Lights! Camera! Action! 2009 Motorcycling Wrap-Up Report

The motorcycle industry rode on an extremely rough road in 2009, but we must say the road certainly was not short on surprises for all two-wheeled fans out there. We’ve had it all this year: ups and downs, amazing innovations and striking concepts. Despite the tough economy and slow sales, most motorcycle manufacturers somehow managed to reach the surface and take a deep breath before getting back to swim in the troubled waters of the global financial crisis. INDUSTRY - The Two-Wheeled Vortex
Unfortunately, that was not the case with Harley-Davidson which decided to discontinue the Buell motorcycle brand, sell MV Agusta and focus on their own brand while reducing the workforce. This was followed shortly by the announcement that Harley has issued a massive recall involving over 111,000 machines which, according to some industry experts, will strongly affect their future sales. Buell was finally revived by its founder, Erik Buell, under racing license and with backing from its executioner.

Furthermore, though it was first linked to a Ducati buyout, German carmaker Volkswagen confirmed they bought 19.9 percent of Suzuki’s shares, as part of a long-term strategic partnership that will give the two companies a better positions in several areas of the market.

At the same time, Suzuki will also invest a half of the money received from Volkswagen into shares belonging to the German manufacturer.

Honda also moved to harsh cost cutting measures, announcing that it has ceased production of the Gold Wing in the US, is planning to end motorcycle production in Spain and move it to Italy, while Japan-built large capacity machines will be manufactured using parts sourced from low-cost countries, such as India. Other two bike giants were also hit by financial problems. Kawasaki moved production to Thailand, while Yamaha cut Japan production by almost a quarter.

Italian manufacturer Moto Morini is also a sinking ship. A few months after it entered receivership, the brand has stopped motorcycle production and closed its factory's doors. The same thing is expected to happen with French manufacturer Voxan, which has only two more months to find a solution to exit receivership. Another important Italian brand, Benelli, though under Chinese owners, has been badly hit by the global downturn which led to bills going unpaid and production being suspended.

BIKES - 2009 Beauties and Beasts

Now after we saw some of the most important ‘bad things’ that happened in 2009, let’s take a look at what showed us there is still hope for the motorcycle industry to recover and rise again. Throughout the year we have witnessed several model launchings that proved today’s manufacturers are more committed than ever in keeping their industry leadership reputation. The most important new arrivals on the market are resumed below:

BMW S1000RR - The lightest supersport with Race ABS

BMW Motorrad officially released the S1000RR at the beginning of May after the bike managed to pass FIM race homologation for the World Superbike championship. The motorcycle is powered by a 999cc in-line four-cylinder engine that develops 193 hp and at 13,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 112 Nm at 9,750 rpm. With the dry weight rated at 183 kg (204 kg including fuel, 206.5 kg overall with Race ABS), the bike is by far the lightest machine of its calibre displacing 999 cc and featuring Race ABS brakes.

The S1000RR is capable of offering various riding conditions such as wet roads (“Rain”), regular road conditions (“Sport”), a race track with supersport tyres (“Race”), or a race track with slicks (“Slick”), while the rider is given the chance to choose between various engine characteristics and set-ups available at the touch of a button. And last but not least, Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control are combined with the respective riding modes and coordinated with one another.

BMW Motorrad has also debuted the new R 1200 RT and R 1200 GS/Adventure models.

Honda VFR1200F - The sports tourer with MotoGP technology

The much anticipated Honda VFR1200F finally broke cover in October, and the whole world stopped to take a look at the latest Japanese contraption. The bike is offering both satisfaction for both touring and sports fans, while making use of the latest technologies. Aside from featuring a 1237cc V4 engine and Honda’s first ever Throttle By Wire system, the new sports tourer also benefits from a fully automatic dual clutch transmission featuring F1-style button pushing shifting.

The engine output is rated at 172.72 bhp at 10,000 rpm and 115 Nm of torque at 8,750 rpm, enough to power the bike that weighs a shocking 267 kg including fuel. Other high-tech features of the bike include GP technology layer-concept aero fairing, next-generation shaft drive system with offset pivot point and sliding constant-velocity joint and Combined Braking System (CBS) with ABS.

Honda has also brought revisions to the CB1000R, CB600F and CB600N naked models.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 - The four-bikes-in-one Italian goat

With a dry weight of just 189kg, the Multistrada 1200 unveiled in November is said to be lighter than any other road enduro, touring or sport touring bike currently available. The heart of the new bike is derived from the World Championship-winning Superbike 1198 Testaretta engine, modified to provide both smoothness and tractability (improved low-end torque). The power unit therefore develops 150 horsepower and 119 Newton meters of torque, while the gearbox and final drive ratios have also been optimised to enable the use of a higher-ratio 6th gear.

This motorcycle is able to offer four different riding modes including Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. Fitted as standard equipment on all versions, the electronic ride-by-wire system administers three different engine mappings to change the character of the engine, while Ducati Traction Control (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control. For the 'S' version, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) instantly configures the suspension set-up to suit 'rider only', 'rider with luggage', 'rider and passenger' or 'rider and passenger with luggage'.

Ducati has also launched the Hypermotard 796 to round off their naked bike lineup.

MV Agusta F4 - The bike that improved perfection

The new F4 unveiled in November builds on the heritage of the previous model, while at the same time improving on all the technical and performance characteristics. Weighing 192,5 kg (dry), the bike boasts a newly engineered in line 998cc 4-cylinder engine complete with twin shower fuel injectors assisting each cylinder which outputs 186 hp at 12,900 rpm.

The quad-pipe underseat exhaust system has been redesigned (with more rectangular section pipes replacing the earlier round-shaped ones), while new tweaks include Xenon headlamps and mildly redesigned bodywork. Other standard features include a new electronic injection system featuring 49 mm throttle bodies with a patented Torque Shift System (TSS), allowing variable lift intake.

MV Agusta also introduced the completely reengineered Brutale 990R and 1090RR.

BMW Concept 6 - The cafe-racer with six cylinders

Not exactly ready to hit the roads yet, but it’s certainly worth of getting a place on the ‘greatest hits’ list. Introduced in November, BMW’s latest contraption features a straight-six production engine, which is about 100 mm slimmer than all its predecessors and only a bit wider than a large-capacity straight-four with conventional technology. In its layout, the straight-six featured in the Concept 6 follows the well-known straight-four in the K 1300 model series.The engine output is claimed at 130 Nm of torque from just 2,000 rpm and at the same time revving up almost to 9,000 rpm.

As for its design, the Concept 6 follows the lines of a Cafe Racer, with its long and and short rear, while presenting a typical design characteristic for BMW, the Split Face. The six-chamber exhaust system complete with sidepipe and the intake ducts are finished in a platinum look. Furthermore, a digital display shows the road speed, while there is intentionally no rev counter, which is replaced by a LED display which shows the rider at all times how much torque is available, whenever required.

Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha - The ones who could, but didn’t

Probably the biggest disappointments came this year from Kawasaki and Yamaha, which only presented us with some revamped versions of their older models. The most notable appearances Kawasaki’s yard were the Z1000, GTR1400, Ninja ZX-10R and Versys models. The manufacturer however, must have been too caught celebrating 25 Ninja years...

Suzuki revealed the new GSX1250FA sports tourer, the highly anticipated Gladius 400 ABS and the Bandit 1250F ABS bikes. The Japanese manufacturer is also rumored to be working on the GSXR125 sportsbike, but the 125cc bike is still far from the official unveiling. Suzuki also had reasons to celebrate this year, as their fastest production hyper sport bike, the GSX1300R Hayabusa, turned 10 this year...

Yamaha, on the other hand, launched the new fully-faired XJ6 Diversion, and the updated YBR125. It also brought a few changes to the YZF-R1, YZF-R6, FZ6R and launched the Star VMAX. However, Yamaha promises a strong comeback in 2010, as they are already teasing the Super Tenere concept bike and the FZ8, their 800cc inline four naked.

It’s a Wrap, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Another year has passed, so fast that we barely kept up with all the changes, from technological advancements in products and machinery to the rough economic impacts that stirred the industry. It was all like a good movie that keeps you focused ‘til the end and lets you wait for a sequel... an what a sequel we’ll have....

And so, another year waits to pass... Cheers to all bikers out there. Ride safe!
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