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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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It’s a well-known fact that 1970s drag racing was pretty much the coolest thing that has ever graced God’s earth. And Blind Freddy could tell you that the French are as cool as all hell. And what about the Honda Dax? That thing’s cooler than James Brown doing shots of liquid nitrogen. So what happens when you combine all three? You get coolness levels approaching that of Absolute Zero. Just ask French bike builders Duke Motorcycles; after getting their hands dirty on this little Honda Dax drag bike build, they’ve probably got a case of terminal frostbite.

“My name is Lionel,” says Monsieur Duke, the shop’s owner. “I’ve been a car and motorbike mechanic for over 20 years. I’m passionate about all kinds of motorbikes, but  particularly custom bikes. Then four years ago, I set up my workshop to pursue my passion and cater especially for cafe racers, scramblers, brats and bobbers”.

The Duke workshop is situated in Tourettes sur Loup, a small village next to Nice in the South of France. By all reports the shop itself is quite basic. As Lionel explains, “It’s to keep the spirit of the cafe racer in all of my work”.

“For this project, the client wanted the Dax to keep some essence of the design’s original spirit but be much more muscular, so I decided to do it as a ’70s-style drag bike”. Sure that seems simple enough, but as we all know, drag bike need a wider tyre – and wide tyres is something the Dax was never designed for. “To get the rear end the way I wanted it, I had to completely cut it up and then rebuild everything bigger and wider”. That includes a full custom swingarm, too.

And that wasn’t all that was chopped. The entirety of the bike’s frame was made wider to accommodate a bigger, better 5.5 litre tank and the fresh 190cc, 30 hp Daytona 4-valve donk designed for competitive dirt bike racing. Fun fact: that’s a 600% increase on the factory bike’s original 5 hp. Hot diggity.

“With such an increase, it was necessary to upgrade the brakes. We decided to adapt some Ducati Brembos and made all the required fixtures in aluminium. We then made and aluminium intake manifold for the new Yoshimura 28 carburettor”. The rear shock was also taken for a Ducati – a 900 SS in fact.

Continuing the shape shifting, the bike’s seat has been reduced in height and length while also managing to keep the original appearance and has been recovered in premium Alcantara by a local saddlery. “Then I realised that a metal flake paint job would really take things to the next level, so I decided on a gold with some red airbrushed gradations on a base of cream to give it a cool, retro style. This was topped off with classic brush script lettering”.

Other cool delights on the Honda include a host of Motogadget goodies, including a speedo and fob locker, some Falcon Vee Rubber tires, Enkei rims, a set of USV Racing forks and a Kepspeed exhaust system.

“For the Honda’s photos, we decided to do a night shoot in the centre of Nice,” says Lionel in closing. “I think the shots really show off the bike’s best parts. For me, that’s the rear end and the fact that it’s pure and finessed while also having a lot of physical presence. This was my core intention; this is the image I had in my head from the start”. Goal achieved, we think. And then some.

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The Riding Assist-e is the latest step in Honda’s quest to make motorcycling more accessible to everyone. (Credit: Honda / NewAtlas.com)

Honda will debut a fascinating new motorcycle built specifically to help learner motorcyclists coming to grips with two wheels for the first time. The bike will be one of the highlights on Honda’s stand at the forthcoming 45th Tokyo Motor Show, which runs from October 27 to November 5.

Dubbed the Honda Riding Assist-e, the bike is an electric vehicle with a low center-of-gravity and a very low seat height, but its most interesting capability is a self-balancing technology.

For those who ride a motorcycle already, the concept of your motorcycle deciding how far you can lean it over might seem counter productive. But Honda’s balancing technology, which is apparently derived from its humanoid robot research, only balances the bike at “very low speeds” – something that seems to make perfect sense.

Few details have been released at this stage and it’s unlikely we’ll know anything more until the bike is shown to the media on October 25, but here’s hoping that Honda will do more than just show the bike and ask us to suspend disbelief.

From the imagery that has been released, the gyroscopic self-balancing device appears to be located between the rider’s thighs, and though it is likely that power is delivered via an electric hub motor, the single-sided swing-arm seems disproportionately large, suggesting there may be additional Honda engineering magic contained therein.

Similarly, the trellis frame appears to be far more robust than one would expect of a low powered learner bike.

A close look at the instrument panel in the Honda-supplied images also suggests the bike will be configurable for different levels of newbies – it is pictured displaying “Mode 4”, so there will be at least four modes. The number of degrees of lean is also displayed on the dash, perhaps indicating the bike can be configured to intervene at a particular lean angle and deactivate at a particular speed.

All said, the unconventional appearance of the bike conveys it isn’t your normal learner bike, and that promises something quite special when the Honda name is involved.

Let’s hope so.

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By Tom White

There is little doubt that 1981 was an interesting year for Honda. The manufacturer went all Star Wars on its cosmetics, plus water-cooled the CR125 and CR250, introduced the ill-fated CR450 and unveiled the stupidest front number plate in motocross history. Still, the 1981 CR250 tried to bring exotic works technology to the production line. It was the first-ever, water-cooled, 250cc production bike. Borrowing works technology, the 1981 CR250 shared the works bike’s long-stroke engine design, center port exhaust, semi-double-cradle frame and Pro-Link single-shock suspension. Although Honda wasn’t the first to put a single-shock system on a production bike, the Pro-Link setup proved to be a precursor for all the linkage designs in use today.

In 1981 Honda broke away from Showa to outfit the CR250 with Kayaba components. Honda wasn’t ready to go to disc brakes in 1981, but it did equip the CR250 with a double-leading-shoe front drum that worked very well. There were problems, though. The frames had a tendency to break, the clutch slipped, the head pipe hung below the frame and the transmission popped out of third gear constantly. Even worse, the 1981 CR250 weighed a ton, and the wing-like front number plate, designed to get more air to the two small radiators, was so ugly that nobody ever raced with it.

THE ODDITY EXTRAPOLATION

The 1981 Honda CR250 is collectible only because of its unique place in history. Not a great bike by any stretch of the imagination, it is memorable for its ground-breaking technology and ugly aesthetics. Even oddities can have a following, which is why collector bikes must have the original wing-style front number plate, along with the double-leading-shoe front brake and remote reservoir, four-click adjustable shock.

The Japanese domestic version did not have the wing-like front number plate, but then none of the American models had them once the buyers got the bike home. The domestic Japanese model (shown above) had a forward facing, but very small front number plate (with the same wire screen below it as the American model).

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What does $8,749 buy you in 2018? Let’s start here: Honda’s CBR650F, a sport motorcycle made in Japan. Basic specs include a 649cc engine (from a 67mm bore and a 46mm stroke) with liquid cooling, chain driven, and a 4.6-gallon fuel tank.

 

Specifications

 

ENGINE

  • BORE (MM) 67
  • COMPRESSION RATIO 11.4:1
  • COOLING Liquid
  • DISPLACEMENT IN CC 649
  • DISPLACEMENT IN CI 39.6
  • ENGINE TYPE In-Line
  • STARTER Electric
  • STROKE 46
  • VALVE CONFIGURATION DOHC

TRANSMISSION

  • NUMBER OF SPEEDS 6
  • TRANSMISSION TYPE Manual


TIRES

  • FRONT TIRE Dunlop® Sportmax: 120/70ZR 17
  • REAR TIRE Dunlop® Sportmax: 180/55ZR 17


BRAKES

  • FRONT BRAKE DIAMETER 320
  • FRONT BRAKE TYPE Dual Hydraulic Disc
  • REAR BRAKE DIAMETER 9.4
  • REAR BRAKE TYPE Hydraulic Disc


SUSPENSION & STEERING

  • AIR ADJUSTABLE No
  • FRONT SUSPENSION BRAND NAME Showa®
  • FRONT SUSPENSION TYPE Telescopic Fork
  • REAR ADJUSTABLE REBOUND DAMPING No
  • REAR ADJUSTABLE SHOCK / SPRING PRE-LOAD Yes
  • REAR SUSPENSION TYPE Twin Sided Swing Arm
  • SEAT HEIGHT (IN) 31.9


OTHER

  • FUEL CAPACITY (GAL) 4.6
  • MANUFACTURER COUNTRY Japan
  • MANUFACTURER TYPE Sport
  • WET WEIGHT (LBS) 461
  • WHEELBASE (IN) 57.1



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BARE METAL CAFE RACERS from Spain and Italy are spinning our wheels this week, plus a Honda XR600R tracker conversion and a fluoro orange Yamaha FZ-09 from Australia.

Honda XR600R by Vintage Addiction Crew The Crew are no strangers to these parts. They’ve impressed us couple of times before with their attention to detail and expert level of execution.

And they’ve done it again with this transformation of a Honda XR600R into a scrappy looking street tracker. Given its Baja-winning roots, the Barcelona guys were originally thinking a vintage enduro build would foot the bill. But after some reminiscing over old flat track photos, the thumper’s new identity was forged.

But first they needed the engine to fire. Moto Racing Canet helped with the rebuild, as things had actually seized solid. And while the internals were being seen to, the V.A. Crew went to work on the rest. A Sportster surrendered its peanut tank, which was reworked to sit so pretty on the Honda’s spine. A new, 2-piece subframe was fitted and the obligatory fiberglass flat track tail bolted on. The suspension was rebuilt and lowered to nail its new stance on those 19-inch hoops and a gorgeous coat of HRC paint dressed everything up.

Honda CB750 by Bolt Motor Co. I’d like to say it’s not every day we see a Honda CB cafe—but that would be a lie. Truth be told, the inboxes are inundated with them, so it takes something special to truly stand out. This time around, that standout comes with a bare metal finish, from Valencia’s Bolt Motor Company.

Working with a late model 1994 CB750, Bolt’s craftsmen had a bit of plastic to strip down before they started this build. But they didn’t stop there. The tank that Honda spec’d in the mid-nineties had an aero treatment that just wasn’t going to sit right for a cafe racer, so the flowing OE unit was swapped for one from a 77’ K7. From there, all of the electrics were tidied and the airbox was ditched to deliver one of the cleanest triangles we’ve seen. But it’s the seat and tail unit that steals the show here. To perfectly match the shape of the K7’s tank, Bolt’s designers took to some 3D modeling before fabrication and absolutely killed it.

Ducati cafe racer by Affetto It’s hard to go wrong with a custom Ducati when you draw inspiration from Paul Smart. Which is why this tribute in raw metal from Affetto Ducati is making me drool.

Of course, there’s a bit more going on than some fancy metalwork and a painted frame. Leo Fleuren, the Dutchman behind Affetto, has a thing for transforming old and rare Italians, so the base for this bike begins with an 860 Bevel. To ensure everything would work flawlessly, the frame was fettled and the swingarm from a late-model Sport Classic was fitted. But it too needed modification as the drive chain on the Bevel churns rubber from the right side, not the left. The wheels are from a Ducati Scrambler, and the brakes from a 996.

Wiring has all been re-worked with some help from Motogadget and a lightweight, lithium battery hides in the hump. Speaking of which, all of that gorgeous bodywork—the tank, tail and front fender—was hand beaten by local wizards at Labro Carrozzeria.

Yamaha FZ-09 by Ellaspede The Brisbane, Australia shop seems to nail that balance of performance and style with every build. What started out as a riotous city-mouse from the factory has been transformed into a country-mouse machine that’s just as comfortable scampering along the beachfront as it is heading into the Outback.

Starting with a bone stock 2014 FZ-09 (or MT-09, depending), a quick consult with its owner revealed a desire for some dusty path work. That meant the asphalt-friendly suspenders at both ends needed to go. Öhlins were units were fitted up on both ends to soak up the rough stuff without elevating the seat height into the stratosphere, and a set of Continental TKC 70s found their way onto the mags.

Since the Yammie already had a competent layout, the tank and seat remain untouched. But Ellaspede put some tidy work into the 3-into-1-into-2 high-mount exhaust system, guarded by a set of custom side covers. The rumor is those mags may soon swap to spokes, and with them an upgrade to TKC 80 rubber. But we’re liking the looks on this thing as it sits.

Triumph Thruxton R by Alo’s Cafe There’s rarely a day that goes by where I don’t ponder plunking down on Triumph’s new Thruxton R. Of course, that doesn’t mean things can’t be improved.

The Italian Triumph dealer and custom shop Alo’s Cafe was approached by watchmakers Meccaniche Veloci to build a cafe racer that would reflect the intricacies of their timepieces. ‘Bullet Time’ is the result.

Working with aluminum—for their first time, I might add—Alo’s team put over 100 hours into the bodywork fabrication alone. The dolphin fairing, side panels and hand-rolled fender were all left with a raw, brushed finish that’s echoed by the stripped, factory tank. The seat is a completely bespoke unit that was contrast-stitched in Alo’s workshop. That stitching mimics the style found on Meccaniche’s watchbands, and the aluminum stripe atop the hump is form-fitted. Finishing things off, a custom exhaust snakes through whatever negative space it can find to keep a slim profile, and is capped on both sides by Zard cans.

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If you own a 2015 or 2016 Honda CRF450 contact your local dealer before riding the bike again.

Honda is sending out letters to 5700 2015-16 Honda CRF450 owners to stop riding their bikes and go see their dealers to have a potentially defective transmission C5 gear replaced. The transmission C5 gear dogs lack fatigue strength and may break. The transmission countershaft 5th (C5) gear, used for engaging third gear, may break under certain riding conditions. If a C5 gear dog breaks, the transmission can seize and cause the rear wheel to lock. A rear wheel that locks while riding increases the risk of a crash.

AFFECTED UNITS: All 2015 CRF450 and all 2016 CRF450s.Vehicle identification numbers (VIN) ending in 7FK400015 through 6FK403360, for the 2015 model, and 36GK500009 through 1GK502993, for the 2016 model, are included in this recall. The VIN is stamped on a nameplate located in the frame at the front right, near the steering head. The motorcycles, manufactured in Japan, were sold at authorized Honda Powersports dealers nationwide from September 2014, through August 2017,

SERVICE BULLETIN: Honda has released Service Bulletin CRF450 #4, which includes the affected models, repair procedure, parts information, as well as warranty claim information.

CUSTOMER NOTIFICATION: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled motorcycles and contact an authorized Honda Powersports dealer to schedule a free inspection and free repair. Honda intends to mail customer letters as early as possible, pending approval from applicable government regulatory agencies. Consumer may contact American Honda toll-free at (866) 784-1870 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday.

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At first glance, Taiwan and California would seem to be world’s apart. But when you’ve spent your childhood in the East and now live on the West Coast, we guess the two just might cross-pollinate in some pretty unexpected ways. And for JSK Moto’s Samuel Kao, that mix was the guiding light for his latest build, a Honda Beach Scrambler with more than a little Taiwan built right in.

Named ‘Project Argent Corundum’ (meaning ‘Silver Jade) by Sam, the build is based on a Honda Rebel 250 that was stripped down and customised with the intention to create a lightweight, fun motorcycle that was a real tribute to youth. From the factory, the motorcycle weighed in at around 141kg (331lbs) and the JSK team managed to trim it by a solid 23kg (50lbs). Another goal for the project was to keep the original engine and frame but customise everything else with parts sourced from Taiwan – Sam’s birthplace.

“Using parts from the East was a decision to pay emotional tribute and respect to the first  25 years of my life, being raised in Taiwan,” says Sam. “With this project, we found there are lots of quality parts from the country. Regardless if it was for aesthetics, mechanical design, or engineering, the parts and professional services we used all have roots from there”.

Good in the desert, too

The front shocks for Argent Corundum are an OEM part for the Taiwanese SYM T1. These are then connected to the frame with a WRRP triple tree. Keen to fit a pair of BMX bike carbon fiber handle bars, they commissioned local metalworkers Black Smith Co. to make a bar mount to fit on top of the triple. They also installed WRRP rearsets and exhaust. For the break and clutch upgrades, Sam utilised a Frando master cylinder, clutch cylinder and caliper with PSR fluid reservoirs thrown into the mix. To make the engine breathe a little sweeter, they also slipped on a SIMOTA air filter.

“Then we commissioned AirRunner, our favorite custom painters, and once again they managed a truly beautiful job. We wanted to make it a budget friendly build, so this time the tank is not hand-made but instead a slightly modified tank sourced from a Royal Enfield. We chose that tank for the same reason we chose the number plate and headlights; the basic design elements of the bike are cubes or rectangles and the tank also followed the theme. Another reason why we chose the tank is because it can hold 17 liters (4.7 gallons). With that much fuel, you can basically scramble it for days on end before your next fill-up”.

The Honda’s rear shock is a custom-tailored Gears Racing HILL-2 Plus and the rims are from the Kymco Quannon 150m, as is the aluminium rear swingarm. Rubber-wise, Sam used the classic Maxxis 17″ flat track tires for the general riding setup. And for sand use, some German Continental TKC80 hoops are fitted.

“Project Argent Corundum was intended to be a lightweight, easy-going motorcycle that really only focuses on one thing. Happiness. Often we pursue the intense thrill of acceleration from a large displacement motorcycle. That’s cool. But we found that sometimes it feels great to get on a small bike for a bit of off-road fun”.

a lightweight, easy-going motorcycle that really only focuses on one thing. Happiness.


And as you can see from the photos, it’s also a very versatile little Scrambler. “It can be your little motorcycle to take for a free ride at a dry lake,” says Sam. “You can also use it as a racetrack pit bike, run local errands, or to take your board and go surfing. Whatever your pleasure is, this Honda won’t burden you with anything more than happiness”. Where do we sign?

Taking a break from the happiness

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With a population of 1.4 billion, China should be a goldmine for bike builders. But it’s not: motorcycles are banned in many of the biggest cities. In Shanghai you can still get a license plate for a bike, if you have 450,000 Renminbi (Yuan) to hand. Which is about US$67,500.

On the other hand, you can get a license for an electric bike for about 50 RMB, which is $7.50. China is tackling pollution by shifting the market towards electric motorcycles, and the small number of local custom builders are adapting fast.

Shanghai Customs is one of those builders. We’ve already shown their stylish electric street tracker, but shop boss Matthew Waddick reckons it’s this new eCub that will soon become his biggest ever seller.

“Shanghai is a pushbike city first and foremost,” says the expat New Zealander. “Always has been, and always will be. Even before millions of cars and scooters took over, everyone used to get around on bicycles. The city is flat and beautiful, and with the architecture, shops and crazy traffic it’s perfect for electric scooters.”

Most of the ebikes in Shanghai are cheap and nasty, and powered by inefficient old-style lead-acid batteries: China’s most ‘westernized’ city has not yet cottoned on to the idea of stylish, high quality electric scooters. But Matthew is determined to change that. “I noticed that the Cub frame is everywhere in China. I think it came ‘off patent’ years ago, and the Chinese swooped on it.”

“China is horrible for motorcycles, but with electric bikes we have an opening—and an amazing opportunity. Components for many of the world’s top brand electric motorcycles are made here.”

If you’re attracted to minimalism and timeless design, you probably appreciate the elegant simplicity of the Cub frame. Its size lends itself well to an electric scooter conversion.

“With the eCUB, we wanted to put down our own stamp of authority—and build a bike that was not only a piece of art, but could also be ridden. It needed enough range and speed to be used as a daily ride. The idea is to create an ‘eCUB culture’ in Shanghai.”

Matthew started by welding a cover over the part of the frame where the engine used to be. He’s also made mounts and fixtures to secure the stainless steel box that holds the battery pack and battery management system. But he’s left the holders for the rear foot pegs in place, because the eCub comes with a dual-seat option for riding pillion.

“I modified the swing arm to accept the electric motor, and then laced it onto an 18-inch gloss black aluminum rim,” he explains. The chunky-looking 3.25×18 tires are from one of the better Chinese tire brands, CST. The adjustable suspension, in brushed aluminum and black, was custom made by a suspension specialist 200 miles away in Zhe Jiang.

Control comes from a 3-wire motorcycle-style throttle: “It gives a nice snapping carburetor effect,” says Matthew. But the real achievement is hiding all the wiring that comes with a fully electric bike, not to mention the battery pack.

“With electrics there is always something to do. I’m working with a renowned electrical engineer, the Australian Sam Dekok, to reengineer some motors to improve performance. Then there’s the internal componentry in the controller, the different fast charging solutions, battery sensor technology … the list just goes on.”

The eCub has
 three types of regenerative braking: switch, throttle and variable. “I have wired it up to the switch on the left brake lever. Releasing the throttle also activates motor braking, which slows the bike like a traditional gas motor and puts volts back into the cells.”

Although the eCUB looks ultra minimalistic, it’s fully wired up with a front headlight, a rear brake LED and flashing LED blinkers. The 60v power system is stepped down to 12v to run the lights. “The Cub is not a big bike, so it is literally jam packed with wires.”

Power comes from Panasonic Sanyo Li-ion cells in a 1.2 kW pack, wired up to a 2000 W hub motor. Three heavy-duty phase wires head into the controller.

“There are wires everywhere: phase connections, throttle wire connections, hall sensor wires, switch wires, boost, reverse low speed, regen brake switches, 12 V systems, the key ignition and 
more. It’s really quite something—but also a super fun experience that just becomes addictive.”

Other than a tiny bit of grease on the steering head bearings and front drum brake, there are absolutely no fluids of any kind on this Cub.

So we know the engineering is good, and it certainly looks good, but how practical is the eCub? “I was a bit nervous, because you really never know until you try. I’m an 80 kilo (175 pound) male and we went out late one night 
and just kept riding, from full to empty. We hit our target 50:50 mark—a 50 km range driving at 50 kph.”

That’s a huge achievement given the compact size of the bike, and makes the eCub a practical vehicle for city use. “With the Kelly KLS controllers acceleration is smooth. The app also separates the speed ranges and torque, so at the touch of a button you can program your riding style. Personally I like the ‘high’ torque settings at the low end—for take off—with ‘cruise’ at the top end for battery conservation.”

There are still tweaks to be done. The motor is a little too big for the battery pack, so the controller limits the current to 35%.

“I have had the eCUB up to 80 kph and I’m sure it could do 100—but these li-ion batteries are not cheap, and the last thing I want to do is destroy them!” says Matthew. “It’s really a balancing act. But electric bikes are not replacing gas motorcycles for a while yet. They’re an addition, and good city commuters. A ‘turn the key on and go’ kind of thing.”

Much as we love the sound and smell of conventional bikes, it’s good to see custom builders testing the waters in this way—and the tide is undoubtedly going the way of electric at the moment.

“Until now, I’ve found the electric bike scene dominated by tech-orientated builders who put less emphasis on style,” says Matthew. “So it’s been really exciting speaking with top custom builders (many of whom have been featured on EXIF) and seen their interest in building electrics.”

“Hopefully more custom builders will get bitten by the bug, and develop a new custom electric scene.”

Electric power is already creeping into classic car world: how long is it going to be before the same happens to the custom moto world? We can’t wait to see what happens.

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