Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Red is the new orange


The 690's successor has finally been chosen and it's red. My blogging will live on at honda250rally.com/

You are welcome to tag along. The little red beast will be in my hands within a week. Until then the offerings on the new blog will be slim.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Stockholm Motorcycle Show




More photos in the link below
(Photos are straight from the camera so don't expect too much)

I expected to see all of the new small capacity adventure bikes from BMW, Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki, but only Kawasaki delivered in the form of the Versys 300.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Small capacity adventure bike comparison (2017)

Small capacity adventure motorcycles for 2017 - Honda CRF 250L, Honda CRF250 Rally, BMW G 310 GS, Kawasaki Versys-X 300, Yamaha WR250R, Suzuki V-Strom 250
Small capacity adventure motorcycles for 2017 - Honda CRF 250L, Honda CRF250 Rally, BMW G 310 GS, Kawasaki Versys-X 300, Yamaha WR250R, Suzuki V-Strom 250

For some reason several manufacturers have suddenly all come up with new small capacity offerings for 2017. The "entry level" bikes show a lot of promise and are a much cheaper alternative to the traditional GS type bikes. While the small bikes can't compete when it comes to on road performance, there is much promise and I myself like this new trend a lot. (I came to the conclusion earlier that a 250 would be nearly ideal to me). The only niggle with these new offerings is that many if not all of them are more or less compromises when it comes to suspension for example. The bikes look the part, but may not deliver the kind of ruggedness or capability as one would perhaps expect.

The age old moan still stands though as many people are still wishing and hoping that the big companies would come out with similar bikes in the 450-500 range. Honda almost did with CB500X, but as it is heavily road biased it's quite not what the adventure  crowd wants.

I'm very much looking forward to testing all of the new offerings come spring, but for now I have to stick to evaluate the bikes based on the specs. Personally I'm so close to getting a 250 I can taste it. The more I think about the more sense it makes to me.  Why? Because of couple of factors.

Adventure bike spec comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Things that I'm looking for in these bikes / my next bike

1. I want my bike to relatively new and cheap (preferably under warranty, which makes Hondas particularly attractive as they have the longest warranty*)

2. I want lightness. My skillset as a rider needs all the help I can get.

3. I want to be able to drop the bike with the financial consequences being manageable. In other words, I don't want the possible cost of spills to limit my riding or constantly be in the back of my head.

4. I like simple, much more than I like horsepower, bells & whistles or status value.

*may not apply to other counties

Whats specs are important (to me)?

1 ergos (stand up postion, knee angle and so on)
2 weight
3 price
4 suspension
5 power to weight ratio
6 range

Thats my list, your order of importance may be different.

ERGOS
By the numbers available (Kawi and Suzuki aren't yet on cycle-ergo)  would want to go with the WR with the second option being the 250 Rally. While the L and the Rally are very similar the ergos are in favor of the Rally for stand up riding. Looking at the Kawasaki and Suzuki, it is very unlikely that their ergos will be equal to the WR or Rally. Their seats are lower and the geometry would suggest a more "crouched" riding position with more knee bend and riding standing up is likely to be less comfortable.

WEIGHT
Yamaha is +30 kilos lighter than the three  fatties, Suzuki, BMW and Kawasaki. The Honda is still acceptable even in the fatter Rally trim, but the Suzuki and Kawi certainly are not.

PRICE
Here the WR takes a beating. It's just way too pricey. When you are asking more than BMW is, you know you have overdone it. The Honda is a downright bargain given the known quality and long warranty. As an added bonus, there seems to be a good selection of low mileage bikes available even here in the edges of civilization. Suzuki and Kawasaki are priced identically, but Kawasaki literally gives you more bang for the buck.

SUSPENSION
WR gives you the most suspension travel and assumably the best quality suspension too. (Adjustability and all). The internet wise men say that Honda has improved from previous years, but that remains to be seen. As far as Honda's suspension travel, there is conflicting info floating on the net.  Kawasakis suspension travel numbers seem off, but I got them from the official site, so maybe that really is it? BMW is only slightly better than Kawasaki, but sporting those alloy wheels, so in my eyes the Bavarian goes to the bottom of the pile with Suzuki. As for tire sizes, Honda and Yamaha are the only one offering proper 21' fronts. It is telling that Suzuki is not even giving out the suspension travel information. Suzuki's suspension is just referred to as "long travel suspension" and supposedly that should suffice.

POWER & TORQUE
Yamaha and Kawasaki are topping the power /weight ratio chart, but given the fact that the Versys is a bit of a fattie for the class, Yamaha takes the cake. BMW produces good power and torque numbers, but suffers from it's heavy weight.

BMW bashing aside, Hondas are yet again at the bottom when it comes to producing power or torque. Sort of a similar case with the AT, but that's not necessarily a disaster in itself.

The worst of the bunch is Suzuki though. It doesn't have the weakest engine, but given it's horrible weight, it's power to weight ratio is the clearly at the bottom of the pack.

RANGE
This is sort of insignificant as any issues can easily be solved with fuel bladders, Rotopax containers etc. The theory is though that longer range is better, so in case of a tie, range could be a factor. Consumption numbers aren't available for all bikes so I had to make assumptions. Given the similar weight, power and engine size, differences in fuel consumption should be minimal. Kawasaki blows the competition away in this category. The 17 litre tank gives the Versys over double the range of Honda and Yamaha.

CONCLUSION
The sudden onslaught of mini adventure bikes makes it seem that all the big OEMs suddenly heard the moaning and murmur from the adventure crowd for a lighter, cheaper less complicated machines. As usual the message seems to have been somewhat lost in translation as many of the offerings are just miniaturized versions of their bigger brothers. This again translates to not added agility, lightness and simplicity, but obese, sluggish look-alike bikes Suzuki being the worst example. Yamaha who has not jumped on this band wagon, ironically has the strongest bike offering in this category.

Below is my biased, unprofessional and unscientific scoring chart which will stand until I get to ride them all. (keep in mind that all the data was not available)


Small capacity adventure bike comparison scoring table
Small capacity adventure bike comparison scoring table (total = average score)
KTM will most likely offer something a bit more serious, but as the engine size is not known, it's debatable if KTM's offering will even fit in this category.

HONDA - Honda CRF250 Rally



The 250 Rally went from a concept to reality in one year. While it's essentially a CRF250L with minor mods, it looks good and the mods make sense. For some reason the Rally makes more power than the 250L for 2017. Why on earth can't the performance specs be equal of the two bikes is a mystery to me.

Update Feb 10th


Saw the bike in the flesh at the local dealer. Looked a bit plasticky, but otherwise nice. Pics below.





















+ best looking of the bunch
+ reasonably priced
- still a bit low on power
- suspension?

 

Honda CRF250L


2017 Honda CRF250L
2017 Honda CRF250L
It's been around for a while now and has had only minor improvements for 2017. Suspension isn't exactly stellar, but given the enormous amount of bang for buck it's understandable.

+ good value
+ proven reliability + good warranty
- suspension


SUZUKI - Suzuki V-Strom 250


The V-Strom looks like the least appealing bike from my perspective. It's the heaviest and has the least potential to be an "offroader" Looking at the specs alone is not really fair, but I can't find anything that would justify choosing it over the others.The Suzukis twin is significantly weaker than Kawasakis power plant.

Upgrading the DR-Z400 and making it EU compliant would have made a far better bike.

+ ?
- heavy
- poor power/weight ratio
- too much fairings
- wheels


KAWASAKI - Kawasaki Versys 300X



The 300x is one of the two twin powered bikes in the group, but the overly clothed appearance and the twin engine make the heavy. It does produce the most hps, but given the 170kg weight the balance is a bit off in my opinion. The bike is certainly affordable, but someone looking for a light, small capacity adventure machine may find the weight hard to justify. I find the Kawasaki styling a bit late 90s, but that's just me and makes no difference if the machine performs well.

Photos below are from the Stockholm Motorcycle Show

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X

Kawasaki Versys 300X




Kawasaki has also stopped importing the KLX250S (at least in some EU countries) , so the 250S is no longer an option for those looking for a brand new bike.

+ the only twin in the group
+ big tank
- too much fairings
- heavy

BMW - BMW GS



The GS is riding heavily on the fame of the older brothers, but doesn't really seem to be designed for the same task. Styling wise the bike seems a bit overdone. It looks like they tried to force the GS clothes on it and they don't quite fit. The BMW is the only bike in the group with alloy wheels. Pricing should be competitive with the others, but that's just a guess based on how the bike is priced overseas. The 310 is the torque king of the group.

+ most torque
- alloy wheels
- styling


YAMAHA - Yamaha WR250R


Yamaha has sort of missed the boat and has not brought anything new to compete with the new offerings. That said the WR is probably still the best bike of the bunch. Class leading power to weight ratio and best suspension of the lot. Another big thing is the weight. The WR weighs only 134 kgs wet, which is much more in the neighborhood what these 250 should weigh. If you look purely at the specs, it's a bit of a mystery where all the development of the other bikes has gone as they are all slower and heavier by comparison.

+ weight
+ suspension
- price



KTM - KTM 390 Adventure


The 390 adventure is a bit of a mystery still. It's coming out in 2018 and it may be bigger than 390. If that's true, KTM may have real winner in it's hands.

I'm also wondering what happened to the spied 390 supermoto? It seems that it was quietly dropped.


[UPDATE March 2017]

The 690 is gone and a brand new Honda CRF 250 Rally is waiting for me at the bike shop.
The story continues here https://honda250rally.com/






Thursday, September 29, 2016

701 is the new 690

2017 Husqvarna 701 Enduro
Husky has introduced the 2017 model with improved engine derived from the KTM Duke. The engine is supposdly smoother, revs higher and puts out more power.  KTM has not announced the 2017 690 ER yet, but if it stays the same, the Husky is the way to go.

Safari tanks for the Husky are still nowhere to be found event hough they were mounted in show bikes back when the bike was launched. The Huskys frame even has tabs for them which the KTM frame hasn't. If the tanks ever materialize there is even more going for the Husky over KTM. I predict the KTM 690 ER will phased out in two years.

EDIT
It seems that KTM 690 is the same as last year so for some reason KTM wants to direct the sales towards Husky.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Zero DS R test ride - trying electric the second time



The dual sport space is relatively dead still and new stuff is few and far between. The 690 Enduro was introduced in 2008 and it still has very little competition. Huskys 701 is certainly one, but as we know it's basically a rebadged KTM (for now). Since the local dealer started selling Zeros I decided to give the Zero DS R a go. My previous experience with E-bikes is limited to the KTM Freeride. The following is purely my opinion based on a short test ride so adjust your attitude accordingly.

GENERAL

The looks of Zero DS is a bit on the dull side in my opinion. Modern in a way, but mostly black plastic and black aluminium. It sort of looks like a pre production bike missing paint and details. Fit and finish was certainly ok and nothing really jumped at me for being poorly made. The use of belt drive in a DS type of bike makes me wonder if it is a sensible solution. I've read many times over how rocks and such eat holes in the belts and the belts arent exactly cheap.



THE RIDE

The lack of a clutch and gear lever requires some getting used to, but the operation is otherwise very similar to any other bike. Throttle is smooth as butter you would expect. Everything is linear and there are no dips in the power delivery. From a stand still the DS feels very fast and even induced a spontanius wow cry from me. Once you get going, it sort of calms down and doesn't pull so strongly anymore. At highway speeds the DS certainly moves like a proper motorcycle, but is in no way spectacular. At "city commuting speeds" overtakes can be however done in a blink of an eye. Makes you smile. The overall feel is both nimble and heavy at the same time. The bike isn't that heavy by the numbers, but it has a slightly sluggish character when changing directions. (for a DS) Maybe the center of gravity is higher than "normal"? The brakes are very good. ABS would not allow me to lock up the rear and I didn't try to turn the ABS off. I'm not sure if it is possible? Suspension was ok, but to call it a proper DS suspension is a bit  much. I think the suspension is more supermoto than DS. The lack of engine sound and vibration makes the ride sort of a pure experience. I really liked that outside of the slight whining noise from the drive train there was nothing but the sound of the wind. I do see why people like these. More than anything I would like to take one of the Zero to a race track. It seems that the lack of distractions like changing gears would make things much more fun for.

THE WHY NOTS

A few things keep me from seriously considering buying one.

1. PRICE

The DS is outrageously expensive (at least in my country) 23 278 USD, Yes, really. You can get a brand new Africa Twin and have money left over or buy two DCT version Honda NC750Xs for the price of one Zero DS. I've heard claims that the cost will even out because these things need virtually no maintenance. I'm not so convinced about that. You still need to replace brake pads, change brake fluids, belts etc. etc. Sure, you don't need to pay for gas, but it still doen't add up. The other thing is resale value. What will be the resale value of a say 4 year old electric bike if and when the tech has progressed significantly?

As for insurance, the DS is categorized so that it is relatively cheap to insure.

2. RANGE/CHARGING TIMES

This one is a serious deal braker. If the charging time was drastically shorter or the range greatly longer I could live with it, but not as it is now. The bike has a max. real world range of 200 kms and depending on your power source the charging time from empty to full is over 8 hours.

If I had done my latest FOUR day ride (averaging 480 kms of riding each day) with the zero DS R in it's standard configuration I would have spent 64 hours (2,6 DAYS) waiting in gas stations and such for the thing to charge up. This is assuming that I would have been able to charge the bike fully every night and that the bike would do the full 200 kms regardless of the highway stretches. (which it doesn't do).

If I were to buy all the available accessory chargers, I could narrow the charging time down so it would sum up to 17 hrs during the four days. That's 4-5 hours of burning daylight daily. Just no.

For many the range/charging time combination will not be an issue but for me who has the financial ability to own only one bike that has to do everything from commuting to road trips, this combination is not acceptable.

CONCLUSION
The reality is though, that the bike is good enough for me to be somewhat convinced that the future will indeed be electric. The big OEMs will likely soon come out with their own offerings and both the pricing and range issues will likely fade away with time. The fact that big OEMs haven't yet come out with bikes that would directly compete with ICE bikes makes me think that the tech is not quite there yet partly for the reasons above.