“Practicality” can be a very subjective term. By general definition, it could be described as the inclination of being designed for actual work or useful activities. The current economic climate suggests that it’s less than practical for OEM’s to continue pushing out huge-bore cruisers and race-spec sport bikes at the rate that they were a half a decade ago.
With most folks having less disposable income, and with gas prices skyrocketing, many new releases available from the Japanese center around a different market segment in the United States than in years passed. Many of the newer models represent a big change in the American motorcycle market. Often referred to as UJMs (Universal Japanese Motorcycles), these multi-functional, efficient motorcycles that provide low-cost, fuel-efficient transportation are being ushered in to U.S. motorcycle dealerships where they are apparently well received.
From Honda, for instance, we have a new little gas-sipper of a motorcycle, a new 125 Scooter, and a bike that’s not quite new, but is new to us and exciting nonetheless. As an additional bonus, Honda has released some long-awaited information concerning the update to the Goldwing and another brand-new model for 2012 to entice us.
The biggest news is one of their smallest models — for America, anyway — the CBR250R and CBR250R ABS models. These feature a fuel-injected, single-cylinder, dual over-head cam, liquid-cooled, six-speed 249cc motor in a full-faired, awesome handling little chassis that’s ready to shred the streets of your town while garnering 55-60 mpg. This little bike, which Honda labels as a “first-time bike,” may not excel in any one particular aspect, but it does everything it is supposed to and does it well. In traditional Honda fashion, the CBR250R is designed to be very user-friendly and helps to inspire confidence. With optional ABS, adequate suspension and brakes — especially for city usage — and enough pace to keep you at or slightly above highway speeds without tickling the rev limiter, the CBR250R will definitely live up to its traditional Honda expectations.
The opposite side of the sporting spectrum brings us to the new (again, for America) CB1000R. A bike that we caught a glimpse of in 2007 before heading off to a European lifestyle, is now ready to stretch its legs on some American pavement. Honda has continued the standard production street fighter formula by re-working the already screaming 1000RR motor and re-tuned it for better mid-range performance. That means you don’t have to consistently flirt with the rev limiter to get adequate roll-on power. Honda went ahead and ditched the bodywork and clip-ons (and subsequent hunched-over riding position) and threw on a set of handlebars and a trick-looking single-sided swingarm. Instant hooligan! Available only in black and only by request, this naked canyon-killer has variations of all the brake and suspension goodness of its fully faired, race specific sibling.
Scooters are next on the list, and those who know how to enjoy the functionality of these two-wheeled little pack mules will be rewarded with less-frequent trips to the wallet and grins across your face. The PCX is an all-new liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 125cc single-cylinder fully automatic scoot. The PCX boasts impressive storage space under the seat (enough for a full-face helmet plus) and a glove box. The wheelbase is 51.4 inches, which helps make it nimble but combined with the 14-inch wheels, still offers a stable ride. A linked brake system to evenly distribute the stopping forces is a nice new touch, as well.
When taking a peek at what’s in store for 2012, Honda has delivered a much-anticipated update to the Goldwing. Revised bodywork for lower wind protection is the first noticeable detail, but once acquainted with the new look, you’ll have to check out the amenities to see the significant list of improvements. Integrated iPod connectivity, updated audio system with surround sound, increased storage capacity, Trip Planner that allows you to upload data from your computer, and a satellite-linked navigation system with a new GPS receiver for faster satellite download. All of these additions as well as the available options of 2010’s model that link the airbag, ABS, heated seats, grips, foot warmers, and tire pressure-monitoring system.
Another model that will officially make its debut in 2012 (at least in Europe) is the Crossrunner. An adventure-type bike (please note, I did not call it an adventure bike), it is powered by the same 782 cc V-4 mill that is found in the Honda Interceptor, including VTEC. It has similar practicality inspired features as an adventure bike, including upright ergos and ample passenger accommodations. But it’s definitely a little more street-oriented. There are rumors out there concerning a more dirt-friendly version in the near future. Early press intros give a very solid review concentrating mainly on its level of comfort, its very broad usable power delivery and sportier handling.
While there may not be a lot of new models debuting from Big Red, the models that they have chosen to offer us represent an important shift in what we are accustomed to. Practicality seems to be a common theme. Bikes with multiple functions, usable street-oriented power and comfort, top the list of priorities for development. But don’t mistake practicality for boring. Despite the functionality of these new models, they are still a blast to ride!
Written By: Jeff Liller of J&P Cycles (author bio coming soon!!)