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Today’s reading, brethren, comes from the Book of Luke, which tells us, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Hence the Ducati 748, little sister of the now-legendary 916, which reaches the age of consent this year. On a race track, the 916 was the trustiest motorcycle of the day. On the street, where sheer horsepower is seldom the key to happiness, the 748 and its higher-revving L-Twin extended an even more sincere invitation to twist its grip and let the feathers fly. Amen.
First Impression: 1997 Ducati 748
By Michael Cottam
Mar. 16, 1997
A 916 For the Masses?
To the joy of American riders, Ducati has finally decided to import the 748. Considered a baby brother to the 916, Ducati’s 748 has been the darling of the European motorcycling press since its introduction. Basically a smaller-displacement version of the 916, the 748 trades off torque and low-end grunt for a higher rev limit through tricks like a lightened flywheel.
The 748 made a surprise debut at the International Bike Show this year – Ducati showed up with one screaming-yellow single-seater, a price tag, and that’s it. No brochures, no specs, but promises to deliver 200 copies to the States starting at the end of January. Only the solo seat version would be coming here, they said.
Ducati’s latest creation shares its bodywork with its 916 sibling. And why not, as the larger Duke is arguably the most beautiful sportbike made today.But remember, we’re dealing with an Italian motorcycle company. The bikes did arrive on time, amazingly enough, but other features like owner’s manuals, shop manuals, warranty cards and so forth are apparently arriving “under separate cover.” Interestingly my local dealer, Salem Honda/BMW/Ducati, opened the crate to find not a solo version, but a Biposto. Today’s story from Bologna is that 40 of the promised 200 748s will be Bipostos.
Quick-release Dzus fasteners simplify bodywork removal and maintainence chores.Both versions are solid “I can’t believe it’s not butter” yellow, but the Biposto forgoes the single-seater’s white pseudo-number plate tail section, instead having a vinyl passenger seat dyed yellow to match the rest of the tail, which it does surprisingly well. The wheels, like the frame, are a bronze/gold color. Not only do they look great in combination with the yellow paint, but more importantly, they hide brake dust and road grime well. If you’ve ever owned a bike with white wheels, you’ll know what we mean.
The rear wheel comes without fender, but an optional carbon fiber fender and chain guard, are actually pretty reasonably priced.Although this bike is gorgeous, a careful inspection reminds you that it’s definitely not a Honda or a Suzuki. A close look at the painted bodywork reveals a substantial amount of orange peel — but nothing you’d notice unless your eyes were six inches away, waxing it under bright lights late at night in your garage (sigh). The neutral light indicates you might be somewhere near neutral, so you have to carefully feed out the clutch if you think you’re there. And just because the neutral light isn’t on, you can’t assume you’re in gear.
Unquestionably the sexiest rear end in motorcycling
Gearbox action is pretty good (neutral demons aside), shifting easily but without the precision click feedback of a GSX-R. The shift lever is adjustable, of course, as are nearly all the controls on the bike, and shifting improved once I lengthened the connecting rod to tip the lever down more. Gearing is low compared to, say, a GSX-R, which is a good thing. First and second gears are not only usable around-town gears, but the shift down from second to first is very crisp, better than any other bike I’ve ridden, with the exception of a Honda RS125 race bike.
Although hydraulic, clutch effort requires the Jaws of Life. Also, brake feel is on the spongy side, but switching to braided steel lines made a phenomenal difference. The rear brake is pretty much ornamental. There’s no fear of locking it up, even if you did something as unholy as ride this bike in the rain. It merely serves to settle the suspension slightly, and to keep the bike from rolling backwards from a stoplight on a slight hill.
The craftsmen at Ducati somehow manage to create art in something as ordinary as a motorcycle’s exhaust.
Surprisingly, Ducati has the Japanese manufacturers beat in a couple of design tricks. For instance, the positive terminal of the battery is easily accessible through the right body panel air vent, so you can hook up a trickle charger for storage season without removing any bodywork. And when you do remove the bodywork, it all comes off with Dzus fasteners. Additionally, Ducati has chosen to make the vast majority of other fasteners one of three sizes of allen wrench, or two sizes of ordinary nut, so you spend very little time scrounging in your toolbox for even fairly major servicing.
Gas mileage is pretty good, producing about 100 miles in around-town driving before the low fuel light comes on, indicating one gallon left of 4.5 gallons. Weight of Ducati’s 748 is just over 400 pounds, but feels much lighter.
Ducati 748 owners will undoubtedly want to replace the flimsy plastic chain guards with the de rigueur carbon fiber item shown here.
On the road, you feel like Snoopy doing his vulture impression, perched seemingly out over the front wheel. Strangely, this doesn’t put your helmet out in the open wind, and turbulence is minimal. The reach to the bars is fairly extreme — remarkably similar in feel to the Honda RS125R two-stroke GP bike — feeling very narrow with extremely direct and sensitive steering. Unfortunately, it also puts a lot of weight on your wrists. Because of this, the passenger seat is for briefly impressing your friends. If your significant other isn’t tiny, you’re going to have to get rid of either them or the bike. The riding position throws much of the passenger’s weight on your upper back, which of course ends up on your wrists, tempting you to do a big wheelie and throw them off the back.
Ducati’s 748 is in its element when the road turns twisty.
Throttle response is instantaneous, and thankfully devoid of the turbine-like windup experienced on a Japanese inline four. Under 5,000 rpm, it feels like an underpowered four-stroke single, making lots of thumping noises, but not really getting anywhere. Above 6,000 or so, it snaps alive and streaks away more like you’d expect, keeping your left foot busy on the shift lever. There’s very little perception of speed or acceleration compared to a Japanese inline four. On the Ducati, you either realize you’re screaming along by the rate at which other traffic appears to be parked, or by glancing down at the speedo.The suspension is fantastic, if a bit stiff in the rear. This will undoubtedly improve after I’ve played with the adjustments in the rear. The Duck seduces you into taking corners faster than you’re used to, not just because it’s so much fun, but because it deceives you into thinking you’re not really working it that hard – a lot more lean angle than normal feels just natural on the 748. The down side is that you find yourself unintentionally dipping deeper into your safety margin on the street, because severe lean angles on this bike don’t feel as “serious” as on a high-center-of-gravity in-line four.
Japanese and German engineers may be well-respected for technical savvy, but when it comes to style no one beats the Italians.The little Duck is an absolute blast to ride. Hell, it’s a blast just to sit on at stoplights, ripping the throttle open, pretending to be checking some adjustment in the engine. I want to ride it through the store when I get my groceries. I want to widen my front door, and build a ramp so I can park it in my living room (hey, it doesn’t leak oil). Get rid of that new car you bought, buy an old beater for those rainy days, and spend that car payment on one of these demons instead.
Being the Canada-based staffer of a primarily U.S.-targeted site like Motorcycle.com, it’s hard not to feel jealous of my American colleagues sometimes. In between minding the three-hour time difference between me and the other MO editors, and remembering to omit the “u” in words like “color” and “rumor”, I get to read about their exploits in sunny California from my desk in grey gray Toronto.
Okay, I admit, I’m not actually as bitter as I made that sound. I’m more upset that Canada was shut out of the medals in both Olympic men’s and women’s curling, which is probably enough to prove I’m better suited to life in “the Six” than the City of Angels. I love Toronto and wouldn’t trade my life here in Canada for anything. That being said, I have to admit, the motorcycle industry up here is just not the same as it is in the U.S.
I mean, yes, we have a much smaller population and we do have shorter riding seasons than most of the United States, and the difference in the market, plus the gulf in the value between the Canadian Loonie and the American one dollar bill, makes MSRPs up here higher than you’d see south of the border. But what sometimes helps make up for that is the rare occasion the Canadian importer offers a motorcycle that isn’t available in the U.S.
The 2018 Gold Wing has been making the rounds at various motorcycle shows, and both Evans and Sean have had the chance to ride it. For me, this was the first chance to see the new Wing in person.
I got to see some of these unicorns first hand last week at the Toronto Motorcycle Show. Usually held in February during the dreariest part of the Canadian winter, the Toronto show offers some respite from the snow, and a reminder that spring will eventually come. Compared to the big shows like EICMA and Intermot, plus AIMExpo and the International Motorcycle Shows in the U.S., the Toronto show is relatively late in the calendar, meaning most of the bikes shown here have already appeared elsewhere.
Still, it was neat to two bikes that aren’t (yet) offered in the U.S.: the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe and the Honda CB300R.
2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe
The Kawasaki Z900RS will be available in both the U.S. and Canada, but as of this writing the Cafe variant has not been announced stateside. Given the positive reader reaction in our story on the bike’s announcement, we expect that to change eventually, but until then, Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA will likely be paying attention to how the Z900RS Cafe is received in Canada.
This particular example is actually the first Z900RS Cafe in North America, having only just arrived shortly before the start of the Toronto show. The Cafe version adds the bullet fairing, a humped seat and lower handlebars and a gorgeous green with white stripe paint job, but is otherwise almost exactly the same as the Z900RS. Priced at $13,599 Canadian, the Z900RS Cafe costs $600 more than the regular model.
While the cafe-style front cowl is the obvious standout, one small detail found on the Cafe that isn’t on the regular Z900RS is the DOHC label on the engine. It’s actually in the exact same font as the “DOHC” stamped on the original 1973 Z1’s engine.
2019 Honda CB300R
Honda Canada has a history with bringing small displacement bikes before their American brethren. Even before the CBR250R was introduced in 2011, Canadian riders were already scooting around on Honda CBR125s. After Honda debuted the CB300R at EICMA, Honda Canada jumped at the chance to bring it over as an early 2019 release as a replacement for the CB300F.
The CB300R uses the same 286cc Single as the outgoing F model, but adds upside-down fork, a radial-mount four-piston caliper, IMU-based ABS and a (claimed) 40 pound weight advantage. It also shares a similar “Neo-Sports Cafe” styling as the new CB1000R which is coming to the U.S.
The CB300R shares the same “Neo-Sports Cafe” styling as the CB1000R (which is confirmed for the U.S.) shown in the foreground here.
As with the Z900RS Cafe, we expect the CB300R will also eventually make it to the U.S., but not before Canadians will see it in showrooms this spring. Canadian pricing remains to be determined.
Gigantic exhausts are becoming the norm, thanks to toughening emissions standards, but the CB300R’s can looks especially oversized on a bike of its size.
Both the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe and the Honda CB300R will likely come to the U.S. eventually, but until then, I can hang onto some Canadian pride in saying that we got them first. Yeah, I know, that’s being petty. But I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan too; you’ve got to give me something.
It’s that time of year, again! The 2018 Daytona Bike Week is just around the corner. Here’s what is in store from Harley-Davidson.
Begin Press Release:
HARLEY-DAVIDSON RIDES INTO DAYTONA FOR 77TH BIKE WEEK
Kickstart the Unofficial Start of Motorcycle Season with Free Demo Rides, Exciting Special Events, Music and Racing Action
MILWAUKEE (Feb. 23, 2018) Harley-Davidson® welcomes all fans to the sunny Atlantic coast of Florida for the 77th Daytona Bike Week and the unofficial start of motorcycle riding season across the United States.
Harley-Davidson rolls into Daytona to help showcase and celebrate motorcycle culture and the community of Harley-Davidson fans who descend on Florida from around the globe. Daytona Bike Week is an annual celebration that brings people together, riders and non-riders, to embrace the sport of motorcycling.
The first big event of its 115th anniversary year, Harley-Davidson will host its Harley Headquarters on the grounds of the Daytona International Speedway. At the Speedway, come experience free demo rides on 2018 motorcycles, including the new Forty-Eight® Special and Iron 1200™ models and Limited Edition 115th Anniversary models March 10 – 17 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Additionally, fans can enjoy special events, parties and displays throughout the 77th Daytona Bike Week.
“As the official motorcycle of Daytona Bike Week, Harley-Davidson is excited to be back in Florida to kick off another great riding season,” said Chris Urban, Harley-Davidson U.S. Events Manager. “Daytona offers something for everyone – from bike shows and parties to racing and outstanding touring opportunities. Harley-Davidson is in Daytona to celebrate the freedom of riding and the bond of friendship. It’s the perfect way to kickstart our 115th Anniversary year.”
For complete information on Harley-Davidson activities and events during Daytona Bike Week visit h-d.com/daytona and download the H-D Daytona mobile app.
Harley Headquarters at the Speedway
Official Harley-Davidson Bike Week activities are consolidated at one action-packed venue located at West International Speedway Blvd. on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway. Open March 10 – 17 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily with free motorcycle parking, this expansive Harley-Davidson location will offer:
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Demos: See and ride more than 100 new 2018 Harley-Davidson models including the just-released Sport Glide™ plus Limited Edition 115th Anniversary models and new Softail® and Touring models powered by the potent Milwaukee-Eight® engine. The demo fleet also includes the stunning 2018 CVO™ models and bikes fully customized with Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories.
Milwaukee-Eight Display Truck: Experience the Milwaukee-Eight engine through technical displays and feel the rumble of this exciting V-Twin on the Harley-Davidson® JUMPSTART™ Rider Experience. Check out the customized Harley-Davidson Rebel Freightliner truck and a display of new items from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories.
See It/Try It/Buy It: Demo new Harley-Davidson helmets and riding gear when you demo-ride a bike. A selection of new Genuine MotorClothes will be available for purchase on site. Visit with Harley-Davidson fit consultants at the H-D1™Fit Shop for any customization needs.
Harley-Davidson Museum®: The H-D Museum display is the only place in Daytona to get an official, collectible Willie G. Daytona T-shirt. Check out the new line of Harley-Davidson Originals; timeless, vintage-inspired clothing that celebrates Harley-Davidson’s proud history. Grab a seat and view recently unearthed, decades-old H-D Daytona beach-racing footagefrom the H-D Museum Archives Department.
H.O.G.® Rally Point at the Speedway: Join Pete Schwab, Todd “Thor” Robinson, Paul Blotskeand other Harley-Davidson Staff members at the H.O.G. Rally Point. Relax in the H.O.G. members lounge and visit the H.O.G. Check In to pick up the 2018 event pin, with a design celebrating the Harley-Davidson 115th and H.O.G. 35th anniversaries (reserved for Harley Owners Group members only). Members who are participating in the H.O.G. ABC’s of Touring program can grab a photo at the H.O.G. booth to validate their attendance and receive the recognition.
NEW EagleRider Rentals and Tours: Stop by and learn how EagleRider – the exclusive U.S. provider of rentals and tours for H-D – can help riders join one of the planned Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary Rides Home to Milwaukee. Additionally, check out EagleRider’s expanded nationwide network of rental locations.
NEW Harley-Davidson Adventure Challenge Station: Participate in a new program open to all riders – the Adventure Challenge. Stop by to pick up the Adventure Challenge map for Daytona with riding routes, local points of interest, and other insider tips. Complete a specified route to earn a commemorative pin.
NEW MDA Charity Raffle: Enter with a chance to win a new Harley-Davidson Street Glide® motorcycle. Proceeds to support MDA in its fight to free individuals – and the families who love them – from the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases. Tickets are $5 each or five tickets for $20. The winner will be drawn at 2 p.m. onSaturday, March 17.
NEW Daily Police Skills Presentation: Check out some amazing riding skills and see how expert law enforcement officers use Harley-Davidson Police motorcycles to navigate an obstacle course. (Daily at 10:30 a.m./1:30 p.m./3:30 p.m.)
NEW Cole Freeman and the Ill Conduct Thrill Show: See a thrilling all-Harley stunt show that pushes the limits of motorcycle mayhem. (Daily at 11 a.m./2 p.m./4 p.m.)
Sailor Jerry Garage: Kick back, grab a seat and get a beard trim, a boot shine and a temporary tattoo.
Harley-Davidson Events during Bike Week
H.O.G.® Rally Rendezvous
Sunday, March 11 thru Wednesday, March 14, 5 to 7 p.m.
Celebrate the 77th Daytona Bike Week with fellow H.O.G. members. Open to members and one guest with valid H.O.G. membership card. Enjoy complimentary appetizers, special pricing on beverages, giveaways, camaraderie and good times! Capacity is limited.
Kick off Bike Week with the Harley-Davidson crew and the rock tribute band Hairball.
American Flat Track Racing: Harley-Davidson at Daytona TT
Thursday, March 15, 1 p.m. gates open
Location: Daytona International Speedway
Ride to the Speedway and cheer on Harley-Davidson® Factory Flat Track Racing Team riders Brandon Robinson, Sammy Halbert and Jared Vanderkooi as they battle the world’s top flat-track talent aboard roaring Harley-Davidson XG750R competition motorcycles. This opening race of the 2018 American Flat Track (AFT) Twins season will take place on a new 0.6-mile course built inside Daytona International Speedway that’s bigger, wider and faster thanks to the use of the track’s pit lane. Fans can expect higher cornering speeds and thrilling action in a 150-foot jump section. Go to American Flat Track for more information.
NHRA Drag Racing: Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
Ride to Gainesville and feel Harley-Davidson® V-Twin thunder when the Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle®/Vance & Hines drag racing team opens the Pro Stock Motorcycle season for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. World Champion Ed Krawiec opens the defense of his title aboard a Harley-Davidson® Street Rod™ drag bike inspired by the Harley-Davidson® Street Rod™ production motorcycle, with teammate Andrew Hines racing to win it all again this season for Harley-Davidson. Go to NHRA for more information.
For the duration of Bike Week, Harley-Davidson is partnering with three iconic Daytona Beach Main Street establishments as the official motorcycle sponsor at The Bank and Blues Club, Dirty Harry’s and the Full Moon Saloon.
Be sure to follow Harley-Davidson on Facebook to join in the action, see daily videos and check out all the activity virtually.
About Harley-Davidson Motor Company
Since 1903, Harley-Davidson Motor Company has fulfilled dreams of personal freedom with cruiser, touring and custom motorcycles, riding experiences and events, and a complete line of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts, accessories, general merchandise, riding gear and apparel. For more information, visit www.h-d.com.
We here at MO were sad to learn of Mathew Hintz’ passing. If you’ve ever admired his work, consider giving to his Go Fund Me page. Watch the video tribute to him below.
Mathew Hintz Harley Davidson Gas and Oil Artist - YouTube
Begin Press Release:
Harley Davidson Gas and Oil Artist Leaves Legacy and Young Family
Friends create tribute video and set up fundraising site for his four children
Milwaukee, Wisc. (Jan. 22, 2018) — Mathew Hintz, the Official Artist of Daytona Bike Week, died unexpectedly at the age of 41 on December 24, 2017, leaving a wife and four children ages 6 – 13. His 2018 Daytona Bike Week painting was the last piece of artwork he completed before his death.
Friends of his family are asking the motorcycle community to share messages of hope and consider donating to a fund that will help with child care, meals and future college expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/Mathewhintz.
Enthusiasts can also visit his website, hintzstudios.com, to purchase prints and exclusive paintings, such as Willie’s 36 Knuckle, American Muscle, Rushmore and Daytona Blue. A tribute video shares a glimpse of his iconic artwork and charity work: https://youtu.be/nGXcd5_W5Aw.
Specializing in “gas and oil” subjects and the drama of professional sports, Hintz worked professionally for more than 20 years to develop the techniques behind his distinctive sculptural layered-paint portraits and rugged charcoal drawings. He captured the passion of his clients through impressionistic painting. Hintz created more than 60 paintings and gritty charcoal drawings, many of which were larger scale at 40″ x 60.”
Hintz worked as a contract artist to the Harley-Davidson Styling and Creative Services Departments, working closely with Willie G. Davidson and others to create motorcycle paint designs, helmet graphics and tank medallions. In addition to Harley-Davidson images, Hintz worked with Ford Images and also created sports art for Steiner Sports, painting athletes like Derek Jeter, Ryan Braun and Mike Tyson.
Why help? It’s personal.
Anyone who attended Daytona Bike Week from 2015 to 2018 may be wearing the artwork of Mathew Hintz on a patch or T-shirt. Hintz’ artwork was featured on the Official Daytona Bike Week poster for the Daytona Chamber of Commerce from 2015 to 2018. Hintz’ artwork was also on the cover of the official Daytona Bike Week guide for 2017 & 2018.
Riders who bought a Harley-Davidson in the past decade probably have his work in their garage. Hintz created the original cover art for Harley-Davidson Owner Manuals from 2008 to 2017. One of Hintz’s first assignments at Harley was to design the tank medallion for the Softail Deluxe motorcycle.
Enthusiasts involved with the Harley Owners Group (HOG) have worn his artwork. Hintz designed rocker patches, t-shirts, logos and graphics for HOG, Buell and Harley-Davidson MotorClothes, as well as anniversary merchandise and models.
Hintz gave back
Hintz was passionate about leveraging the power of his art for good works. As a father of four, he was focused on assisting children in need. His artwork was auctioned to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) through Harley-Davidson, the MakeA-Wish Foundation and Curing Kids Cancer through Mecum Auctions Company.
Hintz co-created two paintings with Reagan Imhoff, now the MDA National Ambassador. Reagan’s mother Jenny spoke at his funeral, sharing how the two families bonded and spent time together over the past few years. During one visit, Hintz’s youngest child helped Reagan build a fairy garden in the backyard. Jenny said that when they heard the news about his passing, Reagan’s first thought was about his kids, because she knows how much he loved and adored his family. She wanted to make sure they were taken care of.
“I’ll never forget the first time we met Matt when he came over to introduce Reagan to art,” said Jenny Imhoff. “This big bearded guy with a Mountain Dew walks in, and at first Reagan just shyly smiled and wasn’t so sure about things. But within five minutes they were making a big charcoal mess and she realized that Matt was a giant teddy bear and they became fast friends.
Afterward, while I’m trying in vain to clean Reagan’s charcoal-covered hands, he pulls out this cute little bottle of pink nail polish for Reagan. What a good laugh we got from the irony of it all!” She added, “Matt really encouraged and taught Reagan so much about art and using different mediums and trying new things. He was always willing to help out and share his time and talents to help kids like Reagan.”
Below is a “note” Reagan wrote to Matt that she asked Jenny to read at the funeral:
You are kind, funny, creative, generous and have the biggest heart! I will miss you so much and I will never forget all of the fun we have had together making messes and creating so many cool pieces of art. Thank you for all you have taught me and thanks for sharing you love of art. I will miss you so much.
Love and hugs, Reagan
Rest in peace, Mathew Hintz. Keep the angels up there on their toes – and help them paint beautiful skies for all to enjoy.
Yamaha announced its 2018 bLU cRU off-road racing teams, led by AMA Hall of Fame Member Randy Hawkins‘ AmPro/Yamaha team and the Raines Riding University/Atlas Sales/Yamaha team.
Begin Press Release
Yamaha U.S. Announces 2018 bLU cRU Off-Road Motorcycle Racing Teams
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., is proud to announce its bLU cRU Off-Road Motorcycle Racing Teams for 2018, which include AmPro/Yamaha, now in its 21st year as a Yamaha bLU cRU racing team, along with the Raines Riding University/Atlas Sales/Yamaha team. The announcement was made by Donnie Luce, Amateur MX/ATV/Off-Road Coordinator, Motorsports Racing Division, for Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.
“We’re excited to, once again, be working with Randy Hawkins and his AmPro/Yamaha team, as well as Jason Raines and his Raines Riding University/Atlas Sales/Yamaha team,” Luce said. “Randy and Jason have both been faithfully and energetically flying the Yamaha bLU cRU flag for us in off-road racing for several years, and their reputations for developing winning riders are second to none. Their teams and programs are both topnotch.”
The AmPro/Yamaha team is led by team owner, 7-Time AMA Pro Enduro Champion, 13-Time ISDE Gold Medalist, and AMA Hall of Fame Member Randy Hawkins, whose long-held mantra is “building Champions, one race at a time.” The team’s rider lineup includes Ricky Russell (#212), who will, once again, compete aboard a YZ450FX in the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series’ XC1 class, and Jonathan Johnson (#981), who is new to the team for 2018, and will race a YZ250FX in the GNCC XC2 class. Ricky and Jonathan will primarily focus on GNCC for 2018, but they will also compete at select rounds of both the AMA National Enduro Championship Series and the AMA Sprint Enduro series. In addition, 12-year-old bLU cRU rider Grant Davis (#30) remains with the team for 2018 and will again compete in the GNCC Youth class aboard a YZ85.
The Raines Riding University/Atlas Sales/Yamaha team, led by six-time AMA National Hare Scrambles Champion Jason Raines, welcomes Cole Mattison (#29) as a new teammate with returning rider Trevor Barrett (#945). Cole and Trevor will race YZ250FX machines in the GNCC XC2 class.
It was a sad day in southern Spain, not to mention a long way to travel, to be peering out from the garage as intensoning rain dashed any hopes of spinning another lap around the Circuito de Almeria. With only a single session under our belts, and that one merely a familiarization one at best, there was nothing left to do except get wet on the ride back to the hotel.
On the bright side of the dampening gloom was a first half of the day spent flogging the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS around a variety of delicious Spanish backroads, sampling its arsenal of upgrades, especially those of the electronic variety. Endowed with cornering ABS and cornering traction control thanks to a new Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), as well as a variety of riding modes and cruise control, all visible and selectable via an eye-pleasing full-color TFT display (first seen on the 2017 Street Triple), the new Speed Triple now stands on equal electronic footing with the likes of competitors such as Super Dukes, Tuonos and FZ/MT-10s.
A nicety found on both the S and RS models is backlit switchgear. From the left handlebar, accessing the bike’s menu of ride modes and individual settings for ABS, TC, etc., as well as cruise control is an intuitive process requiring little familiarization.
Fireball Brasfield wonderfully detailed the litany of upgrades and new features the 2018 Speed Triple enjoys in his preview article, so we’ll dispatch with pointless reiterations and move on how well the Speed Triple works in a street environment, and further lament the ill-fated weather that robbed us of our track impressions.
In 2016 Triumph claimed 104 new engine parts when John Burns and gang last reviewed it during a multi-streetfighter shootout to and from the World Superbike races at Laguna Seca, where the S model placed second behind the Tuono V4 Factory. Two years later the British OEM has outdone its own amount of new engine bits and pieces by one, endowing the 2018 Speed Triple with 105 new engine components.
Outfitted with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires, the Speed Triple delivers confident sticktivity during aggressive riding behavior.
The result is a claimed seven percent increase in horsepower and four percent increase in torque, which should result when dyno tested to a half-dozen more horsepower and a half-as-much increase in lb-ft of torque compared to the 2017 model. Triumph also claims a six pound lighter dry weight on the RS model (mostly due to the lighter Arrow exhaust cans), while the S model remains relatively the same weight as before at 423 pounds dry (MO measured wet weight of 478 pounds). More power and less weight are always welcome, but it’s not enough of a power increase/weight decrease to be conclusively noticeably without last year’s model on hand with which to make a direct comparison.
However, the engine does spin 1,000 rpm higher, and even being robbed of our track day, it’s no leap of faith to think that this won’t be anything but beneficial at the track or even during spirited street rides. “Some of us were wishing Triumph allowed it to rev out a little further than its 10,000-rpm rev limit,” John Burns commented in his multi-streetfighter shootout. You got your wish, Burnsie.
Only Rain mode reduces power output to a claimed 100 hp, the other settings change the throttle map’s aggressiveness of power delivery. Rider mode allows you to customize the settings according to your personal preferences.
What certainly remains, and improves, is the Triple’s broad spread of power throughout the rev range. From our 2016 Naked Sports Six-Way Shootout we know the Speed Triple already produced the second-most low-end torque next to Ducati’s Monster 1200S while being out-displaced by 148cc. It wasn’t the torquiest engine, but the Speed Triple delivers more torque where it counts compared to other nakeds. In the horsepower department, six more ponies will put the Speed Triple equal to that of the Monster 1200S and Kawasaki Z1000 at 130 hp, but well below the Tuono’s rear wheel measurement of 160 hp.
The variety of damp, dry and wet roads provided ample opportunity to use the rider modes for their specific situations. Engine response, TC and ABS settings – switching from Road to Sport to Rain – all seemed perfectly matched to the environment and riding style of the given situation. Considering the amount of wet we had to deal with, the Rain setting especially seemed perfectly designed for delivering the right amount of everything providing a rider the confidence needed for dealing with tricky weather/pavement conditions.
Not only does the front brake lever adjustable for distance from the handlebar via the dial at the end of the lever, but the barely visible dial on the inside of the lever adjusts the firmness of the action. For example, when it was wet I’d set the lever to be squishier for better feel at slower speeds when the front tire is more prone to washing out, while under dry conditions at higher speeds a firmer setting was preferable.
Triumph says the company improved the Speed Triple’s gearbox and slip assist clutch. More importantly is the addition of Triumph Shift Assist which provides the advantage of clutchless upshifts/downshifts we all love so much. At slower around-town speeds the action can be a little clunky but the same can be said about a lot of quickshifter systems. Once up to aggressive levels of speed the Triumph system seemed smooth and efficient, especially during our truncated stint at the track.
We all laughed a little when BMW’s S1000RR came stock with cruise control years ago but now nearly every sportbike above $10k comes so equipped. Considering the more comfortable nature of Speed Triple taking longer trips might be in the cards, but even during short stints of straight road riding, I find myself using cruise control just because it’s there. Like other units I’ve sampled, Triumph’s cruise control is easily adjusted up or down in one-mile-per-hour increments.
Brakes remain the same Brembo M4.34 units found on last year’s model. Rear brake is a single Nissin 2-piston caliper gripping a 255mm disc. Suspension units on the RS model consist of a fully adjustable Öhlins 43mm NIX30 fork and fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock, while the S model wears a fully adjustable Showa 43mm fork and Showa shock with rebound and compression adjustability.
While the rain robbed us of testing the RS’s track mode setting, its up/down quickshifter and all its bevy of other improvements at speeds and lean angles only a racetrack can deliver, it’s streetable qualities – where this OG hooligan will spend most of its time – have assuredly delivered a Speed Triple worthy of its heritage. Even in 2016 the lesser-powered naked managed to defeat newer, more powerful competitors by virtue of its user-friendliness and real-world streetability, and the 2018 version continues those strong points only now with the creature comforts of a modern electronics package.
Retail pricing for 2018 is $14,350 for the S model and $16,350 for the RS, an $850 and $1,450, respectively, price increase over 2017 Speed Triples. A reasonable increase considering all the improvements. For what you get upgrading to the RS from the S model (Öhlins suspension, keyless ignition, cornering ABS, advanced traction control), the $2,000 premium is hard to overlook as a great value.
Some of the figures on paper may seem inconsequential – a half-dozen less pounds here and a few more horsepower there – but it all adds up to further refinement of hooligan that’s been a part of the motorcycling spectrum for nearly a quarter-century. And its pricing certainly makes the Speed Triple attractive when compared to its Euro counterparts from KTM (SDR $18k) and Aprilia (Tuono RR $15.5k and Tuono Factory $18k). Triumph says the new models should be in dealerships by May, so you don’t have long to wait.
Our one session around a damp Almeria circuit provided me the opportunity to twice spin up the rear wheel and send it sliding out of alignment exiting corners, and that was with the bike in Road mode. Thankfully I can report that traction control did its job and kept me from hitting the..
When Kawasaki redesigned its smallest Ninja for 2018, the engineers went back to the drawing board and while the motorcycle on your screen may look like a revision in styling, the Ninja 400 has, quite literally, undergone changes from the ground up.
I was fortunate enough to ride the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 recently in Northern California. We spent a day winding our way through the emerald green, rolling hills of Sonoma County on (mostly) pristine backroads as we made our way through sleepy coastal towns en route to our ultimate destination: the race track. Day two was spent turning laps at the, equally as scenic, Sonoma Raceway.
There was so much to take in with all of the changes to the 2018 Ninja that we decided to reduce it down, in this article, to the top 10 features of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400.
1. Lightweight maneuverability
I really can’t stress enough how is easy to ride the Ninja 400 is. The slightest of input will have the motorcycle turning effortlessly wherever you point it. On our scales, the 2018 Ninja 400 weighs in 15 lbs less than its predecessor at 366 pounds soakin’ wet. Couple this with a more rigid chassis set up and you have a lightweight, stable motorcycle that is an absolute blast to ride.
The larger 41mm Showa fork and the KYB shock do a good job of keeping this nimble motorcycle planted. Of course, if you are looking to build a race bike, you will likely want to stiffen things up in the suspension department.
2. New Chassis
Kawasaki has created an all-new chassis for the Ninja 400 utilizing the same trellis-type frame and concept that is used on its much bigger brother, the Ninja H2. This new frame is said to provide increased rigidity and uses the rigid-mounted engine as a stressed member.
Also new, is the aluminum swingarm mounting plate which bolts to the backside of the engine, also similar to the H2, and eliminates the need for cross members for stabilization. The pivot shaft goes through the mounting plate and bolts directly to the engine, again, for added stability.
3. Another Dimension
Other noteworthy changes in the chassis come from the dimensions section of the spec sheet. The wheelbase has been shortened from 55.3-inches to 53.9-inches and the steering head has been reduced by 2.3-degrees. The 1.4-inches lost in wheelbase and the new 24.7-degree rake angle both contribute to the motorcycle’s quick steering characteristics.
4. Bigger, without being bigger
Probably the most prominent detail of the new Ninja is the 103cc increase in engine size. It has been a bit polarizing. Some wonder when the displacement wars in the lightweight sportbike category will stop, some still say it’s too little, and another few think it’s too much. Although, regardless of your side of the fence on the subject, it’s good to see the new powerplant hasn’t gained hardly any overall size compared to last year’s model.
After riding the Ninja 400 through an average day of twisting backroads, a faster pace at the racetrack and now around town running errands, as said in my review, this is the sweet spot in engine size. The 399cc parallel-twin puts out easy to manage, usable power through the mid-range and it just gets to be more fun once the revs increase. A look at our exclusive dyno run of the Ninja 400 shows the steady increase in horsepower from 2500 rpm all the way to 10,000 rpm.
With the way the engine is tuned, this motorcycle can be a great way to get into motorcycling without being worried about getting tired of it and wanting to sell it after a year or so. I won’t mention names, but more than one of the journalists on our ride were considering ways to get one of the little green meanies in the garage after our test.
5. More Powah!
The boost in cubic centimeters brings more power, but Kawasaki has done well with the tuning of that power, as seen in the chart above. The linear increase in horsepower from 2,500 rpm to 10,000 rpm yields a smooth 44 hp. Having 20 lb-ft of torque available just under 5,000 rpm also lends to the bikes usable mid-range while we see torque peak at 25 lb-ft at 8,200 rpm. Check out the side by side spec chart in our dyno run article to see how that stacks up to the current field of competitors.
6. Still a great entry-level street bike
The performance characteristics of the motor, lightweight handling, extremely light clutch pull, and relatively relaxed ergos of the Ninja 400 come together to create an optimal package for a new motorcyclist to get into sport riding without being overwhelming. The new bump in displacement also will keep riders satisfied as their skills progress. Top that all of with the same MSRP of last year’s model, you’ve got yourself a heck of a deal.
7. A potent track weapon?
You betcha! The Ninja 400 hits its 25 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm and 44hp at 10,000 rpm, which means the engine gives its full potential higher in the rev range. This was evident during our spirited ride through the backroads of NorCal however, we were able to fully exploit these motorcycles at the track.
Putting down the kind of spec sheet that Kawasaki has with this motorcycle, it was certainly out for blood with the Ninja 400’s redesign. Kawasaki also mentioned during the technical presentation that the Ninja 400 is eligible for more than $531,000 in racing contingency in 20 different classes across 10 sanctioning bodies. This further shows, Kawi is serious about the racing potential of this lightweight class.
8. Slip and Assist Clutch
The Slip and Assist clutch make for easy gear changes without the risk of hopping the rear tire. While accelerating the assist function pulls the clutch hub and operating plate together to compress the clutch plates. This is likely the main contributor behind Kawasaki’s claim of a 20% lighter clutch pull. The slipper clutch comes into play when excessive engine braking occurs due to quick or accidental downshifts, forcing the clutch hub and operating plate apart relieving pressure on the clutch plates which reduces back-torque to prevent the rear tire from skidding.
Kawi modified the ergonomics of the Ninja 400 as well. Handlebars are now 15mm closer to the rider while the footpegs have been moved back 9mm. The seat height hasn’t changed at 30.9-inches however, Kawasaki claims a 30mm narrower seat with padding that is twice as thick as the previous model. The seat does have a tendency to keep you close to the tank with the scooped angle it sits at. At 5-foot 8-inches with a 30-inch inseam I had absolutely no issues feeling confident and planted with my feet down.
One of MotoGP‘s longstanding partnerships is coming to an end, as Tech3 announced it will stop being Yamaha‘s satellite racing team at the end of the 2018 season.
It was Tech3 that made the decision to end its 20-year-old partnership with Yamaha (including what will be 18 years in the premier class), after receiving an offer from another manufacturer. Tech3 chief Hervé Poncharal wouldn’t name the other party at this point, possibly because a deal hasn’t been fully finalized yet, but the decision to end its deal to lease two of Yamaha’s YZR-M1 racebikes suggests it’s only a matter of time before it becomes official and the new partner is announced.
“Tech3 is a small company, which has to think about the future and has to weigh the different options,” says Poncharal. “We’ve been offered a deal, that includes something we’ve been waiting for almost since we started with Tech3 and I couldn’t say no.”
The announcement comes days after the team named Hafizh Syahrin as its replacement for Jonas Folger for the 2018 season to race alongside Johann Zarco. Though their partnership will soon coming to an end, both Tech3 and Yamaha say they will be fully committed to each other for this season.
The Tech3-Yamaha split opens up some questions that will need to be addressed going forward. For Yamaha, the question is whether it will continue to support a satellite team in 2019. Given how successful Tech3 has been, often finishing as the top satellite squad in the premier class since joining with Yamaha, there will likely be many teams interested in leasing an M1.
“The end of such a successful partnership is always a bit sad, as it also marks the end of a long-term relationship. We are very grateful for Hervé’s loyalty and support to the Yamaha brand and for the excellent results obtained throughout that time,” says Kouichi Tsuji, president of Yamaha Motor Racing. “We will continue to provide our full support to the Tech3 team and their riders throughout the 2018 season, while we simultaneously evaluate our options for an alternative team in the MotoGP World Championship class for 2019 and beyond.”
For Tech3, the lingering question is who its new partner will be. There are currently eight Ducatis, and six Hondas on the MotoGP grid while Aprilia, KTM and Suzuki each have two factory bikes. The latter three are relatively new to the series, joining the circuit in recent years, and may be ready to expand with a satellite team. A squad like Tech3 would offer a proven track record of finding success with notable riders such as Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Zarco.
Here’s our weekly guide to the upcoming motorcycle events and rides that are happening within the next month. Don’t see an event that’s happening in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment to let us know.
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW
Montreal Motorcycle Show
See all new 2018 motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and side-by-sides, all under one roof. Meet experts, check out the latest gear and apparel, and get all set-up for your next adventure.
Palais des congres de Montreal
1001 Place Jean-Pail-Riopelle
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
The Mama Tried Motorcycle Show is an indoor invitational that connects motorcycles and builders to fans and riders alike. Keeping the fire stoked all winter long. The Show features over 100 motorcycles from builders of all calibers—flat-trackers, hill climbers, choppers, and bar hoppers.
Eagles Club Ballroom
2401 W Wisconsin Ave.
Daytona Bike week
The Speedway offers a full week of racing including the “Legends of Racing”, dirt track races, the Daytona Supercross, the Harley-Davidson TwinSports, 600cc SuperSport International Challenge and the Daytona 200. Other events include the Harley-Davidson Museum, indoor show and Dresser Light Show, and several other motorcycle shows including vintage and custom bikes, European & Japanese motorcycles, sidecars and trikes. There are concerts, fashion shows, technical seminars and demo rides. You can join in a Poker Run, go to a motorcycle swap meet, or enjoy one of the several free bar-b-ques.
Thelush sceneryverdant woodlandsurban bustlecomplete lack of atmosphereofMalibu, CaliforniaCartagena, SpainBogota, Colombiathe Sea of Tranquilitywas the perfect setting forHonda MotorcyclesSuzuki MotorcyclesDucati Motorcyclesour Alien overlordsto introduce the new-for-this-yearredesign of the CBR1000RRBNG edition GSX-R600slightly different Scramblershape-shifting hoverbike. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this bike since it was introduced at last year’s Milan show – will it measure up to the hype when we ride it on real roads?
After a lavish welcome dinner, we proceeded to the conference center for the tech briefing. There,Press Relations Manager Buzz HardingLarge Project Leader Toshiro Mifune, jr.Interim Acting Director Guiseppe AndolosioniQuadrant Prefect Klargon the Munificentgave us the 4-1-1 on the new model.
First,hesheithermwants our readers to know that this model is based on exhaustive market research. The product planners surveyed thousands ofsportbike riderscruiser enthusiastsurban Millennialscarbon-based lifeformsand listened to their needs. It turns out that what buyers are looking for isn’t fancy features or enhanced styling – what they want ismore powerless powermore chromesto not be vaporized. With that in mind, the engineers went to work.
Lush scenery was an ideal place for testing the new bike, although it may have been a tad too lush.
First, they redesigned the chassis end to end, carefully shaving weight and making the structure more rigid, reducing chassis flex by 14% and saving almost 14 grams. Suspension is all new, with redesigned part numbers and .005 inch more rear travel. Brakes are triple disc, with four-piston radial-mountBremboBremboBremboWalmartcalipers.
The engine bay got the treatment, too. The14-hole fuel-injectorscounter-rotating crank balancershand-balanced camsnano-laser atomizershave been upgraded, resulting in a 3% power increase over last year’s model. The exhaust has also been made more free-flowing, for better sound and throttle response while still meetingDOT and CARBthe new Euro5“Winning” EPAGalactic Councilstandards. In addition, the airbox has six more holes and 2% more volume to improve both breathing and intake sound.
But how is it on thetwisty roadsracetrackmean streetslunar surface? To find out, we spent the day riding a challenging 13-mile route (including photo, lunch, snack and nap stops). The bike starts up easily, soon settling down to a low, burbling idle. The seat is wide and supportive, but could use a touch more foam, and shorter riders may want to opt for the low seat ($249). It snicks easily into gear, and the bike’s top-heavy feel disappears once on the move.
There may have been too much Buffeting, but we will need more testing to say for sure. And Margaritas. Blended, no salt.
On the open road, it’s a great machine. Wind protection is average, with a little buffeting affecting taller riders. I found the gearing optimum for high-speed cruising as well as just riding around town, so long as I remembered to shift the smooth, modern-feeling transmission, which makes a huge difference no matter what you ride. You should try it.
The most memorable part of the ride was piloting this lithe machine through the4,000-foot Tehama passquaint town of Escancinofast corkscrew turn at Monzaasteroid belt of Garzon-14. There, the rigid chassis, well-balanced geometry and careful attention to saving weight paid dividends. The bike turned as quickly as asharpened dimeshocked seagullflaming monkeyquasar on crack, but never felt flighty, with balanced steering and a neutral feel even when I was pushing the limits. The brakes were notable, with progressive power and minimal overbite. I did notice the temperature gauge edging towards the red when I was flogging it, but company technicians noted this was common with pre-production units.
Comfort and convenience features abound. In addition to .005 liters of underseat storage (room for a folded-up photo of some tools and a human hair), there’s a USB port andpassenger pegscenterstanda linguisa forkspace modulatorstandard. Instrumentation is complete and easy to read, although it was tough to figure out how to work the lap timer, and the TFT display was hard to read in direct sunlight, especially at higher altitudes. After a long day in the saddle (followed by drinks, a lavish meal and wine-cellar tour that I don’t remember past the Merlots) I was ready for more riding, a testament to the package’s balance.
The brakes provided adequate braking and feel, though brake feel left the author feeling like he needed a break from feeling.
So does it live up to the hype? I was very impressed with my time riding it, and think it does. Although not the most comfortable or best value, it does offer solidracetrack performancelong-distance comfortStarbucks posing powerinterdimensional travelat a price just $300 more than the prior year’s model. We can’t wait to how it stacks up against the competition in ouropen-classmiddleweightADV tourerentry-level hyperwarpmotorcycle shootout this summer.
Gabe Ets-Hokin has beenEditor-at-LargeEditor EmeritusEditor muy frescaAI softwareat Motorcycle.com since the 11th Century A.D.