Sussing Out The Show Circuit

New rigs from Honda, Yamaha, Guzzi and Star as seen at the Tokyo, Milan, and the International Motorcycle Shows

The Tokyo Motor show and the EICMA hoedown in Milan have been history for a while now. Still, the International Motorcycle Show is in the thick of running its U.S. circuit, so let's check out the highlights...

If you cruised by Honda's display in Tokyo, you got to ogle a near-production-ready version of the sleek DN-01 tourer, first unveiled as a concept bike two years ago. There's a fair amount of technology at work under the hood, but the heart of it is a good old Honda V-Twin -- now hitched to a stepless variable-ratio transmission using hydraulic pressure to transfer the power.

Digging past the spaceship-like styling reveals a fairly standard sport-tourer setup with some cruiser-like bits here and there (position-adjustable, forward-mounted floorboards, for instance). Honda is pushing the DN-01 (DN stands for "Dream New") as an all-around comfortable sports-cruiser, emphasizing its low 27.2-inch seat height, probably to appeal to less-experienced riders. The powerplant is a fairly low-key 680cc V-Twin borrowed from Honda's middleweight Deauville tourer (available only in Europe).

The DN's fairing definitely feels sport-touring-ish (just lower), and the blacked-out, stealth-fighter paint and finish treatment strikes a balance between modern design and custom 'tude. An LCD/LED instrument panel gives the cockpit a high-tech feel (all the rage these days), and naturally, there's ABS.

As mentioned before, the big news on the DN-01 is the new HFT (Human Friendly Transmission), which offers three modes for the rider: D, for everyday stuff, S, for when things heat up a bit, and M, which simulates a six-speed manual tranny so the rider feels like he's shifting on his own. Honda also says there's a "lockup mechanism" on the HFT - a first for a hydraulic transmission (their words, not ours). That mechanism is supposed to minimize the shock normally associated with gear shifts and further improve efficiency under steady cruising conditions. The DN-01 sounds like a pretty cool machine (if a bit heavy on the automated stuff), but will it ever surface on these shores.?

Over in Milan, Moto Guzzi granted showgoers a look at the revamped Griso. More specifically, they highlighted its engine - the Griso is the first Guzzi to receive the Italian firm's virtually all-new, potent eight-valve version of its transverse V-twin powerplant. From the outside, it looks like business as usual, but there's actually a whole list of improvements. The engine's 80 per cent new, with a displacement of 1151cc (up from 1064cc) and features newly-styled cylinders and head covers. Slight modifications to the exhaust and brakes (new discs and calipers), narrower handlebars and a reprofiled seat round out the changes. But that beefy, heavyweight character looks like it's still there.

Retro lovers will probably go gaga over Guzzi's new V7 too, even if its 50-horsepower Breva 750 mill is almost anticlimatic. The original 1967 V7 was one of Italy's first manly-man bikes, while this model looks to be more entry-level than anything.

Yamaha has taken the retro path as well. One of their concepts at the Tokyo Show was the Sakura, an upright-style 'standard' with an extremely retro-looking 1000cc V-Twin tucked in the engine bay. The cylinder heads have a classic shape and the dual rear shocks, tubular steel frame, and wire-spoke wheels solidify the vibe. Yamaha claims the machine is lightweight and easy to handle with a low seat height.

Back in the US, Yamaha -er, Star - unveiled the latest concept rendering of its new VMax. Shown in these photos (and the accompanying video), the V-Max metal sculpture, originally on display at the Tokyo Motor show, was hauled over to the US for the International Motorcycle show in Long Beach, CA. That hefty chunk of aluminum billet, dubbed "Awakens", qualifies as art (according to Star, anyway) and was specially commissioned by Star Motorcycles to symbolize Star's "determination to bring the new VMax to life". Talk is cheap though, and even though General Manager Bob Starr assured us that the VMax "is closer to becoming a reality than you think", it has been 2 years now that the first concept was introduced at the Tokyo show. Yamaha naturally, is being close-mouthed about the whole thing; even their new Need-6 website (launched especially to promote the new VMax) does little to illuminate the bike's technical particulars - or anything, really, at all about it. So we're watching and waiting. Let's hope for an '09 release....

Other highlights of the show included a colorful display with the Denis Manning's BUB "#7" Streamliner. This red rocket recently made history at the International Speed Trials in Bonneville, becoming the world's fastest motorcycle. Chris Carr piloted the streamliner to the land speed record, registering 354.832 mph on the down run and 346.939 on the return. Owner and builder Manning and Carr were present at the Long Beach show, posing with the impressive BUB machine. That Streamliner will travel the International Motorcycle Shows (IMS) for the duration of its run, too.

There was also a good selection of tasty custom showbikes from Star, Arlen Ness and Victory, and row upon row of the usual eye-candy from Roland Sands. Which begs the question - does this guy keep ALL his customs?

For the remaining schedule, check www.motorcycleshows.com

- Andrew Cherney