You’ll find heaven on two wheels at Toronto Motorcycle Show

I suspect that the motorcycle drawing the most attention at this weekend’s Toronto Motorcycle Show will also be one of its smallest. It will certainly be the smallest-displacement bike in the Harley-Davidson booth, where, if you wander over, you’ll catch a first look at Milwaukee’s new Street 750 (a 500-cc version, also available, will not be displayed at the show).

Both, however, are based on all-new, water-cooled V-twins, Harley’s first clean-sheet design in 13 years. With 60 degrees between their cylinders (the wider angle is to reduce seat height despite the inclusion of — will wonders never cease — modern overhead camshafts), the Revolution X four-valve motors still favour the loping beat that makes Harleys so unique. The Street 750 will be as much as 40 kilograms lighter than the company’s current Sportster, that light weight essentially for its intended young and newbie riders. For the same reason, seat height is kept at a minimum thanks to 17-inch (front) and 15-inch (rear) wheels. Harley will also be showing off its first water-cooled Big Twins, the Mount Rushmore-based 2014 Electra Glide Ultra Limited.

Honda’s booth will be dominated by two new performance cruisers, the first yet another rendition on the stripped Gold Wing theme. With 1,832 cubic centimetres, six cylinders and more than 100 pound-feet of torque at its disposal, Honda’s power-cruising should be plenty speedy, especially since it has lost about 70 kilograms of touring paraphernalia. Honda’s intent for the new Valkyrie couldn’t be clearer — the promotional video for the Valkyrie is long on burnt rubber and screaming motor with nary a lawyer’s caution to be found.

The other highlight of the Honda booth is the new CTX1300T, a new V4-powered sibling to the recently-released CTX700. Like the Valkyrie, the CTX is something of a power cruiser though it does sport luggage. Like the F6C, it too shares its engine with a touring bike, in this case the 1,261-cc V4 from the ST1300 sport-tourer. The CTX1300T comes fully equipped with traction control, ABS and a twin-speaker audio system with Bluetooth-to-helmet connectivity.

Honda Valkyrie F6C

Honda Valkyrie F6C
Handout, Honda

It should come as little surprise that BMW is offering up a new R1200 RT; last year’s upgrade of a liquid-cooled Boxer motor for the R1200 GS was always assured of making the transition to the touring icon. The company is claiming 125 horsepower from the 1,170-cc, partially water-cooled twin (the cylinders are still air cooled but the hotter cylinder head is cooled liquidly) and a stonking 92 lb.-ft. of torque. As befits the industry leader in high-tech electronics, the R1200 RT benefits from a two-position engine management system (with traction control) and electronically-adjustable suspension. The 2014 RT even incorporates an automotive-style Hill Start Control that makes taking off on a steep uphill easier since the brakes prevent the big Beemer from rolling backwards. BMW will also be showing off the naked version of its acclaimed superbike, the new-for-2014 S1000R sporting 160-hp and all manner of electronic management devices to harness all that power.

Kawasaki, meanwhile, has updated its Ninja 1000 with superior saddlebags, a torquier engine and better wind protection. Radial mount front brake calipers, a la ZX-10R, and anti-lock brakes ensure safe, short stopping, firmer suspension and more agile handling. A three-stage traction control system also has a setting for every road condition.

On the exotica front, one of the most eagerly awaited bikes will be MV Agusta’s Brutale 800 Dragster. Based on the unique 798-cc three-cylinder powerplant from the F3 800 super sport (itself a development of the high-revving F3 675), the Dragster is part superbike, part hypermotard, but all Italian moxie. MV claims that 125 torquey horsepower feeds the gargantuan 200/50-ZR17 rear tire and only has to motivate 167 kilograms. It should be a veritable wheelie machine though the Dragster has a full complement of MV’s sophisticated engine management software to harness all that power.

Yamaha, meanwhile, is showing off a mildly made-over Super Tenere ES with slightly increased horsepower but seriously updated, electronically-controlled KYB suspension that offers push-button selection of preload and damping settings. Cruise control and an adjustable windshield round off the comfort improvements.

Even more exciting in the adventure-touring department is Suzuki’s new V-Strom 1000. Unlike many of its competitors, the Suzuki is not getting bigger or more powerful; rather the Japanese giant is stressing light weight and mid-range torque, the 1,037-cc 90-degree V-twin especially punchy in the 4,000 to 8,000 rpm range. A rider-selectable, three-position traction control system is available as are anti-lock brakes and a full complement of touring luggage.

BMW R1200 RT

BMW R1200 RT
Handout, BMW

Rocket bike aims to shatter speed record

Triumph used to own the motorcycle land speed record; between 1955 and 1970, the famed British marque was the world’s fastest motorcycle for all but 33 days. Hot Rod Conspiracy, a Portland, Oregon specialty shop, is looking to regain that title using a streamliner powered by two Rocket III engines — de-stroked to 1500-cc and turbocharged to 500 horsepower each — built by famed tuning house, Carpenter Racing Engines. Ridden by Daytona 200 winner, Jason DiSalvo, the record to beat is 601.84 kilometres an hour (376.156 miles per hour) though there has been talk of being the first motorcycle to break the 400 mph barrier. It will be not be an easy task, if for no other reason than this Rocket is like nothing else on two wheels to ride. DiSalvo will be sitting upright in the eight-metre long “motorcycle” and be steering with push-pull control arms rather than a traditional handlebar. Most of the Rocket’s braking will be done by twin — high- and low-speed — parachutes. By August 15 (the end of famed Speed Week), Triumph is hoping to be back in the record books as the fastest two-wheeler in the planet.

Triumph Castrol Rocket

Triumph Castrol Rocket

About David Booth