One nice thing about the motorcycle market’s troubles is a resurgence of the kind of fun little cheap bikes the codgers are always pining for. Case in point: the MT-03, the naked version of Yamaha’s sweet little YZF-R3, and the newest member of its “Masters of Torque” naked-bike family – here to take the fight to the KTM Duke 390, Kawasaki Z400, BMW G310R…
By all accounts, the KTM 790 Duke is a great little motorcycle. Light, nimble, and with a healthy amount of middleweight power, when MO was given a 790 Duke to test, it was so much fun our own Evans Brasfield bought the damn press bike. He then proceeded to turn the bike into his version of what a 790 Duke R should be (you can read about his exploits elsewhere on this site). Little did he know KTM was doing the same halfway across the globe in Austria.
Honda revealed a new concept model based inspired by the CB900F. The Honda CB-F Concept is based on the Neo Sports Café-styled CB1000R, but with a decidedly more retro vibe. The CB-F Concept was originally intended to be a part of Honda’s display at the Osaka and Tokyo Motorcycle Shows, but due to COVID-19, was instead revealed in an online “Virtual Show” along with other models like the new CT125 Hunter Cub.
Just because they cancelled South by Southwest doesn’t mean MO would let a little thing like a global pandemic keep us from our appointed rounds, and so it was off to Austin, Texas, to ride Yamaha’s new entry-level Master of Torque last week. (Or maybe it should’ve deterred us, since on my day to fly home again, we got word that the US MotoGP round, scheduled for April here in Austin, was also postponed due to coronavirus. Then the IoM TT, then the run on toilet paper… And now my throat’s a little scratchy… maybe this thing is not a Chinese hoax?)
The pie, everyone agrees, is shrinking, and nobody can agree on how to bake a new one. Many, if not most industry people seem to have concluded millennials are just cell phone-addicted slackers, though slackers is not the word many of them use in private conversation. What it’s all about now, then, is conquest sales, and when the Germans start talking conquest, people listen. One way to conquer is by lowering prices, which would seem to suggest the slackification could be a money-related issue, wouldn’t it? I can’t remember the last time BMW admitted to taking aim at a specific competitor, but for the new F 900 XR in our lead image, it’s the Yamaha Tracer 900. For the barer-boned F 900 R, it’s the Kawasaki Z900 – both rich targets and great bargains.
Lately, it’s like time travel around here. A couple years ago we put the then-new Kawasaki Z900RS up against the Suzuki GSX-S1000 in a slightly apples-to-oranges comparo, Retro or Not(ro), which the Kawi won by a hair. Now that Suzuki has their own retro based upon the GSX-S in the Katana, we felt like we had to do it again. Our duty.
The KTM 1290 Super Duke R has always been a sledgehammer of a motorcycle. While the blunt instrument approach to producing power has its fans, there is something to be said about using a little finesse when dishing out a gut punch. With the development of the 2020 model, which KTM has dubbed “The Beast 3.0,” the focus was on refining the techniques the Super Duke R uses as it brutalizes the laws of physics. And I think that it will produce even bigger smiles on the hearty souls who choose this mount to beat their local tarmac into submission.
Generally speaking, finding bikes to pair up for comparison is a bit more direct; throwing the R6 against the CBR600, or building out our adventure bike shootout is mostly a no-brainer, but sometimes bikes that roll through for testing end up revealing unexpectedly similar personalities. Late this past year, I faced exactly that. Both the Honda CB650R and Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 found their way into my driveway from their respective manufacturers at the same time (due to poor scheduling and limited availability of the Svart, more than anything), and I instantly found myself playing a game of spot the similarities.
I’ve been reviewing BMW’s flat-Twin boxer powered bikes since I started testing motorcycles in the late ’80s and have burbled around on historic versions too, dating back to a beater ’64 R60/S my now ex-husband gave me to ride (quite possibly because it was less traceable then cyanide). Through it all, the boxer, with its punch-punch rhythm and unique seesaw jig always felt like an old friend, no matter the sprinkling of magic German engineering dust, or the ambition of the motorcycle BMW built around it.
Kawasaki announced a new W800 variant, the third model in the line joining the W800 Cafe and the W800 Street (offered in markets outside the U.S.). We expected a third variant for a while now, as it had shown up in various certification documents, but what’s odd is this W800 model is supposedly the “base” model, with more retro-styling to resemble the original 1966 Kawasaki W1. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for a scrambler variant, and it’s a little curious why the W800 didn’t come out first ahead of the Cafe and Street variants. Product strategy aside, let’s take a look at the new 2020 Kawasaki W800.
How about giving incremental updates a little love? So many riders seem to immediately dismiss mid-cycle revisions of motorcycles as being BNG (bold, new graphics) or, as with one comment this week, BNH (bold, new headlights). In the case of the 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS, the comment completely misses the point. Sure it would be great if every model year was a complete makeover year after year, but there’s something to be said for incremental refinement. Model year 2020 is one of those fine-tuning times, and Triumph has delivered a Street Triple that is better in two very practical ways. Additionally, there have been some appearance changes that are bound to appeal to many riders. And all this comes at no increase in cost to the buyer. Sounds like pretty good news to me.
It was only a matter of time before Triumph’s involvement as the engine provider for Moto2 started trickling down to its production models (the Limited Edition Triumph Daytona 765 aside), and for the 2020 model year that association takes the form of the Triumph Street Triple RS. The top tier of the Street Triple family, the RS version benefits from a host of upgrades and updates to make it even more lust-worthy for those in the middleweight streetfighter market. MO’s boss-man, Evans Brasfield, is at the press launch for the Street Triple RS and will return with a full ride report soon, but in the meantime, let these five nuggets hold you over until then.