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2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS | Road Test Review

2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS review
Completely redesigned for 2021, the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS has more power, less weight, and premium components and electronics. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

Yes, this is a review of the 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, the legendary streetfighter from Hinckley that has been completely redesigned. More power, less weight, all the must-haves – you get the idea. For me, testing the Speed Triple was personal. But before I get into it, you should know the backstory. 

London, England, 1998. I can still fit everything I own into the trunk of a hatchback, and for the first time in my short life, I’m earning more money than I’m spending. When my employer relocates me to a new office in the financial district, my commute becomes a 45-minute crush on the Tube. With a modest pot of cash building in the bank, I decide now is the time to buy my first proper motorcycle. Lane splitting in Britain is legal, and I plan to join the multitude of well-healed professionals commuting through the traffic and into the city each morning. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The legendary streetfighter from Hinckley has been completely redesigned and the 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS has more power, less weight, and premium parts.

It’s the same year Triumph gives its naked hooligan, the Speed Triple, an aggressive redesign. Introduced in 1994, the Speed Triple had already left its mark. The new styling for ’98 includes wider, higher bars and distinct double headlights under a minimal flyscreen, a design that Tom Cruise will come to immortalize in Mission Impossible II

The engine is now the 955cc Triple from the Daytona, producing a whopping 130 horsepower. I visit the Triumph dealership in Vauxhall so often the sales staff make fun of me and pretend to close the shop, telling me, “turn off the lights when your done sitting on it.” The Speed Triple’s price tag is hanging from the handlebar: £7,999 (around $13,000), which is about ten times more than I’ve ever spent on anything. 

Alas, saving for my first proper bike is competing with the fiscal demands of London’s nightlife, and ultimately, I scale down my plans. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R I buy leaves £2,500 for some decent gear, but as much as I love the Ninja, I lament the hooligan and tell myself there will always be a next time. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story

Fast forward to 2005. London is history, as is the Ninja. New York is now my home and the center of the universe. Business is going well, but occasional rental rides are not cutting the mustard from a thrill perspective. As if in answer to my thoughts, Triumph releases the fourth generation of the Speed Triple, with a larger 1,050cc inline-Triple and a new chassis. But it’s the massive dual underseat pipes, which help expose the single-sided swingarm, that catch my eye. 

I head down to the Triumph dealer in SoHo and climb aboard. It’s bigger than I remember, and meaner looking. I decide, right there and then, I’m going to buy it. But a test ride is “out of the question” until I get a New York driver’s license, as is insuring any bike I buy. I book the test, but somewhere along the way, a petite Italian also catches my eye, and suddenly I have a shared bank account and an eye-watering mortgage. My new fiancé doesn’t think a new motorcycle is a priority right now.  

Time marches on. With each generation, the Speed Triple gets better and better. And with each passing year, it seems farther out of reach. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The new Speed Triple 1200 RS is one of the lightest hyper naked bikes on the market, making it extremely agile.

Now it’s 2021, and I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a few years. A few weeks after starting my new job at Rider, our EIC says he needs me to test the new Speed Triple 1200 RS. And just like that, I’m holding the keys – a keyless fob, actually – to a machine I’ve coveted for years. 

Revised from the ground up, the new Speed Triple certainly looks the part. The underseat pipes are gone, replaced with a superbike-style can, but the fox-eye headlights, which replaced the iconic round ones in 2011, are as menacing as ever. It feels more compact than I remember, with a narrower seat and gas tank. Our test bike’s color scheme is the Matte Silver Ice option. Sapphire Black is also available and both colors are understated, flying in the face of its many candy-colored rivals or even the garish colors offered on Speed Triples in the past, like Nuclear Red and Roulette Green. But it’s no sleeper. Huge Brembo brake calipers and Öhlins suspension are clear indicators of the power they’re tasked with harnessing. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
All of the 2021 Speed Triples are designated RS, and standard equipment includes fully adjustable Öhlins suspension and Brembo Stylema front brake calipers.

Triumph completely redesigned the Speed Triple’s engine, starting with an increase in displacement (1,160cc, up from 1,050) and a race-bred oversquare piston configuration. A bigger bore and a shorter stroke result in a higher redline, now 11,150 rpm. A new ignition system with twin-tip spark plugs improves combustion, and a new air intake and free-flowing exhaust system help squeeze every available horse from the Hinkley hooligan. On Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno, the Speed Triple grunted out 165.5 horsepower at 10,800 rpm and 87 lb-ft of torque at 8,500 rpm, figures that are much higher than the previous model.     

Triumph’s engineers must have been busy because, despite the performance gains, the new engine weighs 15 pounds less than before and is Euro 5 compliant. Lighter moving parts have significantly reduced engine inertia, promising a very revvy engine. A lighter slip/assist clutch assembly has fewer plates but more friction per plate, and it’s linked to a new stacked 6-speed gearbox with an up/down quickshifter. An all-new cast-aluminum chassis is both stronger and lighter, further cutting the Speed Triple’s curb weight down to just 437 pounds.

2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS review dyno horsepower torque
Dyno results for the 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS

Compared to the Speed Triple R we tested back in 2012, the 2021 RS makes 40 more horsepower and weighs 40 pounds less. Take a moment and let that sink in. 

The only Speed Triple 1200 available for 2021 is the RS model, and with that designation comes premium equipment. Fully adjustable Öhlins suspension includes an NIX30 inverted fork and a TTX36 twin-tube rear shock. Braking at the front wheel is supplied by twin Brembo Stylema radial monoblock 4-piston calipers clamping 320mm discs, and at the rear, a single Brembo 2-piston caliper. Tires are grippy Metzeler Racetec RR tires with just a hint of rain sipes. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story

Brembo Stylema calipers, coupled with Metzler Racetec RR tires make for truly impressive stopping power. 

After getting acquainted, I start to get a feel for the Speed Triple’s handling as I make my way out of the city. The ride is firm, as is the seat; not a stone, but not plush either. The quickshifter works beautifully, especially at the higher rev ranges, but I can’t find neutral to save my life. By the time I reach the back roads I feel acquainted enough to really open up the throttle as I exit a familiar, sweeping corner. Thump-in-the-chest acceleration follows as the engine spins up almost instantly. I know this road intimately, but suddenly it feels shorter and I’m up to the next corner before I know it. With a firm, progressive pull on the brake lever, the stopping power from the Stylema calipers feels like I just launched a parachute. I lose my flow through the corner because now I’m too slow. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
Out on the back roads, I finally get to open up the Speed Triple’s throttle, the engine response is immediate, and acceleration out of the corners is blisteringly quick.

A few miles later and I’m coming to grips with it. The Triumph is in Road mode and I see no reason to change that. The body position is spot-on for a naked, the sporty side of neutral, and despite the firm seat and significant bend at my knee, I’m not uncomfortable. The bars are wide but steering inputs are precise. Triumph has moved the footrests inboard slightly, and when I get confident enough to test the sticky Racetecs, I find plenty of grip and ground clearance. 

Now that my brain is properly calibrated, I come to appreciate the phenomenal brakes. I can be heavy on the rear with no issues, and the front brakes are immediate without being snappy. There is barely a whiff of dive in the fork. Our test bike came straight from a track test, and the suspension was carved-from-granite stiff. We turned the clickers on the Öhlins NIX30 to remove nearly all of the compression and rebound damping, and the ride was much improved. Taut and responsive, though as a 160-pound rider I’d like to go softer still. 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS review

The Speed Triple is a breeze to ride, despite the race-bred engine. The performance is staggering, but not unwieldy. Thanks to the abundant torque it’s happy to tootle about in the higher gears. Throttle response is sharp but manageable, and when I’m a little heavy-handed, wheelie control kicks in and levels things out (you can turn it off and wheelie away if that’s your thing). The bike feels smaller than it is, and is eminently flickable, darting into corners on demand with eye-popping acceleration on exit. Sometimes the firm ride can be unsettling on less-than-perfect roads, but through a smooth series of corners it’s like magic.

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story
The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story

The cockpit is nicely understated, and the dash is clear and readable in bright daylight and in the dark. Snazzy graphics add a bit of flare. 

Triumph applied its standard minimalist approach to the cockpit. A low-reflection, 5-inch TFT display defaults to a view of the tach, gear position, and speed, and snazzy dash graphics rotate the default screen to the side when you access the menu. A new six-axis IMU sensor empowers a full suite of electronic rider aids, including multi-mode cornering ABS and traction control. There are five riding modes: Rain (power is restricted to 99 horsepower), Road, Sport, Track, and Custom. On the street, the Speed Triple is more than saucy enough in Road mode. All-round LED lights, backlit switchgear, keyless ignition, and cruise control are standard. 

The Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS exceeded my expectations. As I rode it more and more, I adapted to it, and I’d like to think it adapted to me. We got to know each other. I grew more confident in its handling and braking capabilities, which allowed me to explore more of its performance envelope. The mighty Triple rewarded me with one of the most thrilling riding experiences of my life. They say you should never meet your heroes, but in this case, there was no letdown. I still love the Speed Triple. And yes, it was worth the wait. 

The Triumph Speed Triple - A Love Story

2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS Specs 

Base Price: $18,300
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles 
Website: triumphmotorcycles.com

Engine

Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse inline Triple, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,160cc 
Bore x Stroke: 90.0 x 60.8mm 
Compression Ratio: 13.2:1
Valve Insp. Interval: 20,000 miles 
Fuel Delivery: Multipoint sequential EFI w/ throttle-by-wire
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.5 qt. cap.
Transmission: 6 speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain

Chassis

Frame: Aluminum twin-spar frame, bolt-on aluminum rear subframe & single-sided cast aluminum swingarm 
Wheelbase: 56.9 in
Rake/Trail: 23.9 degrees/4.1 in 
Seat Height: 32.7 in. 
Suspension, Front: 43mm USD fork, fully adj., 4.7 in. travel 
Rear: Single shock, fully adj., 4.7 in. travel 
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm floating discs w/ 4-piston radial monoblock calipers & ABS 
Rear: Single 220mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast aluminum, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast aluminum, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 190/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 437 lbs.
Load Capacity: 430 lbs.
GVWR: 867 lbs. 

Performance

Horsepower: 165.5 @ 10,800 rpm (rear-wheel dyno)
Torque: 86.9 lb-ft @ 8,500 rpm (rear-wheel dyno)
Fuel Capacity: 4.1 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 29 mpg
Estimated Range: 117 miles 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS Photo Gallery

The post 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS | Road Test Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Striking Vikings: How Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
This 1970 Husqvarna 250 Cross belonged to Bruce Brown and appeared in On Any Sunday. It is now part of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s collection. Photos by TED7 / Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum.

For a while there, 50 years ago, Husqvarna was perhaps the best-known and most desirable dirtbike in the world. They were good enough bikes — I owned and tested them in the day — but fame earned in the hands of Baja racer and ISDT gold medalist Malcolm Smith, and their use by actor Steve McQueen, exposed and validated the bikes to more people through the movie On Any Sunday than probably any amount of advertising or editorial coverage could accomplish. Whereas magazine tests and race results reached readers hungry for the latest news about the latest products, such impressions often vaporize when the next generation of products arrives. And from the mid-1960s onward until the modern 4-stroke dirtbike era, those changes were relentless. 

What the movie actually did for the Scandinavian machines was far deeper, what scientists would define as “imprinting.” In 1935, Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz noticed that goslings (newly hatched geese) would memorably imprint on the first living animal they saw, whether that was Mother Goose or a person. This imprint became lifelong, the same powerful imprint that Husqvarna’s heroic and emotional appearances in On Any Sunday created for kids and young adults at the time. And so, all these years later, the effect Husqvarna — particularly the twin-shock, chrome-sided tank models with the aluminum fenders — has on legions of middle-aged men is real, bordering on mental. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

With its hand-stenciled number plate, scuffed finishes, and weathered patina, Bruce Brown’s 250 Cross tells a story of competition and heavy use, and it helped make Husqvarna famous in America. Its air-cooled 2-stroke single and bolt-together frame were simple but durable. Brown replaced the original metal fenders with lighter, flexible plastic fenders made by Preston Petty Products. 

How did Husqvarna of far-flung Sweden — the land of reindeer and icy fjords — find itself in the right place at the right time? Maybe it was serendipity, since in 1953 the company produced its first purpose-built enduro, the Silver Arrow, featuring an upswept exhaust and high-mounted fenders to idealize the bike for trail use. Presciently, Husky likewise pioneered a 500cc 4-stroke for FIM motocross competition in 1958, but that model had a short lifespan. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
Featuring lights, a horn, a speedometer, and a California green sticker, this 1967 250 Commando (VIN 167038) dual-sport was the first Husqvarna owned by Steve McQueen. Like Brown’s 250 Cross, it has been preserved in its original, unrestored condition, with a battered red-and-silver tank, a rusty exhaust pipe and a taped-up seat.

From there, a few more years of development finally produced a 2-stroke production motocross bike fit for America. Motocross had just come here by way of California in 1965, thanks to West Coast roadracer Wes Cooley, Sr., who discovered the fledgling sport while in Europe. After returning home, he organized the first known sanctioned MX event in this country, an invitational at Castaic near Los Angeles. 

“When Wes called to announce the race, most of us said, ‘What?’” laughed AMA Hall of Fame member Mary McGee. “Even so, 45 of us, mostly desert riders, showed up.” McGee rode that event, although on a Triumph twin desert sled and not a Husky, making her America’s first female motocross racer. Then Cooley repeated in 1966. 

“This was the first U.S. motocross race for Husqvarna, and also the first U.S. race for Torsten Hallman,” McGee added. Hallman would ultimately win six 250cc world titles for Husky and was atop his game in ’66. “Now there were close to 60 riders, but everyone had their eyes on Torsten. He and the Husky together made a huge impact. Mostly because Torsten was so bloody fast, but also because the Husky was a proper motocross bike — it was so beautiful compared to looking at a big, huge Triumph, Matchless, or AJS. That reverberated fast through the manufacturers.” 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

The other factor in the serendipity equation was Edison Dye, who obtained Husqvarna distribution rights in America and had brought Hallman here. Aboard the newfangled Husqvarna, Torsten simply blew the competition away, establishing a benchmark for the new sport of motocross that was totally European — Swedish, actually — from the bikes’ weirdly named Trelleborg knobby tires on up. 

Prior to this time, Malcolm Smith rode a heavy 4-stroke Matchless G80CS, and then hopped over to a 2-stroke Greeves before trying a Husqvarna in a desert shakedown. “In 1966, Edison came to my repair shop and wanted me to race one of the two Husqvarnas he had imported,” Smith recalled. “I said no because I was racing a Greeves for Nick Nicholson. But he had one in his pickup and said, ‘At least try it.’ So, I rode it around the track we had built in the hills and came back and told him I would race it. It was so much better feeling than anything I had ridden before — light, powerful, and agile. I won many races on it and kept on racing Husqvarnas until they were sold to the Italians.” 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
The 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross is one of two donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum by Mark and Randy Zimmerman. Steve McQueen had it done up in chrome before giving it to his friend and fellow actor, James Coburn.

I asked Malcolm to recall his favorite and least-favorite Huskys. “The best Husqvarna I had was a 400WR 6-speed,” he said. “Very smooth, even power, and no vibration. It was only produced one year before they made it a 430.” 

And the worst? “The worst bike Husqvarna ever made was the air-cooled Desert Master 450,” he revealed. “They used the ‘boat anchor’ motor, as we called it. Big, heavy, slow, and unreliable.” 

With good business smarts even as a young man, Smith obtained a dealership franchise as he started racing Husqvarnas. Over the years that franchise grew into the Malcolm Smith Motorsports dealership in Riverside, California, and the Malcolm Smith Racing (now MSR) product line that have made Smith wealthy as well as famous for his on-track and on-screen accomplishments. As is typical though, instead of mentioning this, Malcolm credited Husqvarna rep Gunnar Lindstrom, a talented engineer as well as racer, with helping the brand grow in the States. 

The story thus far may appear to start Husqvarna’s clock in the mid-1960s. While that’s true in the U.S., the brand’s history runs much deeper. Husqvarna began as a gun manufacturer in 1689, produced bicycles in the late 1800s, and in 1903 began manufacturing motorcycles. Starting in the 1910s, Husqvarna produced V-twin road bikes, and for a time in the 1930s, 350cc and 500cc V-twin racing models that won several Grands Prix, although most of the precious team bikes were lost in a truck fire. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
Steve McQueen’s Husqvarna 400 Cross has the original aluminum fenders, with a rubber mud flap on the front that would bend and flop around at speed.

The basic engine that powered the famous Husqvarna 250 Cross and 400 Cross bikes in Bruce Brown’s historic 1971 film first took shape in the mid-1950s Silver Arrow enduro model. Studying the egg-shaped engine cases and the organic shape of the air-cooled piston-port cylinder and head reveals how a postwar engineering draftsman’s board produced forms that, decades later, were drawn by innumerable school kids on their schoolbook covers. 

The ode of these early purebred dirtbikes, from the mid-1950s through the mid-1980s and the end of the line for the “original” Husqvarna motorcycles, was defined by engineering principles of simplicity, strength, performance, and light weight. Inside those first egg-shaped cases were a straightforward pressed-together crankshaft supported by ball bearings and using a roller-bearing connecting-rod big end. Up top was an iron cylinder liner press-fit into an aluminum cylinder, topped by an aluminum head. A simple magneto provided spark and, for enduro versions, lighting. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

Power flowed from the crank to the early 4-speed dog-type gearbox via a gear primary drive and a multi-plate wet clutch. This type of architecture was widely found among European dirtbikes such as Bultaco and CZ. A tuned upswept expansion chamber maximized power in the desired portion of the rev range, and complemented, as did the gearbox ratios, the intended use of the model. 

Noted motocross bike restorer Bill Masho has rebuilt numerous Huskys to museum standards and knows them from their crankshafts up. “They are logical but not over-engineered, and robust enough with regular maintenance,” he noted. “Early (1966-67) oval-case 4-speeds were exceedingly good, displacing 2-stroke Greeves and other early ’smokers. The 1970-71 400 Cross was probably the best model of the series — no major faults. The first 5-speeds (starting in 1972) were heavy and slower, and didn’t handle as well. But the later ones — particularly the GP of 1975-76 — were very effective.” Masho should know. As this was written he was in Unadilla racing a post-vintage national. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
This 1971 400 Cross (VIN MI4666) was registered to Solar Productions, Steve McQueen’s production company. It’s the same model Husky on which he did a shirtless wheelie for the August 23, 1971, cover of Sports Illustrated (“Steve McQueen Escapes on Wheels”). This one was modified with a Ceriani fork and Koni shocks, and it underwent a full restoration in 2012.

Highly desirable today are the early “bolt together” frame models, and naturally the iconic On Any Sunday models with the rounded, chrome-sided tanks and that peculiar mud flap hanging off the front fender like the floppy ear of a mutt. Honda copied it on the first Elsinore models, a shameless mimicry some thought. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

Husqvarna was on the world stage in motocross from the get-go, and it soon enough got there in America too, thanks to Hallman, Smith, and notable U.S. riders including Mark Blackwell, Kent Howerton, Brad Lackey, and Chuck Sun. And in the desert, J.N. Roberts and Whitey Martino — and John McCown with his dog Kookie riding on the gas tank! — excelled. Remarkably, given the brand’s strong reputation, in 1976 Howerton claimed Husqvarna’s first and only U.S. national motocross championship in the 500cc class. It would be over 40 years before Zach Osborne repeated the feat aboard the modern KTM-bred 250cc and 450cc 4-strokes. Dick Burleson and Malcolm Smith flew the Husqvarna flag in enduros, and Smith won the Baja 1000 twice on Husqvarnas, first with Roberts and later with Gunnar Nilsson.

 

The Japanese companies got on the pipe big time in the 1980s, reshaping the technology battlefield with liquid cooling, long-travel suspension, and single-shock, rising-rate rear suspension systems in a stampede of progress. Husqvarna was late to follow, and eventually fell out of favor with the hard chargers. Even so, with its antiquated air-cooled engines and twin shocks, the brand soldiered on into the mid-1980s in the U.S. And then the party — at least here — ended, as the forward-looking ’83 TE 510 4-stroke enduro was a decade ahead of the industry. Ownership of Husqvarna traded hands several times — Cagiva in 1987, BMW in 2007, and finally KTM in 2013. 

Today the “new” Husqvarna is active in motocross, cross country, and enduro, and offers a line of 2-stroke and 4-stroke bikes paralleling KTM’s meteoric line. Husky is now also back on the street with the 701 Supermoto, 701 Enduro dual-sport, the avant-garde Svartpilen and Vitpilen naked bikes, and the upcoming Norden 901 adventure bike. 

How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart
How Sweden’s Scrappy Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart

It’s been 50 years since On Any Sunday charmed audiences across the country, and even longer since those first wraithlike silver-and-red Husqvarnas lined up to race in the hills of Southern California. A kid who got an eyeful that day would nearly be a senior citizen now, but he would still remember the unmuffled shout of 2-stroke racing engines and the flash of the Huskys’ chrome-sided tanks, polished fenders, and maybe even that floppy mud flap swept back in the wind. 

And that, my friends, is what you call an imprint. 

The Husqvarnas shown in the accompanying photos were donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum by Mark and Randy Zimmerman. The Petersen’s permanent collection includes hundreds of automobiles and motorcycles. Located in Los Angeles, the museum regularly features motorcycle exhibits in the Richard Varner Family Gallery — “ADV:Overland,” curated by Paul d’Orléans, opened in July 2021. For more information, visit petersen.org. 

The post Striking Vikings: How Husqvarna Captured America’s Heart first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

The Why Behind Arai Helmets

The Why Behind Arai Helmets
Akihito Arai pictured at the Arai factory in Japan.

In 1914, a doctor practicing near the Brooklands racetrack in England first correlated the relationship between motorcycle accidents and serious head injuries. Dr. Eric Gardner went on to invent the first purpose-built motorcycle helmet. It wasn’t until two decades later, when a head injury resulting from a motorcycle accident took the life of Thomas Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, that the first serious studies were conducted into the efficacy of motorcycle helmets in reducing the severity of head injuries. Hugh Cairns, Lawrence’s attending doctor and a leading neurosurgeon, used his findings and influence to ensure that helmets would become obligatory equipment for British Army Signal Corps riders going forward.

Early helmets were mostly constructed from cork, leather, and sometimes wood, and remained so until post-war developments in synthetic materials lead innovators such as Hirotake Arai to develop an entirely new design. Arai, a keen motorcyclist, had retooled his family hat business to produce safety helmets for construction workers. Applying the same manufacturing techniques, he began making and selling the first Japanese motorcycle helmets in 1952. They were made from a fiberglass resin outer shell lined initially with cork, and later, expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Seven decades on, motorcycle helmets, along with a multitude of international standards, have evolved exponentially, as has our understanding of science. Nonetheless, the infinite number of variables existing in a real-world crash ensure that even the most sophisticated models used to gauge a helmet’s ability to absorb an impact will remain controversial. While tests aimed at appraising shell penetration, peripheral vision, and the strength of chin straps lend themselves more readily to laboratory observation, governing bodies are forced to compromise in the face of producing practical, repeatable tests that accurately simulate impact absorption.

The Why Behind Arai Helmets
An Arai factory engineer utilizing an ‘anvil test’ rig on a helmet shell.

An effective helmet design aims to minimize the energy reaching the wearer in a crash, and since much of the testing involves dropping helmets from a given height onto an anvil, passing the resulting standards can be as simple as thickening the EPS layer in all the right places. Arai argues that the resulting helmet would no longer possess the overall strength and durability afforded by a sphere and ignores the role a helmet plays in redirecting and absorbing energy. In the same way a stone can be made to skim across a pond, a round, smooth helmet will glance off a surface, redirecting energy away from the wearer.

Arai’s design philosophy first accepts that practical limitations on a helmet’s size and weight restrict the volume of protective EPS foam it can contain. Inevitably, helmets can’t prevent all head injuries. But, with the understanding that safeguarding a rider’s head goes far beyond meeting the demands of governing bodies, Arai applies the “glancing off” philosophy to design helmets that reduce the effect of impacts on riders’ heads. Given that most impacts are likely to occur at an oblique angle because motorcyclists are moving at speed, Arai’s design aims to maximize the ability of a helmet to redirect energy by glancing off an object. The design is a function of shape, shell strength, and deformation characteristics that absorb energy along with EPS.

The Why Behind Arai Helmets

Arai collects crashed helmets for analysis and data collection, and uses the information to continually refine their helmet design.

Arai has developed and refined its approach through decades of evaluation and experimentation. Its helmets are round and smooth, and any protruding vents or airfoils are designed to detach on impact. The shell itself must be strong and flexible, but it must not deform too quickly or it will dig in rather than glance off. Arai uses multiple laminated layers combining glass and composite fiber to produce a very strong but lightweight material, and areas of potential weakness at the helmet’s edge and eyeport are reinforced with an additional belt of “super fiber.” Arai says its shells can withstand much higher abrasion than what is mandated by standards tests, and in doing so, can retain its energy absorption properties for a second or third impact.

The Why Behind Arai Helmets
Every Arai helmet is still made and inspected by hand at the family-owned factory in Japan

While glancing off can redirect energy from the impact, a high-velocity crash may also require a helmet to absorb and distribute impact energy. Arai’s proprietary one-piece, multi-density EPS liner is made up of different sections of varying densities corresponding to the adjacent shell surface. This helps maintain the helmet’s spherical form and enhances its ability to glance off. In the case of a crash involving a slide along the ground and into an object, such as a curb or barrier, Arai’s helmets are designed to deflect the initial impacts with the ground with minimal shell deformation, saving its absorption properties for the rapid deceleration caused by impacting the object.

While glancing off can redirect energy from the impact, a high-velocity crash may also require a helmet to absorb and distribute impact energy. Arai’s proprietary one-piece, multi-density EPS liner is made up of different sections of varying densities corresponding to the adjacent shell surface. This helps maintain the helmet’s spherical form and enhances its ability to glance off. In the case of a crash involving a slide along the ground and into an object, such as a curb or barrier, Arai’s helmets are designed to deflect the initial impacts with the ground with minimal shell deformation, saving its absorption properties for the rapid deceleration caused by impacting the object.

The Why Behind Arai Helmets
Each helmet shell undergoes a series of quality control checks before continuing through the production process.

Many other helmet manufacturers and philosophies exist, and riders must make their own conclusions in the knowledge that certification requirements mandated by bodies such as the DOT and ECE only guarantee a minimum standard. Every Arai helmet is still made and inspected by hand at the family-owned factory in Japan; the only automated process is the laser cutting of the eyeports. Over its history Arai has built an enviable reputation for quality and attention to detail. As the saying goes, it is expensive for a reason.

For more information on Arai helmets, visit araiamericas.com.

The post The Why Behind Arai Helmets first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S | First Look Review

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

After the successful launch of the Pan America 1250, Harley-Davidson’s first-ever adventure bike that’s built on the all-new liquid-cooled Revolution Max platform, the Motor Company has announced a late addition to its 2021 lineup, the Sportster S. It will be in dealerships this fall with an MSRP of $14,999.

Visually similar to the 1250 Custom teased several years ago, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S represents a new era for the legendary Sportster line. Since the introduction of the XL model family in 1957, Sportsters have always been stripped-down motorcycles powered by air-cooled V-Twins.

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999
2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

Harley-Davidson calls the new Sportster S a “sport custom motorcycle,” and at the heart of the machine is a 121-horsepower Revolution Max 1250T V-Twin, a lightweight chassis, and premium suspension.

“The Sportster S is the next all-new motorcycle built on the Revolution Max platform and sets a new performance standard for the Sportster line,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson. “This is a next generation Sportster defined by power, performance, technology and style. And it’s part of our commitment to introduce motorcycles that align with our strategy to increase desirability and to drive the legacy of Harley-Davidson.”

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

The new Sporter S has a stocky, muscular profile and fat tires that look like balled-up fists. Its minimalist front fender evokes the front end of a classic bobber, while its tail section, high-mount exhaust, and olo seat draw inspiration from Harley-Davidson’s legendary XR750 flat tracker. The engine’s lightweight magnesium engine covers stand out with a Chocolate Satin finish.

“Every visual design element of the Sportster S model is an expression of the motorcycle’s raw power,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson vice president of styling and design. “This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing.”

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

Displacing 1,250cc just like the Pan America’s engine, the Revolution Max 1250T in the Sportster S makes less peak horsepower and is tuned for a broad spread of torque. The riding experience can be tailored to conditions or preferences with selectable ride modes (Sport, Road, and Rain, plus two Custom modes) and H-D’s Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements.

Like on the Pan America, the Revolution Max engine is a stressed member of the Sportster S chassis. It has a welded tubular-steel trellis swingarm with a braced design and stamped X-member to further stiffen the chassis.

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

Suspension is made by Showa and is fully adjustable at both ends, with a 43mm USD cartridge fork and a piggyback-reservoir rear shock with a remote preload adjuster knob. Likewise, the Sportster S has Brembo brakes at both ends, with a single 320mm rotor up front squeezed by a radial monoblock 4-piston caliper and a 260mm rear rotor with a 2-piston caliper. Lightweight cast aluminum wheels with a staggered, five-spoke design are shod with wide Dunlop/Harley-Davidson Series GT503 tires.

Forward foot controls and a low handlebar put the rider in an aggressive posture, and seat height is 29.6 inches. Cruise control and a proximity-based security system are standard equipment. With its 3.1-gallon peanut tank full of fuel, Harley-Davidson says the Sportster S model weighs just 502 pounds.

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S liquid cooled Revolution Max MSRP $14,999

A round, 4-inch TFT screen displays all instrumentation and supports Bluetooth-enabled infotainment. All-LED lighting includes a Daymaker Signature LED headlamp. A wide range of accessories will be available.

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S will be offered in Vivid Black, Stone Washed White Pearl, and Midnight Crimson.

2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S Photo Gallery

The post 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S | First Look Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
The MT-07, Yamaha’s Budget Blaster. Photos by Kevin Wing.

Since its debut in 2015, Yamaha’s MT-07 has been a popular choice thanks to its punchy parallel-twin, aggressive naked styling, and lightweight accessibility. It has proven to be just as adept as a first bike, a commuter, a track bike, a play bike — heck, throw luggage on it and it can be a sport-tourer.

Rider did a comparison test of the Kawasaki Ninja 650, Suzuki SV650, and Yamaha FZ-07 (the MT-07’s original moniker) back in 2016. The three bikes share the same defining attributes — simple, fun, and inexpensive. The FZ-07 came out on top, proving to be edgier and nimbler than its rivals, providing immediate response to throttle inputs and exceptionally agile handling. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
The MT-07’s aggressive styling belies a neutral riding position and a comfortable seat at an accessible height. Yamaha has done a bang-up job on this budget blaster.

To stay ahead of the competition, Yamaha tweaked the mix, focusing on styling and rider engagement while maintaining the core character at the heart of the model’s appeal. A key part of that appeal has always been its value for money, and in its class, only the Suzuki SV650 can match its price. Perhaps not surprisingly then, most of the updates for the 2021 model are subtle. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
The middleweight MT-07 is versatile and can fill many practical roles. It really shines on winding mountain roads, where opportunities to get the most out of its punchy parallel-twin and grippy dual-compound tires bring out its lively character. Simple, nimble, friendly, and a whole lot of fun!

The most striking change is in the new headlight cluster. Yamaha has standardized the styling across the MT range, and just like the MT-09 we tested recently, the MT-07 is fitted with full LED lights arranged in what Yamaha calls a “signature Y-shape icon,” which I found to be insect-like and split the opinion of the Rider staff. The “Y” motif is carried over to the rear LED also. Overall, the MT-07 is a great-looking bike. The stance looks more aggressive than it feels, and the new bodywork provides just enough edge without being silly.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
A new LED headlight cluster and LED turn signals are in line with the rest of the MT lineup.

New flared intakes add some muscle to the look, while sleek LED turnsignals bring a touch of class and are a vast improvement over the old lollipop design. Aesthetics aside, the new light cluster is a practical improvement. At night, the low beam provides a good spread of useable light. The high beam is bright and well defined but lacked width when the road became windy. There is no TFT for the new model, but the revised LCD dash is now color inverted. The dark screen with white characters is stylish and easy to read in bright daylight and at night, and Yamaha has fixed the mounting angle issues from previous models. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
A new white-on-black LCD meter has a bar-style tach and a large, easy-to-read font.

The newly tapered handlebars are over an inch wider and positioned slightly higher than before, which opens up the ergonomics slightly. The wide bars, which work flawlessly at low speeds, felt slightly cumbersome when carving through my favorite canyon. The new setup takes nothing away from the MT-07’s exceptional agility and responsiveness, allowing for precisely picked lines through corners and a tight turning radius. The low seat height and curb weight, which at 31.7 inches and just over 400 pounds respectively, are among the lowest in class, make for a thoroughly approachable motorcycle, especially for shorter riders. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Rider Test
The middleweight MT-07 is versatile and can fill many practical roles. It really shines on winding mountain roads, where opportunities to get the most out of its punchy parallel-twin and grippy dual-compound tires bring out its lively character. Simple, nimble, friendly, and a whole lot of fun!

There is a narrow stretch of winding road not far from my home that is so good that I often stop and re-ride it a few times. On the MT-07 it was a blast, and I was impressed with how easy it was to get a U-turn done. My brother, who lives in the U.K., is taking his motorcycle test on a restricted MT-07. It’s a favorite with schools offering the A2 test, and no doubt its low-speed maneuverability and forgiving nature are key factors behind that. 

I’m 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and when I took our MT-07 for a full day’s ride, spending a solid eight hours in the saddle, I found it had a comfortable and commanding riding position, with room to slide back on the seat just a little and get into a more aggressive attitude in the twisties. The pegs are high enough to make it a plausible carver but require considerable knee bend for taller riders like me, which felt cramped after a while. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t change much. The pegs give enough clearance to really take advantage of the strong performance offered by that punchy twin. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Rider Test
An empty sweeping road is the perfect environment to take advantage of the MT-07’s punchy parallel twin.

The MT’s 689cc parallel-twin has been tweaked to be Euro 5 compliant without compromising performance. We took it down to Jett Tuning for dyno testing, and output remains similar to the outgoing model: 68 horsepower and 46.5 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel. Part of what makes the MT-07 so much fun is its bias towards maximizing instantaneous torque. The motor provides all the thrill the combustion forces working below can exert but with none of the hairiness. Throttle response is strong without being too snappy. A new air-intake duct ensures smooth fueling and acceleration when rolling on and off the power, and the engine’s 270-degree firing cadence generates a nice strum when you get the revs over 5,000. It also has a little bit of crackle and pop as you come off the gas, always a crowd pleaser. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
Revisions to the engine’s intake, exhaust, and fuel injection help the MT-07 meet Euro 5 regulations and dyno testing revealed output remains similar to the outgoing model.

Riding the MT-07 up my favorite canyon, 25 glorious miles, few of which are straight, gave me an opportunity to get the new Michelin Road 5 tires warmed up and carry some speed into the corners. The characteristics of these tires suit the bike well. Designed as an all-rounder, the Road 5 has four-season credentials in its center tread, where deep grooves dissipate water, but at the tire’s shoulder, only called into use when riding spiritedly in the dry, a softer compound of sticky rubber without tread sipes provides additional grip. 

In this environment, the MT-07’s twin is happiest in the 5,000-7,000 rpm range, optimizing throttle response and engine braking. Thanks to the short wheelbase and low weight, flicking it from side to side is effortless, and the handling intuitive. After only a few miles it felt like I’d been riding this thing for years and I found myself in that wonderful riding zone, where your inputs are entirely in tune with the motorcycle and the feedback you get through the bars, pegs, and seat is clear and predictable. All that remains is the asphalt, the braking points, the exits, and the exhilarating forces working through your body, now a part of the bike. I didn’t want to stop, fearing even a brief pause might break the magic. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
Michelin Road 5 dual-compound tires complement the MT-07’s versatility.

One of the key reasons behind the MT-07’s popularity as an all-rounder is its ability to be just as forgiving to new riders as it is thrilling for riders with years of experience. The gearbox is somewhat notchy and requires more effort than some of its class rivals, but the clutch has a wide take-up zone and takes all the sweat out of pulling away from stops. The strong low-end torque even allows you to pull off in 2nd gear without embarrassing yourself with a stall. 

ABS is standard and Yamaha has made the front brake discs 14mm larger, which provided adequate stopping power but with a softer lever than premium brakes. The 41mm nonadjustable KYB fork remains unchanged, and the rear monoshock is adjustable for preload and rebound. The MT-07 was fighting above its weight when I took my wife on a pillion ride through the canyons. Handling and braking were up to the task, but the narrow rear seat and lack of grab rails ensure this will not be the first choice for riders looking for a good two-up bike. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Rider Test
The MT-07’s styling sets it apart from competitors in its class.

The MT-07’s past success has been dependent upon its nearly universal accessibility. The magic lies in maintaining these aspects while still being exciting, practical, comfortable, and visually appealing. Riders familiar with the older models will not be disappointed. Nothing has been compromised where it matters. The updated styling represents a bold modern design and visually sets it apart from its rivals. 

What hasn’t changed is the MT-07’s ability to repeatedly take you back to that feeling you had the very first time you stepped off a bike with pedals and pulled away on a bike with pegs, when exertion was replaced with effortless thrust. It makes me grin just thinking about it. The MT-07 remains an excellent value while still offering riders of all skills, sizes, and needs the most important thing of all — pure, unadulterated fun. 

2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review
Thanks to the MT-07’s agility and responsiveness, pitching it from turn to turn feels almost effortless. It’s a great bike for building and maintaining confidence, and it delivers plenty of excitement at a reasonable price.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 Specs

Base Price: $7,699
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles 
Website: yamahamotorsports.com 

Engine

Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. 
Displacement: 689cc 
Bore x Stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm 
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1 
Valve Insp. Interval: 26,000 miles 
Fuel Delivery: DFI w/ 38mm throttle bodies x 2 
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 2.75 qt. cap. 
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch 
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Chassis

Frame: Tubular-steel perimeter w/ engine as stressed member, steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.1 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.5 degrees/3.5 in.
Seat Height: 31.7 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 5.1 in. travel
Rear: Single link-type shock, adj. preload and rebound, 5.1 in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 298mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 245mm hydraulic disc w/ 1-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast aluminum, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast aluminum, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 180/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 406 lbs.
Load Capacity: 377 lbs.
GVWR: 783 lbs. 

Performance

Horsepower: 67.9 hp @ 8,600 rpm (rear-wheel dyno)
Torque: 46.5 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm (rear-wheel dyno)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 45 mpg
Estimated Range: 165 miles 

The post 2021 Yamaha MT-07 | Road Test Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone | First Ride Review

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
Updates for 2021 to Moto Guzzi’s V7 Stone and V7 Special include a larger engine and a revised chassis. (Photos by Larry Chen Photo)

“I would know the sound of a big Guzzi in my sleep. It concentrates its aural energies in your upper chest, ringing through your bones. It is … the sound of joy.”
— Melissa Holbrook Pierson, The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles

When we find joy, we hold it close and nurture it. Woven throughout Pierson’s book, arguably one of the best ever written about motorcycling, is a romance between the author and Moto Guzzi. When searching for her first motorcycle, it was love at first sight: “a 500cc V-twin Moto Guzzi, red-and-black, a workhorse, and I thought it was beautiful.” 

Like any true love, Pierson’s passion for Moto Guzzi ran deep and transcended appearance. She fell under the spell of the Italian V-twin’s syncopated beat. She dedicated her mind, body, and spirit to learning to ride, doing her own maintenance, and enduring long hours in the saddle through stifling heat, bitter cold, and drenching rain. 

Moto Guzzi is a storied marque that celebrates a century of continuous production this year. Every Moto Guzzi — from the 1921 Normale, a 498cc single, to the 1955 Otto cilindri, a liquid-cooled, DOHC 500cc V-8 GP racer that topped 170 mph, to present-day models — has been built in the factory in Mandello del Lario, Italy, on the shores of Lake Como. 

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The Centenario paint scheme is inspired by the 1955 Otto cilindri racebike. (Photo by Sergio Piotin)

Three models — V7 Stone, V9 Bobber, and V85 TT — are available with a special Centenario color scheme for 2021 that pays tribute to the Otto cilindri. Their silver fuel tanks are inspired by the racebike’s raw alloy tank, their green side panels and front fenders are a nod to its iconic dustbin fairing, and their brown seats and golden eagle tank emblems further set them apart, though all 2021 models/colors display 100th anniversary logos on their front fenders. 

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The V7 Stone is a modern take on a classic roadster, with simple lines, dark matte finishes, and cast wheels.

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: HJC RPHA 90
Jacket: Joe Rocket Classic ’92
Gloves: Joe Rocket Cafe Racer
Pants: Scorpion Covert Pro Jeans
Boots: Highway 21 Journeyman

Over its long history, Moto Guzzi has designed and built many notable models, but the V7 is a true living legend, the very soul of the brand. After two decades of building small, inexpensive motorcycles after World War II, Moto Guzzi became the first Italian manufacturer to offer a large-displacement model when, in 1967, it introduced the 700cc V7. It was the genesis of the engine configuration that came to define Moto Guzzi: the “flying” 90-degree V-twin, with its air-cooled cylinders jutting outward into the wind and its crankshaft running longitudinally. The V7 also had an automotive-style twin-plate dry clutch, a 4-speed constant mesh transmission, and shaft final drive. 

Today’s V7 maintains a strong connection to the original, from its round headlight, sculpted tank, and upright seating position to its dry clutch, shaft drive, dual shocks, and dual exhaust. The V7 Special ($9,490) is classically styled, with spoked wheels, chrome finishes, dual analog gauges, and a traditional headlight. The more modern-looking V7 Stone ($8,990) has matte finishes, a single all-digital gauge, black exhausts, cast wheels, and an eagle-shaped LED set into the headlight.

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The V7 Special (left) brightens things up with gloss, chrome, and spoked wheels.

I’ve ridden a variety of Moto Guzzis over the years — the Norge sport-tourer (named after the Norge GT 500, which Giuseppe Guzzi rode to the Arctic Circle in 1928), the carbon-fiber-clad MGX-21 Flying Fortress hard bagger, the classic California 1400 Touring, and the red-framed, chrome-tanked V7 Racer, among others. Each was unique, but all shared the distinctive cah-chugga-chugga sound when their V-twins fired up and the gentle rocking to the right side when their throttles were blipped at idle. 

Riding a Moto Guzzi feels special. It’s a visceral, engaging, rhythmic experience. The V7 Stone brought me back to the simple pleasure of motorcycling — the feel of the wind against my body, the engine’s vibrations felt through various touch points, the exhilaration of thrust. Although the new V7 has a larger 853cc engine, variations of which are found in the V9 and V85 TT, output remains modest — 65 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 54 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, measured at the crank. But that’s enough. The V7 is one of those motorcycles that gives you permission to relax, to take your time and really savor the moment. What’s the rush? 

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The Centenario edition’s silver and green paint complements the V7 Stone’s black engine and exhaust.

Moto Guzzi made many useful, subtle updates to the V7 platform. Reduced effort from the single-disc dry clutch. A stiffer frame and a bigger swingarm with a new bevel gear for the cardan shaft drive. Revised damping and a longer stroke for the preload-adjustable rear shocks. An updated ABS module. A wider rear tire (now 150/70-17). Vibration-damping footpegs. A thicker passenger seat. 

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The V7’s new eagle-shaped digital gauge is tasteful.

All are appreciated, but if I’m honest, I thought about none of them as I rolled through curve after curve on California’s Palms to Pines Highway, climbing higher and higher into the rugged, snow-dusted San Jacinto Mountains. For the better part of a day, I just rode the V7. I didn’t try to figure out its riding modes (it doesn’t have any), nor did I connect my smartphone to Moto Guzzi’s multimedia app. I rolled on and off the throttle. I shifted through the gears. And I smiled. A lot. 

The V7 Stone is solid, predictable, carefree. Its engine doles out torque nearly everywhere, but it feels happiest chugging along in the midrange. Throttle response is direct, the exhaust note is soothing. Thanks to its modest weight, low seat, and natural ergonomics, riding and handling are effortless. Braking, shifting, suspension — everything dutifully meets expectations. Like the Guzzi that stole Pierson’s heart, the V7 Stone is a workhorse, and it’s easy on the eyes. Well, except for its peculiar-looking taillight, which has a constellation of red LEDs that look too sci-fi for this style of bike. 

The V7 Stone Centenario carries the weight of Moto Guzzi’s century of history with confidence. The brand is an acquired taste, favored by connoisseurs rather than the masses, and it inspires a cult-like following. When I interviewed Melissa Holbrook Pierson for the Rider Magazine Insider podcast, I asked about her first encounter with a Guzzi. “It was chance,” she said. “I just happened upon the bike that was literally perfect for me.” 

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone - First Ride Review
The 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone is one of three new Guzzi’s available in the commemorative Centenario paint scheme.

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

Base Price: $8,990 
Price as Tested: $9,190 (Centenario edition) 
Website: motoguzzi.com 
Engine Type: Air-cooled, longitudinal 90-degree V-twin, OHV w/ 2 valves per cyl. 
Displacement: 853cc 
Bore x Stroke: 84.0 x 77.0mm 
Horsepower: 65 hp @ 6,800 rpm (claimed, at the crank) 
Torque: 54 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank) 
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated dry clutch 
Final Drive: Shaft 
Wheelbase: 57.1 in. 
Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/4.1 in. 
Seat Height: 30.7 in. 
Wet Weight: 480 lbs. 
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gals. 

The post 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone | First Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Two Buddies Tour the Rocky Mountains

A Dream Come True - Two Buddies Tour the Rocky Mountains Moto Guzzi Spirit of the Eagle Rideaway V85 TT
Kit (on left), Guy, and the Moto Guzzi V85 TTs in Kanisku National Forest, ready to take on the resplendent Rocky Mountains. (Photos by Guy Pickrell)

“You’ve got to enter this!” said my touring mate, Marco, when he called me about Moto Guzzi’s Spirit of the Eagle Rideaway competition.

Describe your dream tour, anywhere in the USA. Win the use of a V85 TT adventure bike for 14 days and a $2,500 travel budget.

I threw down a route. Start in Seattle, ride east to Glacier National Park, then follow the Rocky Mountains south through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Flaming Gorge, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and finish in Las Vegas. Eight days, seven states, six national parks and monuments, 2,600 miles. Epic!

Click here for the REVER route shown above

When the Piaggio Group called me last August to tell me I had won, it didn’t leave much time to prep and hit the road to beat the cold weather in Glacier National Park. My buddy Kit agreed to join me, and Moto Guzzi generously offered us a second bike. The adventure/dual-sport market isn’t Guzzi’s typical realm, so when I read that the TT stands for tutto terreno (all-terrain), I figured the least we could do is put them through a genuine off-road test. Part of the budget went toward Michelin Anakee Wild tires; billed as 50/50 on-/off-road, they have a surprisingly aggressive tread pattern. At 500-plus pounds, the V85 TT is no dirt bike, but if adventure is your goal, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself off the beaten path, and that’s exactly where we planned to be.

Our Chariots Await

We flew to Seattle and first saw our V85 TTs parked outside at Optimum Performance Motorsports. Their styling reminded me of old Paris-Dakar bikes. I took the Adventure edition, sporty in bright red and white livery, with only a gesture of a windscreen. Kit took the Travel edition, with a sophisticated metallic sand color and a larger windscreen, auxiliary lights and heated grips. Both bikes were fitted with excellent panniers, and the Adventure also included a top box, which I removed to allow more room for my DrySpec soft bags. After a chat with Alan Kwang, the dealership owner, he handed us the keys and wished us well. It was surreal riding away on brand new bikes without having exchanged anything more than a conversation.

A Dash Across an Apocalyptic Plain

It was nearly noon by the time we packed everything on the bikes and rode east out of Seattle. U.S. Route 2 climbs into rugged, pine-strewn mountains and goes over Stevens Pass (4,061 feet) before descending along the floor of a dramatic, glacial valley. During a late lunch in Leavenworth, the smell of smoke reminded us there were wildfires still burning across Washington State. After crossing the Columbia River, a steep ascent took us out of the rocky canyon onto a vast, windswept plain. Rolling grassland swept off to the horizon in all directions. Huge areas, scorched black by the recent flames, were still smoldering. It was like riding through the wake of a recent battle. We raced across the plateau for 140 miles, and then descended into Spokane and made quick time to our hotel in Ponderay, Idaho.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Going-to-the-Sun Road provides panoramic views of the dramatic arêtes, cascading valleys and ribbon lakes that make up Glacier National Park.

Majestic Glacier National Park and Deer in the Headlights

Still refining the bike-packing process, we began the first of 440 miles much later than planned. Just shy of the Canadian border, Route 2 turns east near Bonners Ferry, into the dense fir and spruce forests of Montana. Entering Glacier National Park, crystal-clear Lake McDonald sweeps up the valley alongside Going-to-the-Sun Road, a narrow strip of asphalt (and an engineering marvel) carved into the side of a mountain range. Logan Pass (6,647 feet) offered awesome views, as sheer valleys tumbled down to the lakes below and knife-edged arêtes towered above us. The light was fading by the time we got on the deserted forest road to Missoula. Kit spotted a mule deer, her almond eyes reflecting brightly in the Travel’s auxiliary lights. She was the first of many, and it was 10 p.m. when we finally walked into the Missoula Club bar, famous for its burgers and beer.

The Glorious Mountain Roads of Montana

After refueling in Hamilton, we turned east into the Sapphire Mountains on a steep gravel track and climbed up to Skalkaho Pass (7,257 feet). It was our first off-road test for the bikes and tires, and we quickly found our confidence on the hard-packed gravel. Abundant torque served us well, especially in 2nd and 3rd gears. By afternoon, the towering canyons had relented to reveal panoramic views of the dramatic scenery. We swept up another pass, riding into Virginia City, a marvelous authentic gold-rush town established in 1863. Following the Madison River south from Ennis, we had a breathtaking sight as the setting sun lit up a colossal rift running along the western bank. Eventually, we made it to our hotel in the dark, tired and hungry, only to discover the nearest restaurant was eight miles away, in West Yellowstone.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Clouds of sulphur-smelling steam billow up from boiling pools along the road through Yellowstone.

Enchanting Yellowstone and Towering Grand Teton

As the sun came up, we brushed the ice off our seats and rode into Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. We rode a clockwise loop around the park, passing steaming geysers, volcanic hot springs that belched scorching, sulfurous gas, and bison that grazed the roadside meadows, eventually coming upon enormous Yellowstone Lake. We made a quick stop at the amazing Old Faithful Inn, just as its namesake geyser erupted.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
The Tetons looming over Jackson Lake

The road exiting Yellowstone’s southern entrance runs along the edge of a sheer canyon, ending at Jackson Lake, where the Tetons, a series of three spectacular peaks, soar up from the western bank to over 13,500 feet like giant fossilized teeth. It was late afternoon when we stopped at Alpine to buy supplies. The Guzzis always drew a small crowd and a flurry of questions. I discovered our next leg, a 95-mile dirt track through Bridger-Teton National Forest, was only graded for the first 40. Undeterred (somewhat), we proceeded anyway and soon found an idyllic spot to make camp by the river.

Scarlet Sockeye and the Stunning Beauty of Flaming Gorge

After a chilly, restless night, we rejoined the track running along Greys River, a ribbon of blue and lush green framed by rocky bluffs. As predicted, the track became steep and challenging, but the V85 TTs’ suspension capably soaked up the abuse, while their V-twins churned out torque with a lovely, distinctive rumble. We savored awesome view after awesome view as our fifth day’s route took us out of Wyoming’s forested mountains and into the painted desert canyons of Utah.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Steaming in the early chill, bucolic Madison River flows into Yellowstone National Park

Desolate plateau roads delivered us to a series of tight corners cut into the red rock, descending hundreds of feet into Flaming Gorge. At the bottom, we stopped at Sheep Creek, where the shallow, limpid water was teeming with sockeye salmon. A series of thrilling sweepers and twisties climbed out of the gorge, providing a spectacular view of the sheer, banded cliffs of crimson and terracotta strata and the reservoir below. The plateau finally ended with a dramatic zig-zagging 3,000-foot descent to the town of Vernal, Utah. We used every electrical socket in the room to charge the crap out of everything — cameras, phones, drone — making the most of our last night in a hotel.

Ridge Riding on Top of the World and A Steer Standoff

After a dash across the vast Uinta Basin, we descended into Scofield (pop. 23), home to Snack & Pack, a quirky gas station where customers broil their own burgers. With us and the Guzzis refueled, we climbed into the mighty Manti-La Sal Mountains and onto Skyline Drive Scenic Backway, a rough unpaved road that follows a knife-edged ridge at over 10,000 feet, with sheer drops down both sides to the valleys below. I tried to focus on the riding, despite the arresting views at every turn. This was not a good place to screw up.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Skyline Drive can test the nerves, but at 10,000 feet the views are worth the effort

With one eye on the clock, we reluctantly turned off Skyline, riding down into the valley, where we found our route blocked by a herd of belligerent bovine. Stores are scarce in this remote part of Utah, and we were forced to ride 20 miles past our exit to buy supplies, starting the last leg as the sun began to set — a steep, 18-mile dirt track that provided plenty of butt-clenching moments in the dusk. We pitched our tents on patches of sand among boulders and stunted juniper. There was no moon, and when the last of the firewood burnt out, we could see the Milky Way painted across the night sky, with shades of purple, blue and red in an ocean of stars.

We Max Out the V85 TTs and Reluctantly Ride to Vegas

The morning sun blazed across the desert as we tore off down the rocky trail and into Cathedral Valley, where a group of distinctive striped mesas rise up from the plain like a village hewn from rock. Capitol Reef National Park is amazingly varied. Terracotta cliffs are the backdrop to white and yellow hoodoos, vivid green yuccas and gnarly juniper, as well as a formidable mix of sand-and-rubble tracks. Our pace had increased, and at times we asked more from the Guzzis than they were designed for, but what a ride! Inevitably, a deep sandy section proved too much of an ask, and I dumped my Adventure — scuza amore.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
The Milky Way, spanning the sky on a moonless night at our camp in Capitol Reef National Park’s Cathedral Valley

As we neared its end, the trail entered a dense line of trees and abruptly ended at the Fremont River. The fast running water was muddy, and Kit was the first to ford with little notion of depth and no idea what lay below. A breathtaking narrow road perched atop a meandering ridge separated by two yawning canyons delivered us to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Completely exhausted, we began looking for a campsite along Cottonwood Canyon Road. I found a ledge with a panoramic view across the valley. A series of sheer, striped ridges ran across the horizon, and towering above these, the giant mesa we had traversed all afternoon. We toasted our last night as the last of the sun’s rays set alight Escalante’s vivid strata. It had all gone so fast, and yet Seattle seemed like a lifetime ago. The view from my tent the following morning was worthy of its own trip.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Our last campsite, overlooking a majestic valley in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, was in itself worthy of riding 2,600 miles

On our final day, we thundered down a deserted, undulating track running along the floor of Cottonwood Canyon, a dust cloud in our wake and rocks pinging off the sump guards. With the road through Zion National Park closed, we had to take a southern loop through Arizona before starting the last, searing leg down to Las Vegas.

The Moto Guzzi V85 TT, È Tutto Terreno?

After riding hundreds of miles on dirt tracks, some seriously challenging, the V85 TT has convinced this skeptic that it will handle anything you can reasonably expect to throw at it. Overall build quality is excellent. Even with its handsomely sculpted 5.6-gallon tank full of gas, the V85’s center of gravity feels surprisingly low, and coupled with the Michelin Anakee Wild tires, inspired the kind of off-road confidence usually associated with lighter bikes. On the road, more midrange power would make fast overtaking maneuvers less of an exercise in physics, but otherwise, the V85 TT was a superb ride.

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
A new day in Cathedral Valley, and the most challenging terrain yet

Both Kit and I are over six feet tall, and I’d figured we’d be folded up like a couple of deckchairs, but with some huge miles undertaken, we appreciated the excellent ergonomics and supremely comfortable seat. In terms of range, comfort, durability and handling on- and off-road, the V85 TT is a credible contender at a competitive price, and the folks in Mandello del Lario deserve credit for also making it so very beautiful. We were reluctant to hand back the keys. Arrivederci bellissima! Thanks for the good times!

Two Buddies, Two Bikes, One Big Adventure
Thundering down the deserted Cottonwood Canyon Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The post Two Buddies Tour the Rocky Mountains first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special | First Ride Review

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special review
Whether picking your way along a technical off-road trail or wearing down your chicken strips on a twisty paved road, the Pan America 1250 is well-balanced and highly capable. (Photos by Kevin Wing & Brian J. Nelson)

When you step up to the plate, when you’re facing fierce competitors and all eyes are on you, sometimes you have to swing for the fences. That’s what Harley-Davidson — a 118-year-old American motorcycle manufacturer known primarily for cruisers and baggers — has done with its new Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special adventure tourers.

Harley is a new player in the adventure touring segment, which has grown in breadth and depth over the past several decades. BMW recently introduced a 40th anniversary edition of its highly popular — and very capable — R 1250 GS. And there are big-league adventure bikes made by Ducati, Honda, KTM, Moto Guzzi, Suzuki, Triumph, and Yamaha, many of which are best-selling models with years of development and evolution under their belts.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special review
Styling has tie-ins to the Fat Bob and Road Glide; side-laced wheels are optional.

During more than a decade of largely stagnant motorcycle sales since the Great Recession, large-displacement adventure and dual-sport models have been a rare source of growth. Harley wants a cut of that action. As it demonstrated with the release of the LiveWire electric motorcycle, Harley wants to expand its customer base. Two ways it can do that are to sell new models to its existing customers, and sell new models to new customers. Some existing customers own a variety of motorcycles, like Rider contributor Bruce Gillies, who owns a Road Glide Ultra, a Triumph Tiger 800XC and a KTM 690 Enduro R. Bruce is retired from the U.S. Navy and buys American-made products whenever he can. He’s also a highly skilled rider who demands a lot from his motorcycles. He’d consider buying a Pan America, but only if it meets his high expectations.

Rest assured, Bruce. The Motor Company knocked this one out of the park.

[Editor’s Note: After this story was published, Bruce traded in his Triumph for a Pan America 1250 Special with ARH, and he loves it.]

Harley designed and built an exciting, capable and innovative adventure bike in its first attempt. Given the high profile of the Pan America and the eagerness of naysayers to pounce on any weakness, Harley knew it couldn’t release an odd-duck motorcycle. It learned that lesson with the Buell Ulysses. Belt drive is out, chain drive is in, not only because a chain is light, durable in off-road situations and can be repaired in the field, but also because that’s what many adventure riders demand. A V-twin engine stays true to the brand, but it has to be liquid-cooled and offer the power and sophistication necessary to compete in this segment. The new Revolution Max 1250 V-twin makes a claimed 150 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque, and ride modes change output and throttle response at the touch of a button.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special review
Commanding cockpit has an adjustable windscreen and hand guards. Touchscreen display is bright and easy to use.

Harley also knew it needed a hook — a killer app, if you will. And that’s Adaptive Ride Height (ARH), a $1,000 factory-installed option on the Pan America 1250 Special that automatically lowers ride height, and therefore the pilot’s seat, by 1 to 2 inches as the bike comes to a stop. The Special’s semi-active suspension automatically adjusts preload to 30% sag regardless of load, which is what accounts for the range of height adjustment. The system works seamlessly and virtually undetectably, and makes a huge difference in effective seat height. ARH is a real game-changer because seat height is one of the biggest obstacles for some riders to overcome when considering an adventure bike. Furthermore, it brings seat height within reach of more riders without compromising suspension travel or cornering clearance. (Click here to read our technical deep dive into the Pan America 1250’s Revolution Max engine and ARH.)

After years of development and benchmarking, not to mention teasing at shows and speculation by the media, the first public test of the Pan America was at its press launch. I have to hand it to the folks who planned the event — this was no bunny slope test ride. Hosted at RawHyde Adventures’ Zakar training facility a couple hours north of Los Angeles, we spent two full days flogging Pan America 1250 Specials on- and off-road in the Sierra Nevada mountains and Mojave Desert. We rode nearly 400 miles on highways, twisting mountain roads and off-road trails that included gravel, sand, rocks, tricky climbs and descents — even a few jumps.

2021 Harley-Davidson 
Pan America 1250 Special review
Top-shelf semi-active Showa suspension made for a plush landing. Damping rates can be set to Sport, Balanced, Comfort, Off-Road Soft and Off-Road Firm.

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: Fly Racing Odyssey Adventure Modular
Jacket: Fly Racing Terra Trek
Gloves: Fly Racing Coolpro Force
Pants: Fly Racing Terra Trek
Boots: Fly Racing FR5

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. After tip-toeing down the sand-and-gravel access road from Zakar to the pavement and falling into formation on Route 58 with the dozen riders in our group, I began taking mental notes. As with many full-sized adventure bikes, the Pan America was comfortable and accommodating, with plenty of legroom, an upright seating position and a relaxed reach to a wide handlebar. Before the ride began, Harley’s tech staff helped us adjust the dual-height stock seat (33.4/34.4 inches), install either the accessory low or high seat (which reduce or increase the dual heights by 1 inch, respectively) or install accessory 2-inch handlebar risers.

The whole business of seat heights becomes a little fuzzy because we were on Pan America 1250 Specials with ARH installed. At a stop, the unladen height of the stock seat in the low position is 32.7 inches rather than 33.4 inches without ARH. In its specs Harley also provides laden seat height with a 180-pound rider, which is 31.1 inches on the Special without ARH and 30.4 inches with ARH. Install the $249.95 Reach Solo Seat on an ARH-equipped Special and laden seat height can be as low as 29.4 inches. In other words, Harley went to great lengths to make sure seat height is not a barrier to owning a Pan America, though getting exactly what you want may require an investment.

2021 Harley-Davidson 
Pan America 1250 Special review
Thanks to its powerful Revolution Max 1250 V-twin and excellent chassis, the Pan America is one of the sportiest motorcycles ever to come out of Milwaukee.

After humming along the freeway for a half hour with the cruise control on and the on-the-fly adjustable windscreen parting the air smoothly, we turned onto Caliente-Bodfish Road, one of the gnarliest paved roads in the Sierra foothills, and began to wick it up. The Pan America offers eight ride modes — Sport, Road, Rain, Off-Road, Off-Road Plus and three custom modes — which adjust power output, throttle response, engine braking, traction control, ABS and suspension damping. The Revolution Max 1250 is ripper, with a sportbike-like sound, feel and responsiveness, and, thanks to variable valve timing, it delivers generous low-end torque as well as a screaming top end.

As has become increasingly common, rather than bolting the engine to the frame, the engine serves as the main structural element of the chassis. Attached directly to the engine are a front frame that incorporates the steering head, a forged aluminum mid frame that’s the attachment point for the cast aluminum swingarm and a tubular-steel trellis subframe. Overall the chassis is stiff and robust, contributing to the Pan America 1250 Special’s neutral, stable handling. And Harley used tried-and-trusted component suppliers, with a steering damper made by Öhlins, radial-mount monoblock 4-piston front calipers made by Brembo and suspension made by Showa — a 47mm USD Balance Free Fork and a Balanced Free Rear Cushion-lite shock, both with 7.5 inches of travel. Everything performed to a high level in a wide range of conditions.

2021 Harley-Davidson 
Pan America 1250 Special review
The 
Pan America 1250 Special is available in four color options: Deadwood Green (shown here), Baja Orange/Stone Washed White Pearl, Gauntlet Gray Metallic, and Vivid Black.

Standard on the Pan America are cast aluminum wheels (19-inch front, 17-inch rear) shod with specially designed Michelin Scorcher Adventure 90/10 tires, which offered good grip and handling on pavement and during light off-roading. Bikes we tested were equipped with the optional side-laced tubeless wheels (which cost $500 and weigh 14 pounds more than the cast wheels). On the second day, our bikes were fitted with accessory Michelin Anakee Wild 50/50 tires ($449.90), which give up some confidence and grip on pavement but are excellent off-road tires, even at the higher street temperatures we were running. Harley’s RDRS Safety Enhancements package includes IMU-enabled “cornering enhanced” linked ABS and traction control, with settings determined by ride mode (the cornering function and rear ABS are disabled in certain off-road modes). Drag-Torque Slip Control, which is like traction control for the engine to manage rear-wheel traction during aggressive riding, as well as cruise control and hill hold control are also part of the package.

Reactions to the Pan America’s styling have been mixed. Lacking the prominent beak or high front fender that is popular on many ADV bikes, it stands apart from the crowd, with a headlight design influenced by the Fat Bob and front bodywork inspired by the Road Glide’s sharknose fairing. Above the Daymaker Signature LED headlight, which uses 30 LED elements behind a diffuser lens, the Special has a Daymaker Adaptive LED headlight that illuminates a series of three lights as lean angle reaches 8, 15 and 23 degrees.

2021 Harley-Davidson 
Pan America 1250 Special review
Trona Pinnacles, which served as a backdrop in “Star Trek V” and “Planet of the Apes” among other films, was an ideal off-road test site. Michelin Anakee Wild tires added grip.

Harley offers a standard version of the Pan America 1250 that starts at $17,319, but many buyers will probably opt for the Pan America 1250 Special we tested. Starting at $19,999, the Special adds semi-active suspension with automatic preload adjustment (and the availability of ARH as a factory option), the adaptive headlight, the steering damper, a tire-pressure monitoring system, a centerstand, an aluminum skid plate, engine protection bars, hand guards, heated grips and a dual-height rear brake pedal.

In one shot, Harley-Davidson not only built its first adventure bike, it also built its first sportbike and sport-touring bike. We hammered the Pan Americas for two days, and they never gave up or reacted in an unexpected way or felt out of their depth. Whatever the metric — power, performance, handling, durability, technology, weight, price — the Pan America 1250 Special can compete head-to-head with well-established players in the ADV segment. Is it the best overall, or in any particular category? Well, that remains to be seen — two days and 400 miles, none of which were ridden back-to-back with competitors in the class, is not enough to draw firm conclusions. But this is one rookie that shows great promise.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special review
Adventure touring, sport touring, on-road, off-road, tall or short rider, solo or with a passenger, with options, luggage and accessories or bone stock — whatever you’re into, the Pan America can be spec’d to satisfy your needs.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special Specs

Base Price: $19,999
Price as Tested: $22,299 (ARH, side-laced wheels, Anakee Wild tires, skid plate)
Website: harley-davidson.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,252cc
Bore x Stroke: 105 x 72mm
Horsepower: 150 @ 9,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Torque: 94 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 62.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.7/33.7 in. (unladen w/ ARH)
Wet Weight: 559 lbs. (claimed, stock)
Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gals.

The post 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special | First Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa | First Ride Review

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The Suzuki Hayabusa has received its first major update since 2008. We put it to the test on the track and the street. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

Rewind the clock to 1999. We were approaching the end of the millennium, and it felt like the science-fiction future was just around the corner. The carefree among us were ready to party like Prince, while worrywarts feared a Y2K-induced doomsday for the world’s computers.

That’s the same year that Suzuki introduced a big, bulbous sportbike called the GSX1300R. Appended to its alphanumeric model designation was an unfamiliar name — Hayabusa — the Japanese word for the peregrine falcon, a bird renowned for its ability to exceed 200 mph. Was Suzuki’s 173-horsepower bird of prey capable of the same feat?

Not officially.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The Hayabusa has always had swoopy, aerodynamic bodywork. Designers and engineers spent time in a wind tunnel to massage the new model’s shape.

The top-speed wars of the late ’90s, with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-11 defeated by the Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird, and the Blackbird defeated by the Hayabusa, caught the attention of European bureaucrats. To avoid regulation or an outright ban on powerful sportbikes, motorcycle manufacturers voluntarily agreed to a top-speed limit of 186 mph (300 kph).

With its slippery bodywork and long wheelbase, the big ’Busa wasn’t designed for roadracing. But that didn’t stop us — back in the day I was part of a team that raced two Hayabusas in a WERA 24-hour endurance event at Willow Springs. Meanwhile, it was the hottest bike on the dragstrips.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
Things get blurry in a hurry when you twist the Hayabusa’s loud handle.

Fast forward two decades, and I’m riding the third-generation Hayabusa on the track at Utah Motorsports Campus, pushing the limit to the point of being uncomfortable. Was I tempting fate?

Near the end of UMC’s long front straight, my speed approaches 175 mph. Pop up out of the bubble, get on the binders, set up for Turn 1. Adrenaline is flowing, everything’s happening really fast. Is it possible to have a blast and shit yourself at the same time?

Yes, yes it is.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review engine disassembled
Some assembly required.

Suzuki’s design brief for the new Hayabusa was “The Refined Beast.” In other words, make the bike better without reinventing the wheel. The Hayabusa’s last major update was back in 2008, when it got a larger engine, a new frame, and other upgrades. Architecture and displacement of the 1,340cc inline four haven’t unchanged, but the engine was thoroughly revised to meet Euro 5 and deliver more low- and midrange power.

Compared to the previous model, peak horsepower and torque are lower — 188 horsepower at 9,700 rpm (down from 194) and 111 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm (down from 114) — but there are sizable gains in the heart of the rev range. Suzuki claims the new Hayabusa goes 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, a couple of tenths faster than its predecessor.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review engine cutaway
The Hayabusa’s 1340cc inline four was thoroughly reworked. New or updated parts are shown in yellow.

Most of the engine’s internals were lightened, strengthened, or refined — cylinder head, valve springs, pistons and piston pins, connecting rods, and crankshaft. Less internal friction helps the engine run quieter and smoother, and critical components are now more durable. Cam profiles were revised to reduce valve lift overlap, redesigned dual injectors for the throttle bodies improve combustion, and revised intake ducts increase pressure flowing into the higher-capacity airbox. A revised radiator improves cooling and a new exhaust system saves 4.5 pounds.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The Hayabusa’s prime directive is to go fast in a straight line, but it likes to go around corners too.

Wrapped in panels of wind-tunnel-tested aerodynamic bodywork and weighing 582 pounds, the Hayabusa is a big bike, almost intimidating at first. With its swooping lines and aggressive curves, it looks as fast as it goes. A 50/50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity help the Hayabusa feel agile. The tight, sporty rider triangle and 31.5-inch seat height suit my 5-foot, 9-inch frame. I was able to move around the cockpit freely and use the controls easily.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
What could be better than a constant-radius corner on a blue-sky day?

Suzuki hosted a two-day launch, and we spent the first day plying canyon roads in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City. On the road, the ’Busa was in its element and exhibited confident, stable handling. Negotiating tight sections required some effort, but I had no problem picking a line, turning in, and making midcorner adjustments as needed. The fully adjustable KYB suspension provided a comfortable, compliant ride, and it just floated over rough pavement.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
With tons of smooth power, agreeable ergonomics, and cruise control, the Hayabusa is the ultimate sport-tourer.

Throttle response was spot-on, with no hesitation or flat spots, and there’s a ridiculous amount of velvety-smooth power available at all times. All it took was a small amount of throttle to make the scenery blur, and gear choice was irrelevant. On the freeway, the Hayabusa never felt stressed, there was a ton of roll-on power for quick passes, and the new cruise control was really well sorted.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review wheel brake
A big bike needs big brakes. Brembo Stylema radial-mount 4-piston front calipers squeeze 320mm rotors, and linked cornering ABS is standard.

On a bike this big and fast, strong brakes are essential, and the new Brembo Stylema front calipers and 10mm-larger 320mm rotors did an excellent job of slowing the beast down. The new linked ABS system, which distributes braking force between the front and rear, worked well on the street. Trail braking into corners, I could feel the system engage the rear brake to settle the chassis.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review gauges
Classic analog gauges are joined by modern full-color TFT display.

As expected, the new Hayabusa gets a full IMU-based electronics package called the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System. Six riding modes (three presets, three customizable) adjust power, engine braking, traction control, and quickshifter mode. SIRS also includes linked cornering ABS, a speed limiter, launch control, slope-descent control, hill-hold control, and cruise control. Everything is adjusted via buttons on the switch clusters, with menus and info displayed on the TFT display centered between the analog speedo and tach.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The Hayabusa’s full electronics package (Suzuki Intelligent Ride System) allows you to tailor the ride experience to road or track.

For both street and track riding, the electronic riding aids allowed me to tailor the Hayabusa’s performance and behavior to the conditions. On public roads, I selected mode B (Basic), which softened throttle response but still allowed full power and put traction control and anti-lift (LF) control in the middle of the range. Mode C (Comfort) reduces power and maximizes TC and LF intervention. On the track, I opted for Mode A (Active), which provides more aggressive throttle response, max power, and minimal intervention. Suzuki’s linked ABS, which uses the IMU to adjust intervention based on lean angle, can’t be turned off. It was helpful on the street, but I found it to be somewhat of a hindrance on the track.

A closed course is the only suitable place to explore the Hayabusa’s limits. There’s more than enough power, so the challenge comes with managing chassis dynamics. There’s no getting around the ’Busa’s size and weight, but its stout twin-spar aluminum frame communicates the desired feel and feedback for attacking corners at a sane pace. As my laps accumulated, my speed and comfort level both increased.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires provided plenty of grip.

The bike was well-balanced and responsive to inputs, allowing me to confidently throw it from side to side to the point of scraping the peg feelers and the exhaust. After a few sessions we made some suspension adjustments — less rebound, more compression — that reduced the Hayabusa’s tendency to pitch front to back on corner exits. Then it really came alive, making corner entry and exit much more predictable.

New Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires provided good grip, and the limits of their adhesion were kept in check by the lean-angle-sensitive traction control. Late in the day when the bike was sorted, I was having a great time. I had found my rhythm, and the TC light was flashing out of every corner while I was leaving black marks in my wake. The onboard computer tracks all sorts of cool data — max lean angle, braking pressure front and rear, rates of acceleration and deceleration, etc. — which made for some fun bench racing between sessions.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The Hayabusa’s trademark rear hump can be removed and replaced with a pillion seat. Passengers are encouraged to hang on tight.

All in all, the new Hayabusa is an impressive bike. Looks fast, goes fast, and has all the modern bells and whistles. Maybe it’s time to repeat the comparison test we did back in 2008, when we strapped tank bags and tail bags to a Hayabusa and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R and hit the road for a couple days of hypersport touring.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa review
The choice is yours: Metallic Matte Sword Silver and Candy Daring Red, Glass Sparkle Black and Candy Burnt Gold, or Pearl Brilliant White and Metallic Matte Stellar Blue.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa Specs

Base Price: $18,599
Website: suzukicycles.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line four, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,340cc
Bore x Stroke: 81.0 x 65.0mm
Horsepower: 187.8 hp @ 9,700 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Torque: 110.6 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 23 degrees/3.5 in.
Seat Height: 31.5 in.
Wet Weight: 582 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals.

The post 2022 Suzuki Hayabusa | First Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT | First Ride Review

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
How well does this 2021 model hold up to more than 40 years of Honda Gold Wing testing and scrutiny? I love it all. Except for one thing… (Photos by Drew Ruiz)

EIC Drevenstedt asked me a simple question: “How many Honda Gold Wings have you ridden?” My answer required lots of mental calculations: maybe 75 or 80 total? “Okay,” he said. “Then you go ride the 2021 Gold Wing Tour DCT and tell me how it fits in with all those past Wings.”

Back in the late 1970s, I worked at Cycle magazine, and we rode the living snot out of every test bike, including the big ones. So full disclosure: I’m an outlier regarding performance standards. I’ve always pushed motorcycles far beyond the typical pace, and I prize light and lively handling above all else. Since 2000 I’ve ridden over 40 different fifth-gen Wings (2001-2017 GL1800s), but I had yet to ride the sixth-gen GL1800 that was introduced in 2018 and updated in 2020.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Comfy accommodations fit better than ever, fore and aft.
Ken’s Gear: Katie’s Gear:
Helmet: Schuberth R2 Carbon Helmet: HJC IS-Max ST
Jacket/Pants: Aerostich Darien Suit: Aerostich Roadcrafter R-3
Boots: Tourmaster Response WP Boots: Tourmaster Trinity

The mechanicals, measurements, electronics, and such of the sixth-gen GL1800 have been thoroughly covered in previous Rider tests (September 2020, November 2019, May 2018, and January 2018). But there are several updates baked into this 2021 iteration:

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Katie praised the rear seat armrests and heaters. But no drink compartments!

Revised passenger accommodations: The passenger seat backrest reclines more and has thicker foam and a taller profile. Both my wife and daughter prefer this setup compared to the previous-generation GL1800s we ride (2003 and 2008; see “SIDEBAR: A Tale of Two Gold Wings” below). They especially like the longer armrests but regret the loss of the two rear storage compartments.

Larger trunk: The top trunk now holds 61 liters (up 11 from before; total luggage capacity is 121 liters) and can now stow a pair of full-face helmets. The low back lip facilitates easy loading, but care must be taken to tuck in the cargo’s stray straps, sleeves, etc. so the lid latches securely.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
The trunk’s sloped rear face eases loading but stray straps can foul lid closing.

New seat cover and rear turn signals: The seat’s new suede-like material has a premium look and feel to it, and the colored seat piping is a nice touch. The rear turn signals are now all red for a cleaner look.

Updated audio: Improvements include upgraded, 45-watt speakers with richer sound, optimized automatic volume-adjustment level, a standard XM radio antenna and new Android Auto integration in addition to the previous Apple CarPlay integration.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Electric windscreen, fancy dash with navigation, four ride modes, and a modern 4-valve engine. What’s not to like?

My other impressions of the sixth-gen Wing? Awesome brakes. Truly awesome, much like sportbike binders. I never felt the brakes on my 2008 Wing were lacking, until now. Equally important, rider ergonomics are vastly improved. I’m a big guy, and I’ve always felt cramped and confined by the previous-gen GL1800’s seat/bar/peg configuration. The latest iteration offers much more natural and comfortable ergonomics.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Gold Wings are engineered to be run hard — really hard — and they’ll go better and faster than the vast majority of owners will ever suspect. For 2021 the overall feel is taut and modern, much closer to the sport-touring side than ever before.

The Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) is also impressive and relieves some of the rider task load, especially while riding around town and dealing with traffic. Its shift points in Tour mode are accurate, if a bit relaxed, while Sport mode’s power delivery feels much crisper and even a bit abrupt. Sport mode holds shift points so much longer you really need to be totally sport focused, not even a little bit lazy in your planning. And that’s not a complaint; Sport is my preferred setting on tight back roads. The DCT can be a little tricky during ultra-low-speed maneuvering, but I adapted fairly quickly. I do, however, miss being able to slow-roll a tight turn using the clutch during gas station maneuvers and such.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Although the 6th-gen GL1800 displaces only 1cc more than the 5th-gen, the flat six was completely redesigned.

As for styling, the new machine looks stunningly sleek and remarkably athletic parked beside my 2008 GL1800. However, I am not much swayed by a machine’s cosmetics; it’s what she’ll do that counts. And Gold Wings have long been unfairly maligned for their size and looks without proper respect for their high level of full-throttle performance.

It’s hilariously revealing when anybody bad-mouths the Honda Gold Wing as an “old man’s bike,” especially if their opinion isn’t based on actual riding experience. When I wrote the test for the then-new GL1200 for the February 1984 issue of Cycle, my conclusion was: “This year the Honda engineers have pulled off an unbelievable trick — they’ve taken a 790-pound machine and made it nimble and manageable. The choice is clear. Why put up with a big-feeling touring mount when you can have something as close to magic as we’ve seen in a long time?”

Cycle magazine 1984 cover Honda Gold Wing GL1200

Whew! Lofty praise indeed. But it reflects how much Honda engineers have always invested in the basic bones — the chassis and engine — of every generation of the Gold Wing to create a good-handling package.

Things got bigger and better with the gen-four GL1500. I didn’t spend much time on full-dresser 1500s, but I fell deeply in love with the stripped-down 1,520cc Valkyrie muscle bike — unvarnished, rowdy fun! Do you have your October 1996 issue of Rider handy? That’s my story, “The Great Escape,” with our daughter Kristen joining me on the new Valkyrie in Montana. After completing that trip I had more Valkyrie miles logged than any non-Honda employee. And I loved it.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
The Gold Wing has been Honda’s flagship touring model for 46 years. It has set and reset standards for comfort, performance, reliability, and sophistication, and won Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year award in 2001 and 2018 (and the Gold Wing-based Valkyrie Tourer won in 1997).

Rider’s 2018 Motorcycle of the Year: Honda Gold Wing Tour

Within the realm of big tourers, I am especially enamored with the fifth-gen Wing for both its handling and power. When I dove into the first corner aboard the GL1800 back in 2000 during the bike’s press intro, that previously beloved Valky instantly turned to toast; the GL1800 simply smoked it on handling alone, not to mention the big boost in power. For riders with a serious sporting bent, it was a real revelation thanks to its delightfully agile handling and precise steering. (We have former Large Project Leader Masanori Aoki, who was responsible for several CBR sportbike models before heading up the GL1800 project, to thank for that.) It felt nothing short of wondrous at the time and it remains a wonder and a mystery even today, which is why many uninitiated “experts” still foolishly look down their noses at Wings.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
Solo or with a passenger, there’s no motorcycle touring experience quite like the Honda Gold Wing.

Fact is, I’ve personally schooled more than a few leather-clad sportbike riders by treating them to a sudden appearance of a Wing in their mirrors — followed by polite passes, of course. I’ve logged thousands of miles on dozens of different GL1800s and I know exactly how well they get down a road, twisty or straight. Until you’ve ground down a GL1800’s footpegs to half-length smoldering stubs, you’ve got nothing to say about how a Gold Wing supposedly cannot perform.

Honda Gold Wing footpegs ground down
A well-used set of Honda Gold Wing footpegs, courtesy of the author.

That brings us to this 2021 Gold Wing Tour DCT, which is an impressively sporting, fun, and stylish package. It’s so good in so many ways it really outshines the early fifth-gen GL1800, a bike I love dearly. In my book, the sixth-gen’s main shortcoming is that its Hassock-style front end that lacks the delightful steering agility of its predecessor. And that nimble feel is what originally set the GL1800 apart from other big rigs. The 2021 may be 80 pounds lighter, but that benefit is largely offset by heavier steering and muted front-end feel and feedback.

Honda Gold Wing model timeline
After rolling up thousands of serious test miles on all of these models and more, which is my favorite? It’s probably just me, but the nimble steering of fifth-gen Gold Wings still holds sway in my heart.

I regret that loss, but then I’m a nut for steering agility. In the real world, for every rider with a sport orientation like mine, dozens more will line up for all of the comfort, convenience and technology features that make the latest Gold Wing Tour DCT such a sweet touring machine.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT review
The 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT in Candy Ardent Red. It’s also available in Metallic Black.

2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour Specs

Base Price: $28,300
Price as Tested: $29,300 (DCT model)
Website: powersports.honda.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, longitudinal opposed flat six, Unicam SOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,833cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.0 x 73.0mm
Transmission: 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission automatic (as tested)
Final Drive: Shaft
Wheelbase: 66.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 30.5 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 29.3 in.
Wet Weight: 838 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 40 mpg

SIDEBAR: A Tale of Two Gold Wings  

2003 2008 Honda Gold Wing GL1800
The author with his son-in-law Gregg and daughter Kristen, and their two fifth-gen Gold Wing GL1800s.

Motorcycle industry gurus talk about expanding the touring market with younger riders. But nobody seems to do anything about it. So I did.

Back in 2019, I had one motorcycle — my trusty Honda 919. My wife Katie had basically quit riding with me even though a pair of artificial hips let her hop on a backseat freely again. A GL1800 seemed a nonstarter. Yet next thing I knew, I owned not one but two Gold Wings.

How’s that? Well, we had invited the entire family to vacation with us in Tuscany last June, including motorcycle rides with a private guide. Sweet, huh? That commitment meant Katie needed seat time prior to Italy and a Wing in the garage would supply necessary incentive.

In November of 2019, I found a used 2003 GL1800 showing 29,000 miles. It was a cream puff, and for $5,500 it was a steal. Katie and I mounted up and she fell in love with riding all over again. Life was grand. And then COVID-19 hit. Even worse, serious health issues sidelined me for nearly all of that cursed year.

So I told my son-in-law Gregg (not Drevenstedt!) to come and take the Wing so my daughter Kristen could enjoy a break from the pillion of their Yamaha R6. Kristen had logged thousands of miles with me on Wings and Valkyries from her teen years onward, so she’d surely dig it. But to my surprise, Gregg immediately fell in love with the whole Wing thing and they headed out riding most weekends, having a blast. Months later, I’d feel like a heel by repossessing it. So I bought another GL1800, this time a 2008 for $7,800. And I gave them the ’03. Growing the touring segment one young couple at a time … for less money than that trip to Italy would’ve cost us! — KL

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