Tomorrow’s bikes on display today at Makuhari

by Jim Adam

With 133 motorbikes and scooters on display from Japan’s four major manufacturers, and 57 more from eight overseas makers, eye candy abounds at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. This year’s show features 29 world premiers and 37 Japan premiers. Here are just a few of the many highlights.

BMW

Making its Asia debut at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show, the HP2 Enduro is the first of BMW’s new High Performance series motorcycles, a two-wheel version of the firm’s M-Series hotrods.

Weighing just 195 kg fully fueled, packing a 105 hp twin-cylinder boxer motor that can launch the bike from 0 to 100 kph in just 3.2 seconds, the hand-built limited production HP2 is the world’s most powerful production dual-purpose motorcycle. One BMW official likened racing it to “going to a gunfight with a cannon.”

With beefy 45 mm upside-down telescopic forks providing 270 mm of travel up front, and an air-adjustable shock providing 250 mm of travel in the back, the HP2 will keep up with, if not trounce, hardcore dirt bikes over the roughest terrain, but unlike them, it’s also capable of two-up 200 kph Autobahn touring.

Buell

Like the rest of the Buell lineup, the new Ulysses XB12X features a number of engineering innovations aimed at reducing weight, centralizing mass and obtaining a low center of gravity to sharpen performance.

Gasoline is stored in the hollow aluminum frame. Oil resides in the swing arm. The muffler, which pulls double-duty as a bash guard, is mounted under the bike. A six-pot caliper and massive 375 mm single rotor carry out front braking duties.

Add the bike’s longer travel suspension, 17-inch dual-purpose tires, enduro handlebars and a highly tuned, fuel-injected 1203 cc, pushrod v-twin motor that pumps out 103 ponies and 11.5 kg-m of torque and you have what Buell has dubbed an “Adventure Sportbike.” Word has it the Ulysses lives up to its label.

Ducati

Among the stars of the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show were three Ducati concept models based on the famed Bologna firm’s now-classic early 1970s superbikes. The overwhelmingly favorable response convinced Ducati to put the three models into production as the SportClassic family.

The Paul Smart 1000 Limited Edition (inspired by the bike English racer Paul Smart rode to victory in the 1972 Imola 200), the Sport 1000 and the GT1000 all have a minimalist racer look, with exposed trellis frames and engines complimented by elegantly rounded bodywork.

Don’t be fooled by their retro look, though, as they incorporate the latest Ducati engineering, including the powerful 1000DS Desmo v-twin motor, and feature top-shelf components, including upside down forks, Ohlins suspension (on the Paul Smart 1000 LE) and Brembo brakes.

The Paul Smart LE and Sport 1000 are on sale now and will be shown at Makuhari. The GT1000 is expected next spring.

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson’s 1450 cc big twins may look like the motorcycles that granddad once rode but under all that chrome lies modern technology.

For 2006, the Dyna Glide series gets a host of changes, including a six-speed gearbox, standard fuel injection, 49 mm forks, new frame geometry and a 160-section rear tire.

The new limited edition ’70s-retro 35th anniversary Super Glide, complete with an AMA No. 1 tank badge, is a stunner.

Honda

Concept motorcycles are sometimes so awesome, but so outlandish, that you just know they’ll never see the light of day. But Honda’s E4-01 (E4 stands for “Elegance, Excite, Enjoy, Easy” in case you’re wondering) prototype scooter manages to look cool and showroom ready.

Honda calls the scoot a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” If it performs as well as its specifications suggest, then Mary had better hide her little lamb. Powered by a 903 cc liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four cylinder motor and weighing just 200 kg, the E4-01 should have arm-wrenching acceleration and a license-shredding top end. Inverted front forks and a sexy single-sided swing arm keep the E4-01′s 17-inch sportbike wheels glued to the road.

The E4-01′s “dynamic air screen” is designed to reduce high-speed back pressure and noise by drawing air from a large duct in the center of the front fairing and flowing it through the two-section windscreen. The gearbox is automatic, and my guess is it’ll have a manual-mode option if it goes into production.

Let’s hope that Honda, known more for its excellent engineering than daring design, has the gumption to see this project through.

Honda has never been shy about adopting automotive-derived technology to its bikes. Its 2006 U.S. market GL1800 Goldwing, which is scheduled to hit showrooms next spring, is the world’s first mass-produced motorcycle equipped with an air bag.

The new system, installed between the instrument panel and the gas tank, takes only 0.060 seconds to deploy once the fork-mounted sensors detect a frontal collision impact — which Honda’s research shows make up more than 50 percent of bike accidents. The air bag lessens the potential severity of injuries by absorbing some of the forward energy of the rider and reducing his or her velocity.

Kawasaki

Known for its ability to squeeze the most power out of any given-size motor, Kawasaki aims to reclaim the crown for world’s fastest production motorcycle with its 2006 ZZR1400. Kawasaki hasn’t released any horsepower figures (guestimates range between 175 and 190 hp) but says the all-new 1352 cc DOHC liquid-cooled four-cylinder motor churns out a massive 10 kg-m torque at just 2,000 rpm, meaning you’ll rarely have to stir the six-speed gearbox to make rapid progress.

The fuel-injected motor is mounted as a stressed member of the aluminum monocoque frame, the upper spars of which double as an air box that is force-fed H2O through a duct in the front fairing. The 43 mm forks are inverted and the radial-mounted four-pot brakes bite down on pedal-shaped 310 mm rotors. Although its ZZR1100 lineage is reflected in the bodywork, quadruple projector-beam headlights give the big Zed a fresh look.

To make the bike touring-friendly, Kawasaki has kept the seat height low, the fuel tank narrow and the reach to the clip-on handlebars short. ABS brakes will be optional.

Suzuki

Long, lean and mean, the prototype Stratosphere draws its styling cues from the company’s famed GSX1100S Katana, but looks even sharper. Suzuki says its goal was to create a transcontinental tourer that can keep up with the latest superbikes when the roads turn twisty.

Power is provided by a brand-new 1100 cc, six-cylinder in-line motor, which reportedly produces 180 hp and is the same width as similar capacity four-cylinder engines. The brakes feature radial-mounted calipers, massive free-floating rotors and an ABS system. De rigueur upside-down fully adjustable TiN coated forks anchor the front wheel.

Bolstering the bike’s touring credentials, the gearbox features an automatic shift mechanism that presumably allows clutchless shifts, the windscreen is adjustable and integral panniers are fitted.

The Katana debuted as a prototype in 1979 and started rolling off the production line in 1980. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Suzuki has something similar in mind for the Stratosphere.

Triumph

Triumph’s popular Modern Classics range receives a welcome newcomer for 2006. The Scrambler 900′s styling is pure retro, with high-mount dual exhaust pipes, an air-cooled motor, an old-fashioned headlight, knobby tires and black-rubber fork gaiters that recall the British maker’s golden age in the 1950s and ’60s, when Triumph scramblers were raced off road by Steve McQueen and countless others.

But its mechanical bits are thoroughly modern. The 55 hp, 865 cc DOHC, eight-valve parallel twin motor won’t win many drag races, but its torquey power delivery and wide-ratio five-speed gearbox help minimize the number of times you have to dance on the shifter to make good progress.

As the bike’s long-travel suspension hints, Triumph intends for the Scrambler to be ridden off road. Optional parts include a bash plate, number plates, headlamp grill, a handlebar brace and a single seat and rack.

In an era when motorcycle categories are becoming increasingly specialized, a do-it-all bike like the Scrambler 900 is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Yamaha

Yamaha’s exhibition features four hybrid, electric and fuel-cell motorcycle and scooter prototypes, along with one production-model electric scooter, on display alongside the firm’s more conventional models.

The most exotic of the green machines is the futuristic Gen-Ryu. It’s powered by the firm’s powerful YZF-R6 600 cc motor and a high-output, high-efficiency electric motor. Yamaha says this power unit together with the bike’s large-diameter wheels and long wheelbase give the Gen-Ryu the performance and handling of a typical 1,000 cc machine, even though it retains the comfort and convenience of a scooter.

The Gen-Ryu incorporates a number of innovative safety features, including vehicle-to-vehicle distance-warning system, a cornering light system to improve vision while bend-swinging at night, and a wind-noise-cancellation system.

Yamaha’s 2006 FJR1300AS is the first big touring bike to feature a semiautomatic transmission. The YCC-S (Yamaha Chip Controlled Shift) system eliminates the need for clutch operation. Instead, gears are swapped via a handlebar-mounted switch or a foot-operated switch. Yamaha claims its new system reduces rider fatigue, particularly on city streets and tight, twisty roads.