The 2015 Multistrada will be revealed at EICMA: What we already know about it.

Several spy photos of a typically disguised motorcycle have been circulating on the internet pointing us out to what the 2015 Multistrada will look like.

2015 Multistrada

2015 Multistrada

Judging by the photos and what we already know about its new motor, the 2015 bike has incorporated enough revisions to make it a totally new bike.  Although the general shape is still there, there are changes everywhere on this bike, from the motor, to the frame, to the seat, and to some subtle design elements everywhere. Nothing was spared, it seems.

A New Motor

The changes start with the most important component, the heart of the new machine, a totally new motor and this is perhaps the most radical change to this bike.  And actually it is the most radical change to Ducati’s L-twin motors since the development of the superquadro motor of the Panigale, we comfortably risk saying.  On our previous article we covered the Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) motor in detail, using official information provided by Ducati.  We can summarize by saying that the output numbers generated by this motor are really impressive.

1200 Testasretta DVT in numbers

1200 Testasretta DVT in numbers

Comparing with the two previous Testastretta generations, we know this new motor is a good step up in performance.  We see a 7% increase in HP, an 8% reduction on fuel consumption, and our favorite one, a 9% increase on torque values.

The Evolution of the Multistrada Testastretta motors

The Evolution of the Multistrada Testastretta motors

But we also want to direct your attention to one number and parameter on the Ducati’s specs, the -78% IMEP COV.  It is something that we have not seen discussed anywhere on forums and reviewers of this motor so far. What is IMEP COV, a “smoothness index” Ducati says?  And what a 78% reduction may represent from a rider’s perspective?

IMEP COV = Coefficient of Variation in Indicated Mean Effective Pressure

IMEP COV = Coefficient of Variation in Indicated Mean Effective Pressure

Of all variables posted by Ducati, IMEP COV shows the largest gain for the DVT motor. Because Ducati thought it important enough to publish IMEP COV numbers we decided to investigate more about it.  It is not something sexy like HP, or something serious like torque, or something practical like fuel economy. But it is a fundamental parameter on engine development. Touted as a “smoothness index”  by Ducati, our short and superficial research led us to some important and interesting findings.

All of us have learned along the years that fuel injection motors when combined with strict emissions standards have pushed motors towards operating at the lean side of the spectrum, making certain motorcycles, especially single and twin-cylinder bikes but not exclusive to them, practically unrideable at low RPMs.  That was especially the case for the first version of the 1200 Testastretta 11 degrees motor. Owners of those bikes spent thousands of dollars, and we are not exaggerating here, on full exhaust systems, re-programmed ECUs, dynamometer time, and some home other tuners gadgets to resolve this issue. And it never completely cured the problem. Despite some improvement on engine stability from all this aftermarket work, the hesitation at low RPMs and abruptness off idle was always there.

The dual spark motor of the 2013-14 models showed great improvement on this issue.  When we tested the 2013 bike in comparison to a 2010 bike we noticed considerable improvements on the motor’s rideability.  The dual sparks associated with a changed angle of the fuel injection and a few other changes improved torque delivery and fluidity of the motor at low RPMs while increasing torque at the same time. Although the torque increase on the 2013 model was really small, it specifically improved torque delivery at low RPMs. And that motor also improved fuel efficiency by a good 10%.

But with the DVT motor Ducati is raising this bar to a much higher level, presenting this 78% reduction of IMEP COV which we assume is a figure derived from a comparison to the already improved dual spark motor.

Engineers the world over have been designing motors on the envelope determined by three main conflicting sets of variables: more torque and power; better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions; while maintaining the motor’s running stability.  ECU-based fuel management systems have optimized motors to expand the limit of lean burn operation to improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust gas emissions without compromising power.  But lean burns increase cyclical variation in the combustion intensity, which directly affects the rideability.  This is what we experienced in the 2010-12 Multistradas for example and so many other motorcycles since emissions regulations have become more stringent. This rideability effect is measured by the coefficient of variation (COV) of the indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP).

Although the consumer has little access to this information, we actually experience it when riding our fuel injected motorcycles and we all know it is a lean fueling issue resulting on cycle to cycle variability. Too much cycle to cycle variability, however, challenges lower idle speeds and engine stability.  Therefore, when Ducati claims a reduction of 78% on IMEP COV on the DVT motors, they are basically saying variable intake and exhaust valve timing along perhaps with other parameters, has reduced cycle to cycle variability, as measured by the indicated mean effective pressure or IMEP.  IMEP is a measure of the average pressure over a cycle in the combustion chamber of the engine. The pressure stability from cycle to cycle, IMEP COV, shows high correlation to a rider’s subjective rating of an engine smoothness.

As a result, we assume these motors can run a leaner mixture, which explains at least partially the improved fuel economy, without compromising rideability. In fact, it has improved engine smoothness substantially from a more stable fuel burning cycle to cycle which helps with emissions, which we believe is the main push for this technology. A virtuous cycle of sorts.

And we want to add one more item to this discussion, although it has not been mentioned anywhere yet, so it is just a speculation from our part: perhaps a more efficient motor in terms of fuel burn cycles produces fewer emissions resulting in yet another reduction on the size of the catalytic converter (it was already marginally reduced in size on the dual spark motor of the 2013 model). We know the catalytic converter is a heavy component of the bike, so reductions in size can influence overall weight of the motorcycle and compensate any increase in weight due to a few added parts to the motor.

How will DVT and the 78% reduction of the cycle to cycle variability (as measured by IMEP) translate into a riding experience? Has it solved the rideability issues? We don’t know, but considering the torque increase, the Testastretta DVT motor can only improve an already awesome machine. We will know what to say about this 78% number when 2015 demo bikes become available.

A New Frame

Another very important change on the new 2015 Multistrada is a revised frame.

Spy photos claimed to be of the 2015 Multistrada

Spy photos claimed to be of the 2015 Multistrada

Comparing to the current frame on our 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak you can see some obvious changes right away.

Walls of Snow. Crater Lake National Park, April 21st, 2013

2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak

We can see one brace of the frame is gone, there are some new angles on the remaining elements and what seems to be revised anchor points to the engine.  There may have been other changes to the frame that we can’t see from these photos. And we don’t know what  are the reasons for this change.

New Seat

We’ve been hearing about a new seat with adjustable height on the Multistrada.  On the photos you can see the seat is different, there is something like a trim or a layer on the seat.

2015 Multistrada: New Seat?

2015 Multistrada: New Seat?

We can’t quite tell from the photos if the seat is really lower.  But it seems more curved closed to is rear portion, so perhaps that whole area of the bike where the seat rests may have been modified. Certainly a lower seat would be a welcome addition to this bike, opening up its market to a large group of inseam-challenged riders.

And having the seat be adjustable will probably not exclude the current set of tall riders who enjoy the Multistrada’s triangle dimensions (handlebar – seat – pegs) and its height.

New Front End

Another obvious change, judging by the set of circulating photos, is a revised front end.

2015 Multistrada: revised front end.

2015 Multistrada: revised front end.

A few changes we can see right away: It is wider, has larger air intakes, it is more square and less beak-like. It gives the bike a more aggressive look.

Which one is the best?

Subtle changes on the front end of the 2013-14 models (left) when compared to the 2010 model (right)

There is windshield on the spy photos bike, but judging by the base of the shield on the photos, it seems like a hybrid from the 2010 and 2013 models:  back to the three anchor points of the 2010 but perhaps retaining the one-hand operation of the 2013.

2015 Multistrada: Detail of the Front End

2015 Multistrada: Detail of the Front End

Also, the base of the shield seems to be a bit more vertical than the two previous models. Besides the angle itself, the bodywork arriving at the sides of shield shows how it is more integrated.

Either way, windshields are an Achilles heal of adventure styled motorcycles due to the wind buffeting they generate in their job of providing protection from the elements to the rider.  Let’s hope on this third iteration of this bike Ducati has managed to find the sweet spot for wind management.

Öhlins or Sachs/Skyhook?

A gold front fork on the spy shots points to Öhlins.  But gold forks are not a property of Öhlins. Or this bike could be fitted with older Öhlins technology.

Ohlins or Sachs?

2015 Multistrada Spy Shots: Ohlins or Sachs?

Besides the gold color  commonly associated with the Öhlins, there is that  blue on the logo, which actually seem to point this bike to really being back with Öhlins.

But will it really? Independent of it being Öhlins or Sachs, we will go out on a limb to say the 2015 Multistrada will retain its semi-active suspension operation. After all, this has been proven to be an effective technology and has become the new standard on the top tier of the large adventure motorcycle segment. Öhlins has developed semi-active technology since the 2013 Multistrada was launched, so that is a possible scenario.  But I would say an unlike scenario due to the cost of Öhlins while the Sachs/Skyhook combo has proven itself effective on the last two years of operation.

The 2013 Multistrada (Silver) and the 2010 Multistrada (Red)

The 2013 Multistrada (Silver) and the 2010 Multistrada (Red): Sachs on the silver bike, Öhlins on the red bike.

Color Display, Switch Gear, Cruise Control

We do not have pictures of what the 2015 Multistrada dash display looks like, but it is almost certain that this bike will have a thin-film-transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display similar to the one found on the Panigale. We hear the switch gear will be different and the bike will finally have cruise control.

Riding Modes, Suspension Settings

Without knowing anything about the new riding modes, we can speculate the four riding modes (Urban, Enduro, Touring and Sport) will have been retained and perhaps revised and improved with the new motor with DVT.  That assumes the possibility of playing with such an important new parameter available at the ECU such as variable valve timing.  We assume it opens more options for engine management.

And the semi-active suspension settings may have benefitted from lessons learned from more than two years running of the Skyhook system. If this bike goes back to Öhlins suspension, it should be something with semi-active operation.

Finally, it would be fitting to this bike’s role of being a leader of technological innovation if the 2015 bike incorporated the latest ABS system from Bosch, something similar to the system that has been available in the KTM 1190 for the last two years under the MSC name.

Overall Conclusion 

This is a completely new motorcycle. It retains the overall shape of the two previous versions but the body changes seem far from subtle. The new motor on itself is enough change to make this a new bike.

We expect this new motor to be the key selling point of the new Multistrada. But we would expect other structural, software, functional and cosmetic changes that we described or speculated were probably made by Ducati with the objective of keeping the Multistrada in its position in the market: a comprehensive and sexy package representing the forefront of technological advancement while maintaining a multi-personality where riders can enjoy it as an urban, enduro, touring or sport machine.

We believe the timing for the change is about right, although we have had only two years of production of the dual-spark, Skyhook version. That is because the competition on this segment of the market has increased. We hear BMW will bring an S1000 with a more upright riding position with bags (or bag attachments) in sport touring guise, for example. There are three KTM products competing directly with the Multistrada (the 1190 Standard, the 1290 Super Duke, and the new for 2015 1290 Super Adventure). And there are a few other bikes that have evolved in the last few years and have been knocking at the door of this segment of the adventure market.

When we see the 2015 Multistrada for the first time, perhaps at EICMA in a little more than a week from now, and certainly when we see it in person and test ride it, we will have a better idea about how we believe this bike will position itself in the market.

Short tour to Cottage Grove and Wine Country. May 3rd, 2014

Our 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak

Considering we have been riding a Multistrada for the last two years, what we hear about the DVT motor and what we’ve seen so far in spy photos and rumors, it makes us believe the 2015 Multistrada will be a good improvement to an already excellent and still rather unique machine.

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Ducati’s Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) for the 2015 Multistrada

Similar to BMW with its horizontally opposed twin-cylinder boxer motors, Ducati has built a tradition, now going for more than 40 years, on its 90 degree L-Twin motors and desmodromic valve actuation. Traditions build history, develop a following, and become one and the same with the brand. Although being great marketing tools, tradition can also become a hindrance to development and innovation when the original format imposes physical challenges when the time calls for evolutionary change.

Paul Smart's 750, winner of the Imola 200 miles race, 1975

Paul Smart’s 750, winner of the Imola 200 miles race, 1972

But just when you think Ducati and BMW have been cornered by an old format, ingenuity and technology have paired up to leap frog these old motors into innovative machines.  That was the case for BMW when they developed the mixed liquid and air cooled boxer motor for their 1200 line which resulted in a more compact package than the original, despite the introduction of water cooling. And it has been the case on several technological evolutions to Ducati’s L-Twin motors during these last 40-something years.  The introduction of variable timing to its desmodromic valves, what Ducati now calls Desmodromic Variable Timing, or DVT, is probably one of the most outstanding evolutionary upgrades to the L-twin motors.  More than that, it will be a new platform for more innovation for the Ducati motors.

There is no question about the benefits of variable valve timing. Valve timing has been a challenge on the design of internal combustion motors since its invention, where a compromise has always been imposed: you want no overlap on timing for intake and exhaust valves for low speeds or street applications and for better fuel economy, rideability, and emissions, and you want maximum overlap for more horse power on higher RPMs for racing applications. As a result engineers configure motors to operate somewhat in the middle,  getting an overall good performance for road bikes.  But as result the motors get denied of the benefits given by operating on either end of the intake/exhaust valve overlap spectrum.

Ducati’s Superbike 1198 motors which are the basis for the 1200 Multistrada motors are a great example of how manufacturers have been operating under this challenge.  The 1198 Superbike motor operates under a wide 41 degree overlap on intake/exhaust valve operation. The street variation of this same motor, the Testastretta (Testastretta means narrow head in Italian), operates at a narrow 11 degrees of overlap.

1200 cc Ducati Testastretta 11 degrees Motor, Mutistrada 2010-2014

1200 cc Ducati Testastretta 11 degrees Motor, Mutistrada 2010-2014

What makes Ducati DVT so exciting

Variable valve timing is nothing new in the motor industry. And it has been in motorcycle applications for several years already, most notably on Honda’s VFR line and its V-TEC motors.  The V-TEC application, however, is in essence two fixed stages of operation. A solenoid in the rocker shaft will activate a different set of rocker arms at a higher and pre-determined RPM level and these different rocker arms are moved by a different set of lobes in the camshaft, with a more aggressive valve operation. That is, V-TEC operates two discrete set of intake/exhaust overlaps.  Kawasaki’s VVT (on Concours 14) actuates in a continuous form, but it operates only the intake cam.

Ducati’s DVT is a true continuous variable cam which allows for countless variations on degrees of valve overlap. And it is the only one on the motorcycle industry that operates both the intake and exhaust valves. Although it seems like a small upgrade from what has already been available in the motorcycle industry, and it has been available in the auto industry for a while, it solidifies another threshold for the motorcycle industry. And it will certainly be a platform for subsequent innovations on the programming side of equation, as variable timing of intake and exhaust valves opens up an important set of parameters that can be manipulated to improve a motor’s efficiency and performance.

2015 Ducati Multistrada Testastretta DVT Motor

2015 Ducati Multistrada Testastretta DVT Motor

The intake and exhaust camshafts on the Testastretta DVT are allowed to operate at what appears to be some 20-25 degrees of variation from the camshaft pulleys’ position, giving a combined variation of 40-50 degrees of operation when let’s say the intake camshaft is advanced to the maximum position and the exhaust is delayed to its maximum position. We don’t know how many actual degrees of valve overlap result from these variations on cam positions.  But we assume it will result on a motor operating from the 11 degrees of the current street applications to the 41 degrees of the Superbike motors. It could perhaps operate at an even wider margin than the 11-41 degrees between the street and Superbike variations of this motor.

We estimated 20-25 degrees by looking at the picture below, where it shows the actuator of the camshaft. We assume when it goes all the way to the left it will be at the 12 O’clock position, and all the way to the right, as pictured below, it seems to be at a little less than a one O’clock position. We know on a clock or watch display the 1 O’clock position is at 30 degrees of distance from the 12 O’clock position.

Ducati's Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT)

Ducati’s Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) Actuator

One of the ingenious elements of this design (although not unique to Ducati, as it has been used in the auto industry) is that this actuator is located inside the camshaft pulleys. The actuator is a very small part, by the way, probably 40mm in diameter since it fits inside the pulleys.

Cam shaft pulleys, with actuator inside (check the three bolts).

Cam shaft pulleys, with actuator inside (check the three bolts and the 12 marks on top).

The outside portion of the actuator moves together with the pulley where it is attached by those three bolts clearly seen on the two above photos. According to Ducati, the inside portion of the actuator is moved by a hydraulic system, which is triggered by a set of electronic sensors that compares the cam shaft position with that of the driveshaft to determine the ideal timing according to specific running conditions. Seems brilliant and simple in concept.

Camshafts, Testastretta DVT

Camshafts, Testastretta DVT

At minimal overlap, the intake valves delay their opening and the exhaust valves advance their closure so that the simultaneous open position of both valves does not occur improving the engine’s smoothness and fluidity at lower RPMs.

DVT a position of minimum overlap

DVT a position of minimum overlap

The system can operate at various degrees of overlap, moving intake and exhaust cams independently and governed by the ECU.  The ECU is mapped to select the position that optimizes power delivery, torque, smoothness, and fuel efficiency based on the rider’s varying throttle input and resulting engine loads. Can you imagine how much tuning you can get out of this setup? Or would it be necessary? Maybe you want to create a bias for the lower (urban mode of sorts) or higher RPMs (sport mode) of the spectrum. By the way, will it play a role on the four riding modes with low and high acceleration? Probably yes. And probably with more variation to the tune that at present levels (100hp low and high, 150 low and high).

DVT at medium overlap

DVT at medium overlap

At maximum overlap the intake valves advance their opening while the exhaust valves delay their closure given the engine its most aggressive performance.

DVT at maximum overlap

DVT at maximum overlap

The result of all this?  Ducati claims the following figures:

1200 Testasretta DVT in numbers

1200 Testasretta DVT in numbers

When comparing this motor’s specs to the previous Multistrada models, it shows a great step in horse power and torque performance.  And with that it gets closer to the Superbike’s horse power, and even beating it on the torque department, probably a reflection of operation at lower levels of valve overlap on a broad range of RPM.  Obviously, defeating compromises this motor brings an overall better performance when compared to both the 11 and 41 degree motors, except on horse power when compared to the Superbike motor. There must be more to it, of course. But this simple comparison shows promising results.

The Evolution of the Multistrada Testastretta motors

The Evolution of the Multistrada Testastretta motors

All of this is useless, though, if we don’t know what it feels like when riding the motorcycle where this motor will be applied to.  The numbers I like to pay attention to are the torque figures.  This is what, in my opinion, makes Ducati motors especial – those high torque figures at low RPM give the perception that the motor offers effortless performance on acceleration starting from low down on the RPM engine.  By all means, this new motor seems to really benefit from DVT, cranking torque figures to a nice curve and peak level.

Power and Torque Curves, Ducati DVT

Power and Torque Curves, Ducati DVT

I can’t see anything wrong on this, especially because Ducati indicates maintenance service intervals are maintained (15,000 km (9.000 miles) / 12 months), so is valve clearance check (30,000 km (18.000 miles)). Ducati also mentioned an anti-knock sensor for this motor, high compression pistons derived from the Diavel, new drive belts and belt covers, new oil pump with 70% higher efficiency, and improved crankcase for better lubrication.

And let’s not forget the improved fuel efficiency. I’ve gone more than 200 miles with a tank of clear gas on my 2013 Multistrada. But once you approach 200 miles, you better be sure there is a gas station close to where you are.  This new motor will be yet more fuel efficient, making a 200 mile range a more common occurrence.

Multistrada 2013, up to 220 miles with one tank

Multistrada 2013, up to 220 miles with one tank

We also want to direct your attention to one number and parameter on the Ducati’s specs, the -78% IMEP COV.  It is something that we have not seen discussed anywhere on forums and reviewers of this motor so far. What is IMEP COV, a “smoothness index” Ducati says?  And what a 78% reduction may represent from a rider’s perspective?

IMEP COV = Coefficient of Variation in Indicated Mean Effective Pressure

IMEP COV = Coefficient of Variation in Indicated Mean Effective Pressure

Of all variables posted by Ducati, IMEP COV shows the largest gain for the DVT motor. Because Ducati thought it important enough to publish IMEP COV numbers we decided to investigate more about it.  It is not something sexy like HP, or something serious like torque, or something practical like fuel economy. But it is a fundamental parameter on engine development. Touted as a “smoothness index”  by Ducati, our short and superficial research led us to some important and interesting findings.

All of us have learned along the years that fuel injection motors when combined with strict emissions standards have pushed motors towards operating at the lean side of the spectrum, making certain motorcycles, especially single and twin-cylinder bikes but not exclusive to them, practically unrideable at low RPMs.  That was especially the case for the first version of the 1200 Testastretta 11 degrees motor. Owners of those bikes spent thousands of dollars, and we are not exaggerating here, on full exhaust systems, re-programmed ECUs, dynamometer time, and some home other tuners gadgets to resolve this issue. And it never completely cured the problem. Despite some improvement on engine stability from all this aftermarket work, the hesitation at low RPMs and abruptness off idle was always there.

The dual spark motor of the 2013-14 models showed great improvement on this issue.  When we tested the 2013 bike in comparison to a 2010 bike we noticed considerable improvements on the motor’s rideability.  The dual sparks associated with a changed angle of the fuel injection and a few other changes improved torque delivery and fluidity of the motor at low RPMs while increasing torque at the same time. Although the torque increase on the 2013 model was really small, it specifically improved torque delivery at low RPMs. And that motor also improved fuel efficiency by a good 10%.

But with the DVT motor, Ducati is raising this bar to a much higher level, presenting this 78% reduction of IMEP COV which we assume is a figure derived from a comparison to the already improved dual spark motor.

Engineers the world over have been designing motors on the envelope determined by three main conflicting sets of variables: more torque and power; better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions; while maintaining the motor’s running stability.  ECU-based fuel management systems have optimized motors to expand the limit of lean burn operation to improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust gas emissions without compromising power.  But lean burns increase cyclical variation in the combustion intensity, which directly affects the rideability.  This is what we experienced in the 2010-12 Multistradas for example and so many other motorcycles since emissions regulations have become more stringent. This rideability effect is measured by the coefficient of variation (COV) of the indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP).

Although the consumer has little access to this information, we actually experience it when riding our fuel injected motorcycles and we all know it is a lean fueling issue resulting on cycle to cycle variability. Too much cycle to cycle variability, however, challenges lower idle speeds and engine stability.  Therefore, when Ducati claims a reduction of 78% on IMEP COV on the DVT motors, they are basically saying variable intake and exhaust valve timing along perhaps with other parameters, has reduced cycle to cycle variability, as measured by the indicated mean effective pressure or IMEP.  IMEP is a measure of the average pressure over a cycle in the combustion chamber of the engine. The pressure stability from cycle to cycle, IMEP COV, shows high correlation to a rider’s subjective rating of an engine smoothness.

As a result, we assume these motors can run a leaner mixture, which explains at least partially the improved fuel economy, without compromising rideability. In fact, it has improved engine smoothness substantially from a more stable fuel burning cycle to cycle which helps with emissions, which we believe is the main push for this technology. A virtuous cycle of sorts.

This motor is going to be introduced as the most important and significant change to the 2015 Multistrada line up which will be announced at EICMA in a few weeks from today if not earlier than that.  The 2015 Multistrada will have other changes besides the new motor. We will make sure to report here when the new bike is announced.

How will this new motor relate to the Ducati riding experience? Those high torque figures entice me and likely will improve that effortless power delivery feeling these motors produce. The 78% reduction on IMEP COV will make it much more rideable at lower RPMs. According to Giulio Malagoli, Ducati’s Head of Product Marketing:

…this motor is state-of-the-art with a mission: to be used the way you want, interpreted the way you want, and without compromises.

I will know what these words mean and I will report my experience here as soon as a demo model becomes available at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon, assuming those nice folks at the shop will let me ride it.

Stay tuned!

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Intermot 2014: What’s New in the Adventure World?

The first international show of the fall has come and is now gone. Intermot in Cologne is the first on a series of fall shows where motorcycle manufacturers display their new line up to the public and provide us the dots we connect to make sense about market trends. And as a first shot on making connections, if Intermot is representative of what will take place in EICMA in Italy in early November and AIMExpo in Florida in a couple of weeks, the adventure segment certainly shows health as represented by technology upgrades on motorcycles, it shows expansion with new models, and strength with a few models being upgraded to become more dirt oriented.

But to understand what we should celebrate on the adventure world we need to look beyond the major disappointments so far, which is what we did not see yet and maybe won’t see at all this year.  A good portion of the adventure public has had lofty expectations for something really new and exciting in the Adventure world.  We talk here about the holly grail of the adventure/enduro world, that multi-cylinder, lighter weight, road capable but very dirt oriented motorcycle.  That is what the heavily speculated New Africa Twin from Honda promised to be if rumored specs became reality.

Will this be the 2015 CRF1000 Africa Twin?

One of several drawings being associated with a new Africa Twin (Source: Motorrad)

The New Africa Twin rumor is followed closely by rumors of a new mid-size Ténéré from Yamaha. The result is that none of these two highly anticipated motorcycles materialized at Intermot. They remain unattainable dreams so far.

Will this be Yamaha's new mid-size adventure bike?

Will Yamaha develop a Mid-Size Ténéré based on the 700cc Parallel Twin motor of the FZ-07? (Source: Motorrad)

The Adventurization of Sport Touring Motorcycles

Going past these two failed expectations, however, we see an adventure segment showing health and growth. Its borders expand with the “adventurization” of a few sport touring bikes. One example is Honda’s VFR800X, the Crossrunner. Although it remains a road motorcycle, it has gained suspension travel, more upright ergonomics, and the typical electronic aids associated with adventure touring motorcycles. Unfortunately this motorcycle is not likely to be ridden on American soil.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

Another example of “adventurization” of motorcycles is what Kawasaki has done to its Versys line. Both the 650cc parallel twin and 1000cc in-line-four models went through an overall revision for the 2015 model year, with the final result showing both bikes with a more adventure stance.  The 650cc parallel twin Versys lost that funny looking front-end, where the bike seemed to be unsure what it really wanted to be. The parallel-twin engine has been revised, producing more horsepower and improved fuel economy.  There is talk about increased suspension travel as well, but we can’t confirm that at this time. We will know more about this bike at the AIMExpo next week, where it is expected to be officially announced for the American market.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650

The 1000 cc Versys has also been revised to become a bit more adventure oriented, including more suspension travel and wind protection. No changes to the four-in-line motor, we hear. Now what matters for us in the United States is that this bike is expected to be available in our market for the first time in 2015.  Again, we will know more about it at AIMExpo in Florida a week from now.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000

More Technology and Larger Displacement in the Adventure Category

The 1290 Super Adventure confirms KTM’s trend toward road oriented adventure motorcycles. It is a gigantic beast with a large tank of almost 8 gallons.  It has the largest displacement motor of all adventure motorcycles. The 1290 (1301cc) motor is nearly identical to that in the Super Duke.  It includes revisions for better rideability which is the usual case for an adventure application. Therefore the Super Duke’s 180HP is translated to 160HP on the Super Adventure.  KTM claims it weighs 549 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride.

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

This bike is expected to pack the most comprehensive suite of electronic rider aids so far on adventure motorcycles. It includes semi-active suspension, for example, with a suspension control unit adjusting damping on the fly, similar to what is available on the 1190 Adventure. It comes with four MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control) modes available: Rain, Sport, Street and Off-road along with the same “Off” setting available on the 1190 for those that wish to ride without traction control. It’s got KTM’s MSC, the lean-sensitive, Bosch ABS system, first introduced in the 2014 1190 Adventure – and I believe no other Adventure motorcycle offers this feature yet.

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

There’s also a Tire Pressure Monitoring System and something new to the KTM line, an optional Hill Hold Control. This feature senses when the bike is on a slope at a standstill, keeping the brakes engaged until throttle is applied and the bike begins to move forward, preventing the bike from rolling backwards. This bike is likely to go head to head with the R1200GS Adventure in terms of size, rider aids, fuel range, and application.  But perhaps it will also compete with the Ducati MTS 1200 in terms of rider aids, horse power and also road performance.  The advantage of the KTM 1290 with respect to the Ducati is that it comes with spoked wheels, giving it more flexibility for off pavement applications.

We don’t know yet what the revised 2015 Ducati Multistrada (see more information further down this post) will offer besides increased horse power, but it is likely to remain a more compact and agile package for on road spirited riding than the KTM Super Adventure.

More Dirt Orientated Adventure Bikes

On our biased perspective we like adventure motorcycles that to do well on dirt roads, therefore we are glad to have found out from Intermot that a few motorcycles have become more dirt oriented. In specific we want to mention the Suzuki V-Strom which is now available with spoked wheels.

2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

This bike has come a long way.  From its awkward street looks in the 2004-2011 models, it started looking more rugged starting with the 2012 model, and now for the 2015 model year it finally has the XT version, the most adventure version so far when we consider it now comes with spoked wheels. And it also comes with a beak… Why, one would ask? We don’t have an answer for that except to say that back in the late 80’s its predecessor, the Suzuki DR Big, had a beak. Anyway, priced competitively for a spoked wheels bike, the V-Strom 650XT is now a stronger entry level in the multi-cylinder adventure motorcycle market, targeting people with more serious off pavement ambitions.

On the higher end of the spectrum, another more bike that has been upgraded for the dirt is Aprilia’s Caponord which now has the Rally version, “suitable for any trip, ready for any terrain” according to Piaggio’s site.

2015-Aprilia-Caponord-1200-Rally-1

Among the upgrades, the critical one is spoked rims, including a 19″ size on the front! This brings this bike on level with the BMW R1200GS, Yamaha Super Ténéré, Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX, and KTM 1190 Adventure Standard, all have spoked wheels with the front being a 19 inch wheel.  Other changes include new hard panniers with aluminium covers, new oversized windshield, new engine guards, supplementary LED lights. And new colors and paint schemes identifying the bike as the Aprilia Caponord Rally.

2015-Aprilia-Caponord-1200-Rally-3

These bikes come with the suite of electronics of the previous Caponord models including ride-by-wire with three engine maps, traction control, cruise control and ABS (can be disengaged). It also includes the semi-active ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) suspension system, using skyhook algorithms and acceleration driven damping strategies.

Persisting Rumors

Not revealed at the Intermot, but rumored for EICMA, there is the BMW S1000XR, a more upright version of the S1000R.  Not quite an adventure motorcycle, this sport tourer is knocking at the shed’s door of some of us who favor more upright ergonomics on motorcycles and the capacity to carry gear for multiple-day trips.  It will likely compete with some of so-called sport/touring/adventure bikes such as the Multistrada.

Speculated "Adventurized" version of BMW S1000R - Source Motorcyclist Magazine

Speculated “Adventurized” version of BMW S1000R – Source Motorcyclist Magazine

Talking about it, another rumor on the sport touring side of the adventure gamma of motorcycles is a revision to the Ducati Multistrada.  Although it seems as it will keep the general dimensions and profile of the current Multistrada, it is expected to be a new motorcycle, starting with the introduction of variable valve timing (VVT) to its Testastretta motor. Ducati is referring to it as DVT.  One can assume there will be an increase in horsepower and fuel economy as a result of VVT, perhaps enough to keep up with the 160HP of the announced 1290 KTM Super Adventure or gets closer to the anticipated horsepower of the speculated BMW S1000XR.

Ducati has announced this revised Multistrada will be unveiled on October 15th, just a few days from today. There is also fairly strong talk about the showing of a KTM 1050 Adventure motorcycle at EICMA. Not much is known about this motorcycle at the time we write this post, but one would expect it will fill the void left by the KTM 990 Adventure. Following on that reasoning, we would expect it to be lighter and more dirt worthy than the 1190.

Not for 2015 but giving an idea about what is next from Triumph there is a spec sheet circulating on the internet as a summary of points from a survey Triumph sent to Tiger owners asking them about their interest on specific features for upgrades to the Tiger 800XC.  It indicates Triumph is revamping its Tiger line up soon, perhaps for 2016.  Just to summarize, it indicates Triumph is considering adjustable WP suspension, ride-by-wire, riding modes, traction control, and increased fuel economy (probably associated with a specific riding mode).

2015 Triumph Tiger spec sheet circulating on the internet

2015 Triumph Tiger spec sheet circulating on the internet

The Tiger 800XC lags the BMW F800GS on items associated with dirt manners and the available electronic package on the F800GS (traction control, riding modes, etc). If the specs documented on this sheet becomes reality, the Tiger 800 on its XCR and XCR Adventure version will likely match the BMW F800GS in terms of the electronic rider’s aids. And it will surpass the BMW on the suspension department if the “Adj WP” item on the spec sheet indicates adjustable forks.  The question is if and when this will happen.

The Star of Intermot 2o14

In our opinion, there was no competition, the star of the Intermot was Ducati’s Scrambler.  This bike energized the segment, even if we can’t quite claim this motorcycle is an adventure bike.  But this bike represents something new, exciting and desirable.

2015 Ducati Scrambler Classic

2015 Ducati Scrambler Classic

The bike comes in four versions. The Urban-Enduro version is the more adventure-oriented version.

2015 Ducati Scrambler Urban-Enduro

2015 Ducati Scrambler Urban-Enduro

The Scrambler shows Ducati remains a vibrant motorcycle company looking to expand the boundaries of its product line. The base model, the Scrambler Icon, priced at $8,495 for the red and $8,595 for the yellow, together with its campaign theme where it describes the bike as “inventive, youthful and free-spirited, the new Ducati Scrambler is much more than a bike, it’s a land of joy, freedom and self-expression,” it shows Ducati is going after new customers for its products and with that possibly bringing new customers to the motorcycle industry overall.

2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon

2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon

That is, Ducati’s marketing campaign for this bike is likely to attract new riders to the market and the Scrambler is likely going to not only be the first Ducati, but the first motorcycle for many. Contextual evidence to this is the released video about this bike titled “The Land of Joy,” which does not offer a hint of engine noise, for example.

And any of the officially released material about this bike, up to its unveiling in the Intermot, has never shown technical or motor specifications. It was probably not deemed important when what matters is what this bike intends to represent.  It is something new for Ducati and perhaps something never approached this strongly in the motorcycle industry since Honda’s “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign. And to us the Scrambler campaign itself brings it to the top of what’s new in the adventure world.

"You meet the nicest people on a Honda"

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”

And beyond Ducati and the Scrambler motorcycle itself, the Scrambler campaign showed a line of products such as clothing and riding gear, which are likely to sell well creating a strong presence for the Scrambler brand within Ducati.  You can say it is a detour from the leading technological edge Ducati represents in the motorcycle industry. But you can’t say it is not a great marketing campaign. As a result I want a Ducati Scrambler. I know I will  only buy one Scrambler T-shirt, or two, and will stay clear of Scrambler branded riding jacket or gloves or helmet…  But I can see those items becoming popular.

Anyway, Intermot was interesting, we learned a few things from it, and we anticipate there is more to come in a few days at the AIMExpo in Florida.  And a lot more to come at EICMA in Italy in early November. Soon we will know about the new Multistrada and we still keep our hopes up for something more dirt oriented from Honda or Yamaha, if not this year then certainly next year. We embrace change and are interested in what the motorcycle industry will bring next to the adventure market.

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The Ducati Scrambler: new from what it never was

The typical case of an old model being brought back to the market, the Ducati Scrambler was revealed to the general public at the 2014 Cologne Intermot event. But there is a lot more riding on this retro-styled bike, beyond an interesting juxtaposition of new and old concepts, there is the creation of a new culture within Ducati.  One could say it’s new from what it never was. Or something that almost was some 40 years ago.

Round headlights framed by four LED semicircles

Round headlights framed by four LED semicircles

The launch of this bike follows what is one of the most eclectic marketing campaigns by Ducati, likely surpassing the campaign when Ducati launched the Monster, more than 20 years ago.  I would venture to say it is impossible for anyone who has navigated motorcycle sites in the last few months to tell me they’ve never heard of the word Scrambler associated with Ducati.

With that, I bet most everyone already has formed an association in their minds of the word Scrambler with a very specific type font, the color yellow, a beach shack, a ship container, a green carpet, and four semi-circle LED lights framing a round headlight.

Introduction of the Scrambler to the team at the Ducati plant in Borgo Panigale.

Introduction of the Scrambler to the team at the Ducati plant in Borgo Panigale.

There is no question Ducati has taken ownership to the Scrambler word much beyond the  bureaucratic value of its trademark rights. Ducati has created a unique environment around it and what makes it interesting is the strong hipster focus of the campaign. The Scrambler campaign contrasts with Ducati’s racing and “metro” attitude for all its bikes and related products of the last 40 years.

Old and new: LED and old style round headlights

Old and new: LED and old style round headlights

What is it?

Obviously the important aspect for this bike is what it is and represents, not how it performs, which is consistent with the hipster focus of the campaign. The campaign includes a site subtitled “scrambled people give joy” and where followers can contribute videos for a contest under the “scrambler you are” idea.  Selected videos are displayed. The instructions say:

Tell us your emotions, free your spirit with a video for a maximum 120 seconds. Express yourself, your way of life, how you make the difference every day in the present days.

And the subtitle of the announcement for the September 30th world launch stated:

Born in Ducati, grown in the hearts of motorcyclists.

Evidently, emotions trump expectations of performance in this marketing campaign. Therefore, we haven’t seen too many technical details being shown about this motorcycle during the campaign.

But a few specific design items were strategically leaked such as a round dash display, which is seen on the right side of the handlebars on a few of the leaked photos, a dual-sport tire showing a new thread pattern, and a metal alloy tank among other strategically leaked photos. Most of these motorcycle parts were shown in photographs with young Ducati staff that are associated with the Scrambler project, such as the photo below where one staffer uses the information cluster (round dash display) as a wrist watch.

Dash display shown as a watch of sorts.

Dash display shown as a watch of sorts.

Or this other photo where a staffer is shown holding the tank of the Scrambler.  Good to know Ducati is steering away from plastic tanks!  At least this is the case for this bike.

The Scrambler tank, in metal.

The Scrambler tank, in metal.

But now we know the specs for this bike:

  • Motor type: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
  • Displacement: 803 cc
  • Bore x stroke: 88 x 66 mm
  • Compression ratio: 11:1
  • Power: 55 kW (75 hp) @ 8,250 rpm
  • Torque: 68 Nm (50 lb-ft) @ 5,750 rpm
  • Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
  • Tank size: 3.5 gallons
  • Front and rear suspension travel: 6 inches
  • Wet weight: 423 lbs

It is the same motor of the Monster 796.  But it is revised for improved driveability. Nothing wrong with that.

Looking good on dirt!

Looking good on dirt!

The Scrambler comes in four options: Icon, Classic, Full Throttle and Urban Enduro.  One could probably imagine it being used as a flat tracker. Or a classic enduro as in Steve McQueen style. Or simply a sexy street bike.

Why do I say it is new from what it never was?

The original Scrambler is from before my time, but a simple research tells us the Ducati Scrambler was built by the request of an American Ducati dealer.

1962 Ducati Scrambler - only sold in the United States: Source Ducati Site

1962 Ducati Scrambler – only sold in the United States: Source Ducati Site

Ducati bought into it and the result was a successful motorcycle, which eventually conquered the Italian market as well. This bike’s flexible attitude sold well for a while and  created its own culture which Ducati actually used in its market campaign of the time: Potere Ducati or Ducati Power! That was the late 60’s, remember? Flower power and all.

1970's Original Ducati Scrambler

1968s Ducati Scrambler, this one sold in Italy as well: source Ducati site

But then there were the L-Twin motors and Ducati’s racing success. There was the Ducati 750 SS, the first win of the twin motor at the Imola 200 in 1972. With that win Ducati started a long string of victories and success and the L-twin motor became a symbol, and icon of Ducati within the motorcycle community.

The Scrambler went away with all the other bikes with single cylinder motors in the 70’s while the L-twin motors are an intrinsic part of what Ducati has become in these last 40 years: a “metro” and racing brand of sophisticated motorcycles at the forefront of technology development. And those single cylinder motors and those bikes of the 60’s and 70’s are considered classics and very valuable collectors’ items today.

Is the new Scrambler going to establish itself based on its history and related audience? The Scrambler announcement states: “Born in Ducati.”  That’s where I say this new Scrambler is new, a development from what it never was. This campaign is creating a new ecology within Ducati. It seems Ducati is creating a new market, a new product, and a new image. A Scrambler image first, Ducati second.

There likely won’t be a conflict of personality, hipster and the metro and racing images will be side by side at dealer floors. But we will see a new brand within Ducati. Expect to see motorcycles, gear, clothing, and a varied assortment of accessories under the Scrambler Ducati brand. Definitely something new within Ducati. Something that never was, or almost was in the 70’s.

Ducati’s marketing contrasted with my interpretation by stating the following on the official site of the Scrambler:

The Ducati Scrambler is the contemporary interpretation of the iconic Ducati model, as if it had never been out of production. The style is “post-heritage”: to take the best of the past and create something unique and absolutely contemporary. Anti-conformist, accessible and essential, the Ducati Scrambler is the perfect blend of tradition and modernity and marks a return to the pure essence of motorcycling: two wheels, a wide handlebar, a simple engine and a huge amount of fun.

From the bike point of view itself, its mechanical bits, I agree with Ducati.  But this bike is more than a bunch of parts, the campaign indicates it is more than that. And it could actually contaminate other models of the current line up. Or at least the public’s view of Ducati itself. But that is going beyond the current moment, let’s not put too much on this little bike’s shoulders for now.

But to someone who cares about Ducati and its history of the last 40 years, there is an extra value with this motorcycle. The Scrambler carries an interesting juxtaposition of Ducati trends in its soul, the L-twin motor, a motor that never belonged to the original Scrambler. But this twin motor in the Scrambler is going to be the only air-cooled motor left on the Ducati line-up, the latest version of a 40 year-long evolution on such motors. Interesting endings and starts. Despite the many changes and improvements done to L-twin air-cooled motors in four decades of existence, it still can be linked to the very motor that took Ducati to that Imola race win in 1972.  Although this bike has nothing to do with the current racing culture, and the majority of people being targeted by this marketing campaign couldn’t care any less about Ducati’s racing heritage, this motor is there and it will carry forward what is now an old tradition under a new idea.

Would such a bike find its way to my shed?

I’ve been looking for a motorcycle that offers a more practical application for city and local riding, something smaller than my Adventure bikes, something lighter and more relaxed. I tried the Streetfighter and I liked it a lot, but it was more fighter and less Street.  Within the Ducati line, the Hyperstrada and Hypermotard have been on my short list, for example.

But I also started looking into the classic or standard types of motorcycles.  I thought about the Triumph Bonneville and its parallel twin motor.

2014 Triumph Bonneville T100

2014 Triumph Bonneville T100

And the Moto Guzzy V7. The 2015 V-7 has now a 6-speed transmission, dual-channel ABS, and traction control.

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

But then the Ducati Scrambler got in this mix.  I confess the hipster hype is a bit over the top for me.  But I can see beyond it.  The Ducati Scrambler offers more model choices than Triumph and Moto Guzzi bikes do.  Also, the Ducati is lighter and more powerful than the Triumph and the V-7.  I suppose I don’t fit the hipster profile, power still matters to me and this bike has it for what it is. And the Scrambler still is a Ducati. Of the good kind.  So my choice is with the Ducati as of today.

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler is being set (from the Scrambler Ducati site)

The only problem is which of the four Scramblers I will pick, and this is a little challenge on itself.  Here are the four models.

Icon: This is the basic model. In red the price is $8,495 and in yellow $8,595.  It has alloy wheels, and other than that, it is a nice bike.

2015 crambler Icon - photo courtesy Ducati and Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Icon – photo courtesy Ducati and Asphalt and Rubber

Full Throttle: $9,995. This is the most urban looking version, and the most hooligan of them. It connects with the flat track racing heritage of such bikes.

2015 Scrambler Full-Throttle - Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Full-Throttle – Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

Urban Enduro: $9,995.  This one best connects with the off road community. You would think this is the one I would pick.  I like the spoked wheels but I did not like the high front fender. It will probably be the best seller among the three non-Icon versions.

2015 Scrambler Urban-Enduro - Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Urban-Enduro – Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

Classic: $9,995.  This one looks the closest to the original Scrambler, especially the one associated with Steve McQueen.

2015 Scrambler Classic - Photo source: Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Classic – Photo source: Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

If I had to pick a Scrambler today, it would be the Classic.  But what I want is the Classic with the front and rear fenders of the Icon version.  Or the Icon with spoked wheels. Maybe once I get it I will have to make some modifications to it…

Anyway, of all bikes revealed at Intermot so far, this one is by far the most interesting.  For more information, check the Scrambler Ducati site.  And if you would like to order one, check with your local Ducati dealer. If you are in Oregon, check with Scott or Mickey at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon.  I know some people who have already placed orders for Scramblers with them…

And check this video:

It gives an idea about the bikes and also some riding gear that will be associated with this bike. As usual, the Italians do not kid around when it is about design. Have fun!

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2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner: What it is. What it isn’t.

What was the bike the “Honda magician” revealed on September 10th?

Magician reveals the...

Magician reveals the…

It wasn’t the much anticipated New Africa Twin. Instead, it was an upgrade to the VFR800X Crossrunner, a motorcycle not marketed for the United States.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

What was so impressive about this upgrade to deserve this unveiling, and why does it matter to the Adventure segment and the anticipated new Africa Twin?

Let’s see what Honda’s press release says about this bike and its changes from the previous VFR800X model:

“The heart of the machine remains its VTEC-equipped 90° V4 DOHC 16 valve engine, which now offers increased low and mid-range torque for flexible, effortless drive, plus increased peak power of 105bhp, delivered at 10,250rpm.

“The aluminum twin-beam frame features a lighter, revised subframe and new aluminum swingarm – another VFR signature piece. Suspension has longer travel: 25mm in its two-piece telescopic forks and 28mm in the rear shock. ABS comes as standard and the front 17-inch hollow-cast aluminum wheel is fitted with dual 310mm discs, worked by radial-mount four-piston calipers. Tires are sporty street-size 120 front and 180 rear for optimal on-road performance.

“The rider now also benefits from the same kind of torque control system fitted to the Crosstourer. HSTC (Honda Selectable Torque Control) offers two levels of control (plus off) to sense imminent loss of rear wheel traction, and seamlessly reduce torque to allow the tire to grip.”

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

“The Crossrunner is a true VFR – a motorcycle designed for hard riding fun, but with style, comfort and practicality. Accordingly, the seat is now adjustable, offering two height options, and 5-stage heated grips and Honda’s self-cancelling indicators are both fitted as standard. New, full LED lighting adds a distinct presence and premium finishing touch.”

We’ve never seen this bike in the metal, so we have to rely on other publication’s opinions. Under Asphalt and Rubber’s “more than an update” post, they state:

With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Adventure Touring and Sport Adventure

Ducati launched the Multistrada line in 2003 and eventually discontinued its Sport Touring (ST) line in 2008.  In 2010 Ducati launched the MTS1200 with four riding modes: enduro, urban, touring, and sport. The Multistrada has ergos that would be suitable for an enduro bike, but it has a motor from a super-bike and it is fitted with 17 inch wheels. Whether you call it a Touring or Sport bike, or even an oversized super motard, it is viewed as an Adventure bike. It was part of the movement forming the Adventure Touring or Sport Adventure segment within adventure bikes.

Ducati's ST line gives way to the Multistrada line

Ducati’s ST line gives way to the Multistrada line

On the October 2014 edition of “Motorciclist” they ran an Adventure Tour comparo. The bikes in this set were the Aprilia Caponord, the Ducati Multistrada, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000, the KTM 1190 standard, and the BMW R1200GS. This was the street end of the adventure segment that we can call touring or even sport adventure. This new Honda would fit just right for this comparo.  Although with a smaller displacement, it would not fall behind the V-Strom necessarily. And the Aprilia and the Ducati have 17-inch front wheels.  The Honda VFR1200X Crosstourer would probably be a better fit for this comparo, but the point is, this revised VFR800X is as deserving of being called an “Adventure” bike as the V-Strom, the Ducati, and the Aprilia are.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000

Suzuki V-Strom 1000

At the same time we hear Yamaha is also making an investment on this area of the market. We hear a more upright version of the FZ-09/MT-09 with its triple motor will be presented in a few weeks at the Intermot meeting in Cologne. At least two illustrations of what this bike could look like have been circulating on motorcycle sites.

Concept Ilustration of Street/Touring Yamaha based on MT09/FZ-09 bike (CycleWorld via Young Magazine)

Concept Ilustration of Street/Touring Yamaha based on MT09/FZ-09 bike (CycleWorld via Young Magazine)

One of these illustrations associates this new bike with the TDM name.  Just imagine bags and these bikes will look adventuring touring. Or sport adventure.

Speculated Yamaha TDM or FZ-09, MT-09

Speculated Yamaha TDM or FZ-09, MT-09

And don’t forget the “adventurizing” of the BMW S1000RR with its in-line 4 motor that has also been circulating.  But in the case of BMW these are real photos of prototypes, so it goes beyond pure speculation.  Although sport should be this bike’s emphasis.

Speculated "Adventurized" version of BMW S1000R - Source Motorcyclist Magazine

Speculated “Adventurized” version of BMW S1000R – Source Motorcyclist Magazine

In other words, it is just one more bike entering with a more solid foot in what we call adventure motorcycles, and for the other, it is the adventure segment being stretched to include a touring component.  These are motorcycles offering upright ergos, good amount of suspension travel, good on road performance for long distance travel, but with a motor delivering “sport” performance. Some of them are probably good enough for gravel roads. Adventure enough to go to Alaska, for example.

There is a “number” circulating on several sites and forums, claimed to be from Yamaha, stating that less than 20% of Super Ténéré owners take their bikes off road.  All these riders want, it seems, is a bike that is comfortable for touring and maybe ready for a side road adventure.  Why not build a bike that more clearly fits this street adventure rider profile? Honda seems to be getting it with its X line. The question is: will this bike look badass enough for those times when you park it in front of the Starbucks to get a cup of decaf salted caramel non-dairy latte while dressed in your full enduro regalia?

Unfortunately this VFR800X will not make it to the American market. It seems like a really nice motorcycle, with just enough power to be lots of fun, and not too heavy or over-sized.  Just right with the appropriate amenities and electronic features. I bet it is a good Adventure Tourer and probably competitive on this segment of the market.

What about the Africa Twin?

So what happened to the Africa Twin, you may ask? We have enough information to give us a good amount of certainty that the Africa Twin is still coming. And we believe this more adventurized VFR800X actually solidifies the perspective that the new Africa Twin will be a real enduro motorcycle. Or will be capable of it with some minor modifications.

Let’s take a look at Honda’s X line: they have the CB500X, the NC700/750X, the VFR800X and the VFR1200X.  They form a nice gradient, based on size, of street oriented adventure or adventure-styled bikes.  What’s missing from this line up?

Exactly, what’s missing is an enduro version. It just may be that as the VFR800X gets more adventurized, the more likely it will be that we won’t see an Africa Twin that overlaps too much with it and these other X bikes.  That is, we may see a real enduro bike coming up from Honda, something that will definitely not belong on this soft X line.

Having said that, we would be surprised if Honda unveils the Africa Twin in the upcoming Intermot and EICMA shows.  Honda would not unveil this bike without milking such a launch with strategies that are more effective, on a longer term and more widespread than the magician’s reveal of the VFR800X in a German site.

We think at this point it may be something for next year, but we hope to be wrong. We keep our hopes up for a great enduro machine from the big red.  Or two, who knows, it would be cool to see a smaller Elsenore alongside the proper Africa Twin.

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2015 Honda Elsinore or Africa Twin? 500 or 1,000? Both? Neither?

Africa Twin Rumors

We’ve been following the rumor trail of a possible new Africa Twin. The idea of Honda bringing the Africa Twin back to the market has generated an extraordinary amount of posts from motorcycle publications and on motorcycle boards. These rumors centered mostly on “leaked” specifications about this bike, a patent from Honda on a dual air cleaner system, Honda’s renewal of U.S. trademark of names of discontinued Honda motorcycles, and an interview with Honda’s head of product planning in Europe. There were also a set of drawings by journalists, all speculating what this motorcycle would look like. And just recently, there was an announcement from Honda about a world premiere of an adventure motorcycle in Germany on September 10th.  We believe the Africa Twin name, with its following and tradition would require something larger than a reveal just a few days before Intermot.  But the rumors continue so let’s entertain the possibilities.

“Leaked” Specifications of the Rumored 2015 (or 2016) Africa Twin

These are specs that were published by a couple of motorcycle publications in Europe.  They claimed the information came from Honda insiders and was associated with a new Africa twin:

  • 200kg / 440lbs (fueled) // 180kg / 396lbs (dry)
  • 20L / 5.3 gallon fuel capacity
  • Parallel twin engine, 1000cc
  • 100hp
  • 250mm / 9.8in suspension
  • 21” front / 17” rear
  • Offroad-designed ABS brakes
  • Offroad-designed traction control

The main issue was that it was a parallel twin and no longer a V-twin like the original bike. Many speculated the proposed 440lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride was not feasible to be achieved for a 1,000cc motorcycle with a 5 gallon tank, packing latest generation electronics and equipped with off road suspension.

Although there is no consensus of what an ideal dual-purpose motorcycle should look like, most everyone agrees lighter is better, and more power is better. Add to this recipe road worthiness/comfort/cargo capacity for long distance travel and we have the holly grail for a boundary expanding new enduro/adventure/dual purpose motorcycle.  The specs on this rumored Africa Twin were spot on for most people, if they are feasible to be achieved, that is.

The Air-Cleaner Patent

This is one of the most interesting part of the rumors – Honda’s patent for a new airbox system. It divides the aircleaner/airbox into two elements, one on each side of the bike, flanking the traditional tank/steering. It places the air cleaner where most motorcycles have the overhanging side of tanks. And it opens up space on top of the motor and under the seat (places where the airbox is traditionally located), allowing the heavy fuel to occupy the space in the center of the bike, just above the motor and under the seat. It helps in lowering the center of gravity of the motorcycle for one thing, and it facilitates air cleaner maintenance for another, an important item for off road vehicles.  More on this further down this post.

Honda Patent on Aircleaner

Honda Patent on Aircleaner

The Interview with a Honda Executive

Exactly a year ago (at the 2013 EICMA meeting in November, Milan) we heard an interview of Moto.IT with Dave Hancock, Honda’s head of product planning and business development of Honda Motor Europe.  When asked about the speculated Africa Twin, Mr. Hancock said:

We’ve heard everybody would like to see a new Africa Twin. The official line is we can’t make any comment about any models that we are bringing in the future. But you can probably see by the look on my face that we probably will be thinking about something maybe… I can’t tell you when. But I think you probably will be happy eventually.

This interview leaves no doubt about Honda bringing a new model, one that is based on what the Honda Africa Twin  represented.

Trademark on Motorcycle Names

At some point last year Honda renewed (filed) the United States trademarks of names of Honda motorcycles that have been discontinued, among them Elsinore and Africa Twin.  These could be routine trademark renewals, with no intention of doing anything about them on the near future.  We and most others speculating about an adventure bike from Honda mostly focused on the Africa Twin name.  It makes sense in our opinion that it will be called Africa Twin, since the Africa Twin name carries a much larger tradition and following outside of the United States.  The name in itself could be the marketing campaign.  But we would not be surprised if Honda brings something else to the market, and based on the Elsinore name.

The Many Illustrations of this speculated Africa Twin

As soon as rumors started, several motorcycle publications illustrated their vision of the new motorcycle. Follow this link to see these illustrations and our poll on five renditions of the new Africa Twin. Let’s just show you our favorite, and it is also the version that got the most votes on our poll so far.

Will this be the 2015 CRF1000 Africa Twin?

Motorrad’s version, and most popular illustration (based on our poll) of what this bike could look like

The September 10th Announcement

A couple of days ago Honda’s site in Germany announced the world premiere of a new model. On the site they had an illustration of a magician about to unveil a motorcycle.

Magician reveals the...

Magician reveals the…

The caption on the picture read:

World Premiere on September 10th! We show a new form of adventure.
Whoever you are, wherever you are: Get ready for a motorcycle that will allow you a whole new experience. The experience of being able at any time to break out of the everyday. Do not miss out when the curtain falls.

Is this it? Is this the new Africa Twin, we ask? Or is it something else?  We will know soon enough.  But we believe the Africa Twin would require something larger and with more reveal installments, with some leaked photos and other promotion steps geared to milk more from what the Africa Twin name represents. We are not keeping our hopes up for this reveal.  But we will know more soon.

Honda Elsinore 500

Just when we were all set for the count down for what Honda will unveil on September 10th, assuming it could possibly be the Africa Twin, a new rumor hits the webs. This new rumor brings back the Elsinore name as opposed to Africa Twin. It is a name that is more meaningful for us here in the United States, where Africa Twins were never sold. Elsinore is associated with Steve McQueen and the California deserts! Elsinore is associated with smaller displacement, two-stroke Honda motorcycles of 125cc and 250cc from before the CRF line, one of the several motorcycles Steve McQueen used to ride (the list bikes associated with him is large, including Triumph and Ducati Scramblers, Husqvarnas, besides Hondas and Yamahas).

Back in May of this year, when rumors about the Africa Twin specs (1,000 cc parallel twin) and the famous air cleaner patent started circulating in the internet, Motorcycle.Com mentioned the trademark names renewed by Honda, one of them associated with the Elsinore name.  This is what Motorcycle.com had to say at that time:

As for the name, some recently filed Honda trademarks may offer up some clues. Two particular names stand out: Elsinore and Africa Twin. Both names carry a long tradition with Honda. The Elsinore was an early Honda dirt bike released in 1973, but they were small displacement motocrossers that preceded today’s CRF models. The name has the right retro-sounding appeal to it, but connecting the name to a 1000cc engine might be too much of a departure from the Elsinore legacy.

“Africa Twin” might be an apt name, and the engine description would fit the bill. A new Africa Twin however would be more of an adventure tourer along the likes of the Yamaha Super Tenere or Triumph’s Explorer and the design in the sketches lacks the same rugged styling.

We focused our attention on the Africa Twin name in our discussions. But are we talking here about the same bike? 1,000 or 500cc? Both? Neither?  Here is where another component of the latest rumor comes to play.

The Spanish motorcycle site SOLOMOTO.es is claiming that the adventure/enduro/dual purpose motorcycle Honda will reveal in the upcoming fall motorcycle shows (Intermot and EICMA), and perhaps it is what will be unveiled on September 10th as well, is not the anticipated 1,000cc Africa Twin, but instead a 500cc Elsinore.  The 500cc displacement is a better match to the Elsinore name than 1,000cc.  And the Motorrad illustration of what this bike could look like (depicted earlier on this post) better matches a 500cc motor than an 1,000cc motor. It makes it much closer to the 450 CRF rally motorcycle Honda uses in the Dakar and which appears to be the inspiration for the Motorrad illustration.

Further on this SOLOMOTO post, they describe this speculated Elsinore to be an all new all-purpose adventure motorcycle with a two-cylinder motor based on the CB500 motor, a parallel twin liquid cooled, 8V DOHC motor with electronic fuel injection.

On our first post about the speculated new Africa Twin we had sited Gizmodo’s Indefinitely Wild post of June 11, 2014, which described how Honda’s new airbox patent would work for a new adventure motorcycle. They quoted a Honda insider describing how the dual airbox design, instead of being on top of the motor and under the seat, was pushed to the outside of the tank, would allow the tank of this new motorcycle to stay on its traditional position, but its volume going deeper, lower on the motorcycle and more centered, by occupying the location traditionally taken by the airbox right above the motor and under the seat. SOLOMOTO indicated the Elsinore radiators will also be located laterally under the pair of air filters. They also mentioned it will be a very light with good power to weight ratio bike. An all-purpose bike with off road trail aesthetics.

Previously “leaked” information indicated it as a brand new motorcycle with the motor nested inside a twin-spar frame and a tank of just less than 5 gallons. If based on a 500cc motor, 5 gallons would give you more than 300 miles between fills.

Africa Twin or Elsinore? Our Preference

The Africa Twin name is larger than anything on the Honda lineup when we talk about adventure/enduro motorcycles. Even beyond Honda, Africa Twin is a symbol for adventure/enduro motorcycles. If this bike is going to be made, I doubt it will be called something else other than Africa Twin.  Unless Honda is planning two bikes, one smaller with a smaller displacement motor to be called Elsinore and one with a larger displacement motor to be called Africa Twin, we can’t see anything being called Elsinore in place of Africa Twin. The Africa Twin name is not going to be relegated.

Particularly, we’ve been on a quest for the perfect enduro machine, the holly grail we described in the beginning of this post: the one that reaches the optimum compromise between dirt and road, light weight and suspension for the dirt but with good road manners for long distance travel.

In May 2015 we had brought up the Honda CB500 Rally versions, as developed by the Thai HRC guys, as a possible bike that we would be interested in building to reach that optimum balance. It is inexpensive, it is light weight, has a smooth parallel twin motor, and we could possibly build it to our riding interests. However, radically modifying a motorcycle suspension and wheel sizes affect a bike’s geometry, and we do not know what these changes would entail in terms of handling. And riding a designed-for-the-street bike aggressively off road, even if the suspension can take rough roads,  may bring other problems related to components of the bike not designed for that type of use and we would be bringing different sets of stress to an unknown frame strength.

Thai HRC team's CB500X Rally, with 19 and 21 in front wheel versions

Thai HRC team’s CB500X Rally, with 19 and 21 in front wheel versions

The CB500X is rated at 430lbs wet, which we considered good enough. It makes this speculated Elsinore 500 a more feasible motorcycle to meet the 440lbs specs rumored earlier this year.

Including the speculated Elsinore on the chart of dual-purpose, enduro, adventure bikes

Including the speculated Elsinore on the chart of dual-purpose, enduro, adventure bikes

Our ideal scenario for the perfect bike sees it with a 750cc motor.  However, between a 500cc and a 1,000cc bike, if they weigh the same, we will favor the 1,000cc.  That is, between 430lbs for the 500cc machine (CB500X) and 440lbs for the 1,000cc machine (Speculated AT), we will likely go with the speculated Africa Twin.

We favor the Elsinore name to the Africa Twin name for a smaller bike, if this is what Honda will bring. Reserving Africa Twin for a proper larger adventure bike. Elsinore denotes lighter weight and a smaller bike, and it is connected to Steve McQueen, and it speaks of the California desert.  Worldwide, however, we know the Africa Twin carries a lot more weight with the public, and Honda’s marketing knows that better than us. So, we are not discounting the possibility of a new Africa Twin. But this new rumor opens the possibility for something else. Not the Africa Twin.

In a few days we will know what we will have from this Honda world premiere motorcycle. An Africa Twin, an Elsinore, maybe both bikes and names in two different engine sizes, wheel sizes, and applications. Or something in between? Or maybe nothing.  We think it will be something else.

Meanwhile, let’s bring some perspective on the Elsinore name, here is a video of Steve McQueen riding the Honda Elsinore 250, with the two-stroke motor.  The location of the ride is probably California.

And while we wait, let me make Steve McQueen’s words mine:

I ride fast, I ride fast on the dirt. I ride with safety equipment. If you ride on the street, be safety minded. Don’t ride too fast.

That’s how I see it and ride as well. Fast on the dirt, not too fast on the street. And always with protective gear which, thankfully, is much better today than it was at Steve McQueen’s time.

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Is September 10th 2014 the day we will see the New Africa Twin?

Will it finally be unveiled, and will this reveal take place five days from today? A tease on Honda’s German site, the home country of Intermot (2014 Intermot starts on October 1st in Cologne), shows an illustration of a magician in the process of revealing a motorcycle.

We would expect the Africa Twin name with its following and tradition would require something larger than a world premiere promoted by Honda’s German site. That is, Honda would want to make it a larger event.  So, not keeping our hopes too high, let’s entertain the possibility.

Magician reveals the...

The caption on the illustration says:

World Premiere on September 10th! We show a new form of adventure.
Whoever you are, wherever you are: Get ready for a motorcycle that will allow you a whole new experience. The experience of being able at any time to break out of the everyday. Do not miss out when the curtain falls.

Well, this is just a drawing, and it is not a real motorcycle on the illustration. That is: it’s not it, even if it’s meant to be it.  We will wait another five days to know what this new motorcycle is. Will it be the new Africa Twin or something else? And if so, will it be the Africa Twin we hope it to be? We offer more questions than answers for now…

In terms of something else, it could be a Honda Elsinore, and it could be of 500cc instead of 1,000cc. For more information on a possible Elsinore variation to the Africa Twin, check our Elsinore or Africa Twin post.  Or it could be a different motorcycle for a different type of adventure. We will know soon.

For more information on what we and others have speculated about it being a new Africa Twin, check our “The Honda Africa Twin is back” post.

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