglass fuel tank with its silver metalflake gelcoat. (Seth DeDoes/)

On race day Paul Smart won, going away with the victory putting Ducati on the superbike map. After, Imola team bikes raced in countries where Ducati wanted to expand, including England and South Africa. The bike shown here last raced professionally in the South African TT, where it bent a rod and was retired. And then in 1996, chance brought it to America, where it was mechanically repaired but not restored.


Errol James (73) leading Giacomo Agostini (95) at the 1973 South African TT. (R.K. Edwards/)

A Fabergé Egg

Imola 200 champion Paul Smart owns his race winner, making this his backup bike. Every time I put my hands on it I am aware of the privilege and burden of owning a piece of history. It’s so original and authentic that it’s both mystical and terrifying, all at once. Since there are no known factory spares, there’s no recovering from a crash on this bike—and that’s where the terror comes in. The old bodywork is as fragile as butterfly wings, and so even routine servicing must be done with the utmost care.


The author with the Imola 750 as it was found in San Pedro in 1996. (John. L. Stein/)

Before firing the engine, the camshafts must be pre-lubricated by spinning the engine with the plugs out to circulate oil to them through the remote oil cooler. And when it fires up, the straight-cut primary gears, desmo valve train, 40mm pumper carbs, and open megaphones make a gutsy cocktail of noise.


Performing the pre-lubrication ritual of the Imola 750’s engine. (Seth DeDoes/)

We took the Imola to Corsa Motoclassica at Willow Springs International Raceway for its first track time since Smart rode it there in 2007. There is everything to lose and nothing to gain by running this bike, and yet this is what it was built for, and where its soul lives.

Harder Than It Looks

The ride looks easy but it’s actually not: At 6 feet, I’m too tall for the Imola, and struggle to tuck in my knees and elbows. The Ducati’s long wheelbase and raked-out steering make it super stable at speed but difficult to turn; it tends to push the front end and you must hang off to avoid grounding the right-side exhaust. Another worry is that 18-inch race tires are scarce today, and bombing around on street rubber feels exceedingly perilous.


Every movement and task with the Imola 750 requires complete concentration; damaging the hand made parts is not an option. (Seth DeDoes/)

Famously benefiting from perfect primary balance, the 90-degree V-twin runs as smooth as a lathe. Due to the simple total-loss ignition, there’s minimal flywheel effect and the revs spike quickly. But still, at Willow little happens below 6,000 rpm; instead, the engine just stumbles and misfires—mimicking a dead battery. Then magically at 6,000 rpm, the motor awakens and pulls hard to redline. Ecstasy on wheels.

The Long Run

Designed to survive a 200-mile race, the engine’s powerband flattens purposefully above 8,000 rpm, yet it’s so grunty between 6,000 to 8,000 revs that it always pulls the next gear with no difficulties. Smart remarked once that the engine felt like it fired at “every other lamppost,” and indeed, once in the powerband, the bike rushes along with little drama—except for the ripping wind and that gripping desmo V-twin oratorio.


The lineup of Imola 750s before the 1972 Imola 200. (Ducati/)

Top speed is estimated at 150 mph, but there’s not room at Willow to get there. Instead, pulling through fifth gear, the Imola hits probably 130 on the straightaways. Rated at 84 hp, the Ducati has less than half the output of a modern superbike but is potent for a nearly half-century-old piece, and is still willing to run hard.


At the end of a day at the track, excitement and worry give way to joy, relief, and the satisfaction of owning a piece of motorcycling history. (Seth DeDoes/)

Speaking of which, over the decades I’ve ridden the Imola as hard as I can on many occasions, but these days, just being aboard it and safely under the limit feels right. As such, worry and excitement turn to joy and relief at the end of our Willow Springs session; there’s no more history to create with this bike, but its history can be easily ruined. Like their legendary riders, legendary bikes need respect too.

Categories: Motorcycles

A Motorcycle’s Simplicity Is Its Greatest Strength

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 05:00

A motorcycle’s steering-head bearings are at the extreme upper front of the frame. Through them passes the steering stem, the shaft that joins the upper and lower fork crowns. And through holes in those crowns pass the upper fork legs of a telescopic fork. The front wheel, its brake equipment, the fork tubes, and crowns all pivot on two rolling bearings in the steering head. Through them pass all the forces of front-wheel braking and steering. Those bearings must transmit without stick/slip or excess friction the messages of the front tire to the rider.

Steering-head bearings can become damaged, dented by a crash or by repeated violent wheelies. They can become rusted if rain or wash water enters the steering head and remains there. The rider will feel the bump, bump as the bearing balls or rollers pass over the damaged areas of the bearing races.

Back in the late 1960s, a somewhat timid young man bought a small motorcycle from Boston Cycles and rode off to high adventure. After some weeks, he returned, saying, “Something’s wrong with my steering.” The service manager put the bike on its stand, sat back to lift the front wheel, and turned the bars.

“Yup, your steering races are dented. The parts are cheap, and the work takes a few minutes. Come back tomorrow.”

When the young man returned, the newly smooth steering was demonstrated to him, and he paid his bill.

“How did this happen? I mean, I don’t want it to happen again.”

The service manager, smiling at his private joke, replied, “You’ve been steering too much.”

The customer carefully putt-putted away down the lane from the service area.

During the 1980s, there was breathless expectation that, any day now, a radical substitute for the motorcycle’s pivoted telescopic fork front suspension would sweep away the errors of the past. Into history’s recycling bin would go the sliding “stiction” of the telescopic legs, the pro-dive braking behavior caused by the angling of those legs, and the structural inefficiency of feeding front tire loads all the way up the fork to the steering-head bearings, then back down through frame members into the rest of the machine.


State of the telescopic-fork art: factory Honda RC213V raced by five-time MotoGP world champion and current series point leader Marc Márquez. Dark carbon-fiber upper outer tubes are now relatively commonplace in Grand Prix racing’s premier class. (Honda/)

The best-funded work of this kind carried the ELF name (a French gasoline company) and later, substantial Honda backing. It built one beautifully executed prototype after another, starting with a Yamaha TZ750-powered machine and progressing through a series of 500cc Grand Prix bikes powered by state-of-the-art Honda engines. The strange thing was that as the design evolved in response to the stopwatch and comments of top riders, it moved away from the original complexity, back toward simplicity. Riders found that communication with the front tire was muddled in passing through a multitude of ball joints and levers. Deprived of that information—like Casey Stoner on the super-stiff 2009 Ducati carbon-fiber MotoGP chassis—they had a choice of either going slower or of losing the front without warning.

RELATED: About Those Carbon-Fiber Öhlins MotoGP Fork Legs…

True believers proposed that as soon as tire manufacturers were producing tires specialized for the new front ends, and as soon as a fresh generation of riders learned to ride the alternative designs, their rational superiority would appear. That is how 1977–1981 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) bureaucrat Joan Claybrook proposed that her organization’s supposedly safer “backward” motorcycle—steering was by the rear wheel only—would become rideable. No one at the time was able to ride it; their reflexes had all been “contaminated” by knowing how to ride a bicycle or motorcycle.

To this day, the more credulous of commentators refer to radical linkage front ends as “high tech” even though in actual top-level competition they were unable to demonstrate superiority over conventional pivoted forks. That continues to be the case in all disciplines of motorcycle competition, on road and off.

So there it remains: The simple pair of ball or tapered-roller bearings, spaced about 5 inches apart in the steering head, on which the front end so easily pivots. Because said bearings present only rolling friction, the rider is quite directly connected to the tire forces whose messages reveal so much about what the front tire is doing.


Early-1990s Yamaha GTS1000 put an alternative front end designed by James Parker into mass production. Yamaha claimed the GTS1000 was “a major leap forward in motorcycle design,” yet the 1,002cc inline-four was available in the US for just two years. (Cycle World archives/)

Yes, the negatives remain. The telescopic fork continues to suffer some stiction, even though now much reduced by ultra-smooth fork-leg coatings and low-friction bushings. The telescopic fork is still pro-dive during braking because of its rake angle, but dive also lowers the machine-and-rider center of gravity, enabling harder braking before rear-wheel lift sets the limit. And when you steer through a telescopic fork, you do have to rotate the extra mass of the fork legs, not just the wheel itself as in a hub-steerer. But fork tube weight has been considerably reduced by adoption of larger but thinner-walled lower tubes and by carbon-fiber upper tubes in MotoGP.

Engineering can’t make everything perfect because nature forces compromise on us. We could look upon the metal turbine blades of fan-jet engines as a joke because their low melting point requires the hot combustion gas to be diluted with pure air to a temperature they can survive, albeit with laser-drilled air holes that sheathe the hollow blade in a thin layer of cooling air, for this increases fuel consumption. Why not toss metal blades away in favor of ceramics that just giggle at temperatures that melt tungsten and rhenium? Because more than 50 years of ceramic development failed to come up with alternatives as reliably strong as metal blades. Only quite recently has there been real progress in this area.

So engineering can’t drop everything to seek perfection. It seeks the best practicable solution at a given time, that represents workable value for money.

Categories: Motorcycles

2019 Honda CB500X First Ride Review

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 14:14

Honda has reworked the CB500X for 2019, increasing its off-road and adventure capability. (Drew Ruiz/)

The Honda CB500X started life in 2013 as a midsize commuter without a lot of personality, but customers quickly saw the potential for more. Larger wheels with heavier tread, longer-travel suspension, and other modifications were being made to turn the mild-mannered 500 into an approachable light adventure bike. Like it has done before, Honda recognized the way people were using their motorcycle and made some changes to better accommodate its buyers. Available for a starting price of $6,999, this bike offers versatile performance in an affordable package, opening up doors for those looking to get more out of their commuter and enjoy some moderate adventure riding without spending big money.


New radiator shroud design on the 2019 Honda CB500X helps direct heat away from the rider’s legs. (Drew Ruiz/)

The front 17-inch wheel has been replaced with larger 19-inch wheel, improving off-road performance and opening up a wider variety of adventure and dual sport tires. Suspension travel has increased 0.4 inch in the front and 1.2 inches in the rear, increasing ground clearance and, again, improving off-road handling. The new windscreen is 20mm taller and adjustable with two height settings to more efficiently buff wind away from the body and head. The seat has been narrowed above the footpegs to make stand-up riding more comfortable and improve the rider’s range of motion while seated. The tapered handlebar eats up some vibration while giving adequate feedback, and a new rubber-mounted handlebar clamp helps to cut back on vibration even further. Many of the first aftermarket modifications being done by customers are now coming equipped on the motorcycle. Honda’s giving adventure riders a head start, while not diminishing the bike’s previous on-road capability.


Equipped with aftermarket Bridgestone Battlax tires, the CB500X was plenty of fun on the trails east of San Diego. (Drew Ruiz/)

Aesthetically, the CB500X got an adventure-themed makeover as well. The redesign of the fuel tank, headlight, and radiator shroud, on top of all the functional components listed above, gives the bike a much more aggressive and adventurous look and feel. Combined, the taller suspension, front wheel, and new seat result in a seat height change from 31.9 to 32.7 inches, which may deter some shorter riders, and ground clearance also increases from 6.6 inches to 7.1—another dirt-minded alteration


Despite the adventure-minded modifications, the CB500X hasn’t lost any of its on-road merits. (Drew Ruiz/)

On our single-day test ride, the CB500X was comfortable on the road, easily pulling up to highway speeds without stressing the 471cc parallel twin at any point. The engine has been refined for a claimed torque of 3–4 percent in the 3,000–7,000 rpm range, but the larger focus is on the power delivery. A new assist and slipper clutch design similar to that used in the CBR1000RR decreases lever pull by a claimed 45 percent and allows better hookup during acceleration and reduced rear wheel hop while downshifting. Even with its claimed curb weight of 434 pounds, the CB500X had the power to spin the tire in second and third gear in the dirt, and had no trouble getting the front tire up over obstacles in first and second gear.


The new CB500X’s taller windshield and redesigned seat make stand-up riding more comfortable and less fatiguing. (Drew Ruiz/)

Only the ABS-equipped version of the bike was available on the press ride, so as we headed off the pavement and onto some dirt, I anticipated some unwanted interference from the braking system. Speeding into the first turn, I was impressed to find the rear behaving just as I wanted it to, slowing down adequately despite the low-traction situation. Applying front brake in the dirt had the same effect, with strong power and surprisingly decent feel without locking up or washing out that new 19-inch front tire. Buying the non-ABS model for $300 less might seem like an obvious choice for the off-road-inclined rider, but after seeing how the antilock performed, I’d say the ABS model is the smart buy.


A 471cc parallel twin powers the CB500X to its on- and off-road adventures. (Drew Ruiz/)

On the pavement—through highways and twisty roads—suspension was adequate but not impressive, with a bit too much dive on braking and a little too much of a rebound bounce through some of the bumpier turns. Once I hit the dirt, the suspension’s shortcomings became a little more obvious; the 41mm nonadjustable fork and Pro-Link rear shock did soften the blow from larger bumps but still felt a little springy and soft overall. This could be fixed with a number of adjustable damping suspension components already in use by Honda, but suspension parts are expensive and would add cost that would likely take this bike out of the value-for-dollar sweet spot where it now sits.


Honda’s aesthetic makeover with a tall windscreen and new shrouds make for a more adventure-ready motorcycle. (Drew Ruiz/)

Despite all of the off-road-minded modifications, the CB500X remains a comfortable commuter. With a 4.6-gallon gas tank and six-speed transmission, it’s easy to see upwards of 200 miles without stopping. One test rider even claimed to have seen almost 300 miles of highway on a single tank. The taller, adjustable windshield does a surprising amount to cut wind fatigue and accessory luggage options now increase passenger comfort as a backrest, and further extend time on the road.

With a starting MSRP of $6,699, the CB500X just makes sense. It’s a comfortable commuter that’s been brought much closer to the adventure style most riders are after with this bike, while not losing its on-road merits. It’s easy to ride and approachable for new riders while able to be upgraded into a more capable motorcycle that experienced riders can thoroughly enjoy as well.


Longer suspension travel and more ground clearance do add to a taller seat height, but the trade-off is worth it. (Drew Ruiz/)

2019 Honda CB500X ABS Specs

MSRP $6,999 ENGINE 471cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin; 8 valves BORE X STROKE 67.0 x 66.8mm TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain FUEL SYSTEM PGM-FI fuel injection w/ 34mm throttle bodies CLUTCH Wet, multiple disc, cable operation ENGINE MANAGEMENT/IGNITION Full transistorized ignition TCI FRAME Aluminum twin-spar FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm telescopic; 5.3-in. travel REAR SUSPENSION Pro-Link single shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.9 in. travel FRONT BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 320mm petal-style disc; ABS REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 240mm petal-style disc; ABS WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Cast aluminum; 19 x 2.5-in. / 17 x 4.5-in. TIRES, FRONT/REAR 110/80-19 / 160/60-17 RAKE/TRAIL 27.5°/4.3 in. WHEELBASE 56.9 in. GROUND CLEARANCE 7.1 in. SEAT HEIGHT 32.7 in. FUEL CAPACITY 4.6 gal. CLAIMED WET WEIGHT 434 lb. AVAILABILITY Now CONTACT powersports.honda.com

Categories: Motorcycles

How Much Power Does The 2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Make?

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 13:22

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The Multistrada 1260 S is Ducati's take on the long-travel-suspension streetbike market, much like the competing BMW RG 1250 GS, Honda Africa Twin, KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, and others. The heart of the Multistrada is the same 1,262cc Testastretta DVT V-twin engine that powers the Diavel 1260 S, coming equipped with ride-by-wire electronics package and four selectable riding modes—Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro. The big-bore Ducati tipped the in-house Cycle World scales at 570 pounds with the optional luggage.


2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S dyno test (Robert Martin/)

We put the Multistrada 1260 S on the Cycle World dyno to record horsepower and torque measurements. The big-bore Ducati V-twin belted out 140.45 hp at 9,810 rpm and 87.14 pound-feet of torque at 7,820 rpm.

Categories: Motorcycles

Why Engine-Braking Control For Motorcycles? And Why Now?

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 05:00

Had it not been for engine-braking, I might never have been born. One day in the 1920s, my mother and her parents were sleeping in a bus driven by my sometimes overconfident teenaged uncle. He’d let his speed get away from him while descending through the Cascades and had burned his brakes. He was sweating the possibility of not making one of the corners ahead. My grandfather, awakened by the swaying, came forward. Seeing the situation, he said, “Okay, you get on the brakes, I’ll pull the hand brake, and you see if you can get this thing down a gear.”

They pushed and they pulled and my uncle was able to make the downshift, engine buzzing at peak revs. Knowing that the resulting engine-braking now had their speed under control, my grandfather returned to his seat and his sleeping.

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Every time you close the throttle, you feel engine-braking slowing your bike much faster than just coasting would do. The reason is that 15–25 percent of an engine’s gross horsepower goes to overcome friction, mostly of pistons and rings. On a high-powered bike that can be 35–50 hp worth of drag, and when you combine that with hard braking that transfers a lot of weight to the front tire, it can unload the rear tire enough to slide or even begin hopping up and down. When I watched MotoGP video from 2002, there was Valentino Rossi, entering corners looking as though his rear tire was sliding out from using a Mick Doohan-style thumb brake acting only on the rear wheel. But there was no thumb brake. What I was seeing was the drag of engine-braking on Rossi’s V-4 Honda RC211V, making his rear tire slide on corner entry.

Particularly if rear-wheel hop results, this disturbance brings the danger of loss of control. In the 1990s, AMA veteran Tom Kipp dealt with engine-braking in the most fundamental way, by just pulling the clutch during corner entry, then reengaging the drive at the throttle-up point. Like working out your income tax on a pad taped to the gas tank, this called for exceptional concentration.


Slowing confidently: Yamaha has expanded its electronics package on the latest YZF-R1. Riders can select Braking Control 1 setting for upright, straight-line stopping or Braking Control 2 for corner entries, with intervention tied to lean angle. (Yamaha/)

Back in the early 1970s, Phil Read worked very hard with MV Agusta to make its new four-cylinder 500, revving to more than 14,000 rpm, competitive with the fast-improving two-stroke Yamahas. Film shot from a helicopter at Vallelunga in Italy shows the MV and Read accelerating and top-ending better than the Yamaha but losing ground on corner approach. Braking harder with the disc brakes he’d brought to MV, Read had discovered the problems of engine-braking—wheel hop and sliding.

When Honda fielded its 19,000-rpm oval-piston four-stroke NR500, engine-braking was a problem in a big way. Engineers then developed what today is called a slipper clutch: When the engine drove the rear wheel, its torque passed through the entire clutch stack, but when the rear wheel drove the engine, as it does when you close the throttle, a rotary ramp mechanism lifted half the plates. By allowing the clutch to slip before engine-braking could drag or hop the rear tire, the worst of the problem was solved.

The same concept was applied to Honda’s 1,000cc FWS racer that Freddie Spencer and Mike Baldwin rode at Daytona in 1982 (tire trouble made this race a Yamaha benefit). Soon other makers adopted it for racing. Today, slipper/assist clutches have become widespread on stock production bikes.

When MotoGP began in 2002, the combination of potent carbon brakes and big high-compression engines was too much for slipper clutches. Now there was braking instability. Max Biaggi said at the time chassis oscillations developed so fast that you were on the ground before you could respond.

Why? With a typical racing six-speed gearbox and at a given speed, the engine turns about twice as fast in first gear as it does in sixth. That means in order to have smooth engine-braking response, you need a different slipper release setting for every gear. At Motegi, I spoke with Colin Edwards, who said clutch testing with Aprilia’s three-cylinder “Cube” MotoGP bike was never-ending. He’d do a couple of laps to check the latest setting, then pit to tell the engineers, “Yeah, it’s better in turns 3 and 6, but now it’s worse in 1, 4, and 9. Then they’d add a 0.005 shim, send me out, and it would be different again.”

Bottom line? A passive slipper wasn’t enough; an active system of some kind was required.

That active system required that the on-board ECU be able to operate the throttles of at least one or two cylinders. Then, as the rider braked hard on closed throttle and engine-braking threatened to overcome rear tire grip, the computer would throttle up the engine just enough to cancel unwanted engine-braking. During those early years, spectators were surprised to hear some bikes sounding like lawn-mower engines during corner approach. That was the sound of just one cylinder being throttled up in the new torque-canceling role.

When full throttle-by-wire control was later adopted, it simplified engine-braking control because now all the throttles were operated electrically. Production sportbikes now share this system so their riders can select the degree of engine-braking cancellation they prefer. This has become the new normal.


Yamaha’s Engine Brake Management (EBM) system has three levels of control to suit rider preference in different environments. Braking Control and EBM settings are adjustable via onboard Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) and Yamaha’s Y-TRAC smartphone/tablet app. (Yamaha/)

Some propose that such things as engine-braking control are morally wrong because they take aspects of control away from the rider. Let's think about that. As World War II began, fighter pilots found themselves acting as engine-management systems as well as having to fly the airplane. Propeller pitch, throttle opening, engine rpm, supercharger boost, and impeller drive ratio, plus fuel-air mixture were all his responsibility as well. The American innovation of the constant-speed propeller handled two of these extra variables but, in combat, pilots still had too much to do. German engineers then created the kommandogerat, or "control apparatus," a hydro-mechanical computer that integrated all functions into a single power lever; move it this way for more power, the other way for less. This made Fw 190 pilots more effective by allowing them to concentrate exclusively on flying the aircraft.

More recently, much technology has gone into increasing a naval aviator’s chances of picking up that third wire when landing on a pitching carrier deck at night. These technologies have made pilots better able to do what they do best—fly. Similar technologies applied to the motorcycle are doing the same for riders, making it easier to concentrate on riding.

Categories: Motorcycles

Márquez Wins Last-Lap MotoGP Thriller At Slippery Misano

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 14:28

<a href="http://cycleworld.com/tags/motogp">MotoGP</a> rookie Fabio Quartararo (20) led all but three laps of Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix at Italy's Misano circuit. His electrifying last-lap victory aside, <a href="https://www.cycleworld.com/tags/marc-marquez/">Marc Márquez</a> (93) understood winning "wasn't necessary because I saw [championship contenders] Andrea Dovizioso wasn't fast and Álex Rins was out." A clash in qualifying with <a href="https://www.cycleworld.com/tags/valentino-rossi/">Valentino Rossi</a> provided "extra push for the race." Márquez has a 93-point advantage heading to Motorland Aragón for round 14. (Dorna/)

Misano was yet another MotoGP race of surprises: That Fabio Quartararo is now able to keep the pace race long; that Maverick Viñales bumped provisional surprise pole sitter Pol Espargaró to top qualifying; and that Marc Márquez showed heat in putting an end to being himself beaten on the last lap. Need more? This racetrack, never easy for Yamaha, delivered four top placings, second through fifth.

At the start, Viñales led for two laps, then slowed, being passed by Quartararo and Márquez. Quartararo then led with Márquez right behind. Viñales, as in some previous races, recovered pace but could not reach the lead pair. Valentino Rossi, having moved to fourth with difficulty, was back some 10 seconds. Márquez attacked from the start of the last lap, was repassed, and the brief battle was won by Márquez as Quartararo had to lift at a point. The finish was one Honda followed by the Yamahas of Quartararo, Viñales, Rossi, and Franco Morbidelli.

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How could the Yamahas be transformed in this way? A few months ago, the track was “microblasted,” cleaned of its rubber burden by hammering with very fine steel shot. This turned the track surface white from its former dark to black and completely changed its traction character, slowing lap times in comparison with last year.

We have seen something similar when tracks carry fine dust. At Losail in Qatar, the fines have the effect of denying traction its molecular aspect of rubber literally sticking to pavement, leaving only the mechanical aspect of grip, of rubber filling the pavement texture and generating grip dynamically as texture plows through rubber like a fleet of microships, each “hull” generating the drag that is tire grip.


Maverick Viñales has started from pole position twice this season and stood on the podium four times in the past six races. “I tried my best,” the Yamaha factory rider said of his third-place finish. “But the feeling wasn’t really good; I lost the front many, many times. From lap 3 to lap 8, I didn’t have grip. Today was not our day.” (Dorna/)

To a lesser extent, we see something similar when there has been recent rain that washes loose rubber out of the texture, leaving the riders to confidently predict a return of grip and lap time as soon as enough bikes and laps have replaced the rubber.

Yet this is different again because normally Yamahas go well only when there is good grip. In this case, grip was down but every Ducati and every Honda but that of Márquez was put off the pace by the change. Yet all the Yamahas performed well.

Viñales said, “I am really happy because from Friday I felt really good, and somehow I found a better feeling than I had at the test [two weeks earlier], so I can hit very good lap times even with very used tires.”

On Friday, Quartararo said, “Today I make many small moments with the front, and the positive thing is that we can feel when we are losing the front; it’s not just really aggressive and I crash. So today I was pushing to try to brake really hard and feel the limit on the front. I felt it, so that’s something really great. We don’t have grip on the track, but I feel the limit.” Being able to sense that limit enabled him to safely maximize what corner speed was possible.


Third consecutive fourth place: Valentino Rossi (46) used all the tools available, including a new carbon-fiber swingarm and dual-outlet exhaust, but the 40-year-old Italian was 12 seconds behind winner Márquez. “I wanted to try to fight for the podium,” he admitted after the race, “but I didn’t have the pace. During all the practices, the top three guys were faster than us.” (Yamaha/)

What distinguishes the Yamahas from the Ducatis and Hondas? The Yamahas track rather than slide through fast corners, while the styles of the Ducati and Honda men depend more on sliding. Many riders were losing the front through practice and there were a number of falls in the race but not by the Yamaha men. Whatever the change in the pavement, the Yamaha men were better able to “hear” the messages from their tires being ridden in their style than were the others. Quartararo found a way to detect the onset of losing front grip and riding within that limit could run very fast through long corners like 11.

Quartararo’s Petronas Yamaha teammate Morbidelli said of him, “Fabio is able to take the fast corners at a very high speed and with very little effort.” What does little effort mean? It meant that he was making few visible corrections. His ability to know just how far to push the front tire enabled him to do this reliably.

Márquez evidently could not muster the extra to attempt a pass on Quartararo until the last lap, and he did not make the decision to do so until then. “He is riding in a very good way—very precise—but especially at the fast corners he is very fast,” Márquez said. “I tried to overtake him before sector 3 because, if I arrived behind him before turn 11, I would lose the race as he was very fast in the fast corners. Even with a slipstream, I was not able to follow him.”


Four Yamahas in the top five: Somewhat overshadowed by the success this season of Petronas Yamaha teammate Quartararo, 24-year-old Morbidelli also had a strong weekend, improving in every practice and qualifying fourth. On Sunday afternoon, his 100th GP, Morbidelli was fifth, a tick behind mentor Rossi, for the fourth time this season. (Petronas Yamaha/)

For that reason, once Márquez had decided to attack rather than finish second a third time in three consecutive race weekends, he began the attack at turn 1. Quartararo later described Márquez’s engine as “like an airplane,” but pass and repass followed until Márquez was able to squeeze Quartararo out at turn 14, forcing him to sit up to avoid contact.

Quartararo said, “I don’t think Marc wore his tires out much, and on the last lap he performed really well.” He was delighted to have battled with Márquez to the end and gained more valuable experience, saying, “Today is the best day of my life.”

Márquez said, “I predict next year he will be a tough contender for the championship. Fabio today is the winner or the best rider in the race as he led all of the race.”

In the tire briefing, Michelin’s Piero Taramasso said the microblasting “increases tire consumption, is very aggressive on the tire.” Non-Yamaha riders other than Marquez were defeated by this, as their riding styles’ dependence upon sliding perhaps overworked the surface layer of rubber, degrading its grip. Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who has been impressively fast elsewhere, was desperate: “For everything we improve, we worsen another. Nothing works.” He was a discouraging 10th, half a minute behind Márquez and Quartararo.


Traffic jam: After delivering KTM’s best qualifying performance to date, Pol Espargaró (44) raced from second on the grid to fifth after the first lap to seventh at the checkers. “We had good corner speed, but I was losing it all in turns 3, 8, and 10 with Doviziso and 11 with Morbidelli. Just two 10ths per lap, but it makes a difference.” (Dorna/)

Andrea Dovizioso, sixth on Sunday and still second in the championship, said, “We all suffered because of the very little grip, especially at the front. I rode trying to be as relaxed as possible. The asphalt this weekend required a riding style that is usually not required. This bike isn’t used to that.”

Cal Crutchlow, who crashed out, said, “I didn’t have a good feeling in the test, and I didn’t have a good feeling all weekend here.”

This season more than any other has revealed the extent to which seemingly small changes in pavement—wind carrying fine Saharan dust across the Mediterranean, Misano being de-rubbered—can provoke large shifts in the relative competitiveness of bikes. I believe this tells us that increasingly, as bikes are optimized, their performance depends upon smaller differences.


Suzuki’s Joan Mir (36) made a strong return at Misano following injuries suffered during testing in early August at Brno. “My goal was to finish the race with a good feeling after my recovery and time off the bike,” he said. “Eighth isn’t a bad result.” Teammate Álex Rins, winner of the previous round at Silverstone in England, crashed running seventh. (Suzuki/)

There may be another effect in play here. Surely the riders who depend heavily upon sliding learn to read tire signals through that lens, while those whose tires spend more time tracking rather than sliding are depending upon quite different messages. Some riders are clearly conscious of these messages, but others, such as Johann Zarco, say they don’t like to think too much about what they do for fear that will stop their “music.”

This makes me remember that the first anti-wheelie systems were triggered by excess front ride height. The next step was to measure the velocity of that rise, and now that inertial measuring units (IMUs) are doing the detecting, they are triggering from the rate of acceleration of pitch-up. How do riders perceive tire messages? What is message and what is noise? How do they separate them? Kalman filtering, anyone? Whatever Quartararo discovered at Misano worked well.

There is a lively rubber-removal industry now that mainly serves commercial airports. Each time a wide-body airliner touches down, it deposits roughly 20 pounds of rubber from its tires, liquefied and then polymerized by the heat of spin up—we see the smoke—into a hard, glassy surface that greatly reduces directional stability and grip when wet. Therefore, as often as weekly if the runway handles 200 or more landings per day, high-pressure (1,000–2,500 atmospheres) water jets are used to de-rubber the touchdown zones.


“We cannot forget that Fabio is a rookie, and what he is doing is incredible,” Márquez said at the post-race press conference. “Today he showed all of you—I already knew—he has the talent to lead a race, to win a race, and next year he will be a top competitor for the championship.” Quartararo has three pole positions and four podium appearances this season. (Dorna/)

Taramasso revealed that on its own test surfaces Michelin use microblasting with fine shot every seven to eight years. For the first five to seven months after this, grip is reduced, after which it returns to normal. The fine shot renews the micro edges of pavement aggregate much as application of a trueing diamond to an abrasive wheel removes grains dulled by work. This fresh surface is what is very aggressive on the tire.

Now onward to Motorland Aragón in Spain and possibly to a fresh “butterfly effect” that may restack the odds yet again.

Categories: Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 vs. Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 vs. Ducati Diavel 1260 S

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 12:01

Three power cruisers, each with their own style, go head to head. (Jeff Allen/)

Cruisers generally don't need to change much to sell. In fact, models that offer classic silhouettes tend to outsell progressive designs—regardless of performance. And while traditional bikes remain the bread and butter of the cruiser world, in an effort to attract new riders to the segment and to sell more machines, makers push designs in new ways.

These three motorcycles—the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114, Harley-Davidson FXDR 114, and Ducati's Diavel 1260 S—are here to shove a piece of cruiser market into a new era. These three bikes sit atop the evolving genre as the fastest, most aggressive cruisers out there. And the faster and more aggressive they get, the less they tend to look like traditional cruisers. In fact, this comparison could be called the shootout of weird headlights. We've come a long way from a 7-inch round sealed beam…

But the overall designs are just symbolic of another broader departure. Most traditional American-style motorcycles still replicate the design language introduced by the Harley-Davidson Knucklehead in 1936, and this silhouette typically hasn’t represented all-around hot-rod performance. So when manufacturers want to stretch the category and attract new buyers who might be thinking of transitioning from another sportier category, they try to do something different.


Morgan Gales, at 6-foot-4, on the 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S in Sandstone Grey. (Jeff Allen/)

We were big fans of the 2018 Fat Bob 114 because it offered seemingly impossible dynamics from this chunky-tired chassis and big-bore engine. It was such a fun "cruiser," and pushed the styling boundaries so hard, we picked it as Cycle World's Best Cruiser of 2018. This year, Harley-Davidson again forged ahead with the FXDR 114, delivering burly drag-racing-inspired styling to the mix but still on the Softail platform. The Ducati Diavel is also a previous Ten Best Bikes winner in the cruiser category for bringing an Italian superbike ethic to an American-style bike, though no one would ever mistake the Diavel 1260 S for anything but a Ducati.

To test these machines, three of us rode Southern California’s roads from our Orange County headquarters to the California historical landmark of Julian, a quaint town with a long history of serving exceptional apple pie at roughly 4,200 feet of elevation. This route meant that straight highways led to long, meandering turns as we neared our destination, and the final sprint up the mountain contained nothing but tight corners as we rocketed up in elevation. Through fast and slow, straight and twisty, we used Bluetooth comms to talk with each other in our helmets, comparing and evaluating the bikes as we rode.


Harley-Davidson’s FXDR 114 fills a muscle-cruiser void left by the V-Rod’s discontinuation in 2017. (Jeff Allen/)

Southbound on California’s main motor artery that is Interstate 5, all three bikes chugged along at an effortless and relaxed 75 mph. With us twisting the throttle to pass cars at speed, seat-of-the-pants feeling had the Fat Bob responding a little more quickly than the FXDR, but the Ducati easily left both Harleys in the dust. Ducati’s superbike heritage explodes from the liquid-cooled 1260 S engine, despite its “cruiser” role, while Harley-Davidson’s air-cooled “big blocks” are high-performance versions of a purely American kind of motorcycle powerplant.

The Harley-Davidson models are both equipped with 114ci Milwaukee-Eight engines—the largest available in the Softail lineup. These 1,868cc, air-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, 45-degree V-twin engines brought the Softail lineup into a new era (along with all-new chassis), but still offer that big-flywheel, torque-intensive character Americans love above all other large-displacement motorcycle engines. And while you might expect these two V-twins with identical displacement and gearing to offer identical performance, they exhibited different characteristics on the road as well as on the Cycle World dyno. The Fat Bob made 82.3 hp and 111.39 pound-feet of torque, while the FXDR was about 3 hp and 4 pound-feet down on those peak numbers, due, Harley-Davidson said, to normal production variation.


Ergonomics on the Fat Bob are relaxed, slightly less folded than the FXDR, but not as upright as the Diavel S. (Jeff Allen/)

Out in the real world, seat-of-the-pants feeling also gave the nod to the Fat Bob, which felt like it launched off the line a little quicker than the FXDR, a somewhat unexpected outcome considering the drag inspiration of the latter and its 240mm rear tire. Winding up to the top of the revs, the FXDR also vibrated more than the Fat Bob, leaving us favoring the Fat Bob in both high and low rpm. The Ducati meanwhile was in a world of its own.

With customizable ride modes and the new 1,262cc Testastretta DVT motor, the Diavel S is an incredibly powerful beast, but not wild or unwieldy. It hammered out 138.5 hp and 85.4 pound-feet of torque on the dyno, its massive emphasis on peak horsepower instead of torque a clear philosophical difference in Italian versus American engine tuning. Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) changes cam timing to help the engine deliver clean, responsive, broad power no matter the revs. Reduced valve overlap makes for smooth, crisp throttle response at the low end, as well as reduced emissions and increased torque. As revs climb, overlap is increased, letting the engine breathe more freely for equally crisp response and more horsepower toward the top of the rpm range. The Diavel’s previous 1,198cc engine was lurchy at lower rpm, surging even with steady throttle and constantly spurred the rider to bring it into a higher rev range where operation was smoother. But the new engine’s smooth and linear power delivery makes it far better used in a more cruiser-esque model, giving you all the power when you want it, but only when you want it.


As riders head into tighter turns and more technical sections of road, moving up on the bike helps with handling but leaves most riders a bit cramped against the bars. (Jeff Allen/)

As we moved off big highways and onto more technical, twisting roads, the Ducati continued to excel. With fully adjustable Öhlins suspension front and rear, mid-mounted footpegs, and a 27-degree rake, the Diavel 1260 S was fast and smooth. The Diavel held the intended line, unimpeded by passing bumps on the road, and the riding position and seat let the rider adjust body position to further enhance cornering response. And on straight sections, the combination of top-shelf suspension and a comfortably padded seat made the bike smooth riding and enjoyable. It was plush and controlled, with excellent overall stability, and was the best-handling bike in this comparison.


The FXDR 114 is the only model in Harley-Davidson’s current Softail lineup that isn’t offered with a 107ci motor. (Jeff Allen/)

The Fat Bob, meanwhile, with its 28-degree rake, dropped into turns easily and stayed there, though its high-profile front tire was a little twitchy feeling, reacting to every little bump or input. This is great for those looking for responsive, low-effort handling, but it also takes more attention to ride smoothly. The FXDR’s 34-degree rake and 240mm-wide rear tire make accelerating through longer turns difficult, as the bike stands itself up with power application or trail-braking input. Both Harleys had a little bit of tail sway or wiggle brought about by midcorner bumps, and with only preload adjustments available on the rear shock, there wasn’t much we could do to curb the problem other than slow down and ride through it. Further, both the Fat Bob and FXDR are fitted with forward controls, making it difficult to fully utilize available chassis lean angles without the rider’s heels contacting the ground and dragging from the footpegs. On these bikes, more rubber was burned from the soles of our boots than the tires this day.


Fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock on the Diavel 1260 S. (Jeff Allen/)

The FXDR’s drag-race-inspired style means all-day ergonomics weren’t a priority, but the forward foot controls and relatively clip-on (above the top triple clamp) handlebars fold the rider over like a wallet. The Fat Bob has similar forward controls and slightly higher handlebars, making it more comfortable but still fairly aggressive. Higher bars or mid-mount foot controls would be more comfortable on both the H-Ds, but that would counter the aggressive styling of both bikes. There are a large number of handlebar and riser options in the accessory catalog, though there are no mid-mount foot controls available. Flip a coin regarding which of the two had the better seat. Both were comfortable with a firm feel that didn’t leave us hurting at the end of the day, though paired with the forward controls, riders are essentially locked in one seating position for the duration of their ride.

Diavel ergonomics were relaxed and comfortable, but also versatile. The bars come back far enough to keep the rider upright. Mid-mounted foot controls and a seat that narrows toward the front lets the rider shift position when needed, but the saddle’s wide rear section gave plenty of support for comfortable cruising.


2019 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 in Wicked Red Denim. (Jeff Allen/)

Both H-D models come with dual 300mm discs up front gripped by four-piston fixed calipers, with a floating two-piston caliper working on a single 292mm rotor in the back. By design, upon first application of the lever, bite is mild. As you brake harder, response is linear, if a bit high effort. In fact, the level of effort for hard braking is surprising considering these are the only bikes in the current Softail lineup with dual front discs. The 1260 S is equipped with dual 320mm discs, M50 Brembo calipers, and a PR16/19 master cylinder. These are wonderfully precise, powerful brakes, with light effort, but if you go grabbing at that lever like you would on an American cruiser, you might be in for a rude awakening—some might consider this setup abrupt. Like with engine tuning, there is a philosophical difference between how an Italian sporty motorcycle company designs brake response versus an American one.


The Ducati Diavel 1260 S boasts 138.5 hp at 9,900 rpm, revving far past the redline of either H-D models tested. (Jeff Allen/)

Is your accountant in the room when you make a purchasing decision on motorcycles like these? Probably not, but there is no denying that the Fat Bob 114 at $18,849 in Vivid Black is the bargain (ahem) of this group, though the FXDR’s $18,999 (price for Vivid Black, reduced from $21,349 after initial launch) is hardly different in the grand scheme. The aggressive drag-race style of the FXDR will make the bike irresistible for some, but the ergonomic and handling sacrifices made for that style are concessions you have to want to live with.


Senior Editor Justin Dawes scraping his boot through the turns on the 2019 H-D Fat Bob 114. (Jeff Allen/)

The Fat Bob is simply a more versatile and more comfortable motorcycle with better all-around performance and its own burly (if controversial) style. It is remarkably nimble given its measured 670-pound wet weight. Models like the FXDR and Fat Bob show how H-D has advanced chassis and engine tech enough to step into the ring with race-bred machines like the Diavel, while still maintaining enough of the proven Harley formula to strum the heartstrings.


The Diavel 1260 S’s exhaust was shortened for 2019 to better highlight the single-sided swingarm. (Jeff Allen/)

The Ducati Diavel 1260 S, meanwhile, costs the most by quite a bit at $22,995. That extra five grand does translate in the hardware and software: powerful Brembo brakes, fully adjustable Öhlins suspension, programmable electronic ride modes, and lean-sensitive traction control. It’s very much a sportbike wrapped in cruiser lines and ergos. The Ducati is an amazing machine. It’s powerful, agile, and comfortable—three very clear reasons for a win in this shootout. It’s also unconventional—as most winners are.


2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S in Slate Grey starts at $22,995. (Jeff Allen/)

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Specifications

MSRP $22,995 Engine 1,262cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin; 4 valves/cyl. Transmission/final drive 6-speed/chain Horsepower 138.5 @ 9,900 rpm Torque 85.4 lb.-ft. @ 7,800 rpm Frame Tubular steel trellis Front suspension 50mm fully adjustable Öhlins fork; 4.7-in. travel Rear suspension Cast-aluminum single-sided swingarm, Öhlins monoshock adjustable for preload, rebound; 5.1-in. travel Front brake 4-piston Brembo M50 radially mounted caliper, dual 320mm discs w/ Bosch Cornering ABS Evo Rear brake 2-piston floating caliper, 265mm disc w/ Bosch Cornering ABS Evo Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III Rear tire 240/45ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III Rake/trail 26.3º/4.7 in. Wheelbase 63.0 in. Seat height 30.7 in. Fuel capacity 4.5 gal. Wet weight 546 lb. Contact ducati.com


2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 in Rawhide Denim starts at $21,349. (Jeff Allen/)

2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114

MSRP $21,349 (Vivid Black), $21,749 (colors) Engine 114ci (1,868cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin, 4 valves/cyl. Transmission/final drive 6-speed/belt Horsepower 78.7 @ 4,600 rpm Torque 108.2 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 rpm Frame Tubular mild steel, rectangular backbone Front suspension 43mm single-cartridge inverted fork; 5.1-in. travel Rear suspension Coil-over monoshock, adjustable for preload; 3.4-in. travel Front brake 4-piston fixed caliper, dual 300mm discs w/ ABS Rear brake 2-piston floating caliper, 292mm disc w/ ABS Front tire 120/70ZR-19 Rear tire 240/40R-18 Rake/trail 34.0°/4.7 in. Wheelbase 68.4 in. Seat height 28.5 in. Fuel capacity 4.4 gal. Wet weight 666 lb. Contact harley-davidson.com


The FXDR is the only current Softail model offered with a cast-aluminum swingarm. (Jeff Allen/)
The 150/80-16 front tire is a little sensitive to input, but rolls down the road nicely and adds to the Fat Bob’s attractive profile. (Jeff Allen/)
2019 Fat Bob 114 in Wicked Red Denim starts at $18,849. (Jeff Allen/)

2019 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114

MSRP $18,849 (Vivid Black), $19,249 (colors) Engine 114ci (1,868cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin, 4 valves/cyl. Transmission/final drive 6-speed/belt Horsepower 82.3 @ 4,700 rpm Torque 111.4 lb.-ft. @ 2,300 rpm Frame Tubular mild steel, rectangular backbone Front suspension 43mm inverted fork, Showa Dual Bending Valve Suspension, 5.1-in travel Rear suspension Coil-over monoshock, adjustable for preload, 4.4-in. travel Front brake 4-piston fixed caliper, dual 300mm discs w/ ABS Rear brake 2-piston floating caliper, 292mm disc w/ ABS Front tire 150/80-16 Rear tire 180/70B-16 Rake/trail 28.0°/5.2 in. Wheelbase 63.6 in. Seat height 28.0 in. Fuel capacity 3.6 gal. Wet weight 670 lb. Contact harley-davidson.com

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Ducati Monster 1200 S Goes Dark

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 11:48

Ducati’s Monster 1200 S gets a Black on Black color scheme for 2020. (Ducati/)

Ducati Monster is one of the most successful models of Ducati's more recent history. The Monster started life in 1993, and it was Ducati return to the domain of extroverted models, the first of a long line of sporty nakeds, powered by the mild Ducati air-cooled, SOHC 900—the Desmo engine for all seasons. It sure was an aggressive looking naked from the pencil of Argentinian designer Miguel Galluzzi.

Through it’s 26 year life, the Monster has known great success with a few ups and downs with some versions of its original and very neat styling badly manipulated. But it always featured strong engines, eventually evolving into a real power naked in 2015, when the Monster R version appeared, powered by the mighty Ducati 1198 8-valve Desmo twin in its super torquey Testastretta 11 Dual Spark version, rated at 160 horsepower at the time. The Monster 1200 got another shot in the arm in 2018, when the 25th Anniversary edition was put on the market, the richest ever, sporting Öhlins suspension front and rear, 3.50 x 17 and 6.00 x 17 forged aluminum wheels shod with Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires.


Sporting 147 horsepower the 2020 Monster 1200 S looks menacing in black. (Ducati/)

For 2020 the 1200 S version is offered in sharp and moody Black on Black graphics that extracts the best-styling cues of this latest edition of the Monster. The Monster 1200 S Black on Black shares all the best from the Monster R version, with the latest Öhlins 48mm fork and Öhlins monoshock, all fully adjustable. Braking in handled by Brembo, the front fitted with 330mm twin rotors and M50 Monoblock four-pistons calipers.


Öhlins full adjustable suspension and Brembo M50 Monobloc calipers are standard equipment on the 2020 Monster 1200 S. (Ducati/)

Forged aluminum wheels have an elegant three Y shaped spokes, one in red to illuminate the surrounding all-black glossy and matt graphics. The Testastretta 11 powerhouse conforms to Euro4 emission standards, and is rated at 147 hp. It comes with an up and down quickshifter and Ducati’s highly effective electronics safety suite inclusive of ride by wire control system and inertial platform, which provide cornering ABS, traction control, and wheelie control functions.


Ducati’s Testastretta 11 Dual Spark engine powers the blacked out 2020 Monster 1200 S. (Ducati/)
The 2020 Monster 1200 S will arrive in dealers September 2019. (Ducati/)

Daytime riding lights and turn signals are LED units. The instrumentation TFT display offers a wide range of information at the touch of a switch. The 2020 Ducati Monster 1200 S Black on Black will be available at the end of September.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S First Ride Review

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 10:07

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The Harley-Davidson Low Rider S is back, this time as a 2020 model in the Softail line. (Harley-Davidson/)

You'd think that tooling along an empty country road in the sunny Laguna Mountains east of San Diego on a beefed-up, reinvented performance cruiser through a warm autumn afternoon would be the perfect antidote to the angst of modern life. No traffic lights, no strip malls, no endless media chatter. Just dopey optimism 2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S strafing twisted miles of deserted back road.

RELATED: 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

OK, so I’ll admit to glazing over a bit as the day warmed up and the gut-bomb lunch burrito settled into digestion mode, but, no, my brainpan just couldn’t stop spinning. Mostly it couldn’t help but wonder at just how different the bike below me was than the Dyna Low Rider S, which left the lineup in 2017.


Decked out in club style with dark finishes, the 2020 Low Rider S comes in two color options—including this Vivid Black, naturally. (Harley-Davidson/)

Originally rolled out in 2016, the tall and skinny and streetwise Dyna Low Rider S was an instant classic, but unfortunately it wouldn’t last long. Harley decided to cull its portfolio soon after, and when the smoke cleared the entire Dyna line was gone, and not even the mighty S had withstood the axe. Naturally, the backlash was swift and furious. Grown men cried, fists were raised, and threatening letters were sent. And The Motor Company took copious notes. All of which explains Harley’s reintroduction of the Low Rider S, now making its re-debut as a 2020 Softail.


The 2016 Dyna Low Rider S adopted the tall-bike style of the day, with most of the same design elements carrying over to the new model as well. (Harley-Davidson/)

At the press intro, Harley associates were quick to stress that the new Low Rider S is a nod to the past and a look to the future, which is a convenient way of saying the last model had more than its share of fans. So after a two-year hiatus, in its new guise as a modern Softail, the LRS gains a lighter chassis and the smoother 114 motor, which bestows added ponies as well as a touch more grunt at a lower rpm than the previous Twin Cam 110 setup. But there’s a lot more going on here too.


New bars, new chassis, new motor—the new Low Rider S is different in almost every way. The low seat drops you just 26.5 inches from terra firma and locks you pretty well into position, but the so-so padding begins betraying your butt about an hour in. (Harley-Davidson/)

It may not look all that different, but at its core, the new Low Rider S gets a major reshuffle. The Softail chassis is a huge bump over the previous Dyna arrangement, with a lighter, stiffer frame riding on up-spec suspension components. One of the keys here is the new 43mm inverted fork, set at a steeper 28-degree angle compared with the 30 degrees on the standard Low Rider (and the older Dyna model). Inside the fork you’ll find a single-cartridge triple-rate spring, while out back a single coil-over shock hidden under the seat has hydraulically adjustable preload.


The rigid-mounted and counterbalanced M-8 114 delivers the beans with more torque and fewer vibes than the Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 on the previous Low Rider S. (Harley-Davidson/)

You only get one engine option with the new Low Rider S, but it’s more than up to the task of hauling around the newest Softail—the rigid-mounted Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine (114 CID; 1,868cc) has the most displacement you can get in the Softail chassis from the factory, with a claimed 119 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm on standby. In this application, the M-8 114 shines, offering easily accessible grunt down low, with a minimum of vibes at the bars. Front and center within the vee is a Gloss Black Ventilator air intake with an exposed filter element to improve airflow, with 2-into-2 offset shotgun mufflers framing the back end.


The main geometry change is to the 43mm inverted fork, which gets pulled in a bit for a steeper 28-degree rake versus the older model’s 30-degree spec. The standard 2020 Low Rider model retains the 30-degree rake though. (Harley-Davidson/)

We can talk specs all day long but probably more essential to the Low Rider S is its stylistic approach, and on that point, it takes a fairly similar tack to the dearly departed Dyna. The look is aggressive and befitting a SoCal West Coast style, with a contemporary feel. Key to this “Club” or “Coastal” style, whatever you want to call it, are the raised hand controls anchored by a 1-inch-diameter motocross-style handlebar perched atop 4-inch straight risers. A color-matched mini-fairing frames the recessed LED headlamp just to the front of the bar, for a similar look and feel to the previous S model. The setup puts you in a more aggressive riding position with a high-back solo seat on the other end to keep your butt in the chair when you pin the throttle.

RELATED: Harley-Davidson Twin Cam V-Twin Motorcycles - HISTORY OF THE BIG TWIN

Moody and menacing seems to have also been a big part of the design focus too, so most of the finishes on the new Low Rider S remain on the dark side. The powertrain, primary cover, and tank console get a wrinkle black finish, while the derby cover, intake, and lower rocker covers are Gloss Black. The mufflers and exhaust shields, meanwhile—well, you get it. On either end are cast-aluminum wheels, with a 19-incher up front and a 16-inch rear in a finish called Matte Dark Bronze, which subtly recalls the elder Low Rider’s Magnum Gold hoops.


Floating rotors, dual discs, and ABS—the setup served us well along the route. Dark Bronze aluminum wheels offer contrast and save weight. (Harley-Davidson/)

But I was looking for the answer to my first question framed in terms of new-versus-old ride quality, and luckily I didn’t have to wait long for the answer, which came midway through our route on a long series of double-jointed switchbacks cutting down the forested hillsides.

Off the kickstand you can feel every one of the LRS’s 690 pounds, but leaning it into corner required way less drama than expected, no doubt thanks to the inverted fork, steeper rake, and lighter wheels. The stiffer chassis also made for more planted feel and stable corner exits, while the monoshock held its own even at the stock settings, staying composed in all but the gnarliest potholes. I don’t remember bottoming out even once and rebound was nicely controlled, which was pretty surprising given the emulsion shock has just 4.4 inches of travel (this is the low version of the Softail shock options, with hydraulic preload adjustment).

I also got the chance to test the four-piston, dual-disc/ABS brakes in hard stops more than once, and while I wished for a little less lever effort, I had no complaint with feel or the end result—the S came to a controlled and quick stop every time. ABS is standard, but the brakes aren’t linked, and the rear brake isn’t exactly powerful or responsive, with a long travel before engagement.


Good news is the new LRS doesn’t need much coaxing to heel over, and there’s 33.1-degree lean angle available on both sides—more than the older S model, or the standard 2020 Low Rider or Street Bob models. Pegs do touch down fairly easily in sharper stuff though (but it’s a soft contact). (Harley-Davidson/)

The aggressive riding position and mid-mount controls also made twisties that much more approachable and most riders fit aboard quite easily, but we did eventually start to feel its limitations, especially as the day wore on. Because the seat is fairly low relative to the pegs, those with longer legs—and even 30-inch inseams like mine—would get a bit folded up. After about an hour or so I could feel some strain on my hip flexors, though I had to admit the forward arm positioning and taller handlebar bend were a great fit for my particular riding style. I’m thinking the taller shock option (as on the Fat Bob) or slightly more forward pegs would benefit taller riders if they’re looking for more room.


First changes, Part 1: 2-into-2 stacked offset pipes get a nice satin finish with chrome contrast ends, but won’t excite your ears. Most owners will ditch them for something lighter and less restrictive. (Harley-Davidson/)

In sum, the newest Softail is a welcome—and needed—addition to the line. The word “Softail” may still seem like a betrayal to some small slice of the Harley faithful, but it shouldn’t: The new platform is, by any measure, objectively better and more appropriate to the Low Rider S’s sporting pretensions while still honoring the style and intent of the original.


First changes, Part 2: Most owners will probably look to chop the new model’s longer rear fender, though they’d have to reposition the LED lay-back taillamp. Also, that license plate mount position? The aftermarket is calling. (Harley-Davidson/)
Tall risers hold a motocross-style handlebar (with a nicer bend this time). Parts-bin mirrors and black wrinkle finish inside the mini-fairing seem like a missed opportunity. (Harley-Davidson/)
As spec’d, the new 2020 Low Rider S represents a better-performing package and an evolutionary improvement over the Dyna model it replaces. (Harley-Davidson/)

Gearbox

Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Jacket: Oscar by Alpinestars Ray v2
Gloves: Dainese Carbon D1

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Specifications

Price $17,999 Engine 1,868cc Milwaukee-Eight V-twin; 8-valve Transmission/final drive 6-speed Cruise Drive/belt Claimed horsepower N/A Claimed torque 119 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm Frame Steel tubular Front suspension 43mm inverted fork w/ single cartridge; 5.1-in. travel Rear suspension Coil-over monoshock w/ hydraulic preload adjustment; 4.4-in. travel Front brake Brembo 4-piston calipers, 300mm dual discs w/ ABS Rear brake Brembo 2-piston caliper, 292mm disc Rake/trail 28°/5.7 in. Wheelbase 63.6 in. Seat height 26.5 in. (laden) Fuel capacity 5.0 gal. Claimed wet weight 679 lb. Available Now Contact harley-davidson.com

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Can-Am Spyder RT And RT Limited First Look

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 08:36

The popular Spyder RT touring model has been around long enough that the time has come to take the three-wheel touring experience to the next level. (Can-Am/)

The big news from Can-Am is the unveiling of the all-new 2020 Spyder RT ($23,299) and RT Limited ($27,299). The model lineup receives a complete redesign this year that addresses the wants and needs of current and past Spyder RT owners. Primary focus was to improve long-distance comfort while making the ride more enjoyable and adding even more customization options so owners can tailor the Spyder RT to meet their needs.


The base-model 2020 Spyder RT looks almost the same except it is equipped with 10-spoke wheels and does not come with the passenger rear backrest/top case and basic sound system. (Can-Am/)
The entire Can-Am family of three-wheeled vehicles continues to evolve. First the Ryker showed up and now the venerable RT series gets a full redesign. (Can-Am/)

At the leading edge of the changes are redesigned bodywork, an improved seat, and updated rider interface. A new heated seat with improved lumbar support, adjustable electric windshield, and extended floorboards combine to make the ride more comfortable. A total of 47 gallons (177 liters) of storage space and the addition of LinQ modular components will allow owners to ride with the rear case or remove it and install one of the available options including a cooler, sport bag, or any other available LinQ accessories.


The new 2020 Can-Am RT (pictured here) and RT Limited are equipped with 23-inch touring floorboards so riders can now sit however they are most comfortable and change leg positions on long rides. (Can-Am/)
Spyders in the dust? Yeah, Can-Am is billing (or at least suggesting) these babies as adventure machines. (Can-Am/)
New premium LED headlights leave nothing to hide around the next turn with improved road visibility and precision lighting. (Can-Am/)

The Spyder RT and RT Limited are equipped with BRP Audio system with BRP Audio Premium six-speaker sound system with radio, USB, Bluetooth, and Ride Connect as well. The core of the Spyder continues to be the fuel-injected 115-hp Rotax triple with an assortment of rider-assist systems in place: Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS, Power Steering, Hill Hold Control, and Digitally Encoded Security System (DESS). The RT Limited will be available in four colors: Deep Marsala Metallic (Red), Petrol Metallic Blue, Chalk White, and Asphalt Grey Metallic. The base-model 2020 Spyder RT will be offered in only Chalk White or Petrol Metallic Blue.


The storage capacity and stability of the Spyder RT lends itself well to hauling camping gear into the wild blue yonder for the weekend. (Can-Am/)
The LinQ accessories system allows adding and switching storage accessories quick and easy. (Can-Am/)
Touring comfort is what the Spyder RT Limited is all about. The adjustable windscreen, heated seats, and easy-to-reach controls for the entertainment system make it all possible. (Can-Am/)

“The new Can-Am Spyder RT reflects what we’ve learned from owners over the past 10 years since we first unveiled the touring lineup,” said Josée Perreault, senior vice president, Can-Am On-Road at BRP. “Spyder RT riders have explored millions of miles of open road, and we’ve reimagined the ideal road-trip vehicle based on their feedback. This is the result, and it truly is an ultimate riding experience.”


The 2020 Spyder RT and RT Limited feature a large panoramic 7.8-inch-wide LCD color display with BRP Connect, audio control keypad, and glove box with USB port. (Can-Am/)
The new adjustable electric windshield with memory function provides superior wind protection, and the memory function automatically returns the windshield to the lowest or previous height. (Can-Am/)
Riders and passengers stay warm with ultra-comfortable heated seats. (Can-Am/)

Overall the angle Can-Am appears to be taking with the Spyder RT (possibly its entire lineup for that matter) is that these machines are for streets, dirt roads, and everywhere in between. Apparently it’s not just for eating up highway miles because these modern Spyders seem to be built as adventure-touring bikes in a three-wheeled sort of way. It makes sense though. The three-wheeled machines are stable even if the bodywork looks like a sportbike. Perhaps we will start seeing more aggressive knobby tires and skid plates on future models?


The incredibly popular Can-Am Ryker ($8,499) entices more people into the sport of three-wheel riding with an affordable price point, plus it has unlimited customization options. (Can-Am/)
The 2020 Can-Am F3 series includes the F3, F3-S, F3 Special Series, F3-T, and F3 Limited. Just like the original Spyder…only better. Pictured here is the awesome-looking F3-S ($17,499). (Can-Am/)

For 2020, Can-Am continues to offer the smaller, more playful single-seat Ryker ($8,499) as well as the sporty Spyder F3 (starting at $15,999).

2020 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited Specifications

PRICE $27,299 ENGINE Rotax 1330 ACE liquid-cooled inline-3 w/ electronic throttle control BORE x STROKE 84.0 x 80.0mm CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 115 hp (85.8 kW) @ 7,250 rpm CLAIMED TORQUE 96 lb.-ft. (130.1Nm) @ 5,000 rpm FUEL DELIVERY Electronic fuel injection CLUTCH Wet multi-plate TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/belt FRAME Aluminum twin-spar FRONT SUSPENSION Dual A-arms w/ anti-roll bar, Sachs Big-Bore shocks; 6.9-in. (174mm) travel REAR SUSPENSION Swingarm, Sachs shock w/ self-leveling air preload adjustment; 6.0-in. (152mm) travel FRONT BRAKE Foot-operated, hydraulic 3-wheel brake w/ Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers, 270mm discs REAR BRAKE 1-piston floating caliper, 270mm disc w/ integrated parking WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Aluminum 12-spoke, 15 x 5 in. (381 x 127mm) / Deep black, 15 x 7 in. (381 x 178mm) TIRES, FRONT/REAR MC165/55R-15 55H / MC225/50R-15 76H WHEELBASE 67.5 in. SEAT HEIGHT 29.725 in. GROUND CLEARANCE 4.5 in. FUEL CAPACITY 7.0 gal. CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 1,021 lb. WARRANTY 2 years (limited factory warranty) CONTACT can-am.brp.com/content/canam-spyder/en_US.html

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Yamaha VMAX Details

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 07:50

The 2020 VMAX is a performance cruiser that combines the comfort of a cruiser with the performance of a superbike. (Yamaha/)

The VMAX is one of the most iconic motorcycle designs Yamaha has ever created and it's back in 2020 for more arm-stretching antics for those brave enough to ride it. Yet Yamaha has chosen to shoehorn it into the category of Sport Heritage, insinuating the mighty VMAX is getting old.


Some of the superbike crossover components include a slipper clutch, wave-style brake discs, ABS, and adjustable suspension front and rear. (Yamaha/)
You are looking at the heart of the 2020 Yamaha VMAX. This is a fuel-injected, 65-degree, four-valves-per-cylinder, 1,679cc V-4 that pumps out more than 170 claimed horsepower and produces 100 pound-feet of torque. (Yamaha/)
An aluminum chassis assembled from both controlled-fill die-cast and extruded aluminum components holds the engine low and forward for optimized mass centralization. This is a cruiser that handles well in the canyons and flies straight at the dragstrip. (Yamaha/)

It’s been 12 years since the VMAX went through a major reboot that included a bump in displacement from 1,198cc to 1,679cc, a completely redesigned chassis that complemented the new power production, and a new look that managed to stay true to the original design with a modern twist. For 2020, it will roll down the road with no major updates to speak of, other than a completely blacked-out treatment that Yamaha calls Raven Black. Pricing continues to be the same $17,999 as it was when it was updated a decade ago, so that’s good news if you are still on the fence about buying one for yourself some day.


The 2020 Yamaha VMAX uses Brembo master cylinders—the front being a radial pump master cylinder. Large 320mm wave-style dual front discs are matched to radial-mount monoblock six-piston calipers. (Yamaha/)
The VMAX features a cartridge-damper-type fork with oxidized titanium coating. The fork has both compression and rebound damping adjustability plus spring preload. (Yamaha/)
Four-into-one-into-two-into-four exhaust system with EXUP helps to create a seamless powerband while maintaining the bike’s burly VMAX appearance. (Yamaha/)
The VMAX features an organic electroluminescent multifunction display. It includes clock, fuel meter, tripmeter with fuel reserve tripmeter, transmission gear position, coolant temperature, and, of course, a stopwatch. (Yamaha/)

Just for kicks, we invite you to take a trip in the way back machine and read about one of our first rides on the original 1985 Yamaha VMAX. It was a total trip, man.


The VMAX instrument panel includes an analog tachometer and digital speedometer with LED indicator lights, as well as an LED shift timing indicator. (Yamaha/)
You will find the VMAX hides its 4-gallon fuel tank under the seat, with the fill point located under the rider’s backrest, for mass centralization. (Yamaha/)

2020 Yamaha VMAX Specifications

PRICE $17,999 ENGINE 1,679cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 65° V-4; 16-valve BORE x STROKE 90.0 x 66.0mm COMPRESSION RATIO 11.3:1 FUEL DELIVERY Dual-stage fuel injection CLUTCH Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; hydraulic actuation TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/shaft FRAME Aluminum twin-spar FRONT SUSPENSION YHSJ 52mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel REAR SUSPENSION YHSJ shock adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping; 4.3-in. travel FRONT BRAKE 6-piston calipers, 320mm disc w/ ABS REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 298mm disc w/ ABS TIRES, FRONT/REAR 120/70-18 / 200/50-18 RAKE/TRAIL 31.0°/5.8 in. WHEELBASE 66.9 in. SEAT HEIGHT 30.5 in. FUEL CAPACITY 4.0 gal. CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 686 lb. (California model) WARRANTY 1 year (limited factory warranty) CONTACT yamahamotorsports.com

Categories: Motorcycles

MotoAmerica Progress Report—Motorcycle Roadracing In America

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 05:00

Captain (Moto)America: “What happens when people aspire to be part of our series?” CFO Richard Varner asked. MotoGP race winner and 2010 Moto2 world champion Toni Elías joined the championship in 2016, winning the Superbike title the following season on a Yoshimura Suzuki. Heading into the final round at Barber Motorsports Park, the 36-year-old Spaniard has a 16-point lead over three-time champ Cameron Beaubier. (Brian J. Nelson/)

I recently met with MotoAmerica leadership—president and three-time 500cc world champion Wayne Rainey, CFO Richard Varner, former racer and MotoGP team manager Chuck Aksland, and museum director Terry Karges. I wanted to learn how the five-year-old US motorcycle roadracing series has progressed, what the partners' plans are, and how they are using new media to move forward.

MotoAmerica’s initial strategy was simplistic: American roadracing had been great from 1970 through 2005, and then, after ’09, it almost ceased to exist. That tempted many to believe all the sport needed was a jump: Hook up the money cables and hit the starter until she fires and runs. Then what Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti once described as a second world championship would return to its natural state, thriving.

The Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG) took over AMA professional racing in 2009, adopting policies now seen to have been destructive. There was a deeper level as well: That was also the year of a profound US economic crisis that cut new bike sales by 60 percent, with further drops to come. As in the Great Depression of 1929–1935, as the economy gradually recovered, automobile and housing sales revived, but motorcycle sales have not.

RELATED: Technology Validated In The Showroom, Not On The Racetrack

The worst news was slowest to arrive: Young people had turned away from familiar activities—building model airplanes, playing sports, or riding minibikes—to retire into the new digital reality of social media. Unlike parents and grandparents for whom independence and freedom had been a car or bike, these people, smartphones always in hand, are expanding into a new dimension.

Despite this history, I found the MotoAmerica partners cheerful and optimistic. Varner described the gradual growth of the new series as “a five-year start-up.”


Andrew Lee (1) wrapped up his second Stock 1000 title at New Jersey Motorsports Park. “How many series have five classes where there’s an interesting point in each one of them?” Varner asked. “Every one of them has its own identity. It’s fertile for social media, for streaming, for network television, for reality.” (Brian J. Nelson/)

MotoAmerica had announced early that its goal was to develop talent and feed it into the global racing system, namely MotoGP and World Superbike. American riders had won championships in both. It was assumed that once US racing was revived, they would do so again. That has not yet happened, and there is doubt anyone now in the MotoAmerica paddock is going to Europe. Re-establishing a rider/talent group big enough to educate each other to top level is taking longer than hoped for, but there is real progress.

The series began with nine events and 72 riders per round, and now has 10 two- or three-day race weekends with close to 140 entries. “We have five classes—Superbike, Supersport, Junior Cup, Stock 1000, Twins Cup—all generating real interest,” Varner said. “How do we scale this? By having our own TV production that we own. You have to keep your content from becoming a commodity you can get anywhere, like the news.”

This approach is surely modeled after MotoGP’s notable success in producing and controlling its own TV. “How do you get social media to work for you?” Varner asked. “People can afford phones; that’s how they decide what to watch. Sensational saves—people love ’em. You can get a million views.”

MotoAmerica’s classes now include one for 600–800cc middleweight twins, Twins Cup, criticized at the time of its creation as “club racing.” But the American situation is unique. A twins class, being based on the vast array of cheap used bikes, engines, tools, and parts now available over the internet, turns out to be the least expensive way to go racing. What US racing needs most is competitors—lots of them—enough to become the self-teaching kernel that produces talent. Spanish and British series produce strong riders because the talent in them is numerous and equal enough to bootstrap itself to excellence. It takes time to achieve that kind of depth. The closeness of MotoAmerica racing shows that depth is now being approached.


Twins Cup point leader Alex Dumas (right) speaks with MotoAmerica TV commentator and champion racer Jason Pridmore. “We have five classes with good rules and good competition,” Chuck Aksland said. “Dumas was Junior Cup champion last year. He moved into Twins, so he has a place to develop confidence, to progress through the ranks.” (Brian J. Nelson/)

Spectators? Varner took the example of a populated area of 20 million, 8 percent of whom have motorcycles. “Our potential reach, if we get 1 percent of that 8 percent, that’s 15,000 page views,” he said. “We don’t need to have 20,000 [spectators]; we can do with half that.”

Aksland added, “This year, we took one race Saturday, one Sunday: 130,000 followers on Facebook became 160,000 viewers. This weekend [at Laguna Seca Raceway], we have a possibility of five million followers.”

Caution is required because the digital giants don’t want to share revenue. “Facebook gave us a lot at first,” Varner said. “Then they toned it down. But they like live content. Sponsors want broadcast TV, but digital is big now.”

The world may have gone digital, but there is real demand for the authentic: “This is real, exciting, competitive, dangerous—not a weird novelty,” Karges said. The racing has become really tight, able to make the nightly news.

The series has also grown. “We’ve almost tripled the staff this year,” Varner said. At Pittsburgh International Race Complex, Karges noted, MotoAmerica performed parking-lot license-plate checks. “They were from everywhere—Michigan, Texas, Florida, Canada,” he said. “Camping is a big deal for us.”

A limiting factor is the sheer size of the US and the cost of long-distance travel, suggesting the possibility of splitting the series into regions with annual runoffs. A major discovery has been that racing by itself isn’t enough for most people; there has to be more going on.

“How do you enhance the fan experience?” Karges asked. “Kids under 16 are free. Bringing in different things for kids.” To which Varner added, “All to motivate someone to get off the couch and come. We’re building data equity. The first year we made ’em aware; the second year you educate ’em.”


MotoAmerica partners Varner (right) and Aksland converse this past July at Laguna Seca Raceway. “The racers are here to race, not to do what we do, run the race,” series president Wayne Rainey said. “This is year five. We wish this would have happened sooner, but we’re feeling pretty good about it.” (Nic Coury/)

The partners have learned patience, Rainey said. “We didn’t do 11 or 12 races because the base isn’t there yet.”

Another thread that appeared in conversation was cooperation with other organizations, racing and motorcycle clubs, corporate groups, and the idea of shared promotion with other series like American Flat Track. “We have five trailers here,” Varner said. “We can bring in the sponsors’ gear, and they can just fly in. A trailer with a lift gate? That’s 10 grand. And it’s something we can scale. Five trailers and two trucks; sometimes we make double trips.”

While new motorcycles aren’t selling in great numbers, people continue to ride what they can afford—older bikes. “The club [racing] scene is strong,” Rainey noted. “Their paddocks are full. We get a lot of local club racers [at our events].”

MotoAmerica prize money and manufacturer contingency total some $8 million. In 2018, MotoAmerica Stock 1000 rider Geoff May—a veteran of foreign and domestic championships—made $90,000 from just that, riding as a side deal on five bikes in four series. That recalls the 1990s and the “contingency gypsies” like two-time World Superbike champion Doug Polen, who drove from one regional race to the next, not just making a living but earning serious money while doing so.


Close finishes: World Supersport championship runner-up PJ Jacobsen (99) joined MotoAmerica’s middleweight class this year and is challenging point leader Bobby Fong (50) for the title. In 2020, MotoAmerica will hold new events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington State. (Brian J. Nelson/)

While Dorna’s classes—MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3—are for prototypes only, MotoAmerica remains 100 percent production-based. Could that change? Rainey said, “Dorna came to us with a class but this costs a lot to do here in the States.” Varner added, “Maybe we should do some kind of winter series, maybe Moto3.”

The underlying goal of putting American riders back on the world stage calls for patience and the certainty that, if present MotoAmerica trends continue, the necessary talent will develop. It began to appear in AMA roadracing 1968–’71, then took a leap forward from 1972, creating conditions that soon sent the names we know so well to the top: Gary Nixon, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Kevin Schwantz, and Rainey, who pointed out in our meeting that, “I was 28 when I went over.”

For a time, observers of MotoAmerica feared its principals—the men in the conference trailer with me—were tiring of the constant effort and expense. That has given way to apparent optimism and confidence, carried forward by a willingness to drive progress until it can drive itself. Racing will be woven into a broader fabric of related activities.

As we all prepared to leave, Varner summed up by saying, “We can see the light now [at the end of the tunnel]. And it’s the sun. It’s not an oncoming train.”

Categories: Motorcycles

Fabio Quartararo Is The Future Of MotoGP

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 14:27

Heading into round 13 of the MotoGP world championship this weekend at the Misano World Circuit in Italy, class rookie Fabio Quartararo is eighth overall in the standings, with Yamaha factory riders Maverick Viñales fifth and nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi sixth. (Petronas Yamaha SRT/)

Twenty-year-old MotoGP rookie Fabio Quartararo stole headlines this past May at Jerez in Spain when the satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT rider became the youngest-ever premier-class polesitter, eclipsing reigning series champion and current point-leader Marc Márquez.

The young Frenchman has continued to impress by leading races and scoring podium finishes at Catalunya, Assen, and Spielberg, and is widely considered the leading candidate to replace Valentino Rossi in the factory squad when the nine-time world champion retires.

RELATED: Danilo Petrucci Is The MotoGP Race Winner Who Lives Next Door

Quartararo admits he is flattered by the attention but prefers to focus on his job; learning is his number-one priority. During race weekends, he is the first to arrive in the garage and the last to leave, absorbing information like a sponge from everyone associated with the Malaysian outfit.

Quartararo is not new to astronomical pressure. He joined the Moto3 class at age 15, acclaimed as the “new” Márquez. MotoGP rights-holder Dorna even changed the rules so Quartararo could enter the world championship a year earlier than the previous minimum age requirement of 16.

But as Quartararo relates in this interview, instead of making things easier, his apprenticeship was rocky and tough.


Quartararo was born in 1999 and began racing motorcycles at age 4, moving to Spain to develop his career and winning championships in the 70, 80, and 125cc classes. He won the FIM CEV Moto3 title in 2013 and ’14. Five years later, he won the MotoGP pole at Jerez. (Petronas Yamaha SRT/)

Petronas Yamaha SRT’s decision to move you to MotoGP this season with only one Moto2 victory under your belt was met with some doubt. How did you feel about this new role?

I have never doubted myself. I was waiting for this moment since I was a kid. When I received the phone call from Yamaha, I knew I couldn’t make mistakes. I’m facing this new chapter as my father taught me: with commitment, but first of all, having fun.

What did it mean to you personally to debut in Grand Prix racing with the label of the “new Marc Márquez”?

It was a motivation but also a huge pressure. When I joined Moto3, I made the mistake to try and follow Marc’s tire tracks. I was only focused on winning and not learning the bike or the tracks. It was a mistake, and I paid for it. I injured myself, and the results didn’t come as expected.

This year, your rookie season in the premier class, your name has once again been compared with that of the seven-time world champion.

Now it’s different as I have more experience. I’m focused on learning the new category and, above all, remaining myself.

If you had to pick a quality from the top MotoGP riders, which skills would you like to have?

Marc Márquez’s aggressiveness and the speed that Jorge Lorenzo used to have in the first laps. As for personality, I would choose myself.

How do you describe yourself?

If I had to compare myself to an animal, I would say a tiger [revealing the roaring animal tattooed on his arm, together with a rose, a musical note, and other symbols]. I want to be myself. My idol has always been Valentino Rossi, but my riding style has some similarities with Lorenzo: smooth, precise, consistent, and aggressive when it is needed.

You started racing at a young age. Have you ever felt alone in a paddock of adults?

It’s a strange feeling, but once you put the visor down, you are alone. There is no one to help you ride the bike. In the practices, you enter the garage, so you can connect with the team. In racing, it’s only you, with your bike and your mind.


The 20-year-old Frenchman (left) was selected this season to join the Petronas Yamaha SRT team alongside the more experienced Franco Morbidelli (right) with only a single Moto2 victory to his credit. The decision proved to be the right one. (Petronas Yamaha SRT/)

How do you develop this confidence?

It’s something you learn to cope with. For example, I don’t have a trainer; I train completely alone. I listen to my music, and I focus on myself.

Do you also ride in your dreams?

Yes. I often wake up suddenly as if I were touching the ground in a crash. It’s a strange feeling. It’s a common dream for other riders as well.

Is this perhaps a way to avoid the fear of crashing?

I don’t think about the risk when I’m racing. You need to be 100 percent focused on yourself and the results you want to get.

Your “family-first” tattoo says a lot about you.

It’s true. My family is so important—my mom, my dad, and my brother. They have made many sacrifices for me. For many years, we were commuting from Nice, my hometown, to the circuits in Spain. We were not rich. As we spend so much time in the paddock, the team becomes your second family. It’s important for me to have a good relationship with the team.

In Austria, at a track that doesn’t favor the Yamaha YZR-M1, you earned your third podium. Was that an important milestone for your growth?

In a way, yes, because Spielberg is one of the tracks on the calendar with the most aggressive braking and one of the most difficult for me. I made no mistakes, which impressed me. Normally in a race you will make a small mistake, going wide somewhere. But I never missed a braking point or an apex once. When you do 28 laps without a mistake, it shows that you’re really strong.

With three pole positions and three podium finishes on a satellite Yamaha, do you feel ready for the first win?

My first win? It’s too early to say. The target now is to be the best rookie. I need to gain experience and remain calm, a quality I want to improve.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Honda Africa Twin Pictures Emerge

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 12:55

Photos submitted by Honda for approval documents show the face of the 2020 Africa Twin. (Honda Government Approval Submission/)

If you keep up to date with Cycle World, you'll already know that next year's Honda Africa Twin is getting some serious updates—and now pictures of the revamped machine have leaked onto the internet weeks before it's due to be officially revealed.

As with the current Africa Twin, there are two distinct versions: a base model and a more serious adventure-oriented machine. For 2020, both are powered by a heavily revised 1,084cc parallel-twin engine, replacing the current 998cc twin and adding horsepower for a total of 101 at 7,500 rpm. While we already knew that from information leaked back in July, the new pictures reveal the bikes also get a new chassis and styling to set them apart from their predecessors.

The new frame shares the same layout as the current Africa Twin but features revised alloy castings near the swingarm pivot. The swingarm itself also appears to be new, but despite those changes the bike’s geometry remains familiar with the same 1,575mm wheelbase as the existing CRF1000L. At the back there’s a new bolt-on subframe, which should make repairs easier if the Africa Twin succumbs to the rough-and-tumble that it’s clearly designed for.


The 2020 Honda Africa Twin gets a new, removable subframe. (Honda Government Approval Submission/)

As before, both versions of the Africa Twin will be offered with either a manual transmission or Honda’s DCT gearbox, which gives semi-automatic changes and eliminates the clutch lever but adds 22 pounds to the bikes’ weights. Speaking of weight, the base Africa Twin comes in at 467 pound dry in manual form, 489 pounds with DCT—4.4 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The more off-road-ready version, previously called the Adventure Sports but set to go under the name “Africa Twin Adventure” in 2020, is 483 pounds or 505 pounds depending on transmission, representing an 11-pound weight reduction.

An additional, higher-spec bike is also due to be offered, based on the Adventure but featuring more kit that adds 4.4 pounds to its dry weight, however it’s not been revealed what those extra bits will be. Fuel and fluids will add around 42 pounds to each bike’s weight in the real world.

The styling changes are subtle but extensive. On the base Africa Twin, they include a new nose and redesigned lights. The side air intakes have moved to a spot under the fairing sides and there appears to be a new central air duct in the nose. The side panels are mildly reshaped and the tail is neater, without the prominent pannier mounts of the previous model.


Honda’s 2020 Africa Twin Adventure Sports gets more lights, possibly cornering LEDs, and model-specific bodywork. (Honda Government Approval Submission/)

The Adventure version has more extreme changes. Starting at the front there are the same new lights under a taller screen but now they’re joined by additional light units underneath them. These may simply be additional driving lights, but their position suggests they could be adaptive cornering lamps. Again the sides are mildly reworked, while the enlarged fuel tank of the Adventure Sports is carried over. The rear bodywork is unique to the Adventure version, covering more of the subframe and blending into the fuel tank. It also features a luggage rack that’s missing on the base model.

Underneath, the Adventure features a tough-looking bash plate that protects both the engine and a new catalytic converter that’s positioned relatively far forward on the exhaust, ahead of the rider’s right foot. The new exhaust also features an enlarged end can, reflecting the fact that the new CRF1100L has to pass tighter Euro 5 emissions laws.


A horizontally oriented TFT display can be seen on the 2020 Africa Twin Adventure Sports, replacing the vertical LCD of previous models. (Honda Government Approval Submission/)

As well as the new look, the 2020 Africa Twin is set for a technology upgrade. All versions of the bike get a new TFT display, mounted horizontally rather than vertically as on the current model, and you can be certain the bike will feature an increased complement of rider aids and modes.

All the details are expected to emerge in the coming weeks when Honda officially unveils the CRF1100L and the rest of its 2020 range.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 First Look

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 11:49

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The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 is back for a return engagement. Sure, it may not have received much more than a mild helping of BNG, but it is still a great little motorcycle. (Yamaha/)

Ever since the Yamaha R3 hit US shores back in 2015 these motorcycles have become increasingly popular with beginners, commuters, and lightweight trackday riders alike. As the entry-level machine into the world of Yamaha's R-series sportbikes, the R3 fills the role of stepping-stone sportbike well. Even though the 2020 Yamaha R3 goes into the year unchanged, it still hits a price point of $4,999 for the base version, the low cost of entry making it attractive to many young riders.


The Yamaha R3 in Monster Energy livery, similar to what you would see MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi riding as he continues to build upon his racing legacy. (Yamaha/)
On the track or on the street, the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 is going to make a bunch of riders happy, no matter where they ride. (Yamaha/)
At the heart of the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 is its 321cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline twin-cylinder engine. This fuel-injected tiddler is a blast to ride. (Yamaha/)

The R3 is also available with ABS for $5,299 but you also get to choose from Team Yamaha Blue, Matte Black, or Matte Silver options. For those looking for something a little more unique, then gaze in wild wonderment at the Monster Energy version at its $5,599 price tag. That’s right, for just under six grand you too can ride a MotoGP-inspired R-series sportbike of your very own.


It may surprise you to know that the Yamaha R3 chassis is quite capable on the track. Its inverted fork and great brakes make it easy to learn your way around your favorite course. (Yamaha/)
Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 tires are fitted to the 2020 Yamaha R3. (Yamaha/)
Got info? The 2020 Yamaha R3 dash looks like it belongs on a much more expensive motorcycle. It’s big, easy to read, and full of info. (Yamaha/)

Check out what our first ride review from Kent Kunitsugu had to say about the 2019 YZF-R3. If you are looking to get into a fun bike, an inexpensive trackday weapon, or a fuel-efficient (Yamaha claims 56 mpg) commuter, the YZF-R3 should be on your list. It ticks all the right boxes.


A huge amount of effort was put into maintaining the R-series look and feel when the engineers created the Yamaha R3. Does this front end look familiar? (Yamaha/)
The racy tailsection is sleek and follows the lines of its larger siblings. The YZF-R3 is meant to get you hooked on motorcycling from all angles. (Yamaha/)
The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 in Matte Silver. (Yamaha/)
The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 in Matte Black. (Yamaha/)

2020 Yamaha R3 Specifications

PRICE $4,999; $5,299 w/ ABS ENGINE 321cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline twin-cylinder; 8 valves BORE x STROKE 68.0 x 44.1mm COMPRESSION RATIO 11.2:1 FUEL DELIVERY Fuel injection TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain FRAME Steel trellis FRONT SUSPENSION Inverted telescopic fork; 5.1-in. travel REAR SUSPENSION Monocross single shock, adjustable for preload; 4.9-in. travel FRONT BRAKE 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS model available REAR BRAKE 220mm hydraulic disc; ABS model available TIRES, FRONT/REAR Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300; 110/70-17 / 140/70-17 RAKE/TRAIL 25.0°/3.7 in. WHEELBASE 54.3 in. SEAT HEIGHT 30.7 in. FUEL CAPACITY 3.7 gal. CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 368 lb. / 375 lb. (ABS model) WARRANTY 1 year (limited factory warranty) COLORS Team Yamaha Blue w/ABS; Matte Silver w/ABS; Matte Black w/ABS; Team Yamaha Blue AVAILABLE November 2019 CONTACT yamahamotorsports.com

Categories: Motorcycles

Where Did Spark-Plug Wires, Caps, Coils, And Distributors Go?

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 05:00

When you look at the cylinder heads of late-model bike engines, you see just a black plastic gizmo atop each of the engine’s deep spark-plug wells. Colored wires emerge, running to an ignition box. Because most engines now have four valves per cylinder, a single spark plug is placed at the center of each combustion chamber, minimizing the distance flame must travel from initiating spark to cylinder wall. Emerging from each such gizmo are ordinary low-voltage insulated wires, not the familiar 7mm black rubber-insulated ignition wire of the past. Those gizmos are compact “stick” coils, one for each spark plug.

And where early Harley-Davidson Sportsters, original two-stroke Kawasaki H1s, and auto engines had distributors, today there are none. Why the change, and how does this technology work?

In days of yore, when according to some, men were men, a set of breaker points—really just a cam-operated mechanical switch—closed, allowing battery current to flow into the primary winding of a single ignition coil. That current set up a magnetic field storing significant energy around the winding. When after some dwell time, the breaker cam pushed the points open, current quickly died away in the coil primary, allowing that magnetic field to collapse. As it did so, it induced a much higher-voltage, lower-current pulse into a secondary coil winding having many times more turns than the primary coil. As that voltage rose, it traveled through the familiar black rubber-insulated plug wire to a spark plug. The rising voltage produced a powerful electric field across the spark-plug electrodes, accelerating any stray electrons there to high velocity. Those fast-moving electrons crashed into other atoms in the plug’s gap, knocking more electrons loose from them, which were in turn accelerated by the electric field, producing an electron cascade—a spark—across the gap.

RELATED: Technology Validated In The Showroom, Not On The Racetrack

But there were problems. Those black rubber-insulated plug wires acted as radio frequency (RF) antennas, broadcasting annoying radio and TV interference. Inside the distributor, the rotating arm whose job it was to conduct spark current to one after another spark-plug lead, which we used to see sprouting from the distributor cap, was carrying high voltage. Any dust, moisture, or acid surface layer inside that cap could and ruthlessly would short-circuit the spark. In the case of the 1969 Kawasaki H1, with its go-for-broke advanced CDI, the presence of intense electrical fields produced corona loss. Dealers then received a snowfall of memos and updates on how to make customer engines run as smoothly as those in the R&D; department. That's life in the technological fast lane.

In the magnetos and distributors of aircraft piston engines of the 1940s, operation at high altitude intensified this problem because it’s easier for unwanted sparks to jump through thinner air. Therefore magnetos and the heavily constructed wire harnesses that carried their spark voltage to the plugs had to be pressurized to prevent internal arcing, misfire, and other ills. Sitting on its own pad on each engine’s accessory drive case was the gear-driven magneto pressurization pump. Part of the reason for the wire harness’ weight was that every plug wire had to be shielded with metal, and aircraft engine spark plugs themselves were made with an external metal shield surrounding its insulator—all tediously assembled by screw threads—to prevent the 144 spark plugs and plug wires on every four-engine airplane from making radio communication impossible (four engines times 18 cylinders per engine times two spark plugs per cylinder head equals 144).

It was easier on highways. By giving plug wires high resistance, substituting a carbon core for the traditional metal wire, only the initial brief high-voltage discharge could take place. In some cases, the resistance was moved into the spark plug itself as either a resistor or a gap. But still there remained the problem of plug wires frying against hot engine parts. Plus rubber and heat never get along, which is why tire performance “drops” in the heat of MotoGP competition. Looking under the hood at a running engine after dark could reveal ghostly corona or even outright sparking, making a new set of wires and plug caps necessary. The auto tune-ups that used to interrupt the lives of motorists every thousand miles or so were mainly to keep this not-so-hot technology at its best operating point.

So when I brought home my third-largest aircraft piston engine made in maybe 1953 or so, I wasn’t surprised to find 1) four big, low-tension magnetos and 2) ignition coils mounted in pairs directly on each of the engine’s 28-cylinder heads. Before that invention, Strategic Air Command planners had been tearing their hair and considering crazy stuff like filling the mags with sulfur hexafluoride gas, which strongly resists unwanted sparking and corona. They wanted to operate their B-36 bomber with its six 28-cylinder piston engines at 40,000 feet and were going crazy trying to get mechanics to remember all the finicky pressurization pump connections, check valves, and tests before every hoped-to-be 10,000-mile test flight.


Four black-topped stick-type ignition coils sit nearly flush with the valve cover on BMW’s latest S 1000 RR sportbike. The spark plugs are located just below the coils, buried deep within the cylinder head in the center of each four-valve combustion chamber. (BMW/)

So in their desperation, they became brilliant: They simplified and added lightness. Away went troublesome high voltage in magnetos, distributors, and plug wire harnesses. No more heavy metal-sheathed HV wiring. No magneto pressurization pump. Just the simplicity of one coil per spark plug, working through a very short lead. And no more trying to transform regular-guy line mechanics into check-list-waving engineers.

Something similar has now happened in the auto industry: the stick coil. I suspect that some enterprising junior engineer looked at how deeply buried are the central spark plugs in modern four-valve engines with a single cover over both cams. It’s a long way down from the cam cover surface to the plug itself. What if compact ignition coils could occupy some of that space? Surrounded by metal on all sides, they would need zero RF shielding. And the wires supplying power to them could be cheap, ordinary low-voltage stuff that generated no RF interference. No more tired plug wires to replace.

And so it was done. As you’d expect when a new technology replaces an older one, there have been some early failures and complaints, but in general I like the new coils. And with so many electronic systems appearing on cars and bikes, RF interference can be a real bear. Just yesterday I was reading about an auto model that saves its owner’s delicate wrists by featuring a power gas cap. It wouldn’t do to have RF interference constantly screwing and unscrewing your gas cap.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Honda CRF250R First Ride Review

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 04:00

Riding the 2020 Honda CRF250R at SoCal’s Fox Raceway. (Mark Kariya/)

The Honda CRF250R has enjoyed some notable success in professional racing since the latest-generation model was introduced back in 2018, mostly in the past year with Geico Honda's Chase Sexton using it to win the 2019 AMA 250SX East Region Supercross Championship and Phoenix Racing Honda's Jace Owen piloting it to the 2019 Kicker Arenacross title. While its achievements in professional racing are undoubtedly impressive, we felt last year's bike lacked low-end power and had a chassis that was occasionally unstable, especially in rough areas of the track. The 2020 model received several updates targeted at increasing the engine's low-to-midrange power and improving the chassis' handling. Honda invited us out to a private rental of Fox Raceway in Pala, California, to ride the '20 model and see how the changes stacked up on the track.

Related: 2019 Honda CRF250RX First Ride Review

Engine


<strong>Left:</strong> Honda made several changes to the CRF250R's engine for 2020, which are aimed at increasing the engine's low-to-midrange power. <strong>Right:</strong> Honda's 250 four-stroke motocross bike also has a new frame and swingarm in 2020. Naturally, the fork and shock settings have also been revised. (Mark Kariya/)

The current CRF250R engine was developed from roadracing technology. It has a completely separate dual exhaust system that makes it visually unmistakable. 2020 marks the current generation engine’s third year in production and it has received a host of changes that were, according to Honda, aimed at bettering low-to-midrange power, increasing torque, and improving drivability.

To accomplish these goals, they changed the exhaust cam profile and timing, which delays the opening of the exhaust valves and reduces overlap; in turn, hopefully improving torque and power in the 6,000 to 10,000 rpm range. The combustion chamber shape has changed with an increased volume of 0.5 cm3, which now puts it at 12.5 cm3. To keep the compression ratio up, Honda also increased the piston dome by 0.5 cm3 to 22.2 cm3. The right-side header pipe resonator from the 2018 and 2019 model has been removed to help improve the power character when shifting from second to third gear as well. Also, the muffler internal shape has been revised, the air filter is 10 percent larger for improved airflow, and the engine now has a gear position sensor to allow dedicated ignition maps for each gear.

On the track, the CRF250R feels faster. It may not be the fastest bike in the class, but it is also not the slowest. The midrange power is slightly improved and over-rev is still strong. When you want to carry third gear just a little longer than normal to avoid shifting to fourth, the engine seems a little rich. There might be a little room in the fuel mapping to possibly improve the higher rpm power and gain more on top. This can be done with the HRC PGM-FI Setting Tool.


While the CRF250R’s engine power is improved for 2020, it could still use more torque if it wants to compete with the KTM and Yamaha powerplants. (Mark Kariya/)

For the transmission, second and third gears have also been WPC surface treated for improved durability and reduced friction. Honda also indicated that second gear has a revised, higher ratio We did a little digging to see how much the ratios have changed and found that not only was second gear updated to have a higher ratio, but the fourth and fifth gear ratios have also been revised to a lower ratio. From the 2019 to 2020 model, first and third gears remained the same. The easiest way to explain this is the gap between first and second is bigger, and the gaps between second, third, and fourth are smaller. I can’t say it was a very noticeable change on the track, but it’s not a bad idea for the engine’s high rpm powerband to have the gear ratios closer together. Overall, the gear selection was good and I wasn’t in between gears at any point.

The clutch spring rates have been increased adding a claimed 18 percent more clutch capacity. I experienced some minimal clutch fade at the beginning of the day; maybe because of the engine breaking in or getting up to temperature. After the first 45 minutes of riding, it seemed to go away.

Suspension


Better stock suspension settings make the Showa components feel more compliant compared to the 2019 model. (Mark Kariya/)

With my 170-pound weight and Vet A riding ability, the stock suspension settings are a little soft for my liking. We made some adjustments throughout the day and easily got the bike to a point where the holdup was good without losing much comfort. For my first ride day on the bike, I set the fork at 5mm in the triple clamps, stiffened the compression adjuster five clicks so that it was four clicks out from fully closed, and left the rebound stock. Out back, we set the sag at 100mm (measured by the directions in the owner’s manual), went two clicks stiffer on low-speed compression to nine clicks out from fully closed, went in a half turn on high-speed compression to two turns out from fully stiff, and left rebound stock. Overall, the suspension feels more compliant than the prior year model, offering good comfort.

Chassis/Handling

Fortunately, the chassis on the CRF250R received all of the major updates as its big brother, the CRF450R, did last year. This includes a new frame and swingarm. Naturally, the fork and shock settings have also been revised. Some of the smaller, more minor updates include new lighter footpegs and a new battery that has been repositioned 28mm lower. The rear brake has a shorter and lighter brake pedal, and the lower rear brake guard has been removed in an effort to reduce weight and improve cooling. The bodywork remains unchanged with the exception of new graphics.

The chassis on the CRF250R is very clean and streamlined. There are no gaps in the plastic across the side of the bike from the radiator to the rear of the number plate. The rider cockpit area seems well thought out with equal proportions, forming a comfortable rider triangle. It definitely has the feeling of sitting on the bike and not in the bike.

How Does The Honda CRF250R Ride?


The CRF250R corners excellently. (Mark Kariya/)

I enjoy riding the CRF250R because it has a very fun and lightweight feel. The bike corners so easily and intuitively. The balance between stability and turning is surprising because you would think it might get unstable at higher speeds. Initiating and entering a turn is very easy and once you commit to the corner, the bike pretty much does the rest for you. One new sensation I got on this bike was when you drag the rear brake just right when approaching the corner, it feels like you are almost backing the rear in without losing rear wheel traction.

When accelerating out of the turn, the bike easily transfers plenty of weight on the rear wheel and just hooks up. I know it’s a 250 so the wheel does not want to step out as easily as a 450; however, the CRF450R has the same feeling of very good rear wheel traction. I am going to say it’s a chassis thing.

I would say the engine power is improved but could still be better. You still need to keep the rpm up and be ready to downshift in the tighter corners. If you hit your marks and don’t stick the bike hard into a berm, everything is fine, but a mistake can be costly. The bike makes decent power and a faster engine may not even mean a faster lap time, but it would just give you a little more confidence around the track.

Gearbox


The 2020 Honda CRF250R feels faster than last year’s bike. (Mark Kariya/)

Helmet: Shoei VFX-EVO
Goggle: Scott Prospect
Jersey: Fly Racing Evolution DST
Gloves: Fly Racing Evolution DST
Pant: Fly Racing Evolution DST
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10

TECH SPEC

PRICE $7,999 ENGINE 249cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A MEASURED TORQUE N/A FRAME Aluminum twin-spar FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 49mm inverted coil-spring fork adjustable for compression and rebound damping; 12.0-in. travel REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.4-in. travel FRONT BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc WHEELBASE 58.3 in. SEAT HEIGHT 37.8 in. FUEL CAPACITY 1.6 gal. CLAIMED WEIGHT 237 lb. curb AVAILABLE Now CONTACT powersports.honda.com

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