Motorcycle show unveils what’s new for 2012
The bulk of winter still looms ahead but the anticipation of the next riding season was as keen as ever as manufacturers unveiled a variety of the new machines premiering at the Toronto Motorcycle Show.
Yes, there were new sport bikes in the limelight — Yamaha’s YZF-R1, the Suzuki GSX-R1000, the Ducati 1199 Panigale and BMW’s latest 193-horsepower version of the S1000RR supersport.
New adventure bikes on display included the Triumph Tiger Explorer, a new and improved 2012 Suzuki V-Strom, even the Yamaha Super Tenere, introduced late last season and still fresh enough for consideration, among others.
And, of course, there were cruisers for the rapidly greying boomer audience in evidence — the Dyna Switchback, the 10th anniversary V-Rod and other new Harley and CVO models, along with cruisers from Victory and other manufacturers.
There were even modern takes on blasts from the past — the Norton Commando 961 Café Racer, for example.
But, while there were plenty of choices for traditionalists, a few new machines have started taking two-wheel evolution to a new stage, blurring the lines between motorcycles and scooters and finding common ground between the increasingly crossed categories of sport, cruising, adventure riding and touring.
Honda unveiled its new NC700 lineup — the “S” model, officially the NC700SA, described as a “sport standard” and the “X” model, the NC700XA an “urban adventure” version.
These bikes were first unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan, along with a full-faired Integra model destined only for other international markets.
The two mid-size NC700 motorcycles coming to the Canadian market share a low-slung diamond steel tube frame and all-new 670-cc liquid-cooled inline-twin engine designed for torque and exceptional fuel economy.
The motor is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and chain drive final. A dual clutch transmission (DCT) automatic version (first explored in the VFR1200FA) will probably follow next year.
The NC700’s engine cylinders have been tipped forward 62 degrees, lowering the centre of gravity and freeing up enough room above the motor for a unique 21-litre storage space, in the spot where the fuel tank is usually located.
That storage space is large enough to swallow a full-face XL helmet, opening up a world of convenient opportunity for gear or grocery errand storage.
The 14.1-litre fuel tank is accessed from under the seat at the rear of the bike, with gas stored under the rider, again optimizing a low centre of gravity.
Honda promises stingy fuel economy, equivalent to that of the CBR250, which allows for the smaller fuel tank size.
There have been muttered numbers of 3.5L/100km and a 400-kilometre range — nothing official, mind you.
Sounds optimistic but we’ll see.
This is not your typical free-spinning Honda.
Your first clue is the gauge package with a digital speedo readout and a minimal secondary-tach display.
Company execs tell me the riding experience on board the NC700 is distinctly different, quick-shifting through lower 6,500 r.p.m. redline with a torque-happy motor.
The powerband apparently feels similar to that of a big-bore cruiser.
We’ll wait for the test ride before judging, but the NC700 lineup, with its user-friendly and personable styling, certainly looks more promising than the earlier attempt with the DN-01 turkey.
Even set in static position at the show, the NC700 seating position feels comfortable, upright and open, with handlebar room for knees and arms.
Seat height of the NC700SA is set at 790 millimetres (31.1 inches), about the same as mid-range tourers like the ST1300 or CBF600.
The NC700SA weighs in at 215 kilograms (473 pounds) and comes in a blend of silver and yellow.
The NC700XA adventure version, a touch heavier at 218 kilograms (480 pounds), is offered only in black, stands taller with the seat set at 830 millimetres (32.7 inches) and boasts a little more suspension travel and offroad attitude.
Side bags, top case and other accessories will be available to further optimize the NC700 lineup’s utility.
That completes a combination that, if priced competitively (hopefully within range of $9,000 in Canada), should offer an enticing intro for new customers or a logical next step for the riders who have responded to the CBR125 and CBR250 entry-level bikes.
Other evolutions at the show worth mentioning include BMW’s foray into the scooter market with the C600 Sport and C650GT.
Despite the nomenclature differences, both of these maxi scooters are powered by the same 60-horsepower 647-cc twin-cylinder engine harnessed to CVT transmissions and offering standard ABS braking.
The C600 is characterized for sportier riding while the C650GT has been set up for longer touring comfort, thanks to a more-relaxed sitting position with adjustable backrest, a larger, powered windscreen, more storage and more accent on passenger comfort.
And, finally, venturing from two wheels to three, a brief mention of Bombardier Recreational Products’ (BRP) Can-Am Spyder hybrid concept vehicle.
The Spyder roadster is a plug-in hybrid vehicle combining an electric motor, lithium-ion battery and the Rotax advanced combustion efficiency (ACE) engine.
In developing the hybrid Spyder roadster, BRP is aiming to achieve a 375-mile (604-kilometre) range and up to a 50 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the current Can-Am Spyder roadster.
These are just a few examples of machines and technologies looking towards a brave new future on two wheels or three.
Most of them will travel on to the New Year’s motorcycle shows in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
We will bring you more in-detail reviews of these and other new machines in the 2012 riding season to come.