Euro Gossip December 2007
It is that time of year when greetings and felicitations need to wing their way across the pond, so have a good time, preferably on two wheels and above all, stay safe!
As we sit back and look back at what has been a terrific year, not only for new European machinery, but for motorcycling in general, we must remember that we have what promises to be an even better one to look forward to – especially given the official announcements about ’08 models and beyond. But this column is about digging beneath the gloss and officialdom and looking for something to whet your appetite and just occasionally adding in a bit of I told you so! when it does become a reality. So as you begin your celebrations, here is the latest news and gossip to ponder on as the New Year races towards us at a pace that seems to put even a MotoGP machine to shame!
The public got a peek at Honda’s six-cylinder prototype, the EVO6, at the Tokyo Motor Show. Word from KTM’s head of PR, Thomas Kuttruf, is that the Austrian company has developed its own six-cylinder powerplant. Scoot over, Super Duke, there might be a new KTM king of the horsepower hill soon.
We mentioned last month that the KTM RC8 was now finally with us as a production rather than concept machine. Now it seems that this is to be followed next year by the Venom, which is the naked version first shown in 2004, a year after the RC8.
KTM’s head of PR, Thomas Kuttruf, has publicly admitted that it will be out for the ’08 Cologne Show in Germany on October 8-12. The bike is obviously aimed at going up against the Aprilia Tuono. In addition, an RC8R will (as suggested here before) be developed for World Superbike racing and could be out by the end of next year, depending on the speed of development.
Kuttruf has also admitted the speculatively named RC4 single-cylinder sportbike (again mentioned earlier this year) is on something of a back boiler until the larger bikes have been sorted out. Apparently, the factory sees a question mark over how many they will sell versus the cost of development, which may not be that many given Ducati’s experience with the Supermono some years ago.
He was, however, more buoyant about the use of the six-cylinder engine that they have now fully developed. Given the renewed Japanese interest in this class and also BMW’s (see below), it may well see the light of day quite soon as part of a complete bike. Watch this space for more information.
The BMW K1200LT has avoided any major revisions for years, but it looks like the flagship of the German fleet has been penciled in for a major makeover.
Even if you are not a particular fan of Bavarian bikes, you cannot fail to have noticed that BMW has changed or replaced just about every model in its range over the last three years. Well, there is one model left that has not been altered or updated, and that is the gargantuan K1200LT.
Sources close to the design team now suggest that this is to be rectified soon and that the most expensive bike in its revised model line-up is likely to be replaced by a totally new flagship. Some even believe that in keeping with the current Japanese move to bring back six-cylinder bikes that BMW will fit the new bike with a six-cylinder engine with a capacity of around 1850cc to take on the Honda Goldwing. Given that they are making a one-liter, In-line Four to go racing, (see below), this seems to be a really good solid rumor, although such a bike is still a long way off.
What is not is the four-cylinder racer mentioned previously in one of my round-ups on the German firm’s plans. Clad in Yamaha R6 bodywork, the bike has allegedly been lapping over a second faster than the likes of a Yamaha R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Honda’s Fireblade ( CBR1000RR for us yanks – ed ) when undergoing circuit tests recently.
Given the size of the bodywork, this is remarkable for a one-liter machine to be this small. What is also interesting is, despite the lack of visible items on the spy shots, the bike is very conventional, with normal inverted telescopic forks and swingarm. The frame looks fairly conventional as well.
Apparently, the codename for this bike is 190/190 to indicate 190 hp and a ready-to-ride weight of 190 kgs (419 lbs). (The WSB version will have to get this down to 162kg and produce 210bhp.) This bike will apparently have a price tag that puts it into direct competition with Japanese one-liter machines when it is debuted at the Cologne show next year, rather than being a high-priced, limited-production machine like the HP2.
Aprilia has been spotted testing its future World Superbike contender at Jerez. The Italian marque has kept the bike’s appearance under wrap and has been running it shrouded in old RSV bodywork.
Aprilia has spent the last 12 months building a WSB contender, which will also appear in dealers in 2009 when they start their challenge. Nothing new here, as we have mentioned this before, but now a bike that is not too far from being completed has been spotted testing at Jerez.
Although the bike’s appearance is still a closely-guarded secret by running it with old RSV bodywork, top notch Ohlin’s suspension can be seen along with OZ wheels and Brembo brakes, although the rest of the bike looks pure Aprilia. Certainly the new 65-degree V4 engine is home-produced and insiders claim it is already giving 210 hp with at least another 10 hp to come. (The road version would have 180 hp!). This is mounted in a new frame which appears to have a swingarm pivot that can be moved horizontally and vertically to allow for different circuit requirements.
It appears that the 750cc twin-cylinder mill used in Benelli’s 2ue 756 naked bike is going to be used in a new model designed to butt heads with rival Aprilia’s 750 Shiver.
While it is destined to compete in the 2009 race series, there is some suggestion that the final version is close enough for it to make a guest appearance at selected events in 2008. However, given the parent company Piaggio’s desire to win, it will not appear until they are sure they can run at the front of the field, rather than drift around at the rear of the pack!
Benelli seems to feature in these pages rather a lot since the Chinese takeover, with a whole range of new bikes constantly surfacing or being rumored. Certainly many that we have mentioned in the rumors category have come to fruition at the recent Milan show.
Now it seems that its new ‘2ue’ naked bike is to donate its 750cc twin-cylinder motor to a whole new range of bikes. Obviously this is aimed at Italian rival Aprilia and their 750 Shiver, but sources suggest that we could see a bike aimed at BMW’s F800GS as well as a Supermoto and a retro cafe racer-styled bike. Watch this space for more information in 2008.
It was all smiles for the Ducati camp in Bologna last month as the Italian manufacturer celebrated Casey Stoner’s MotoGP championship with 30,000 of the Ducati faithful in a two-day party.
Italian car maker Alpha Romeo, one of Ducati’s official sponsors in MotoGP, has launched a special version of their 147 hatchback that is supplied to the team for transport. Strangely, the Ducati Corse version, complete with lowered suspension, only uses the 1.9-liter diesel engine instead of one of their more potent petrol engines. Still, it is Italian!
Ducati themselves threw a massive two-day party in Bologna to celebrate its and Casey Stoner’s 2007 World Championship in MotoGP. Over 30,000 people converged on the historic city over the weekend in late November, which saw many Italian celebrities from the world of show-business joining staff from the jubilant factory to party the days away.
MV Agusta scooped the prestigious ‘most beautiful’ bike in the show award at the recent Milan show. Visitors were asked to vote on their favorite and 26,000 bothered to do so, with the new 154 hp Brutale getting over 25% of the votes, well ahead of any other machine.
Many of the components on the new bike have come from the F4, which should make the one make race series for the bike they announced at the show quite interesting. They hope to get enough female riders to have a separate class for them to run alongside the main event.
Dainese has been working on an air bag system for the everyday rider. The system attaches to a rider’s shoulders and deploys in a claimed 40 milliseconds.
Leather manufacturer Dainese has now launched its ‘D-Air racing’ system for competition riders, with the news that they are developing a system for the road rider. The new system is attached to the rider’s shoulders and inflates in just 40 milliseconds. A 37-liter air bag then wraps around back, shoulders and neck to prevent injury.
Once deployed, it can be quickly removed to enable the rider to get back on the track. Unlike other systems, it does not require the rider to be connected to the bike, instead relying on electronics powered by small lithium polymer batteries.
I never know whether to mention Royal Enfield under the UK sub-heading or India where it is made. Still, I suppose it started life as British and most of the various derivatives in the UK are adaptations actually made here and occasionally then taken on board by the parent factory.
A brand new ‘Woodsman’ model has appeared for 2008 inspired by the classic street scramblers of the past and not surprisingly is based on their core Bullet model. Despite now featuring electric start and for 2009, fuel injection, the Bullet has been in continuous production since 1949, which is something of a record to say the least. This latest variant has a single seat and high-level exhaust and costs $7,500 in the UK.
A new variation of the Royal Enfield Bullet called the Woodsman is said to be in the works. The Bullet (above) has been in continuous production since 1949.
Triumph. as you know, is still a privately-owned company and at times are cagy about its figures. However, they have just released figures for 2007 showing a 10% rise on sales of £20 million giving them a total of £220 million, despite some of the quality control problems that have been highlighted here. Sales of actual bikes also rose by the same percentage to a total of 41,125 units, with the Tiger, Daytona 675 and Speed Triple being the main reasons for the increase.
However, rumors from the factory suggest that work is already well advanced on a new version of the Daytona that includes changes to the chassis and suspension. By the sounds of things, the bike could be a totally new model as opposed to a second-generation machine, in keeping with Triumph’s new philosophy of short model life-spans!
Currently though they are a victim of their own success in that they are unable to meet the demand for the new Street Triple. Potential purchasers, in the UK at least, are being told by dealers that they may have to wait until June 2008 for a bike! Although the factory has yet to release an official response to these rumors, insiders suggest that the production lines of some other models may be turned over to the Street Triple to try and cure the backlog.
Ariel Motor Company, known for its innovative open-air Atom sports car (above), might be throwing its hat back into the two-wheeled ring with limited edition, specialized motorcycles.
It seems that another great British bike name is set to once again be seen on England’s roads. Ariel. who currently builds the bespoke, open Atom sports car, is now looking to move back to single-track vehicles, although no plans have yet been drawn up as yet to suggest what it might be like.
Like their car (455 built to date), it would be low volume and specialist and they would not attempt (at present) to consider becoming mainstream producers like Triumph. Given their success in getting people to accept an open and exposed sports car, we could see something quite innovative when they do take the plunge!
A new scheme has been launched by the UK government to test crash helmets. Called SHARP (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme). it is set to become the toughest standard in the world. Following on from concerns that were aired in this column last year about cheap helmets flooding the UK market and being designed to pass the ECE 22.05 tests, this new testing system will eliminate inconsistencies in the test procedure.
Helmets will then be given a rating between one and five that will enable purchasers to directly compare one manufacturer’s product against another in terms of the protection levels afforded.
It is hoped that by doing this, manufacturers will be incentivized to further improve safety beyond ratings given to existing models. So far the scheme, which will go public with its results early next year, has received favorable comment from the well known helmet manufacturers.
For its planned 70th anniversary celebration, London’s Ace Cafe has teamed up with SS Cycles to produce a new cafe racer in honor of the milestone. The Ace Cafe has long been a favorite haunt for bikers.
The Ace Cafe was in its day one of the most famous biker hangouts and even ended up with something of a notorious reputation. Nowadays it has once again become one of the major biking haunts in the London area thanks to Mark Wilsmore, who brought it back to life some years ago.
With next year being the 70th anniversary of the cafe, he has teamed up with SS Cycles in the U.S. to produce a new cafe racer which will be marketed under the ‘Stonebridge’ brand name. (This is the geographical location of the Ace cafe) In its heyday, the cafe was host to many Norton/Triumph hybrids with clip-on bars and polished aluminum petrol tanks with rear-sets. Legend has it that riders would feed the jukebox and race down the road to a bridge some two miles away and return prior to the end of the record on these mildly tuned machines.
Rest of the World
The tank name HS500sa may currently be unfamiliar, although the name Subaru on the engine cases will not be, but this could all change in the future. Although currently a prototype, the 500cc water-cooled Single has been designed by Japanese designer Kazuo Sasaki for full mass production in the near future.
A former Honda employee who was responsible for the RCB484 racer and the GL500 Silver Wing to name just a few, Sasaki is having the bike built in China to keep costs down, although the engine, along with other components, is actually being shipped from Japan. The bike uses an engine originally built for Polaris Quads mounted in a cast-aluminum chassis clothed in a rounded full fairing. The bike looks over-engineered for the 50 hp Single, meaning that a more powerful engine unit could be fitted after production begins.
Certainly initial images suggest a level of fit and finish way above current Chinese machines. No date for release has yet been set or any price announced.
We reported previously that Bajaj. India’s second largest bike manufacturer, was looking to buy a slice of Triumph after losing out in Italy. Last month we reported that its figures were not looking that good.
However, they obviously have sufficient reserves as they have just bought 14.5% of KTM. As a result, they will now sell the Austrian machines in India.
Hyosung recently launched its latest bike at the UK motorcycle show. The RX450SM is a 450cc four-valve, liquid-cooled supermoto, a first for the Korean company.
Hyosung once again gets a mention thanks to its latest machine, the RX450SM, which they launched at the recent UK motorcycle show. This is a Supermoto that uses a 450 four-valve, liquid Single designed and built in-house.
The 50 hp unit has a balancer shaft to damp out vibrations and is the first in the world to feature an aluminum silicon sleeve, which they claim gives better power and durability over conventional cylinder linings. A die-cast piston, which is less prone to thermal expansion, is used as well. The engine unit is bolted into a steel frame that also acts as the oil tank for the dry sump unit.
Inverted forks, wavy discs gripped by Brembo calipers, electronic dash and modern ‘Italian’ styling should see the bike do well in the world markets.
An 80-year-old motorcyclist in Taiwan finally kept his promise to his wife made over 25 years ago. Basically, Ho Ching-Tung had promised her he would take her for a tour around Taiwan on the back of his motorbike.
However, the trip, finally made for charity, was actually taken with just her picture as she died five years ago. Still, the thought was there and he raised money for an old person’s charity before he celebrated the feat with the oldest motorcyclist in the country, who is aged 90!
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