The New Honda Africa Twin Spotted

It was bound to happen, sooner or later a motorcycle journalist would capture photos of the new Africa Twin in action.

HondaAfricaTwin01On one of the photos we can see the bike’s license plate, which is from Frankfurt, Germany.  If you remember our post about Episode 5, titled “The Test” of the series of videos being released by Honda, the riders were in a hotel somewhere in Germany.  We conjectured at that time the bikes were in Honda’s Research and Development facility in Offenbach near Frankfurt.  Dots have been connected.

What matters is to know why are these bikes in Germany? Probably means Honda is at the last stages of development of this bike.  Perhaps they are collecting a final set of data for emissions under highway travel for example, performing final software tuning, who knows.  What we can tell is that the bike is basically ready.

HondaAfricaTwin02Meanwhile, a few observations can be made about the bike on these photos. The first one is that it has the same motor as the bike revealed at the EICMA show in the Fall of 2014.  That bike as well as this bike photographed in Germany have the dual clutch transmission (DCT).  Nothing new in this department, except to say the EICMA bike had been through a round of tests already, indicating Honda has been testing this bike for quite some time. According to Episode 4 video, titled “The Meeting”, the current bike has had more than a year of development since the first batch of pre-production bikes were released for testing in the Spring of 2014.

A second observation about the photographed bike has to do with its taller and wider windscreen when compared to the EICMA bike.  Third observation is the seat, which: a)  seems to be low, showing low seat to peg distance judging by the riders’ leg bend; and b) it is now sectioned in two parts, for rider and passenger.  While the EICMA bike is a one piece set, we know Honda has submitted a patent for the sectioned seat, which allows for a more seamless connection between rider and passenger sections when adjusting the rider’s seat height.  That means, this seat is adjustable and we hope it is on its lowest position on the shown photos. Otherwise this bike’s ergos might be too cramped for taller riders.  Or the test rider is 7ft tall giant or thereabouts.  Which seems be the case at a minimum.

Peg-side view of the bike

Peg-side view of the bike

Other than different tires, which are consumable goods, and a different camouflage scheme, the photographed bike looks very very similar to the bike which was presented at EICMA in 2014, including wheels at a 21 front, 18 rear combo.

HondaAfricaTwin03 In conclusion, we can say this bike has been around and at several stages of development by this point in time.  We can hope when it becomes available to the public, which will happen later this year, it will be ready without the major problems common to other new adventure bike releases.

Another conclusion we risk take at this time is that beyond the DCT option, which you can call a “permanent” option (you either get the manual or the DCT), and considering this bike and the one at EICMA have the same wheel set (21/18), everything else seems to be interchangeable to make this bike a more on road or off pavement machine. Meaning, and perhaps this is wishful thinking from our part, that Honda, beyond DCT, is not going to introduce this bike in versions that are either for touring (19 inch front wheel and 17 inch rear wheel like it is the case for the road going versions of the KTM Adventure, Triumph Tigers and BMW F series) or for off pavement (21 inch front and 18 or 17 inch rear).  Once you decide on the transmission and the level of electronics (we assume) you can make this bike fit your riding style by adding or subtracting accessories.

So let’s see how tires, screen, seat, and bags can be arranged as different options or versions of the same bike.

Tires obviously are a consumable good, you get what you want for what terrain you will ride the most.  For the European market this is a bit less flexible as regulations about tires are more stringent.  Therefore this bike could include in its spec sheets, the different tires that will be allowable, including knobby tire specs, for example.

The taller screen is possibly an accessory item (or vice-versa, you buy a bike with the tall screen and order the short one for off pavement rides).  The tall screen on this spy photo bike seems to be at a height that will protect a rider from wind buffeting when on highway travel. The EICMA bike’s screen is smaller and shorter and it is just plain cool with its rally looks.

The seat can probably be an option as well, where a prospective bike owner can possibly get the single piece seat or the two-piece adjustable seat.

The bags, well, to me it is a wild guess from anyone whether these are Honda’s official accessory bags for the bike. We would assume you buy the bike without the bags anyway, like it is the case for most all bikes (by the way, the top box seems to show bolts coming through the cargo rack, obviously this is not the final product or installation process). It is interesting to note that a growing number of riders prefer soft bags for dirt riding use these days.  Second, several riders who like hard bags exercise their own choice of what hard bags they like installed. Therefore we are not paying too much attention to the bags, except to say they don’t look very nice, but they seem functional (the top box seems to be able to store a full face helmet).

Talking about looks, well, it is the same bike as the one at EICMA and the one revealed by Honda a few weeks back.  Just that with the test bike’s camouflage scheme it looks somewhat KLR-ish.  Not that there is anything wrong with a KLR… But you know what we mean and you would agree with us, everything would look KLR-ish under that camouflage scheme.  On top of that, add the larger screen, the squarish also camouflaged bags, and the 7ft rider (we assume that’s the case) on a low seat setting (we hope).  The result, well, it looks hideous. Rest assured my friends, this bike will look a lot better when in its official sets of paint schemes.  Or so we hope.

Either way, we will know more about this bike very soon. Let’s say within a week, perhaps?

Once again, thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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What five motorcycles would you like to own today?

These are a great times to be a motorcyclist, I keep saying year after year when at every new season we learn about the new bikes becoming available.  Of all new motorcycles launched or rumored to be launched, there are some that catch my attention more than others and make it to my “want to have” list.  What five motorcycles would you like to own today? I will answer first.  Tomorrow things may change, but as of now I have five bikes in my want to have list.  They range from an enduro bike to a sweet mid-size sport touring bike. Disclaimer: I have not seen in the metal any of these bikes, one of them may not exist as far as I know, it’s all based on reports, speculation, you know the drill.  And I’m not sure I would actually buy any of these bikes either. All it means is that, as of today, I would like to have them.

My bikes… keeping them or thinking about what is next? I will answer the hypothetical question starting with my three bikes.  Would I keep them, or would one of these new bikes take their place?  Will I be able to stray away from my adventure styled motorcycles?

1. A Sport Touring bike I want to have a sport/touring, adventure styled motorcycle in my line up. My Ducati Mustistrada is by far the best motorcycle I’ve ever owned.  The bike is fast and street oriented enough, even if the rider’s ergonomics is not reflective of a typical sport riding position. This bike is also plenty good for long distance touring.

2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

My 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

I have no complaints about this motorcycle, but could it be better?  Maybe.  I thought of several of the options that are out there. The Moto Guzzi Stelvio has been included on my list several times in the past, for example, but the idea of giving up Ducati’s immediate throttle response gets the Moto Guzzi out of the list every time. Perhaps the Aprilia Caponord? Nope, heavier and not as powerful either. The KTM 1290? Not quite what I think about for an adventure styled sport touring bike.

However, there is a newcomer that will be interesting to test ride one day. It is nothing more nothing less than the new Multistrada. The 2015 Multistrada with DVT (Ducati’s variable valve time) adding more torque and 10 hp (it is never enough…) and better engine stability, and an important safety feature with Bosch’s latest stability control ABS system is no doubt the best candidate for this slot in my shed. It also has other upgrades such as a color TFT dash, cruise control, renewed styling.  The list of upgrades and changes is long.

2015 1200 Multistrada S with Testastretta DVT Motor

2015 1200 Multistrada S with Testastretta DVT Motor

There is no question this new Multistrada is the front runner for an upgrade to my Multistrada and makes my short list.  The problem is that I still like my Pikes Peak too much to part with it.  This upgrade is not something that will happen this year or next, but the 2015 Multistrada is on my short list of want to have motorcycles.

2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

2. An Adventure Motorcycle – A Round-the-World Machine I like having on my set of bikes a true adventure machine. My Triumph Tiger is what most people today consider a typical midsize adventure motorcycle. It is mostly a touring bike, actually, but it has no problem going on gravel and dirt roads at speed. I am actually impressed by how much performance this bike delivers both on road and off pavement.  If I were to go on a round the world trip tomorrow (who knows, it could happen), this bike would be ready to go as is. Could it be better? Yes. Several options have come to the market since the time I bought this bike in 2011, including the upgraded 800XC itself, called XCx for the 2015 model year, incorporating throttle by wire, riding modes, traction control, cruise control, and improved and adjustable front and rear suspension.

2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC

My 2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC

I was looking forward to upgrading my 800XC with the 2015 or 2016 800 XCx version, the 2015 was on my short list. I liked Triumph when to me they represented the underdogs or the come back kid of the motorcycle industry. They offer great products and these products, on their own merit, claim a solid spot on the market share.  However, with Triumph flexing its muscles and aiming (and already claiming) to be the number 1 European brand in the United States things change a bit. To get there they are getting rid of dealers who did not fit their new model of operation, including our local shop, Cycle Parts.

Triumph has been pretty aggressive through this renewal process. Although they have a great product on the 800 adventure series, they are a less attractive brand to me. Even if I did not take into account Triumph’s off-the-pitch shenanigans, the upgraded Triumph 800 XCx would face tough competition to make it to my short list.

The new Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin seems to be just the right product for this mid-size of the adventure segment that I like so much and consider ideal. I’ve been following information on this bike with great interest for more than a year already and what I see and hear so far is making this bike look  better and better in my imagination.

CRF1000L, the New Africa Twin

CRF1000L, the New Africa Twin

It looks very promising as a true 50/50 bike and should be out still this year as a production version.  What makes this bike replace my Triumph is this Honda’s expected off pavement performance, which will likely be more serious about it than the Triumph is (the Honda is expected to have longer suspension travel for example).  The Honda is likely to have more power and more torque than the Triumph as well.

Honda's True Adventure (the new

Honda’s True Adventure (the new “Africa Twin”)

Other options for replacing my Triumph Tiger are the KTM 1190 Adventure R, but it is a bit on the heavy, tall and large side of things. I’ve always waited for BMW to upgrade the F800GS with something like an F900GS for example, using the motor BMW developed for the Husqvarna Nuda, with a 270 degree crank (instead of the F800GS’s 360 crank).  I’ve given up any hope on BMW improving the F800GS when they launched the F800GSA.  That’s not the direction I was hoping for improvements to the F800GS.  Although it is a nice product and for some people, range is important.

Bottom line, at this point as an upgrade for the 800XC the only candidate for the job is the Honda Africa Twin.  Of course, this change is pending more information on this new bike from Honda or any other new and exciting bike that may join this segment in the near future.  For now the Honda Africa Twin has a solid footing on my short list.

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

3. A Dirt Bike? For the times when the conversation goes to true off road riding, there is my Yamaha WR250R.  It is not a true dirt bike but it does it all very nicely. However, I have not ridden my WR250R in more than a year already. I’ll be looking at going back to riding this bike this season. Perhaps I need more excitement on that front? What about a true enduro motorcycle at the 500cc level, for example?

2009 Yamaha WR250R

My 2009 Yamaha WR250R

KTM currently offers two versions of the same 500cc bike, and somehow I’m drawn to its Husqvarna version.  These are expensive bikes, however. Such an investment would only make sense if I get back into dirt riding. Would a Husqvarna FE501S in my stable bring me the motivation to get back into riding more dirt? I would guess so. For now, though, I will dust off my little WR250R and see if I can enjoy it a little bit more this year… until the time comes for an upgrade.

2015 Husqvarna FE 501S

2015 Husqvarna FE 501S

However, I can’t quite shake this one off and we are talking here about want to have bikes… This 500cc bike from KTM/Husqvarna brings me back to the times, decades ago, when my Honda XL250 struggled in a tough uphill battle on a rocky and muddy terrain and as I could hear the motor pinging in first gear, slipping the clutch and all, straining to get going, I always wondered if there would be a bike out there with more power without sacrificing its lightness of being.  The WR250R does the job better than my XL250 did. The FE 501S would really do it better, I imagine. For the sake of old times the FE 501S is on my short list.

Thinking Outside of the Adventure Box I could say my three bikes are nice bikes on their own niche of the adventure market, individually and as a group of bikes, they offer me plenty of riding options.  I’m open to explore new horizons in the motor world, however. No, I’m not talking about cruisers or sportbikes or scooters.  Yet.  For now, to complete my short list, I have a couple of ideas, but my “outside of the box,” although broadening my riding perspective some, it turns out, is still very close to home. Here are the other two motorcycles on my short list.

4. What about an urban motorcycle? A Scrambler sounds great! An urban bike triggers my imagination. I’ve mentioned on previous posts that I’ve been looking for a more simple, standard looking motorcycle for city riding and for rides that don’t stray too far from town.  Something that is easy to get on, a bike that is not too tall to park on tight spots on an urban setting, and one which is maneuverable in city traffic. Just a regular bike, as long as it is fun of course. Originally I was looking for a Triumph Bonneville (a black T100 would be my choice).  Then I heard about the Ducati Scrambler and decided to wait for it to show up before I made my mind.

2015 Scrambler Ducati Full Throttle (customized)

2015 Scrambler Ducati Full Throttle (customized the way I would like it with components from the Classic and the Urban Enduro versions)

I have not had a chance to test ride a Ducati Scrambler yet. I really would like to have such a machine as my do it all in town bike, as I can assume the Ducati motor would work really well in such a small package.  Meanwhile I had a chance to ride the BMW R nineT. I liked it, enough to consider buying it right away – and I know of a few who did buy after riding it.

2015 BMW R nineT

2015 BMW R nineT

However, I’ve also heard something more fitting to my style could be coming up: a Scrambler version of the R nineT.  You see, this is what I meant when I said I could not stray too far from my “adventure box”. Just as a note, in my opinion today’s Scramblers are urban bikes with a dirt inspired design to them, but meant for riding on paved roads primarily, which is the type of riding I want for such a bike. The rumors (yes, these are only rumors at this point) indicate this new BMW would be a somewhat downgraded version of the BMW R nineT in terms of components.

I could live with that, especially if the price tag goes down accordingly. I don’t mind less expensive alloy wheels, for example, as I mentioned earlier, this bike would be exclusively an urban machine for me.  The below version in black, taken from a set of photoshop variants circulating on the internet (MCN is our friend) would be my choice if BMW ever builds something like this.

Photoshop of what a BMW Scrambler based on the R nineT could look like (image from MCN)

Photoshop interpretation of what a BMW Scrambler based on the R nineT could look like (image from MCN)

Although I’ve made a decision to acquire an urban motorcycle, I will wait for a decision about this acquisition. For now, rumors and all, a BMW Scrambler based on the R nineT is on my short list.

5. What about a Sportbike? Would I go as far out of my comfort zone as to add a sportbike to my short list?  My Streetfighter was as far away from adventure bikes I’ve ever been. Although it was considered a “naked” bike, the Streetfighter’s basic features put it closer to a sportbike than to anything else out there.  I liked it tremendously, especially the direct connection it afforded me with the road.  What a nice and raw performing machine it was. What I did not enjoy much was the tight ergos and the low handlebars.  I was actually getting used to it by the time I sold it.  But there is no question, I fit better the standing up position adventure styled and touring bikes offer. I miss the streetfighter, though.

However, the answer is no, I’m not really thinking about a sportbike.  On the other hand, I always admired MV Agusta motorcycles, and viewed it as something to look at from the distance, and enjoy the design and technical features.  To me MV Agusta represented something exotic, out of reach because of price, dealer network, and primarily because of what they are, motorcycles for top performance on the track, sportbikes and variations on that theme.

Having said that, and partly because of that, one MV Agusta made it to my short list! It is something they’ve never done before and which they’ve just launched:  an adventure-styled touring motorcycle. With this bike they made their world intersect with mine. It is a bike that is out of their comfort zone, but makes sense to me.  It is something new for them, and it would be something new for me.

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso

For MV Agusta, this is a bold move, getting out of their high performance street and track machines market. The idea about this bike came from the top.  Each Turismo Veloce, at least on the first model year will have a plaque signed by Claudio Castiglioni (not sure about this signature on all first year bikes based on further review), who issued the guidelines for the Turismo Veloce model as one of his last official acts as President of MV Agusta. In their official launch video about this motorcycle at the end, as the credits roll out, the first statement says: “based on an original idea by Claudio Castiglioni.”  Claudio Castiglioni died in 2011, at 64. He is associated with bringing Ducati (1980’s) and later MV Agusta (1990’s) back into shape.

Signature on handlebars clamp

Signature on handlebars clamp

This bike makes sense to me even if it actually is a sportbike more than a tourer and definitely not an adventure machine.  The name says it all: Turismo Veloce (fast touring).  I’ve been looking for a smaller Multistrada.  I was hoping the Ducati Hyperstrada would be such a motorcycle. I like the Hyperstrada and its 821cc motor, but it still is a Hypermotard at its core and it still looks too much like a supermotard.  The Turismo Veloce, although based on the same principle, offers a more refined design and it is a better more mature overall package. Well, its price is closer to Multistrada’s price than the Hyperstrada’s one. Other than the price, this bike checks several of my like/want boxes.

Turismo Veloce Lusso - White with Bags

Turismo Veloce Lusso – White with Bags

It seems compact without being small.  It is powerful without excesses (110hp).  I like the Tiger’s triple motor, but always felt the three cylinder motor performed better on the street than on off pavement applications.  The MV Agusta has a three cylinder motor, and it has 15 more HP than my Tiger, and it is on a lighter package, and the bike and motor are probably better tuned for the road than the Tiger.  It’s gotta be good! The Turismo Veloce comes with a whole host of electronic features including throttle by wire, riding modes, traction control, Bosch 9+ series ABS (with an on off switch at the handlebars) among other features.  And an up and down quick-shifter as well!

The Lusso version will eventually come equipped with semi-actve suspension by Sachs, not unlike what I have on my 2013 Multistrada. This bike even looks a little bit like the first generation of the Multistrada, although it preserves MV Agusta’s design cues originally developed by Massimo Tamburini for the F4!

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso

Among the interesting design features this bike has is the narrow and elegant subframe and a short three-pipes stacked exhaust.  Together they allow for bags to be installed closer to the body, offering a narrow profile (narrower than the handlebars) and without the cut-outs bags from other bikes have to have to accommodate for the exhaust.  The bags need to be purchased separately, though. The reviews on this bike from its recent launch in the South of France have been positive, and I have a feeling this bike will bring new riders to the MV Agusta brand. Perhaps it will also bring critcism from the MV Agusta traditional fans:  this is not a real MV Agusta, I can hear them saying the same way Ducatisti still complain about the Multistrada.

The problem for me, and many others in the United States, is that MV Agusta has a small presence here, with a thin network of dealers. As an example, the closest MV Agusta dealer to me is about five hours north, in the Seattle area. The second closest dealer is in San Francisco, eight hours south from here. Or in Reno, Nevada, also about 8 hours from here.  That’s a lot of traveling for anything you may need, such as taking care of a bulletin or recall notice, let alone service.

Out of curiosity about this bike I called the MV Agusta dealer in Seattle, Bellevue Motosports, and talked to Bill Boland.  He tells me a bike could be here in about a few weeks.  When it becomes available I will take a trip to Seattle to see it in the metal and photograph it (they will have two Turismo Veloce Lusso bikes coming, they are likely to be pre-sold by the time they arrive – but I may get a chance to see one of them or even ride one of them).  I can imagine drafting a post titled “getting acquainted with MV Agusta” after I get to see these bikes and after I take for a test ride another MV Agusta model they have as a demo at their shop.

Now you may be thinking, will this bike replace my Ducati Multistrada?  No, this won’t happen. I enjoy the Multistrada too much to get rid of it.  The MV Agusta would indeed be very similar to the Ducati in terms of the type of riding it offers. However, the Ducati’s twin motor is something I like too much (not even considering the DVT version with 160 horses).  Nothing like twisting the throttle and feeling how the bike accelerates and how the V-twin motor feels effortless as it goes about it. In comparison I expect the Turismo Veloce would be a more nimble bike and its three cylinder motor will give a different set of fun parameters.  After all, we are talking about the dream line up here.  And in that case, the Turismo Veloce, as of today, is on my short list, together with the Ducati.

In Summary… here is my Short List:

1. Honda Africa Twin.  It is the main candidate to replace my Triumph Tiger. It should be available for the American market by the Spring of 2016. AT 2 2. BMW Scrambler (an R nineT – based bike?).  This BMW bike needs to exist first, of course. Assuming it does, it gets on my list.

Photoshop of what a BMW Scrambler based on the R nineT could look like (image from MCN)

Photoshop of what a BMW Scrambler based on the R nineT could look like (image from MCN)

3. MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso.  It is looking like a nice and sweet bike, the Italian in me says.  It checks many of my want boxes.  In principle it would not replace any of my bikes.  I would wait for the Lusso version, which comes equipped with semi-active suspension.

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce

2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce

4.  Husqvarna FE 501S.  Lighter and more powerful than my WR250R, it would be fitting as something I used to dream about since a long time ago.  The WR250R is a great bike but in my current short list the WR250R would go and the FE 501S would take its place.

2015 Husqvarna FE 501S

2015 Husqvarna FE 501S

5. Ducati Multistrada DVT.  It is last on my list just because I can’t see myself getting rid of my 2013 Pikes Peak Multistrada yet.  The new Multistrada is on this list for when the time comes for my Pikes Peak to go.

Angrier bird?

Angrier bird? 2015 Ducati Multistrada DVT

Wild Card.  I’m allowing for something extra here. I’ve been thinking about vintage bikes for a while already, a bike I could work on and enjoy it at a different level. A Norton Commando 850 comes to mind. Other options include a 1970’s BMW or same vintage Moto Guzzi, etc.  Who knows, it is always a possibility.

Norton 850 Commando

Norton 850 Commando

What bikes are on your short list?

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2015 Oregon Vintage Motorcycle Show

Last Sunday was the 35th Oregon Vintage Motorcycle Show.  I decided to go and take a look! I got my Multistrada ready for the short hop to the Benton County Fairgrounds  in Corvallis, where the show takes place every year.

Parking spot in the shade

Parking spot in the shade

I arrived at 1:30pm or thereabouts, as some visitors and exhibitors, were already leaving. I managed to find a spot in the shade of a tree, right at the side of a red Scrambler Ducati. Never saw who was riding it, but the two Ducatis looked good next to each other.

This year’s featured marque of the event was Hodaka.

Featured Marque: Hodaka

Featured Marque: Hodaka

I had heard of Hodaka motorcycles before, but never really paid any special attention to them.  Despite it being the featured marque, I was surprised to see these many bikes at the OVM in all kinds of shape, but most of them were in great condition, either in original un-restored form or bikes that had been restored to original.

Hodakas Gallore

Hodakas Gallore

I ran into a couple of my riding friends and acquaintances and from their comments I figured there was something special about Hodaka motorcycles in Oregon.  A little bit more research and I found out Hodaka was the result of an unique joint venture between Japan and the United States resulting in these motorcycles, which were produced between 1964 and 1978.

More Hodakas

More Hodakas

What makes it unique for Oregon is that its worldwide distribution was headquartered in Oregon, in the small town of Athena, northeast of Pendleton. The distributing company was called Pacific Basin Trading Company, PABATCO.  It is never too late to learn, I have to say. Apparently  PABATCO designed and engineered a great part of the motorcycle and engine (no wonder they were all dirt and enduro motorcycles) and Hodaka in Japan was responsible for the manufacture and assembly. Also interesting, I hear this distribution company was owned by the Shell Oil company for the duration of this motorcycle production.  Now I understand why there are so many Hodakas in Oregon. Thank you OVM for teaching me a lesson about this unique marque of motorcycles and how Oregon was a decisive factor in its existence.

Hodakas again.

Hodakas again.

These events are always great for checking some unique motorcycles, some of them you only see when their owners bring them out of their sheds exactly for these kinds of events. For example, check this Vincent, a 900SS.  What? A Vincent 900 SS you said?

Vincent "900 SS"

Vincent “900 SS”

Yes, this Vincent has the characteristic L-twin Ducati motor. I’m not sure the owner made the engine transplant for the extra power or for the “reliability” of the Ducati motor.  I chatted with the owner and one other guy, as we joked about the possibility of Ducati bringing reliability to a Vincent.  It is all a question of perspective, you see.

Vincent "900 SS"

Vincent “900 SS”

Anyway, the Ducati motor looked much more simple and compact installed in the Vincent – and no doubt, it is more powerful that what this Vincent originally had.

Another unique motorcycle was this 1929 Indian Chief.

1929 Indian Chief

1929 Indian Chief

Gotta love the “details” that make it unique, such as the wood topbox, the auxiliary gas tank (could as well be the main tank at this point), the bicycle LED light, the license plate, the ship skin seat cover.

1929 Indian Chief

1929 Indian Chief

It includes a suicide shifter. Which triggers me to make a comment: some people question whether it is the shifter or the springless foot operated clutch pedal (toe returned on Indians) what really put the riders into danger, leading people to nickname these shifters as suicide shifters.  I would say it is the shifter itself since, under certain circumstances, getting one hand off the handlebar to operate the shifter may get the rider into trouble.

Tank-side shifter on 1929 Indian Chief

Tank-side shifter on 1929 Indian Chief

I would assume the bike runs and rides, and I base this on the amount of oil leaking on the lower part of the motor.

When plain ol'wires do a better job than modern solutions such as duct tape or zip-ties

When plain ol’wires do a better job resolving issues than modern solutions such as duct tape or zip-ties

This bike is an awesome machine for such events.  Or it could go, as is, to a museum. Or could even be considered a piece of art, I dare say.

Another interesting motorcycle, if you can call it a motorcycle, was this beautifully restored 1935 Morgan SS.

1935 Morgan

1935 Morgan SS

It was difficult to get a clean shot of this motorcycle since so many people surrounded it at all times.

Dashboard of this car, I mean motorcycle.

Dashboard of this car, I mean motorcycle.

Very nice, with the motor mounted upfront.

Very nice, with the motor mounted upfront.

It could be something interesting to drive.  You certainly don’t ride it.

Is it coming or going?

Is it coming or going?

And I had never seen or paid attention to it from the rear angle before. A straight shot from the back shows this interesting shape.  Other models have a more tapered end, I believe.

A view from the back of the 1935 Morgan SS

A view from the back of the 1935 Morgan SS.  Someone loves Scotland.

Another unique motorcycle was this Greeves Silverstone.

Greeves Silverstone

Greeves Silverstone

Now, do you know what makes this motorcycle marque interesting?  According to Wikipedia, Bert Greeves, the founder, was mowing the lawn of his home in England when he had the idea of fitting a lawnmower engine to his disabled cousin’s wheelchair. With that he invented the Invacar. The Invacar company was set up and won a major contract to provide motorized three-wheeled chairs for disabled people to the UK Government Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. That was 1952. His business succeeded and Bert Greeves, a good trials rider, decided to diversify and got into motorcycle manufacturing.  That’s how the Greeves motorcycles were born.

Greeves Silverstone

Greeves Silverstone

Check this BSA and the Velocette next to it.

A BSA and a Velocette

A BSA and a Velocette

A nice single cylinder Ariel.

Ariel

Ariel

A CZ.

1964 CZ 250 Twinpipe

1964 CZ 250 Twinpipe

There was a very nice Kawasaki H2 750 Triple, Mach IV.

Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750 Triple

Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750 Triple

 

Aside from these unique motorcycles, the usual suspects were all present.  Here is a group of BMWs.

BMWs

BMWs

An assortment of Vincents, Triumphs and Nortons.

Triumphs, Vincents and Nortons

Triumphs, Vincents and Nortons

I wouldn’t mind if a Norton 850 Commando joined my other bikes.

Norton 850 Commando

Norton 850 Commando

As always, there was the presence of the unusual.

A match made in heaven

A rider and his bike, a match made in heaven

Talking about “matches”, I was just about forgetting, there were a few Matchless there as well.

Unrestored Matchless

Unrestored Matchless

What else did I learn from this excursion to the Oregon Vintage Motorcycle show?  There is always a motorcycle model I’ve never seen before, or a detail I had missed previously on some of these rare motorcycles. There were many opportunities to learn as there were bikes displayed in the event.

2015 Oregon Vintage Motorcycle Show

2015 Oregon Vintage Motorcycle Show

I went back to my bike and its friend had left already.  I did not get a chance to meet the lucky owner of the red Scrambler Ducati. I assume he was the guy who got the bike as a birthday present the week before (see my previous post).

Alone but still in the shade

Alone but still in the shade

I went back home through Alpine Rd. so I could stretch the Multistrada’s muscles.

A short ride, afterall.

A short ride, afterall.

Soon I was back home, overall, this ride was less than 100 miles round trip, I believe.  But it was a very entertaining trip.  Thank you vintage motorcycle owners for bringing your bikes to the show.  I plan to be back to Corvallis for this event next year.

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A Scrambler Ducati Near You!

Remember those first rumors and endless discussions on motorcycle forums about Ducati bringing back to the market the Scramblers?  Then there was Ducati’s successful multi-media campaign and those strategically leaked photos and videos. Eventually the bike was presented at the EICMA show in Milan last fall.  That event was followed by the official launch of the bike in Europe then the launch in the United States earlier this year. Last week was finally our time to officially be introduced to this much anticipated motorcycle.

Scrambler Ducati at Claim 52 Brewery

Scrambler Ducati at Claim 52 Brewery

By the time I submit this post every Ducati dealer in the United States should have received their first shipment of Scramblers.  Our local dealer here in Oregon (European Motorcycles of Western Oregon) has received their first two bikes, both are icon models, and not surprising, both bikes have been pre-sold.

Scrambler Ducatis at European Motorcycles of Western Oregon

Scrambler Ducatis from the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon

If you want a Scrambler Ducati for this riding season I would recommend you place your order right away, as these bikes are selling fast – and I believe the next shipment for our region is almost all pre-sold already.  The red bike, by the way, was a surprise birthday present from a generous wife to a lucky husband.

No demo bikes yet.  Once a Scrambler Ducati is available as a demo, who knows when that will be at the rate they are being sold, we will take it for a spin and will let you know our thoughts about it.

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Welcome the new Honda Africa Twin!

After more than a year of speculation Honda has finally and officially announced its new Africa Twin.  First of all, the name is confirmed, Africa Twin it is!  And it is also called the CRF1000L, following Honda’s name convention for dirt and dual sport motorcycles.

CRF1000L, the New Africa Twin

CRF1000L, the New Africa Twin

Sparse information is available at this time, but if anyone had doubts about its return, rest assured, this bike exists. And it is rather handsome.

Here is the first paragraph of its announcement, from Honda’s worldwide site:

May 12, 2015 – Honda is delighted to announce the return of one of motorcycling’s most celebrated and evocative names – the Africa Twin. Having clearly shown the direction of its development and intent with the reveal of the True Adventure prototype at EICMA in November 2014, Honda can now confirm that the all-new CRF1000L Africa Twin will be in dealers across Europe in late 2015.

If this bike will hit Europe at the end of this year, it will probably be in the United States in the Spring of 2016 or thereabouts.  Yes, it has been confirmed – unlike earlier Africa Twin models, this bike will be marketed in the United States.

AT 3These images seem more like a photoshop exercise than an actual photograph, but the motorcycle pictured on Honda’s announcement looks remarkably similar to the  pre-production bike presented at EICMA last fall.

Honda's True Adventure (the new

Honda’s True Adventure (the new “Africa Twin”)

Honda’s announcement described what this motorcycle is all about. This description is very close to what we expected and projected, along with most anyone who has written about this motorcycle in anticipation of its unveiling:

Some motorcycles encapsulate perfectly what an adventure motorcycle is all about. The original XRV650 Africa Twin – which debuted in 1988, after the first 3 out of 4 consecutive wins at the Paris-Dakar – was one such machine. Its go-anywhere ability, rugged durability, easy-handling agility and all-day comfort made it the perfect partner with which to explore. And it helped to define a motorcycling segment that has now grown into one of the most popular worldwide. The new Africa Twin remains true to all the attributes and abilities of the XRV650 and its successor the XRV750, while adding the benefits of everything Honda has learnt on and off-road over the last decade, including Team HRC’s return to the Dakar in 2013.

AT 2The announcement also confirms our expectation about the use of DCT on this motorcycle.  DCT as a motorcycle application remains an exclusive domain of Honda, and by including this technology on an adventure motorcycle, Honda takes it to yet another level of uniqueness for such an application.

Furthermore, in a first for the category, the Africa Twin will feature the option of a new evolution of Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)  technology, which remains unique to Honda in motorcycling. This latest evolution of DCT has been specifically developed and programmed to provide the off-road ability with which the Africa Twin is synonymous.

We appreciate technological innovations, as well as Honda’s courage and pioneering attitude to include DCT on an Adventure motorcycle.  It (DCT) may not be among our preferred options on an adventure motorcycle (or any motorcycle for that matter), but we know of many adventure riders who are looking for a bike with an automatically operated transmission, better yet if it is a dual clutch transmission.  We can’t wait to test ride one and see how this transmission works on off road applications.

The all-new CRF1000L Africa Twin is set to redefine expectations of just what a large-capacity adventure motorcycle can and should be capable of, both on and off-road, and opens an entirely new chapter in Honda’s illustrious history of dual-purpose motorcycles made for true adventure.

We should soon learn more about what expectations the CRF100L Africa Twin will redefine.  We assume, beyond it being a typical marketing phrase, that this bike will be more than just another alternative on the mid-size segment, where the BMW F800GS and Triumph Tiger 800XC reside and where the KTM 950 and then 990 Adventure used to live as well.  This bike may as well nip on the heels of the usual suspects at the 1200 segment. That is, assuming the several technological innovations this bike should incorporate if based on the many patent applications filed by Honda for this bike, the new Africa Twin should raise the bar on the types of motorcycles available at the adventure segment. Lighter weight and more compact dimensions for a given motor displacement and suspension travel, for example, could be one of them.  A lower center of gravity could be another one, and of course, there is the DCT.  We just hope this bike incorporates all those patent applications as innovations and other technological innovations we may not know about, and that it will really set new expectations for this segment.

Here is a recent short video circulating about the bike, likely taken during the filming of Episodes 4 and 5 (see our previous posts).

A lot more information should become available about this motorcycle in the next days, weeks and months. We will continue to monitor information and post and comment about this motorcycle as more information becomes available.

It is coming!

It is coming!

While we wait, let’s hope for this bike to be different enough from the existing options so it can bring a new era to the large-capacity adventure motorcycles – and that DCT is not it – or that DCT is not the only attribute that distinguishes it from the other bikes.  Well, we know it isn’t.  Talking about DCT, we heard it would be available on a few trim levels: basic model, full electronics model, and one model with electronics + DCT.  There might be variations on the theme. As a matter of fact, this bike is the CRF1000L… should we also be looking for the CRF1000R, if we follow Honda’s naming convention? Well, one thing at a time my friends.  For now, fellow adventure riders, let’s welcome and celebrate a new alternative for the adventure segment.

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Honda True Adventure – Episode 5 – The Test

Well, it seems Honda has decided to release a lot more information about this bike, in very quick form.  We are not complaining…

Honda used to have an R&D center in Offenbach, near Frankfurt.  Perhaps they re-opened a new R&D center in Europe, this time near Munich? On this video, titled “The Test” the test riders ride the new Africa Twin in Germany. The video is staged just south of Munich near the town of Tutzing by the Stamberger Lake according to the map depicted in the video. The same map would indicate they rode on dirt roads on a corridor between Monatshauser Strasse to the south and Kustermannstrasse to the north.

And what about the 60’s or perhaps early 70’s decor of the hotel, preserved from a time before the original Africa Twin? With the radio playing on the background in German, the hotel decor, the low light, the emptiness of the hotel, it puts an interesting and rather different scenario for this test ride, James Bond like.

…We are just enjoying this last batch of information from Honda about this motorcycle.  Nice sounds from the motor, by the way.

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Honda True Adventure – Episode 4 – The meeting, Part 1

With the popularity of adventure motorcycles going on for more than a decade already, it seemed natural for Honda to bring its discontinued but always popular Africa Twin back to the market.  However, for many years already Honda has ignored the pleas of adventure riders and fans worldwide who were asking for the return of the Africa Twin, a true 50/50 (on road and off-pavement) adventure motorcycle from Honda. Instead Honda seemed to go the other way, developing adventure styled motorcycles that were increasingly more road biased.

That was until early in 2013 when rumors of an actual Honda adventure motorcycle appeared, coming from sources with direct connections with Honda. During the 2013 EICMA show in Milan Honda’s head of product planning (Dave Hancock) on an interview with Moto.IT stoked the fire providing a strong hint that something especial would be coming up from Honda in the adventure department.

In the spring of 2014, about a year ago, information was leaked from at least one person who had actually ridden the rumored adventure motorcycle from Honda. “Impressed” was the only word that circulated on forums as a description of the state of mind of this rider after he rode the bike.  At about the same time a set of specifications about this bike were leaked to key motorcycle journalists.  These specs can be considered impressive for such a large displacement adventure motorcycle:

  • 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

During this time, Honda submitted several patents related to what appeared to be an adventure motorcycle.  A review of several of these patents indicated Honda was going in, and doing so in with style, with a motorcycle which incorporated several new ideas. More on that later.

In the fall of 2014 an adventure motorcycle from Honda, at a high level of development was presented to the public during the 2014 EICMA show in Milan under the True Adventure banner.  The motorcycle was disguised with what seemed to be fake mud, but showed wear and tear on certain components indicating it had actually been ridden. We believe this is the motorcycle that matches the above rumored specs (except for the 18inch real wheel of the displayed bike – instead of the 17 inch wheels on the rumored specs). We also believe this motorcycle is one of the bikes that had been tested in the Winter and Spring of 2014.

Honda's prototype of the New Africa Twin

Honda’s prototype of the New Africa Twin as shown in the EICMA show in October of 2014

One other important item about this “True Adventure” bike presented at the EICMA show, which was noticed from observing the bike itself, was the absence of a clutch lever and gear shift pedal.  It was confirmed by Honda officials at that time that this bike would have the option of a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).

Where's the shifter? DCT on board.

Where’s the shifter? DCT on board.

This has been a long but steady road about the development of this bike.  Somehow, Honda kept us informed along the way with just the right amount of information for us to picture in our minds what they were planning to do about this bike.  A good and probably inexpensive marketing campaign so far.

The story about this bike continues on a series of videos released by Honda as part of its marketing campaign on this motorcycle.  Episode 4 video was launched by Honda last week.  On this episode, the video depicts a meeting with the True Adventure motorcycle project management, the bike’s engineers, the test riders, and again, there was Dave Hancock, Honda’s head of product planning.

The video shows the team gathered around a table to talk about the bike, a day after the test riders had taken it out for a test ride.  Based on their conversation, the bike they are discussing in the video is clearly an evolution of the bike they rode in the Spring of 2014, that is (in our opinion), an evolution of the bike presented at EICMA.

The test riders discuss their impressions when the see the bike again one year later.  They describe a few characteristics of the motorcycle, talk about improvements from the previous version, and leave us wondering about what is going to be depicted in the next episode by showing clips of the bike in action as a teaser for the Part 2 of this meeting.

In the video, Dave Hancock states:

Yesterday we tested the adventure bike which is going to change the face of the adventure world forever.

He could be referring to the many innovative items this bike will present as demonstrated by the long list of patents Honda has secured for this motorcycle.  One such item is the position of the air cleaner on this bike.  By splitting it into two halves and placing them on the sides of the tank, it allows them to be higher and farther from the ground, while the heavier gasoline can be placed lower, directly on top of the motor, and perhaps partially under the seat, allowing for a lower center of gravity.

Honda Patent on Aircleaner

Honda Patent on Aircleaner

He could also be referring to the Dual Clutch Transmission.  This type of transmission has existed in cars for many years already.  And in the last few years Honda has introduced it to motorcycles (NC700 and NC750, and other models as well). Therefore DCTs are nothing new.  What is new is an application of a DCT transmission on adventure motorcycles.  If it does succeed, this motorcycle will really change the adventure world forever. Although we have already been exposed to something similar for adventure bikes – such as the Rekluse auto-clutch, the DCT offers a new window of opportunities, as it becomes an intrinsic system, core to the operation of the motorcycle.

The DCT is a very important element about this bike, but it is one of many innovations this motorcycle will bring to the adventure world. As we mentioned before, the list of patents submitted by Honda during the development of this bike is large, here we just covered the air cleaners solution Honda proposes with this bike. Dave Hancock may not be exaggerating when he says this bike will change the face of the adventure world forever.

Is the bike ready for prime time? 

All we have at this point are assumptions based on what we know about motorcycles in general, a few rumors here and there, and mostly the information Honda has officially provided to the public in these two last years.  Among the official set of information from Honda is what we gathered from the Episode 4 video, where Honda officials state the bike has been worked on, improvements have been achieved from the previous iteration, and the head of product planning (Dave Hancock) appears confident about the bike.

We will certainly hear more about the bike on the next video (which will likely be called “Episode 5 – The Meeting Part 2″).  The latest time we expect to see this bike in production form is November 19-22 in Milan at the 2015 EICMA.  We would not be surprised if this bike shows up before that event, though. It is only a hunch but we believe this bike is almost ready for prime time and at a minimum we will see a pre-production version very soon.

Stay tuned!

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