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Tokyo Motor Show: The Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson has a booth at the show

The 41st Tokyo Motor Show is in full swing, with thousands of visitors pawing through the hundreds of exhibitors’ booths. But motorcycle fans may be disappointed by the scant offerings of the three Japanese manufacturers that bothered to get a booth in the 228,000 square foot exhibit hall in the Tokyo suburb of Chiba City.

Attendance and exhibits are way down from the show’s 1991 peak. Among the major Japanese manufacturers, only Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha have booths, with Kawasaki being conspicuously absent (after all, even Harley-Davidson has a booth, complete with Buell models in it!). The number of new models and concept bikes is pretty skimpy.

Honda CB1100
Honda CB1100 Cafe

Honda

Honda’s booth is the biggest at the show, with cars, motorcycles and power equipment all on display together. Probably of biggest interest is a very production-ready CB1100 standard similar to the concept versions shown in 2007. It has a tube-steel frame and air-cooled, four-cylinder engine, just like grandpa’s CB750, except with cool modern-retro styling. There’s also a “Customize Concept” version with black-finish exhaust and bikini fairing. Very cool. Honda says the CB1100 is a “planned production” vehicle, but when, where and for how much is still unspoken.

The show’s theme is green, and Honda has its share of electric four and two-wheelers. The EVE-neo is one of them. It appears to be a production-ready electric scooter that doesn’t look particularly fast, but it should be cheap to run and will probably get you most of the way to work. All kidding aside, electric vehicles are where it’s at for most markets, especially congested, smog-choked Asian metropolitan areas.

Those areas might be ironically congested with some of the tens of millions of Honda Cubs that have been produced since the 1950s. Honda has a concept version of that ubiquitous bike in its display, with what looks like hub-mounted electric motors. If that’s too much excitement for you, take a seat on the concept U3-X. No, it’s not an electronic banjo. It’s a self-balancing unicycle that weighs less than 22 pounds and can propel its user around for a full hour at a fun-filled 12 mph. It folds up so you can take it on the bus or load it in your car. It’s way beyond the concept stage; you can watch it in action in this video. Probably the coolest and most futuristic feature is the “tire” design, which is actually composed of a bunch of little multi-directional wheels. Is this the future of personal transport? Certainly a future, I’d say. Me, I’ll be on my motorcycle.

Suzuki

In addition to Suzuki’s regular offerings, including the new Bandit 1200, a concept fuel-cell Burgman scooter is in the Suzuki display. A logical next step from the Crosscage concept first seen in 2007, the Burgman concept uses an air-cooled fuel cell and high-pressure hydrogen tank for maximum range. No word, of course, on when or if this would be available; don’t hold your breath, though, as fuel cells ain’t cheap.

Yamaha

The Yamaha booth reflects two things: Yamaha’s commitment to excellence in engineering as well as eco-friendliness. Two different electric commuter two-wheelers are prominent, the EC-f and EC-03. The EC-f is the toy-like thing that looks like a glowing X, and Yamaha isn’t providing much information about this concept, just that since “it doesn’t need exhaust parts, there is much greater freedom of design.” Sure, it looks like an iMac from the late ’90s, but it does hint at the freedom designers will have with electric vehicles; who knows where that will lead?

Yamaha EC-03

More down-to-earth is the EC-03, an aluminum-framed update of the Yamaha Passol e-bike. There is also a new Super Tenere, an update of the single-cylinder adventure bike that’s very popular in Japan and Europe. The new version will have ABS, traction control and other high-tech novelties, but the show version was wrapped in cloth to mimic a desert nomad. And for you classic thumper fans, Yamaha also showed off a fuel-injected version of its venerable SR400…yep, you can still buy the SR Single 31 years after its debut. Just not in the USA.

Let’s hope the 2011 show reflects a fully recovered, robust global market as motorcycle sales recover.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • something missing on that Super Tenere. Like the motor. It’s an odd image, what with the totally transparent lump, the dessert cloth wrap, & the upturned gaze.. What’s the deal? No explanation in the text that I can spot. Cheers. Always enjoy your work, Gabe. Pete
  • Reading your article today on the Tokyo Motor Show I noticed no mention of Kawasaki.

    What is Kawasaki’s problem? I am an admitted ZRX nut job. I love my ’99 ZRX1100 and am planning a ground up maintenance party this winter for it. We also have a ’02 ZRX1200 and my current project bike is a ’00 ZRX1100 that had an unfortunate meeting with a ditch. Having this blank canvass to work on I can have all sorts of fun doing mods that I would never dream of doing to my un-dropped ’99. Know what I have been envisioning it will look like? The red Honda CB1100 Cafe in this article. ‘cept for the color and the name badge, of course. I’m documenting the ProjZRX here: http://www.kawsonthefarm.com/projzrx/projzrx.htm

    I just don’t get it. Almost ALL the manufacturers are producing naked bikes in the ZRX mold. Except Kawi. I know, I know, that’s not true. Momma Kawi does have a brand new ’09 ZRX1200. For sale in Japan only. Can’t they send a few over here? What if they shoe horned a 1400 engine in one? A ZRX1400!! Could you imagine that!!! Oh dear. Must go take a cold shower now.

    Kawasaki – I would send in a deposit today for a brand new ’09 or ’10 ZRX1200. I would beg, borrow and/or steal and pay you in full TODAY to be put on a waiting list for a ZRX1400.

    Thanks for letting me rant, John