Honda CBR1000RR – The Art of Deception

Honda CBR1000RR…by Neale Bayly. Photos by Neale Bayly and FS Enterprises.

Firing the 2010 Honda CBR1000RR to life for the first time, slipping into gear and easing out onto the road next to my home, I’m amazed by the lack of drama. Slotting into traffic, picking up the Interstate and dialing the big, four cylinders on 75 mph, it’s the calm that’s most apparent. Effortlessly rolling along at law-abiding speeds, I can barely hear any engine noise or sound from the exhaust. Surely this can’t be a fire-breathing Superbike making close to 160 horsepower through the meaty 190 series tire. This is a machine that is capable of hitting around 180 mph in the right environment and shredding a quarter mile in 10 seconds or less? Surely I’ve got a restricted model here.

A few hours later, all doubts evaporated as I exited turn 8 with the throttle pinned in third gear and the big CBR hits the red line before I ease out of the throttle for the kink that leads down to turn 10. It’s taken me a few sessions to find the spuds to hold the throttle open on the tight, technical Beaver Run racetrack, I feel like I’ve been strapped to a rocket as the Honda feels so sadistically fast.

As the last of the current crop of liter bikes I’ve tested, the Honda CBR1000RR is unequivocally, without a shadow of doubt, the most deceptive. Like all Honda sport bikes I’ve ridden, quiet, reasonably comfortable on the highway and highly civilized, it reminds me of its smaller brother the CBR600RR when I tested it with the other 600cc machines in the class some years ago.  The Honda was the “Plain Jane” of the bunch in terms of noise and flash, but the one I recorded my fastest lap times on. And reading how the CBR1000RR has been winning multi bike shootouts over the last couple of years, confirms my feelings it is just the same as its smaller sibling.

Spending some time with the CBR on the road before we took it to the track actually changed one of my bigger prejudices that it’s pointless to ride a liter bike on the road. The riding position is not going to fold you up like some Yoga instructor in a weird pose, and it doesn’t get brutally hot when you are sitting at traffic lights or stop signs thanks to the low exit Moto GP inspired exhaust system. The clutch is light and smooth and shifting is as slick and effortless as any motorcycle produced. Brakes are nice and sensitive to road inputs, and the throttle not so sensitive that small inadvertent moves will have you hurtling forward by mistake. Mirrors do a reasonable job of letting you know what’s trying to keep up, and the gauges are easy to read, keeping you fully up to date on how close to being broke you are if you get pulled over by the law.

I’m not so impressed with the passenger carrying capabilities. My usual passenger is five foot two and weighs around 110 pounds, and it was still difficult. The higher seat put her too far away and feeling disconnected. With the extra weight up so high, it also compromised the bike’s handling on the technical roads around my home. Not to mention you really need to be extremely careful if you use any of the power. Also, the pegs are so close to the small, plank like seat that it wasn’t really that comfortable. So unless you regular passenger is a featherweight gymnast with buns of steel, this bike is better ridden solo.

One feature of the new CBR1000RR that I really like on the road is the new anti lock brake system, called “C-ABS” in Honda speak. Coming as a missive from Honda’s CEO and President, Takeo Fukui, a few years back that by 2010 all bigger Honda motorcycles will have ABS, it’s the first time I’ve used it on a sport bike, other than the new system on BMW’s S1000RR. Adding around 20 pounds of additional weight, it allows the brake system to operate like a conventional set up until used aggressively. At this point, the C-ABS electronics detects a sudden large increase in fluid pressure, and combined with readings from the wheel sensors, modulates the fluid pressure to prevent the wheels from locking. A high speed servo and a device called a “stroke simulator” removes any pulsing at the lever previous systems exhibited. And, apart from a slightly vague feeling at the lever when it’s doing its job, it’s as normal feeling as you can want. The brakes are also linked, and a little rear brake is added when you apply the front. This keeps the bike settled entering turns from high speed on the racetrack, and I’m not going to complain about having additional stopping power with no risk. This rear brake set up is a 220mm rotor with a twin piston caliper, while 320mm rotors get four piston Brembo calipers up front.

During my track test, I spent most of the day riding with my good friend Julian Taylor from All About Bikes on board a BMW S1000RR. As riders of very similar skill levels, once I learned his home track, it was interesting to be able to see how the two bikes stacked up against each other. While I immediately thought the BMW would have a big advantage with its dynamic traction control it was actually under braking where it got the best of the Honda every time. Talking with a good friend of mine who is an ex racer and current track coach on a CBR, he told me this can be fixed by changing to a set of Vesrah brake pads, which I plan to installt before the next test.

During our day out at Beaver Run, we lucked into an impromptu race with a large group of lightweight super bike racers. It had been an interesting day of testing, as we would crucify the smaller displacement machines on the straights, to find ourselves sweating in our helmets to get our bikes stopped for the turns, while the lightweight bikes went by on the gas. Trying to battle with them through the technical top end of the track left me extremely impressed with the Honda’s chassis and suspension. The bike turns and changes direction extremely well, and it must have shocked more than one rider to be passed in this section by a pair of large street bikes with mirrors and turn signals. Exhibiting total stability leaned over hard on the gas through the fast section, there was no drama scrubbing massive speed and tipping into the uphill right. This leads you to the left flick before the front straight really had me feeling comfortable on the big CBR, as I kept dialing in more throttle. Also, consider both Julian and I were on street compound rubber, so I know there is more to be had from the Honda as we upgrade the tires.

Suspension on the Honda is conventional, apart from the electronic steering damper. A 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork comes with all the normal adjustments, and throughout the day Julian’s mechanic made a few changes from the stock street settings to limit front end dive, slow the rebound some and firm up the rear. This is a conventional HMAS single shock, which is also fully adjustable.  A few weeks later, working on the next part of the article, we decided to set the bike up to Sportrider magazine track settings, and it was interesting to see how close we actually came during the day. The Beaver Run track is certainly a tad bumpy in sections, but the suspension did a fantastic job of keeping the tires in contact with the asphalt at all times.

The fact the Honda handles and behaves so well is no surprise. It’s been winning tests for years for this and its silky smooth engine. Pumping out close to 154 horsepower and 77.63 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel, the inline liquid-cooled four cylinder displaces 999cc. Double overhead camshafts open and close four valves per cylinder and pistons run a 12.3:1 compression ratio. It’s a relatively short stroke engine with a 76mm bore and a 55.1mm stroke, which allows the big four a 13,000rpm redline. Fuel is delivered via twin fuel-injectors and from street to track this is nothing short of perfect. At Beaver Run it took a real act of faith to allow the engine to pull up through the gears this high as it makes so much power, and I was able to make faster progress by short shifting through the upper end of the mid range at first. This allowed me to keep my skirt down long enough to learn the track and eventually enjoy the supersonic benefits of using the upper end power to try and keep Julian off my tail.

The bike also uses a slipper clutch, which is pretty standard fare these days, and operation at the handlebars via a cable operated lever.  Like the ABS this is a feature you don’t really notice until the moment you need it, and once you’ve experienced how it works, it’s hard to get comfortable on a bike without one. It was certainly doing some work as Julian and I fought with our racing buddies and its operation is super smooth.

Style wise the Honda has taken me some time to get used to. It’s not, as Julian and I would say in England, “my cup of tea.” But as we know, opinions are like…well you get my point. My unit is as black as it could be, and actually this is the only color available for the C-ABS model. If you choose the standard CBR you can have Pearly Orange/Light Silver or Red/Black. This option will set you back $13,399 and the C-BAS model tested here will cost an additional $1,000.

Heading home from Beaver Run gave me some chance to digest on a full day at the track with the new Honda CBR1000RR. It worked so much better than expected on the short track I was pleasantly surprised, just like I had been after the road test.  I don’t remember feeling so much at ease on Yamaha’s R1 and can’t remember the GSXR1000 being so user friendly. It certainly doesn’t feel as sharp as the new BMW, but in fairness I haven’t tested one that wasn’t all pre-tweaked on race compound tires. Julian certainly enjoyed a small advantage on the BMW having the traction control, as the Honda requires an extra degree of concentration to make sure you don’t spin the rear tire.  Exercise a bit of caution though, and the Honda is without a doubt one of the, if not the, most user-friendly liter bikes on the market, and I can fully understand now why it usually wins all the multi bike shoot outs.
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D&D “Boss” Slip-ons for Victory Cross Country / Roads : Full Review

D&D recently introduced their new “Boss” slip-on exhaust for Victory Cross Country and Cross Road bikes.  D&D claims to build these pipes on a dyno so we thought that performing a full installation review and then taking the pipes to the dyno would be a good test.  I am fortunate enough to live next to Kevin Cross, arguably one of the best Victory tuners in the country.  Kevin works  at Polaris of Gainesville and after receiving the pipes from D&D, I headed to see Kevin, ready to document the installation, fit and finish and of course the performance of these new pipes.

Fit & Finish
When the box arrived, I noticed first and foremost, the weight. This set of slip-ons is rather heavy. Close to twice the weight of existing stock mufflers. Now keep in mind that these slip-ons have integrated heat shields. You use the front stock heat shields but the back two are not used as the pipe and the heat shield is one unit.

The second thing I noticed after unpacking the pipes is that the welds are very smooth and it seems as though D&D spent a lot of time putting these together. The chrome was blemishes free (none that can be seen after mounting on the bike.)  All of the included hardware is stainless steel with hex fasteners. Each bag support rail is a machined steel plate and held in place by two stainless steel bolts that fasten to integrated threaded holes in the top of the pipe. The engineering of the bag support system is very sturdy and should have no problem supporting the bags.

The slips-ons are available with straight or slash cut tips. I received the 45 degree slash cut version. This tip follows the contour of the saddlebags perfectly. I also noticed that the exhaust fits much closer to the bottom of the saddle bag compared with the stock pipe. I thought that maybe heat would be an issue. However, after riding for an hour, I checked the heat on the bag and really didn’t feel any difference.

Not much here as the process is very straightforward. Basically remove the stock pipes and heat shields. Mount the bag support rails to the top of the D&Ds and insert the rubber pads from the stock pipes onto this rail. Slide the D&Ds onto the header pipe and secure with stainless pipe clamps that are included. Bolt the end of the pipe to the rear support brackets using the existing bolts from the stock pipe. That’s it. Once the stock slip-ons are off, the whole installation process took less than 45 minutes.

I’ve got to deduct points from the instructions, or rather lack of instructions.  While D&D did a good job outlining the process, there were no pictures or diagrams.  However, as most DYI’er know, once you get the process started detailed instructions with pics are really not essential, but they are a confidence booster.  I’d suggest D&D setup some YouTube installation videos to help make the job easier.

It’s always exciting to hear a new set of pipes and this set was no different.  I waited like a kid at Christmas once installation was complete. I was expecting loud and deep and, while the pipes do have a rather deep rumble, if you are looking for really loud, then look elsewhere. I can report that the D&Ds tend to blend into the wind noise at 80 MPH and I can now hear my tunes much better. When you dump the throttle, they do wake up and give you a nice deep note that really sounds good.

After a rather quick installation, we were off to Alachua Florida to Polaris of Gainesville for a dyno test.  The Cross Country that we were testing with has the following specifications:

2010 Victory Cross Country
Lloydz VFC III
Victory High Performace Air Filter

… and now the results!

MAX TQ – 108.4 @ 3652 RPM
MAX HP – 89.31 @ 4650 RPM

100 FT LBs TQ @ 2373 RPM
104 FT LBs TQ @ 3000 RPM

The torque curve carries well from 2500 – 4500 RPMs. D&D claims to have designed this pipe for max torque at the lower RPM range as they feel most riders spend the most time at this range. I can attest to feeling an increase in torque at a lower RPM range than any other pipe I have tested. In comparison, the stock pipes carry their max torque in the 4000 – 5000 range.  Also, keep in mind that these numbers are at the rear wheel and not crank numbers.  Most bike manufacturers market their crank numbers.  Rear wheel numbers in my opinion are much more accurate.

Keep in mind that weather can affect the results of any dyno test. Also, we suspect that the aluminum frames of the Cross Country and Cross Roads can retain a good bit of heat. We spent quite a bit of time between runs allowing the bike to cool down to get accurate numbers.  However, D&D claims a 10% increase in power over stock.  We were able to confirm close to those numbers with a fuel controller and the high flow filter from Victory.

Overall the D&D pipe is a good choice for riders that want a deeper pipe that is a bit louder than what a Victory stage one exhaust offers. The power on the exhaust is good and the fit and finish is excellent. I would have liked these pipes to be lighter but overall I think they are a great slip-on. You always hear that “you get what you pay for ..” Even though the D&Ds are a bit more expensive, you are getting integrated heat shield and tips. If you add up the Victory “Big Mouth tips” and any of the other aftermarket slip-ons currently offered, then the price is in line.

The D&D “Boss” slip-ons are available in both black and chrome finishes. Each is also available with either a straight cut or 45 degree cut tip. Chrome slash cut MSRP – $674
More information about this exhaust can be found at

Thanks again to Kevin Cross and the crew at Polaris of Gainesville –

Check out this video of the pipes on a dyno at D&D:

D&D Boss Exhaust Video

Installing Taylor Made Exhaust on BMW S1000 RR

Story by Ron Pfister. Pics Neale Bayly

A couple of months ago my buddy Ron bought himself a new BMWS1000RR and as excited as he was about the bike, he wanted an exhaust system that sounded like he had 180 horsepower at his disposal. A quick cyber trip revealed a few options with the Taylormade Moto GP system catching his eye, as it not only lost weight, gained power, but it made the bike look even meaner. When I found out he had ordered one I asked him if I could tag along for the install to see what it involved, and find out what he thought about the pipe once it was in place. So with cameras in hand, I headed over to Ron’s place to get the story in his words.
The installation instructions provided by Taylormade are detailed and include high quality pictures demonstrating much of the assembly. The allotted time for installation by a “competent mechanic” is 1-2 hours. I’m not a professional mechanic, but I am also no stranger to turning a wrench, and this installation (with a highly competent assistant), took in excess of 4 hours. BMW buttons up the faringvery well with no less than 30 bolts securing both lower and front faring, this disassembly along with removing the seat and side cowls took almost 45 minutes alone. And note that although the instructions do not indicate removal of the seat and both side cowls as necessary, they are instrumental in removing the rear butterfly cables which operated the rear exhaust valve (we’ll get to that).

The parts list for the Taylormade exhaust is minimal and includes both right and left side carbon fiber plates, two header pipes, a collector, and the assorted nuts bolts, and spacers necessary for installation. After disassembly of the faring and removing the stock muffler cover and tailpipe the instructions indicate to “detach exhaust cables and remove cable from the front servo motor”. This seemed simple enough until further examination indicated the front servo motor drives the butterfly valve off the header and rear servo motor drives the butterfly valve off the exhaust pipe. Each of these cables needs to be removed in order to remove the stock exhaust. Also note the rear servo-motor is located below the seat and is only accessible after removal of the seat and both side cowls. The instructions later indicate that the rear exhaust valve cables are to be fastened to the muffler bracket. That assumes the cables are kept, which is not necessary as removal is easily accomplished by accessing the servo below the rear seat, and lends a more completed look to the bike.

After removing the stock header and collector, a side-by-side comparison of the stock and Taylormade exhausts revels the remarkable size and weight savings. But be aware, although the Taylormade is much more compact, the sizing is tight with only minimal tolerances for rear wheel and exhaust spacing. The instructions include pre-assembly of the headers and collector box and suggest using WD-40 for fitting. As I noted the tolerance are tight, make sure the headers are fully inset into the collector box as this is absolutely necessary to provide rear wheel spacing. Generous use of WD-40 will allow for some play in the header pipes, which is necessary to fit it to the exhaust block. Beware, several different lengths of socket extensions are necessary to access the header bolts.

Once the Taylormade is hung, reinstalling the faring and hanging the Carbon panels is very intuitive. Prior to installing the exhaust panel you need to make the decision to pull the DB Killer. If you chose to leave the DB Killer in, the Carbon Fiber panel will have to be pulled to access and remove it after installation. The carbon fiber panels mate perfectly into the stock faring (after pulling back the heat shielding) and result in a very clean look. As the instructions note, after completing the installation stand back and take a moment to admire the results of all your hard work (likely 4 + hours of it)

So wrapping up, I have to say the Taylormade exhaust is truly beautiful in its ability to blend-in seamlessly into the S1000 RR fairing. The exhaust becomes an integrated member of the bike and eliminates the standard obtrusive outboard exhaust. Further, the mid-range power improvement is very good and the sound is deep and exhilarating (much to the disappointment of my neighbors). And the price for a full system is right.

BMW GS 1200 & 1200 Adventure Test

The Magnificent Seven….

Letting the big GS drive the rear wheel without any throttle application, one hand covering the clutch, I watched ex Cycle World Chief David Edwards hit the ground in a split second just in front of me. Breathing deeply, fighting the anxiety welling up inside, the rear wheel slid sideways as I eased out of the seat to give it more traction. Sitting down to swipe at the snow piling up on my lightly cracked visor, I took a second wipe on the inside to try and clear the mist from my heavy breath. The temperature gauge was flashing 31 degrees, and passing cars lay abandoned at the angle they had slid to a halt as I squeezed the heated grips to keep some warmth in my frozen fingers. With my right collar bone broken from some earlier stupidity on the trails above Yosemite National Park, and the pain ripping through my shoulder feeling as if the back of my jacket was on fire I concentrated on keeping the bike in the rapidly disappearing tire track.

Bang! Another journalist went down in front of me with no warning and slid back into my path. Yelling at the top of my lungs for him to stop before we collided, Julian Taylor somehow managed to halt his bike’s descent and I made it past. With the rear stepping out, and knowing I couldn’t control the bike with my busted shoulder if this continued, I eased onto the pegs again to straighten it out. Now there was no one ahead. The Park Ranger wasn’t allowing anyone else up the road and climbing to 7,000 feet as the snow fell more heavily, I was alone.

Drawing on my thirty years in the saddle, and training by Paris/Dakas super human Jimmy Lewis on BMW GS machines, I pressed on. Deliberately keeping my speed low, I eventually noticed headlights as the only riders to make it caught up and passed me. Following them as we started descending, I’ve never been so happy to see 35 degrees on a temperature gauge. With the snow falling so hard now I could barely make out the bike in front we made the lodge. It was one of the wildest rides of my life with a broken collarbone, and I could have kissed my GS for bringing me through. I would never have made it without the heated grips, the traction control and the bikes incredible tractability. In fact, under the extreme circumstances it was the perfect bike.

Heading to the Tenaya Lodge, in Fish Camp, Ca, the day before, the ominous cloud cover and low temperatures didn’t bode well for the intro of the new GS models. Having ridden through two days of torrential rain and deep sand in the Ocala Forest in 2001 for the launch of the GS 1150 Adventure, I know any GS ride will be challenging. BMW builds these bikes to take people around the world, and isn’t afraid to prove they can go anywhere and deal with anything. I’m not sure if even they anticipated the crazy conditions.

Starting with a press brief by BMW’s North American VP, Pieter De Waal, I was interested to learn that the big GS range is responsible for around 30% of BMW motorcycles sold. Not surprisingly BMW is very focused on the GS lifestyle, and Pieter explained the training programs and facilities available to GS owners. Purchasing a BMW GS is a ticket to an adventure lifestyle that spans generations and continents alike. A lifestyle you can join and select what appeals to you personally. Never want to go off road, but like the comfort, styling and safety features? Want to take that round the world sojourn? No worries, there are 80 courses available in the US. Choosing this latter option would be my choice, as you can start at an event in your local area, improve your skills, or go all the way to 2010 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy. Three riders selected from various countries compete on new R1200 GS bikes in an exciting off-road competition in South Africa.

What other bike or brand gives you the key to such a fantastic and adventurous club? With BMW GS riders making expeditions all over the world, to steal a well known BMW travel guru’s business name, the “Horizon’s Unlimited.” (I actually met this guy on his GS in a bus shelter in northern Norway during a rainstorm) And to prove this point, and the versatility of the big GS1200 and GS1200 Adventure, it was no surprise that BMW trucked us into the mountains around Yosemite National Park early in the year. They had no idea Mother Nature was going to make it more difficult than planned though!

The big news, apart from the lifestyle push, is the new engine. Without riding the previous generation, it’s not possible to make a direct comparison, but from memory this engine is a big leap forward. Torquey and smooth, it took till later in the day to realize I should try running it higher in the rpm to see how it performed. It was surprising how strong it felt, spinning-up quickly and smoothly while pulling effortlessly to the 8,500 red line. During these runs to redline, it quickly became apparent the exhaust note will be seducing gear heads and big twin aficionados the quickest though. Thanks to the external exhaust valve, it is crisp and throaty and it’s hard to think the bike is using a stock exhaust system.

Using new four valve cylinder heads based on their HP2 sport line, the new GS and GS Adventure are putting out five more horsepower and three more foot/lbs of torque this year. While this might not sound like a huge gain, the new engine makes consistently more torque and horsepower across the range from 2,000 rpm until around 7,000 rpm. At 5,000 rpm, it’s putting out 15 foot/lbs more torque and at 6,500 rpm close to ten more horsepower. So you can see why I got a surprise when I ran it up into the mid range and really found the power.

Inside the new cylinder heads, the valves are arranged in a radial fashion and both intake and exhausts are larger this year. There are new air-intake manifolds, larger throttle manifolds and a bigger air filter for more flow. Improvements have also been made to the combustion chamber and two new pistons take advantage of these changes.

BMW has always made intelligent motorcycles, and the new 2010 GS models have the choice to equip your bike with Enduro ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) or Integral ABS (Anti lock brakes that are semi-integral on demand). These extras come in various packages that include the heated handlebar grips, saddle bag mounts, on board computer, fog lights and handlebar protectors. The standard package GS starts at $14,950 and goes up to $17,695 with all the bells and whistles. Start with the new GS Adventure and the entry price is $17,000, which of course gives the bigger tank, windshield, foot pegs etc. Choose every option and the price goes up to $20,245. There is a lot to think about at purchase time with both models, as all of the extras make a lot of sense for the serious rider who rides a lot of miles over a wide variety of terrain.

A point to note here is the Enduro ESA adds an extra six suspension settings specifically for off road riding, and these are activated on the fly. This gives the new GS range a total of fifteen settings, as the bike already comes with BMWs standard range of nine. On existing models you see an image of a single helmet for solo, a single helmet plus luggage symbol for riding with luggage and two helmets to indicate you are ready for a passenger. The initial spring pre-load settings must be made while the bike is stationary, with the damping settings, comfort, normal, and sport being changeable on the move. With these new Enduro settings you can toggle between moderate bumps and strong bumps. Three damping settings are available for both these choices, and you can also turn the ABS off when heading into the dirt for more control. For those not familiar with these functions they are easy to operate with big, obvious buttons on the switchgear, and a few minutes with your friendly BMW sales staff with have you immediately up to speed.

No surprises on BMWs typically weird suspension this year. A Telelever front suspension unit replaces the conventional fork system found on most other motorcycles, and a Paralever rear suspension system lives out back. Without going into great detail, the Telelever  eliminates dive under braking and makes setting up and entering corners a breeze, while the unique shaft drive eliminates unwanted jacking under acceleration and braking for smooth riding at all times.  No changes to the body style of either bike this year, with the GS coming in Magma Red, Ostra Grey Metallic Mat, Sapphire Black or Alpine White, the Adventure I available in my favorite Shine Yellow Metallic or Smoke Metallic Matt. BMW also offers a limited edition 30 Year anniversary edition on both platforms. These will retail for $795 more than the standard models and pay homage to the Paris/Dakar racing bikes of the ‘80s and look fantastic.

Starting my day in the saddle of the Adventure, it’s noticeably taller and heavier. Although this extra weight and size just make it seem more amazing, I was definitely able to go faster and with more control (until plowing it into a bank) on the straight GS. You can still do it all on the Adventure. It just takes more concentration to hustle the bigger bike.

The true test of the new BMW GS 1200 came climbing out of Yosemite at the end of the day in the heavily falling snow. In all my years on two wheels, I can’t think of any other time I wanted predictable fueling, wide bars, and a balanced motorcycle as I crept up the snowy mountain. The GS just delivered and then some. With cars sliding off the road, emergency vehicles struggling, I climbed up that mountain with all the caution I could muster. Letting the engine plod along with barely any throttle input to maintain traction, it was an extremely tense period.

Back in the warmth of the lodge as we waited to find out what happened to the rest of our crew, I had a chance to reflect on a wild day. BMW has done it again, further improving their globe trotting GS line with a fantastic new engine. It’s been thirty years since we saw the first R80 GS and wondered who would want a big heavy off road bike with cylinders sticking out of the side. After another day of amazement in extreme conditions riding the new big GS models, I’m left wondering who wouldn’t?

2010 Triumph Thunderbird on Test

Rumbling around the city of Charlotte late at night to avoid the oppressive heat of the day late this summer, a myriad of colored lights dance and play in the seamless chrome of the sculptured, headlight before flowing along the seamless gas tank. Unchecked air flows across the wide, chrome handlebars, and the rhythmic cadence of the smooth parallel twin beating beneath me transports me to the place we motorcyclists go. Tipping effortlessly into the next curve of the road, downshifting to feel the powerful engine pull me forward on the exit, there is no feeling in the world to compare with this sense of freedom. Comfortable, laid back, and built to mimic the classic American style and feeling we associate with cruisers, the new Triumph Thunderbird gives this and more, by bringing a few distinctly British traits to the table.

As I missed the initial launch of the new “T’ Bird,” Triumph’s Jim Callaghan kindly offered to bring one to Charlotte so I could spend some quality time on the bike over a few weeks. This would let me experience the bike in a wider variety of situations and get a more in-depth feel for Triumph’s first large displacement parallel twin.  More after the video

As the style of motorcycle I gravitate towards the least, the Triumph Thunderbird has done more to improve my appreciation for this class than any other cruiser, save perhaps Yamaha’s line of bigger Star machines. Displacing 1587ccs the new Thunderbird fits squarely between the Bonneville America at 865cc and the gargantuan 2294cc Rocket III. With the America barely making enough power to pull your Granny off the Mail man, and the Rocket III capable of ripping your arms out of their sockets and leaving your missus in the next county, the new Thunderbird is the perfect balance and addition to this cruiser line up.

Edward Turner introduced the first Triumph Thunderbird in 1949, so it’s illuminating that Triumph would hang this famous historical moniker on their new cruiser. It’s also interesting that it’s the first new from the ground up motorcycle to come from Triumph in a few years, with the Thunderbird appearing to share no common parts with any other models. As tested the bike came in standard form, but there are already a number of accessory items available to customize the Thunderbird to individual tastes. Just head on down to your local dealer or check online to see the options.

On first appearance the bike appears very neat and tidy. The lines are clean with nothing poking out interrupting their smooth flow. The bike is classically styled, and without any obvious Triumph logo shouting out what brand it is, which confused more than one person while I was out on my travels. What was immediately apparent to anyone with more than a passing interest in mechanical things though was the engine. There wasn’t a motorcyclist who didn’t comment on the parallel twin and want to know the size and the amount of power it made.

The 1597cc twin is quoted as producing 85 horsepower and kicking out 108 ft. lbs of torque at a lowly 2,750rpm.  This puts the Triumph a little down on power compared to Suzuki’s M109R and Star’s line of bigger cruisers, but up some when compared to the Harley Davidson collection. This displacement is achieved by an over square bore and stroke of 103.8mm and 94.3mm respectively. Making for basically two 800cc pistons with a 270-degree firing order, it’s necessary for the big twin to use twin balance shafts and a crank mounted torsional damper to keep unwanted vibes from taking the fillings out of your teeth.

As the largest production parallel twin on the market, there is actually a big bore kit available for those desiring more grunt. This enlarges the engine capacity to 1700cc, giving an additional 15 horsepower and 7 foot-pounds of torque. Personally, lack of power is not an issue for me, and I actually applaud the amount produced and the way it is delivered. It gives the Triumph an aggressive and sporting nature when you crank the throttle, and with a 6,500-rpm limit it doesn’t run out of power too early. For those still interested, the big bore kits costs $889 from your Triumph dealer and takes about a full day of labor to complete the work. For a significant power increase that comes by simply bolting on factory parts, it seems like a very reasonable deal.

Rolling through the city on my night ride with a light passenger on the pillion seat the Thunderbird is unfazed by the extra weight. It pulls 70 mph with just 3,000 rpm on the tachometer in sixth gear, and our ride is super smooth and slick with very low vibration through the pegs or bars. Below this point on the tachometer you are aware that there is a big twin beneath you, but the extra vibes are certainly not annoying or distracting. Fueling is very similar to the injected Bonneville I tested earlier in the year. Although, where the Bonneville is perfect on or off the throttle at any point in the power band, the Thunderbird gave the occasional minor hiccup. It came after running on a closed throttle any time I didn’t quickly pick up the throttle, and not happening every time it was somewhat difficult to pin point at first. Even then it needed just the right set of circumstances to manifest, so it really is a minor blemish on an otherwise excellent fueling system.

Taking the fuel and air into the big cylinders, via two inlet valves driven by an overhead camshaft, the Thunderbird uses two large 42mm throttle bodies. The EFI controls this mixture on each cylinder separately, and a pair of exhaust valves let the burned mixture escape after being opened by their own camshaft. Triumph is quoting the system as 20% more fuel efficient than the competition, but I’m sure that information is really more for the European market where near $8 per gallon gas prices are more likely to get your attention.

For the most part the city streets around Charlotte are in good condition, but there are some bumps and bangs to be found. The Thunderbird’s suspension did a good job of absorbing these when they appeared. Up front there is a conventional 47mm Showa fork with 120mm of travel. This is set up firmly enough to not fold under heavy braking, but soft enough to provide a supple ride. The fork is non-adjustable as you might expect on a cruiser. Under your bum there are a pair of chrome spring shocks with 95mm of travel. These are adjustable for five-positions of pre-load, and this operation is performed quickly with a spanner found under the seat. The ride quality is very good, and they deal with irregular road conditions as well as any other cruiser I have tested.

The Thunderbird rolls on an attractive pair of cast aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with specially designed Metzeler tires for optimum handling. With a 200-series rear Marathon ME880 tire in the back on the 17 inch rear wheel, the steering and maneuverability are better than I expected without that strange feeling of the bike revolving around the rear tire that you get on cruisers with big tires. The front wheel is a 19-incher using a 120/70 series ME880. Wheelbase is 63.6 inches, and the rake is set at 32-degrees with 5.95 inches of trail. Knowing how many miles Triumph test riders put on new motorcycles before they go into production, and on what sort of roads, it’s no surprise that the Thunderbird handles in such a competent manner. In my mind it is one of the best handling of the cruisers in this segment, and allied to the urgent response level of the engine, there is a definite sporting element to the Thunderbird you won’t find either in cruiser world.

When it comes time to slow down 2010 Triumph Thunderbirdor stop the 680-pound British cruiser, the non-adjustable front brake lever operates a pair of Nissin four piston calipers working over dual 310mm rotors. A single two-piston Brembo caliper grabs a similar sized rotor in the rear and adds some solid stopping power to the strong front set up. These front brakes don’t overwhelm the fork as I mentioned earlier and get the job done without any drama with a good firm pull on the lever. Overall the package feels a notch above all of the other cruisers, except maybe the Star line with their R1 derived package.

The rider’s eye view is clean and minimalist with chrome top triple trees, handlebars, and headlight being set off with smooth, black switchgear and front brake master cylinder. The whole package has a high quality look and feel and work in a conventional fashion with no surprises. The instrument panel sits in the 5.8-gallon fuel tank in tried and tested Harley fashion.. Accompanying the large analogue speedometer is a small tachometer that sits in the bottom of the gauge. It is hard to see these numbers for those of us who need reading glasses but not impossible.

The six-speed gearbox has a nice solid cruiser thump to it when you drop into first, and the engine note is robust, if maybe a little muted with the stock pipes. Clutch action is not so light it feels weak, but not so stiff it leaves you with an aching wrist in traffic, although I’m personally not a big fan of the wide bar grips. Shifting up through the gears is a smooth and simple task, and the bike pulls well in sixth gear if needed, even thought this is really an overdrive as the engine only drops 200 rpm when you make this last shift. Triumph has always made good gearboxes, and this one is no exception, with clutchless up-shifting possible for those who need it.

Seat is a cruiser low 27.6 inches with a nice, thickly padded seat. Legs stretch forward in typical fashion, and the wide bars fall nicely to hand with a fairly good set of mirrors attached. Styling is all Americana, but with the unique parallel twin engine setting the stage, the experience is different enough to be refreshing. Priced at $12,499 it’s certainly competitive, and the Thunderbird comes in a choice of three colors: Jet Black, Pacific Blue/Fusion White and Aluminum Silver/Jet Black.  While I doubt it will wrestle the Harley faithful away from the brand, the new 2010 Triumph Thunderbird is certainly going to make a viable and tempting choice when stacked up against the current crop of Japanese cruisers. It also might make me reconsider the thought of having a permanent cruiser in the Bayly garage. It’s that good.

Text and Photos by Neale Bayly

New Products from Gravesend Cycles

The Springer Front End Leg Conversion was created specifically to replace the front leg on your DNA or Hard body Springer Front End. Its CNC radius cut lines offer a unique custom look along the top of the fork leg and CNC machined indents as well as front speed hole create an entirely different and much sleeker appearance. Installation of the Springer Front End Leg Conversion is very simple for a competent mechanic. The conversion comes in raw steel, chrome, copper, gold, brass or nickel plating  and can also be special ordered in ball milled and twisted. Copper Mike’s Springer Front End Leg Conversion is available online starting at only $195.

Gravesend Cycles’ Hide-Away Passenger Pegs are also now available and can bolt onto custom motorcycle frames that have a cross seat support bar; a 1 ¾” dia tube may be drilled for a larger frame. The Hide-Away Passenger Pegs are 10 ¾” closed and 18” open with an overall diameter of 1”. To create a clean and custom look, these pegs have the ability to slide out and lock when you have company as well as slide in and lock when you don’t. Gravesend Cycles’ Hide-Away Passenger Pegs are made of steel and sell for $195.  Check out Gravesend Cycles selection of exceptional bikes, parts and apparel online at

Wire Plus Introduces New Custom Fit EFI System

Winfield, KS- Wire Plus Powersports Electronics is proud to introduce their new, Custom Fit EFI System for all motors equipped with EFI systems…both stock and aftermarket units. Wire Plus offers several simple ways to handle the electronics on these new EFI equipped projects you may be thinking about. These harnesses are available for use with stock or aftermarket ignition modules and will connect to all the sensors that your motor needs to run efficiently.

These harnesses provide wiring for the ignition and motor only and can be used with any type of main wiring system. The new custom fit EFI system will work with all model bikes that come equipped with electronic fuel injection units as well for all aftermarket units.Suggested MSRP: $392.00.

Wire Plus manufactures a complete line of self-diagnostic wiring systems to fit any stock or custom bike application. Some of the advantages that you get with products from Wire Plus include SolidState breaker technology (the breakers never have to be replaced) and a replaceable start relay that can be purchased at any auto parts store. Their power modules are submersible waterproof and very compact in size with harnesses that are engineered to be smaller than any other on the market.

2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe

It doesn’t seem possible that five years have passed since I rolled out of the working class city of Portland, Oregon, in the saddle of the new Star Roadliner. Riding a Yamaha that wasn’t a Yamaha, well not by name anyway, and riding a cruiser with real performance, handling and braking, it was anexciting day. More importantly, it was a new direction for the company we typically associate with winning motorcycle championships at the highest level on both dirt and asphalt. By taking this passion, enthusiasm and dedication to excellence and infusing it into the new Star brand of cruisers, it hasn’t taken long for the company to make it to the number two position in the class. The giant from Milwaukee being the only brand to outsell them in this class.

Striking out in their own direction with the art deco inspired Roadliner, Star has taken some valuable clues from Harley’s success, using this initial Roadliner platform to spawn the touring focused Stratoliner and the more custom styled Raider. Working from this initial Roadliner platform, they were able to create three unique motorcycles without undertaking a major redesign each time. Continuing on this practical path, I recently sampled the fourth model in this line up, the Stratoliner Deluxe, over a full day of riding around the Yamaha headquarters in California.

Designated a “Bagger,” the concept for this style of motorcycle is fairly simple. Take a cruiser and make it more focused for traveling, without turning it into a full-on touring bike. Add a good-sized front fairing, some nice integrated saddlebags for carrying your gear, on board musics, a set of spacious footboards, and voila! One bagger to go. It’s certainly a trend that seems to have risen from the ashes of the chopper fad, with riders looking for more practicality and comfort from their ride, without losing the ability to customize and personalize their bike.

The heart of the beast remains the same, with two large cylinders housing 100 mm pistons sucking in fuel and air, and spitting out burned gases through a pair of inlet and a pair of outlet valves. Riding on a long 118 mm stroke, the compression ratio is a healthy 9.5:1 and helps the bike to make a claimed 91 hp. Thumping out an equally healthy 117 foot pounds of torque at 5,000 rpm, the Star motor is a thoroughly modern power house that provides a powerful grunt at low rpm or real sporting power as the rpm rise. It’s also a real air-cooled V-twin, not a faux finned water-cooled unit, and the four valves per cylinder are opened and closed by push rods. How old school is that? This allows the stylish engine to have large chrome pushrod tubes to further accentuate the style, and they certainly help make the Star engine look as much like a piece of art work as the rest of the bike.

Faultless fuel injection makes your riding experience a joy in whatever mood you are in from putting round town to carving canyons and twisty roads. This perfect fuel delivery is made possible by a pair of 43mm, twin-bore throttle bodies. These downdraft bodies have throttle position sensors (TPS) that make sure the response is spot on, no matter what you are doing with the throttle, or how fast the engine is spinning. An oxygen sensor in the two-into-one exhaust system makes it a closed loop system by reading the burned gases and adjusting the fuel injection system as necessary. In an interesting move, an EXUP valve, normally found in higher revving sport bikes, is also used to help boost low end power and provide crisper throttle response The system is a meaty looking affair and gives the bike a nice deep rumble on idle. There’s no wheezing when you twist the throttle either, and aftermarket pipes for more window shaking rumble are available from your local Yamaha dealer. Chatting with Dave Pooler, the man in charge of all Star accessories, he was very excited by the range of products available for the Deluxe. Some you will already know and some specific new ones. Furtherattention to the fueling is found with the 12-hole, 2-directional fuel injectors that ensure the cylinders get filled completely, and the twin spark plugs making sure combustion is complete. As with all modern bikes there is an idle control valve in place of the choke, and the bike fires instantly to life, cold or hot at the touch of the starter button.

Power is taken to the rear wheel via belt drive through a five speed gearbox. This belt drive system is clean, quiet and close to maintenance free. The Deluxe comes complete with big cruiser clunking on first gear selection, but shifts very smoothly once on the move. A heel/toe shifter system is employed, and it works as well as it looks. It’s not my system of choice, so I find myself shifting in the conventional manner, but this causes no problems. The floorboards are roomy, and don’t force your feet into one position which is a great benefit on longer rides. And this is a lot of what the Stratoliner Deluxe is going to be all about, packing up and hitting the highway.

The lightweight fork mounted fairing not only looks stylish but also does a reasonable job of fending off the oncoming breeze without making the steering heavy or cumbersome. A fact I appreciated while carving along the Ortega Highway during our test ride.

One of the best parts of the new fairing on the Deluxe though is the watertight MP3 compartment which hooks your device to a pair of five inch speakers with easy to use controls on the left handlebar above the usual switches. These take some familiarizing with to scroll through the various artists, play lists, and sound levels etc, so it’s not a bad idea to get fully familiar before you hit the road.

The Stratoliner Deluxe handles extremely well for a bike with a curb weight of 810 pounds. This is achieved with the combination of a low, sculpture seat and the wide, easy to reach bars. With a comfortable straight up and down seating position, there’s no doubt I could certainly log many pain free miles in the saddle of the new Deluxe.

Thankfully, the Star crew avoided the trend towards packing the largest back wheel possible under the rear fender. The attractive twelve spoke alloy 17 inch wheels gets a sensibly sized 190 series tire, complemented by a 130/70- 18-inch front. While this is hardly cutting edge sport bike sizing, it works perfectly on the big Star, and with the aforementioned wide bars, the steering input is always light and precise, not something you would initially expect from such a big looking bike. The Deluxe is also easy to pull up from the side stand, and is easy to maneuver in tight spaces. With a combination of light controls, easy fueling, and low seat height, you won’t be sweating and straining to get out of congested parking lots.

The front fork is a beefy conventional 46mm affair with no provision for adjustability. Thankfully the Deluxe comes with what I consider the best braking set up in the cruiser world; a pair of 298mm rotors and R1 styled mono block calipers. Not sprung too softly to collapse the forks under heavy braking, they are not so hard they give a harsh ride. In the rear a single shock is used and there is provision for pre-load adjustment. This is useful when you add a passenger and luggage to keep the bike on an even keel. The single disc out back is actually slightly larger at 320mm and also uses a four-piston mono block caliper. With heavier cruisers, the longer wheel base means you can use a lot more rear brake, and this allows the Deluxe to scrub excess speed quickly and safely when needed. A point to note here is that there is no ABS, which might or might not be a deal breaker for someone looking at a bike in this class. During our ride time it’s not something I felt detracted from the Deluxe, as the brakes have such good feel at the adjustable lever.

One of the more visually stylish elements of the new Star is the saddle bags. Color matched to the bike’s paint scheme, they are more integrated than the smaller ones found on the Stratoliner, and as practical as they are attractive. Capable of holding close to seven gallons of luggage per side, they are nice and easy to open and close. Something that can’t be said about all motorcycle saddlebags.

The controls, gauges and instruments are all the same as previous Star models, and this means high quality. Easy to read analogue gauges are nice touch for us older riders who still struggle with hyperactive digital read outs, and all the usual data is presented in typical format. The level of finish with all the painted and chromed parts is extremely high, with the machine giving off a very custom feel, even in standard trim. As usual, Star custom guru Jeff Palhegy was along for the ride on his own personal Deluxe and it was breathtaking as you might imagine with its beautifully painted fairing lowers and custom parts.

Priced at $17,490, the new Stratoliner Deluxe makes a great addition to the existing Star line up, and a very unique one at that fits with the other offerings in this class. Capable of giving long distance touring comfort and convenience if needed, it’s still a super slick looking ride for posing down the high street and taking short jaunts on your favorite roads. During our test ride, I was able to reconnect with the reasons I’ve always enjoyed the big Star line up. Unique styling, great power, competent handling and braking, wrapped up in a modern package that’s a blast to ride. The Stratoliner Deluxe certainly doesn’t disappoint.

BMW K1200S

While not really an all-new motorcycle, the 2010 K1300 is based on BMWs previous K1200S, the larger engine capacity and multiple upgrades ensure this isn’t just a make over of last year’s model, even if it appears almost identical to the untrained eye. The upper fairing section is slightly narrower; the cockpit trim is new, while the speedometer and tachometer have been redesigned. New side fairings, new LED taillight, and a more compact muffler complete the visual changes, with the big news happening under the vast expanse of bodywork.

Quoting figures of 175 bhp @ 9,250rpm and 103 ft-lbs of torque at 8,250rpm. It’s no surprise that the new K1300S is packing some serious German muscle when you twist the throttle. These figures relate to around a 7 ft-lb increase in torque from as low as two thousand rpm all the way to eight thousand rpm, although without the old bike to compare it wasn’t possible to really notice the difference. Both bikes have enough power to send you to jail in less time than it takes to write this sentence, and with top speeds on the north side of 165mph, these figures are a tad academic when riding on a public road. What this incredible amount of power and torque does though, is make the new K1300S even more effortless to ride at any speed than its predecessor. Want to overtake, go faster, or shoot some adrenaline through your veins? Well, just twist the throttle anytime you like and hang on.

To gain this extra capacity and power the original bike’s 1157cc displacement was increased to 1293cc. Enlarging the pistons by 1mm and lengthening the stroke by 5.3mm achieved this substantial increase, and these new larger, lightweight, high-compression pistons feature an extra short piston skirt and thinner rings. Every thing else inside the compact motor appears the same, and it remains one of the most sophisticated inline fours in production.

One thing that both journalists and customers complained with the K1200 range was the fueling. I had a long term K on test and had it back at the dealer on more than one occasion to try and smooth things out. It did get a lot better, and I’m happy to announce the new K1300S suffered none of these problems. Some of my peers were experiencing a small fueling issue coming off a closed throttle during our test which I talked about in my K1300GT review, but try as hard as I might, I never really noticed it on my particular unit. This is due to an all-new engine mapping system aimed at improving partial-load situations, and kudos to BMW for both listening to the complaints levied at them, and for fixing them. The bike now uses dual throttle cables, replacing the single one previously used, and revised exhaust valve timing. There is also a new metal idle control valve to replace the previous plastic version, and a re-designed airbox and ram-air ducts all revamped to help improve the fueling situation.

Anti lock brakes have been with us for a long time now, and the BMW system has come a long way. I have very vivid memories of putting the system to the test on an old “flying brick” back in the mid eighties and wondering if I would lose my lunch or a few fillings when it went into it’s manic lurching behavior after I yanked on the lever at 80mph. I’m please to say the new system is nearly flawless, with little annoying pulsing when it’s activated. It is also possible to turn it off if you don’t want to use it. This operation has to be performed at a standstill, and the system is always on unless you turn it off.

Anti-Spin Control (ASC) is used to stop the rear wheel from spinning in a straight line. It also stops the bikes from pulling wheelies, which is probably a good thing with the amount of power the BMW has on tap. Unlike the ABS, the ASC can be turned on or off on the fly and is a safety feature I’m sure all bikes will come with one day. It mustn’t be confused with traction control that we are used to in racing, but think about pulling away from a traffic light and getting in a diesel spill or some stray oil. These situations, or applying too much power leaving a gravel parking lot, can spell disaster on two wheels without ASC.

Finally, with my report card reading a passing grade, we came to the ESA II. This is an electronic suspension adjustment system. While it’s not new to BMW, this is the latest version from the German manufacturer. I should point out that this is an option and doesn’t come standard on the $15,259 base model K1300S. It does come on the premium package that includes the ABS and the ASC that will set you back an additional $2,250. Basically, at the push of a button located on the left handlebar, you can set the suspension to one of three modes: Sport, Normal or Comfort. Each of these positions has a choice of three settings to give nine different pre sets. It’s not a new system, as most of you will be familiar with it from the previous K series, but it has undergone some fine-tuning to make it even better. Now, in sport mode the settings are a little more aggressive, and in comfort mode they are more relaxed. This allows them to be noticeably different from the normal mode that sits in the middle.

The K1300S uses the same frame, but the front Duolever suspension uses a lighter aluminum control arm for more sensitivity. I am a big fan of BMW’s radical front end. The lack of dive under heavy braking is very comforting when coming to a rapid halt from high speed, and I have never had any problems at extreme lean angles. Some people obviously did complain, so the spring weights were firmed and the trail reduced by a fairly substantial eighth of inch. Taking part in the usual Journalist GP out on the deserted Californian roads, both front and rear ends get two thumbs up from the Big Nosed one.

Ever the quirkiest company in the two-wheeled world, BMW also has a racer style quickshift system this year. Allowing clutchless up shifts at full throttle, the way you do on a race bike, it is an option that comes directly from the street/race HP2 Sport. I used it all the time and it works flawlessly from short shifting to running hard through the gears to maximum rpm. Saving you precious time on your up shifts. At the very least it should get you to the coffee shop on Sunday mornings a few seconds ahead of your buddies.

Ultra fast, slick, and comfortable, BMW got it right with the new K1300S. No more niggling fuel injection issues and more of what made the old bike so popular. Wind protection is excellent, and typical BMW options like heated handlebar grips and electric gear hook ups make it as versatile as you could want for extended riding duties. Heck. It even comes with conventionally operating turn signals for the first time. What more could you ask for?