I have a confession to make: I rode the Kawasaki Z800 in 2013, long before its U.S. introduction in Palm Springs, California this week. It was on a test track in Southern Italy during a new tire introduction, and despite the fact the track is not the Z800’s element – Kawasaki bills the baby Z as a streetfighter ideally suited for commuting or weekend blasts in the canyons – I came back pleasantly surprised. I remember the spread of power was impressive, the completely analog transmission shifted with buttery-smooth precision, the brakes never faded and the chassis was fluid and responsive. I wanted one but left Italy disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on a Z800 stateside.
The Ducati Monster 1200S didn’t do so great against most of the other players in last year’s Super Naked Street Brawl, but mostly because two of the other four were our Motorcycle of the Year KTM Super Duke R and the BMW S1000R, which came within a whisker of overcoming the incredible SDR. The Monster suffered more in the track portion of that test than on the street, though, mainly let down by a lack of ground clearance when leaned into Chuckwalla’s endless high speed turns – a non-issue on the road. Back on the street, il Mostro was a highly pleasant thing to ride – as nearly all motorcycles are that deliver 84 pound-feet of torque. The 132 horses up top are like having your burrito wet.
Ducati’s selection of Scrambler models (Icon, Urban Enduro, Classic, Full Throttle) are modern interpretations of scramblers from Ducati’s past, but if you compare the now with the then, the new bikes bleed their heritage from most angles, with the V-Twin engine being the most obvious difference. The 803cc, air-cooled Twin provides the perfect amount of go power (69.6 hp at 8500 rpm and 46.5 lb.-ft. at 7000 rpm) for this retro-modern moto, easily spanking Triumph’s Scrambler offering.
We’ve tested plenty of electric motorcycles over the years here at MO. In the process, we’ve been able to witness firsthand how rapidly e-bikes have evolved. Through it all, however, we get asked the same questions over and over: 1. How far will it go on a charge? and 2. How long will it take to recharge the batteries? There used to be a third question – how fast will it go? – but through our testing and experiences with the greater e-bike community, speed no longer seems to be a concern amongst the critics.
Suppose you wanted a nice new orthopedically correct naked bike, but you didn’t want all the latest fly-by-wire techno-gadgetry that accompanies the best of them along with the $15,000-plus price tag. Well, you’re still out of luck, really, because Suzuki’s all-new GSX-S1000 does use the traction-control system (first seen on its latest V-Strom 1000) to tame its mighty GSX-R1000 Four-cylinder. And ABS is a $500 option.
Yamaha has released images and a video of its new retro-styled production model, the XSR700. The XSR is a variation of the FZ-07 platform, a retro roadster slightly reminiscent of Ducati’s successful Scrambler. As of this writing, the XSR700 has only been announced by Yamaha Motor Europe, but we expect it will also be sold in North America; we’ll provide an update when we hear back from Yamaha Motor U.S.A.
When Yamaha announced today that the 2016 FZ-07 and FZ-09 would be in dealerships beginning in September, another tidbit was dropped. Collectively, the two models account for two of the top-four-selling motorcycles the company produces. The fact that the FZ-07 has been on sale for less than 12 months makes its placement at number four even more impressive. Yamaha’s PR reps said they expect it to move up the ranks as time goes on.
Kawasaki announced it will import its Z800 middleweight streetfighter to the U.S. for the 2016 model year, slotting in below the Z1000 in the company’s lineup for $8,399. Unfortunately for residents of the Golden State, the Z800 will be a 49-state model and will not be available for sale in California.
“Chock full of bland mediocrity” was the original subhead for my second ride review of the 2015 Suzuki GSX-S750. It was a subhead EiC, Kevin Duke, rightly removed. I was a little harsh on the new Gixxus, and now in a group of its peers, the naked bike from Suzuki has proven itself to be quite the contender. Out of the three testers involved in this shootout, John “run-on sentence” Burns and Troy “I’ve ridden the new R1 more than you” Siahaan, it is I who is championing the GSX-S.
Back in October, Evans Brasfield penned a preview of Suzuki’s then forthcoming GSX-S750. “The middleweight Naked class just got a lot more interesting,” read his kindly subheading. At the beginning of this month (March) Suzuki hosted a press ride of the GXS-S750 in some very non-optimal weather conditions in Austin, Texas. With the first-ride review a literal washout, we withheld reporting our typical evaluation of, and Scorecard for, the Gixxus until we could perform an honest shakedown. Well, that day has arrived, and we can honestly report that Suzuki’s new naked performs almost flawlessly in the most underwhelming way possible.
What’s a scrambler? In decades past, a scrambler was a street motorcycle stripped down and optimized for off-road use by way of swapping-in high-pipes, wider handlebars, semi-knobby tires, and differently styled fenders, seat and tank. Sometimes, it was an unmodified street model given a scrambler or street scrambler designation. In essence, it’s a cool name meant to convey agile sportability regardless of the bike’s dirt or street intentions.
There are numerous obstacles to streetbike ownership for young adults, including how fewer children are even riding bicycles these days, never mind motorcycles, as I discussed in my latest Duke’s Den editorial. So, for an entry-level bike to overcome the hurdle into motorcycling, it has to be cool enough to push the desirability scale past the point of trepidation.