New Bike Buzz For 2008

Indian pauses, Honda shows one new model, and Kawasaki and Suzuki take a beat. Will Triumph trump them all?

Indian

If you're one of the anxious optimists that plunked down a $1000 deposit for one of the new Indian Chiefs originally scheduled to be released at the end of this year, you'd better hold your breath a little longer. Indian Motorcycle Co. (www.indianmotorcycle.com) has pushed the release date of its new bikes back to mid-2008.

Those 'early adopters' can vouch for the fact that, mere months ago, a button on the site stated: "Reserve your 2008 Chief". That's since been changed to read: "Reserve your 2009 Chief". We dug a bit and found the official explanation on another page - " Previously, we communicated that the bikes would debut by the end of the 2007 calendar year. We have discovered we need more time to deliver a product that will meet our expectations and yours. We are currently aiming at production in the second or third quarter of 2008. We ask for your patience...".

Indian hasn't produced a motorcycle since the 2003 model year and the brand has struggled since the 1950s, when it suffered a decline in sales and ceaseed operations altogether. The now-iconic marque made a brief return in 1999, but that run ultimately ended in bankruptcy, in 2004. In 2006 Indian Motorcycle officially relaunched (again) when it selected a new factory site and world headquarters in Kings Mountain, North Carolina.

Harley

As for Indian's fierce competitor from back in the day, Harley-Davidson (www.harley-davidson.com) has already announced its 2008 lineup, as well as another surprise: plans to shutter its York, Pennsylvania plant for one week this fall. According to the Associated Press, close to 3,000 Harley-Davidson workers will be idled for seven days this November when the company temporarily closes the plant. It seems the Motor Company, buffeted by low dealer sales, told workers that it will also shut down its assembly plants in Springettsbury Township and Kansas City, Mo. for the week of Nov. 26. The good news is that all laid-off workers will be recalled after the shutdown.

As for the Big Three Japanese OEMs, there's not much cooking there, either. Honda decided to bring back last year's cruiser lineup pretty much intact (though splashing a select few models with new colors and trim, and tweaking the exhaust systems on the VTX1300C and R), and adds one new model - sort of.

The new-for-2008 VTX1300T can't really be called a ground-up design, as it's simply the addition of a windshield and bags to the existing VTX1300.

The new model gets added touring amenities, which are ladled onto the existing VTX1300R spec - the one wearing deep valanced fenders front and rear, floorboards with a heel-toe shifter and semi-swept handlebar up front.

Those top-loading leather saddlebags hold 24 liters, while the shield looks to be of standard height. A chrome passenger backrest, Tourer badging on the front fender and stylish chrome side covers rounds out the list of unique features.

At the Kawasaki (www.kawasaki.com) dealer show in Las Vegas last week, it was a similar vibe. The big buzz centered around the firm's wicked- fast ZX-14 and 10R sportbikes, with scarcely a whisper about the Vulcan line. Sure, we spotted a Mean Streak outfitted for touring with Kawasaki parts and accessories, a few Nomads sporting sweet new shades and accessories and a couple of 1600 and 2000 Classics with the same, but as one of the reps told us, "...these things move in cycles. Clearly, we focused on the performance stuff this year, and the 900 is doing well so far, but next year, who knows"? We'll take that as a promising statement.

Finally, Suzuki (www.suzukicycles.com) tells us the release of the scheduled-for-2008 C109R and RT has been pushed back a few months, but the bikes should be in dealers by early next year, and we hope to ride one before that. Look for a test from us soon.

Triumph

We've not heard any confirmation yet, but the rumors continue to swirl, with most insisting that Triumph is set to fill the gap in its cruiser lineup. The hole between the 865cc twins and the massive 2,300cc Rocket III is substantial, and word on the street is that the Brits are looking to roll out a new fuel-injected, water-cooled, shaft-driven cruiser sometime this year. Spy photos and unsubstantiated reports have led some to speculate that a 1,500cc transverse-mounted parallel twin will power the new sled, and that styling will be along the lines of the classic Triumphs - think Bonneville, not Rocket. We'd expect to see an announcement overseas first.

Back from the past? The 2003 Indian Chief Springfield
Harley-Davidson assembly operations
The new-for-08 Honda VTX1300T Tourer
The 2008 VT750C Aero gets twin exhausts
Kawasaki Dealer Show in Las Vegas
The Nomads don't get mechanical upgrades, but they sure look sweet
One Mean Tourer
The Suzuki C109RT is experiencing some production delays...
...but we expect to see both C109s by early next year
A bigger America?