2006 NEC Bike Show Review

From Transcontinental Supersport to Aquila?

 

As I sat in the car park waiting to attend the show launch day, I pondered as to why it is that it is always held at the onset of winter, when many of the UK’s bikers either ride far less or store their bikes away for winter.

Is it because manufacturers want to entice us with new models and revisions, giving us the winter time to save up the necessary money for a spring time purchase, or is it because with the usual dismal, wet and cold winter days they think we’d rather be at the show than on our bikes?

kawasakiGTR1400

 

The new Kawasaki GTR1400 “Transcontinental Supersport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, this year’s show had as usual been preceded with the standard press build up, trailing what new models and revisions there were to see; so armed with my check list of must see models I waited outside the show hall entrance with the rest of the press pack, eager to see what motorcycling delights awaited us.

Once the show kicked off at 8.00 am I made straight for the Kawasaki stand to view the new GTR1400; Kawasaki’s first really true new “sports touring” offering in many years. Sorry I should have said “Transcontinental Supersport” as Kawasaki claim that the GTR 1400 heralds an entirely new genre of bike. Certainly producing the most powerful touring motorcycle in the world is unique but is it a new type of bike? Sadly we will have to wait some time to find out.

The model on the Kawasaki stand was one of only four pre-production models world-wide and a Kawasaki spokesman told me the bike would not be available until 2008. Price has yet to be announced, but I would expect it to compete head on with Yamaha’s well established FJR1300. For your money you’ll get an engine with VVT (Variable Valve Timing) a first in its class, a Tetra Lever shaft drive system, ABS braking system, electrically adjustable windscreen, standard panniers, tyre pressure sensors, a smart key ignition, and an AC power outlet located under the cockpit.

Next I visited the BMW stand. I’m not quite sure what’s happened at the Bavarian Motor Works in the past couple of years but the plethora of new models being brought forth by BMW is hard to keep up with. No more so than the new G series, with the launch of three new 53bhp off-road style machines. The Xmoto (supermoto), Xcountry (dual-sport) and Xchallenge (enduro), all three are based around the 650cc single-cylinder engine from the F 650 GS, but each is designed to perform in a different environment; on the dirt, tarmac or both. If 53bhp isn’t enough for you, BMW were also showing off their HP2 Megamoto. At just 174kg, using a 110 hp Boxer twin engine in a lightweight Supermoto chassis, BMW claim this bike is designed to give razor-sharp handling and class-leading performance in this category. All I know is the Bavarian giant has woken up and seems to be producing a range of bikes that are now appealing to a wider age range of bikers with more emphasis on handling and performance.

Lest I forget to mention it the BMW stand also payed homage to the Race to Dakar TV series, featuring the Touratech F 650 GS Dakar bike as ridden by Charley Boorman in the 2006 Lisbon-Dakar rally.

Keeping the off-road in mind, I then hot footed it to the CCM stand for the launch of five new models. British bike manufacturer CCM is back from the brink of extinction in 2004 and seems keen to make an impression with their increasingly unique range of bikes. Firstly we where wooed with CCM’s new CR40, a true Café style racer based on CCM’s 1981 winning TT machine, as ridden by Steve Tompkins. Buoyed further by CCM’s success in the British Short Track Championship earlier this year, they also launched the FT35RS Flat Track model; a street legal version of the bike that won the championship. If that wasn’t enough CCM also launched the CXR230S (in collaboration with China’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer), an entry level super-moto machine and it’s off road brother the CXR230E, an enduro focused machine. Its great to see CCM still producing stylish and unique machines, lets hope this Bolton based company continue to produce motorcycles well in to the future.

kawasakiGTR1400

The new Kawasaki GTR1400 “Transcontinental Supersport”

HondaCBR600RR

The new Honda CBR600RR

Keeping the Chinese connection in mind, the 2006 show can claim a first, with the exhibiting of the Chinese brand, Wuyang on the David Silver Spares stand. China is the worlds largest motorcycle producer with approximately 50% of the world’s supply of motorcycles and currently Chinese brands have a 12% share of the total UK road bike market and account for more than 25% of registrations up to 125cc. I visited the Wuyang display to be presented with a range of functional budget 125’s and scooters, however this is early days for the Chinese motorcycle manufacturers in the UK and I would expect them to make strides into the UK market over the coming years as they increasingly produce models to challenge the Japanese and European brands head on.

Sadly noticeable for their absence this year at the show where the Italian brands, no official, Aprilia, Benelli, Ducati, Moto Guzzi and MV Augusta stands. Do these brands not think British motorcyclists want to see their bikes? I for one would have liked to drool over what are usually some of the best looking motorcycle exotica produced.

Next I went straight on to leading brand Honda’s stand. Star bike of their stand was the new CBR600RR. In the most hotly contested sector of the street bike market, Honda’s CBR600RR has always been a class leader and it’s difficult to see how they can make it better, but they have tried. They’ve shaved 8 kilos off the weight, down to a lean 155kg, but the bikes new smaller lighter engine now produces another 4bhp. Much of Honda’s focus on the developing the new CBR600RR has apparently been not only on weight reduction but also centralising the mass to produce a bike that achieves “Ultimate Fun on Winding Roads”. The bike is bristling with a host of new features including a lighter and slimmer aluminium frame, an electronic steering damper, new air intake system, new fairing design, longer swing arm, the list goes on.

HyosungGV650Aquila

The Hyosung GV650 Aquila

suzukibking

The new Suzuki B-King

Of notable mention also was Honda’s 2007 GL 1800 Gold Wing which features an industry first on the deluxe version, a fully integrated airbag. This appears to be a major step forward in motorcycle safety and I wonder how long it will be before we see other manufacturers fitting air bags to their bikes?

Harley-Davidson® represent for many in the motorcycling community a way of life and when I stepped on to the Harley stand this was reinforced with Harleys strong branding, own clothing and accessories range and performance parts; you can totally immerse yourself in the Harley-Davidson® world. However for the non Harley-Davidson® owner (myself included) their model naming designations can be some what confusing. However what is not confusing is the strong visual design statements Harley make with their bikes and the loyal following they engender. The lead bike on Harley’s stand for the show was the new XR1200 Prototype. The styling of this new high performance Harley-Davidson® is inspired by the legendary XR 750 dirt track race bike and has been specifically designed for the ergonomics of the average height European customer. It features a high performance 1200cc engine which is expected to develop between 80-90bhp, combined with specially developed sports tuned Showa® suspension, which supposedly engenders generous lean angles. The XR 1200 Prototype could become the best handling Harley-Davidson® yet. However it’s important to stress this is a prototype and Harley-Davidson® want to gauge customer reaction before its goes into production.

Next I went off to the Suzuki stand to take a look at the new 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000. Now the Suzuki GSX-R1000 has always been an iconic sports bike, but what do you do to make it stand out even more? The Suzuki engineers have been busy and have provided the 2007 with no less than three engine maps producing three differing power outputs, 120bhp, 150bhp and the full 187bhp. A switch now features on the right-hand bar which allows the rider to switch between the power outputs. It remains to be seen whether this is just a gimmick or whether riders will actually like the switch-ability or will most just leave it set at 187bhp? The 2007 GSX-R1000 is the most powerful version ever produced whilst still meeting the tough new Euro 3 emission standards, but to keep things cool when you’ve an engine producing 187bhp, Suzuki have fitted a larger radiator which is claimed to improve cooling by 10% and fitted a larger oil pump. The suspension has been extensively reworked and a new electronic steering damper has also been fitted. The list of refinements goes on and on, it appears a certainty that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 will keep its iconic status.

Remaining on the topic of icons, Suzuki held the UK launch of the Suzuki B-King on their show stand. The B-King has now moved from concept bike, first seen at the Tokyo show in 2001 to production model for 2007. Suzuki is hoping this new bike will be an instant icon in the making. One thing is sure the bikes looks are striking; it would be at home on the set of a Batman movie. Unfortunately the technical specifications are still a closely guarded Suzuki secret so I can’t tell you much else, you’ll have to wait till 2007 to find out more.

So that leaves Yamaha, of the big four Japanese manufacturers. When I got to the Yamaha stand, former World Superbike Champion Troy Corser was on hand to help Yamaha launch the 2007 Yamaha YZF R1. This was fitting, as Yamaha obviously hope to claim the World Superbike crown in 2007 using the race version of this bike. The version you and I can buy now produces 178bhp from its new technologically advanced engine, combined with a new chassis and bodywork. Yamaha have made extensive use of computer control wizardry on this bike and for those of a technical persuasion it features the first-ever electronically-controlled motor-driven variable intake on a production motorcycle. The bike also features a slipper clutch, this race-developed clutch is designed to improve traction during rapid deceleration and hard braking, something which I’m sure will appeal to those who regularly do track days. Space does not allow me to detail all the improvements to the R1, but Troy Corser’s World Superbike performance next year will let us all see whether the R1 has what it takes for Yamaha to secure the World Superbike Championship.

Turning from the Japanese manufacturers, I next focused my attention on two former British marques from Britain’s notable biking past, who are managing to prosper in what is an ever more competitive market; namely Triumph and Royal Enfield.

One of the revised stars on Triumph’s stand for 2007 was the new Triumph Tiger 1050. With a pedigree stretching back to 1994 when the Tiger was first launched, this bike has built up a loyal following. The Tiger strikes me as one of those few bikes on the market that is a true all rounder, as a fast scratcher, touring bike or just plain commuter it should handle all roles. The new 2007 Tiger’s features the 1050cc, fuel-injected, three-cylinder engine that’s currently used in Sprint ST and Speed Triple. Triple engines can be somewhat addictive with plenty of torque, the new Tiger should not disappoint with peak figures of 74ftlb of torque and ample power of 114bhp.

But power is not really what Royal Enfield’s are all about, their offerings hark back to the glory days of British biking, but are brought up to-date with modern additions that mean the bikes can still cut the mustard on today’s roads. Though Royal Enfield ceased production in the UK in 1970, production has continued at the Chennai (Madras) factory in India since 1955 and Royal Enfield is reputed to be the longest surviving motorcycle brand in the world. Continuing to build on this heritage Royal Enfield launched two new machines at the show, the Bullet Electra-XS Roadster and the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra Clubman. Both are based on the all alloy lean burn single cylinder 500cc engine. However the Clubman as the name invokes is in true British café racer style, featuring such delights as 4.5 gallon polished aluminium tank, glass fibre single seat unit, ‘ace’ bars, hand made rear-set footrests and upswept ‘Gold Star’ style silencer. Producing 10% more power than the standard Bullet Electra at 27.5 BHP, you should still expect fuel consumption in the region of 75MPG, Royal Enfield claim.

Finally I visited Hyosung’s stand under the guise of E P Barrus Ltd who are the UK importers and distributors for this brand to the UK. Hyosung dates back to 1952 and is one of South Korea’s largest companies. It started motorcycle manufacture in 1978 establishing a technical relationship with Suzuki in 1979, producing Suzuki models for some Asian markets. However since establishing its own R&D centre in 1986 it has developed its own Hyosung brand models. A visit to this stand confirmed these years of development since 1986 appear to be paying off.

Hyosung offer an impressive array of bikes. The RT125D “Sandbike” which is for both road and rougher terrain use, the RX12D trail bike, the RX125 SM supermotard bike, the GT 650, GT250 and GT125 road bikes, the GT250/G125R and GT650S sport bikes and the range is topped off by the eye catching GT650R sports bike. Hyosung also premiered their prototype GT650X naked sports bike, but the star for me was Hyosung’s GV650 sports cruiser the “Aquila”; presented in its striking orange and black colours for 2007. This mid-size cruiser is certainly going to turn heads, with crisp, eye catching styling combined with adjustable suspension, wide tyres and carbon fibre belt drive. I expect we’ll be seeing far more from Hyosung!

So that covers my round-up of the bikes at the 2006 International Motorcycle and Scooter Show and apologies for those marques and bikes I didn’t get to mention. For those of you who didn’t make it to the show, you can expect to see most of these models in dealers showrooms over the coming months, in time for you to treat yourself to a new 2007 bike maybe?

Article and Photos by Jon Booth – www.inter-bike.co.uk – The UK Biker Site. Note all performance figures, weights and technical specifications are as claimed by the respective manufacturers