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Paris Bike Show
You know, come to think of it, I'd rather be writing about the amazing, sophisticated and charming women of Paris but the editors insist that I should report on the two-wheeled rather than on the two-legged news. Well, there is a reason for my unpopular preference. It's my first time to the Paris show and the rumors that it's not the biggest exhibition on Earth turned out to be true. The single but big and full pavilion was nice but pales next to the mind-blowing richness of the Munich and Milan shows. Another disappointment came from the total lack of specials and Streetfighters; these some of main attractions in the past but were nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless, the Paris show was a success because of its perfect timing. With Milan's big show moved to November (expect a full report on MO), all the new toys that we've all read about on the Net were present. Yes, it's one thing to ogle over pixels, quite another to see the new creatures from the Big Four, Aprilia and Triumph in the flesh, examining them close-up. With respect to any trends, at least as far as Europe is concerned, it looks like the Big Four decided to get really aligned and get most gaps in the lineups filled.
Another noticeable trend was that of low-positioned, short and stubby mufflers. They were spotted on the new R6, Fazer 1000 and Suzuki's new 600/750 GSXR's. Good to see that engineers and designers understand at last that sterilizing by heat, large parts of the riding public won't advance humanity much. These shorties also look like dead ringers to MotoGP exhaust designs while the required volume needed for proper silencing is more or less achieved through small rectangular silencers sitting under the gearbox. A lower C of G, better aerodynamics and more centralized mass are the official advantages. As said, not much out-of-the-box thinking was seen; the feeling was that most everybody is acting very sensibly nowadays, plain common sense in action.
Considering this situation, seeing the production version of the MT-03 concept bike was a pleasant surprise. It's powered by Yamaha's 660 single but it's no supermoto. It's rather a very sophisticated street single with stunning and futuristic design, a typical Yamaha-style conceptual leap into the void. With Aprilia's street oriented, beautiful, new Pegaso already on sale, it's going to face some strong opposition.
On the other end of the scale, Kawasaki's ZZR1400 raised more than one eyebrow among us journos. God knows who needs this strange mix of ZX12 and ZZR1200 covered up by really bizarre bodywork. Is there really so much interest in the supersonic cruisers class of the Hayabusa/Superblackbird/ZZR? Seems that the engineers at Kawasaki felt like stretching their muscles and wanted to simply produce a true flagship thing. That said nobody could assure that Honda wouldn't bring up a V5 replacement to the aging Superblackbird.
As far as the bikes go what follows will be more about impressions than figures from the spec sheet. In any case, in the last few years manufacturers are playing a silly game of waiting to see how much horsepower the competitors will claim for the new models and then adjust accordingly.
We all knew it was coming, so it's not a real scoop but seeing the new, small, 450/550 Supermoto and Enduro V-Twins in the flesh was mighty impressive. A sheer concentrate of technology and design that really leaves the Big-Four trailing in its wake. After we got used to the new four stroke single revolution here comes one that could rewrite the books. The redline for the 450 is rumored at 13,000 rpm. And that rear-end sure is Penthouse centerfold material; it leaves Sylvia Saint's in the dust. Then there was the new Tuono. Based on the latest RSV1000 it looks sharper than ever. Look for a MO test ride soon. The new street oriented Pegaso 660 single was launched a few months ago and is now joined by a more dirt oriented dual-purpose version.
The good old Fireblade gets its periodic update. The strange horizontal split line between fairing panels is gone and the engine is much more exposed now. Minimal changes to swingarm length (shortened), steering geometry and shorter gearing. A visual improvement for sure but still not in R1/beauty queen league. New from the ground up is the CBF1000. Many were expecting a replacement for the 919 Hornet but what we got is a much more touring oriented naked, big brother to the successful (in Europe anyway) CBF600. It goes head to head with the Fazer 1000 rather than the Z1000 and adjustable seat height and windscreen hint at touring rather than scratching.
As Yossef states: "It goes head to head with the Fazer 1000 rather than the Z1000 and adjustable seat height and windscreen hint at touring rather than scratching."
That round side cover under the tank though is plain Yamaha Radian. Strange to say the least. There must be a reason for Honda announcing improvements to the VFR's V-Tec system. The power step at 7K was never a big hit with the crowd but the 2006 should have a smoother shift to full power. There are some light styling upgrades to this popular model; indeed it does look a tiny bit sharper.
During Honda's press conference, the first ever motorcycle airbag in history was a big story. You'll find it only on the Goldwing for now but Big-H intends to spread the gospel down the ladder. Funny enough, the presence of Honda's amazing Asimo robot almost stole the show from the new bikes. This "guy" is surreal.
Green meanies seem to be good listeners. An original equipment, cool Ohlins steering dampener addresses past complaints about the ZX10R's nervous steering. There's also serious restyling. Very nice on the front end with the new smallish headlights while on the rear...I mean, these new twin high riding mufflers just seem too touring like in my humble opinion, way less sporty than say, those of the R1. The tail simply looks too full. Kawasaki's excuse is that these were required to pass ever more stringent emission standards without losing power. At last a true beginner's model: the Kawasaki ER-6N 650 parallel twin has been launched some months ago and is now joined by a fully faired model, the 6F.
The naked 6N is quite shocking styling-wise while the faired one looks a bit more standard. Nevertheless a nice bike and a welcome and more powerful replacement for the good old GPZ500. The ZZR1400: God knows who needs this in our age of speed cameras and finely calibrated laser speed guns. And to top it all off it's butt ugly, those side-ribbed panels are just odd, but what do I know about design. Think of it as a ZX12R on steroids that got genetically modified into a Super Mega Gran Turismo. On the positive side, the 1,352 cc mill is rumored to deliver 72 lb./ft of torque at, hold to your hats, 2,000 rpms! On the negative side, a GT it might be but windscreen height is ridiculous. What exactly were they thinking about? There was also a new 900cc Vulcan, but surely in the good old US of A you all know more about these cruising things than us here in U-Rope.
From Suzuki we get three little bombshells and one big upgrade. The GSR600 is Suzuki's answer to the Honda 599 Hornet, the Yamaha Fazer600 and Kawasaki's Z750, the biggest sellers on this side of the pond. Like Yamaha's Fazer it's powered by the mill of the older version of the supersport tool, in this case the 05' GSXR's 600 engine which is installed in a cast twin spar frame. Styling takes some cues from Suzuki's B-King the new and amazing naked concept bike but the result is somehow just nice. The 1200 Bandit gets aligned styling and frame-wise is similar to the current 650. The new little GSXR's: At first I thought to myself: "Oh yes, all new. Sure baby." In reality it turns out that the smaller Gixxers indeed did get totally redesigned power units. Suzuki seemingly got fed up with not being competitive in supersport racing and subsequently increased bore/stroke ratios for higher rpm's and shortened the distance between the shafts for compactness ( Assumingly Yossef refers to the wheelbase here.--Ed.) Frames are new too, slimmer and stiffer. As always, Suzuki keeps styling the smaller Gixxers as 1000 look-alikes rather than give them their own identity.
Tue Mantoni, Triumphs marketing guru seems to know what he's doing. Instead of going head to head with Japan, he simply avoids direct confrontations. It's just that in this case, his avoidant attitude might lead to what could be the best sporting tool ever. Yep, 123hp for 165 kilos (approximately 364lbs.) does sound promising regardless of engine configuration. The 675cc displacement was chosen to be midway between twin 750 and 600 four, in order to enter world supersport racing. The frame is super smart, a twin spar affair using the engine as stressed member ala the CBR/R6 duo but instead of having those two L bracings on the cylinder block sides, the engine attachment spars straddle the cylinder head from above. Brilliant. The frame is so narrow it fits inside of an old Daytona job, it only needs to be wide enough to house three throttle bodies between its spars. During a recent model launch I came across a British journo who was invited for a short ride on the thing and his early impressions were very, very racer like. Can't wait to ride one. The new scrambler comes from a totally different planet.
As a British bike buff, I kind of like it but when you get up close you notice the huge presence of the high riding twin mufflers. The thing's got to be quiet you know and in any case power output of the new twins is nothing to write home about. Low output and all, the twins seem to be a success story in Old Blighty, so why not milk the cow some more? But I shouldn't be so severe, really. With its front 19" wheel and those high pipes it really looks like a Steve McQueen replica and that is more than enough for many folks. As for me, I'll stick to my '62 basket case pre-unit 650. Anybody got an outer primary chain cover to spare? Mine is knackered.
Come again? This tiny French company developed its proprietary water-cooled 1000cc V-Twin engine in the late '90s and then set out to produce some very interesting, sporty, retro styled things. Things didn't go well though and these nice frog-eating folks are now picking up again (after going bankrupt) under a new ownership. The same old models were on show, i.e. Cafe Racer, Scrambler but the Charade concept model got all the attention with its retro racing lines. It's just that according to dictionary.com charade means "A game in which words or phrases are represented in pantomime". These guys need some help with their English.
This one was causing compulsive drooling among journos, and I am not talking about the amazing, genuine Moulin Rouge babe on top. The new R6 is stunning in real life, almost jewel like. And I hope you are seated while reading this: How about a redline beginning at 17,500 rpm with 127 horsepower coming up at 14,500? The new R6 is crammed with so much tech that I'll have to spit it out in one go: True Fly-by-wire throttle, EXUP valve, low slung muffler, ram-air through the steering head, titanium valves, high speed and low speed damping regulation at both ends (as if anybody knows what to do with the adjustments we do have already). Guess I must have forgotten something, did I mention it looks da-bomb? The large radius ridgeline on the fairing's side might look strange in the pictures but in real life works wonderfully. With the Fazer 600 claiming the "best selling" spot in several European countries, Yamaha isn't a moment to early in upgrading the old Fazer 1000. Just like the little 600 brother tested a while ago in MO, the new Fazer 1000 retains " the R1 racy power unit but now mates it with a cast aluminum frame that's very much like little brother's. One notable difference from the 600 naked model is the low slung muffler that shows that the new fashion can work as well for big bores but at a price. The end can just looks enormous.
The fresh MT-03, a brother of sorts to the MT-01 looks really fine. Technical and aggressive but not small nor light, so you'd better let go of those supermotoing dreams. There is a lot of pose here and it seems like a bit of an overkill for the nice but unimpressive 660cc motor of the XT660 we tested a few months ago in MO. On the positive side, most of the amazing details of the concept model made it into production save for the belt drive. The side mounted shock and stout swingarm are super cool. Will it be enough to sell what is after all just a sophisticated 50 hp street single to the masses? A bit further away from the spotlights stood the FJR 1300AS. Guess it stands for "Automatic shift". Gone is the clutch lever and instead, there are three new pushbuttons (two of them as an up-down toggle) on the left handlebar as well as a classic gear lever. Yamaha calls the system "Yamaha Chip Controlled Shift" but wouldn't reveal that much about it. Looks like there's a normal gear transmission in there with the rider having the option of foot or pushbutton shifting while clutch action is automatic through some electromagnetic gizmo. It's ready for production but don't expect it till mid 2006.