We review the 2021 Yamaha MT-09! Since its launch in 2014, the MT-09 has become a fan favorite, thanks to its rip-roaring CP3 in-line triple-cylinder engine and its attractive value.
For the 2021 model year, Yamaha has redesigned over 90% of the beloved MT-09 naked, starting with an all-new 890cc CP3 in-line triple-cylinder engine. The updated engine grew from 847cc to 890cc, thanks to a revised crankshaft with a 3mm longer stroke (now 62.1mm; bore is still 78mm) and 15% increased inertia. The heavier crank has resulted in a 6% increase in torque and made the MT-09’s engine feel much more smooth, refined, and tractable. New forged pistons, a new cylinder head, intake system, and throttle bodies are also part of the package.
The gearbox is updated with a new shift fork that has led to more positive feedback at the shift lever. Also, an up/down quickshifter is standard.
The most significant change to the MT-09 is its chassis. The all-new aluminum twin-spar frame and swingarm are significantly stiffer than before, creating a much more planted and sporty motorcycle. Moreover, the KYB suspension is completely revised and much more controlled than what was present in previous generations.
A 6-axis IMU informs a state-of-the-art electronics package that includes ride modes, cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control and slide control.
Road Test Editor Nic de Sena took the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 out for a first ride and shared his thoughts.
Check out the full story of the 2021 Yamaha MT-09!
For more information about this and other Yamaha motorcycle, visit Yamaha.The post 2021 Yamaha MT-09 | Video Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
There is no place like the paddock. When the lights are about to go green, the tension in the air is palpable, cut only by the stinging scent of spent race fuel. At the center of it all are steely-eyed racers going through their pre-race rituals, diligent crew members swirling around them like electrons orbiting a nucleus. Nothing else compares, but when rolling out of my suburban garage aboard the 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, I can almost hear the grandstand cheers before gridding up in the canyon.
Since the debut of the CBR900RR — a bike known as the FireBlade in Europe and other markets — in 1992, we’ve come to know Honda’s superbike lineup through its ever-consistent qualities. A CBR is approachable and well-behaved. A CBR flirts with the horsepower chase but doesn’t go for broke. A CBR balances outright racetrack performance with real-world practicality.
This CBR breaks that mold.
Well-mannered motorcycles seldom make racing history, and the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP was developed with one uncompromising goal — win at all costs. It follows in the footsteps of Honda’s other road-legal homologated racebikes like the legendary VFR750R RC30 and RVF750R RC45, machines bred specifically for the World Superbike Championship. And for sportbike enthusiasts, the new triple-R — known as the “pirate” bike in some circles because of all those Rs — is not only supreme wish fulfillment, it represents a fundamental shift in design philosophy, abandoning the longstanding road-bike first, track-bike second approach the CBR is known for.
The new ’Blade is sharper in every conceivable way, a point made crystal clear when you take to its saddle. Compared to the previous-gen CBR1000RR, the seat height has been raised, the rearsets are higher and further back for more ground clearance, and the clip-on handlebars are lower and wider, making it feel like a racebike right off the showroom floor. The reasonable seat-to-peg ratio of the past is, well, a thing of the past. Even the fuel tank is whittled down, allowing riders to tuck in behind the shallow bubble. I get the message: head down, elbows out, go!
Honda hit the reset button in terms of engine design, opting for a high-revving, big-bore, short-stroke architecture inspired by the $184,000 RC213V-S MotoGP replica. If it works for Marc Márquez, it’ll work for you and me. Coupled with a low-inertia finger-follower valvetrain, lightweight titanium connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons, Honda has created its most virile, fast-revving 999cc in-line four yet.
To do so, Honda tapped key members of its HRC MotoGP program to aid development, instilling this machine with the kind of ferocity needed to compete in WSBK. There isn’t much low-end to speak of, and the SP is deceptively tame below 7,000 rpm. Above that, however, when the barn door is thrown open and the Akrapovič exhaust valve yells giddyup!, the Fireblade takes off, galloping at full speed toward its 14,500-rpm redline. And it does so with uncanny smoothness and linear control.
Here in the States, the triple-R’s bottom-end has a few flat spots and its top-end gets strangled above 12,000 rpm in an effort to meet noise and emissions regulations, as you can see in the dyno chart. While the rear-wheel output recorded on Jett Tuning’s dyno — 175.3 horsepower at 11,900 rpm and 78.3 lb-ft of torque at 11,100 rpm — are nothing to sneeze at, especially on public roads, the Fireblade SP is capable of much more. European-market bikes exceed 200 horsepower all day long. Nonetheless, all who pilot the CBR will be helpless to its siren song, its opening notes played by the ram-air induction howl, each gear shift — facilitated by one of the best up/down quickshifters I’ve ever used — speeding up the tune as it reaches a shrieking Akrapovič exhaust apogee. Glory be thy name.
The triple-R’s 5-inch TFT display gives quick access to a bevy of electronic aids, helping you keep all those ponies in check. Led by a 6-axis Bosch IMU, engine power, engine braking, traction control, wheelie control and suspension modes can be altered on the fly. ABS fiddling requires a dive into the menu. While the street is no place to test the limits of traction control or ABS, my first spirited canyon ride was enough for me to judge that Honda has made great strides here. The throttle-by-wire connection is superb, and the rider aids quietly work their magic while exploring cold, unforgiving mountain roads.
Tying the bits together is an all-new twin-spar aluminum frame and swingarm that has been agonized over by Honda engineers. In a hunt for improved rider feedback, the frame has more vertical and torsional rigidity but less horizontal rigidity than the previous CBR1000RR. The swingarm is over an inch longer and uses 18 different wall thicknesses to tune flex just so. That’s only the tip of the geometry iceberg. With a 2-inch longer wheelbase, increased rake and lengthened trail figures, it is stunning how Honda maintained most of the CBR’s quintessential agility while adding a heaping dose of horsepower-taming stability, achieved in part by raising the bike’s center of gravity. The crankshaft now resides higher and further away from the front axle, evening out weight distribution and giving the rider more leverage for quick transitions. Taken together, the whole chassis translates feedback to the rider telepathically. Whipping the Fireblade through corners is intuitive, requiring just a hint of extra effort than on previous iterations to achieve handling precision.
Öhlins semi-active suspension has become the gold standard on top-tier sportbikes, and it is a huge asset on the Fireblade SP. A 43mm NPX Smart EC 2.0 gas-charged fork and TTX 36 Smart EC shock offer three automatic damping settings (Track, Sport and Rain) and three manual damping settings. With each passing year electronic suspension gets better and better, and it shines on the inconsistent tarmac common on the street, keeping the contact patches in contact while keeping the chassis dead-nuts stable. The Track setting will rattle your fillings loose on anything but the smoothest roadways, but Sport is Goldilocks perfect, gobbling up irregularities and giving you confidence to pitch the CBR deep into corners before twisting the throttle and letting the grippy Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires do their work.
Tweaking the suspension settings is done via the Objective Based Tuning Interface (OBTi), which breaks the terminology down to what you need your bike to do instead of technical jargon. Fork feels squishy? Dial-in Front Stiffness. Squatting too much on exit? Crank up Rear Stiffness. And the list goes on. Those who prefer old-school analog suspension can use the fixed-damping manual modes, adjusting compression and rebound from the dash.
What all of this means is that the CBR can accelerate harder off the apex and blitz down straightaways faster than ever before, necessitating Zeusian-levels of braking performance, brought to you by topflight Brembo Stylema calipers and massive 330mm rotors.
At $28,500, the triple-R’s price tag seems more fitting of moto-exotica hailing from Europe, but then again it’s a bargain compared to the six-figure RC213V-S. What you get is a remarkably well-sorted, top-of-the-food-chain sportbike that was designed to do one thing in particular: go to WSBK and bring home the bacon for Honda. From the integrated aerodynamics to the raging engine and new chassis design, everything here exists because racing demands it. It is highly specialized and very special, and that comes at a price. But this is still a Honda, and the Fireblade SP is a street-legal motorcycle that is available at your local dealer.
After lapping the canyons until the sun dropped behind the mountains and the fuel light called me home, I could only admire the progress that Honda has made since the first CBR900RR/FireBlade revolutionized the liter-class sportbike segment nearly 30 years ago. The triple-R is undoubtedly the most aggressive Fireblade yet, and what many have begged for over the years. Importantly, it retains the rideability that we’ve come to expect from Honda, albeit with extra edge to cut into the success of its competitors on the world stage. The roar of a cheering crowd might be in my head, but that’s all I hear when hitting the starter.
Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro R3
Suit: Mithos RCP-18
Boots: Alpinestars Super Tech R
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP Specs:
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line four
Bore x Stroke: 81.0 x 48.5mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 16,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI w/ 52mm throttle bodies x 4 & throttle-by-wire
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.2 qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum frame w/ aluminum subframe & swingarm
Wheelbase: 57.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 24 degrees/4.0 in.
Seat Height: 32.6 in.
Suspension, Front: 45mm USD fork w/ electronic control, 4.9 in. travel
Rear: Pro-Link shock w/ electronic control, 5.6 in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 330mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston radial calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 220mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast aluminum, 3.5 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast aluminum, 6.0 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Wet Weight: 444 lbs.
Load Capacity: 365 lbs.
GVWR: 809 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.3 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 29.7 mpg
Estimated Range: 128 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,250
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP Photo Gallery:The post 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP | Road Test Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Precious few periods in motorcycling’s 120-some-year history have offered more radical change than the early 1980s.
You could call the period transformative. Or radical. Or revolutionary. But whatever you call it, it was freakingly, eye-poppingly, mind-blowingly exciting.
Up to that point you pretty much had basic big-bore motorcycles. UJMs, they were called, Universal Japanese Motorcycles. And some good ones, too. Honda 750s. Kawasaki Z1s. Suzuki’s GS750 came along in ’76 and upped the ante (along with the GS1000 in ’78), as did Honda’s twin-cam CB750F and CB900F. But for the most part it was still a tube-framed, air-cooled UJM world.
But as the decade ended, you had hints of what was to come. Liquid cooling. Four-valve heads. Sixteen-inch front wheels. New-think frame designs. And a lot more. New technology was coming, and everyone knew it.
Sure enough, Honda’s liquid-cooled, single-shock Sabre debuted in ’82, and a year later came the perimeter-framed 1983 VF750F Interceptor. A year after that it was the sublimely competent Kawasaki 900 Ninja, and then, in ’85, Suzuki’s axis-altering GSX-R750. And on it went.
But let’s back up a bit. Kawasaki had improved its stalwart KZ1000 in 1981 with the J-model, which offered a thoroughly improved engine and chassis. But despite more performance, refinement and power, it remained an air-cooled, tube-framed UJM — and frankly didn’t set the world on fire sales-wise.
“We had a lot of KZ1000Js sitting around that year,” remembers longtime Kawasaki associate Mike Vaughan. “Dealers weren’t ordering many. The J-model was a good motorcycle, but really just a beefed-up, more modern Z1, and things were moving on technologically.”
To help deal with all this, Vaughan attended a sales meeting where he posed a question to the group. “Eddie had just won the ’81 Superbike championship,” Vaughan told us, “so I asked, sorta off the cuff, ‘why not build an Eddie Lawson replica to generate excitement for the KZ line?’ This sort of thing had been done successfully in the snowmobile industry and with Chevy’s IROC Camaros. We’d paint the new bike green, give it some special parts, and see how it did.”
Japan liked Vaughan’s idea and things moved quickly from there. An R&D team was quickly tasked with fast-track development of this Lawson replica, and it borrowed liberally from both the J-model and the then-in-development 1982 GPz1100 to actually build it.
The team also had Eddie’s championship-winning race machine for inspiration, which had been crated and shipped to Kawasaki’s Akashi R&D center for evaluation. From it they’d build the limited-edition KZ1000R-S1 production racer (just 30 were built), and while little of Lawson’s racer would make it onto the Lawson replica, it was a hell of an aesthetic template to use for production.
From the J-model came the 998cc, DOHC, two-valve, air-cooled four, with electronic ignition and a strong roller-bearing crank assembly — a hammer of an engine, and one loved by hot rodders. The J’s steel-tube frame was retained, too, with slightly lazier front-end geometry for the higher-speed work the bike would presumably see.
The replica’s most memorable bits — the coffin tank, swoopy tail and sporty quarter fairing — came from the GPz1100, as did instrumentation, brakes and wheels. Added to all this was a deep-dish seat, rearset pegs and controls, an oil cooler and a Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust, which, by law, had to be installed by a dealer.
The end result was the 1982 KZ1000R Eddie Lawson Replica. It was a thoroughly impressive assemblage, both aesthetically and technically, with every ounce of the performance and visceral chutzpah one associated with Kawasaki’s logo and legendary hot-rod history. But would it inspire buyers, and would the rub-off effect help sell J-model KZs?
“It looked great and sparked interest among the media, dealers and enthusiasts,” Vaughan told us, “but it didn’t sell very well. We only built about 750 that first year, and left pricing up to the dealer. Many priced it too high, and by the time prices were lowered, the market had changed.”
The market had changed. An understatement, for sure.
By that time, Honda’s new-think Sabre had arrived and the Interceptor had been announced. Suddenly, liquid cooling, perimeter frames, 16-inch front wheels and single-shock suspension were the talk of the town. And just as suddenly, there was no going back to air-cooled engines, twin shocks and tube frames, at least in terms of full-sized sporting street bikes.
And so the ELR, for all its lime-green, testosterone-fueled, Superbike-winning cachet, was an old dog in a new fight. And so they sat, some still in crates.
“Honestly,” one dealer told me, “I couldn’t sell it. It just sat there. Folks looked at it, but they all wanted the latest, greatest thing. It’s funny to look back on it now.”
From the benefit of nearly four decades hindsight, and knowing how collectible and revered the Lawson Replica has become (and how much the things sell for), it’s inconceivable to think these bikes sat in showrooms unsold for — in some cases — years, and for giveaway prices.
The ELR didn’t do much to help plain-Jane J-model sales, either. And when you combined that with the ELR’s lackluster sales, all the excitement and buzz surrounding the entire affair became mostly irrelevant, even after Lawson repeated as AMA Superbike champion in late ’82.
For 1983, Kawasaki renamed the bike the Superbike Replica in light of Lawson’s departure to Yamaha and its Grand Prix team, though with several changes: GPz-spec cams, valves and cylinder head; adjustable shock damping; new instruments; a slightly longer swingarm; and revised graphics. Despite making more horsepower, the ’83 seemed even more lost than the ’82, especially as Superbike racing had moved to 750s and newer technology.
It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, and it would be years before the ELR’s semi-buried mystique began to see the light of day. But not that long, especially as Lawson began racking up 500cc world championships during the 1980s.
According to collector Brian O’Shea, who owns a handful of pedigreed and championship-winning superbikes — including a 1980 Superbike title-winning Wes Cooley/Yoshimura GS1000, Freddie Spencer’s Daytona winning ’85 VF750F and others — interest in ELRs began to really percolate in the late 1980s. “It got crazy real quick,” O’Shea told us, “especially with the S1 [one of the 30 Kawasaki built], as it was a competitive Superbike race machine you could actually buy. The craze hit in about ’89, with Japanese exporters running ads looking for ’82-’83 ELRs for top dollar. I paid $1,500 for my first two and sold ’em to exporters for $6,000 each a short while later. Eddie and Freddie were like gods in Japan, so ELRs got way desirable.”
That certainly hasn’t changed, with pristine, production-spec ELRs going for upwards of $30,000, and ultra-rare S1s going for four times that. Yes, six figures.
Way back in 1982, Kawasaki brass gave Lawson a factory-fresh KZ1000R with a 001 VIN — the very first ELR to roll off the production line. That bike would become hugely collectible and be the subject of some heavy controversy and intrigue, but Lawson asked instead for VIN 021 to highlight his legendary racing number. He owns it to this day.
We asked Lawson if he had any input on the street bike with his name on it. “Nope,” he said with a laugh. “They showed me a couple of pre-production bikes early on, and then asked which paint and stripe scheme I liked. They ended up picking the one I didn’t like!”
Several years ago, Lawson was offered Big Cash for his #021 ELR by a Japanese investor, but declined. “I can’t believe I said no,” he told us with a grin. “The guy literally offered me a million bucks. What I wish I had was one of the S1s … they were pretty much like my racers, but better finished. All my racebikes were crushed,” a fact Rob Muzzy confirmed to us, which he did per Kawasaki’s request.
Like Lawson, Muzzy owns an ’82 ELR, VIN 300-something. “I ride it once in a while,” he says, “and it’s fun — a great, old-fashioned superbike. Can you imagine building a production street bike like this today, with trick parts and an aftermarket exhaust? Not even close to being possible. The lawyers would flip out!”
Terms like classic, collectible, legendary and desirable get tossed around a lot these days when it comes to certain older motorcycles, and I haven’t been shy about using some of them here. But when it comes to Kawasaki’s 1982 ELR, they’re totally deserving.
“The things are just so cool looking,” says O’Shea, “and they transport you back to the early 1980s immediately. It’s the bike and its design and pedigree, for sure, and the impact it had on riders and the industry. But it’s also the time machine aspect of it.”
O’Shea is spot-on there, for the words capture many of the reasons certain motorcycles transport us back to an earlier time — a time of head-shaking, fire-breathing AMA Superbikes with guys named Lawson, Spencer, Cooley and Baldwin fighting it out on the racetracks of legend … Pocono, Laguna Seca, Daytona and Loudon.
Thank the heavens, then, for all those unwanted KZ1000Js.The post Eddie’s Mean Green Machine: 1982 Kawasaki KZ1000R Eddie Lawson Replica first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Accessories: $1,464.99 (new); $3,334.92 (total)
As reported in my 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Tour Test Review, Yamaha’s latest ADV is an exceptional machine right out of the box, but a few tweaks make it even better. The T7 is a pleasure to ride, with the CP2 motor smoothly generating enough torque to ascend steep, twisty roads in third gear, and it takes off-pavement obstacles in stride. For that test, we added accessories from Yamaha’s catalog — Main Stand, Aluminum Side Cases with locks and mounts, Engine Guard and Universal Grip Heaters — that totaled $1,869.93 and added 51 pounds to the T7’s curb weight. For our next round of tweaks, we turned to the aftermarket.
One challenge is the long reach to the clutch lever, which prevents me from having complete control in dicey off-road situations. To solve that problem, I installed a set of C5 Series Sport clutch and brake levers from ASV Inventions ($290). Adjustable over a 4-inch range in 180 steps, the American-made, machined-from-billet levers provide excellent engagement control, even with a shorty clutch lever. To protect the levers, I replaced the stock plastic handguards with Barkbusters ($154.70 for aluminum backbones, guards and skid plates). I’ve used these rugged items before, and neither branches nor crashes have damaged them. There’s one hitch: the ASV levers fit so closely behind the aluminum backbones that rotating them requires rotating the Barkbusters too.
For additional protection, I installed R&G’s Engine Case Cover Kit ($178.99). Molded from 4mm polypropylene, the covers fit over the left and right engine cases to absorb hits that could cause damage. Installation couldn’t be easier: remove four case bolts on each side, then bolt on the protectors with the longer bolts provided.
The T7’s stock footpegs are on the short side, and though serrated, they lack sufficient grip with wet boots. The new MK4 from Pivot Pegz ($189), which rotate fore/aft by up to 20 degrees, are 20mm longer than stock and have a much sharper surface. Enhanced traction and the ability to tilt my toes up or down as necessary are welcome attributes. A set of plastic Toppers ($29.95) tames the pegs’ teeth for street riding.
For a lighter-weight alternative to Yamaha’s accessory aluminum panniers, I installed Touratech’s Extreme Waterproof Saddle Bags ($399.95) and 31-liter Waterproof Adventure Dry Bag ($114.95). Though hard bags are more convenient, and perfect for road trips, the Touratech luggage provides only a liter less storage while weighing just 6.3 pounds, improving off-pavement handling. I’m lost without a tank bag, so the Nelson-Rigg Trails End Adventure ($107.45) made my day by fitting the Ténéré perfectly. Twelve liters of storage become 16.5 with the top expanded, and the slim side pockets don’t beep the horn at full lock. A four-clip harness and non-slip base keep it tight on the tank, and a rain cover is included.
These improvements to control, protection and overall weight make the T7 a more enjoyable and durable partner for multi-surface adventures.
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Long-Term Ride Review Photo Gallery:The post 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 | Long-Term Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Sand riding is a love-it or hate-it affair. Those who love it embrace the “gas on, brain off” approach, keeping their body weight back and a loose grip on the handlebar, allowing the front wheel to float and hunt. Speed and momentum are your friends in the sand, but they are also the kind of friends who like to scare the bejeezus out of you. When doubt or fear kick in and you roll off the throttle, the front wheel plows into the sand and — like a light switch — right becomes wrong.
My early sand-riding experience was on my old ’98 Kawasaki KLR650, a solid, trustworthy dual-sport that’s remarkably capable off-road given its limited power, hefty weight and budget suspension. I’ve ridden in sand on full-size adventure bikes, and while doable it always fills me with dread, in part because their 19-front wheels, 90/10 tires and 500-plus-pound curb weights stack the deck in favor of peril.
Like a speed boat, successful sand riding requires getting “up on a plane” and skimming across the top. That’s why speed is so important, and the lighter the bike (and rider), the better. I learned to stop worrying and love sand on my KTM 690 Enduro R, which is lighter and more powerful than my KLR and has excellent suspension that forgives many of my foibles. Knocking 100 pounds off the weight of a motorcycle completely transforms its agility and handling, especially off-road.
Which brings us to Honda’s CRF450RL. Tipping our scales at 286 pounds, it’s 54 pounds lighter than my KTM. Dual-sports live in dual worlds — on and off the road — and trade-offs must be made. To make an off-road motorcycle street legal, lights, turn signals, a horn and mirrors must be added, all of which add weight. The engine and exhaust need to be revised to handle higher mileage and satisfy emissions. Further concessions to on-road capability, such as ABS, a larger fuel tank, a more comfortable seat, a subframe designed to carry luggage and perhaps a passenger, add even more weight. When buying a dual-sport, you must ask yourself what’s most important — on-road comfort or off-road capability?
Derived from the CRF450R motocrosser, the CRF450RL leans strongly toward the off-road end of the scale. Its lightweight, compact, liquid-cooled 449cc single has a 12:1 compression ratio and a Unicam SOHC valve train with titanium valves. Updates for 2021 include revised ECU and fuel-injection settings for better throttle response, new hand guards and fresh graphics. Although we didn’t put the CRF450RL on the dyno, results published elsewhere put rear-wheel horsepower in the high 30s and torque in the high 20s. The power is very tractable, snappy enough to lift the front wheel upon command and generous enough to rip along at 75-80 mph across the desert or on the freeway, which it does quite smoothly thanks to a gear-driven counterbalancer. But with a hard, narrow seat and a 2-gallon tank, long street rides are not really in the cards.
When photographer Kevin Wing suggested we trailer the CRF450RL and his Yamaha YZ250F out to Dumont Dunes for a full-day photo shoot, I said “Sure thing!,” hoping my enthusiasm would mask my trepidation. Although I’ve learned to make peace with sand riding and even enjoyed it on a few occasions, the sand I’ve ridden was flat. At Dumont Dunes, an off-highway riding area that covers nearly 8,000 acres near Death Valley National Park, the only flat sand is in the parking area. Competition Hill, the tallest of the dunes, rises more than 500 feet above the desert floor. You know how difficult it is to walk in loosey-goosey sand on the beach? Now imagine riding through that on a motorcycle — at 45 degrees uphill!
As luck would have it, the motorcycle gods smiled upon us. We went to Dumont Dunes on the last Tuesday in January, and it had rained the night before, packing down the sand and blanketing the nearby Kingston Range in a layer of snow. Another big storm was predicted for the next day, and given the short window the OHV area was all but empty. It was a perfect blue-sky day with highs around 50, yet we saw only one other group, a pack of several quads waaaaaaay off in the distance. The dunes were pristine, with nary a track on them. If I embarrassed myself, Kevin would be my only witness!
Off the trailer with its long sidestand perched on a rock to keep it from sinking into the sand, the CRF was cold-blooded and needed to idle for a few minutes to warm up. I’m fortunate to be tall enough to flat-foot the Honda when sitting on its 37.2-inch saddle. With 21-/18-inch wheels, 12 inches of suspension travel and 12.6 inches of ground clearance, a low seat height isn’t an option. This was my first ride on the CRF, and from the handlebar height and lever positions to the placement of the cleated pegs, everything felt just right, especially when standing up. There was nothing to figure out, nothing to distract or frustrate me.
We approached the first dune at a good clip and climbing its face I quickly realized this was no ordinary sand, or at least not ordinary conditions. Whereas dry sand is loose and unpredictable, wet sand is firm and has plenty of traction. Which was a huge relief. We had aired down our tires to about 12 psi front and rear, but the CRF comes with IRC GP21/22 dual-sport tires rated for 70% on-road/30% off-road, a far cry from the full knobbies on Kevin’s YZ250F. The IRCs dug right in, held a line and gave me more confidence than my skills warranted.
I can’t really say what carving a set of dunes normally feels like, but Kevin and I were like ski bums on a fresh powder day, or surfers slicing through a winter swell. We cut huge arcs across dunes, climbing them on an angle while being mindful not to launch over a lip into the abyss. The swirling winds that constantly shape the dunes create sudden drop-offs, deep holes and other hazards, and then there can be motorcycles, quads or buggies lurking just out of sight.
As the day wore on and Kevin continued to coach me, my am-I-doing-this-right? worry faded and adrenaline-filled joy took over, at least until I chopped the throttle and ended up rolling in the sand like a sugar cookie. Thank goodness for the new hand guards. With its feather-light clutch, smooth-shifting gearbox and ultra-precise brakes, riding the CRF450RL felt like second nature, like I’d been testing it for months. Its high-quality Showa suspension insulated me from abuse and kept the rock-solid chassis on track, whether I was launching off dunes or flying down a whooped-out trail in 5th gear.
Honda’s CRF450RL is a quintessential “dirt bike with lights,” one that is fast, fun and 50-state street-legal so it can be ridden to, from or between trails. Its hard, narrow seat and small tank will keep pavement forays to a minimum, but thanks to its license plate it can be ridden on thousands of miles of national forest roads and other unpaved byways. Honda also dropped the price by $400 to $9,999, making it even more appealing.
2021 Honda CRF450RL Specs:
Base Price: $9,999
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled single
Bore x Stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12:1
Valve Train: Unicam SOHC, 4 valves
Valve Insp. Interval: 1,800 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI, 46mm downdraft throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 1.53 qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum w/
Wheelbase: 58.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/4.8 in.
Seat Height: 37.2 in.
Suspension, Front: 49mm USD coil-spring fork, adj. for rebound & compression damping, 12.0 in. travel
Rear: Pro-Link single shock, fully adj., 11.8 in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 260mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston caliper
Wheels, Front: Spoked aluminum, 1.60 x 21 in.
Rear: Spoked aluminum, 2.15 x 18 in.
Tires, Front: 80/100-21, tube-type
Rear: 120/80-18, tube-type
Wet Weight: 286 lbs.
Load Capacity: 223 lbs.
GVWR: 509 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 41 mpg (highway)
Estimated Range: 82 miles
2021 Honda CRF450RL Photo Gallery:The post 2021 Honda CRF450RL | Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Yamaha’s tuning fork was nearly pitch-perfect when it released the MT-09 in 2014. With its brilliant CP3 in-line triple leading the chorus of torque, agility and value, Yamaha’s upright sportbike has resonated with the market to the tune of 25,000 units sold. Now in its third generation, the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 is virtually brand new, and the third time really is the charm.
Last updated in 2017 with a sprinkling of tech and suspension tweaks, Yamaha’s engineers went through the MT-09 with a more discriminating comb for the latest refresh, overhauling over 90% of the naked machine. It has an entirely new 890cc CP3 (Cross Plane 3-cylinder) engine, a thoroughly updated and significantly stiffer chassis, state-of-the-art electronics and a fresh look that results in the most refined MT-09 yet. Trust me, the $400 price increase is money well spent.
Faithful Master of Torque devotees might see any engine finagling as blasphemous, and had the new lump not been an out-of-the-park home run, I’d have taken up the pitchforks with them. Displacement increased from 847cc to 890cc thanks to a revised crankshaft with a 3mm longer stroke (now 62.1mm; bore is still 78mm) and 15% more inertia. That heavier crank helps the MT-09 produce 6% more torque — ever-present and supremely tractable, by the way. The new engine is bigger and punchier, yet claimed fuel economy is up by 11%.
The tale of the tape continues with camshafts sporting more aggressive profiles, redesigned forged pistons, a new intake system featuring three tuned intake duct lengths and throttle bodies with integrated fuel injectors aimed directly at the intake valve heads. A new cylinder head has a narrower combustion chamber and a 12% reduction in water jacket volume for faster warm-up times.
Hit the starter, and a familiar yet throatier growl is heard from the updated under-slung exhaust. No visible mufflers here, just a box under the bike with two exhaust holes in the bottom. Release the revised assist-and-slip clutch and you’re met with a silky-smooth powerplant that pulls hard from the depths of the rev range and continues all the way to redline, with a rush of power that comes alive above 7,000 rpm.
There is a duality to this new engine, allowing it to go from a dignified traffic-trotter or raging canyon assault vehicle, with a mere throttle whack. It accelerates like the dickens but with more maturity in how it spools up, adding some manners to the raw and rowdy personality that its predecessor displayed. The refinement continues downward through the gearbox, thanks to a new shift fork and an updated clutch that deliver more precise gear changes, as well as longer 1st and 2nd gears to further smooth things out. With age comes experience, and the new MT-09 delivers with a finely calibrated up/down quickshifter that makes the clutch lever all but optional.
In a significant technological leap, the MT-09 now uses a 6-axis IMU-supported electronics package derived from the YZF-R1 superbike, including four selectable ride modes, adjustable cornering ABS and multi-level traction control, slide control and wheelie control. Cruise control is a curious omission, though it is available on the new-to-the-U.S.-market, up-spec MT-09 SP, which also features upgraded suspension and other goodies for an extra $1,700.
In practice, the electronics and new throttle-by-wire system pilfered from the R1 are a notable improvement over the previous-gen MT’s systems. Throttle response is clean and precise in every mode, without any of the unpleasant throttle snatch present on prior generations, even in the most aggressive setting. While not the biggest and flashiest around, the easy-to-read 3.5-inch full-color TFT display is a welcome upgrade.
All of the rider aids can be disabled, save for ABS, and I’d argue that doing so isn’t necessary on the street unless you are a true wheelie wizard. They work their magic in the background, and the lower settings allow for a civilized amount of disobedience. Hold the throttle open and click through the gears while the wheelie control hovers the front at a sensible level.
Then there is the all-new aluminum twin-spar frame that has 50% more lateral rigidity, a stiffer swingarm and updated KYB suspension that has transformed the riding experience. In its younger, rowdier days, the MT’s chassis wasn’t up to snuff with its stellar engine, and I’m glad to report that those days are behind us. From the engine to the frame, swingarm and wheels, precious ounces were shaved off, further contributing to the MT’s newfound handling abilities. Yamaha managed to save eight pounds collectively, resulting in a 417-pound claimed wet weight.
Engineers reworked the MT’s geometry by dropping the head tube 1.2 inches, leading to more confidence in the front end, encouraging quicker steering with improved feedback to boot. The wheelbase is also tightened up a tad while trail grew a hair, thanks to new triple clamps. Coupled with stiffer bits all around, the refreshed Yamaha is stable and confident in every situation.
The fully adjustable KYB fork has new innards and slightly shortened travel, and in the rear, a new shock also has a smidge less travel and offers preload and rebound adjustability. The sporty-yet-plush suspension provides more support under braking and greater stability when flip-flopping through the twisties. Better yet, comfort hasn’t decreased and was thoroughly tested on the pothole-infested streets of downtown Los Angeles.
Perhaps some of that increased comfort can be attributed to the more conventional riding position. The two-position adjustable upright handlebar and adjustable footpegs keep the rider propped up for all-day riding. At the same time, the marginally taller 32.5-inch saddle has a flatter profile, ridding the MT of the feeling that you were always sliding into the fuel tank. You wouldn’t guess that the seat is taller, as the chassis is extremely narrow at the tank seam, allowing my 32-inch-inseam legs to reach the deck with room to spare.
Bestowed with a new Nissin radial master-cylinder borrowed from the R1, the 4-piston Advics calipers and 320mm rotors are some of the few carry-over components on the MT. Stopping power has never been an issue and still isn’t, though I’d prefer more feedback at the adjustable lever. And it’d be nice if the clutch lever were adjustable, too. Maybe next year. The returning rear stoppers work keenly for line correction and low-speed riding.
Everyone plays their part in an orchestra, and the MT-09 has always managed to impress the crowd with its CP3 engine planted in the lead chair. It was enough to convince me to wave off its predecessor’s shortcomings as things that the aftermarket can solve; beef up the suspension, reflash the map and tada! But practice, practice, practice made a really good bike become a great one. Because that’s what it takes to get to Carnegie Hall, and the 2021 Yamaha MT-09’s new engine, chassis and electronics all work in harmony now, representing an even better value in the class.
Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
Gloves: Alpinestars SPX Air Carbon V2
Jacket: Alpinestars Hyper Drystar
Pants: Alpinestars Copper
Boots: Alpinestars Faster-3
2021 Yamaha MT-09 Specs:
Base Price: $9,399
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled transverse in-line triple, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 62.1mm
Transmission: 6-speed, wet assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 56.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.5 in.
Wet Weight: 417 lbs. (claimed)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals.
2021 Yamaha MT-09 Photo Gallery:The post 2021 Yamaha MT-09 | First Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
When Indian introduced the flat track-inspired FTR 1200 in 2019, it was like nothing else in the company’s lineup, nor in Harley-Davidson’s. Flat track racing is America’s original extreme sport and has delivered slip-sliding, bar-banging, heart-pumping action for more than a century. When Indian returned to American Flat Track competition for the 2017 season after a decades-long absence, it did so with a purpose-built FTR750 that was no doubt inspired by Harley’s legendary XR750, a motorcycle that has won more races than any in history.
The FTR750 made its AFT debut at the 2016 season finale, placing an impressive seventh at the Santa Rosa Mile with 2000 Grand National Champion Joe Kopp at the controls. Brad Baker won the race in decisive fashion on an XR750, notching the iconic machine’s 502nd (and final) win on the national stage. From 2017 to 2020, Indian’s FTR750 and its Wrecking Crew have been dominant, taking home four consecutive premier-class championships — two by Jared Mees and two by Briar Bauman. (For more about AFT, listen to our podcast interview with Michael Lock, CEO of AMA Pro Racing at ridermagazine.com/insider.)
Although the original FTR 1200 stuck close to its AFT roots, with a 19-inch front/18-inch rear wheel combo and Dunlop DT3-R flat track-style tires, it was still a street bike. Sure, we hooned around on a 40-mile sandy road in Baja, Mexico, at the 2019 press launch, but Indian reps told us unequivocally that it was not designed for off-road riding. Over the past two years, the FTR 1200 has been a driver of growth for Indian, attracting a whole new crop of customers who aren’t interested in cruisers or baggers. So it decided to tweak the recipe to widen the FTR’s appeal.
For 2022, the “1200” has been dropped from the name, and the lineup now includes four models: FTR, FTR Rally, FTR S and FTR R Carbon. Except for the Rally, which retains the 19-/18-inch wheels, the others roll on 17-inch wheels, greatly expanding the available tire options. And instead of quasi-knobby tires, they are shod with grippy Metzeler Sportec rubber. The non-Rally models also have fully adjustable suspension with less travel (4.7 inches, down from 5.9) and, crucially, a lower seat height (32.2 inches, down from 33.1).
In my review of the 2019 FTR 1200 S, I took umbrage with too much vibration in the grips and excessive engine heat. All in all, though an absolute hoot to ride, the FTR felt rough around the edges. Revisions to the platform include retuned engine calibration to improve cold start performance and throttle response, and indeed the FTR S I tested in and around Phoenix, Arizona, fired up quickly, settled into a nice loping idle and revved up with precise authority. On the road, throttle response was crisp and vibration wasn’t an issue, though at high revs it felt more raw than most sport-oriented motorcycles I’ve ridden.
Even though it was early March, Phoenix was hot, damn hot, hitting the upper 80s midday. New radiator shrouds do a better job of channeling heat out and away from the rider, and at idle, rear cylinder deactivation kicks in, making the FTR feel like a thumper. Not once did I think about heat coming off the bike, a welcome relief.
As much as I appreciated the refinements in engine response and heat management, what has really transformed the FTR is the move to 17-inch wheels and tighter steering geometry, with less rake (25.3 degrees, down from 26.3) and trail (3.9 inches, down from 5.1). Turn-in is much lighter, transitions through corners are easier and, thanks in part to the 1.5-inch-narrower ProTaper handlebar, the FTR has newfound agility. Stickier tires and reduced gyroscopic effect from smaller wheels help the bike feel much more planted and nimble than before.
Except for some recalibration, the FTR’s liquid-cooled 1,203cc 60-degree V-twin is unchanged. Claimed output is 120 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and 87 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. When we put a 2019 FTR 1200 S on Jett Tuning’s dyno, it sent 115 horsepower at 8,300 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at 6,100 rpm to its chain-driven rear wheel. A generous helping of torque is available throughout the rev range, but the FTR is at its best in the midrange, launching out of corners with a deep bellow from the dual Akrapovic exhausts.
The FTR S ($14,999) I tested has fully adjustable Sachs suspension that’s well suited for sport riding — firm and responsive without feeling stiff or harsh. Stepping up to the FTR R Carbon ($16,999) gets you primo Öhlins suspension, as well as other goodies like carbon fiber tank covers, headlight nacelle and front fender, a red frame, a silver subframe, black mufflers and a special seat cover. (Öhlins suspension is available as an accessory on FTR and FTR S models, though it will set you back $1,799.99 for the fork and $899.99 for the shock.) Brakes are the good stuff too: Brembo binders front and rear, with dual radial 4-piston calipers squeezing 320mm rotors up front and a single 2-piston caliper squeezing a 260mm rotor out back. Strong, precise, good lever feel — exactly what you want on a go-fast, lean-deep motorcycle.
While the $12,999 base-model FTR is equipped with ABS and cruise control, the S and R Carbon models add a 4.3-inch Ride Command touchscreen display with Bluetooth connectivity, a USB charge port and a full electronics package that includes throttle response modes (Sport, Standard and Rain), cornering ABS and traction control, wheelie control and rear-wheel lift mitigation. Traction control is switchable, but everything else remains on at all times to keep wheels from locking up or going airborne unexpectedly if you get ham-fisted with the controls. Riding is about finesse, people.
With the expansion and refinement of the FTR lineup, Indian has invested in a platform that has paid handsome dividends in its first two years. More street-focused, more accessible and more capable on your favorite curvy road. That’s a winning formula.
Helmet: Fly Racing Sentinel Ambush
Jacket: Highway 21 Motordrome
Pants: Highway 21 Blockhouse Jeans
Boots: Highway 21 Axle Shoes
2022 Indian FTR S Specs:
Base Price: $12,999 (FTR)
Price As Tested: $14,999 (FTR S)
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 73.6mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 60.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.3 degrees/3.9 in.
Seat Height: 32.2 in.
Dry Weight: 482 lbs. (claimed)
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gals.
Fuel Consumption: NA
2022 Indian FTR S Photo Gallery:The post 2022 Indian FTR S | First Ride Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Triumph has announced the limited-edition 2022 Triumph Rocket 3 R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black, which give the British power cruisers an even leaner-and-meaner look.
Limited to 1,000 units worldwide, the Triumph Rocket R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black will feature a certificate of authenticity that lists each motorcycle’s VIN. However, the bikes will not feature an individually numbered plaque.
Mechanically, the Rocket 3 R Black and 3 GT Triple Black are identical to their standard Rocket 3 counterparts. The enormous 2,458cc in-line triple, which produces a robust 167 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and a stump-pulling 163 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, is still the star of the show.
They also feature a full suite of electronics with multiple ride modes, cornering ABS and traction control, hill-hold control, cruise control, keyless ignition and all-around LED lighting. The Rocket 3 GT Triple Black has heated grips as standard and are optional on the Rocket 3 R Black.
Helping visually separate the Rocket 3s are two distinct all-black color schemes. The sportier Rocket 3 R runs with an aggressive all-black colorway that focuses on matte finishes, while the Rocket 3 GT Triple Black boasts a high-gloss three-shade paint scheme. The Rocket 3 R Black opts for darkened tank badging while the GT Triple Black does not.
Draped in inky-black components from nose-to-tail, the Rocket R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black feature a bevy of blacked-out parts, an exclusive carbon-fiber front fender as well as a unique black finish on the engine. The in-line triple engine boasts a crinkle black power-coated intake cover, black headers, heat shields and black muffler end caps.
The ebony treatment doesn’t stop there, with each bike’s headlight bezels, windscreen finishers, radiator cowls, seat finishers and rear body finishers taking on a sable look.
Each Rocket’s lightweight 17-inch front and 16-inch rear wheel are anodized black and have black badging.
The Rocket 3’s adjustable Showa suspension wasn’t left out in the cold, with the fork lowers and shock rocker received black anodizing.
Nearly all of the touchpoints aboard each motorcycle are imbued in an ebony hue, and to that end, the handlebars, yokes, risers, brake and clutch levers, rider footrests, brake pedal, shift lever, heel guards, as well as the passenger footrests and hangers are black. Lastly, the premium bar-end mirrors and swingarm license plate holder are black.
MSRP for the 2022 Triumph Rocket 3 R Black is $23,700 and MSRP for the 2022 Triumph Rocket 3 GT Triple Black is $24,400. They are scheduled to arrive in dealers in April.
For more information, visit Triumph.
2022 Triumph Rocket 3 R Black Photo Gallery:
2022 Triumph Rocket 3 GT Triple Black:The post 2022 Triumph Rocket 3 R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black Announced first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>
Interested in a shiny new KTM street bike and want to give one a whirl? Well, here’s your chance! KTM North America is proud to announce the 2021 KTM Ride Orange Street Demo Tour, with dates all over the United States. Featured models include the KTM 890 Duke, KTM 390 Duke, KTM 200 Duke and KTM 390 Adventure. Demo slots are sure to be a hot commodity, as KTM is offering special incentives to participants.
The 2021 KTM Ride Orange Street Demo Tour is scheduled to kick-off Saturday, March 20, at KTM’s North American Headquarters in Murrieta, California. The tour will stop at participating KTM dealers across the U.S., and at several major motorcycle events, such as the Americade Motorcycle Rally and Touratech Rally.
Here is the nitty-gritty: Participants in the KTM Ride Orange Street Demo will get to experience some of KTM’s 2021 street model range, along pre-planned routes that highlight some of the best riding in the country. Also, demo riders will receive a $500 Ride Orange VIP Card voucher, exclusively redeemable on KTM PowerParts, KTM PowerWear and KTM SpareParts at any authorized KTM dealer, with the purchase of a new KTM street model. Ride a bike, buy a bike, and get free stuff? What’s not to like!
To be eligible for the KTM Ride Orange Street Demo Tour, you must be 25 years or older to ride 690cc and above; and at least 21 years or older for 390cc motorcycles. Those between the ages of 21-24 will only be eligible for 390cc motorcycles. Beginner riders are not allowed (experienced riders only). All participants must have a government-issued photo ID with a motorcycle endorsement and proper riding gear. Demo rides are on a first-come-first-served basis, and registration will occur on-site the morning of the event.
To see the most updated 2021 KTM Ride Orange Street Demo Tour calendar, visit KTM and connect with your local participating dealer or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to follow KTM USA on Facebook and Instagram for the latest information on events and much more.
2021 KTM Ride Orange Street Demo Tour Calendar:
|March 20||KTM North America, Inc.||Murrieta, CA|
|March 27||Phoenix Raceway||Avondale, AZ|
|March 27||Grandview Public Market||West Palm Beach, FL|
|March 28||Volusia Speedway Park||De Leon Springs, FL|
|April 17||GoPro Motorplex||Mooresville, NC|
|April 24||Skywood Trading Post & Deli||Woodside, CA|
|April 25||Sussex County Fairgrounds||Augusta, NJ|
|May 1||Atlanta Motor Speedway||Hampton, GA|
|May 15||Portland International Speedway||Portland, OR|
|May 15||TBD||Kansas City, MO|
|May 22||TBD||Seattle, WA|
|May 22||Texas Motor Speedway||Ft. Worth, TX|
|June 12||Bandimere Speedway||Morrison, CO|
|August 14||TBD||Minneapolis, MN|
|September 16-19||Touratech Rally||Plain, WA|
|September 21-26||Americade Motorcycle Rally||Lake George, NY|
We ride the 2020 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Rosso! MV Agusta’s middleweight upright sportbike is packed to the gills with style and performance.
The MV Agusta Brutale 800 Rosso is the base-model offering within the Brutale 800 range and despite its positioning, you’re still getting an extremely competent, decisively sporty and wickedly fun motorcycle.
What makes the Brutale 800 Rosso exciting is the 798cc triple-cylinder engine that features a counter-rotating crankshaft, designed to help improve the 800’s handling. The Rosso features a lower state-of-tune compared to the other Brutale 800 RR and 800 RR SCS and put down 100 horsepower and 54 lb-ft of torque on the Jett Tuning dyno. This engine is perky, fun and exhilarating.
The MV Agusta Brutale 800 Rosso is just as sporty as it looks, and the steel-trellis frame, along with the Marzocchi and Sachs suspension, all work together to make a sweet handling machine.
A full suite of electronics is standard, including adjustable traction control, ABS, and multiple ride modes. The electronic package works well. However, the LCD instrument panel is dated and has a complicated user interface.
Road Test Editor Nic de Sena spent some time with the 2020 MV Agusta Brutale 800 and shared his thoughts in this video.
Want the full specs and dyno chart? Check out our comprehensive review of the 2020 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Rosso!
For more information about this and other MV Agusta motorcycles, visit MV Agusta.The post 2020 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Rosso | Video Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.]]>