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You’d think that with as many true-to-life production and custom motorcycles as we see, concept bikes wouldn’t be on our radar much. And that’s absolutely true, except for when something truly stunning crosses our path. That’s exactly the case with this Koenigsegg Bike 1090 Concept Motorcycle by 3D designer Maksim Burov.

Paring down the hypercar brand’s signature style is something that Maksim Burov is familiar with, as he’s actually made a couple in the past. This one, however, features a measure of realism that gives us hope we might actually see something like it on the road in the future. There’s no available specifications, but we can gather from the low streetfighter-like stance, Goodyear racing-style tires, and Borla performance exhaust that this bike is built to do one thing very well: go fast. We can only hope that the Swedes over at Koenigsegg take notice of this stellar 2-wheeler concept.

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The 2018 Gold Wing Is Lighter, More Compact, and Sportier Than Ever

Riding Honda’s new high-tech tourer with optional seven-speed DCT for a secret early test at the Twin Ring Motegi

For more than 40 years, the Honda Gold Wing has been a hyper-functional icon of long-distance luxury touring. Couch-like comfort, huge storage capacity, and long distances between gas stops were features that riders came to love and expect from the GL. Redesigning such an important motorcycle was no easy task, but Honda set to it with three main goals: to build a lighter weight, more compact, and more technologically advanced motorcycle than any on the market. To achieve this, Honda completely redesigned the flat-6 engine, introduced what it’s calling Double Wishbone front suspension, added a huge array of infotainment features, and even offers an automatic seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission. These changes and the sportier new look and feel are meant to both attract a new generation of riders to the Gold Wing while satisfying the Wing’s core, albeit aging, demographic with a lighter, easier-to-handle luxury touring bike.

Honda flew a small group of journalists to Twin Ring Motegi, the company’s racetrack located about 100 miles north of Tokyo, for an exclusive test of its flagship motorcycle two months before its scheduled mid-January arrival in US dealerships. As we arrived at the track, we got our first glimpse of the new 2018 Honda Gold Wing (the bagger model) and Gold Wing Tour (with top trunk). It was immediately apparent the new Honda had been radically redesigned—it was sleeker, slimmer, and had more flowing lines. But I was eager to dive deeper into the technical changes by experiencing the bike firsthand.

What better way to warm up for testing the 2018 Gold Wing than spending the last three weeks getting to know the 2017 Honda Gold Wing riding the highways and byways of Southern California. The current bike performed incredibly well for a bike of its size, with crisp, responsive handling at any speed, an impressive lean angle, loads of power wherever you find yourself in the rev range—it was clear why this bike had cemented its place among riders as the go-to motorcycle for long distance touring.

2018 Holda Gold Wing MT: $23,500
2018 Gold Wing DCT: $27,700

Infotainment

But the infotainment experience was lacking and the user interface cluttered and antiquated. Huge masses of buttons on either handlebar, on the sides of the lower fairing, and, impossibly, again on the dash. There is no Bluetooth and the only way to connect a smartphone for audio is in the trunk. CB radio controls are on your handlebar whether you have the accessory installed or not. Rather than getting your song name and album title, you would just see something like “song: 234/5138.” It was astounding to think that an engine and chassis released in 2001 could still stand up so well to in-class competitors 16 years later, but the infotainment and user interface were showing that age despite a few updates for the Wing over the years.

Curse my millennial tendencies, but I was sort of baffled that such a tech-conscious company would go so long without updating little things like Bluetooth, which are largely standard on competing touring models. Luckily, Honda went above and beyond with the new Gold Wing, integrating all of the entertainment tech I wanted to see, and merging that mass of buttons into a much more intuitive system controlled either at the handlebar or on the dash, depending on your preference.

For starters, there are now three USB inputs: in the trunk, left-side saddlebag, or forward fairing pocket. Bluetooth is now standard and pairs quickly with just a few clicks through the menu. Taking it a step further, this is the first motorcycle to make use of Apple CarPlay, which works with a connected headset and Siri’s voice commands to control Maps, Apple Music, phone calls, and dictated texts. On both the Gold Wing and the Gold Wing Tour, I was impressed by how loud and clear the audio was, as well as how easy it was to navigate the new software.

Testing on the racetrack, we were able to get up to triple-digit speeds and still hear the Lady Gaga album that the engineers had pre-loaded for our listening pleasure blasting through the speakers. In fact, I think my “gaa gaa, ooh laa laaa” lap was my fastest one. Both aesthetically and functionally, Honda gave me everything that I wanted to see and more in terms of infotainment.

While that may be a bit more on the infotainment than some of you want, let me refer back to those millennial tendencies—I had to go 10 laps without looking at my phone, guys! These additions may been seen as distracting, but they just make the info we want (and will get, regardless) more accessible and safer to access while riding.

2017 Honda Gold Wing next to the all-new 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour

Suspension

The biggest change in performance comes in the form of the new Hossack-inspired Double Wishbone front suspension. Similar to BMW’s Duolever used on the K1600GT/GTL, this system separates the Showa coil-over damping unit from the fork holder responsible for steering, which results in lighter handling and 30 percent less shock transferred from the road to the handlebar, says Honda. Other advantages? A conventional telescopic fork has significant friction between the inner and outer tube, but the Double Wishbone massively reduces this for a more supple, responsive ride and improved front tire grip in most conditions. Further, as a conventional fork compresses the wheel moves closer to the engine thanks to the necessary rake. The Double Wishbone moves the front wheel moves on a vertical axis (rather than a diagonal one along the path of the fork tube) reducing the amount of space needed behind the front wheel to allow for compression, which allows the engine to be moved forward in the chassis. Double Wishbone also permits easy tuning of exactly how much dive occurs (if any) under braking. For a more natural feel to all of us who have ridden a lifetime of bikes on a conventional fork, Honda tuned in a small degree of dive. You can read more about the Double Wishbone in Kevin Cameron’s speculative pre-release piece, or check out the image below to get a better idea of how it works.

The ’17 Gold Wing’s front suspension hadn’t seemed at all inadequate, but riding the two bikes back to back was like night and day. Turn 11 at Motegi is sharp and the approach is a long straight decline—I was able to get up to 110 mph and not touch the brakes until I had less than 100 meters before the corner, slowing down with room to spare. The lightweight feel of the front end transformed the ride in all the best ways.

Honda’s new Double Wishbone front suspension allows for a more compact assembly thanks to the vertical trajectory of the wheel, shown above.

Engine

About the only things that remain the same with the engine is that it is a flat-6 that displaces 1,800cc. The redesign focused on lighter weight, smaller size, and improved fuel economy. Bore was reduced by 1mm, and stroke has been increased by 2mm for square 73.0 x 73.0mm cylinder dimensions. New high-strength steel alloy allows for a thinner crank webs and less distance between each cylinder, which combines with other internal upgrades resulting in an engine that is now 29mm shorter end to end. Even with the switch from two-valve to four-valve, which increases efficiency but adds weight, the manual-transmission engine is 13.7 pounds lighter, and the DCT unit is 8.4 pounds lighter than previous manual models. A Unicam valve train like the one used in Honda’s CRF450R enables the removal of the valve-lifter support structure, resulting in lighter weight and a more compact design. Couple the more efficient engine with overall weight reduction and an 11.8 percent more aerodynamic design, and Honda says this results in a 20 percent increase in fuel economy. So, even with fuel capacity reduced by 1.1 gallons to 5.5 gallons, Honda states we won’t see any decrease in range per tank. With the engine further forward, the engineers were also able to move both the rider and passenger farther forward, keeping weight as close to the bike’s center of gravity as possible.

The main control center on the 2018 Honda Gold Wing

DCT

This was the first bike that I have ever ridden with Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission, and like most people who haven’t tried it before, I was wary—I didn’t expect to like it. Combined with the ride-by-wire technology and the four new ride modes, the automatic-shifting transmission worked incredibly well. I started out in Touring mode, then tried Economy (if only for a moment), then Rain before finally switching to Sport. Being on the racetrack, I was eager to see how Sport would perform but knew other modes would feel underwhelming in comparison if I jumped the gun. Touring mode was just what you would expect, good power when you twist the throttle, but it’s not snapping your neck back or anything. Economy, as you might expect, was on the boring side, putting me in seventh gear by the time I was up to about 50 mph through the first turn on the track. Rain mode was more cautious, with a little softer response to the throttle off the line. And Sport mode made me fall in love with the DCT.

Just twisting the throttle delivers optimized output wherever you are. Manual push-button shifting using “+/-” paddles located at the thumb and index finger on the left hand worked great. But while I really expected to like the manual more (I tend to like more control), I didn’t miss shifting one bit. The effortless ride and still massively adrenaline-inducing Sport mode quickly dismissed any misgivings I may have had.

Traction control is available only for the Tour models in the form of Honda’s Selectable Torque Control System (HSTC). While there is no inertial measurement unit to sense lean angle, the bike uses wheel-speed sensors to determine when it is cornering for HSTC, ride modes, and ABS. Even riding these bikes hard on the track, I didn’t feel that the HSTC was overbearing at all.

When it comes to the manual transmission, “clunky shifting” wasn’t on my list of complaints from last year’s model, but now shifting is virtually silent and incredibly smooth. With the addition of a slipper clutch and a cam-damper on manual models, lever effort is reduced by 20 percent, and shift shock on downshifting has been greatly deceased. It wasn’t a shortcoming before, but now it’s a strong point. The six gears of the manual transmission have the same overall ratio range as the seven gears in the DCT, but engineers thought seven-speed manual was unnecessary and shifting through seven gears would be too much. With DCT, however, the added gear helps to alleviate shift shock and makes for a smoother transition.

Morgan Gales on the 2018 Honda Gold Wing MT

Other Tech and Overall Finish

When Honda said that US bikes weren’t getting the Idle-Stop technology that the rest of the world was, I was completely fine with it. I don’t think most American riders would really like for their bike to automatically turn off at a three-second stop, but I had to wonder how they could make a smooth Idle-Stop with a quick response. It’s all thanks to the Integrated Starter Generator System (which we do get in the US). As you may have guessed, it integrates the starter and the generator motor into one unit, reducing weight and improving the quickness and quietness of starting the engine. It’s honestly sort of jarring at first. You push the starter button, and the bike is on. No revving or multiple turns of the engine before it fires; it’s just on, and it’s one of the many details that contribute to the overall luxury feel of the new Gold Wing.

Every rider interface and touchpoint has been improved, with functional and aesthetic changes that elevate look and feel. A layer of clear coat has been added to paint that’s been given additional pigment, adding depth and luster. The saddlebags and trunk lid all open with small buttons—as opposed to bulky levers—and hinges all have dampers so they don’t slam open or shut. The buttons at the handlebar all feel sturdy and premium—nothing feels or looks cheap. Each bike is equipped with keyless ignition that not only allows you to start the bike without a key, it will sense when you walk away from the bike and lock the bags, and unlock them when you come back. A lot of the luxuries that the car industry has been enjoying are integrated into this bike, and it’s awesome.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour’s passenger seat with accessory passenger armrests.

Passenger Experience and Storage

The adjustable windscreen on both the Gold Wing and the Gold Wing Tour works very well. Opposed to last year’s system which reduces wind to a stifling level much of the time, you can actually get a little more ventilation to your body on this bike if you want to. A small fin pops up from the fairing to help direct some air if you need some breeze. When I rode as a passenger, I was getting a lot of wind with the screen down but was surprised at how well I was covered with it up, even though I’m 6-foot-4. The passenger seat, however, wasn’t as comfortable as that used on previous models. It just wasn’t as plush. Honda cut out the couch, but the couch on the back of that bad boy is what helped sell so many passengers on its ride. Will potential passengers who are going to be spending time on the back of this bike care about the lighter weight, added fuel economy, and improved all-around performance? Or will they have a seat on each and decide that they like the ’17 more simply because they are better supported on the plush, oversize cushioning of the older model?

I get that Honda is trying to move Gold Wing away from the couch image, and the company deserves credit for this. Anyone who has ridden a Wing knows it is way more than a couch on wheels, but the Gold Wing passengers have always enjoyed a luxurious seat unlike that of just about any other motorcycle. The rider’s seat is cut down for more aggressive riding and has options for a backrest or a higher back. The passenger seat is cut down but enjoys none of these options, and now the back is slightly more forward-tilted and the grab handles underneath the rider are in a much less ergonomically friendly position. With the sportier feel of the 2018 bike, I wish the passenger had a little more support against hard braking, like the more ergonomically positioned handles or more leaned-back seat of last year’s bike.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Saddlebags

Aside from passenger comfort, the only other shortcoming riders may find in the new Gold Wing is storage space. Dropping from 150 liters to 110, with no options of a larger trunk or taller lid, I think a lot of riders will see Honda moving in the wrong direction. The inside wall of the saddlebags is not a smooth surface, either, meaning that volume counted there isn’t totally usable. You can still fit two full-face helmets in the trunk (we tried it), and there is a luggage rack option available for the top—so if you need more space, you can find it.

Like many touring bikes, the load capacity is surprisingly low at 425.5 pounds. The Centers for Disease Control claims the average weight of an American male is 195 pounds—add a passenger on that and some luggage and you’re approaching the limit real quick.

Honda integrated virtually all of the tech you could hope to see on this model, it made it skinnier, lighter, and way better looking. It’s more fuel efficient, it’s more modern, and it’s a whole lot more fun. But if you were to ask their target market what they really wanted, would you hear lighter and more sporty? Or would you hear more storage, passenger comfort, and longer distance between stops? Honda has updated the Gold Wing and brought it into the modern era, and it has done this incredibly well. A lot of sport has been added to the Gold Wing’s touring chops. Whether that’s enough to conquer a new generation of Gold Wing riders, or whether or not these are the types of changes existing riders wanted will remain to be seen.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour MT: $26,700

2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour MT: $26,700

Gold Wing Tour DCT: $27,700
Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag: $31,500

Images Courtesy of Honda

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This guy doesn’t have a ramps, so he decide to unload his bike without them, he got very creative.

So here is one example how to unload your bike if you lack ramps.

Scroll down to watch the video!!!!

If you like this story don’t forget to Follow Us on Facebook and stay updated for our next awesome story.

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WE’RE SUCKERS FOR beautiful metalwork, but a good set of technical upgrades is just as likely to grab our attention. And seeing both boxes ticked on one build is a rare treat.

This graceful Yamaha XS650 was built for the ‘Motorcycles as Art’ exhibition at this year’s Sturgis Buffalo Chip, curated by the renowned motorcycle photographer Michael Lichter. It’s the work of Jay Donovan—the 23-year-old sole proprietor of Baresteel Design in Victoria, BC, Canada.

“I was very fortunate to be a part of it,” says Jay. “I contacted Michael in the months leading up to the show, wanting to know how to get involved and what the theme was.”

“After hearing that it would be based around up and coming builders, I knew I wanted to take part. He had enough faith to invite me to participate in the show—without much previous work to show and without a motorcycle even started.”

With only two and a half months until the deadline, Jay dragged a 1979 Yamaha XS650into his small shop and knuckled down. Baresteel is a true one-man show, so Jay handled everything on the project aside from the plating, powder-coating and upholstery.

He also farmed the engine top-end rebuild off to a friend at Whiplash Customs, mainly because of the project’s tight deadline.

From a design perspective, Jay wanted to heavily rework a stock Yamaha XS650—so heavily, that the final product would seem like it was entirely built from scratch.

“Much of the new frame and swingarm lines were inspired by the original platform,” he explains. “The body came from a desire for a very fluid but aggressive design. As the design developed it took on inspiration from a Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, hence the name ‘Manta’.”

To execute his vision, Jay rebuilt most of the rear of the chassis. The subframe is gone, replaced by a custom-made tail section, set at an angle parallel to the engine fins. It includes a new shock mount too; Jay ditched the stock twin shock arrangement and added in a 2008 Ducati Monster mono shock.

On the swingarm side, Jay started by removing the stock unit’s gusset and spacing the arms out to accept a wider rear tire. He then notched the dropouts and built in upper and lower support structures to finish off the mono-shock setup. He’s also converted it to use needle bearings, and added a hand-filed gusset for reinforcement.

Every little detail has been seen to. Note how the new swingarm supports bend at the back to all run parallel, and how they’re all finished with matching end caps. The rest of the frame had its factory welds cleaned up, before everything was brushed and clear powder coated.

The new rear is matched to a set of 2002 Suzuki SV650 forks and brakes. The forks were lowered one and a half inches, and upgraded with Race Tech springs and emulators. Jay also shaved off the old fender mounts and polished everything up.

The wheels were rebuilt on the Yamaha’s stock hubs with 17” rims from Excel. The hubs were also treated to a polish, and Jay laced and trued the wheels himself with stainless steel spokes and nipples. The tires are Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 high-performance radials.

Even though the XS650 hadn’t seen many miles, the engine got some attention too. As well as getting the top-end rebuild, the heads were re-machined, and everything but the cases was vapor-blasted.

Updated components include a Boyer Bransen digital ignition, Mikuni VM34 round slide carbs and an XSCHARGE permanent magnet alternator. Jay’s also added three-inch velocity stacks, and a stunning custom-made exhaust system that snakes around the motor and terminates under the bike.

The wiring’s been redone around a Lithium-ion battery and Motogadget’s updated M-unit 2. Other Motogadget goodies include a wireless RFID key system, a mini gauge and LED turn signals. The headlight and taillight are LEDs too, with the latter integrated into the tail.

Then there’s that stunning alloy bodywork. “The body was designed using the classic Italian coach building method of creating a wire form buck, then using it as a guide for shaping the metal,” explains Jay.

“The one piece aluminum tank and tail section, as well as the fairing, was all hand formed from a flat sheet of aluminum using traditional methods, and given a brushed finish.”

Moving to the cockpit, Jay installed Woodcraft clip-ons with a throttle housing, levers and brake master cylinder from Kustom Tech. The switches and grips are from Motogadget; the grips were machined down to to accommodate wrapped leather inserts.

The foot controls are modified Loaded Gun Customs rear sets, and include. Like the grips, the toe pegs were machined down and treated to some leather. The kick-start lever got the same treatment, all to match the leather on the new seat. And if you look closely, there’s even a leather battery bag hiding in front of the swing arm.

Jay also fabbed up a sneaky license plate bracket using the arm from a brass desk lamp. “It’s fully adjustable and designed to house wires, and its contours were even a great fit for the bike,” he says. “My fascination with shapes and proportion leads me to walking through thrift shops for interesting (and sometimes useful) items like that.”

The detailing is quite remarkable. Every bolt head is smoothed and slightly domed, and all the nuts have bee replaced with chromed acorn nuts. Every piece of hardware was either cadmium plated by Electrosine, polished, or chromed to show-quality standards. There’s also a little brass tastefully sprinkled throughout.

Jay managed to wrap it all just in time for the show, where he got some good news: the bike was selected to be shown off again at the upcoming Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy.

Hopefully he’ll find some time to ride it in between—because this art piece looks like it was also made to be thrashed.

Images by Jason Schultz

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Only recently, Suzuki India MD, Satoshi Uchida had announced that the motorcycle maker will shift focus from the mass market towards the fast-growing scooter and premium motorcycle space in the country. In an interview, he said, “Since we are a late entrant, we need to have a different approach. Our immediate focus is on the fast-growing scooter space and premium motorcycles. Our aim is to grab 10% share in the segments that we operate. Once we reach scale, then we may look at the mass market.”

P.S: Images used here are for representation only

Now, a little birdie has informed us that Suzuki India will be launching a cruiser styled 150cc motorcycle as early as next month. He mentioned that the bike’s styling borrows influences from the 1,800cc Suzuki Intruder, however, will be propelled by a 154.9cc, single-cylinder engine which it will share with the Gixxer. Good for 14.8PS @ 8,000 rpm and 14Nm @ 6,000 clicks, expect the motor to be tuned for strong initial and mid-range power under this new motorcycle’s tank. The insider also tells us that production has already commenced at the factory, where the first lot of motorcycles will be shipped to dealers in the first week of November. A formal launch will happen just after.

In the current scheme of things, this rumoured motorcycle will compete against the Bajaj Avenger 150, which, going by the number of examples which can be spotted on our streets, is already quite popular. We expect the motorcycle to offer a relaxed, feet forward riding stance, loads of chrome, and a shiny paint job. Powered by that smooth 150cc motor, it should make for a value offering for those who lust after cruisers. Such a move by Suzuki Motorcycles India could also make Yamaha mull about injecting new life into their once popular Enticer brand. As of now, we can only speculate though.

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H-D’s new aggressive Softail

The new Softail line brings the elimination of the Dyna family as well as a revamping of the previous version of the Softail family. Now rocking a new chassis, Milwaukee-Eight motors, and an upgraded suspension including a monoshock, the 2018 Softails are a whole new breed.

“The Fat Bob is surely the sportiest bike in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, but that doesn’t mean I would call it sporty. The suspension is nice and taut (though jarring for me on our short freeway stint), and the cornering clearance is better than on anything else currently available from the brand, but the riding experience reminds me of my first time riding the Sportster Forty-Eight.”

Sean MacDonald of Cycle World

The new Fat Bob is by far the most aggressively designed model in the family. The Fat Bob is one of the Softails that can be ordered in either the 107 or 114 M-8engines. The starting price for the new Fat Bob is $16,999.

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KAWASAKI

Remember the Kawasaki Ninja 400 that was spotted during commercial shoot in Harley-Davidson’s backyard? The motorcycle, as per documents from California Air Resources Board, with a 399cc displacement, will be heading to the US market soon. The motorcycles came into news after Kawasaki shut down the North Avenue between Cramer and Prospect in Milwaukee for about an hour to shoot the commercial for the new generation model.

From what we could see in the video, the new 2017 Ninja 400 will most likely get muscular styling along with the new Kawasaki Racing Team livery. Visually, the design is sharper and we can see ZX-10R inspired styling cues, along with, as aforementioned, the KRT livery. Hardware list, as seen in the video, includes conventional telescopic front suspension, clip-on handlebars and what appears to be a ZX-10R inspired LED tail light.

Powering tasks will most likely be provided by a Liquid-cooled DOHC 8-valve 399 cc Parallel Twin motor capable of producing 44PS and peak torque at 37Nm.

While there is no official statement from Kawasaki, the motorcycle is expected to arrive at the 2017 EICMA motorcycle show. We may not see the motorcycle on Indian shores anytime soon. We’ll bring you more updates as and when they arrive. Meanwhile, let us know your views about the Kawasaki Ninja 400 through the comments section.

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IN BRIEF

Zero Motorcycles has revealed their 2018 lineup of electric bikes. They’ll be the same prices as their 2017 counterparts, but reduced charging speeds, improved range, and faster acceleration will undoubtedly make them more desirable.

QUICK CHARGE

Zero Motorcycles makes some pretty fancy electric motorcycle models that can be used by both consumers and police units. With the introduction of its 2018 lineup, Zero has improved the capabilities of its bikes with a higher range and reduced charging times.

As Zero explains in its 2018 highlights post, the improvements to their electric motorcycle models are a result of the newly-revealed 6 kW Charge Tank accessory, which can be used by the company’s Zero S, Zero SR, Zero DS, and Zero DSR bikes. The new accessory enables the Zero S and DS ZF7.2 to be charged roughly an hour when plugged into a level 1 110 V outlet, while larger batteries found in the SR and DSR can be charged in around two hours using a level 2 charger.

As for the vehicles’ range, the electric motorcycle models equipped with the ZF7.2 and ZF14.4 power packs can now travel 10% farther thanks to “improved battery chemistry.” How far they can go largely depends on the area you’re in, but Zero notes the range will top out at around 223 miles.

“It’s the highest power and energy density battery in today’s transportation industry and for its size takes you farther than any other electric vehicle on the planet,” says Zero.

A NEED FOR SPEED

Riders who are all about speed will be happy to hear the new electric motorcycle models are slightly faster too. Bikes with the ZF7.2 power pack provide 11% more rear wheel torque, while the powertrains of the ZF13.0 Zero S and Zero DS have been finely tuned to offer up to 30% more power and torque. Want to quickly pass other cars and motorcycles on the road? Now you can.

According to Engadget, prices for the new 2018 models are the same as the 2017 models, with the cheapest Zero FX starting at $8,495. If you’re eyeing the base model Zero S, it starts at $10,995, though the Charge Tank will cost you another $2,295 — a high price to pay if you want to get back on the road quickly after a battery-depleting ride.

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November’s EICMA show in Milan may reveal a new generation of supercharged Kawasaki engines and related models

Kawasaki shocked the world three years ago when it unveiled the supercharged H2 and H2R sportbikes. The 16-valve, DOHC, 998cc inline-four that powers both of those hot rods is boosted by a mechanically driven centrifugal supercharger to generate in track-only H2R trim 310 hp at 14,000 rpm and 115 pound-feet of peak torque at 12,500 rpm.

The engineering team had one obvious target: Give life to the most powerful production motorcycle in the history of the sport, whatever use that would be good for in real life. Large displacement, oversquare bore and stroke (76 x 55mm) for sky-high revs, plus supercharging—no prisoners taken.

While the H2/H2R is a clear statement of technological leadership, neither supercharging nor turbocharging has so far done for the motorcycle what it has done for 20 years for production automobiles: Allow a small engine to deliver high fuel economy at freeway speeds, yet with forced induction to also deliver spirited acceleration and real-world on-ramp performance.

The problem that has kept this from happening on two wheels is the limited tire footprint of the motorcycle. Not only does a motorcycle have only two wheels, but it uses only one-third of the width of those two tires. This small footprint cannot transmit the fast-rising and peaky torque of either turbocharging or the centrifugal supercharger of the Kawasaki H2/H2R.

A motorcycle’s drive wheel requires extremely smooth, predictable torque, which is why modern engine-control electronics (ride by wire, virtual powerband, traction control, anti-wheelie) have had such good success in smoothing the power delivery of existing bikes.

In revealing its “Balanced Supercharging” concept in 2015, Kawasaki showed a rotary shutter in the intake of a centrifugal blower (possibly similar to the “vortex throttle” used on Cosworth Champ Car engines) but did not explain either its purpose or function. We can only speculate that it might be used with fast computer control to maintain a desired boost pressure in an engine’s sealed intake airbox, thereby dealing with the old problem of torque that rises too fast for human control.

We will have to wait to see what Kawasaki reveals at EICMA this November. In a teaser about “Balanced Supercharging,” Kawasaki refers to a new generation of sport-tourers equipped with supercharged engines that were conceived to deliver supreme flexibility and great torque at relatively low rpm.


EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Kawasaki Ninja H2R Dyno Run

Ford did something similar with its 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a little turbocharged monster that became the new standard in spark-ignited engineering for its solid peak power—140 hp at 6,000 rpm, combined with an incredibly thick and flat torque curve (133 pound-feet of torque at a mere 1,500 rpm)—and very low fuel consumption.

Ford applied lessons learned from diesel engine practice: a nearly flat pent-roof cylinder head (modest 22 degrees included valve angle) with the largest portion of the combustion chamber a deep bowl in the piston crown. This configuration proved effective at reducing knock despite compression exceeding 10:1, high for a mass-production supercharged engine.

In addition, the deep chamber keeps tumble turbulence alive through the compression/combustion cycle for perfect combustion and high efficiency. The combination proved to be a shortcut to high efficiency and torque not seen since the days of the Ford-Cosworth DFV 3.0-liter Formula 1 V-8, the engine that in 1967 set new thermodynamic standards.

Ford used turbocharging to reset the relationship between displacement, revs, and mean effective pressure, the main factors that participate in the definition of the power generated by internal-combustion piston engines. In this case, engineers drastically reduced the influence of revs and boosted mean effective pressure to an extremely high 304.5 psi. For a street-legal, naturally aspirated engine, we would be happy to see slightly more than half of that, say, 174 psi.

Not having to worry about mean piston speed, Ford engineers selected a small bore and a long stroke, which contributed to the clean, efficient, high-compression-ratio combustion chamber. Kawasaki appears to have adopted that same philosophy to deliver supremely flexible engines combining additional torque delivery, smoothness, and power.

Kawasaki used a mechanically driven supercharger for the H2/H2R. Can we in the future expect an electrically driven supercharger managed by the ECU for even higher engine efficiency and smoothness? Audi has done this with its SQ7 turbodiesel 4.0-liter V-8, and it works well.

If Kawasaki is able to combine small-engine economy with big-engine torque and power through a new and more controllable form of supercharging, that company will have opened a previously closed door to the future.

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“With 23 years of continuous production (well, as continuous as Cagiva get), the Mito is the planet’s longest-running stroker and for the first decade of its existence was desirable as any superbike.

“Penned by Massimo Tamburini, the first generation had bodywork virtually identical to Cagiva’s 500GP bike, the second generation aped a Ducati 916.But there was more to the bike than looks – a searing powerband, a seven-speed gearbox and a chassis capable of containing a much bigger engine made it fodder for teenage racers (Rossi’s first track foray was on a Mito) and specials builders who bolted in anything from RD350 motors to CR500s.

“My yearning for one was sated when I was involved in the build of a CR-engined Mito. It was magnificent and crap, all at the same time.”

 

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