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New motorcycles for 2007

There were some interesting new models unwrapped at various European motorcycle shows recently.

The information age must be driving manufacturers crazy.

No matter how secretive they are with new models, the instant one of their prototypes gets refuelled at a gas station in Madagascar, some troublemaker snaps a cellphone picture and it’s all over the Internet before the test rider’s collected his Petro Points.

Ignoring rumours for now, there were some interesting new models unwrapped at various European motorcycle shows recently.

Whether any of these bikes ever make it to North America is anyone’s guess as Canadian distributors won’t comment until they have their dealer meetings later this year.

One that is confirmed is Kawasaki’s mega sport tourer, the Concours 14. Highlights include a revised 1352 cc engine lifted from the mega ZX14, monocoque frame, male slider forks, huge radial brakes, hard bags, ABS, comfy ergos and a reasonably ugly muffler. Look for this model to replace the venerable but aging 1000 Concours.

Billed as a 2008 model, there’s a revised KLR650 coming down the pike, er, trail. Actually it handles both, one of the huge pluses of the KLR, now entering its 21st year of production.

The suspension has been heavily revised with improved springing and damping, which surprisingly results in less wheel travel than the old KLR. The brakes are improved and the engine is tweaked for more performance and better driveability. I owned one of these motorcycles in the early 1990s and wish I’d never sold it.

Suzuki unveiled a new GSX-R 1000 in Paris and, in a complete reversal of sportbike philosophy, it’s about six kilos heavier than the model it replaces. Most of the pudginess can be attributed to the new twin mufflers, probably to accommodate more catalytic converters in order to meet stricter Euro-emissions standards.

Power is up and the chassis has been revised. In the “trick” category, riders can select three different engine power characteristics with the flick of a handlebar-mounted switch.

Suzuki has also seriously upgraded the venerable 1200 Bandit by turfing the air-and-oil-cooled carburetted motor in favour of a completely new liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 1250 cc mill with more horsepower and torque throughout the rev range and a six-speed tranny.

El Bandito also has a new half fairing with a more modern angular look, upgraded brakes, with optional ABS, and the seat now adjusts for height over a 20 mm range.

And, after six years of speculation, the “ultimate naked bike,” Suzuki’s B-King will definitely be sold in Europe next year. Powered by a detuned version of the 1300 cc Hayabusa engine, it will have the usual niceties in fully adjustable suspension, comfy ergos and enough torque to stop the earth from spinning.

Seeing as Yamaha and Suzuki escalated the 600 sportbike war this year, Honda and Kawasaki responded with salvos of their own.

Honda started with a clean sheet of paper for an all-new CBR600RR that’s eight kilos lighter, with about four more horsepower. Two kilos were shaved off the powerplant, which is narrower and shorter (both in height and length) than the old one. The motorcycle is shorter overall for crisper handling and comes with the electronic hydraulic steering damper pioneered on big brother CBR1000RR.

And Kawasaki’s new ZX6 runs the predictable gamut of 600 cc development by being smaller, lighter and producing more horsepower. Niceties include a cassette-style, close-ratio transmission that slips out so racers can easily change internal ratios at the track without splitting the engine cases and what’s become standard these days — a slipper clutch.

Seeing as they’re already barely rideable on the street, if they keep getting more track-focused, the 600 sportbikes will soon weigh 25 kilos and produce 800 horsepower.

Honda’s bringing the VTX1800 back to Canada, along with a new Spirit 750 cruiser with shaft drive. Also unveiled was a 25th-anniversary edition VFR800 that’s mechanically unchanged but features a very tasty retro Freddie Spencer racing paint job.

And the Gold Wing will have an airbag for next year — although price is not yet confirmed.

Yamaha will shortly unveil a new Star 1300 cc cruiser with belt drive, liquid cooling and an accessory catalogue thicker than the Toronto phone book.

Triumph has an all-new Tiger that appears to have abandoned all “imitation dirt bike” pretenses, as it sports a 17-inch front wheel, male slider forks, aluminum swingarm, radial brakes and an aluminum perimeter frame.

Throw in an upright riding position, a nifty handlebar fairing and Triumph’s wonderful three-cylinder growl coming from the latest 1050 cc EFI engine, and this Tiger’s no pussycat.

And filed under the “interesting rumours” department, how about recent spy photos of a liquid-cooled Harley Sportster? It makes sense really as the impending European and California emissions requirements will make it increasingly difficult for air-cooled engines to meet these strict standards.

And while we’re dealing with rumours, where’s the road-going version of Honda’s MotoGP five-cylinder motorcycle?

Or the updated Honda XX Blackbird? Or a Buell with the V-Rod engine? Or …


wheels@thestar.ca;

scugog8@yahoo.com

 

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