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Mid Range Cruisers - Part II

This is Part II of our two part series on mid-range cruisers (we're focusing on bikes in the 650-900 cc range). We finish up by looking at the 2008 models in Canada with bikes from Yamaha, Honda, and Hyosung.


Yamaha’s offerings in the middleweight cruiser market are a little smaller displacement when compared to Kawasaki and Suzuki. Luckily they also come with a slightly lower price tag along with it. The Yamaha cruisers come with 650cc. The next size up puts you into a 1100 cc bike. Three models are offered: the V-Star 650 Custom $7,299, V-Star 650 Classic $7,699, and V-Star Classic Canadian Edition $10,099.

V-Star 650 Custom - MSRP $7,299
V-Star 650 Classic - MSRP $7,699
V-Star Classic Canadian Edition - MSRP $10,099

The V-Star Custom comes with an air-cooled SOHC 2 valve, 70 degree V-twin engine with a displacement of 649cc with peak torque occurring way down at 3,000 rpm. Power is delivered through a wide ratio, five-speed transmission and shaft final drive. For brakes you’ve got a single, two-piston, 298mm disc up front and a drum in the rear, making for inexpensive repairs and adequate stopping power. The front tire is a 10/90-19 and in the rear you have a 170/80-15. It’s got a 16 liter tank and weighs 513 lbs (wet). For suspension you’ve got a 41mm front fork and in the rear you’ve got a hard tail look with a 7 step spring preload adjustable link monocross suspension. The V-star comes with dual chrome right side mufflers reminiscent of Harley Davidson styling.

The V-Star’s engine has been designed to produce its strongest torque and horsepower in the typical legal riding speeds (50-120 km/hr). It’s got a tank-mounted speedometer, odometer, and tripmeter displays.

It’s got a few other small touches that are nice too such as forward-mounted rider footpegs, bungee cord tie-down points near passenger footpegs to keep scratches to a minimum, locking helmet holder, and a removable passenger seat for that custom solo look. A confidence inspiring low seat height of 27.4” means that most riders will be able to place both feet firmly on the ground.

The V-Star 650 Classic and Classic Canadian Edition each share the same engine as the V-Star Custom. The biggest differences between the Classic and the Custom visually are the fenders, front wheel, and headlight. The Classic has long fenders for a look that’s well, classic. The Canadian Edition adds some unique paint, emblems, and some extra chrome bits. The Custom has bobbed (shortened) front and rear fenders with a larger wheel on the front; a 19”. The Classic and Classic Canadian Edition have a 130/90-16” in the front instead of a 19” like the Custom.

According to Yamaha this are the extra’s that you’ll get with the V-Star 650 Classic Canadian Edition:

Special Canadian Edition value added features:
- Special deep black lacquer paint with cream coloured inserts, classic gold coloured V-Star tank emblems, two tone seat with chrome studs, chrome Star accessory turn signal peaks (4), Chrome Star accessory headlight peak, Chrome Star accessory master cylinder cover.

Special Canadian Edition value added customer bonus:
- Star series bike cover, Star series Canadian Edition ball cap, Star series Canadian Edition travel mug, Star series Canadian Edition vest pin, Star series Canadian Edition vest patch.

Link: Yamaha Canada


Each of the 2008 models here have many of the same great features such as a powerful 745 cc V-twin liquid-cooled engine, valanced fenders, a broad, low-slung seat (detachable passenger section on the 750T and 750C), and wide tires rolling on traditional spoke wheels. Honda claims its bikes feature superior metallurgy, high-tech engine and chassis design, and low-maintenance features such as shaft final drive which all contribute to Honda reliability.

The engine features three-valve cylinder-head design that utilizes two sparkplugs per cylinder to improve combustion efficiency and power output. The cylinders are finned cylinders to enhance appearance and give a big-bike look. They have an aluminum radiator mounted between the frame rails (for a clean look) that provides consistent engine temperatures for optimum performance and long engine life. Wide-ratio five-speed transmission and shaft driven for ease of maintenance.

The suspension is pretty much the same across the board too with a 41 mm fork, 117 mm (4.6 inches) travel in the front and dual shocks with five position spring preload adjustability providing 89 mm (3.5 inches) travel in the rear. For brakes you get a relatively standard for the class, front single 296 mm disc with dual-piston caliper; rear drum. Seat height is 658 mm (25.9 inches) on the 750T, and 750C. The 750C2 has a slightly lower seat height at 652 mm (25.7 inches). Each of the bikes has a fuel capacity of 14 litres.

Tank-mounted speedometer with a chrome instrument housing. The footpegs are solid aluminum with wide rubber trim bands that give it an aftermarket look. The handlebar is low and wide for a comfortable feel, and is mounted on rubber-cushioned risers to reduce vibration.

Some other features include a 14-litre fuel tank, 60W/55W halogen headlight, and large custom-styled taillight and attractive retro-styled turn indicators. Steering-head lock and helmet lock provide added security when parked. 1 year, unlimited mileage, freely transferable warranty.

VT750T Tourer – MSRP $10,099.
The Tourer adds a standard windshield, saddlebags and backrest. For tires you get a 120/90 – 17” front and 160/80 – 15” rear. Curb weight is not available yet on Honda’s site.

VT750C Aero – MSRP $8,699.00
For tires you get a 120/90 – 17” front and 160/80 – 15” rear. Curb weight 250 kg (553 lb) including required fluids and full tank of gas.

VT750C2 Shadow Spirit - MSRP $8,799

Sleek 1-piece gunfighter-style saddle (does not feature the detachable passenger section as on the 750T or 750C). It’s got a big 90/90 – 21” front tire and a 160/80 – 15” rear tire. Curb weight: 243 kg (536 lb) including required fluids and full tank of gas

Link: Honda Canada


Hyosung may not be a name that initially springs to mind for most Canadian motorcyclists. They started out producing Suzuki motorcycle designs under licence for the Korean market and started producing their own bikes in 1987. If that’s not enough to get your attention, the MSRP price of the Aquila 650 of $7,895 and very Harley V-Rod like styling might be. If you’re in the market for a sport cruiser this one is worth a look.

It's got a 647cc four-stroke, water-cooled DOHC 8 Valve, 90-degree V-twin, 52.4 KW (72.1 HP), fuel tank: 16 litres. 5 Speed – belt driven. The horsepower numbers are fairly impressive when you look at the competition and combine that with a relatively light machine (claimed dry weight of 216 KG) and this bike suddenly looks and feels like a powerhouse.

Korean made 41mm upside down (USD) forks in the front and a twin shock rear suspension. In the front you get a 110/70-17” tire and in the rear you have a 180/55-17”. For brakes, there isn’t too much information on the Canadian distributors website other than that its got two disc front brakes (We’ve seen reference to them being 300mm) and a rear disc brake as well.

Warranty: Two Year - Unlimited

Link: Hyosung Canada

Mid Range Cruisers – Part I

If you’re looking for a cruiser there’s a ton of bikes to choose from in the Canadian marketplace. Every major manufacturer seems to have a large range of cruisers to choose from. You can get everything from 250cc cruiser on up to a 2300cc beast. We’d have to write a book to review every model from every manufacturer. Suzuki has 17 cruiser models in its 2008 lineup as an example! 17!

But if you’re looking for a mid-size cruiser in the 650-900cc range, the market thins a little. A cruiser this size will get you where you want to go and will leave you with a lot more change in your pocket than their larger brethren. Not only are they cheaper to buy but, and this can be a big expense, they’re cheaper to insure. They’ll also use less fuel which for many riders is a concern as well. You can use all that extra cash to buy some accessories to personalize your bike. Accessories will add up fast! You’ll quickly see that MSRP number climb when you want to add some personalized touches to the bike.


Kawasaki offers pretty much the largest displacement mid-range cruiser with their 900cc engine. Most others offer between 650 to 800cc. So if you want the biggest of the mid-range you might want to take a closer look at Kawasaki. Kawasaki has the Vulcan with a 900cc engine which is offered in three different styles. You can get a Vulcan 900 Classic, Vulcan 900 Custom, and Vulcan 900 Classic LT.

kawivulcanltVulcan 900 Classic LT - $10,499

The specifications on the bikes are very similar. Each bike has the liquid-cooled 4-stroke 55 degree v-twin engine with 903 cc of displacement, 5-speed transmission, double cradle high-tensile steel frame, 41 mm telescopic fork in the front, Triangle swingarm with Uni-Trac single shock (7-position spring preload adjustment in the rear, single 300 mm disc with twin-piston caliper in the front, and single 270 mm disc with twin-piston caliper in the rear. The cruiser market typically uses either a shaft drive or belt, Kawasaki chose to go with a belt drive system for these bikes and it offers reliable performance and low unsprung weight.
kawivulcan900customVulcan 900 Custom - MSRP $8,999

They each feature a very visible large black faced speedometer centrally located on the gas tank. All the models also have big double right side slash cut chrome mufflers. The LT adds some popular accessories such as a large touring windshield, and studded leather saddlebags featuring quick release snaps under chrome clasps. Some of the distinctive features of the 900 custom are it’s chrome drag-style handlebars, teardrop shaped tank, raked out front end, and that huge 21” front wheel.
kawivulcanclassicVulcan 900 Classic - MSRP $8,949

What about the ever-important how fat is your back tire question? They each get a 180/70-15 for the rear. The front tire on the Classic LT is a 130/90-16, the Custom is an 80/90-21, and Classic gets a 130/90-16. The Custom is the only model with a maximum power rating listed on Kawasaki’s site and it’s listed at 54 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, so the other two probably have pretty close to the same if not identical power rating. They have a listing of all the accessories you can get for the bikes but have conveniently left out the cost. Contact your local dealer for a price list before you add on too many things because you might get some sticker shock on some of those shiny chrome bits. If you’re buying a new bike you should negotiate a discount on accessories. It’s fairly common to get 15-20% off regular prices on any accessories you buy with the bike without even having to ask.

Vulcan Custom - 20 liter tank, 549 lbs dry weight, 12 mth warranty

Vulcan 900 Classic - 18 liter tank, 558 lbs dry weight, 12 mth warranty (brochure indicates both 20 and 18 liter – article posted before confirming with Kawasaki to confirm which is accurate)

Vulcan 900 Classic LT - 18 liter tank, 595 lbs dry weight, 24 mth warranty.


Kawasaki Canada


At first Suzuki’s cruiser line-up takes a little more effort to get a handle on because they don’t use the cubic centimeter (cc) engine displacement size most people are accustomed to, or maybe that’s just me. The navigation of the site makes it a little challenging to compare models unless you use the “choose a model” feature in the shopping tools portion of the site. If you look closely you’ll see that Suzuki uses the cubic inch measurement within the model name so if you’ve got a 50 in the name you get an 805cc engine. An 805cc engine is what you’ll get in the Boulevard S50, Boulevard C50SE, Boulevard C50 T, and Boulevard M50.
suzukiboulevards50Boulevard S50 - MSRP $8,299

The S50 comes classic cruiser styling and the lowest MSRP of the bunch at $8,299 and with that you get the same engine as each of the other bikes, a powerful 45 degree liquid cooled v-twin engine that produces lots of low end and mid-range torque. The front wheel is a bit larger than the 16” that comes on the others, with the S50 you get a 19” front wheel. You get a speedometer but it isn’t tank mounted and foregoes the LCD fuel gauge. Instead of dual pipe right side chrome mufflers, you get a single pipe right side chrome muffler. The rear-suspension is also a notable difference on the S50 where you get Swingarm, oil damped, 5-way adjustable spring preload rather than the hard tail styled 7-way adjustable link type suspension. You also get a smaller tank at 12.0 Liters. The S50 is the lightest model on the scales with a dry weight of 443 lbs.

The M50 comes with a link type rear suspension with truss style swing-arm and a single shock absorber with 7-way pre-load adjustability. This design gives it a stylish hard-tail appearance with the comfort of a soft-tail. Shaft driven; you won’t have worry about the maintenance and grime associated with a chain. 16” front and 15” rear tires. You’ll get a single 300mm front hydraulic disc brake up front and a single drum in the rear. It’s got low-rise bars, sculpted rear fender and slash-cut chrome mufflers so you’ll feel right at home with the custom cruiser crowd. The tank is a bit smaller than the C50’s at 15.5 Liters. (540 lbs dry weight) The front tire is a 130/90- 16 while the rear is a 170/80-15.
suzukiboulevardm50 Boulevard M50 - MSRP $8,799

The C 50’s come with the same fuel injected v-twin engine as the M50 (single over-head cam, four valve per cylinder) mated to a five speed transmission but feature more classic cruiser styling. Crave the open road? You may want to take a closer look at the C50 T or C50 SE with their aerodynamic windshield and backrest to keep you and your passenger comfortable for those long journeys. The C50’s feature a raked front end, wide pull-back handlebars, 17.0 liter teardrop tank, valanced rear-fender, and dual right side chrome muffler. These bikes are equally capable for the long haul or the city street riders.
suzukiboulevardc50Boulevard C50 - MSRP $8,599

Each of the three models has a spoked 130/90-16 in the front and a 170/80-15 in the rear with polished aluminum hubs, a tank mounted speedometer with LCD fuel gauge. Suzuki’s website does show a wide range of accessories available for each of the machines but with no pricing information. Suzuki’s standard 12 month warranty applies to each of the bikes.
suzukiboulevardc50t_1Boulevard C50 T - MSRP $9,999

Boulevard C50 SE - MSRP $9,799

Boulevard C50 (542 lbs dry weight)
Boulevard C50 T (567 lbs dry weight)
Boulevard C50 SE (567 dry weight)


Suzuki Canada

Here's a link to Part II of our coverage of other manufacturers with mid-range cruiser offerings.

Ural - Built Simple and Tough

Ural is a Russian motorcycle company that began out of necessity when in 1939 the Russian Army decided that they needed a versatile, go-anywhere vehicle to help in the fight against encroaching German forces. The story goes that in 1939 the USSR was doing some pre-World War II planning and looking for a motorcycle that would suit the red army requirements. It was determined that the BMW R71 was a good fit so five of them were covertly purchased and reverse engineered. Two years after that initial purchase the first prototypes were ready and shown to Stalin. Stalin approved it and in 1941 production began and IMZ-Ural was born. Approximately 10,000 motorcycles (which, at the time, were called Russian M-72 sidecar motorcycles) were produced and used in WWII.

Originally the motorcycles were produced in Moscow and the factory was busy but the Nazi Blitzkrieg warfare technique was so effective that Soviet strategists thought that the Moscow factory was too vulnerable a target to bombers. So the plant was moved further east to the Ural Mountain region in a small trading town called Irbit in Siberia. Ural motorcycles are still produced there today.

Enough History – Tell Me About the Bikes Already!

The majority of the bikes built by Ural are a heavy duty sidecar motorcycle. Like BMW, the engines used in the Ural machines are a balanced flat twin design. Air cooled; they have a four speed gearbox with reverse gear, shaft drive, two disc dry clutch, spring shock absorbers, and drum brakes. New solo models and alternative sidecar models have been designed to broaden Ural’s appeal in the Western market. They’re gaining some popularity and even got a mention in the David Cronenburg (born in Toronto) directed motion picture “Eastern Promises”. The character played by Naiomi Watts drives a classic Ural motorcycle in the movie and the character that Viggo Mortenson plays is from the Ural area.

There are five models in the Ural line-up and all but one have a sidecar. The model without the sidecar is a called a “Wolf” and has a 750 cc engine. The real appeal of Ural is their sidecar machines so we’ll take a more in-depth look at those models. The extra special feature that two of four sidecar models have is that they have on-demand sidecar drive (2 wheel drive! – Ural claims that they’re the only sidecar motorcycle in the world that offers on-demand 2wd sidecar motorcycles) that with the flip of a lever you can switch from single-wheel drive to two wheel drive. The 2wd mode locks in power to the sidecar wheel with no differential so 2 wd mode is best left to slippery terrain or else steering becomes quite a challenge.

The sidecar models are named: Tourist, Retro, Gear Up, and Patrol. They also offer a Tourist LX with upgraded sidecar. They all have a 745 cc engine that’s rated at 40 hp at 5600 rpm. They’re not meant to get you anywhere with extreme speed. The estimated top speed of the two non-2wd versions is 105 km/hr and the 2wd versions are 95 /km/hr. I’ve read of riders pushing them a little faster than these claimed speeds. Top speed isn’t really what these bikes are all about though. Ural says they get between 26 and 33 miles per gallon and they drink the good stuff, 91 octane. They have electric starts but also, and how’s this for retro, kick-starts. Urals are capable of getting you into some extreme locations or through some extreme conditions and do it in style. Lots of people drive the 2wd versions in the winter even! Yes that’s right…. Winter. Ural drivers are a hardy bunch! They’re a great machine for getting to the cottage or remote hunting location. The sidecar can be used to carry all your gear. The Gear-Up model is even available with a camouflage paint job.

Driving a Ural is a bit of a different experience than riding a regular motorcycle; no more putting your foot down at lights! Decidedly car-like in some respects, you don’t lean this bike into corners; you need to use the handlebars to muscle it around. Left hand corners can produce some understeer while right-handers can take a little getting used to as well because centrifugal force can easily pull the sidecar up in the air. Leaning or having some weight in the sidecar helps reduce this to a degree. These bikes certainly have some character! If you get one you’d better give yourself some extra time to arrive at your destination; particularly if you stop anywhere. They attract quite a bit of attention on the road.

Give me the Facts:

The Tourist, and Retro don’t offer the 2wd option and Ural refers to these models as “family recreation motorcycles”. They are classic looking machines with all the versatility that a sidecar offers. The Gear-Up and Patrol are labeled as “Sport Utility Motorcycles with 2wd”. Prices on some dealer websites in Canada list the following prices: Tourist - $11,395, Tourist LX $11,995, Retro – $13,495, Patrol - $12,875, Patrol LX $13,395, Gear-Up - $13,595. You may be able to special order a Wolf in some locations; expect to pay roughly $10,450. The LX versions add two-tone paint, rolled and pleated high back seat and velour interior in the sidecar. Check your local dealers for more accurate pricing information though as prices may vary slightly. Add tax, licensing, registration and other assorted fees to these base MSRP’s.

The family recreation motorcycles have a tank capacity of 22 liters, telescopic front suspension and all three wheels are chrome steel spoke, cast aluminum hubbed 18’s. Dry weight for the Retro is 717 lbs while the Tourist, Patrol, and Gear-up are 739 lbs dry. The sport utility motorcycle’s get 19 liter tanks, leading link front suspension, hydraulic spring shock absorbers in the rear, and all three wheels are the same chrome steel spoke, cast aluminum hubbed style but they’re 19’s. All the sidecar models feature Brembo disk brakes in the front and mechanical drums on the two back wheels. You get a 2yr, unlimited mileage warranty.

If you want to be the center of attention and own something unique I’d suggest taking a close look at Ural!

Here’s a couple of additional links that you may be interested in:

- Link to movie clips on the Ural website.
- For a list of Canadian Ural Dealers check out this link.

The Lowdown On Helmets:

UPDATE (Jan 20th/08): Motorcyclist magazine has recently (Jan or Feb/08 issue) published another article on helmet safety and indicate Snell has a new standard coming out that accounts for the size of the head of the person wearing it. They believe that their article had a lot to do with Snell coming out with the Snell M 2010 standard. Motorcyclist goes further to say that many helmets that pass the current Snell M 2005 standard won't pass the M 2010 because they're too still. Manufacturers can still make helmets to the M 2005 standard until March 31, 2012 and Snell 2010 helmets won't be available until October 1, 2009.

Most people realize the importance of a wearing a helmet on a bike and if they don’t, for the most part it’s legislated here in Canada that they wear one anyway! There are cases in some provinces that will permit you to not have to wear a helmet. For example in Manitoba you don’t have to wear one if you’re in a legally authorized parade, if you’re a bona fide member of the Sikh religion, or you’ve got a medical condition that would prevent you from doing so and have a signed certificate from a qualified medical practitioner.

For the rest of us, that brings about the inevitable question. What helmet should I buy? That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself in the end because there isn’t a simple answer. Hopefully ou’ll be able to make a more informed decision after this article though. What you should know before you make that decision is that a helmet must conform to standards; which standards the helmet must meet can vary by province but in general, two standards that typically appear on helmets produced for the Canadian market; Snell and DOT. In some provinces you can also use helmets that meet the Canadian Standards Association Standard D230, the American Standard Institute label, or the British Standards Institute respecting motorcycle helmets. I’d say the majority of riders in Canada have either a DOT approved helmet, or a Snell approved helmet. Snell helmets meet or exceed DOT requirements. Since these two standards are the most common here in Canada we’ll focus on those two.

There are some differences between the two standards that motorcyclists should be aware of when purchasing a helmet. DOT has been around since 1974 and was based on standards developed before that time. The Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) was formed in 1957 after William “Pete” Snell died from massive head trauma sustained in an auto race. The SMF is a non-profit organization that developed a standard for testing motorcycle helmets that they continually test and update every five years.

The testing standards are different and the verification required of the results are different as well. DOT standards are not as stringent as Snell’s and Snell tests for a greater variety of impact types and severity. In order for a company to claim to meet Snell requirements the manufacturer must submit several helmets to Snell for testing. If the helmet passes the test they enter into a contract with SMF which allows SMF to buy and test the helmets on an ongoing basis to ensure they continue to meet the requirements. DOT allows manufacturers to perform their own tests to determine if their helmets are DOT approved. The government may on occasion run some tests to check on manufacturer claims.

How does a helmet protect?

Helmets are composed of two parts: the outer shell and an energy absorbing inner liner. The inner liner is made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) and the outer shells are made from resin/fiber composites or molded thermoplastics. The shell does a few things; it protects against sharp objects from puncturing the helmet and skewering your head and protects against abrasion. The EPS does a lot of work too though; it’s the liners job to slow your head down over a great as distance as possible when you hit something solid with your noggin. The goal is to reduce the G-loads on your brain in a crash.

Snell helmets are a bit firmer because they must meet higher energy impacts to meet the Snell standard. A tough part of the test is a two strike test on the same spot of the helmet that isn’t allowed to transmit more than 300G’s to the head form in either hit. This might sound like what you want but some argue that the harder helmets are unnecessarily hard and transmit more G-forces to your head rather than using up the EPS liner.

Motorcyclist magazine came out with a very controversial article a few years back that analyzed several helmets and compared the DOT helmets to the Snell helmets. I won’t get into the findings of the article because it is lengthy and very detailed. The article does say that helmet safety has come a long way and helmets you buy today are very good at their intended purpose. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better though. In addition to the standards a helmet meets there’s also the “fit” of a helmet that is very important. Helmets come in different shapes and sizes so what’s comfortable to one person can feel very uncomfortable to another. It’s essential to try on a helmet and keep it on for a while to truly test it. A helmet can feel great when you initially put it on but after ten minutes it may feel like a torture device.

Also consider the color; conspicuity is critical on a bike and many say that white or yellow helmets are among the most visible. Another very important test when getting a new helmet is a roll off test: fasten the helmet up snugly, grab the rear of the helmet, and try to lift up and forward to roll it off your head. To protect you a helmet has to stay on your head. If you can roll it off – it doesn’t fit properly.

So be careful to get a helmet that fits and you may also want to read up about safety standards.

Here’s a couple of links that you may find helpful when you’re in the market for a new lid:


- Link to the Motorcyclist Magazine article that created a firestorm of controversy when it was first published. It’s a long one! It’s got some really interesting information in it though you may want to skim through it at least.
- Link to the Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) website. This website has a lot of helpful information on helmet safety and in particular the Helmet FAQ section has some interesting reading.
- Link to an article on Motorcycle Cruiser about helmets (it’s an old one but still surprisingly relevant!)

Kawasaki Concours 14 - The Ultimate Touring Machine?

Kawasaki Concours 14 - The Ultimate Touring Machine?

New for the 2008 model year lineup is a blisteringly fast and powerful touring machine - the Kawasaki Concours 14. Don't mistake this bike for a dull touring machine - It knows how to go fast and do it in comfort! One need only look at the power plant to see why this is a go fast machine; the C14's power plant is borrowed from the ZX-14 sport bike and is good for about 156 hp in the C14! The C14 is not just a ZX-14 with bags strapped on though. The Engineers at Kawasaki tweaked the 4 stroke, 1352 cc inline 4's (16 valve DOHC - digital ignition and liquid cooled) power output to smooth out the engine to make those long haul adventures a little more bearable (you still get a slipper clutch though!) The engine uses variable valve timing (first in its class) that adjusts the cam profiles, making its power delivery smooth and linear. Despite the standard issue touring bags which will fit a full face helmet - the cornering bank angles are comparable to the ZX-14. The slipper clutch helps eliminate lunging on downshifts and should be a well received feature.

This bike has a lot of really great features so settle in - I'm going to cover them as briefly as possible but the "Neutron Silver" body panels disguise a bit of engineering bliss.

First up and one of the most obvious features of the bike is the fact it's got no chain - it's a shaft drive. More specifically, it uses a four-shaft design which Kawasaki refers to as a "Tetra-Lever shaft drive system" which is said to significantly reduce driveline lash. Driveline last is caused by slack in the driveline. If there's a lot of it you'll feel or hear a clunk in the transmission. Kawasaki says the Tetra-Lever system delivers the same ride quality as a chain driven bike. Initial reviews seem to indicate the system works well.

According to reviews, the ride is distinctly sporty but there are also many rider focused creature comforts too:

- The windshield is electronically adjustable.
- Body of bike is aerodynamically designed to make wind "flow" around the driver and passenger.
- KI-PASS system (Kawasaki's Intelligent - Proximity Activation Start System) so you can leave your key in your pocket!
- Optional non-linear ABS system.
- Cigarette lighter style DC power outlet in the cockpit to power accessories such as GPS systems.
- Standard panniers are slim and close fitting for mass centralization.
- Tire pressure sensors (front and rear) with an instrument panel display.
- Small glove box on the fuel tank cover.
- 4-2-1 exhaust on the right hand side (gives you a nice view of the tetra lever on the left).

From what I've read you can leave the key in the bike and forget about it basically - you've got a small transponder fob that goes along with the key. When the transponder (with its unique corresponding signature as the key) is within 5 feet of the key you can start the ignition. When you walk away from the bike with the fob in your pocket the bike will go into lockdown mode when you get out of the 5 foot range. It's becoming a common feature in automobiles and it's beginning to find its way onto high end motorcycles.

MSRP is $17,799 w/o ABS or $19,099 with it.

The frame is monocoque aluminum that wraps over the engine. It looks pretty high-tech! The C14 is not a light machine but respectable for this category at a dry weight of 275 KG without ABS (ABS adds an extra 4 KG bringing it up to 279 KG). The tank is 22 L and the seat height comes in at 815 mm. The suspension in the front is an inverted cartridge fork and in the rear you're got the Tetra Lever with a single gas-charged shock with rebound damping and remote pre-load adjustability. The C14 has a 36 month warranty but you can pay for an extended "Good Time Protection Plan" warranty for additional peace of mind. Tall riders may want to spring for the taller windshield that is 70 mm taller than the stock windshield and offers approximately 22% more surface area.

The only negatives I've been able to find out about the bike is that it is a little heavier than some of it's competition; the BMW K1200GT and the Yamaha FJR1300 for example but it's also got a bit more horsepower than both those machines too. Some may find the mirrors don't give them a really clear view of what's behind them, noting that one reviewer seemed to indicate that they could see the panniers really well but that's about it. I've also been reading that the bike kicks out some heat! You'll need to wear proper gear (no shorts on this one!) to keep comfortable apparently.

2010 Update: It looks like Kawasaki have been listening and they've made some key changes for 2010. They made sure to address the heat and mirror complaints that many people had. 

The mirrors have been adjusted in 2010. They've been raised up 40 mm.  New bodywork too - this helps dissipate heat much better than before according to Kawasaki.

70mm taller windscreen, and wider too. It's also got memory so once you've discovered a sweet spot you find comfortable you can program it into the computer so that it returns to that position automatically when you re-start the bike.

But as a whole the bike seems to be a great machine that's going to have a lot of touring folks lining up at the Kawasaki dealerships!

Dakar Rally - One of the World's Greatest Adventures

Mark your calendars folks, the Dakar rally, a grueling (approximately 5,700 mile race) starts on January 5th and runs until January 20th. There’s only one rest day scheduled during that time. 2008 marks the 30th running of the Dakar. It is billed by some to be one of the world’s top five adventures; right up there with climbing Mt Everest! It has been challenged by some 3,000 people! Only about 40% of the participants get to the finish line, the other 60% don’t make it for many reasons – many get lost or can’t finish the race because of exhaustion, mechanical failure, injury, or even death. The race has claimed the lives of upwards of 48 participants and several spectators during its history.

Quick facts:
- Over 570 teams with people from 50+ countries.
- Over 5700 miles (9273 km's) of racing through 5 countries.
- Fewer than half of the participants are expected to get to the finish line.
- Organized by the Amaury Sport Organization.
- Riders are required to post their blood type on their bike and helmet!

In 2008 the race will start in Lisbon (Portugal) and run through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, and finally end in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. It's open to amateurs and professionals; with amateur's making up the majority of participants (~80%). You need some deep pockets though because entry isn't cheap! There are three major competitive groups who take part in the Dakar; those being, the bike class, the car class, and the truck class. I’ll focus in on the bike class but all the racers are pretty exciting to watch. There are approximately 245 motorcycle participants scheduled for 2008.

Canada made its mark in the history books in 2001 when Lawrence Hacking (a motorcycle racer, journalist, and author) became the first Canadian to finish the Dakar – incidentally a book is scheduled to be released on the adventure in February 2008.

There are speed limits in place for motorcyclists this year and they cannot exceed 95 mph and 30 mph through villages. The route this year will involve skillful navigation and dealing with a lot of sand.

The motorcycle brand of choice for the majority of the top placing riders in recent years has been KTM. They’ve recorded 7 victories so far. Yamaha still leads the way with 9. BMW has 6, Honda 5, and Caviga 2.

Our neighbors to the south may be wondering about Chris Blais who appears to be absent from the list of participants this year. Chris is an American born racer, who finished 3rd place overall in 2007. There has been a serious and unfortunate turn of events in 2007 for Blais. It's not a mistake that he's not on the participant list this year as he won't be able to compete this year because of a series crash and resulting injuries he experienced pre- running the Vegas to Reno race on Sunday August 5, 2007. He crushed his T-7 vertebra (middle of back) and a broken collar bone and has been in recovery since that time. You can check his progress on his website. It’s another somber reminder of the dangers of this sport and the risks these guys take every time they ride.

Don’t forget to tune in the Dakar in January!

Here's a couple more interesting links you may want to take a look at:

- Official Dakar Rally Website
- Here’s a video of the route – runs approximately 1 min

The Honda Varadero Review - Well Sort of...

Honda recently announced that they would be bringing the Honda Varadero to Canada in 2008. The Varadero is not a new bike - it's just new to Canada. The Varadero first appeared on the roads of Europe in 1999. So far it's not coming to the US. Some are saying it's to give the Canadian Dealers something that the US guys can't offer, making it a little more tempting for Canadian's to shop on this side of the border (It might also get some US folks interested in coming up north!). Since it's not here yet we had to look to information about the bike from other parts of the world in order to give you a preview of what's to come. So based on that information and an assumption we'll get the same spec bike here's a review of the basics:

First up - the Varadero is a BIG adventure tourer styled bike with a liquid cooled and fuel injected 996 cc 90 degree V-Twin (4-stroke 8- valve). You won't have any trouble keeping up traffic with this big v-twin with right around 95 hp. You might have guessed it has 6 gears, and you'd be right; and it's got an o-ring sealed chain for the final drive.

I've seen seat heights from 838mm to 845mm -the official word from the Honda UK site is that it's 838. You'll have 181 mm of ground clearance should you decide you want to take it off the pavement. The tank will take up to 25 litres (that's 3 more than the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 or 650). When you get down to 4 litres remaining the warning light reserve comes on. Some reviews suggest that the Varadero is a little thirsty though so you might have to stop for gas a little sooner than you might expect; particularly with a lot of city or aggressive driving.

Dry weight is listed at 244.2 kg (incidentally - I've read slightly lower dry weight's in reviews so it might be best to reserve judgement until official news comes from Honda Canada). The V-Strom 1000 is 207 kg. That's a whopping 72+ lbs of pudge that the 2007 UK spec Varadero has over the V-Strom. Rider reviews seem to indicate the bike is big but still feels much more nimble than its weight might indicate.

The wheels are hollow-section triple-spoke cast aluminum suggesting that its got a street bias and isn't intended to be taken too far off-road. 110/80 tire's in the front and 150/70's in the rear. Front suspension in a 43mm telescopic fork with 155 mm of axle travel. In the rear you get a pro-link damper with 40-step spring preload (and stepless rebound damping) adjustment, 145mm axle travel. For brakes - ABS front and back; 296 x 4.5 mm dual hydraulic disc in the front and 256 x 5mm hydraulic disc in the back. Both have combined 3-piston calipers and sintered metal pads.

Touring should be a comfortable affair on the Varadero though and it can be fitted with factory accessory bags. It's got a well padded seat and a tall windscreen to keep you comfy on those long journeys and to protect you from the elements.

Haven’t seen any pricing information yet but it should come in close to the Suzuki V-Strom 1000. If you take the price of the 2007 Varadero from the Honda UK site; a direct conversion would equate to roughly $14,460 CDN. The MSRP on a 2008 V-Strom 1000 (no ABS) is listed at $11,999.

Edit (Feb 18/08): An astute reader indicated a slight flaw in the direct conversion (speculative) pricing we've published. "European prices include the tax already. The £7,299.00 quoted on the Honda site includes 17.5% tax, therefore the before tax value of the bike is about £6211+ change and equates to roughly C$12,200.00 @ 1.97 exchange rate. Which is spot on with the V-Strom pricing." I'm sure many are hoping for this type of price in Canada. Keep your fingers crossed! Thanks for the comments Chris.

If you search online forums and listen to motorcycle podcasts you'll see/hear grumbling about Honda and how their lineup hasn't really shown much in the way of innovation or listening to the wish lists of customers (a lighter - more powerful VFR800 for example). Some say that bringing a bike to Canada that's been around since 1999 is another sign of that lack of vision. Say what you want, but Honda has built a reputation of making reliable machines and there will be buyers for the Varadero. The bike has a solid reputation and for those looking for a big comfortable touring bike this one is worth checking out.

Edit (March 22/08): Pricing information for the Honda Varadero in Canada was released on Friday March 21 in a newsletter to people who subscribed on the Honda Canada website. It'll have a base MSRP of $13,999.

Manufacturer Website: