Keen to get a piece of the action in the always popular liter-sized naked bike scene, Honda debuted an all-new entry in the class with its 2018 CB1000R ($12,999). The CB slots in Big Red’s newly coined Neo Sports segments, which infuses classic styling elements with modern proportions—exuding a true sport appeal.
You won’t hear us dispute the merits of this concept, as both the CB1000R and its affordable little brother, the CB300R are some of the most attractive streetbikes we’ve seen roll out from a Honda showroom. The CB1000R stands out with its liberal use of metal (as opposed to plastic with the 300R) and the exquisite level of fit and finish.
Loaded with all the bells and whistles, the ride-by-wire-equipped Honda employs traction control and adjustable engine power modes that are tweaked through a tasteful-looking digital display and logically designed switch gear. This allows riders to tune the 2006–2007-generation CBR1000RR inline-four engine making it more friendly to wield on the road.
In this week’s MC Commute review, we dive into the positioning of this model and discuss the features and overall riding dynamic of the 2018 CB1000R as we commute to the Motorcyclist magazine office in Southern California. Click the “play” button and see for yourself what it’s like to ride.
The straightaway at the Mugello circuit is nearly three-quarters of a mile long, and as majestic as the Tuscan hills are the only thing I can think when I first lay eyes on the track is that it’s narrower than I expected. My brain quickly stumbles through memories of the racing lore that has been written here. All of the statistics that have been created. The hundreds of thousands of people who cram into the grounds every year, Shinya Nakano’s 199-mph crash, or Valentino Rossi being undefeated in MotoGP for seven years straight.
Then another number: 217. The number of horsepower that Aprilia claims can be produced by the new RSV4 1100 Factory. At the wheel, probably around 10 percent more than the previous RSV4, which made 185 hp on the dyno. I refocus on the straight: It’s 1.1 kilometers and I can’t see the beginning or the end because of the crests in the track. Somehow, even though I’m on the property, the mystique of Mugello is still hiding something from me. Better to focus on the bike, anyway, rather than the numbers.
Aprilia’s new superbike looks very much like the one we’ve come to know over the past decade. An angry triclops face, angular lines in the bodywork, and a tiny tailsection like a wasp’s stinger. This version is also 11 pounds lighter, thanks in part to a new exhaust system and a lithium-ion battery. The combination of matte black paint and winglet loops on the front of the fairing is the main giveaway that this is the new 1100 model, using an 81mm bore for a total of 1,078cc. (That’s the same swell the Tuono got a few years ago, but the RSV’s internals breathe harder and cool better.) Luckily another thing that hasn’t changed is the raspy baritone that fires out the pipe. We journalists have already used every hyperbole to describe what an Aprilia V-4 sounds like, so I’m not going to try again. If you’ve never heard one, just imagine the most perfect engine noise you can and you’re probably close.
As I slap my helmet visor down I remember the RSV4 has a pit-lane limiter, which can be engaged to help you feel like a World Superbike racer. In the pits, anyway. It’s also modern superbikes in a microcosm—aesthetics and technologies designed to help you feel more like your heroes—and a good reminder that simply riding within your limits is usually the best solution. Especially in the paddock. I ignore the limiter function and tap the little paddles near the left clip-on to select traction control level 3, figuring I’m at least in the 70th percentile of track riders.
The first lap around Mugello is like a cruise on a perfect country road. Beautiful and, yes, still narrow. There’s something inescapable and totally intangible about Tuscany. It’s alive with perfect greenery which is periodically pierced and fractured by villages of ancient buildings. There’s a vitality that is as vibrant and new as anything in the world, stoically punctuated by towers and walls of ashen rock that were carved hundreds of years before Columbus set sail. It’s permanent, yet somehow always fresh.
Despite the romance of the scenery, the more you open the RSV4’s throttle the more inclined you are to face forward. The added displacement seems to have stemmed the top-end rush of the old engine, by simply adding midrange thrust. It’s incredibly strong, and makes not knowing my way around the track a little less awkward. Pointing horsepower in the right direction at the right time, however, that’s always the tricky bit. As usual, the RSV4’s chassis and brakes are up for it.
Side-to-side transitions are smooth and controlled, and the top-spec Ӧhlins suspenders are characteristically compliant and supportive. Stylema brake calipers from Brembo grace the front of the RSV4 (same as Ducati’s Panigale V4), and they’ve even got fancy carbon-fiber scoops directing air at them to stay cool. There’s limitless power, but I didn’t get the typical front-end feel I’m accustomed to from Italian superbikes while bailing toward apexes on the brakes. It was a little surprising, especially considering the RSV4 has always been a model of ideal superbike ergonomics and terrific comfort under pressure.
The only other source of instability seems to be horsepower provoked. In the last 20 percent of corner exit the RSV4 1100’s steadiness was a little delicate. Initially the traction control helped me smear the rear Pirelli across the pavement, but as the bike stood up a heavy bar input or bump can jostle the chassis into pumping back and forth. There’s no reason to get off the gas, and the pure quality of the chassis reins it in quickly, but even fiddling with suspension settings didn’t get to calm down. (I’m inclined to blame, at least partially, the soft carcass of the Pirelli SC1 race tires mounted to the bike, but I can’t be sure until I try the bike with different rubber.)
Those are my two main nits to pick, which is to say there is so much that was swept under the rug of my consciousness while flying around Mugello at triple-digit speeds. The quickshifter, for one, is tuned brilliantly for the track, making up- and downshifts as seamless as they are clutchless. The bike has advanced ABS too, but I never felt a whiff of it. Sometimes the dash would blink and remind me that the latest evolution of the APRC suit of rider aids was making sure I didn’t flick myself to the moon like Valentino in the Biondetti. Maybe I wasn’t riding hard enough.
And then there’s that straightaway. By the time I was wide open exiting the final corner the bike was showing 120 mph. At the top of fourth gear, around 150 mph, the front wheel would lift gently as if nodding to the pit-lane entrance. Sixth gear came along before start-finish and around the time I was cutting across the green, white, and red stripes of pit-lane exit the dash would show around 185 mph. This is where you can’t see turn one but you tell yourself slowly that it’s in the same place it was last lap. As the bike and I cleared the crest the speedo was typically showing between 190 and 195 mph, at which point the front wheels would lift off and carry for a number of yards before plopping back on the deck and shake me to sitting up into the wind.
The best part of any racetrack is the turns, but only after the straightaway at Mugello did I feel the warmth of having experienced the circuit. It felt as emotional and enigmatic as the surrounding countryside. Some of the curves are tight and some are open, but every one seems to coax you into the next. They aren’t turns to slow you down, only to dare you to go into the next one a little faster. Each lap is a workout for the senses and totally therapeutic at the same time.
As for whether or not the winglets work, all I can say is that I don’t think every MotoGP team uses them because they look cool. What I can say for sure is that the full 18 pounds of downforce applied at 186 mph is only applied at 186 mph, so if you think they’ll change your commute, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re thinking that it seems like similar technology as a certain winged red bike but for $25,000 instead of $40,000, I would say there’s probably a spreadsheet at Aprilia HQ that says the same thing.
It’s a brilliant machine that takes a majestic stretch of road (or preferably a racetrack) to appreciate, and you need it for the same reason you need a pit-lane limiter. Which is to say you don’t need it. But you want it for the same reason you want a pit-lane limiter, which is because it reflects the countless days, months, and years it takes to create a machine like this. A machine that can transport you from seeing a narrow racetrack laid in an idyllic valley to tasting the flavor of world-championship bliss.
1,078cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC 65-degree V-4
217 @ 13,200 rpm
90 lb.-ft. @ 11,000 rpm
Öhlins NIX 30 fork adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping (stepless), 4.9-in. travel
Öhlins TTX 36 shock adjustable for spring preload, rebound, high-/low-speed compression damping, and ride height, 4.7-in. travel
The most dramatic change to the 2019 BMW RT is not in its aesthetics, but hidden beneath its valve covers. The stalwart boxer twin powerplant has been emboldened with a technologically advanced variable cam, which has significantly altered the engine’s characteristics. The new cam and the performance that comes with the boost in displacement move the RT further into a sporting realm, which, when married to its long-distance comfort, is an invitation for those who haven’t considered a sport-touring machine to take a serious look.
The new RT (and GS) 1250 represent BMW Motorrad’s first application of the ShiftCam Variable Engine Timing System in production. The new boxer’s overhead cam configuration uses a modified two-position camshaft for the intake valves that has two different rise lobes (one for partial load and one for full load) which controls the amount the intake valves are opened depending upon rpm. From idle to 4,000 rpm the cam rides in the partial load placement, limiting the intake valve stroke, resulting in lower fuel-air flow, which translates to smoother running and more efficient fuel economy. At 4,000 rpm an actuator shifts the camshaft laterally in its cradle, which brings the full load cam lobes into play, allowing for maximum valve lift for full volume flow. Additionally the intake valves are slightly staggered to create a turbulent swirl effect to produce a more efficient and thorough burn for combustion.
The paperwork says the ShiftCam does its magic at 4,000 rpm, however, the torque chart shows a slight lag at around 5,000 rpm, which suggests the shift is actually activated around that point. That said, the shift is virtually indecipherable. The only thing the rider feels is the pleasant, smooth rush of power that unfolds in predictable, consistent delivery all the way to redline. Most people buying the RT will not be riding the bike to its peak performance all the time, but it’s nice knowing it’s there when you want it.
The new system allows a 100-rpm-lower idle speed, reducing vibration. Additionally, the camshaft drive—previously a roller chain—has been replaced by a toothed chain. A knock sensor allows for variations in fuel quality and octane, which is good news for those taking the RT far afield where their normal preferences of fuel may not exist.
The displacement bump, from 1,170cc to 1,254cc, represents a 9 percent increase in horsepower, brimming with 136 hp at 7,750 rpm. That power is spread over a much broader arc with a less dramatic falloff after hitting its peak. For the torque numbers, where the real heart of performance lies, the 2019 RT gets a significant 14 percent boost over the previous year, delivering a lusty 105 pound-feet, which arrives at 6,250 rpm. Two ride modes standard (Rain and Road) help control that power in adverse conditions.
So what’s the visceral, real-world result of these internal changes? Plenty. The new RT has been transformed into a quick-revving machine, with characteristics closer to the response and feel of an in-line four-cylinder than our cherished, throaty boxer. Even the sound has been altered, resonating now with a slightly higher-pitched exhaust note. The horsepower and torque increase along with the broader powerband translates to a more forgiving motorcycle, capable of being lugged along for mellow touring, and then easily and instantly wicked up for some spirited riding.
The RT has a solid, planted footprint with a precise and responsive turn-in. Stability under hard braking is a strong suit, with the linked ABS doing its job without any noticeable oscillation between front and rear wheels. Dual 320mm discs with four-piston fixed calipers on the front are married to a single 276mm disc with dual-piston floating caliper on the rear. Standard equipment includes ASC (Automatic Stability Control) and ABS Pro (with Cornering ABS). Rainfall during the ride provided adequate test of the system, which at varying lean angles works exceptionally well sans any spongy lever feel. It all adds up to practicality and safety while instilling confidence.
Wet weight of 609 pounds (with allowable payload of 483 pounds) is deceptive given the RT’s low center of gravity and evenly distributed bias. Signature Telelever front end (with central spring strut) and cast aluminum single-sided swingarm/shaft drive Paralever system soak up the bumps and smooths out the ride. Available this year for the RT is optional Next Generation D-ESA (Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment), which automatically adjusts front and rear preload.
With an estimated 50 mpg (compared to 47 mpg for the previous model) and a fuel capacity of 6.6. gallons, the RT will deliver a range in the neighborhood of 300 miles (depending on how much restraint can be exercised with this tempting motor).
Aesthetically, the RT sports new cylinder covers and manifold routing, with the header pipes making a somewhat vertical curve to the exhaust pipes. New cast aluminum 17-inch wheels have a sporty design while the bodywork receives a lower spoiler. Seat heights range from high at 32.7 inches, to standard at 31.7 inches, and low at 29.9 inches to accommodate a range of inseams. The headlight is a highly visible LED unit. Auxiliary LED running lights (pictured) are optional.
The RT is equipped with BMW’s Hill Start Pro, which is easily activated with some extra pressure on the front brake lever when stopped. The system applies brakes and holds the machine until the clutch is engaged. It’s a welcome device when stopped on a severe incline or an uneven surface, and especially helpful when fully loaded down and carrying a passenger.
Hydraulically operated clutch mated with the six-speed gearbox render succinct shifts, with the optional Speed Shift Assist allowing clutchless up- and downshifts—a feature easy to get spoiled by.
A host of optional equipment and an equal number of accessories gives RT owners the ability to craft their own unique ride, from Dynamic Braking Control to the 719 kit, which introduces pinstriping and an attractively stitched seat. All told, the 2019 BMW R1250RT maintains its position as a top-tier sport-touring machine that delivers serious performance with long-haul comfort.
Base MSRP is $18,645. The RT is available in Alpine White, Mars Red Metallic/Dark Slate Metallic Matte, and Carbon Black Metallic.
1,254cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-stroke flat twin, one balance shaft and variable engine timing system BMW ShiftCam
I have learned that it definitely pays to wear versatile gear. On a single tour covering several days–or even on a single-day ride–one could experience searing daytime heat, evening cold, a touch of rain and then, of course, the constant wind blast while riding. That’s why versatile gear is a real plus.
I obtained Tourmaster’s Transition Series 2 Jacket several years ago and have worn it extensively since, which is why I was excited to test the Transition Series 5. While comparing the two I noted more similarities than differences. The styling and features are very familiar, but one newer feature on the Series 5 is the patented stretch nylon Aqua-Barrier hood that folds up behind the zippered collar, from where it can be deployed. This super thin, stretchy hood is designed to be worn under the helmet to prevent rain from seeping down the back of your neck while riding.
The Transition 5’s shell utilizes abrasion-resistant 600 denier Carbolex polyester fabric, with 1680 denier ballistic polyester in the elbows. The breathable Rainguard barrier lives up to its name, as I did encounter some rain during my test period and stayed dry. The removable, full-sleeve thermal liner zips and snaps in place–and removes just as easily. Stretch panels in the back and elbows, in conjunction with various tabs and the waist belt, allow for adjustability and comfort whether the liner is removed or in place. Reflective striping adds to visibility, and protection is provided by the back protector and the CE-approved armor that lives in the elbows and shoulders.
On the outer shell are a large zippered pocket and wallet pocket, a pair of fleece-lined handwarmer pockets and a couple cargo pockets. There’s also a dual zippered fanny pack in back. Both the liner and the shell are equipped with a cell-phone pocket and an internal pouch.
For ventilation the Transition 5 offers two sets of paired, controllable slit vents in the chest, along with pairs in the shoulders and upper arms, and three sizeable exhaust vents in back. My only criticism is that the front vents are little more than slits, and despite their number they don’t move a lot of air, especially if your bike dictates a forward, crouched riding position.
Overall, the Transition 5 proved to be a very versatile jacket in terms of not only general temperature control, but also in adjustability with its belt and various tabs. It is available in several colors, in both men’s and women’s sizes, and retails for $269.99.
It may be safe to say that most (if not all) riders have, at one time or another, dropped a bike. After all, a motorcycle’s natural resting position is lying on its side. I’m not talking about crashing, but just your foot slipping out when you come to a stop. It happens, even in the privacy of your own garage. Then the bike has to be put back on its wheels, and it might well be too heavy for a one-person pick up–depending on the person, of course. It’s not bad when you’re riding with a group, except for the embarrassment, or when a pickup with two construction workers stops to help, but if it’s just you….
MotoBikeJack to the rescue. This lifting device weighs a mere eight pounds and comes in four pieces. The base is five inches square, big enough to support it if the bike is on soft ground. Three steel shafts fit into the base, giving a height of more than 30 inches, and the ratchet at the top holds 40 inches of webbed strap, with a vinyl-covered hook at the end. Hook entry is 1.25 inches wide. All this rolls into a storage bag, which ends up some 15 inches long, and roughly five inches in diameter.
Bike is on its side. We presume you have not carried the jack in a clamshell saddlebag that is now lying face-down on the ground. Assemble the four parts, pull the strap out from the ratchet, hook it to some secure place, like the frame or footpeg, and then place the assembly at mid-bike, touching the saddle. It’s best to inspect your bike when you first receive the MBJ to figure out where, on both sides, is the best place to hook the hook. Remember, if your frame section is 1.5 inches wide, the hook won’t fit.
Then ratchet away. Wait! Make sure the bike is in gear, or use the included hook-and-loop strip to secure the front brake. You don’t want it rolling.
As you ratchet, the bike will lift and the jack assembly will lean into the saddle, with the baseplate beginning to tilt up. Worry not, this is how it is supposed to work, and you can brace the plate with your foot. To protect the saddle put the empty storage bag between the strap and the saddle. Ray, the designer of this jack, says it has a 1,000-pound capacity.
Ratcheting away, the bike will rise to a full 90 degrees standing, but it’s best to stop a few degrees short of that, allowing you to get a leg over the saddle and get the kickstand down. If the bike fell on the right side, do put the kickstand down before you start.
There are hundreds of different scenarios to contemplate, whether the bike has fallen over on pavement, or flat ground, or a rutted dirt road or on a slope–and is it lying downhill or uphill? You might have to get creative. I tested the MBJ by picking up my 500-pound Suzuki V-Strom twice, then a kindly neighbor laid his 650-pound Harley Low Rider flat on a bit of grass; it was a crawl to get the hook in place using the rear peg. Finally a friend offered to drop his 800-pound Gold Wing 1800 on his lawn. All came up easily.
The website says the price for the MotoBikeJack is $216, plus shipping. Once you buy this jack and carry it wherever you might go, fate might well step in to make sure you never have to use it.
They say you meet the nicest people on a Honda…and there are few bikes as nice (or as gosh-darn cute) as the Honda Monkey, with styling inspired by the legendary Z50 and a 125cc air-cooled single borrowed from the best-selling Grom. This thing is so fun, the monkey metaphors write themselves! Check out our video featuring Managing Editor Jenny Smith.