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Motorcycles that fall out of the ordinary, part 2

Outstanding bikes from Kawasaki, Honda, Triumph and Harley-Davidson

It is not easy in life when you are different from the others. This is shown by the Kawasaki W 800, the Honda VT 1300 CX, the Triumph Rocket III and the Harley-Davidson XR 1200. These oven bikes, which stand out from their respective manufacturers, are all real character actors.

S.They are certainly elitist, not necessarily compatible with the masses, just extraordinary. They stand out due to their unique design, extreme technical solutions or a very special driving experience: motorcycles that expressly do not want to cater to broad tastes, but rather represent something special.

Motorcycles that fall out of the ordinary, part 2

Outstanding bikes from Kawasaki, Honda, Triumph and Harley-Davidson

Rocket III is more aimed at American tastes, but also found a lot of enthusiastic fans here. Kawasaki serves a completely different clientele with the nostalgic, beautiful W 800, which was launched in 1999 as the 650. And with the sporty XR 1200, Harley-Davidson is building on its glorious dirt track past.

Kawasaki W 800


Old or new? This is hardly noticeable on Kawasaki’s W 800 retro bike, a modern classic.

Konigswelle – what a promising word! That sounds like filigree mechanical engineering at its finest, like a downright aristocratic wave, which by its very nature makes a motorcycle the undisputed queen of the country road. Sober technicians will object that you no longer need a vertical shaft to design an exact camshaft drive. Probably true. But sober people are likely not to be charmed by a Kawasaki W 800 anyway.

Motorcycles trimmed for a retro look like them are now bustling around on the streets, but no other plays so consistently with the stylistic ingredients of the British 60s, from the bellows to the balloon mufflers to the sparkling spoked wheels at the rear. The fact that the two-cylinder relies on classic air cooling and has nicely chrome-plated cooling fins goes without saying in view of the nostalgic orientation. And to top it off, it has the nowadays unique vertical shaft on the right. It gives the parallel twin a characteristic shape and, with its slight hum, an equally characteristic sound.

The fact that the W 800 only gets 48 hp out of its 773 cm³ displacement does not concern lovers of the kind. Those who choose them do not want to break speed records on the autobahn, but rather make the unadulterated driving experience part of the program. As a purist, she brings neither ABS nor other modern electronic assistance systems with her.

However, she has to make a few concessions to modern times. Its direct predecessor, the W 650, which was introduced in 1999 and sparked real cheers, had taken the pure doctrine of the retro bike to the extreme and presented itself with carburetors, choke and kick starters. But when EU standards were tightened, she no longer passed the emission hurdles and Kawasaki forced her to retire in 2006.

Not intended for motorways and expressways


Unique and infinitely beautiful: the vertical shaft gives the W 800 that very special something.

The successor, the W 800, which made its debut last year, must now at least get involved with an injection; Choke and Kickstarter ended up on the rubbish heap of motorcycle history. However, this has not changed the nature of the Kawasaki or its dazzling appearance. The maximum torque is a meager 60 Newton meters, which it at least reaches far below in the engine speed range, namely at 2500 rpm. The W 800 bubbles slowly up from these depths and would like to shift up a gear very early, otherwise it will vent its anger with vibrations.

No, it doesn’t fit on the autobahn or on fast country roads, especially since the unchecked airstream spoils such excursions because you are welcomed sitting upright with your arms wide open. Only on narrow country roads does the retro queen show top form, falling with her narrow tires on a 19-inch rim at the front and an 18-inch rim at the back, as if by itself in an inclined position. She swings her only 217 kilograms around every corner with pleasure. Even on badly tarred pothole stretches, the telescopic fork dampens and springs properly, although the two struts look authentic, but are not the ultimate in comfort.

The only real drawback are the blunt brakes. Whereby the stylish drum brake decelerates surprisingly well at the rear, while the single disc at the front seems quite disinterested in the braking process. So, despite the bevel, isn’t it enough to be the Queen of the Road? Oh yes, but only with a rider in the narrow, but comfortable saddle who can renounce performance mania. The W 800 gives him a lively, purist experience. If, on the other hand, it feels overwhelmed, it reacts stubbornly. Kawasaki has definitely succeeded in creating an unusual motorcycle – graceful, personable and genuine through and through.

History of the Kawasaki W 800


The Kawasaki W 650 – the predecessor of the 800 series.

Everything just copied? Admittedly, the look of the W 800 seems to come straight from the glorious 50s and 60s of British motorcycle construction, but with this motorcycle Kawasaki has mainly copied from itself. Or, to put it more elegantly: let yourself be inspired. And several times, which is why the history of the W 800 is very complex.

The direct forerunner is of course the W 650, which appeared shortly before the turn of the millennium. Kawasaki heralded the retro fashion for motorcycles in the 90s and was quite successful with the four-cylinder Zephyr models or the ZRX, which were reminiscent of the superbikes of the 80s. Later other manufacturers from Triumph to Ducati jumped on this "back to the roots" train, but the title of trendsetter in this case clearly belongs to Kawasaki.

The W650 was by no means a good imitation of the old British style, but had forerunners in-house: the W-series, which was built from 1967 to 1975. It was a parallel twin with 625 cm³ and around 50 hp, which was available in different versions, from the W1 to the W2 Commander to the W3. This series was primarily intended for the North American market, but was soon beaten out of the field by multi-cylinder competitors such as Honda’s CB 750 or Kawasaki’s own Z1.

Anyone who smiles knowingly and says "Yes, but the W series itself was only a BSA copy" is not entirely correct. The story is more complicated because the W1 was again based on the Meguro brand K model. Nobody knows them anymore, but in the 1950s Meguro was one of the largest Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. The sources of the time do not agree on whether the Japanese received a license from BSA for the production of the A7 in the mid-1950s or whether they cheekily copied. What is certain is that Meguro ran into a financial bottleneck, whereupon the Kawasaki company, which until then was mainly active in heavy industry and produced trains and ships, initially acquired a stake in the motorcycle manufacturer in 1960 and took it over completely a little later.

The Meguro K underwent some technical changes from the oil pump to the chassis. Later the displacement of the two-cylinder engine was expanded to 625 cm³ and the design was modernized – the Kawasaki W1 was born. The W 800, however, has not yet achieved a huge public success, just as it is with its predecessor W 650. Although it is praised for its beguiling look with its bevel, cooling fins and spoked wheels, most buyers prefer modern models. In 2011 she found 529 lovers in Germany.


A very special class of retro bike.

Technical specifications

Double loop frame made of steel, five-speed gearbox, chain drive, two-arm swing arm and two spring struts.

Engine: two-cylinder in-line engine
Displacement: 773 cm³
Output: 35.0 kW (48 hp) at 6500 rpm
Torque: 60 Nm at 2500 rpm
Telescopic fork: Ø 39 mm
Front disc brake: Ø 300 mm
Rear drum brake: Ø 160 mm
Tank capacity: 14 liters
Weight with a full tank: 217 kg
Price: 8190 euros

Triumph rocket iii

Displacement cannot be replaced by anything! The 2.3 liter combustion chamber is a poem.

Have you ever flown into space with a rocket? During the hellish acceleration, mentally knocked directly on the Almighty? Did you know that since 2004 you can legally experience this feeling on the street? Not? The Triumph Rocket III has made it possible ever since. So bring the seat into the upright position, buckle up and take off.

A mere 2.3 liter displacement makes you sweat – even before you are even near the motorcycle. The really tough guys may not be unsettled by this number, they probably belong to the old caliber, for which displacement cannot be replaced by anything. But the Rocket has even more to offer: 361 kilograms of live steel weight, just under 1.70 meters of wheelbase, a rear tire in truck-like dimensions 240/50 R 16 and, not to forget, 200 Newton meters of torque at 3100 revolutions.
Intimidated now? No wonder!

The data from the moving rocket speaks for itself and is still today
unbeaten in series production. But pinching doesn’t count. You sit carefully at a low height of 74 centimeters, after all you don’t want to cold-deform the sheer mass directly. Thanks to the dry sump lubrication and the crankshaft rotating just under 20 centimeters above the asphalt, the Rocket has a low center of gravity. This promotes a good stand and even gives hope for a touch of handling.

Well, let’s fire up the triple rocket drive installed lengthways with its five-speed gearbox arranged parallel to the cylinders. The engine babbles to itself. The clutch is incredibly easy to pull, with a little pressure the first, and later also the other four gears. The trick: the multi-disc oil bath clutch is driven on the front of the engine by the primary drive at a speed close to the crankshaft speed, which means that it only has to transmit comparatively little torque. This gives confidence and at the same time takes away the fear that the Triumph will drive as monumentally as it just presented itself.

Despite its mass, the Rocket drives nimbly

The handlebar is cranked towards the driver, the handlebar ends offer plenty of grip: good conditions for a lot of power.

Idle throttle is sufficient so that the run slowly starts moving and the sound of the engine becomes a shade duller. After a few meters, the first all-clear follows: Despite its mass, the Rocket drives fairly light-footed and does not have to be brutally grabbed by the ears to follow the targeted line. You could almost believe that it is a completely normal motorcycle, because the ergonomics of the Triumph is also based on classic cruisers: low, far forward-lying footrests, wide handlebars, thickly padded seat.

With convincing agility, the Triumph can be steered through wide curves, almost sportily driven through the landscape. But be careful! The footrests are quickly attached, followed by their rigidly bolted brackets to the frame. So the pace has to be right, as well as the quality of the asphalt. The thick 240 mm slipper sends every bump, every pothole as a disruptive impulse to the chassis.

In combination with the underdamped spring elements, you have your hands full to catch the swaying load again. But one grip and one step on the great brakes (from 2010 with ABS), and the Rocket calms down. Finally the road sign for the full throttle permit comes within sight. So moisten your lips, tighten your clothes, clasp your arms on the handlebars. One last look towards the sky, then it’s all about.

The motorcycle pushes off vehemently from idle speed. From 2000 revolutions the engine hisses like a starting cruise missile and the Rocket pulls ahead extremely powerfully and confidently. 4000, 6000 revolutions and just one question: How long can arms get before they fall off? At 200 Newton meters of pressure, words are lacking. Only one thing is certain: this motorcycle is a rocket. Completely legal for private use.

History of the Triumph Rocket III

The Triumph Rocket III is a rocket – and that on the streets.

Bigger is definitely better. ”This saying was actually a premise for establishing the first cruiser in the Triumph model range. After all, the aim was no less than to create “the largest and most impressive production motorcycle the world has ever seen”. This was at least in the 2004 press release for the launch of the Rocket III. Since the cruiser segment prospered excellently on the US market, Triumph decided at the start of development in 1998 to gear the design of the new bike mainly to the local clientele.

Consumer opinions were included in the development from the start. The fear on the part of the manufacturer was great that the subject would be interpreted too European and thus bypassing the American buyer. In three large-scale, successive surveys in 2000, it emerged that a classic cruiser look was preferred over the more modern and more aggressive model designs.

On the engine side, the motto for potential US buyers was crystal clear: "The bigger, the better." Tea motorcycle should combine three essential features: unmistakable Triumph optics, an engine that dominates everything and a massive rear tire. So Triumph began the layout for the engine that same year. In the beginning, the idea of ​​transplanting an in-line four-cylinder or even a V6 engine into the Rocket III was toyed with, but in keeping with the Triumph company philosophy, the decision was made to use a three-cylinder with 1,600 cubic meters, but installed lengthways. Since during the development phase the other manufacturers brought models onto the market that had the same or significantly more cubic capacity (Yamaha XV 1600 Wildstar, Honda VTX 1800 etc.), Triumph increased the volume of the centerpiece until the final 2300 cubic meters were reached considered "big" enough.

Despite the large engine, the Rocket should be more active and sportier than the competition. That is why the Triumph engineers resorted to all sorts of technical tricks. In order to keep the wheelbase as small as possible, the drive train did not move behind the engine, as is usually the case, but next to it at the level of the crankshaft. The primary drive and clutch were located on the front of the engine, followed by the five-speed gearbox. Dry sump lubrication enabled a low overall height and a low center of gravity.

Not just a rear tire, but a monument: Dimension 240/50 R 16.

The goal of being different and at the same time stronger and better, Triumph definitely succeeded in interpreting the cruiser. The registration numbers are impressive. Including the model variants Roadster and Touring, Triumph has sold almost 1,600 units in Germany to date. Apparently the Europeans also like the motto of the Rocket III: "Bigger is better."

Technical specifications

Bridge frame made of steel, two-arm swing arm, two struts, five-speed gearbox and cardan.

Engine: three-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine
Displacement: 2294 cm³
Output: 103.0 kW (140 PS) at 5750 rpm
Torque: 200 Nm at 2500 rpm
Upside-down fork: Ø 43 mm
Double disc brake in front: Ø 320 mm
Rear disc brake: Ø 316 mm
Tank capacity: 25 liters
Weight with a full tank: 361 kg
Price: 17,990 euros (2009)

Honda VT 1300 CX


What this picture does not say: The journey on the blue into the same can also be curvy.

Most Honda motorcycles have a reputation for being robust, reliable and extremely functional. These properties are embodied in an exemplary manner by the Transalp or the CBF 600 / CBF 1000, for example. Unfortunately, these virtues usually go hand in hand with a certain lack of emotion and lack of irritation. This is also embodied in a picture book by the models mentioned above.

But there are exceptions: Almost exactly once every decade, the freaks in the development departments gain the upper hand over the accountants and such wonderful motorcycles as the legendary noble racer RC 30 at the end of the 80s, the brilliant Fireblade in the 90s, are created. which mixed up the supersport segment, or the posh-made touring sporty heavyweight CB 1300 in the noughties. The friends of long forks are currently being served.

At the beginning there is the question: How does a chopper work? Because unlike with planers, where the task is clear (praise what makes things fast!), The requirement profile in the cruiser scene consists of three points: optics, optics, optics. But Honda wouldn’t be Honda if it weren’t for the doctrine: Form follows function. The form has to follow the function.
Which is why the 1300 sold under the name Fury in the USA is satisfied with a 200 skin on the hindquarters, for example. Because of the drivability, because the market offers much broader alternatives.

But the Honda not only choppers straight ahead, relaxed, towards the sunset, but also shows no serious nakedness in winding terrain. Because of the better and safer brakeability, the custom cruiser off the shelf in this country is only available with ABS-controlled, albeit quite blunt, partially integrated brake. A useful feature, especially with a long fork, as it offers little feel for the front wheel due to the concept. In addition, cruiser friends tend not to be part of the scene guzzling miles, with the corresponding effects on reflexes and routine.

Sufficient 58 HP – but the hammer cannot be swung with it

Nothing to complain about the posture – on the custom bike you sit only 68 cm above the ground.

The 58 horses or 107 Newton meters are sufficient for species-appropriate locomotion, the very clean and – read correctly, because you can hardly see it – water-cooled V2 developed from a well-poured 1.3 liter displacement, but you can do the really big hammer with it not swing. The pull rates are behind those of the direct competition. But this actually only bothers in a direct comparison. On the other hand, it runs almost without vibrations and its power is very well dampened via a visually discreet and scene-untypical cardan drive to the rear wheel.

It is rather annoying that the VT turns out to be a blender in the second most important property for cruisers, the haptics. Whether headlights, indicators, speedometers, mudguards, engine covers, cylinder head covers or license plate holders, the knock test results in a thin pling-pling instead of a full toggle.

All of the attachments mentioned are made of plain plastic instead of solid sheet metal. Presumably for reasons of maneuverability, but the blue buck, which is also available in bad black, weighs a proud 311 kilograms. There is nothing to complain about about the sitting posture. In a word: cool. In two words: very cool. You sit almost 68 centimeters above the road, slightly jackknife-like, but not too uncomfortable.

So the bottom line is that this Honda is a highly functional custom bike. But this is only partially reflected in the sales. From the market launch up to and including July 2012, only 397 Furys were sold in this country. It is probably too mundane for the true custom freak and too uncompromising for the fringed jacket fraction.

History of the Honda VT 1300 CX


Custom means something like tailor-made according to customer requirements. Which is why only the taste of the builder counts when it comes to custom bikes. This high-neck model shows how wide the range is.

When it comes to real, tough choppers, most manufacturers have to pass. Only Harley-Davidson builds such uncompromising long forks here and there – such as the Rocker C -, mostly at prices that are not exactly mass-compatible. Even more expensive and extreme are exclusive Harley-based conversions by small refiners and specialists, in most cases pure show bikes, which deliberately do without any suitability for everyday use. We have graciously put a cloak of silence on past, pompous excesses from the big Japanese manufacturers or from Germany.

“It has to work differently,” thought the designers from HRA (Honda Research America). "Why not even set up an affordable, really spectacular-looking chopper based on a series machine? "So the motto was moving away from the baroque, the goal was to build the most radical cruiser that ever appeared on a Japanese assembly line. One remembered the origins of the chopper. To chop means to chop off, i.e. to leave out. And so the new top model is radically reduced and clean.

All lines and cables were laid out of sight as much as possible, the water cooler can only be seen at second glance. The rigid frame look fits perfectly into the concept.
The large, thin front wheel and the high-neck frame (in German: high neck, here is the steering head) give the Honda a visual lightness that is a stark contrast to the current cruisers. The technical basis of the machine called "Fury" in the USA is the drive of the cruiser VTX 1300. However, the V2 still made 75 hp there, while in the Fury it had to be content with a moderate 58 hp.

Perhaps this is also the reason why the VT 1300 CX sold at best mediocre in this country. The Honda engine can by no means offer the full blow of a Harley, the V2 actually always seems pretty exhausted. There is simply a lack of torque.

The slim tank ensures internally ventilated legs and a clear view of the units.

And optically, the Honda chopper turns out to be a blender on closer inspection. Where solid, chrome-plated iron or aluminum can be found on a Harley, on the Honda you come across plain plastic. Wherever you look and what you touch – everything is chrome-plated with a high-gloss finish, but made of plastic. This is inexpensive, but looks cheap and is difficult to convey to the targeted audience.

Technical specifications

Double loop frame made of steel, five-speed gearbox, cardan, double swing arm, central spring strut and ABS.

Engine: two cylinder 52 degree V engine
Displacement: 1312 cm³
Output: 42.5 kW (58 hp) at 4250 rpm
Torque: 107 Nm at 2250 rpm
Telescopic fork: Ø 45 mm
Forehead disc brake: Ø 336 mm
Rear disc brake: Ø 296 mm
Tank capacity: 12.8 liters
Weight with a full tank: 311 kg
Price: 14,885 euros

Harley-Davidson XR 1200


The XR 1200 builds on the dirt track successes and should be the sportiest Harley of all time.

When Harley-Davidson introduces a new model, it is usually a rather closer one
leisurely event. You roll a bit through the landscape and let the current – mostly optical rather than technical – innovations have an enjoyable effect on you. As a result, such an event is usually completely relaxed and trouble-free, i.e. without any unscheduled incidents or even falls. And the more reason-oriented German-speaking group of journalists hardly breaks anything anyway.

However, when the XR 1200 was presented in Valencia in early 2008, that was completely different. Three machines were scrapped on the day it was the Germans’ turn, one by the author himself in a very spectacular way; there were certainly not too many individual parts that could be used.

What was the reason for this unusual series of accidents? Sure that the sporty XR 1200 encouraged some pilots to be overly motivated to drive. According to the motto: Finally a Harley with which you can really let it rip. A certain restraint is recommended, because a Sportster won’t turn into a pure athlete that quickly, even if XR is on the tank.

Right turns, for example, are very treacherous, because the bends below hit the ground quite late, but then quite hard and suddenly lift the load out. The author rasped material from the manifolds for a whole day without falling, but then fired his machine on the brakes into botany towards evening. The front system bites – completely untypical for Harley – extremely poisonous, lacks any feedback near the blocking limit. In addition, there were initial tires with the treacherous Dunlop Qualifier, which offered little grip on poor Spanish asphalt and, with its fine line between grip and slipping, could ensure sudden takeoffs.

Despite its flaws, the engine is convincing


The 91 hp engine comes mainly from the Buell models.

The stubborn suspension of the XR wasn’t exactly helpful either. Which would already list a number of shortcomings of the XR 1200. To conclude from this that the XR was a crutch would not do it justice. On the contrary, it inspires with a great engine, the main features of which were taken over from the last Buell models. In order to comply with the current emission regulations, a few horses still had to believe it, but with a good 90 hp there are still enough ponies left to enjoy a lot of driving fun on the country road. Especially since the V2 pushes out of the curves in the middle with the typical Harley beat.

If you want to, the 1200 turns with relish up to the limiter, which means over 200 km / h in the last gear. Harley himself says: The XR 1200 is the “most dynamic series Harley of all time”. The designers tried hard to put this great drive in an adequate chassis. They also donated him a massive aluminum swing arm and a stiff upside-down fork. Although this brings noticeable rigidity to the limp Sportster framework, the XR is of course still not a racer, the high weight of more than 260 kilograms already stands in the way.

So the XR 1200 may not implement consistently enough what the Dirt Track ancestors had hoped for. Especially in the USA, where dirt track was a national sport for a long time, it was only sold a year later than in Europe and was never noticed. In the motherland, Harleys are cruisers or choppers, nothing else interests the buyer there. So it is not surprising that the project came about only at the urging of the European importers and that development was taking place here in Europe too. Now the XR is about to end, and the skeptics were right: Maybe it doesn’t go together, Harley and Sport.

History of the Harley-Davidson XR 1200

Double red

Unbeatably beautiful and incredibly fast: filigree dirt track racing machine with an XR 750 engine.

Harley and racing, they don’t go together at all: an opinion that is widespread in this country, but one that is completely wrong. In the USA, the domestic manufacturer dominates a discipline that was more popular there than any other motorcycle sport, at least in its heyday in the 60s and 70s. We are talking about the dirt track, where large groups drift for victory over a mile or half a mile on specially prepared terrain. Street stars like Kenny Roberts in the past or Nicky Hayden today have trained their driving skills in the slippery oval. And this is where Harley has always been dominant, from the early days of the sport in the 1920s until today.

But in the meantime, at the end of the 1960s, the more modern engines from England gained in importance. Especially after the displacement handicap for ohv engines was lifted in 1969 and a uniform limit of 750 cm³ was introduced. Harley had to react and replace the completely antiquated KR racing machine with upright valves with a more modern one. The legendary XR 750, which was used from 1970, was created, the engine of which was derived from the Sportster V2 at the time. But the rear cylinder head was rotated 180 degrees so that the XR breathed through two carburettors.

After the racing drivers began to transplant the 80 hp XR engine into lighter and better chassis, Harley stopped production of the XR 750 due to lack of demand in 1983. The XR engines, however, are largely unchanged to this day, built in their own factory and sold for sinfully expensive money.
From 1983 onwards, Harley offered the XR 1000 road machine, a Sportster with the typical arrangement of the two carburettors with the large K, in small series – around 1000 pieces, officially only seven of them for Germany&N filters on the right. The XR 1000 engine delivered 67 hp, which was considered sensational at the time. But the expensive XR 1000 was ultimately a flop because it was much cheaper to build such a machine yourself with the appropriate conversion parts.

The XR 1200 was the second attempt to implant dirt track feeling in a street machine. After all, with greater success than with the XR 1000; in Germany, Harley was able to sell around 250 machines in each of the first three years. But although the model was upgraded from 2010 as the XR 1200 X with improved suspension elements and an optimized braking system, the sales figures recently fell. In 2013, the XR should disappear from the Harley program again.

Double red

Due to a lack of demand, the Harley-Davidson XR 1200 will disappear from the market in 2013.

Technical specifications

Double loop frame made of steel, five-speed gearbox, belt drive, aluminum swing arm and two spring struts.

Motor: 45 degree V2 motor
Displacement: 1202 cm³
Output: 67 kW (91 PS) at 7000 rpm
Torque: 100 Nm at 3700 rpm
Upside-down fork: Ø 43 mm
Double disc brake at the front: Ø 292 mm
Rear disc brake: Ø 260 mm
Tank capacity: 13.3 liters
Weight with a full tank: 263 kg
Price: 11,990 euros

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