Well start of with the "Little Guys", which should be short and to the point. Either these bikes are out of some of our price range (Aprilias, Ducatis, etc.) or these bike are not exactly what one is looking for as a second or replacement bike (Triumphs).
At a MSRP of $17299.00, Aprilia's flagship, the RSV Mille R isn't for everyone. It 's a bike that actually shook up Ducati's 998 "V-Twin Throne" though. Something that was unthinkable just a few years ago. The Mille R is an amazing piece of workmanship and it's evident in the "beyond anal" attention to details. You do get what you paid for, but you also will pay for what you get. Starting off with the Ohlins suspension and damper to the new Brembo rotors and calipers (w/ individual brake pads for each caliper piston) with braided stainless steel brake lines, the bike just oozes "Cutting Edge".
The seating position actually seems a tad more comfortable than the new Ducati 999S. The Aprilia Mille R's seat is almost 1 1/2", yet it's peg and bar placement give a slightly more "in control" feeling. It almost feels lighter then the Duc, but I doubt if it is. It's probably due to the additional seat height. Other claimed improvements are the revalving of the Ohlins suspension, a more aerodynamic tail section and a new close ratio transmission. Those on a "budget" could save a little by going for the "non-R" RSV Mille. At a MSRP of $13,499.00, it might be cheaper, but would you really want to give up that Ohlins suspension for a Showa/Sachs combo? You couldn't even get a set of Ohlins forks for the price difference.
The Aprilia Tuono is to the Mille what the Fazer is to the R1. Though there is more in common, as far as shared items (i.e. the frame is also the same) between the two, it's still a "naked street fighter" that is a slightly detuned version of it's sibling.
For just obscenely way too much fun and almost reasonably priced, it's gotta be the RS50.
With a MSRP of $3549.00, this little 196 pound street legal play toy is the perfect scoot to terrorize all those old pesky YZR 50 scoots in your hood. No, it's nowhere close to the RS250 Challenge, but it doesn't have the RS250's $8,569.00 price tag either.
The RS50 is no pocket bike either. Aprilia say that the seat height is the same as the Mille (I don't believe them), but at about half the Mille's weight (and LESS the 1/2 of the Mille's HP... a lot less), this is probably the only way I could afford to have an Aprilia in my garage.
These folks are back with a vengeance. To illustrate their seriousness about the new design of the 999/999S, they brought this display version with clear bodywork.
Of course, the did have a "normal" 999S for the "great unwashed" (like myself) could actually sit on.
I say that because I fear that the folks at Ducati are getting a "Harley attitude" over their bikes and view all other sportbikes as also rans. This is sad and I'm afraid that this attitude is going to come back to bit them, if they aren't careful about their "Ducati Lifestyle" thing. This is not to say that the 999/999S is a bad bike, but there is a distinct possibility that their racing domination will be in serious jeopardy when the other liter bikes come onto the track to play. Especially on the short "go-cart like" tracks in the US (as the Europeans refer to them). It's one thing to whack a bunch of 750s, but when the other big boys come out to play, they'll be a tad bit more of serious competition and could end up making the Ducs the "also rans".
With the current attitude, they could end up being what Harley is to the cruiser world. Something that's way overpriced, doesn't perform as well as it competition and is living off of it's name alone. Again, the bike isn't bad and Ducati's have always been known as one of the handling kings that all others are judged against. This title is in no way under serious threat... yet. With the limited availability of the 999S and dealers' showrooms still filled with 998s, there could be a problem with getting the 999S and even the "regular" 999 models sold. The 999 (not the S) might have all the latest ergonomics and features over the 998, but it also weighs more (a whopping 3 pounds at 439) with the same amount of HP (okay, 1 more than the 998).
In my opinion, the 999S and 999 models are going to be sucked up by the wealthy wannabes and the 998 might become the "Bargain Duc" of the family. Like I said earlier, the 999S has a lower seat and still shares some of what I view as the "heaviness" of previous Ducs (i.e. the 916). Sure, that feeling goes away at speed, but seeing as how they were not offering test rides, I can't say how or if this aspect has been addressed. Still, it's a shame that the folks at Ducati have probably made improvements measured in leaps and bounds with their 999, but very few that can truly appreciate it will be able to own one. For thousands of dollars less, I'd probably take the "old" 998 or even better yet, a Aprilia Mille R.
Now the 749S is a completely different can of worms.
A tad portly at 439 pound (like the 999S/999 - what's with all their new bikes weighing 439?), the 749S has many of the same design features as it's bigger brother. With six more HP than the 748, the 749's engine seems more improved then the 999 vs. 998. It still boils down to how it compares to the competition. Like the wonderful MV Agusta, the 749 ends up sucking hind tit against the GSXR 750. That V-Twin power of the 749 might have it's advantages, but I don't ride "a name". I ride a motorcycle and I would expect a lot more out of my bike, when compared to the competition than just a bunch of over priced accessories and replacement parts. One could almost get TWO 600s for the price of a Ducati.
Nice try fellas, but you better look out. I think there's an Aprilia closing in on you.
What do you get when you take a radical approach to frame and suspension design and stuff an old, gutless, overweight V-Twin in it?
Buell's XB9S Lighting is defiantly a "could have, should have" bike. If the folks at HD would have let Buell stuff a V-Rod motor in this bike, they could have had something. With it's 92 HP and 68 ft/lbs, it seems that it just won't be enough. Thanks to the innovative design, it does have a claimed dry weight of 385 pound. With it's short 52" wheelbase and steep steering angle of just 21 degrees, the bike does have a compact feel to it. What's a shame is that it's MSRP of $9,995, all the techno wizardry could be easily overlooked for something like an R1. Of course, you wouldn't get this nifty cheese grater on back of the R1.
It's another British invasion and I'm not talking about Austin Powers either! Here's a perfect example of how to revive an old motorcycle marque the right way. While staying true to the nameplate with the Bonneville and Thunderbird, their attempt to crack into the sportbike world could hardly be called a failure. These folks just keep at it until they get it right. Case in point is the Daytona 955i Triple.
With close to 150 HP, you might not be setting any track records, but it's MSRP around $9700 makes one who actually is old enough to remember the Triumph name, take a second look. Sporting a single sided swingarm and real world, rider friendly ergonomics that won't have you going to a chiropractor after a 300 mile ride, the Daytona is a bike that should not be scoffed at. If the Triumph dealer in my area is any example of what you can expect in the way of service and parts availability, the folks at Triumph are willing to go all out to take care of their customers. I don't know if it's because they still have some '01 models on the floor or not, still there's no "Ducati Lifestyle" attitude here. Just a bunch of folks that remember what motorcycling is all about and still provide models that are both competitive and reasonably priced.
At just under $8000, the Sprint RS is the "Fazer" version of the Daytona. With the same 955 engine detuned to 118 HP, the RS still can keep up with the "big boys". I know this for a fact since one of the guys in our regular riding group has one. Not quite as "flashy" as this one (his is yellow), but it, like the Daytona, is a well engineered bike... in a British kind of way.
I'm not sure what to make of Triumph's latest 600 offering... the Speed Four.
The engine comes from the TT600 with different cams and fuel mapping to boost midrange torque. I don't know what the MSRP is on this scoot but I'm sure it will be reasonable for a 600 street fighter. Since it share more then just the engine from the TT600, I can figure that the naked bike probably handles fairly well too. For me, sitting on it was kinda weird, but I figure that's because I'm used to a little more aggressive seating position. If I was looking for a bike to putt around in town on and still be able to hit the twisties every once and a while, I would take a serious look at this "slightly different looking" bike.
Tomorrow.... on to the first of the "Big Four" reports!