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2020 BMW F 900 R and F 900 XR | First Look Review

2020 BMW F 900 XR in Racing Red.
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Racing Red. Images courtesy BMW.
2020 BMW F 900 R in Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red
2020 BMW F 900 R in Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red.

BMW surprised us with two new mid-range models, the 2020 F 900 R and the F 900 XR, both based around a slightly enlarged version of the parallel twin released last year that powers the F 850 GS. With an increase from 853cc to 895cc, BMW says the new engine is good for 105 horsepower and 68 lb-ft of torque, and its dual counterbalancers result in a smooth riding experience.

Apart from the engine, the 2020 F 900 R and the F 900 XR also share a steel frame and rear subframe and feature unique lightweight plastic-welded fuel tanks (3.4 gals. for the R, 4.0 gals. for the XR), a 6.5-inch TFT display, LED lighting, two ride modes (Rain and Road), ABS and ASC (Automatic Stability Control) as standard.

F 900 TFT display
A 6.5-inch TFT display will come standard on both the F 900 R and F 900 XR.

Options include Riding Modes Pro, which adds Dynamic and Dynamic Pro ride modes, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), cornering ABS (ABS Pro), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and engine drag torque control (MSR), which prevents rear wheel hop when decelerating. Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension, rear only) is also available as is Headlight Pro, which adds cornering lights, and Keyless Ride.

Both models feature an upside-down fork and rear monoshock, with 5.3 inches of travel at the front, 5.6 at the rear on the F 900 R, and 6.7 front, 6.8 rear on the F 900 XR.

The 2020 F 900 R will be available in Blackstorm Metallic, San Marino Blue Metallic and Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red. The 2020 F 900XR will be available in Light White, Galvanic Gold Metallic and Racing Red. U.S. pricing and availability are TBA.

Keep scrolling for more photos….

2020 BMW F 900 XR in Racing Red.
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Racing Red.
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Galvanic Gold
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Galvanic Gold.
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Light White
2020 BMW F 900 XR in Light White.
2020 BMW F 900 XR
Plenty of touring accessories will be available for the F 900 XR, including the lights and saddlebags as seen on the bike to the left.
2020 BMW F 900 R in Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red
2020 BMW F 900 R in Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red.
2020 BMW F 900 R in Blackstorm Metallic
2020 BMW F 900 R in Blackstorm Metallic.
2020 BMW F 900 R
2020 BMW F 900 R.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX | First Look Review

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX. Images courtesy Kawasaki.

Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000 sport tourer is getting a host of updates for 2020, enough in fact that it’s been given a new (sort of) name: the Ninja 1000SX. When we last tested it back in 2017 (read the review here), we were impressed with the tour-ready Ninja’s comfort and handling, so we’re looking forward to getting a ride on this updated model.

The Ninja 1000 already included modern electronic rider aids such as an IMU-based KTRC traction control system, ABS and power modes. But for 2020 the Ninja 1000SX also gets an electronic throttle, a.k.a. throttle-by-wire, cruise control and new integrated riding modes — Sport, Road, Rain or Rider (manual) — which link the KTRC and power modes for easy on-the-fly adjustments.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
New electronic throttle also enables the addition of cruise control. All functions on the new TFT display are also accessible via the switchgear.

It also comes equipped with an up and down quickshifter (KQS) as standard, the latest Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires, a revised windscreen with three rather than two positions, a light restyle and a new TFT display with two modes (one for touring and one for sport riding) and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity via Kawasaki’s Rideology app.

Kawasaki also says it’s tweaked the potent engine with revised cam profiles for quieter operation, shorter intake funnels for cylinders 1 and 4 to help reduce emissions and a new exhaust system with a single right-side muffler rather than the previous dual-sided design, reducing the Ninja 1000SX’s weight by a claimed 4.5 pounds. Suspension also received a tweak in the form of a new low-speed slit on the fork’s damping pistons for smoother fork action.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
The 2020 Ninja 1000SX cuts a more svelte profile thanks to the switch to a single muffler.

Best of all, the 2020 Ninja 1000SX is priced just $200 more than last year’s model, coming in at $12,399. It’s available in one color option: Metallic Graphite Gray/Metallic Diablo Black. Kawasaki accessory 28-liter quick-release bags are an $899.95 option.

Keep scrolling for more photos….

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
Hard 28-liter saddlebags start at $899.95.
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
New TFT display in sport mode, showing lean angle.
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
This graphic shows the change in the intake funnels for cylinders 1 and 4.
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX
Cockpit of the 2020 Ninja 1000SX. Tall clip-ons haven’t changed, but the TFT display and new three-position adjustable windscreen are new.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Kawasaki Z650 and Z900 | First Look Review

2020 Kawasaki Z900 in Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver
2020 Kawasaki Z900 in Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver. Images courtesy Kawasaki.

Kawasaki is updating its Z650 and Z900 naked sport bikes for 2020, with the Z900 receiving the most significant changes that bring it up-to-date and closer to its competition technology-wise.

The Z900, which was first launched back in 2017, impressed us from the start with its smooth, tractable power and rider-friendly character, but we dinged it for its lack of electronic rider aids when compared with the competition. (Read our comparison shoot-out review of the 2017 Z900 and the Yamaha FZ-09 here.) Kawasaki has addressed that complaint for 2020, giving the Z900 updated electronics, plus some tweaks to the frame and suspension and a light facelift.

Z900 switchgear
Ride and power modes are new for the 2020 Z900.

Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) includes three modes: Modes 1 and 2 control ignition timing to prevent wheel slippage in sport riding conditions, while Mode 3 has higher sensitivity and controls ignition timing, fuel and air for ultra-smooth operation. Two power modes operate independently, with full and low (approximately 55% of full with a milder throttle response) options.

Additionally, the Z900 also offers Integrated Riding Modes that link the KTRC and power modes for quick and easy adjustment to suit a giving riding situation. There are four modes, Sport, Road, Rain and Rider (manual).

2020 Z900 TFT display
The 2020 Z900 will be equipped with a 4.3-inch TFT display that incorporates Bluetooth smartphone connection via the Rideology app.

Other changes for 2020 include a new 4.3-inch TFT instrument that incorporates Bluetooth smartphone connection via Kawasaki’s Rideology app, a revised frame with added strength in the swingarm pivot area, updated suspension settings, slightly revised styling that includes an LED headlight and new Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires.

The 2020 Kawasaki Z900 will be available in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black and Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver for $8,999 ($9,299 for ABS version).

2020 Kawasaki Z900 in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black
2020 Kawasaki Z900 in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Z650 gets a light style refresh that includes an LED headlight, TFT display with Rideology app connectivity and new Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires. It will be available in Metallic Spark Black and Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black starting at $7,249 ($7,649 for ABS version).

2020 Kawasaki Z650 in Metallic Spark Black.
2020 Kawasaki Z650 in Metallic Spark Black.
2020 Kawasaki Z650 in Metallic Spark Black.
2020 Kawasaki Z650 in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black.
Z650 TFT display
The 2020 Z650 will be equipped with a TFT display that includes Bluetooth smartphone connectivity via the Rideology app.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 KTM 390 Adventure | First Look Review

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
2020 KTM 390 Adventure

The ranks of lightweight, entry-level adventure bikes will grow by at least one in 2020 with the introduction of KTM’s new 390 Adventure. Ready for touring and light off-roading at a claimed 348 pounds dry with a 33.6-inch seat height, the bike’s high-performance heart is the liquid-cooled, 373cc DOHC single with four valves from the 390 Duke, which has EFI, a balancer shaft, PASC slipper clutch and a Ride-by-Wire throttle for smoother and more refined response. The engine is carried in a steel trellis frame with a bolt-on seat subframe and die-cast, open-lattice swingarm similar to the larger 790 Adventure’s.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
2020 KTM 390 Adventure

The 390 Adventure’s WP Apex 43mm upside-down fork was originally developed for enduro riding and features 6.7 inches of travel with a spring on both sides; compression and rebound damping are separated into the left and right fork legs respectively. The WP Apex shock has 6.9 inches of travel and adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Extra robust cast wheels — a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear — are fitted with tubeless Continental TKC 70 tires for a blend of street performance and off-road grip.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
2020 KTM 390 Adventure

The 390’s Bybre brake package includes a 320mm front brake disc and 4-piston radially mounted front caliper, and a 230mm rear disc with a 2-piston floating rear caliper. An ergonomically designed 3.8-gallon fuel tank gives the 390 Adventure a claimed range of more than 249 miles. Rider aids include Off-Road and Cornering ABS and Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC), and the 390 Adventure comes standard with an adjustable windscreen, LED lighting and KTM My Ride, which allows for a Bluetooth connection to control incoming calls and an audio player through the full-color, 5-inch TFT display with multifunctional dashboard. An up/down Quickshifter + is optional for the 390 Adventure, along with a number of KTM Power Parts accessories. The 2020 KTM 390 Adventure is priced at $6,199; availability is TBD.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Harley Releases Details on Liquid-Cooled Revolution Max Engine Powering Pan America and Bronx Models

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250. Photos by Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson made some waves at EICMA this week, showing off two models it teased in 2018, the Pan-America adventure-tourer and the Bronx streetfighter. Both are powered by a new liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine platform called the Revolution Max — 1,250cc in the Pan America and 975cc in the Bronx. Harley also confirmed that both models will launch in late 2020.

The Revolution Max is a bold new step for a company invested so heavily in (air-cooled) tradition — although perhaps not as bold as its LiveWire electric motorcycle unveiled earlier this year and now on sale at H-D dealerships nationwide. (Read our First Ride Review here.) Harley says the Revolution Max is designed to minimize weight and maximize performance, with a narrow profile that integrates into the bike as a stressed member of the frame. It also features a counter-balancer for smooth and comfortable operation.

Harley claims performance targets of more than 145 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 1250, and more than 115 horsepower and 70 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 975.

A few other details about the new Pan America and Bronx were released as well, including a collaboration with Brembo to create a new radial monoblock caliper that complements Harley’s unique design, and a continuing partnership with Michelin to develop co-branded tires specifically for each model.

Thanks to a smattering of new images (scroll down to see them all), we can also glean a bit more info about the new bikes.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Pan America looks to have a large, full-color TFT display, electronic suspension, cruise control and a one hand-adjustable windscreen.
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
The Pan America also sports a chain final drive and tubeless spoked rims.
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Brembo brakes have ABS.
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Pan America’s luggage looks adventure-ready.
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
This dark rendering of the Revolution Max 1250 gives us a few more hints, like a skid plate and side radiator guards.
Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Is the world ready for a Harley ADV tourer? There’s only one way to find out….
Harley-Davidson Bronx
Harley-Davidson Bronx.
Harley-Davidson Bronx
It’s hard to tell if this is a backlit LCD or a TFT. The Bronx looks to have cruise control and an adjustable fork, though.
Harley-Davidson Bronx
Smaller version of the Revolution Max powers the Bronx. Notice the footpegs, a sporty rearset design that’s positioned right underneath the rider.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050, 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure | First Look Preview

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Orange and White
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT in Orange and White. Images courtesy Suzuki.

Suzuki has announced updates for its lineup of big V-Stroms, including a nomenclature change from 1000 to 1050. The 2020 V-Strom 1050, V-Strom 1050XT and V-Strom 1050XT Adventure feature sharper styling with bold, bright paint schemes that reflect Suzuki’s historical race livery, and a few technological updates.

At the heart of each Strom is the tried-and-true 1037cc 90-degree V-twin that Suzuki says has been updated with more horsepower while still complying with worldwide emissions standards. Ride-by-wire with dual electronic throttle assemblies powers a revised traction control system with an additional ride mode (for a total of four), a new three-mode Drive Mode Selector that adjusts power delivery characteristics and the addition of Suzuki’s one-touch Easy Start System. There is also a new LCD instrument with mounting bar for a GPS and a new USB port.

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 rolls on cast wheels and comes in Gray and Black.

The base V-Strom 1050 rolls on cast wheels, but the V-Strom 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure both include tubeless spoked wheels for more off-road endeavors. They also feature the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) with a new six-direction, three-axis IMU. The S.I.R.S. includes electronic cruise control and an updated cornering ABS and combined braking system that now includes Hill Hold Control and a Slope Dependent Control System that manages rear wheel lift when riding downhill.

Both the V-Strom 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure also come with a redesigned windscreen, hand guards and mirrors, a new height-adjustable two-piece seat, a centerstand, engine guards and more.

The 2020 V-Strom 1050XT will be available in two colors, Championship Yellow and Orange and White. The V-Strom 1050XT Adventure will be available in Glass Sparkle Black and includes quick-release aluminum panniers and heated grips. Pricing and availability on all three models is TBD.

Keep scrolling for more photos….

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Yellow
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT in Championship Yellow.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Adventure
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Adventure in Glass Sparkle Black.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Triumph Bobber TFC | First Look Preview

2020 Triumph Bobber TFC
2020 Triumph Bobber TFC. Images courtesy Triumph.

When the original Bonneville Bobber launched back in 2017, we were smitten. True, it had some quirks — not enough front brake and a limited fuel range being the most noticeable — but overall we loved what Triumph had created: a factory bobber that delivered in both looks and performance.

Then the following year we got the Bobber Black, with dual front brake discs mounted to its fat front tire — quirk number one, check. In the meantime, Triumph released its first Triumph Factory Custom (TFC) model, the Thruxton TFC, and we swooned. Then earlier this year we got a look at the new Rocket 3 TFC and we salivated.

Now Triumph has announced its third TFC model, and guess what? It’s the Bobber.

The 2020 Triumph Bobber TFC will sport more power across the powerband, with 39% lower engine inertia resulting in a 500 rpm-higher rev limit. It’s also a claimed 11 pounds lighter (although that number is subject to change as the bike is homologated for the U.S. market).

2020 Triumph Bobber TFC engine
2020 Triumph Bobber TFC. Images courtesy Triumph.

As with all TFC models, the Bobber TFC is dripping with high-end components, including fully-adjustable Öhlins suspension front and rear, Arrow exhaust, dual front brake discs with Brembo M50 monobloc calipers and MCS radial master cylinder, an additional Sport riding mode (joining the standard Road and Rain) and an LED headlight with distinctive light pattern.

It gets unique clip-ons rather than a traditional one-piece handlebar, carbon fiber bodywork, a billet top and bottom yoke with numbered plaque, a real leather seat and special TFC badging throughout.

Only 750 Bobber TFCs will be built and sold worldwide, and like all TFC models it comes with paperwork signed by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor, a personalized custom build book, a Bobber TFC bike cover, a TFC document wallet and a leather TFC branded backpack.

More details will follow the Bobber TFC’s homologation in January 2020. U.S. pricing is also TBD.

2020 Triumph Bobber TFC
2020 Triumph Bobber TFC. Images courtesy Triumph.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP | First Look Preview

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. Photos courtesy Honda.

The subtle HRC logo and the SP appended to the end of its name are clues to this all-new Fireblade’s mission: to bring a true MotoGP influence to the masses and dominate the track. Will it make you as fast as Mark Marquez? Maybe not, but it sure looks like fun.

Introduced as a 2021 model year bike (examples of this limited-production machine will start to hit dealerships in June 2020), the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP is Honda’s way of throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of those who have complained in recent years that its CBR1000RR has gotten too “soft.” Too…dare we say?…comfortable.

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
The Fireblade SP is a purpose-built track machine.

The CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP is completely new, not just a revised CBR1000RR (which will return in Honda’s U.S. street lineup for 2020). It features an all-new 1000cc inline-four with the same bore and stroke as the RCV213V MotoGP race bike.

Honda says the engine is more compact and more powerful than the standard RR’s, with improved cooling and reduced friction. Its new valve train features finger-follower rocker arms, DLC coating on the camshafts and a semi-cam gear train for durability under high revs, and the intake efficiency has been improved with an all-new 52mm throttle body. The addition of a keyless ignition also allowed Honda to create a more direct path to the airbox from the gaping intake in the nose of the fairing, further improving airflow.

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
Gaping air intake has a straight shot to the airbox, thanks to a keyless system that does away with the ignition column. Side winglets add downforce for reduced lift and added braking stability.

The SP has different geometry than the standard RR as well, with a longer wheelbase (57.3 inches vs. 55.3), a longer rake and trail (24 degrees and 4.01 inches vs. 23 degrees and 3.77 inches), an engine placed 33mm farther forward and 16mm higher, and a longer, MotoGP-style swingarm. Its aluminum chassis with tube-type aluminum rear subframe is also all-new.

Suspension is by Ohlins, with an NPX fork up front with 2nd-generation Ohlins Smart EC with OBTi (Object Based Tuning interface) and the ability to set and store multiple modes. Brakes are Brembo (including the master cylinder), with Stylema front calipers, 330mm front discs that are 5mm thicker than before and the same rear caliper as the RCV213V-S.

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
Those two tiny LED strips are the SP’s taillights. Turn signals and license plate holder are easily removable for track use.

A comprehensive electronics package powered by a Bosch 6-axis IMU includes five power modes, three engine braking modes, 9-level Honda Selectable Torque Control with a new slip rate control, 3-level wheelie control, switchable ABS with Sport and Track modes and a quickshifter.

Everything about the Fireblade SP was built for the track, and Honda claims it has the lowest coefficient of drag in its class, with MotoGP-inspired winglets for reduced lift and increased braking stability. Its riding position is very aggressive — this ain’t the CBR1000RR you see on weekend canyon runs.

A “base model” CBR1000RR-R Fireblade (without the SP) will be available in Europe but not the U.S. Pricing is TBD, but we’re certain to get more information in the coming months.

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
New TFT display is switchable. Clip-ons are very low and footpegs are very high.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Inside Arai Helmets

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Michio Arai, son of company founder Hirotake, and Michio’s son Akihito (on bike), two of the three generations of Arais that have been making premium motorcycle and auto-racing helmets for nearly 70 years.

After spending a few years behind bars and a desk at Rider magazine, I like to think I have some important things figured out. “Nonplussed” doesn’t mean unimpressed. Lean and believe. Bread plate on the left, drink on the right. And wear ATGATT (All of The Gear All of The Time), especially an approved helmet, preferably full-face. What about Snell vs. DOT vs. ECE 22.05 helmet certification standards? Yes, there are significant differences among them, but those differences really only come into play if you can predict what type of accident you’re going to have. The important thing is to find an approved lid that is comfortable and fits well, has good optics and doesn’t contribute to fatigue with excess noise or weight. A helmet that you like. A helmet that you want to wear, and always do.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Arai Americas Managing Director Brian Weston holds a “preforma,” or bird’s nest layer of chopped Super Fiber ready for the mold.

Arai has been making helmets motorcycle riders and countless successful racers want to wear for a very long time, since its first fiberglass-shelled model sold in Japan in 1952. Company founder Hirotake Arai, the son of a hat maker, was an enthusiastic motorcycle rider who established a headgear and textile factory in Saitama, Japan, near Tokyo, in the late 1930s, and after World War II made helmets for construction workers. When his buddies at the local racetrack asked him to make helmets for them, Arai created the first Japanese motorcycle helmets from fiberglass, resin and expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), effectively launching the Japanese motorcycle helmet industry. Despite focusing on head protection for fellow riders first and business concerns a distant second, the company flourished producing “HA” (Hirotake Arai) branded helmets, especially after establishing the “bag molding” technique with 2-piece metal molds that is still in use for most composite helmets today.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
After the preforma or “bird’s nest” is inserted into the mold, one of Arai’s shell experts carefully places the reinforcing layers inside it, then a second preforma is put in to hold everything together, creating in effect a bird’s nest sandwich.

Soon after Hirotake’s son Michio (a rider since age 7) returned to Japan from college in the U.S. to help with the family business, Arai produced its first Snell-certified HA helmet in 1963. Exports began and the U.S. distributor who would eventually start and become President of Arai Helmet USA in 1977, Roger Weston, helped convince Hirotake to change the brand name from HA to simply “Arai” for obvious reasons.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
An amazing number of preforma and reinforcing layers of fiberglass are used in each lid, some Super Fiber, some AR Mat and others Zylon or even carbon fiber.

Today Arai Helmet Ltd. has factories in Saitama and Shinto, Japan, and is still a privately owned family business, now in the capable hands of Michio “Mitch” Arai, 81, and his son Akihito. Production has ranged from a pre-recessionary high of more than 450,000 helmets annually to about 280,000 today, all by hand with the exception of six robotic lasers used to cut and trim the shells. Mitch and “Aki” Arai, along with Roger Weston’s son Brian — now Managing Director of Arai Americas — recently decided it was high time to pull back the veil on Arai’s skunk works in Japan with a press tour and ride that would showcase its new Regent-X full-face helmet (review coming soon) and two overriding aspects of Arai helmets: an unfailing attention to tradition, details and quality from its factory workers and helmet experts, many of whom have been with the company for decades; and Arai’s strong belief that in addition to absorbing impacts, a helmet’s shape must allow it to slide smoothly and deflect, or “glance off” impacts in order to prevent rotational energy from entering and affecting the wearer, hence the use of roughly the same smooth, egg-like shell shape since the 1970s.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
EPS pellets of four or more different densities are used to create the EPS liner that crushes to absorb impacts.

So far no one has found a better material for a motorcycle helmet’s protective liner than EPS, and like most premium helmet companies, Arai forms its liners from EPS pellets of different densities — lighter for the thicker areas like the crown and forehead, heavier for thinner spots. Where technology and cost collide with tradition and safety is in the helmet shell, the designs for which vary greatly among manufacturers. Although the days of polycarbonate, injection-molded shells not holding up to more rigorous standards are long past, Arai believes that composite shells made of laminated fiberglass layers and resin can be stronger, lighter and safer, since the shell absorbs some of the impact by crushing or delaminating and better resists penetration (both a polycarbonate and composite helmet must be replaced after a serious impact, since the EPS liner will have been compressed).

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
The only robots in Arai’s four factories are the laser cutters used to trim the newly formed shells, one at its R&D center in Saitama and five more at the molding facility in Shinto.

Rather than throwing out a shell design and starting over each time, Arai’s current Peripheral Belt-Structural Net Composite 2, or PB-SNC2 (used in high-end models) and PB-Complex Laminate Construction, or PBcLc, shell designs have evolved from numerous CLC designs since the first in 1977. Both start with Super Fiber, fine strands that have 30-percent more tensile strength than ordinary fiberglass. These are chopped, sprayed with resin and blown onto a perforated, rotating vacuum dome, creating a strong “bird’s nest” of sorts that is heated to retain its shape. This bird’s nest is placed into a two-piece mold, and then up to 18 reinforcing pieces such as Arai’s peripheral belt of Zylon (also used in bulletproof vests) around the top of the eyeport and the Structural Net Composite, or SNC, that helps hold the layers together, are carefully placed inside the bird’s nest. Another bird’s nest is placed on top, sandwiching the whole thing together before the resin is poured in and the hot mold is closed up with a thick airbag inside to squeeze the layers together. After 13 minutes what began as a complicated sandwich of Super Fiber, fiberglass mat and Zylon layers that can take years to learn how to assemble has formed into a light, thin but ultra-strong integral shell.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Each and every shell produced 200 kilometers away in Shinto or nearby in Saitama must pass final inspection at this facility in Amanuma, where shells are checked for thickness, weight and visible irregularities.

After the virgin shells are trimmed around the bottom and their vents and eye ports cut by the laser, what follows is flurry of handwork and quality control by dozens of skilled workers, and with the exception of some paintwork and plastic part production it’s all done in-house. From sanding, priming, painting, water-decal application, strap riveting, and inserting the EPS liner to gluing in the eyebrow vents and comfort liners and numerous QC inspections, each worker doesn’t just do his or her job — each inspects and insures the quality level of each lid and genuinely cares about the result. What struck me most about Arai was not the modernity of the factories or quantity of helmets being produced, but rather that it doesn’t modify the design or what it feels is the safety level of its helmets in order to lower cost or make production more efficient or more automated. Just as it did in the 1950s, Arai genuinely cares about protecting fellow riders first and business concerns second. As Michio Arai said before we left, “Doing what we believes in gives us pride. We are not good businessmen, but we are determined to provide protection for the heads of fellow riders.”

Keep scrolling for more photos….

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Michio Arai, 81, talks about Arai Helmet’s history in Saitama. The iconic photo in the background is of his father and company founder Hirotake standing on the saddle of his Harley in the late 1930s.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Punching out reinforcing layers en masse at the Shinto factory.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
A machine weaves strands of Super Fiber for reinforcing layers like the peripheral belt that goes around the eyeport.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
This is how a shell looks right after it’s removed from the mold. Now it’s off to the laser cutter. Note the staples used to hold some of the fiberglass layers together are all located in the eyeport, which gets cut out.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Since resin is relatively heavy, as little as possible is used to form a shell, leaving a rough finish that requires an incredible amount of handwork to get it ready for primer and paint.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Graphics that aren’t painted are typically water decals painstakingly applied before the helmet is clear coated. Interestingly decal application is all done by women, who Arai has found have much more patience than men for the intricate work.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
We were treated to an exceptional preview of the new Arai Regent-X Helmet’s performance with a lengthy ride from Saitama to the famously twisty roads of Gunma Prefecture near the Shinto factory. Many thanks to Honda Motorcycle Japan for providing the bikes.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Kawasaki W800 | First Look Review

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

When the sharp-looking W800 Cafe was announced for the U.S. market for 2019, reactions were predictably mixed. Yes, the cafe racer look was cool…but there was a vocal chorus of Boomers who yearned for the classic look and feel of Kawasaki’s latest “W” iteration, but could you please lose the drop-down handlebar and give us something with a “sensible” riding position? Perhaps the standard W800 the rest of the world gets?

Someone at Kawasaki must have been listening (even if it was just to sales figures), as for 2020 Team Green has announced the W800 is coming to America, with its bench seat, chrome fenders and — thank goodness! — standard handlebar.

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

The 733cc air-cooled vertical twin with its distinctive exterior cam shaft-drive is unchanged except for the polished aluminum finish, as opposed to the blacked-out look on the W800 Cafe. Other parts are also less modernized, like the classic large, round turn signals with orange lens covers, silver spoked tube-type wheels (though now a 19-inch up front rather than the Cafe’s 18), aforementioned chrome fenders, chrome tank badging and polished finish on the gaitered fork tubes.

Other modern conveniences carry over: standard 2-channel ABS, an assist-and-slipper clutch and a bright LED headlight. Notably, the standard W800 gets a centerstand, which was missing on the Cafe.

Best of all, the W800 is priced a bit more competitively than its Cafe sibling, at $9,199. The 2020 Kawasaki W800 comes in Candy Cardinal Red and exact availability is TBD.

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

Source: RiderMagazine.com