Life is so simple when you’re young. As teens and 20-somethings we thought nothing of loading up our dirt bikes, gas cans, firewood, chili, beer, chips and more beer in the ol’ pickup truck and heading out to ride in the desert and OHV parks, sometimes for days. Sleep usually came in a camp chair by the dwindling fire, or in the back of the truck. It was all about the riding, and après riding, so all of the effort and time involved just getting there went unnoticed.
Dirt bike riding and ownership is definitely more complicated than living with a street-legal bike, however, and that complication creates inertia that can be hard to overcome when you get older and busier and are dealing with, say, kids, a job and a mortgage. Off-road riding is fun, exciting, challenging and helps build skills you can use on the street, but since the bike can only be ridden off-road in designated areas, first you have to get it there. That requires a truck or tow vehicle and trailer of some sort, ramps to load the bike in the truck, tie-downs to secure it and the skill and ability to do all of that in the first place. Add to that loading up all of your riding gear, water, food, sunblock and first aid kit and you’re good to go…after about an hour’s worth of effort.
Once you arrive at the riding area—from my house the closest is about an hour’s drive—then it’s time to unload everything, gear up and go riding. Which is heaven! Once you acquire some basic off-road riding skills, either on your own, by riding with friends or at a training school, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of exploring single-track trails, conquering hill climbs, sand washes and desert moguls or dark forest paths between trees. Dirt bikes are light and have big power-to-weight ratios, so just twisting the throttle on one and shooting down a dirt road is a major rush. And once you learn how, many of the hooligan antics—wheelies, sliding, burnouts, etc.—that would land you in jail on the street are par for the course off-road.
Tired and had enough riding for the day? OK, load it all up once again, and unload one more time when you get home. Wash the bike, drain its carburetor if it has one (and the bike will sit for a while until the next ride), get cleaned up and collapse on the couch. Sound fun? It really is, particularly if the type of off-road riding you do and your skill level really warrant a non-street-legal dirt bike. The 2020 Yamaha WR250F we sampled for this story, for example, weighs just 255 pounds gassed up and has fully adjustable suspension with more than 12 inches of travel at each end. Its liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC 4-valve, 4-stroke single revs briskly and makes whopping torque and top end power, fed through a wide-ratio (hence the WR) transmission that’s good for slow technical trails, flat-out flying and everything in between. Lights and an electric starter round out a mission-critical package that can tackle just about anything off-road.
But what if you just want to do some off-road exploring, perhaps at a mellower pace, and have no interest in all of the additional expense and logistical hassle of getting you and a dirt bike out to a riding area? Adventure bikes are all the rage these days and can handle some off-road riding, but they’re expensive and most of us don’t have the skills to pilot a 500-plus-pound behemoth down much more than a dirt fire road. Even the smaller KTM 390 Adventure tested in this issue weighs 387 pounds wet—that’s like adding a passenger to the weight of the typical dirt bike.
If your off-road forays are not too far away—or even if they are and you’re OK taking frequent breaks along the way—a good alternative to truck ownership or big ADV machines is a light single-cylinder dual-sport bike. For the least weight and most performance, the European makers like KTM and Husqvarna offer some very serious (and expensive) lightweight dual-sports. But all of the Japanese manufacturers also sell less expensive models in displacements from 200 to 650cc. The 250s run from just 296 to about 321 pounds and still make enough power for riders (who aren’t exceptionally large) to not only tackle a lot of the same terrain dirt bikes can—at a slower pace—but they can also be ridden to the trailhead from home, skipping the whole load/unload/repeat process. More dirt is open to a dual-sport as well, since unlike a dirt bike it has a license plate and is legal on the thousands of miles of unpaved public roads that connect, for example, ghost towns in Nevada and the national forests in Tennessee.
The 2020 Yamaha WR250R we sampled for this story shares much of its WR250F sibling’s DNA, but has far fewer unobtanium bits for racing so it costs $1,900 less. Yet at 296 pounds gassed up, it’s still the lightest of the affordable Japanese 200/250 dual-sports. The WR250R’s liquid-cooled single is based on the F’s 250cc race-ready enduro motor and shares the same bore and stroke, but among other changes has lower compression and mellower cam profiles for more street tractability. Seat height is still quite tall at 36.6 inches, but that’s an inch lower than the F’s, and the R still soaks up the bumps with 10.6 inches of fully adjustable suspension travel at each end. And it averages 61 mpg!
The WR-R’s design can’t take the pounding that its tougher enduro-inspired sibling can, but unlike many dual-sports it was built more for off-road than road, so you can tackle some pretty gnarly single-track terrain, ruts, rocks and jumps if it’s not too heavily loaded. The trade-off, of course, is its lower level of on-road comfort. Though it’s surprisingly smooth at highway speed and cruises right along at 65-70 mph without the engine feeling like it’s going to blow up, the seat is tall, narrow and hard, and the bike can get blown around in high winds. I have no problem riding it on the highway for a couple hours at a stretch before I need a break, though, and the aftermarket offers more comfortable seats, soft luggage (see the review on page 62) and suspension lowering kits as well as lots of bolt-ons to upgrade its off-road chops. Gearing can be easily raised or lowered depending upon how much off-road riding you actually end up doing, and the suspension beefed up as needed.
Thirty years ago, I would have chosen a dirt bike every time for any kind of off-road riding. Today convenience and cost are more important than speed and ultimate capability, which makes a bike like the WR250R dual-sport the obvious choice.
Mark’s Gear (WR250F): Helmet: Fly Racing Formula Vector Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Pro Jersey: Fly Racing Kinetic K120 Pants: Fly Racing Evolution Boots: Fly Racing FR5
This story was originally published in the June 2020 issue of Rider Magazine.
This was a minor marvel of motorcycling when the original version was unveiled in 1978 as a 1979 model, more than 40 years ago. Six cylinders, six carburetors, 24 valves, two overhead camshafts and more than 100 crankshaft horsepower—the CBX Super Sport was going to dominate the sport bike scene. Unfortunately, it did not. For the first two years it was stripped down, then transformed into a sport tourer for its last two. The focus of this little write-up is on its touring pretensions.
Begin at the beginning, which was in October of 1977, when Honda discreetly snuck some test bikes into California and had a few American journalists come and try them out. Honda had introduced the original UJM back in the fall of 1968, the 1969 CB750, with four cylinders, eight valves, overhead camshaft and 67 horsepower, weighing some 500 pounds. Now it had something entirely new insofar as the engine was concerned, far more powerful and far heavier—600 pounds. And the competition was ferocious from the other three Japanese competitors, with the Kawasaki KZ1000, Suzuki GS1000 and Yamaha XS1100. These were all four-cylinder bikes, and Honda presumed the addition of two cylinders would bring in the buyers. The company had also experimented with a 1,000cc four-banger, which put out only five horses less than the six, but decided to go with the six.
The first CBX Super Sport models did not appear on the showroom floors until mid-1978, and small changes were made over the next two years, both in engine tuning and chassis. A lean spot in the carburetion was cured, bigger oil cooler, air-adjustable front fork, better shock absorbers, etc.
Then Germany announced that only motorcycles with less than 100 crankshaft horsepower could be imported, which notion might spread to
the entire European Union. More mods were made, and for 1980 the CBX’s crankshaft herd was reduced to 98 ponies, pretty much putting the bike on a power par with the other bikes. The 1980 CBX cost $4,200, Kawasaki’s Z1R, $3,700, Suzuki’s GS1100E, $3,700, and Yamaha’s XS1100G, $3,700. That 500 bucks would buy a lot of gas. Sales were weak. And a recession was on the horizon.
What did Honda do? It decided to revamp the CBX into a sport-touring machine. Curious that Honda never redesignated the bike, to focus on the touring aspect rather than the Super Sport—which was still writ large on the fairing. Engine changes were minimal; essentially two new camshafts to alter the power curve, giving a little more mid-range, less top end. And the profiles were redesigned in order to reduce tappet noise, no small matter when the noise is inside the fairing.
The fairing was originally a half fairing, with good aerodynamics except for some buffeting of a tall rider’s head. The leg protectors had been added on—rather crudely and still leaving the rider’s legs open to a lot of wind; since the bike could easily hit two miles a minute, that was a real possibility. Rather small removable panniers were affixed to each side, limited to 20 pounds each. Honda was worried about handling at high speed and kept the width of the bike at the luggage quite narrow.
Which meant the two shocks on the old CBX were gone and a new Pro-Link single shock arrangement had been installed. Granted, the linkage was particular to the CBX, and not like the motocross version, but it was a rising-rate suspension system. The shock was set up to work with air pressure, but there was also a coil spring—just in case the shock sprang a leak. A three-position knob could adjust rebound settings.
The front end was also drastically changed, with the fork tubes enlarged from 35mm to 39mm—which meant enlarging the steering head. The air-adjustable fork came with a little pump, and a crossover balance tube made adjustments even easier. It also increased the rake from 27.5 to 29.5 degrees, but kept the trail at 4.7 inches, enhancing straight-line stability. And wheel width, both front and back, was slightly increased to allow for larger tires.
The frame was a three-tube backbone truss, with the engine being a stressed member. The six cylinders were fed through six 28mm Keihin CV carburetors and fuel economy was usually less than 40 mpg, and could go under 30 on a rambunctious ride. Fortunately, the gas tank held 5.8 gallons, with a vacuum-operated petcock having a reserve position for the last 0.8-gallon. Exhaust was a six-into-two arrangement, with a crossover pipe in front of the rear wheel equalizing pressure.
Of major note were the new front brakes, which were almost an inch larger in diameter than the previous model’s, and were radially vented—which means that each stainless alloy disc was really two discs with lots of ventilation in between. The very competent calipers used two pistons to push the long, narrow pads against the rotor. The rear brake was the standard single disc, and also benefited from the twin-piston caliper.
But since this was now a sport-touring machine, at a pricey $5,600, what was Honda selling as a pure sportbike? For 1981 and 1982 the company brought in the excellent CB900F, originally aimed at the European market, powered by an air-cooled, in-line DOHC 16-valve 901cc four with some 90 horses, costing $3,350. After a mere two years the CB900F became the bored-out 1,062cc CB1100F—at a competitive price of $3,700. With more than 95 rear wheel ponies and well more than 100 at the crank, Honda was not looking at the German market with this model, just out-horsing the competition.
And the CBX? Vanished. And leftovers were quickly discounted.
Retrospective: 1981-1982 Honda CBX 1000 Super Sport Gallery:
The 2020 BMW F 900 XR vs. Yamaha Tracer 900 GT Comparison Test was originally published in the June 2020 issue of Rider Magazine.
Motorcycles that start out as naked or standard models often inspire their manufacturers to build a complementary touring, sport-touring or sport-adventure version before very long. The Honda Gold Wing’s lineage is probably the most familiar example, but I could cite countless others from the mid-1970s to the present day. Attracting more and new customers is the objective of every motorcycle design, so whether going the touring route with a standard bike is to aim a not-so-successful model in a potentially better direction, or it’s to simply expand the fan base for a successful bike to include long-distance riders, the goal is the same.
Such is the case with the two motorcycles we’re comparing here, the new BMW F 900 XR and recently updated Yamaha Tracer 900 GT. Both are based on naked bikes, one also new—the BMW F 900 R—and one that has been a top seller in Yamaha’s lineup since 2013, the MT-09, formerly known as the FZ-09. Although BMW calls the F 900 XR a sport-adventure machine and Yamaha parks the Tracer 900 GT in its sport-touring category, their prices, displacements, semi-fairings, windscreens and mostly upright seating positions make these two bikes quite comparable. In fact, BMW considers the Tracer 900 base model a core competitor for its F 900 XR; we’re pitting it against the fully equipped 2020 Tracer 900 GT because the Tracer 900 hasn’t yet returned as a 2020 model.
You can find in-depth tech details on both the BMW and Yamaha in their individual road tests—the Tracer 900 GT was revamped for 2019, and there’s a full review of it in the October 2019 issue and on our website. You can also find my review of the new F 900 R and XR online and in the May 2020 issue. Like their F 800 R predecessor, these new 900s fill the need for lower-cost twins in the BMW lineup, now with more power from a larger transverse, parallel cylinder 895cc engine and better feel and sound thanks to a new 90-degree offset crank, 270/450-degree firing interval and more effective counterbalancer. The $8,995 F 900 R is the naked/sport roadster, and for an additional $2,700 the F 900 XR adds a semi-fairing with a windscreen and lowers, a taller, wider handlebar, more suspension travel and ground clearance, and lower footpegs. It also has more fuel capacity than the R for sport-adventure riding. Traction control, ABS and two ride modes—Road and Rain—are standard, and you can plug in an optional Ride Modes Pro dongle that enables two more as well as cornering ABS, Dynamic Traction Control and more.
Introduced for 2015 as the FJ-09, the Yamaha Tracer brought sport-touring amenities to the bare-knuckled FZ-09, such as a more upright seating position, a more comfortable, adjustable seat, a semi-fairing with adjustable windscreen and hand guards. Its transverse, in-line 847cc Crossplane triple (CP3) has been a ripper from the start, with a 120-degree crank and counterbalancer that tames much of the vibes. As on the BMW, throttle-by-wire enables electronic features like three riding modes and dual-mode traction control, and the Yamaha’s TBW has been refined several times over the years to smoothen throttle response. For an extra $2,300 over the $10,699 (2019) Tracer 900, the 2020 Tracer 900 GT adds hard locking saddlebags, cruise control, a quickshifter for upshifts, heated grips and a full-color TFT display. The GT received an extensive makeover for 2019, including new bodywork, upgraded suspension, a taller windscreen, comfier seats and a longer swingarm.
Aft of their functional semi-fairings and adjustable windscreens, the BMW twin and Yamaha triple also share 17-inch cast wheel and tire sizes, triple disc brakes with opposed 4-piston radial-mount calipers up front, chain final drive and 6-speed transmissions with slipper clutches (the Yamaha’s also has an assist function). Both have full-color TFT instrument displays, and even though navigating the BMW’s is harder to figure out, it’s much larger and is like watching 4K TV compared to the Yamaha’s small blocky screen. While the F 900 XR is priced substantially lower than the Tracer 900 GT, many of the Yamaha’s standard features like saddlebags, cruise control, heated grips, centerstand and more are optional on the BMW.
Although both bikes have relatively upright seating positions that are comfortable for extended hours in the saddle, the BMW’s wide handlebar is lower and its footpegs higher than the Yamaha’s, cramping the rider a bit more, particularly if you’re taller. The shape of the BMW’s non-adjustable seat also locks you into one position rather than letting you move around, and therefore feels higher than the Yamaha’s in its low position, despite their claimed seat heights. We installed the optional taller windscreen on the F 900 XR to even it up with the Tracer 900 GT, and as a result wind protection is pretty good on both due to their effective screens and fairing lowers. While the F 900 XR feels sportier and more aggressive, overall the Tracer 900 GT is the more comfortable of the two for sport touring, with roomier seating, a taller handlebar and more comfortable seat. Passengers also liked it better for two-up riding, since the seat is softer and roomier than the BMW’s and its grab rails are an easier reach.
The BMW earns the adventure part of its sport-adventure description because it has nearly 7 inches of suspension travel front and rear and ample ground clearance, but with 17-inch wheels at each end I’d keep it well away from the dirt and just enjoy the extra travel on bumpy roads. Its additional ground clearance comes in handy when riding over ruts, low curbs and such, where we bashed the Yamaha’s low-slung underbelly more than once. Good suspension calibration on both bikes matches them up quite closely in corners. The BMW’s non-adjustable 43mm USD fork is stouter overall and more stiffly sprung compared to the Yamaha’s 41mm unit, though the latter is fully adjustable and can be stiffened up for sport riding quite well if that’s your preference. Remote spring preload and rebound damping adjustment are common to both in back, and aside from the BMW’s remote knob being difficult to use, rear suspension is comparably good. Although the Yamaha’s brakes are more than up to the task, its front brake lever needs more bite, while the BMW has good linear feel and a solid bite at the lever combined with an easily modulated pedal. Its stock Michelin Road 5 tires also offer better feel overall than the Dunlop Sportmax D222 OE rubber on the Tracer 900 GT, which we would replace right out of the gate with Dunlop’s premium Roadsmart IIIs.
On the dynamometer the Tracer 900 GT’s triple bests the F 900 XR’s twin in horsepower output, and the XR’s 20-pound weight advantage isn’t enough to give it an edge in a top-speed contest. But the two bikes are pretty closely matched in the torque department where it really matters for day-in, day-out sport touring and commuting. Both offer impressive grunt for slicing through corners without much shifting, accelerating hard from a stop or picking off a slow-moving car or truck with a quick pass. The BMW twin-cylinder’s rumble and the Yamaha triple’s velvet growl give each plenty of character and great sound, though neither has completely tamed some high-frequency vibration that buzzes through the grips enough to be noticeable much of the time, particularly on the Yamaha. Both require premium fuel and return similar fuel economy, though the Yamaha has more range thanks to its larger 4.8-gallon tank versus the BMW’s 4.1. Given their similarity elsewhere we’d pick the Yamaha’s engine simply for its extra power and longer valve inspection intervals.
Once you start bolting accessories onto the BMW that are standard on the Yamaha, the F 900 XR’s price and weight advantage quickly melts away, which leaves us with the Tracer 900 GT as the winner of this comparo. In addition to offering more power, comfort, fuel capacity and lower maintenance costs, with the exception of its tiny TFT display the Yamaha is the better bike and value for sport riding, touring and everything in between.
Ducati has just pulled the covers off the latest addition to the Hypermotard family, the 2020 Ducati Hypermotard 950 RVE. Equipped with an up/down quickshifter and brash graffiti-styled livery that is directly inspired by the Hypermotard 950 Concept, the 950 RVE was first shown at the illustrious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, in 2019.
The 2020 Ducati Hypermotard 950 RVE is nestled neatly between the standard Hyper 950 and the top-tier Hyper 950 SP models. Powered by the lively twin-cylinder 937cc Testastretta engine, the Hypermotard 950 RVE produces a claimed 114 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 71 lb-ft of torque at 7,250 rpm. With tractable, controllable power delivery being a standout characteristic, the Hypermotard 950 is more than at home on the street or running wide-open on the track.
Beyond the up/down quickshifter, the Hyper 950 RVE also comes standard with a commendable electronics package including Bosch Cornering ABS with Slide by Brake function (in setting 1), Ducati Traction Control (DTC) EVO and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) EVO.
In 2019, the Borgo Panigale-based brand redesigned the Hypermotard lineup, retaining its intense spirit, while softening hard-edges through engine, ergonomic, chassis and electronic improvements. Together, those changes have proven to make these Supermoto-inspired motorcycles more approachable for the common rider. Yet the Hypermotard line is still on the short list of any rider who has a penchant for hooligan behavior and a steady diet of wheelies, backing-it-in or, in other words, many of the fun things about motorcycling.
Ducati will offer the Hypermotard 950 RVE as a limited edition, with only 100 units allocated for the North American market. A numbered badge will be included on each machine. Deliveries are expected to arrive in the United States beginning in July, with a starting MSRP of $14,195 ($16,195 CAD).
For more information about the 2020 Ducati Hypermotard 950 RVE, visit Ducati.
As the ADV market has been trending toward middleweight machines, perhaps the most anticipated new bike after KTM’s 790 Adventure is Yamaha’s 2021 Ténéré 700, based on the compact and torque-rich Crossplane parallel twin from the MT-07. After being teased since late 2016 with action-packed videos featuring aggressive Dakar-style riding sequences, the Ténéré 700, or T7, is finally here and it’s not nearly as hardcore as the prototype. But that’s OK, because most of us can’t ride like 6-time Yamaha Dakar Champion Stephane Peterhansel through the dunes of Africa.
A quick glance at Yamaha’s lineup reveals a gap in its street-legal but dirt-worthy lineup between the WR250R and the Super Ténéré T12, and there is plenty of room for another player in the middleweight ADV segment currently occupied by BMW, KTM and Triumph. Most manufacturers have fully embraced the electronic aids arms race, with riding modes, IMU’s, ride-by-wire throttle, traction control, wheelie control, lean angle specific ABS, electronic suspension, color TFT dashes and more, which begs the question: how many rider aids do you need or are you willing to pay for? The T7 is a dramatic departure — its sole rider aid is ABS that is switchable when stopped, which works well. As someone who spends most of his time on lightweight dirt bikes without any electronic interventions, I felt immediately comfortable on the Ténéré 700 with its light clutch, smooth shifting and excellent fueling.
Swinging my MX boot over the 34.6-inch-high narrow YZ-style seat (there is also a lower seat, and rear linkage available that lowers the seat by 1.5 inches) reveals a relatively narrow tank and comfortably wide tapered handlebar with half waffle grips protected with plastic hand guards. The foldable serrated footpegs have removable rubber inserts for road riding, and both brake and shift lever have foldable tips like a dirt bike. An aluminum skid plate protects from rock hits (and doubles as a gong at times) and the front fender adjusts 8mm to allow for taller full knobby tires and room for mudpack.
The high vertically shaped LCD display is easy to read with tach, gear display, speed and clock. Using the right grip switchgear, you can toggle through other modes including air temp, two tripmeters, current and average fuel consumption, and disengage the ABS directly on the display. Unfortunately, bombing down a dusty road in a group renders the display almost useless. Bring a soft cloth. And rough roads vibrated the display fairly hard, making us wonder about its longevity. The sturdy crossbar above the LCD should be great for mounting a GPS, GoPro, phone, etc. One 12V outlet is standard and there’s room for another.
The T7 shares Yamaha’s CP2 689cc parallel-twin with its naked sport-standard street bike, the MT-07, which made 68.6 horsepower at 8,800 rpm and 47.6 lb-ft of torque at 6,400 rpm at the rear wheel on the Jett Tuning dyno the last time we tested a 2016 model. This overachieving motor is impressive and has a wide sweet spot throughout the well-spaced gearing. In addition to updates to the ECU, the T7 twin gets a new airbox with a higher snorkel, revised cooling system and upswept exhaust and a final gear ratio of 46/15 vs. 43/16. The rest of bike is all-new, including the narrow double-cradle tubular-steel frame, triangulated (welded-on) subframe, double braced steering head and aluminum swingarm.
I’m a big fan of the T7’s narrow and tall Dakar styling that begs you to go stand-up dirt riding. Its flat YZ-style seat and upswept muffler, slim tail section with side panels that look like number plates complete the look and complement the riding experience. Sitting down at higher speeds the tall windscreen produced more coverage than expected and kept the majority of the wind blast off my chest at highway speeds. I experienced no buffeting wearing an MX helmet and there weren’t any noticeable engine vibes to complain about.
Kevin’s Gear Helmet: Fly Racing Formula Vector Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Jersey and Pants: Fly Racing Kinetic Mesh Boots: Fly Racing FR5 Gloves: Fly Racing Pro Lite
The T7’s sturdy 36-spoke 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tube-type tires that worked reasonably well in the dirt didn’t turn out to be a major compromise on the street. The bike steers quickly and accurately, without the usual vagueness from a 21-inch front, perhaps due to the 48% front and 52% rear weight bias, and felt like a supermoto bike on the twisty paved back roads. In the dirt the lighter front bias helps unweight the front under power.
Our dirt-heavy 140-mile loop at the T7’s introduction in Tennessee was a dirt tracker’s dream, winding through gorgeous sun-filtered forest canopies on forest roads with varying amounts of gravel on top to keep you on your toes. The Crossplane 270-degree crankshaft motor is super torquey and won me over in no time. It’s the hands-down star of the show and provided heaps of confidence in hard pack conditions with a loose top layer whether seated or comfortably standing. Keep the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires in line or let the rear slide, the choice is yours.
The best dirt section was a Jeep trail that was embedded with rocks and other obstacles like ruts, numerous water bars, sand, broken tree branches, loose rocks and even a rogue black bear. Knowing what we were about to encounter, the sneaky Yamaha staff changed the bikes’ suspension settings before you could say, “Where’s the mosquito repellent?”
The stiffer setup showcased the available adjustment within the stock KYB suspension. The 43mm fork has 8.3 inches of travel and is adjustable for compression and rebound damping, while the rear piggyback shock with progressive linkage has 7.9 inches of travel with adjustable compression and rebound damping and a remote knob for adjusting the spring preload.
Although there’s a decent 9.4 inches of ground clearance to work with and the T7 is lighter than most of the competition at a claimed 452 pounds wet, add another 200 pounds of fully geared rider and you’ll want to reserve the biggest launches for your dirt bike. Even when bottoming out, however, there wasn’t any nervous feedback. We even limboed under a downed tree only to find a larger tree around the corner forcing us to turn around.
No doubt the T7 is a solid package off road at spirited speeds, with one exception, the brakes. As a seasoned dirt rider, I found the both front and rear required higher effort than expected, had vague feedback and required too much attention, particularly in loose dirt combined with the 50/50 tires versus full knobs, and I began using the transmission for help slowing down. The softness might be built-in by design for entry-level riders. Brembo brakes have front twin-piston 28mm floating calipers with 282mm dual discs and the rear relies on a single-piston 34mm floating caliper with a 245mm disc.
Fuel capacity is 4.2 gallons, and at the end of our aggressive ride the last bar on the fuel gauge was blinking after just 130 miles. Past experience with this engine has shown that you can expect more than 200 miles from a tankful with a tamer right wrist. While dual sports connect trails, the T7 will allow you to connect states.
At just $9,999 for the Ténéré 700, the Yamaha is now the low-cost, low-weight leader of the middleweight ADV class if its claimed wet weight holds true on the Rider scale in a week or two. Yamaha also offers a lot of accessories for the T7, including two bundle packs that are a good value. The $1,549.43 Rally Pack includes an engine guard, radiator protector, oversize aluminum skid plate, tank pad, mono-seat rack, chain guide and centerstand, and the $2,264.94 Tour Pack includes an engine guard, centerstand, aluminum side cases and side case mounts and lock set.
After a day on the T7 I was still eager to keep riding. It’s not a hair-on-fire ADV race bike, purpose-built to explode sand dunes. It’s simply a fun on- and off-road motorcycle that also happens to be affordable and could pull light commuter duty as well. With all the craziness in the world today, disappearing into the woods or any other isolated location sounds like a good plan, and that’s not the moonshine talking.
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Website: yamahamotorsports.com Base Price: $9,999 Engine Type: Liguid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl. Bore x Stroke: 80.0mm x 68.6mm Displacement: 689cc Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Wheelbase: 62.8 in. Rake/Trail: 27.0 degrees/4.1 in. Seat Height: 34.6 in. Claimed Wet Weight: 452 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gals., last 1.1-gal. warning light on MPG: 86 octane min (high/avg/low) NA
Some bikes prize form over function, and that’s OK. I mean, come on, the star-spangled chopper ridden by Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” was pretty far from perfectly functional — it looked cool and that was that. It’s no chopper, but Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 701 lies at a similar place on the form/function spectrum, and if you’re a fan of Scandinavian style it’s quite appealing to the eye.
Not to say it isn’t fun to ride, as long as those rides are primarily on tight, technical, twisty roads, where the Vitpilen’s taut chassis and suspension and feisty, liquid-cooled 693cc single are allowed to shine. With 73 peak horsepower and almost 51 lb-ft of torque per the Jett Tuning dyno, the 365-pound Vitpilen 701 is highly entertaining and an ideal mount for a weekend warrior looking to own his or her local run of twisties, unencumbered by a passenger (there are no rear footpegs) and without straying too far from a gas station (though if you can tame your throttle hand the 3.2-gallon tank is good for about 160 miles).
Jenny’s Gear Helmet: Vemar Zephir Jacket: Fly Racing Butane Pants: MotoGirl Boots: Sidi Performer Lei
My main beef with the bike is its seat, which is tall, hard and angular. With toes on the ground, the edges cut painfully into my thighs and once underway its sticky material locked me into place, making it hard to shift around when doing my best Valentino Rossi impression in the canyons. Coupled with the reach to the wide clip-ons, the Vitpilen is decidedly sporty — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was made, after all, to “rip it,” as they say here in SoCal. And when ripping it, you’ll forget about how hard the seat is.
Rolling on tubeless spoked 17-inch wheels for a supermoto look, shod with sticky Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 tires, and with adjustable WP Apex suspension with 5.3 inches of travel front and rear, the Vitpilen feels stable and planted despite its extremely light weight. Its engine is tuned for ripping as well, rewarding a heavy hand (there goes the 160-mile range…) and protesting with fits and jerks if you’re too lenient. Don’t worry about diving in too hot, the 4-piston front and single-piston rear brakes, both Brembo and fitted with switchable Bosch 9M+ ABS, are strong and offer good feedback.
Arrive at the top, drop the kickstand and admire the way the light plays off the gorgeous blue paint; bask in your status as King (or Queen) of the Mountain. Are there better all-around bikes? Sure, but the Vitpilen 701 knows what it is and makes no apologies for it.
Here is an attractive little trail bike, built by Harley’s former Italian subsidiary, Aermacchi. Oddly, virtually nothing has been written about this model in the American moto-press. Your scribe has looked many places, and could not find a single road test. More than a dozen Harley histories are on my shelves, some of which never even mention the Italian connection, which went from 1960 to 1978. There is reasonable reportage on the four-stroke Sprint models, less on the two-stroke Rapido 125 and Baja 100, so I am making do with what we have.
Harley should be proud of the Italian connection, because it provided the company with four international GP racing victories when Italian road-racer Walter Villa won the 250 class in 1974, ’75 and ’76, doubling up in 1976 by winning the 350 class as well — riding a parallel-twin two-stroke built by Aermacchi with Harley-Davidson writ large on the fairing.
The name Aermacchi comes from combining the two words from the previous company, Aeronautica Macchi, with which Giulio Macchi began producing airplanes in 1912. However, being on the losing side in World War II, the company had to stop making airplanes and instead moved into basic transportation — the motorcycle. Early models used a four-stroke single from 175cc to 350cc with the cylinder lying forward, almost flat.
In 1960 Harley, aware of the popularity of bikes like Honda’s small OHC twins, looked at its own small bikes, a couple of rather antiquated 165cc two-strokes that had begun with the 125 Model S in 1948. Which was based on a German DKW bike, the designs for which had been given to the U.S. as part of war reparations. Now the Milwaukee suits tapped on the door of another WWII foe and cut a deal for half the company. In 1961 the first 250 models, called Wisconsins, arrived at dealers — shortly after which it was noted that this bike had nothing whatsoever to do with Wisconsin, and the name was quickly changed to Sprint.
In 1965 the first Italian-built two-stroke came into the country, a little 50cc model that the Harley dealers really objected to. Two years later that grew to 65cc, which did not help much, while the last of the DKW-based two-strokes vanished. Then the 125cc Rapido two-stroke came along in 1968, which was anything but rapid.
1969 was an interesting year for Harley, as an outfit called American Machine Foundry bought the motorcycle company. AMF was best known for selling golf carts and bowling equipment, and thought its sporting knowledge would work well with a motorcycle company. It did not. We won’t get into the Harley-Davidson snowmobile.
For 1970 the little Baja 100 two-stroke appeared, an off-road bike that appealed to quite a few riders. And it won its class in the 1971 Baja 1000 race. This was a serious effort by Harley to build a great desert racer and enduro machine, and they got a lot of help from the racers themselves. The engine was a Rapido cylinder sleeved down to 98cc. An automatic gas-oil mix was developed to simplify fueling.
Obviously AMF thought that this two-stroke connection was good, and bought the entire Aermacchi Company in 1974. Aermacchi could still pursue its European market, with Walter Villa’s racing, while the profits would go to Milwaukee. The following year was the last for the lone remaining four-stroke, a 250 Sprint.
And it was the first for the SXT-125, a well-designed trail bike that was meant to appeal to the rough-and-ready folk who had liked the Baja 100. The engineers at the Aermacchi plant in Varese built a slightly oversquare engine, with a 56mm bore, 50mm stroke, using piston-port induction. The cast aluminum cylinder liner had a chrome-plated bore, which was quite useful considering the rather serious 10.8:1 compression ratio, providing some 13 rear-wheel horsepower at a little over 7,000 rpm. Kickstart only.
An oil container under the gas tank held a little more than three pints; this had no sight window and the rider had to look carefully into the opening up by the steering head to see if more needed to be added. A Mikuni pump pushed the oil into the intake to mix it with the gas flowing through a 27mm Dell’Orto carburetor. Oil metering was controlled by the throttle, with one cable running to the pump, another to the carburetor.
Electrics were simple enough, with a flywheel-alternator charging a 12-volt battery, and easily adjusted points. Turn signals were mandatory. Up on the dash were two round instrument cases, one being the speedometer. The other, which did not hold a tachometer, served to house the ignition key and lights for high beam and ignition.
Gears took the power from the crankshaft to the wet clutch, then through a five-speed transmission with its own oil supply. The transmission sprocket had 14 teeth, the rear sprocket, 61. A useful primary starter allowed the bike to be kickstarted in gear after pulling in the clutch.
The frame used double downtubes, with a cradle running beneath the engine and serving as a sort of skid plate. A Ceriani fork did a good job up front, with Betor shocks at the back, adjustable for spring preload. Wheels were a 3.00 x 19 at the front, 3.50 x 18 at the back, both with five-inch, full-hub drum brakes. Wet weight was a respectable 240 pounds.
Seat height was almost 30 inches, with a saddle long enough to move about comfortably. No passenger footpegs. Good-looking machine, with an upswept muffler and 2.7-gallon gas tank. But dealers were not pushing them, and sales did not meet expectations. So what did AMF do? Sell the whole shebang in 1978 to an Italian company called Cagiva. And the “Cagiva HD SXT 125” became a bestseller in Europe.
P.S. Should any readers have information about this bike, please contact us at [email protected]
In December 2019, Triumph announced a partnership with EON Productions, the company behind the forthcoming 25th James Bond Film, “No Time To Die.” To celebrate this iconic collaboration, Triumph is proud to introduce the first ever official motorcycle directly linked to the Bond franchise.
The 2020 Scrambler 1200 Bond Edition is a limited-edition Scrambler 1200 XE motorcycle featuring a unique 007 design scheme and limited to a production of just 250 models worldwide, with only 30 marked for the United States and a mere five for Canada.
The Scrambler Bond Edition features distinctive 007-themed paint and bodywork, including a real leather seat with embossed logo, a unique TFT instrument startup screen, blacked-out finishes with special accents and an Arrow silencer with carbon fiber end caps. As a limited-edition model, it also has a numbered plaque and comes with a special Bond handover pack.
Otherwise, this is a top-spec Scrambler XE model, with six ride modes including Off-Road Pro, IMU-based cornering ABS and traction control, an assist clutch, keyless ignition, heated grips, cruise control and Öhlins suspension with 9.8 inches of travel are all standard.
The 2020 Scrambler 1200 Bond Edition is available at Triumph dealers now at a U.S. retail price of $18,500.
In addition to the weather phenomenon, the word lightning means fast, as in the speed of light or 186,000 miles per second. This motorcycle is not quite that fast; its speedo only goes to 140 miles per hour. But the X1 does get up there in an earthbound way, with a top speed close to that 140 mph, and a quarter-mile time in the 11s. Not bad for a bike powered by Harley’s 1,203cc Sportster engine.
Erik Buell, a longtime chassis engineer at Harley-Davidson and a serious racer, decided to go off on his own in the mid-1980s. His last accomplishment at Harley was the frame in the FXR series, which was greeted with great enthusiasm when introduced in 1982. Eric was a dyed-in-the-leather Harley enthusiast, having talked his way into a job in Milwaukee after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.
In 1987 he began producing the RR1000 Battle Twin, building a drastically new frame holding leftover XR1000 engines, which had been used in those sporty Sportsters that did not sell well. When that XR supply ran out he moved to the 1,200cc engine, and did quite well with the Battle Twin line. Harley was so excited by this turn of events that in 1993 it bought 49 percent of the Buell Motorcycle Company, which gave Eric financial comfort.
In 1996 he came up with the S1 Lightning, a return to his basic concept of a “fundamental” sportbike — a bit too fundamental for many riders. He built 5,000 of these and had to listen to praise and damnation concerning its performance and appearance. Late in 1998 he elected to make it a little more pleasant to ride and change the look slightly, hence the X1.
The chassis is the most interesting aspect of the bike. The frame, a bit stiffer than that on the S1, was made of tubular steel in the form of a trellis, with sections coming down on both sides of the cylinders. A backbone connected to one of the most notable aspects of the bike, a subframe that was perhaps the largest aluminum casting seen on a bike. And it carried a modestly improved seat that held two riders without too many complaints. Beneath the seat a large rectangular aluminum swingarm helped the belt final drive get to the rear axle.
Buells had often been criticized for their limited turning radius, and on the X1 the steering head was moved forward slightly, giving an extra four degrees in steering lock. Still tight, but better…says the photographer who had to turn this bike around. A 41mm upside-down Showa fork with a rake of 23 degrees gave 4.7 inches of travel — and trail of 3.5 inches. It was fully adjustable, with spring preload along with compression and rebound damping.
The rear end used a single Showa shock absorber, which wasn’t really at the rear but was laying flat under the engine. There wasn’t room for the shock anywhere else, as the bike had a rather short wheelbase of 55 inches, five inches less than on the stock Sportster. Most shocks rely on compression as their standard, but this one used tension, pulling apart in response to a bump rather than pushing down. It had full adjustability, including ride height, with adjustments being best left to experts.
Cast wheels were 17 inches in diameter, with Nissin calipers, 6-piston in front and 1-piston out back, squeezing single discs. Because the Showa fork was already drilled for it, this bike’s owner added a second front brake disc and caliper.
And the engine? A mildly modified Sportster, an air-cooled four-stroke 45-degree V-twin displacing 1,203cc with an 88.9 x 96.8mm bore and stroke, and, yes, hydraulically adjusted valves, two per cylinder. The trick here was Eric’s Isoplanar rubber mounting system for this shaker. A standard Sportster shook like Hades when even mildly revved, and none of this was felt on the Buell machines. The engine was actually part of the chassis, with all the vibes going into a single longitudinal plane, and apparently this increased frame rigidity. Which requires understanding beyond the limits of this scribe.
Buell had developed his Thunderstorm cylinders and pistons for the S1, with better porting and 10:1 compression. A dynamometer rated the rear-wheel output at 85 horses at 6,500 rpm, an engine speed no rider on a stock Sportster would ever want to attain. For the X1 Eric tossed the 38mm Keihin carb and bolted on a 45mm Walbro throttle body using a VDO injection-control computer, labeled Dynamic Digital Fuel Injection. There was no increase in power; the system just made the engine run more smoothly. A triple-row primary ran power back to a 5-speed transmission and belt final drive.
The look was pretty sporty, beginning with the abbreviated front fender and a very small wind deflector over the headlight. When this bike came out of the factory it had big black boxes on both sides of the 4.2-gallon gas tank, the right one feeding the airbox and fuel injection, the left intended to keep the rear cylinder cool enough to not roast the rider’s leg. Underneath the engine was a spoiler intended to protect the shock and conceal the huge muffler. However, the owner of this X1 prefers the “fundamental” look and removed the black boxes and spoiler. He is careful about jumping curbs, as there are only five inches of ground clearance.
Dry weight is 440 pounds, 50 pounds less than the stock Sportster. People still complained about the seat, the vibration and a number of other things, but they were just pansies. The bike was intended for seriously sporty riders who didn’t mind a little discomfort as they kicked butt with an old-fashioned engine in a new-fashioned chassis. In 1999 the X1 and the Ducati 900 Supersport cost about the same; take your pick.
“Who woulda thunk it,” as my dad would say. A KTM adventure bike that costs less and makes more power than a Kawasaki KLR650, has fuel injection, electronic rider aids and weighs nearly 50 fewer pounds to boot? What mythical beast is this? It’s the 2020 KTM 390 Adventure, and it’s no myth. In fact I’ve spent the last few days on one, cruising the urban streets, farm roads and mountain highways near my home (taking a rain check on the hard core off-road stuff in these unusual times — see our “To Ride, or Not to Ride…?” editorial here).
With a base price of just $6,199, the new 390 Adventure is a lot of bike for the money, with an impressive list of standard features that make it a serious threat to value-oriented Japanese competitors like the Honda CB500X and Kawasaki Versys-X 300, as well as BMW’s G 310 GS. Adjustable front and rear WP suspension, a full-color TFT display, lean-angle sensitive traction control and Bosch 2-channel cornering ABS are all standard, with a quickshifter offered as an option.
Powering the 390 Adventure is the same 373cc, 4-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled single used in the popular RC 390 and 390 Duke sport bikes, which generated 44 horsepower at 8,800 rpm and 27 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm when we last put it on the Jett Tuning dyno — that’s nearly as much as the Honda CB500X’s larger parallel twin. It’s fitted with a gear-driven counterbalancer to tame the worst of the vibes, although we noticed a fair amount in the grips and the cleated footpegs (rubber inserts are included but were removed from our test bike). Passing at freeway speeds, especially on hills, requires either a little patience or a downshift, but the 390 cruises at the SoCal traffic standard of 75 mph without complaint. The feisty single is mated to a 6-speed gearbox fitted with a slipper clutch and, in the case of our test bike, KTM’s excellent up/down Quickshifter+.
Up front is a 43mm WP Apex USD fork with 6.7 inches of travel and adjustable compression and rebound damping; in the back is a WP Apex shock with 7 inches of travel and adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Brakes are BYBRE, Brembo’s Indian subsidiary, with a 4-piston radial caliper gripping a single 320mm disc up front and a single-piston floating caliper/230mm disc combo in the rear.
Bosch 9.1MP cornering ABS has two settings: on and off-road, which disables it in back (it cannot be completely disabled). Lean-angle sensitive MTC (traction control), on the other hand, is either on or off (there are no special modes) and can be changed on the fly, although you’ll have to hold a button on the left switchgear and release the throttle for several seconds to do so. Off-road enthusiasts take note: the MTC will revert to the on position when you shut the bike off using the ignition key, but as far as we can tell it stays off if you only use the kill switch. Like its larger siblings, the 390 Adventure includes a 12V power socket as standard, located front and center underneath the TFT display, so mounting a phone for use as a GPS or just keeping it charged in a strap-on tank bag atop the plastic fuel tank is easy.
With its 19-inch front/17-inch rear cast wheels, 70/30 Continental TKC 70 tires, plastic skid plate (augmented with metal in front of and below the exhaust pipe), and modest suspension travel and ground clearance (we measured seven inches), straight off the showroom floor the 390 Adventure is best suited to gravel and fire roads. While the WP suspension is stiff enough to perform well on smooth, sporty rides and soaks up gnarly pavement and rough dirt roads, I would want to keep extended rocky encounters to a minimum. On the plus side, bikes for the U.S. market come standard with tipover bars that protect the sides of the engine and radiator. Spoon on some knobbier tires, bolt on KTM’s accessory aluminum skid plate and you’re ready for some hard-core adventure.
For a bike of such modest size, power and entry-level pretensions, we were somewhat surprised by the height of the 390 Adventure’s seat. On paper it’s not so bad, listed at 33.6 inches, but the seat is hard and fairly flat, with sharp edges that make it difficult to get your feet on the ground. It narrows a bit toward the front, but at that point it also slopes up and gets even taller. Even with my 34-inch inseam, if I’m wearing stiff ADV-style boots I’m on my tiptoes at a stop, and forget about backing up even the slightest of inclines while seated on the bike. Fortunately the 390 is a featherweight, tipping the scales at just 387 pounds fully fueled, adding confidence to one-footed stops and making it easy to push around. And there’s another upshot: the long reach from seat to footpegs leads to a relaxed bend in the knees and makes standing up for off-road riding a cinch.
Elemental protection from the short, non-adjustable windscreen isn’t bad, although I definitely experienced some windblast, especially at freeway speeds, on my upper chest, shoulders and helmet. Ergonomics are smaller-frame-friendly (well, apart from that tall seat), with a short reach across the 3.8-gallon tank to the handlebar and its backlit switchgear. At 5 feet, 9 inches, I found the handlebar to be too low for stand-up riding, requiring a pronounced forward lean; a bar riser would be on my must-have list.
Romping through a set of corners is a joy, with the 390 exhibiting a taut, stable character that might surprise those who expect less from a small, “entry level” motorcycle. Brakes are above average for a bike in this price range, with solid bite and good feedback in front, though the back feels a bit wooden initially. Combined with a stiff chassis and firm but compliant suspension, this is a truly fun to ride machine, and those riders who pick up a 390 Adventure with no aspirations of ever touching dirt, perhaps drawn primarily to the upright, commanding “ADV” riding position, can look forward to miles of curvy smiles. The bike responds best to a firm hand, especially off idle; too gentle with the throttle and the fueling cuts out, threatening a stall — possibly the price paid for Euro 5 certification on such a high-strung motor. Once underway it still prefers to be wrung out a bit, and doesn’t respond with much below about 4,000 rpm; keep it north of that and you’ll have a ball. It’s also worth noting that even with a heavy throttle hand, fuel economy averaged 53 mpg, for an estimated range of 202 miles.
KTM already has a laundry list of accessories for its 390 Adventure, including a slip-on Akrapovič silencer that shaves off another 2.2 pounds, Ergo rider and passenger seats, hard and soft side bags and more. A centerstand, unfortunately, is not on the list. Other than that, though, it wouldn’t take much to turn the 390 Adventure into a capable on- or off-road adventurer, and even in stock form it’s a fantastic commuter that’s ready for just about anything.
2020 KTM 390 Adventure Specs
Base Price: $6,199 Price as Tested: $6,559 (Quickshifter+) Warranty: 2 yrs., 24,000 Miles Website:ktm.com
Type: Liquid-cooled single Displacement: 373cc Bore x Stroke: 89.0 x 60.0mm Compression Ratio: 12.6:1 Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl. Valve Insp. Interval: 9,300 miles Fuel Delivery: Bosch EFI w/ 46mm throttle body Lubrication System: Wet sump, 1.8-qt. cap. Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet slipper clutch Final Drive: X-ring chain