The final corner of the Autodromo Internacional Algarve is a wickedly fast downhill sweeper that launches riders onto the track’s front straight at 120-plus mph. Not long after bringing a bike upright is a mild hill that’s taken at full throttle. At its crest, the front wheel of Ducati‘s latest Panigale sensationally begins pointing skyward while traveling upward of 140 mph. The 1299 Panigale is indeed something special, boasting more power than any other widely available motorcycle ever to see a public road.
Motorcycle.com recently got the chance to ride the new 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT at its world launch in Sicily, it’s a motorcycle that’s being offered in the U.S. for the first time. With aggressive styling that mimics Kawasaki’s Ninja model line, coupled with roomy, upright ergonomics and an extremely comfortable and effective handlebar bend, this is a machine which is well-positioned for entry into the rapidly growing Sport/Adventure Touring category, priced nicely at $12,799. This video gives a glimpse into our time with the new machine and sheds a little insight into how it lives up to the outstanding reputation of its smaller Versys sibling.
The category-straddling Kawasaki Versys 650 enters its third iteration and first major update of Kawasaki’s VERsatile SYStem. In 2015, the sporty yet friendly Versys 650 arrives in two forms, both of which feature a new, chiseled appearance that is much more handsome than previous versions. Its new nose also includes a larger windshield that is tool-lessly adjustable, and revised footpeg locations supply additional legroom. The LT version adds hardshell saddlebags and hand guards that expand its sport-touring capabilities.
The Versys 1000 has actually been produced since 2012, but until now its unconventional styling coupled with a relatively soft U.S. motorcycle market have kept it away from our shores. Motorcycle sales are beginning to show serious signs of growth, with several European manufacturers claiming all-time records for the 2014 model year sales, and long-legged upright sportbikes like Ducati’s updated Multistrada, BMW’s new S1000XR, KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure R, Suzuki’s recently revamped V-Strom 1000 and other liter-plus adventure-themed machines comprise the hottest contemporary segment in motorcycling.
First introduced to the U.S. in 2008 as a non-California compliant 49-state model, Kawasaki’s Versys 650 immediately earned praise from journalists, experienced riders, and commuters who could appreciate its practical blending of a nimble sporting motorcycle – and – a truly comfortable chassis. Motorcycle.com’s loudest complaint about the original Versys was merely that it wasn’t legal in California, and even that fact couldn’t stop it from earning 2008 Motorcycle of the Year honors from one of the largest U.S. print mags.
Technically, and by that I mean according to the way in which the vehicles here are registered through the DMV (except Texas, but more on that later), each of these three-wheelers qualifies as a motorcycle. In California, at least, a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license to legally operate them is not required, and the two with seatbelts eschew the state’s helmet law. Still, without a more explicit category available and the law being what it is, “motorcycle” becomes the default label for this trio.
Recently, we here at Motorcycle.com brought you one of our biggest tests to date, in the form of our 2014 Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout. In it, we wrangled six bikes with minimal or non-existant fairings, ranging in displacement from 471cc ( Honda CB500F) to 690cc ( KTM 690 Duke) and put them to the test.
Well, ahh, basically we were just looking for an excuse to tool around on H-D’s swell new FSXB Breakout for a while, and decided to bring one of our favorite cruisers, the Victory Gunner, along for the ride to see how things stack up between these American cruisers. In the powertrain departments, at least, both big V-Twins are representative of their makers’ current offerings.
While the new Yamaha R1 and R1M are stealing the Tuning Fork headlines this year at EICMA, Yamaha also introduced another new model: the FJ-09, or MT-09 Tracer for the European market. Based on the FZ/MT-09 naked bike, the FJ-09 slots in below the FJR1300 as a more Sport-Touring machine for the entry level crowd. To meet the S-T needs for which it was designed, the FJ gets a host of new items like an adjustable windscreen, larger fuel tank, traction control, ABS and provisions for saddlebags, among others. E-i-C Kevin Duke is on hand at EICMA, where he gives us his first impressions of the FJ-09 after its worldwide unveiling.
The Adventure-Touring category is quickly becoming one of the hottest segments in motorcycling, and now BMW is throwing its hat in the ring with the S1000R-based S1000XR, introduce at EICMA 2014. Sharing the same engine and frame as the S1000R streetfighter, the XR version gets longer-travel suspension, plus a beefed-up subframe to handle saddlebags and the increased weight they entail. As usual, BMW has packed the XR with an impressive electronics package. E-i-C Kevin Duke is live at EICMA, where he files this report after giving the S1000XR a close lookover.
At EICMA 2014, Honda teased those in attendance with a street version of the RC213V MotoGP contender and this, a “True Adventure” model we suspect will be the reincarnation of the popular Africa Twin off-road machine. Propped up on a pedestal, away from spectators to reach, and strategically covered in dirt, it was difficult to learn much about the Africa Twin. Honda kept the mystery alive by releasing virtually no information about the prototype model. In his attempt to glean more info, E-i-C Kevin Duke sums up his thoughts on the bike, based on his visual inspection direct from EICMA.
For as much buzz as the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is drawing, arguably the real show stopper seen during EICMA 2014 comes from the Yamaha booth and the new R1 and R1M. Derived directly from the M1 MotoGP machine Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi pilot, Yamaha said bluntly the R1 was designed for the track first, street second. The Crossplane crank inline-Four is back, but that architecture is about the only thing retained from the previous R1.
With 23 teaser videos spread between the no-limits Ninja H2R and street-legal Ninja H2, Kawasaki has done a masterful job of hyping the two H2 models. At EICMA 2014, Team Green took the wraps off the H2 model, and even though those in attendance practically knew what to expect, practically nobody could take their eyes – and cell phone cameras – away from the Ninja H2. MO’s Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Duke is at EICMA, and was one of those left in awe from the H2. in this video he explains what makes the latest Ninja so special.