Tokyo Motor Show: Two-Wheel Thunderdome


Honda EVO6

TOKYO — Although most of the media focus at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show is on the three convention halls stuffed with the latest four-wheel dream machines, Tokyo is the only major auto show that also showcases motorcycles. They’re over in a pulsating big top tent officially called the North Hall, but for bikers, it should be called Fantasyland — something on the order of “Blade Runner” meets the mechanical bull scene in “Urban Cowboy.”

Besides the eyeball-assaulting light show, music loud enough to make your ears bleed and models in go-go boots and vinyl minidresses, there is a full spectrum of new rides, from futuristic to retro.

Let’s start at the Honda booth, where on one side, it’s back to the future, and on the other, Jimmy Carter is president again: the CB1100F, to me, evokes great old Hondas like the CBX, albeit with fewer exhaust pipes. Others will see what they want to see, but either way, it’s a beaut. The CB1100R (R for race) is about as ’70s as shag carpet, monaural LPs and polyester pants. Great retro themes overall though, and certainly buildable.

Muscle Bike Party: the Honda EVO6 has some really outer-galaxy styling and it’s coupled with a smart use of Honda’s underutilized six-cylinder engine from the Gold Wing. Output in this format would be more than the Gold Wing’s 118 horsepower. It looks like the styling department, however, ran out of time before they got to the rear of the bike.

The Suzukis are wild. Silent runner: the Crosscage is a fuel cell bike that really works; no gas engine at all. The powerplant is made by Intelligent Energy of the U.K., the same group that made the ENV fuel cell bike I tested — and thought was viable even if it sounded like a U.F.O., not a bike. The Biplane supposedly has a V-4, but the show bike is most likely a make-believe mockup. Looks to be straight out of a video game. When will either Suzuki be produced? Right after the 12th of Never.

Suzuki Biplane

Yamaha’s Tesseract looks like it wound up on the cutting room floor from the “Transformers” movie. It has another one of those dreamweaver hybrid powerplants; the jury is out whether it would even be classified as a motorcycle. Would it look quite as cool with air bags, seatbelts and impact-resistant bumpers? I don’t think so. It’s kind of a grown-up version of one of those scooters for the “help-I’ve-fallen-and-can’t-get-up crowd.” Perfect for cruising supermarket aisles. A lot of showgoers cooed over the retro-classic Yamaha Sakura. A standard-style bike with an 1,100cc V-twin would generate a lot of showroom traffic, methinks.

Finally, at the Kawasaki stand, the Z1000 gets a new suspension layout that helps improve engine and exhaust placement; that, in turn, permitted some low- and mid-range performance gains. KZ also says this screamer has better suspension components and brakes. But the leaner, meaner ZX10R is the more significant new intro, now with 170-175 horsepower, thanks to dual fuel injectors on each cylinder. Compression ratio is up to — yikes — 12.7:1. Stand back when you fire that puppy up.

The Ninja ZX-14 had to be massaged to meet tighter emissions standards, especially in Europe, so Kawasaki engineers thought, “Why not ratchet up that engine output while we’re at it?” Horsepower was already an unpublished number, but now, figure it has been bumped north of 180 at the rear wheel, 200 or more at the crankshaft. Last but far from least: A new 2-into-1 exhaust on the Ninja 250R perks up the engine; a new full fairing perks up its looks.

Important Note: Kawasaki was showing bikes they will produce; the competitors were showing daydreams they (and we) wish they could.

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