The Dust Has Settled At The 2017 TMS; What Does It Mean?
Looking Back At The Newest And Most Noteworthyby TJ Hinton, on
This year’s show was interesting in more than the usual, mundane ways, to say the least. First off, Yamaha than Valentino Rossi. Ambitious? You could say that. You could also say outmatched, at least for the time being. Second, the self-balancing technology exhibited in the MOTOROID is worthy of attention and put me in mind of some Nightrider stuff as it responded to commands and physical contact and all that. Then, we have some new electrics on......well, let’s just look at some of the yummy-goodness in the after-show glow.
Continue reading for my look back at TMS.
The fact that an AI-controlled racebike was able to challenge a GOAT and walk away unashamed having acquitted itself admirably in an unprecedented show of technological prowess is certainly worth a salute.
I’ll admit, at only 32-seconds slower, the BOT did better than I thought it would, and probably far better than I would do. The fact that Valentino won isn’t news, but the fact that an AI-controlled racebike was able to challenge a GOAT and walk away unashamed having acquitted itself admirably in an unprecedented show of technological prowess certainly is a major big deal. Consider the fact that the BOT is supposed to have learning capabilities with a capacity for adaptive strategies, so who knows what the coming years will bring as Yamaha puts more track hours on its nifty little racer robot. How does it pertain to rider technologies? According to the Tuning Fork Company, they expect it to help them develop rider-safety features, but I think they’re mainly doing it just because they can, and who knows, maybe this can become some sort of automated courier service or some such one day.
The futuristic-looking bike responds to touches and hand gestures as a representative guides it across the stage.
Self-balancing technology is definitely on the front-burner this year with another offering from Yamaha in the form of the MOTOROID, a curious-looking thing to be sure. In a demonstration of the technology, the futuristic-looking bike responds to touches and hand gestures as a representative guides it across the stage. At a touch, the swingarm pivots around the longitudinal horizontal axis to lift itself off the side stand where it then stands motionless, even resisting gentle shoves from the operator to hold itself upright with nary a wobble; not unlike Honda’s self-balancing concept that kicks in at 3 MPH and less to hold itself upright automatically while extending the wheelbase with articulated front forks for greater stability.
How will this play into the market? Well, it can make bikes safer as slow speeds, and it can open up two-wheel riding to folks who, for whatever reason, may have had to explore the trike option instead. The old, the weak and the lazy would all benefit from this tech, to be sure, and it fits well with the direction some in the automotive industry are headed with autonomous, self-driving cars, emergency crash-avoidance intervention and such like. Not only is this a step forward in the name of convenience and safety, but both rides are all-electric which puts EV tech front and center as well, and that’s always a good thing, right? Yamaha also treats us to the Gen-Ryu, a hybrid-powered, ’60s-style cruiser that uses an R6 ICE and electric motor to drive its Cadillac-inspired carcass around.
Honda PCX and Monkey Bike
Two new PCX scooters, one electric and one hybrid.
Honda pushes on into fresh territory with a pair of new PCX scooters; one with an all-electric drive, and another with a hybrid drive that has a large battery and some sort of ICE as a range-extender. Why is this important? Well, so far we have seen some lukewarm efforts by a few of the big-name companies to produce an EV bike/scooter, but most of the development seems to be coming from the “small guy” sector from the likes of Zero and Energica, though there’s still hope that Polaris will do something with the Brammo/Empulse design it acquired along with the Victory marque.
The Red Riders also channeled the past a bit with a new Monkey-bike concept model that is sure to strike a chord with those familiar with the family. Is a monkey bike-style ride particularly useful? Probably not, but there are a few Groms and Z125 Pro models in my immediate area, and those guys use them as commuters, so I reckon it’s probably fine in areas with limited speed limits.
Battle Of The Leaning Delta Trikes
Where the Niken's looks are shall we say, subjective, the Neowing looks badass in a Bruce Wayne kind of way.
As an offset to the leaning-Delta-trike Yamaha Niken, Honda brought out its Neowing again that behaves the same as far as leaning into the corners, but where the Niken’s looks are shall we say, subjective, the Neowing looks badass in a Bruce Wayne kind of way. No matter which you prefer, these rides bring trikes closer to delivering a two wheel-like experience complete with leaning into the corners and countersteering, so they’re more likely to appeal to someone transitioning away from bikes than a fixed trike like the Delta Spyder or the old-school Tri-Glide and Freewheeler from Harley-Davidson.
Kawasaki came out swinging with a host of Ninja yummygoodness in the updated Ninja 250 and all-new Ninja 400 that replaces the 300. As cool as that is, it’s the Z900RS that steals the show. Retro good looks hail back to the 1972 Kawi Z1 for inspiration with a teardrop fueltank and faux tuck-and-roll bench seat. That fits well with the Millennial’s tastes as it seems they have something of a bent for classic UJM models.
The Z runs a 948 cc plant that comes tuned to deliver 111-ponies and 53.5 pound-feet of torque, plus it sports a bi-level traction control to help you safely get the most out of that power. The gearbox runs a shorter first gear to smooth out takeoffs with a tall sixth gear for less-than-frenetic highway work. A slipper clutch provides low-effort clutch pulls and anti-hop protection for another layer of traction insurance. Neo-classic design is hot right now, and Kawi isn’t going to miss out on any of the action as long as it keeps making rides with roots like these, and that’s especially important as the market continues to shift away from Boomers and Xers to favor the youngest buying force.
What’s New in the GSX Stable?
Small engines are no longer necessarily part of a journey; more and more they are actually the destination.
I would be remiss if I didn’t swing by Suzuki to take a peek. Here I found the GSX-R125, and the pocket sport-tourish GSX250R. The 125 gets a 124.4 cc, water-cooled thumper with EFI and ABS while the 250 carries a 248 cc twin that delivers 25 horsepower with a six-speed gearbox and KYB stems all around.
These rides add more options for folks looking at bottom-end displacement bikes, and that’s important since small engines are no longer necessarily part of a journey, more and more they are actually the destination. The new younger power bloc favors frugality and pragmatism when it comes to displacement, and they seem to hold themselves aloof from the “mine’s bigger than yours” competition. In other words, the race to the bottom is no longer just about grabbing the entry level riders for early indoctrination. It is also about establishing a persistent, small-displacement customer base for the foreseeable future, at least until the Millennials’ kids start buying bikes, that is.
I'm not sure that the whole of the bike is all that retro; it seems like the bullet fairing up front is the only solid connection to any sort of historical base.
As we established before; the youngers like the retro thing, specifically the era of their parents’ youth it seems, and Suzuki tries to capitalize on that with its new SV650X. I gotta say, I’m not sure that the whole of the bike is all that retro, and it seems like the bullet fairing up front is the only solid connection to any sort of historical base. Don’t take that to mean I don’t like the way it looks, ’cause it’s actually a pretty cool bike, I just don’t feel the retro vibe quite like I get from the Z900RS, for example.
Too bad they didn't get the memo that it's okay to put 16-inch wheels on scooters now.
Although it’s mainly geared toward the European and Asian markets, the Swish scooter deserves an honorable mention. It’s a 125 cc scooter that sports a tasteful design with LED lighting and a full step-through for urban commutes. A tapered tail gives the ride a sporty finish with tucked-away lights and a combo plateholder mudguard, all pretty standard stuff for a scooter just in a new body design. Too bad they didn’t get the memo that it’s okay to put 16-inch wheels on scooters now. Still, it’s an attractive design, and should do well in the aforementioned markets, if not so much here.
There You Have It
That’s about it for now, folks. While I could fill a novel with all the things I didn’t mention, these are the more noteworthy of the available options. Stay tuned for first looks and full reviews from the show in the coming weeks.