New items 1998


New items 1998

Clear the stage

Enough of rumors and speculations: the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are finally lifting the iron curtain behind which they had hidden their new release for 1998 more jealously than ever.

The glass balls covered with fingerprints can end up in the sink, as can the bowls with the coffee grounds; the Erlkonigjager are allowed to dust the dust out of their camouflage suits, the press departments of the motorcycle importers have yet another year of rest from the annoying questions of curious journalists.
The battle for new products in 1998 – at least as far as the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are concerned – is essentially over. Whether the tough back and forth between the lines of attack and defense was worth it is a question of perspective. On the one hand, the really big aha experiences, such as those offered a year ago by Honda (VTR 1000 F and F6C) and Suzuki (TL 1000 S), are missing; on the other hand, there are positive trends that benefit a broader base. On the one hand, the middle class is enjoying positive enrichments through sporty, smartly designed naked bikes and nicely packaged tourers, on the other hand the trend towards catalytic exhaust gas cleaning finally seems to be getting a significant boost, and thirdly – at least in the sports segment – there is a laudable trend towards lighter-weight designs from.
A vivid example of how well a diet can work if it is followed consistently enough is Kawasaki’s redesigned ZX-9R. Whereby “completely renewed” is to be taken literally. The frame of the 1998 model condenses the wheelbase to only 1415 millimeters, the front wheel is between the bars of a conventional (because it is lighter) telescopic fork, the spring travel has been reassigned – a little more at the rear, a little less at the front. The motor also has less – namely weight – to offer: Reduced housing wall thicknesses and a cover made of magnesium make it possible. Of course, the four-cylinder also has more to offer – namely performance. Thanks to improved breathing technology – larger valves over a larger bore – the open version can be expected to generate over 140 hp. They only have to deal with 207 or 209 kilograms (ready to drive), whereby the higher value relates to the “D” version with stainless steel silencer and uncontrolled catalytic converter, the lower value to the “C” variant with cat-less titanium (! ) exhaust refers.
With the YZF-R1, Yamaha is aiming in the same direction as the green competition with the ZX-9R. The key data of the R1 give rise to the best hopes with regard to the expected driving dynamics: With all the juices of life on board, the super sports car should scratch the 200 kilogram limit – the rumored 152 hp will literally have an easy time of it. In view of these figures, it is not surprising that the R1 has nothing in common with the YZF 1000 R apart from basic structural features: new engine, new chassis with ultra-short wheelbase (1390 millimeters), new appearance with evil-looking double headlights.
As if a counterweight to so much sportiness was needed, Yamaha jumped on the slow train with a classic version of the Drag Star. With interlocked fork legs, cuddly front wheel and thick fenders, she kneels deep into the cruiser theme.
Suzuki does the same with the VL 1500. Based on the VS 1400 engine, its V2 expands with more stroke and enlarged bore to an image-enhancing 1.5 liter displacement. On the chassis side, the VL 1500 is based on a 150 / 80-16 tire at the front, which the rear 180 / 17-15 tries to follow at a distance of 1700 millimeters, which is likely to be a world record. The genre-typical accumulation of painted and chrome-plated sheet steel parts is reflected in a ready-to-drive weight beyond the 300 kilogram mark – not an easy game for the predicted 70 hp.
The engine of the TL 1000 R is much lighter than that. With a slightly higher compression – 11.7 instead of 11.3 – and modifications to the throttle valve and engine management, it separates from the extremely respectable 136 hp, which with a machine weight of 197 kilograms (dry) and with the help of an outer skin that is completely trimmed for aerodynamics, will ensure more than respectable driving performance. Their fear-free implementation is entrusted to a completely redesigned frame that bridges the gap between the steering head and the swing arm bearing section by means of box profiles. Six-piston brake calipers on 320 discs try to keep the power of the TL 1000 R under control.
Under the control of performance-hungry engineers, the GSX-R 600 mainly got down to business. A series of concerted measures on the intake tract and valve control – larger air boxes, changed intake lengths, tightened camshafts – are intended to increase the joie de vivre in the middle speed range and, by the way, to raise the peak power to 110 hp. A stronger clutch and a shorter ratio of the second gear can be seen as accompanying measures. On the chassis side, the 600 mm thick brake discs at the front, a modified fork set-up and the strut of the 750 mm sister. This, in turn, can look forward to a steering damper and – even more – an injection system that extends the range of power to 135 hp.
The newly clad GSX 600 F promises a wider range of uses. A fuller cladding with distinctive twin headlights should enhance the tourist qualities of the “F” without affecting its sporting facilities – after all, under the “sheet metal” everything has remained the same: steel bridge frame, lively 86 hp.
For purists who want to expose themselves to the elements unprotected, Suzuki will have the GSX 750 ready in addition to the two bandits. With a rounded tank and “stereo struts” on the rear swing arm, trimmed a little more for “retro”, well-engineered with the veteran air / oil-cooled four-cylinder, it is Suzuki’s answer to Kawasaki’s Zephyr 750 and Honda’s CB 750.
What at least Honda won’t let it sit on: The CB 600 Hornet (hornet) – special features: fat tires and raised exhaust system – competes against the Bandit 600 more than just one trick. With her aggressiveness signaling styling, but above all with her ultra-modern four-cylinder, borrowed from the CBR 600, which will only be slowed down slightly in terms of performance – rumors of more than 90 hp – she has what it takes.
In contrast, the NT 650 V is somewhat out of competition D.eauville, because where else can you find a two-cylinder touring bike with cardan drive and paneling with integrated luggage compartments. The fact that the NT 650 V is technically largely identical to the NTV 650 will not grieve anyone who knows about the reliability and undemanding of this bread-and-butter machine. But why does this motorcycle have the name of a glamorous French seaside resort on its lapel? who knows.

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