Bikesrepublic

Wahid Ooi

  • The Kawasaki Z900RS is inspired by the 1972 Z1.

  • Was it classic or classy?

  • Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia) gave us a brief taste of the bike.

Hot on the heels of the Kawasaki Z900RS’s launch on 27th February 2018, Kawasaki Motor (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. (KMMSB) organized a Kawasaki Z900RS Media Ride during these three days. Please click on the link below for our coverage of the launch.

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS officially launched in Malaysia! RM67,900

KMMSB started the occasion by taking us through the bike’s concept and specifications. There were a few interesting bits we discovered during this briefing.

For example, the Z900RS Project Leader, Seiji Hagio expressed, “(Our goal was to) Design a retro-naked model that enriches riders’ lives and leaves its imprint to inspire future generations to dream.” It may be a little difficult to paint a picture of his statement, but that direction was incorporated into Kawasaki’s TVC for the bike.

The entire Z900RS is full of references to that legendary 1972 Kawasaki Z1, which was the first Japanese large capacity four-cylinder production motorcycle that featured dual overhead camshafts (DOHC). The Z1 was incidentally a 900cc bike too and that monster engine of its time took it to 210 km/h. Some may scoff at this figure these days, but do bear in mind that motorcycles had skinny bias ply tyres, dual rear shocks, frames that resembled small gauge water pipes, non-floating brakes and, what ABS? The Z1 was the fastest production motorcycle when it was introduced. (Read more about the Z1 in the link below for our feature on classic Kawasakis.)

Kawasaki – Old versus New

The front forks of the Z900RS are fully adjustable, while the cantilevered rear shock is adjustable for preload and rebound damping.

Many design cues of the Z1 were brought over to the Z900RS, including the teardrop-shaped fuel tank, duck-bill tail section, dual gauge nacelles, headlamp and taillamp, cooling fins on the engine cylinders, clutch and alternator cases, so forth. Even the font in those round analog gauges are of the same type font and size as the Z1’s.

But the Z900RS is modern through and through with accoutrements such as two mode K-TRC traction control, ABS and four-piston Monobloc front brakes.

Although the 948cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, inline-Four engine was derived directly from the Z900 naked sportbike, the Z900RS’s engine has a different head design, which lowered its compression ratio. The gearbox ratios are identical from 2nd to 5th gears, but 1st is shorter while 6th is longer on the Z900RS. The longer ratio is good for comfortable cruising and better fuel economy. The changes on the bike was to produce more midrange torque as opposed to all-out horsepower.

KMMSB had prepared four bikes per each session: Two each of the orange/brown Special Edition and matte green Standard models.

The exhaust note was lively enough. Kawasaki was quick to point out that the sound had been tuned – probably to sound like the Z1. The Z900RS’s stock 4-in-1 exhaust system sounded loud enough. Aesthetically, the downtube and canister had the same sweep angle as the Z1’s, although the Z1 had 4-into-2-into-4 megaphones. Wish the Z900RS had those four pipes but they were probably omitted to save weight and cost. But hey, who knows if the aftermarket has something available.

KMMSB had equipped the Z900RS with a lowered seat for an 800mm seat height for the Malaysian market (stock is 835mm). The stock seat is available as an option.

Lifting the bike up off its sidestand and pushing it around revealed how light it felt, despite looking hefty at 214 kg dry in the spec sheets. The low seat height also helped matters.

It felt even lighter when we started riding. The engine’s torque was right in our faces as the bike kept raring to go and prompted us to use higher gears for slow speed cruising around Putrajaya. The high torque caused the bike to surge and the throttle was a little snatchy when first cracked open. It took a lot of concentration to modulate the throttle with more finesse, initially.

The good news was, all that torque meant you could afford to be lazy with the bike. A little less than 2000 RPM in sixth gear produced 60 km/h.

We rode from the Putrajaya Lake Club first to the gates Prime Minister’s office, from one red light to another, and slow corners. The Z900RS was remarkably agile and felt like a much smaller bike. But it would just take off as soon as you gave it some throttle.

From there it was to the Palace of Justice for another photoshoot before a brisk highway blast.

The chassis was composed during that high-speed run, but the forks’ standard settings had too much compression damping in them and they hopped over bumps. They would work fine on smooth roads, but some twiddling with the settings should sort them out. The rear shock didn’t pogo up and down when pressed through long corners but just as the forks, big bumps were transferred directly to the rider.

If there’s one aspect I’d wish Kawasaki improve on the Z900RS were the “simple switchgear,” to give the bike completely premium feel. Anyway, it’s a personal thought as the switchgear didn’t impede on the bike’s performance.

The Kawasaki Z900RS is a good bike overall, from our brief ride. Stay tuned for the full review.

  • Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia had just officially launched eight new models: Bonneville Bobber Black, Bonneville Speedmaster, and six Triumph 800 variants.

  • We had the chance to test ride the Bobber Black, Tiger 800 XCX and Tiger 800 XRX.

  • The Tiger 800 XR is now offered at a special price of RM56,900 (basic selling price incl. of 6% GST).

Life probably couldn’t get any sweeter than this. Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia launched not just one, but eight new models at one go: Bonneville Bobber Black, Bonneville Speedmaster, and Tiger 800 XCX, XCA, XR, XRX, XRX LRH (Low Ride Height), XRT variants.

The launch coincides with the Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia’s Grand Dinner at the Berjaya Bukit Tinggi resort area. Some 400 Triumph owners attended the event, in addition to us motojournalists.

Please click on the link below for our coverage on the event.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black, Speedmaster & Tiger 800 launched! From RM56,900

Motojournalists gathered in the early morning to sample the ensemble of new bikes – Bonneville Bobber Black, Tiger 800 XCX and Tiger 800 XRX. We rode from the Colmar Tropicale Convention Center down to the first security check point and back up to the Colmar. Each journalist was assigned a certain bike on the way out and exchanged for another for the return trip.

Anyone who’s ridden up and down Bukit Tinggi will attest to the challenging nature of the road. The lanes are narrow, the corners are sharp, bad road condition in certain sections and there are parts where dirt has been deposited by heavy rains. It’s a real good place to test the handling characteristics of any bike.

Image courtesy of PR Kraft

Although the test ride sessions were brief, it was enough to draw some preliminary verdicts as we’ve ridden the previous models, a few for more than 500km. However, rest assured that we’ll run extensive tests and reviews in due time, so stay tuned!

Let’s get to it.

BONNEVILLE BOBBER BLACK

First and foremost, the Bonneville Bobber Black isn’t the successor to the massively popular Bonneville Bobber, which happens to be the best-selling model in all of Triumph’s 30-year history.

The “original” Bobber launched for 2016 was already a wonderful bike by all means, featuring modern attributes such as ABS, traction control, Ride-by-Wire throttle, torque assist clutch among others. The highlight of the Bobber is of course the floating rider’s seat. One word sums up the Bobber’s styling: Attitude.

The Bobber Black, however, takes it further. Triumph calls it, “Darker. Meaner. Stronger.” therefore the stance is now more muscular and aggressive.

The 19-inch front wheel has been replaced with a 16-incher, shod with 130/90-size Avon Cobra tyre, specifically developed for the bike. To support the larger tyre, you’ll massive 47mm diameter Showa cartridge forks (like those you’d find on a high-end sportbike) vs. 41mm conventional ones on the Bobber.

Additionally, there are now dual disc brakes clamped by Brembo calipers. The Bobber Black also sees cruise control added to it which is actuated is by a single button. The headlight is now fully LED with Daytime Running Lights (DRL).

The other distinguishing features of the Bobber Black are the blacked-out theme: Fuel tank, side panels, fork tubes, exhaust, engine, handlebar, levers, wheel hubs and so on.

The original Bobber with its 100/90 front tyre would of course feel more flickable around Bukit Tinggi, but the Bobber Black was surprisingly almost as good too. The brakes were a little on the softer side in the initial pull but they do get progressively stronger further into the lever’s stroke. I suspected that the brake pads haven’t bedded in fully yet.

The front suspension was predictably awesome as it soaked up road irregularities and didn’t dive like a submarine under hard braking. They didn’t pogo back up when the brakes were released, either.

The rear mimics a hardtail, but that’s the key word: mimic; for it felt natural. It worked well over all road surfaces, except deep depressions and potholes, but it’d probably be worse for other bikes (except the Tiger, of course). By the way, the name “Bobber” eludes to the chopped styling, not the bike “bobbing” up and down – which the Bobber Black and Bobber never did.

Triumph left the 1200cc, liquid-cooled, 270o crank, HT (High Torque) engine alone. It performed brilliantly, punching the bike out of corners, while Triumph’s trademark linear throttle response gave you the confidence to crack open the throttle sooner. All the while being serenaded by a deep, throbbing exhaust note.

Want a factory custom which exudes all the style and character, plus good handling? Look no further than the Bonneville Bobber Black. Oh, I almost forgot: There are more than 300 items in Triumph’s accessories catalogue to fully bling out your Bonneville, so get bobbing today.

TIGER 800 XRX, XCX

We loved the previous Tiger 800.

We had ridden the previous Tiger 800 XR and XC versions on many occasions and it was our favourite 800cc adventure-tourer, by far. It was well-rounded in its performance, filling a wide range of riding styles and needs. It was so good that we wondered how Triumph could actually improve on it for the new model.

Well, it wasn’t just a facelift, that’s for sure. Not Triumph. Uh-uh. The Hinckley, UK-based manufacturer poured in more than 200 revisions just to the chassis and engine. That’s not including changes, upgrades and revisions to the componentry, bodywork, ergonomics.

Starting from the front, the Tiger 800 now has a new windscreen which is adjustable for five positions. That’s not all, as the screen is now mounted on four points, instead of two to eliminate buffeting at the top. It is now a one-handed operation. Additionally, wind deflectors below the screen channel wind away from the rider.

As for rider ergonomics, the handlebar is now 10mm closer to the rider. Standing on the footpegs to simulate off-road riding, all we saw was the instrument cluster. This is a good aspect of an off-roader, meaning that the rider could put more weight onto the front tyre.

The seat had felt much more comfortable than before, since seat compound is new, with a “3D mesh technology.” The rider’s seat is also adjustable for two heights.

Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia had prepared both XRX and XCX versions for the media on this occasion. As such, both bikes had the new 5-inch, fully-colour TFT instrument panel, a la Street Triple RS. The panel displayed every bit of information a rider would need, including a fuel range metre that ran down to zero, instead of annoying us with the number of kilometres travelled from whence the low-fuel warning began (found on other bikes). The TFT display also has an Auto Contrast feature which adjusted its brightness according to ambient lighting.

Since the TFT display was similar to that of the Street Triple RS, Triumph had also transplanted the hand controls to the Tiger 800, putting everything within easy reach of the  rider’s thumb. Switching riding modes or toggling through the data is through a 5-way joystick. The rider no longer had to reach forward into the instrument cluster to change settings.

The cruise control has similarly been revised, now without an ON/OFF master switch.

Moving downwards the front brakes are Brembo items. They were progressively strong but not grabby. Grabby brakes are the last thing you want if you’re riding off-road.

The 800cc, inline-Triple engine has been revised with a more mass centralized cooling system, lower 1st gear ratio, lighter and freer flowing exhaust, lighter alternator, and the removal of the backlash gear in the transmission.

Where the Tiger 800 differs are the intended usage, which consist two versions: The road-oriented XR and the adventure-oriented XC (Cross Country). Each version is then split into further sub-variants depending on the level of accessories and equipment.

The XR lineup consists of four models: The base XR, the mid-tier XRX, the XRX LRH (Low Ride Height), and flagship XRT. The XR range uses cast 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, instead of the spoked 21-inch front and 17-inch of the XC range.

The base XR gets all the new changes except for the Brembo brakes, TFT display, cruise control and riding modes, although it does have ABS and traction control.

The middle XRX version has 4 ride modes, cruise control, full colour 5” LCD, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and turn indicators, switchcubes and 5-way joystick, Brembo front brakes, 5-position windscreen and aero deflectors and handguards.

The bells and whistles version with fully-adjustable Showa front suspension, all-LED lighting, backlit switches, 5 riding modes, additional 3 LCD screen styles and auxiliary LED lighting is the XRT.

On the XC side, the base XC model had been eliminated and so had the XCX LRH. The lineup now starts with the XCX as the base model, instead.

Triumph Motorcycle Malaysia revealed that the manufacturer is looking to expand their influence in the off-roading world, hence the Tiger XCX and XCA have been given a few important updates.

Apart from the main features of the XRX, the XCX features 5 riding modes, including the new “Off-Road Pro” mode. In this mode, traction control is switched off as is the rear wheel’s ABS. The front wheel’s ABS remains active. This feature allows the rider to lock the rear wheel while still allowing for maximum braking pressure in the front tyre to retain the ability to steer the bike. It’s most useful to lock and drag the rear wheel while heading down a steep off-road slope, besides sliding the rear wheel around a turn in the dirt.

Also standard on the XCX are engine protection bars, aluminium sump guard and radiator guard.

As for the XCA, it shares the XCX’s features with a few additions. There are 6 riding modes, including one which is programmable by the rider; all-LED lighting; a total of 6 screen styles in two themes; and heated grips and seats.

So, what do these massive number of changes yield in the new Tiger 800?

The new engine sounded different from the outset. Whereas the previous bike’s exhuast sounded a little muted, the new bike’s was boomier. The engine is now quieter too.

The seating position felt similar, but the arms don’t feel so stretched forward. The previous Tiger 800 had been supremely flickable and that trait has been brought forward to the new model. However, the newer bike felt more stable, planted and suspension action was “tighter” when quick-flicked into a corner. Changing lines in the middle of corners were done even without being a concern to the rider. Think it and the bike does it.

Most tall bikes with long travel suspension don’t enjoy being trail-braked into corners, especially those with “manual” suspension. But not the new Tiger 800. You could be as aggressive as you want but the bike never seemed fazed.

Fueling was superbly linear and the engine revs up. But it was the availability of torque everywhere in the rev range that was truly additive. So much torque in fact that I just left it in 4th and 5th gear while riding around Bukit Tinggi. 3000 RPM in 5th gear equaled 60 km/h, but the bike could pull cleanly off from below 2000 RPM without juddering.

The third-generation Tiger 800’s engine was really smooth for a three-cylinder, but it’s even smoother on the new bike. Besides that, it felt like the bike had a slipper clutch although it didn’t, due to the removal of the backlash gears. Consequently, corner entries and midcorner attitude was super smooth.

Those confidence-inspiring traits were what endeared us to the third-generation Tiger 800, but the new bikes are absolutely even better now. It wasn’t only us who found the new Tiger 800 amazing, for every motojournalist gushed over them.

The new Tiger 800 is set to take the world by storm.

As a footnote, Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia is currently running an introductory promotion for the new Tiger 800 XR. It’s priced at a mouthwatering RM56,900 (basic selling price incl. of 6% GST) so hurry over now for a test ride.

For more information, please visit Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia’s FB page.

  • The Yamaha Super Ténéré name is considered legendary.

  • It stands for a tough, reliable and go-anywhere adventure bike.

  • This is the 2015 model, the Super Ten has electronic suspension from 2016 onwards.

At the height of the Paris-Dakar Rally from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, large capacity, multi-cylinder motorcycles ruled the dunes of the Sahara. What BMW started off with the R80G/S had become an arms race among the manufacturers, as their machines took to the sand dunes to duke it out against one another in order to claim the title as the champion of the world’s most grueling rally. It was the place to prove the technology and reliability of their motorcycles.

There were many historic motorcycles resulting from their success in the rally, among them was the Yamaha Ténéré.

You see, the name literally means “desert” in the Tuareg language. The Ténéré is a 400,000 km sq. region of vast sand plains, stretching from Niger into Chad. Temperatures here typically hit 50o in the summer, with a maximum annual rainfall of just 15mm (that’s the just the tip of my pinky). In other words, it’s among the harshest locations on the planet. Although the Ténéré region formed just one part of the rally, it was the toughest stage for all the competitors; there were those who either perished or got lost altogether and were never found.

 

During its heydays, the rally consisted of motorcycles that were little more than modified enduros. Indeed, Yamaha scored their first two Paris-Dakar wins in 1979 and 1980 on the XT600Z Ténéré ridden by Frenchmen Cyril Neveu. It was as single-cylinder enduro overbored from the XT550.

As the years rolled by, the Ténéré got physically bigger although the engine size remained the same, until 1989 when Yamaha rolled out the XTZ750 Super Ténéré (notice the model designation).

Featuring a 5 valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled, parallel-Twin, the XTZ750’s YZE750 race version went on to win the Dakar twice, followed by another four titles by the 850cc version. 

The success at the rally branded the Yamaha Super Ténéré as one of the most iconic dual-purpose motorcycles of all time.

The present form of the bike was released in 2010, called the XT1200Z Super Ténéré or “Super Ten” as it’s fondly called. Yamaha decided to go big bore in order to compete with the successful BMW R 1200 GS, while retaining the XTZ750’s template of a comfortable, long-distance adventure-tourer.

It was a technological tour-de-force during its launch, featuring a 4 valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled, parallel-Twin. But the differences here are the 270o crankshaft which mimics the firing order of a 90o V-Twin (first seen on the TDM850, Yamaha calls it “crossplane,” now ubiquitous with the Yamaha brand), YCC-T (Yamaha Computer Controlled Throttle) which was Yamaha’s ride-by-wire throttle, 3-way traction control and linked ABS.

Customers loved the Super Ténéré for its comfort, long range and ability to haul luggage. The bike was given only minor updates before electronic suspension made its debut from the 2016 model year.

Tested here is the 2015 Super Ténéré, which Hong Leong Yamaha Motors Sdn. Bhd. had brought into Malaysia to grace their gallery in the HQ at Sungai Buloh.

It was incidentally the same model we rode in the 2015 GIVI Wilderness Adventure in South Africa! I’ve always been curious about the Super Ténéré’s performance on Malaysian roads and this was the great opportunity to finally ride it in earnest.

First impression: No one ever said the bike was small, but the size of that tank and front portion of the bike has always impressed me. It had the stance of that bronze bull statue outside the KLSE. Yamaha claims the Super Ten’s wet weight as 261 kg.

Climbing on was surprisingly easy, without even having to mount it like a horse. My buddy Jeya thought me the technique on lifting tall and large bikes off the sidestand. Turn the handlebar slightly to the right, push on it while shifting your upper bodyweight over to the right. Done! That’s surprisingly easy.

Set to the lower position, I was able to tip-toe on both feet, despite the bike’s wide mid-section where the seat joined the tank. Getting going was easy too, without the sense of the bike trying to topple over.

Looking forward into the “TV screen” as the LCD instrument cluster is affectionately called, it’s chockful of information. The same screen adorns the MT-09 Tracer and provides the same data as well. As such, it was easy to familiarize oneself with the controls on the left handlebar, although I wished the switch to toggle the information is where the cruise control switch is, as I needed to push my thumb up there to flick through the menu.

Another thing I wish Yamaha would revise is the switch for traction control. The ride mode switch is on the right handlebar, but you would need to stretch all the way forward to reach the TCS button. Another gripe I have is that you can’t change riding modes and TCS levels while on the move.

Anyhow, the big amounts of torque made the bike relative easy to ride as it pulled smoothly through the gears without ever seeming to run out of steam. Up on the highway, the Super Ténéré is predictably fast without feeling labored. The suspension was commendably comfortable at sane speeds but the front went light at (much) higher speeds. This was especially noticeable when trying to steer the bike into corners at speeds above the speed limit. That’s attributable to the rear-weight bias of the bike, as the handlebar sweeps backwards putting the rider in a very upright riding position. As such, the weight remains between the arms and it never goes away for a small-sized rider like me.

But riding in that position is positive over long distances. The screen may seem small, but it deflected wind off your face and torso. The seat was wide and deeply padded.

However, I appreciated Yamaha eliminating “shaft jacking.” The rear end of a high torque shaft-driven motorcycle has the tendency to rise when accelerating but it wasn’t perceptible on the Super Ten. However, you would need to remember to enter corners as smoothly as possible, and usually in one gear higher to avoid the abrupt back torque. Done right, at the correct speed, the bike sweeps through long corners like a battleship cutting through the waves.

We had the opportunity to ride the Super Ten on a dirt road when we covered the Rimba Raid. Ridden at crawling speeds and rider standing up on the footpegs, the bike was planted, despite being shod with Bridgestone Battle Wing road-biased adventure tyres.

The engine’s torque meant that you could leave it second gear and you only need to slip the clutch without opening the throttle. Makes your work much easier when riding down a light offroad trail.

In conclusion, we do like this XT1200Z Super Ténéré. Although there’s nothing really “unfortunate” about it, and this being a 2015 model, it felt a little dated compared to the other big bore adventure bikes in the market these days. In its own right, however, it’s still a great bike to ride. The niggles we mentioned were just that: “niggles,” not complaints. It would be interesting if we could sample the latest XT1200Z Super Ténéré ES, “ES” being for “Electronic Suspension.”

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 8-valves, parallel-Twin, 270o crank
Compression ratio 11.0 : 1
Bore X Stroke 98.0 mm X 79.5 mm
Displacement 1199 cc
Fuel system Electronic fuel injection with YCC-T
Maximum power 110 bhp (82.4 kW) @ 7250 RPM
Maximum torque 117 Nm (86.3 ft.-lbs.) @ 6000 RPM
TRANSMISSION  
Clutch Wet, multi-plate clutch
Gearbox 6-speed
CHASSIS
Front suspension 43mm USD forks (BPF), adjustable for preload, compression damping and rebound damping, 190 mm travel
Rear suspension Monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound damping, 190 mm travel
Front brakes Dual 310 mm discs
Rear brake Single 282 mm disc
ABS ABS and Unified Brake System
Front tyre 110/80-R19
Rear tyre 150/70-ZR17
FRAME & DIMENSIONS
Frame Steel tube backbone
Swingarm Two-sided
Trail 126.0 mm
Rake 28 degrees
Wheelbase 1540 mm
Seat height 845/870 mm
Dry weight 261 kg
Fuel capacity 23 litres

 

PICTURE GALLERY

  • The final drive is what transmits power from the engine to the rear wheel.

  • The three most common types are chain, belt and shaft drives.

  • Each has its own pros and cons.

The final drive is the component which transmits the engine’s power to the rear wheel. The three most common motorcycle final drives use chains, belts or shafts.

Let’s discuss on not only how each function, but the pros and cons too.

CHAIN

The chain drive is the most widespread method of driving the rear wheel of a motorcycle. In fact, it was the method of driving early cars, after the belt drive, and is still used to drive go carts today.

Although the roller chain was patented by Hans Renold in 1880, Leonardo Da Vinci sketched it in the 16th century. Roller chains have since been utilized in a myriad of power transmission applications, but it’s most well-known for motorcycles since the chain is in plain view.

A clean and well-maintained chain constitutes very little parasitic power loss and can transmit up to 98% of the engine’s power. Besides that, they could withstand high power and high torque.

Pros

Easy installation and replacement. It’s best to replace the chain, countershaft sprocket (front) and rear sprockets at the same time, but the rear wheel doesn’t have to be removed if the rider so chooses to replace the chain only. The same principle applies should the chain break.

Easy to alter the ratios. Feel your engine is revving a little high and the vibration is getting to you at your favourite riding speed? Just opt for a taller final gearing by using a smaller rear sprocket or a slightly larger front sprocket (it’s better to use a larger front than a smaller rear sprocket, if possible). Need more acceleration at the track? A larger rear sprocket will do.

Cons

Intensive maintenance: Chains need more maintenance than their belt and shaft counterparts. They need to be cleaned and re-lubed usually every 400km, besides periodic adjustments. How long a chain lasts depends on many variables especially on how one cares for it. Chain care itself is a variable since different riders use different cleaning agents and lubricants, for example.

Dirty. Cleaning the chain is a dirty job in itself, hence causing many riders to just ignore it. Spray on too much lubricant will cause it to be flung all over the rear end of the bike and rider.

Low lifespan. Compared to belts and shafts.

BELT

Belt drives are pretty much utilized only by cruiser manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles these days. There are a few heavyweight Japanese cruisers that use belts, but it’s uncommon.

Pros

Easy maintenance. A belt just needs cleaning by hosing off the road grit. There is no need for lubrication.

Unobtrusive operation. A belt is low noise, especially when compared to an unlubricated, unadjusted or old chain. A belt drive also does not fling chain lubricant all over the bike and rider.

Long service life. For example, Harley-Davidson recommends that the drive belt be replaced at 90,000 km (60,000 miles). Belts that have cracks should be replaced sooner but still, that’s a lot of mileage!

Cons

Difficult installation. Replacing the drive belt on a Harley-Davidson requires the removable of the swingarm, outer primary cover and inner primary cover. So if in the unlikely case of it breaking, you’re stranded.

Difficult to alter gearing. A belt’s length corresponds to the recommended sizes of the stock pulleys. Which means you’d need to replace the belt should you want to alter the sizes of the pulleys. And replacing the belt means you need to remove the swingarm, outer…. etc. etc.

Expensive. Yes, a drive belt is expensive. But that’s a trade off against the cost of how many drive chains and sprockets a motorcycle goes through in 90,000 km.

SHAFT

Power is transmitted to rear wheel via a driveshaft, just like a rear-wheel-drive car. The shaft and differential are usually sealed, the latter bathed in oil/fluid.

Pros

Low maintenance: This is the probably the best feature of a driveshaft. The final drive oil, or to be more accurate, the lubricant change interval for the differential is usually unlisted by the manufacturers. However, there are owners who change it at every 40,000km.

Unobtrusive operation. Quiet and not messy. “Shaft jacking” phenomena has been addressed by most manufacturers.

Cons

Gearing cannot be altered. Truth is, it can but the work is so extensive and expensive that it becomes unpractical.

Expensive. If major parts should break.

So, there you have it, the different types of common final drives. There are others such as magnets and direct electric motors but let’s leave that for the future. We’ll touch on the specifics of each system in later articles.

  • Most European brands saw positive growth in 2017.

  • Biggest earners were BMW, KTM, Piaggio and Triumph (in alphabetical order).

  • Is this a resurgence of European motorcycles over the once unassailable Japanese?

It’s that time of the year when the European motorcycle manufacturers release their 2017 worldwide sales figures.

While BMW Group and BMW Motorrad had revealed their 2017 sales figures last month, here’s a collection of how all the European motorcycle manufacturers performed in the same year.

With fresh models in almost every segment from co-operating with Indian manufacturers and wide distribution networks, besides competitive pricing, it looks very much like a resurgence of the once dominant European motorcycles, over the might of the Japanese.

Here they are, listed according to alphabetical order.

BMW Motorrad

As we’ve reported earlier, BMW Motorrad reported a 13.2% increase (numbering 164,153 units) being sold in 2017, their seventh consecutive record-breaking year.

To recap, 2017 marked the first time that the GS (R 1200 GS, F 800 GS) adventure lineup had sold more than 50,000 units in a single year. The R nineT segment also saw a 9.6% increase with the introduction of three new models: Pure, Urban G/S and Racer. Besides that, 11,595 units of the new G 310 R and G 310 GS models were delivered. Even the sales of the six-cylinder models were positive, driven by the new K 1600 B (Bagger) especially in the US market. 6,719 units were sold, marking a 50% increase in sales.

Please click on the link below for more information.

Another Record Breaking Year for BMW Motorrad in 2017

Ducati

Ducati delivered a total of 55,871 units in 2017, constituting a scant 410 bike increase over 2016.

Please click on the link below for our earlier report.

Ducati sold over 55,800 bikes worldwide in 2017!

While the increase is small, it was still a positive result for the Audi/VW-owned Italian manufacturer.

Ducati has stated that every model was important to them, but it was the Multistrada 950 which proved to be the most popular. The Scrambler lineup continued to performed well, contributing to approximately 25% of total sales, augmented by the Desert Sled and Café Racer.

The two markets that saw strong growth was Spain at 28.3% (due to Jorge Lorenzo joining the MotoGP team?) and China at 31%.

Ducati is looking forward to the Panigale V4, Multistrada 1260, Scrambler 1100, the renewed 821 Monster and 959 Panigale to drive sales in 2018.

KTM Industries AG

Leading the charge is Austrian KTM Industries AG who reported a 17% increase in sales with 238,334 units in 2017. It’s KTM’s seventh year of record sales, in addition of being an all-time high in revenues and profit.

From the sales, KTM’s 2017 revenues increased 14% at EUR 1.533 billion. Net profit before taxes increased to EUR 117.0 million against EUR 108.9 million in 2016.

With the number of KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles sold in 2017, KTM says that it will “further strengthen our Number 1 position as the biggest motorcycle producer in Europe.”

Sales was further bolstered by the smaller capacity models built in India by KTM’s partner Bajaj Auto (namely the 250 and 390 Dukes and RCs), who sold 35,000 units in India along, besides exporting CKD kits to other countries including Malaysia.

Being aware that continual growth is imperative, KTM invested EUR 92 million in product development in 2017. Most of that investment incudes tools, machinery, plant and infrastructure focused on the new high-performance drivetrain production at Pankl and expansion of KTM’s R&D department at Mattighofen.

The entire investment program of EUR 179.6 million was financed by KTM Industries Group’s own cash flow. This strategy also saw suspension supplier, WP Group, fully integrated into KTM AG.

The continuing growth also saw an increase of 818 employees worldwide, bringing the total to 4,568 including in Austria.

KTM expects further growth of their core model segments in 2018, as they are also optimistic about the KTM 790 Duke and Huqvarna Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The Austrian manufacturer has targeted to sell 360,000 motorcycles annually by 2021 (up from the 2017 forecast of 300,000) and 400,000 for 2022.

The increased volume is envisaged as the result of KTM’s joint venture agreement with CFMoto in China to increase KTM’s presence in the Chinese market. KTM owns 49% of the venture known as CFMoto-KTMR2R.

Piaggio Group (Q3 2017)

The Italian manufacturer has not published its annual 2017 sales figures, but did see a 12.4% increase in the third quarter, representing 266,400 motorcycles. That translates to a net sales of € 771.8 million.

Piaggio Group owns a number of motorcycle brands, including Piaggio itself, Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera, Moto Guzzi, Scarabeo and Vespa.

However, Piaggio Group did not publish the sales figures for the individual brands. Moto Guzzi did say they were happy with the “positive sales trend of the V7.”

Triumph Motorcycles

We’ve also reported on Triumph Motorcycles’ growth, by a hefty 22%, no less! 2017 was Triumph’s best in 30 years. The increase equates to £90.9 million for a total of £498.5 million. Net profit before tax increased to £24.79 million.

A total of 63,404 units were sold, 86.1% of those outside of the UK.

Triumph has performed strongly considering the challenges of the current economic condition and currency fluctuations, besides uncertainties arising from Brexit. Triumph continues to focus on R&D, spending £29.2 million in 2017 compared to £26.9 million in the previous year.

As a result of that R&D, as mentioned by Chief Commercial Officer, Paul Stroud during our interview, Triumph has introduced 19 new models in the space of 2 years. Triumph launched 5 new bikes in 2017: Street Triple 765, Bonneville Bobber Black, Bonneville Speedmaster, Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200. The latter four bikes will be launched in Malaysia this weekend (3rd March 2018). Triumph has also revised the Speed Triple 1050.

Another exciting prospect is Triumph’s deal as the exclusive Moto2 engine supplier beginning 2019, which will bring even more recognition to the brand.

Please click on the link below for our earlier report on Triumph Motorcycles’ performance in 2017.

Triumph Motorcycles sees sales growth in 2017 – Over 63,000 sold!

  • This BMW S 675 RR Concept was drawn up by industrial designer Nicolas Petit.

  • There a very few manufacturers who are still producing sub-600cc bikes.

  • BMW has not announced if they are venturing into the 600cc supersport segment.

It’s probably an understatement that BMW Motorrad has done it right with the S 1000 RR supersport bike. The model continues to sell well, despite BMW not competing in both MotoGP and WSBK, and the shrinking supersport segment.

That fact is probably attributable to it being a BMW and that it features the latest motorcycle technologies, besides being priced to rival the Japanese superbikes.

However, there’s a huge hole in the 600cc segment, pretty much abandoned by almost every manufacturer except a few. While 1000cc supersport bikes are more appealing due to their higher power outputs and specs, it’s actually more fun to ride a 600cc supersport bike in the real world.

If BMW is interested, who knows if the S 675 RR (or whatever cc) may look like in these conceptual art, produced by freelance industrial designer Nicolas Petit, for Wunderlich.

Petit’s concept bears the familiar lines of the S 1000 RR and is instantly recognizable. But what we like best is its simplicity, eschewing the unnecessary and leaving only those parts that serve their purpose.

Petit had also “stylised” the S 675 R naked bike and S 675 XR sport-tourer concepts.

BMW Motorrad has been caught testing what could be the new S 1000 RR for 2018 or 2019, but will they dip into the 600cc category? The world’s motorcycle market is kind of soft lately and more and more buyers are looking into buying smaller displacement bikes, after all. Besides that, it seems that BMW Motorrad has the habit of outselling their competitors.

  • Tech 3 will not continue as Yamaha’s satellite team in 2019.

  • Team principal, Herve Poncharal says he’s been a offered a special deal.

  • Poncharal did not reveal any further details.

Just yesterday, Malaysians celebrated Hafizh Syahrin’s confirmation to ride for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team this year, but another twist in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 saga popped up today: The team has announced that it will part ways with Yamaha from the 2019 MotoGP season.

Announced together with factory team, Tech 3’s boss, Herve Poncharal stated that, “We’ve been offered a deal, that includes something we’ve been waiting for since we started with Tech 3 and I couldn’t say no.”

“A deal… we’ve been waiting for…?”

Reading through the press release in MotoGP.com did not provide further details to what Poncharal meant, and that has fed more racing fuel to the bonfire.

Our theory may be that he had been offered to run a full-fledged factory team. If this is the case, there are a few candidates: Aprilia or KTM. Suzuki may even be a long shot. Or how about a Honda satellite team? Will Poncharal actually jump over to Yamaha’s biggest rivals after being with the latter for 20 years?

However, we know what you’re thinking of: The fate of Hafizh Syahrin in 2019. Well, Hafizh did mention during yesterday’s press conference that his contract with the team is for 2018 only at the moment. But, come what may and we do pray that Hafizh is retained for the next season, whatever bike or team Poncharal chooses.

Until Yamaha finds another person or entity to run it, , it’ll leave them without a satellite team for the 2019 season.

  • SIC and Hafizh Syahrin has confirmed the rider’s seat in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

  • Hafizh’s first outing on the Yamaha YZF-M1 during the Buriram Winter Test was positive.

  • There is one more Winter Test at Qatar from 1st to 3rd March before the start of the season.

21st February 2018, Petaling Jaya – There are many ways to stir the sense of patriotism amongst the citizens of a country, sports being one of them. Malaysia has long have great motorcycling talents but they’ve never seemed to capture much limelight, until recently.

The Hafizh Syahrin “Pescao 55” saga has been put to the rest as the affable Malaysian hero’s place in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team for 2018 MotoGP has been confirmed without a sliver of doubt, as of 4pm today.

Speaking at a tea-time session with Malaysian journalists, Dato’ Ahmad Razlan Razali and Hafizh Syahmin made the announcement to a boisterous cheer, as patriotism took hold on everyone present.

When questioned, Hafizh said, “I tried my best during the Winter Test at Buriram. Most new riders to the premier class (MotoGP) would record times at least 3 or 4 seconds slower than the leader.”

“While I couldn’t promise great results right away, as there’s still much to learn, what I can promise Malaysia and my fans is that I will always continue to fight for the best possible results,” he continued.

Indeed, Hafizh isn’t a rider who gives up as he had shown in his past races.

Shifting from one team to another is always difficult and that’s why certain riders suffer when they do so. “The atmosphere in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team is very supportive and relaxed. They’ve been very supportive in providing guidance and advice. Even Johann Zarco has provided some advice.”

As for further testing and development, “I had to get used to the bike quickly. In some sense, the many electronic rider aids in MotoGP helps much more than it did in Moto2. However, the team will send me out for many more laps in the coming test (Qatar). That way, the team could run race simulations, allowing to learn more how the bike handles when the tyre performance drops off and the electronics.”

There’ve been rumblings in social media as to how Hafizh got the Tech 3 seat, ahead of riders such as Moto2 Champion Franco Morbidelli, and forerunners such as Thomas Luthi, Xavier Simeon, Takaagi Nakagami. To put it succinctly, it was speculated that SIC had paid for Hafizh’s seat. Perhaps, we shouldn’t think that far, as Occam’s razor applies in this case: “When all things seems to make no sense, the simplest explanation is the simplest one.” Those riders had signed to their respective teams before Jonas Folger’s announcement to drop out of MotoGP, paving the way for Hafizh.

Dato’ Razlan explained, “The sponsorships deals for the team had been finalized, so there’s no room for SIC to insert our branding. But Insy’Allah, we could do it in 2019.”

“It has always been SIC’s dream to put a Malaysian in every class. However, Hafizh’s entry to MotoGP is one year earlier than we anticipated and that saved us the money. Right now, SIC will take care of Hafizh’s personal costs during the season.”

Hafizh will be based primarily in Spain for the year, “SIC has set up training facilities for myself, Adam Norrodin and Zulfahmi Khairuddin there. I’ve contested in the Spanish CEV before Moto2 so there’s no problem for me there.”

So, will Hafizh’s participation in MotoGP draw in the crowds to the Malaysian MotoGP? “It definitely will,” said Dato’ Razlan, “We are expecting to see a 200% increase in the number of spectators.”

“We hope that with Hafizh’s involvement in MotoGP that especially young Malaysian motorcyclists will be inspired to channel their talents appropriately. With the right focus and determination, look at where one could reach,” added Dato’ Razlan.

At the end of it, come what may, Malaysians can proudly wave the Jalur Gemilang at SIC. Let’s also hope to hear Negaraku on the TV soon.

  • The Triumph Thruxton R is the flagship of Triumph’s modern classic lineup.

  • It takes on the form of a café racer, but with the race cowling it becomes a classic racer.

  • Priced from RM 83,900 (the race cowling and Vance & Hines exhausts are optional).

How many of us actually read the warning labels on the products we buy? I mean look at some of them, “Use Min. RON 95 UNLEADED FUEL only.” Or “Wear a helmet and safety gear when riding.” The more morbid ones state, “Improper use may result in grievous injury or death.”

Well, of course they sound like that, having been written in such way to avoid being sued for product liability. But, aw c’mon, none of them actually alludes to the excitement of riding; of how the bike would make you feel when you ride.

The reason I say this is because there exist bikes that’ll have you obsess over them. So excited over them that you want to just keep riding. So beautiful that it takes up all your attention, and you end up staring at the bike for hours and hours when you park it in your driveway (or living room).

Surely someone would come up with the hair-brained idea to hold the manufacturer accountable?

The Triumph Thruxton R has admittedly been around since Triumph launched their updated line of Bonneville modern classics in 2016. However, we felt that it’s the right time for a revisit, as other manufacturers have also released their café racers, putting them head-to-head with the Thruxton R.

Triumph had completely overhauled the Bonneville family from 2016 . The biggest updates, however, saw the addition of liquid cooling, a 270o crankshaft replacing the traditional 180o and 360o, and the bikes branching into two capacities of 900cc and 1200cc. Different variations were then spawned from these two common platforms.

On the 1200cc side of the family, the engines feature two states of tune: HT for High Torque and HP for High Power. No prizes for guessing correctly that the Thruxton R gets the HP tuning.

Expanding on what Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia describes the café racer style, “(A) café racer is noted for its visual minimalism, featuring low-mounted handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tank (with) knee-grips indented in the fuel tank.”

It’s this visual minimalist that gives the bike it’s “proper” dimensions in the mind’s eye, eluding to something unadulterated in its purpose. The hornet tail-like seat cowling eludes to streamlining. Note that the Thruxton R comes with passenger footpegs and the seat is hidden beneath the cowling, however, you’d need to replace the seat if wish to carry a pillion for longer distances.

Getting on and grabbing the handlebars felt so natural. The handlebars appear low since they are attached below the top triple clamp, but they are actually cast to rise a few inches upwards, giving the rider a sporty crouch, rather than most café racers that stretch you out like a string of spaghetti i.e. butt high up, arms outstretched, chest on the tank. I would say the seating position is closer to the new Street Triple 765 RS.

Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia had fitted the optional upper cowling on this demo bike, turning it into a “proper” classic racer. Besides that, they have also installed a Vance & Hines full system exhaust. (As a side note, there are more than 300 items in Triumph’s accessories catalog.)

From the seat, your eyes meet a pair of classy and beautifully appointed analog gauges. There is an LCD screen in each of them, providing all the info you need, including tripmetres, fuel consumption, fuel range and a fuel gauge.

But the thing about Triumph’s modern classics is not just about the looks. They are thoroughly modern motorcycles, fitted with ABS, Triumph Traction Control (TTC) and power modes (RAIN, ROAD, SPORT). The headlights, daytime running lights (DRL), taillight and all signal lamps are LED.

Firing up the bike gave me a jump as the engine roared to life. These V&H pipes were definitely more vocal, rumbling at idle.

First gear engaged with a positive click, and we were off riding on the engine’s beautifully smooth torque, pulling away to a melodious “Braaaooooom.” But as soon as the right hand snaps the throttle open, the Thruxton R jumped forward without hesitation, accompanied by an almost ruffian-like BRRRAAAAOOOWPPP from the twin canons which drowned out all the sound of the world. Me, on the other hand, went “WHEEEEE!”

The Thruxton R was so easy to steer – left-right, right-left – as I avoided the bumps and traffic around Section 13, PJ. Mixed in with the engine’s propensity to pull anywhere in the rev range and that Symphony #1 from the engine and exhausts, it got additive within minutes. Why should one get addicted to hard drugs when you have the Thruxton R???

I had an appointment to meet Keshy for lunch at the Coliseum restaurant in Jaya 33, just some 300 metres away from the Triumph showroom, but I rode all the way to SS2 and Seapark before turning back to Jaya 33 – all subconsciously. The Thruxton R had just taken over my thoughts and actions!

And as if the planets, stars and nebulae were correctly aligned, we had an opportunity to ride the bike up Bukit Tinggi the next day on a TOP SECRET mission. I’d normally give the place a wide berth unless on smaller bikes. Ponder about it: Narrow road, sharp corners and chicanes, decreasing radius turns, dirt in the corners, etc. I understood how medieval torture felt like when I rode up there the last time on a 160-bhp naked sportbike.

It turned out to be a misgiving as the Thruxton R kept up with Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and Triumph Street Triple RS, even in the rain. All I needed to do was keep it in a gear higher, and rely on its agile handling and that wonderful midrange torque to punch out of the corners. Flicked it left, flicked it right, the Thruxton R exhibited neutral handling. It turned in smartly whether you coasted, trail braked, or kept the throttle slightly opened on your way in. The front end wanted to tuck under in a few very slow corners but adding some throttle cured it. It wasn’t the bike’s fault, I had pushed downwards onto the handlebars in all that excitement.

Talking about the throttle, I kept in SPORT in the rain because I could’ve sworn that my right hand was connected directly to the throttle bodies (they mimic the beautiful vintage Amal carbs, by the way). Then again, riding in the rain in SPORT mode isn’t unique to the Thruxton R. I’ve done so on the aforementioned Tiger 800 XCx and Street Triple RS. I can attest that Triumph motorcycles have the best throttle “feel” and response. A direct-feeling and predictable throttle response brings confidence to the rider; and riding enjoyment is a direct consequence of that confidence. You don’t want to go into a corner and have an abrupt throttle response either scaring you or messing up your intended line, right?

I guess I shouldn’t have second-guessed the Thruxton R’s ability to handle corners like the way it did. The entire Bonneville lineup (both 1200s and 900s) are fundamentally good handling bikes already, so since the Thruxton R is equipped with fully-adjustable Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF) and Ohlins shocks that made it handle like a dream. There’s only so much one could do if the base bike has terrible handling, and adding the best suspension will not guarantee that you could turn a water buffalo into a thoroughbred race horse. The Thruxton name is hallowed, but I personally refer to the Thruxton R as the “Bonneville RS.”

Anyway, if going uphill at Bukit Tinggi was challenging, coming down was outright hairy in the rain as gravity “assisted” in adding more speed than I intended. I was so thankful for that handling, Brembo Monoblocs and ABS. A single finger pull on the brake lever was enough to modulate the brakes into the turns. The Triumph Traction Control (TTC) kept the rear front sliding like a supermoto.

Down Karak Highway, as was when we rode up earlier, the chassis didn’t care if the road was smooth or bumpy, or if was painted with those dreaded red lines: The bike held onto the chosen line. There’s one particularly long right-hander and the bike just blew past everything on while on its side. It may look vintage, but it didn’t run like a vintage.

But it wasn’t only about going fast. The Thruxton R was equally as happy when trudging along at 50-60 km/h in the city (time to let people ogle at the bike). Like I mentioned earlier, the engine just purrs along when ridden at a steady throttle. On the highways, 3800 RPM in sixth translates to 120 km/h; and that’s the best range to ride in as it’s close to the peak torque of 112 Nm at 4950 RPM. And no, unless you’re chasing a 1000cc superbike (which isn’t a smart thing to do anyway), the engine doesn’t run out of breath quickly although its 97 bhp peak power arrives at 6750 RPM. But what those figures do reveal is how flexible the engine is. Just give throttle at any time and the bike takes off. The Thruxton R could hit 220 km/h really quickly.

In the few days I had the bike, I discovered just how characterful the Triumph Thruxton R really was. It’s got the pose and the poise, plus everything in between. It’s got all that one would want of a bike: Rideability, looks, sound, confidence, practicality and some touring capability (since it’s comfortable), handling, safety, reliability, even low fuel consumption. It did what I wanted it to do and then some.

What about shortcomings? The ride mode defaults back to ROAD when you switch the ignition back on. Honestly though, that’s not a problem, but I had to mention this because I’m forced to find something amiss with the bike, lest I be blamed as being biased. The curse of being a motojournalist, sigh… (Rolls eyes.)

For me personally, it’s been thirty years since I felt this excited. That was when I rode my very first bike out of the shop.

As for you, our Dear Readers, if you’ve never ridden a Triumph or ever felt convinced about the brand, one single ride on this bike will have you going Bri’ish in a hurry.

However, I recommend that the Test Ride Indemnity Form or a sticker on the bike ought to include a statement, “The manufacturer and/or dealer will not be held accountable for increased heart rate, dryness of mouth, palpitations, sleepless nights and obsession to own one (or more) resulting from the test ride. Giggling like a school girl is entirely a personal choice.”

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 8-valves, parallel-Twin, 270o crank
Compression ratio 11.0 : 1
Bore X Stroke 97.6 mm X 80.0 mm
Displacement 1200 cc
Fuel system Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Maximum power 97 bhp (72 kW) @ 6,750 RPM
Maximum torque 112 Nm (82.6) ft.-lbs. @ 4,950 RPM
TRANSMISSION  
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox 6-speed
CHASSIS
Front suspension Showa 43mm USD Big Piston Forks (BPF), adjustable for preload, compression damping and rebound damping, 120 mm travel
Rear suspension Öhlins dual shocks with piggyback reservoir, adjustable for preload, compression damping and rebound damping, 120 mm travel
Front brakes Dual 310 mm floating discs, dual four-piston radially mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers
Rear brake Single 220 mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper
ABS ABS standard, swtichable on/off
Front tyre 120/70-ZR17
Rear tyre 160/60-ZR17
FRAME & DIMENSIONS
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Two-sided aluminium, clear powdercoated
Trail 92.0 mm
Rake 22.8 degrees
Wheelbase 1415 mm
Seat height 810 mm
Dry weight 203 kg
Fuel capacity 14.4 litres

 

PICTURE GALLERY

  • Triumph Motorcycles’ Chief Commercial Officer, Paul Stroud, was in town recently.

  • He was present during the official unveiling of Triumph supplying engines to Moto2.

  • We talked about Triumph Motorcycles’ support to Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia, Moto2 and other plans to grow further.

As you may already know, Triumph is turning over a new page in their storied history when all Moto2 teams start using their engines beginning the 2019 season. To come from just a handful of bikes when John Bloor resurrected the brand in 1983. to where it is now, with almost every new model winning an award or accolade is no mean feat.

The first bike from the “new” Triumph at Hinckley. 1991 Triumph Trophy 1200.

If you’ve ever been to the Triumph Motorcycle dealerships in Malaysia (in Petaling Jaya, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuching), you could tell that it all boils down to the hard work of dedicated individuals as part of a greater team to put the brand on the Malaysian and international motorcycle industry’s map. In fact, it was also due to this type of philosophy when we visited Triumph’s factory in Thailand (it manufacturers the bikes, not assemble).

But what makes Triumph tick between the principal and local distributor? When YBhg. Dato’ Razak Al-Malique Hussein, the CEO of Fast Bikes Sdn. Bhd. a.k.a. Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia asked if we’re interested to interview Paul Stroud, the Chief Commercial Officer of Triumph Motorcycles, we said “Yes” before Dato’ could finish his message.

First and foremost, please refer to the link below on Triumph sealing the deal to be Moto2’s sole engine supplier, and that’s Mr. Stroud during the presentation.

Confirmed: Triumph to replace Honda as Moto2 engine supplier!

Interviewer (INT): Is this your first time in Malaysia?
Paul Stroud (PS): Yes, this is my first time in Malaysia, representing the company (Triumph Motorcycles). We have a team of people including a Regional Manager who works with the rest of the world’s sales division and visits Dato’ Razak on a quarterly basis.

INT: Do you like what you see in Malaysia?
PS: Yeah, absolutely. The dealership here in Malaysia sells more than 200 motorcycles per annum so that puts it into the Top 20 internationally. They’re doing a great job and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here.

INT: What do you see the potentials in the Malaysian market?
PS: I can give you that answer in another 3 to 4 hours’ time (laughs). We’ve seen tremendous growth here. We’ve launched 19 new motorcycles in the last 2 years, and we honestly see some good opportunity for Dato’ Razak and his team at Triumph Malaysia. We already do well and it’s really about how do continue to grow our sales here in this great country.

INT: What do you look forward to on this trip?
PS: The main purpose of the visit it to see the operations here, to get a better understanding of the opportunities that are open to the brand here. You can really only do that by actually visiting the country and meeting the people who are responsible for representing the brand.

Bikes Republic (BR): Triumph is working on mid-sized (400cc) bikes (with Bajaj). Do you see a potential for those in Malaysia?
PS: Ultimately there’s opportunity but it’s very, very early in the development of that strategic partnership, so until we’re much further through… we’ve just signed the contract with Bajaj; we’ve signed the letter of intent, we’re working through the contract with them and then we’ll start to understand the opportunities for Triumph motorcycles made by Bajaj outside of India.

BR: Now that Triumph will be the exclusive engine supplier for Moto2, will that bolster Triumph’s sportbike family?
PS: The sportbike market has been coming down since the recession and now internationally represents a very, very small part of the market, so I don’t see, honestly, our relationship with Moto2 effectively, genuinely, influencing the growth of that segment. But more interesting for Triumph is that it will take Triumph to a whole new range of customers who just don’t know about us today. We have great bikes like the Street Triple, Speed Triple, supersport motorcycles and without question our relationship with Moto2 will put those bikes on the map. That’s really exciting for us, to be honest, because we are have great bikes; we just need to tell more people about them. Our relationship with Moto2 will also give the bikes a whole new level of credibility and will give us exposure to a completely different customer grouping.

INT: Will Triumph ever be involved in MotoGP too?
PS: It’s difficult to predict that but what I can share with you is the dramatic increase in traffic to our website when we announced the relationship with Moto2. Our website traffic, specifically to the Speed Triple over the weekend increased by more than 30%. On the Street Triple sales year over year, are up by 13-14%. It’s too much to connect these dots but it will certainly a lot of interest to the Triumph brand.

BR: With so many models being launched, is the production capacity being upgraded?
PS: We have two centres of production – we’ve got one in Thailand, and one in our headquarters in the UK. We’ve plenty of capacity to support the growth of the Triumph brand. The overall production has increased in both plants because fundamentally the production is relative to the motorcycles that we produce in each of the plants. In the Thai plant we produce all the Bonnevilles, the Street Triples, and also the Tiger 800. Those models are growing and therefore production within Thailand has grown but over in the UK we’ve just launched the new Speed Triple, Tiger 1200 and therefore our production volume is also growing.

Dato’ Razak added at this point, “Triumph is very responsible. Their manager will come and visit us at least three times a year. It augurs well for the brand and customers, actually because there’s a real interest in how we are doing and how they can help us move forward, rather than just sell number; and now we have a very welcomed visit by Paul.”

INT: Are there any plans for Triumph to develop a bike based on your participation in Moto2?
PS: In fairness of respecting the contract between Triumph and Dorna we’re really not allowed to do anything other than just to talk about our relationship but be sure that fundamentally we’ll be very proactive in promoting our support and engine supply to the championship.

INT: Is there a plan to run an official Triumph Moto2 team?
PS: No, there’s no benefit in doing that because fundamentally our engine powers all of the grid. To be honest, if we have a team in the championship, other teams may question us why that was the case.

BR: How involved in Triumph Motorcycles (UK HQ) in working together with the distributors in different countries, in terms marketing, branding?
Dato’ Razak: The kind of support we’re getting from Triumph is more than I would’ve imagined. We have a manager who’s interested to know what the market is like other than just pushing numbers. If Triumph were just pushing numbers I don’t think we’ll be sitting here today and chatting further because it’s an entire experience. This is the kind of support Triumph gives us.

In terms of marketing, of course we would like to see more brand awareness globally which they have taken a step forward with Moto2. That’s a major step forward and people are starting to ask about Triumph. So, that’s a major step forward but when it comes to where they (Triumph UK) are the competition is a lot bigger. You’re talking about an EUR80 billion company, for example, which we are taking on. We are taking on a company which is generating EUR80 to 90 billion a year – their marketing budget is huge. We can’t expect to get the same kind of marketing exposure, but we do our best, and I think what’s coming up from Triumph right now is more than what we expect and hopefully it’ll be more than what we expect (laughs).

PS: Just adding to that, the direct national contact works with Dato’ Razak and his team to try and help and facilitate, to move the brand, grow the brand in Malaysia. Also importantly to ensure where there are questions, where there are challenges, and that the company responds quickly to those challenges. The organization is here to support everybody within the team.

Looking from Dato’ Razak’s perspective is what’s critical to him. One form of support is that he has a constant stream of fantastic motorcycles from which to develop his business. As I’ve said earlier we’ve launched 19 new motorcycles in the past 2 years and I can’t keep up with all the 5-star reviews. Just recently we launched the (new) Tiger 800. That motorcycle had 5-star review after 5-star review. The Speedmaster, we just launched in California, that motorcycle (also) had 5-star review after 5-star review. The Tiger 1200 – they are Press in Europe that’s not in the UK –  I’m hastened to add, found that motorcycle as the equal to the BMW R 1200 GS. So, that’s what we also bring to the partnership because that’s incredibly important because that gives ourselves a product platform which to grow and give our customers a wonderful experience.

INT: What’s the best-selling Triumph in the UK?
PS: Tiger 800 range. The best-selling Triumph single model internationally is the Bobber.

  • Rimba Raid @ Janda Baik 2018 was held over the 10th to 11th February weekend.

  • It saw a total of 60 participants from Malaysia and Singapore.

  • Competitors were judged on their ability to tackle different situations.

Somehow, I didn’t mind being lost. It’s already almost 10am but the air was still crisp and cool, as a mist surrounded me, the village houses, farms, all the way up the hillsides. This is a part of Janda Baik that I’ve seen for the first time.

A few kilometres up the road, I came up face-to-face with large white tents and RIMBA RAID beach flags. A RELA personnel waved me onto a dirt road. I passed a family with three children sandwiched between their parents. As I kept riding up that trail, campers, tents and families with young children came into view, and a nice smoky aroma of BBQ wafted in the air.

After being to other parts of the country, Rimba Raid (which literally translates to “Jungle Raid”) was back, this time in Janda Baik. For the city folks, Janda Baik is one of the most idyllic picnic and recreation sports, consisting of streams surrounded by hills. Genting Highlands is practically a stone’s throw away.

Rimba Raid (the organizer) had picked a beautiful location in the already beautiful Janda Bike area. The trail formed the floor of a valley between two steep hills – think of it as the bottom of a “V” – with a stream running parallel to it. The hills formed a funneled through which a cool breeze blew through the locale throughout the duration of the event, keeping temperatures tolerable despite the bright sunshine. Additionally, Janda Baik spans an area which is 400 to 600 metres above sea level.

And here, parked on both sides of the dirt road were more than a hundred adventure motorcycles of every brand or every size, which included those of the competitors. Manufacturers Ducati, KTM, Kawasaki, BMW Motorrad erected their pavilions and offered test rides to competitors and spectators alike. BMW Motorrad even had a section for foot massage!

Mixed in with the manufacturers were the tents belonging to accessories and riding gear makers Wunderlich and Touratech.

Since this was my inaugural time covering Rimba Raid, I was surprised to find that the participants were competing on big bore adventure bikes. It turned out to be “formula” of the event when I interviewed Dato’ Capt. Nik later, “I do a lot of road biking (which) became very mainstream, but I do a lot of offroad biking, as well. Getting to the trail was difficult so that’s why I use a big DP (dual-purpose motorcycle) to play on the trail,” explained Rimba Raid CEO Dato’ Capt. Nik Huzlan. “(That way) I don’t have to use a trailer and all that. As I travelled I felt that this must be shared.”

Also according to him, while there are many offroad events in Malaysia already and the numbers are picking up, there is yet one which caters to large-capacity adventure motorcycles. “We are looking forward to holding an event for 250cc bikes at Mat Daling, but as of now we started with bikes 650cc and above.”

Hence there were mainly BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure, F 800 GS, F 700 GS, F 650 GS; followed by KTM 690 Enduro, 990 Adventure, 1190R Adventure, 1290 Super Adventure R; a few Triumph Tiger 800s; Yamaha XT1200Z Super Teneres; Honda Africa Twin, NX6750, NC750X; a Husqvarna 701 Enduro; Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled.

Outside of the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy and the KTM Malaysia Weekend Adventure with Chris Birch, this would be the first time I’d get to bear witness to riders competing on these beasts of multiple brands.

“Frankly, I was quite surprised that these owners would actually risk their RM 150,000 pride and joy, some even just 2 months old in the jungle,” said Capt. Nik with a laugh, when I told him about my excitement of seeing the likes of the BMW R 1200 GSA splashing through the streams.

The bikes were still shiny at this point. Capt. Nik called for the riders to congregate as he walked them through the different challenges, called “Sections.” The aptly named sections (Obstacle Course, Rimba Rhythm, Sumpit, Jalan Salah, Bridge & River, and Twilight Zone). Sections will test the riders on different aspects of motorcycle control and utilizing the capabilities of their machines.

More and more families with their young children in tow kept showing up. The kids were wide-eyed in excitement from seeing these beautiful big bikes and riders dressed in brightly-coloured riding gear. Malaysian adults don’t typically show their excitement but at Rimba Raid, they pointed to that bike over here, over there, another one, the next one, and on and on.

Returning to the main area, Capt. Nik called it: “The competition starts now. Riders please go ahead and choose which Section you wish to compete in.”

I was surprised.

Most competitions (apart from the GS Trophy qualifiers) have all riders complete one discipline at a time. Not so with Rimba Raid. “If we queue everyone up at one test at time it’s just going to take too long,” explained Capt. Nik. In my personal opinion, however, that offered a great chance for a competitor to mentally prepare himself; by taking on a challenge that he’s confident about first would boost his confidence when attempting the harder stuff. Well, that’ll be my approach, anyway.

Excitement started to mount as riders hurriedly donned the rest of their riding gear and went through their personal routines. Game faces replaced carefree laughter and grins. The roars of Boxer twins, V-Twins, triples, parallel-twins, singles reverberated off the hillsides.

The spectators’ kids shrieked in glee, their parents grinned. Everyone not competing lifted their phones and not cameras to shoot pictures.

Riders went in both directions as they sought out their preferred Section. But the stream crossings drew the largest crowds. Why not? They always produce the best drama.

At the first crossing, riders rode on a wooden bridge to the far bank, up the slope on a short trail, drop back down into stream and up the other side. Putting a foot down or dropping it means a penalty as well as losing time.

The water looked calm and shallow, inviting even, but as soon as the first rider went in, it suddenly dawned on everyone of how deep it actually was! It came up to just below the front fender. He made it about halfway before the front deflected to one side and down he went for a swim.

The marshals helped to lift the bike back onto its wheels. The rider started his bike and gave it full throttle. A jet of water shot out of the exhaust like from an angry powerboat. At the near bank, the front wheel went into deep soft mud and down he went again. The marshals helped him up again and he spun his rear wheel up the slope. The crowd cheered.

The next rider tried to just gun it through. But either the water acted as a speedbrake or he had hit a rock, because he practically dove into the river, like a platform diver. The marshals came in to help again, and again and again.

It’s not all doom and gloom of course, as there were participants who made it through without dropping it into the river. One, on a Triumph Tiger 800 XCx ran straight through, eliciting a loud cheer from the spectators. So did defending champion, Bee Wong on his trusty KTM 1190 Adventure. They just held a steady throttle, stood up looked all the way up the river bank and up they went.

I got so absorbed with all the action and drama here that I had forgotten the other Sections, until Capt. Nik came by and pointed upstream, “If you think this crossing is tough, you should go see the one over there. It’s a 70% failure rate.”

I hurried over. A humungous crowd had already gathered, spread out all over the banks and down to the boulders jutting out of the stream. The water was much shallower but there were so many underwater rocks. Sure enough, many got caught out. They either dropped it or had their front wheels wedged in by the rocks.

The participants needed to cross to the opposite bank, turn back around and park up a slight slope before a wooden foot bridge. They then run across that bridge to the control tent and back again to their bike, to ride back across the stream.

One by one they went down. A number got past on the out trip only to drop it a couple of metres away from the bank. They tried it all: Speeding, riding slow, up off the seat, on the seat. It didn’t matter what bike they rode, that stream was kicking butts and taking names.

Soon, it was Bee Wong’s turn. He blasted down the slope, into the water and was up on the other side faster than it could register in anyone’s mind. He performed the other parts of the test flawlessly. The crowd had started to cheer him on as he remounted his KTM for the return trip. He hit the water like a jet ski on nitrous and… he went down! A loud “AWWW!” went up. He remounted quickly and got up the bank. But that mistake had thrown the competition wide open. Bee Wong is a superb rider and had won Rimba Raid many times over.

Adjacent to Section 5 was Section 6, which is a trail ride. Scoring is based on the fastest time. The starting point of the trail was easy – a flat, gravel road – before giving way to mud and deeper, softer mud. The participants climbed up hill before descending down a slippery path that’s littered with deep sunken portions that could swallow whole bikes. The image of a Venus Flytrap entered my mind when I saw those holes. It’s a great test of the rider’s ability to think ahead and anticipate, rather than to just react.

As the festival broke lunch, spectators’ children dunked themselves in the cool stream, while their parents picnicked on the bank. Being so far upstream, the water here is especially clear and cool. The stream of cool air kept blowing through the valley. What a great place.

The competitors sat together to talk about the day’s progress. It didn’t matter what brand of motorcycle they rode, everyone spoke, laughed and cringed as friends, while they analyzed what they went through or to gain a few tips from those who had cleared other sections.

Once proceedings resumed, competitors went to back the Sections they have yet to complete.

Over at Section 1, a rider moved a ripe and aromatic durian from the top of a bamboo pole to another. He stopped a couple metres later and was handed a blowpipe to shoot darts into a target. He then rode ahead to the finishing line where he needed to balance his bike at near standstill, on a patch of wet mud.

My ears caught the soundwaves of boisterous laughter. Over that laughter and shouts was the signature exhaust note of a BMW 1200cc Boxer engine being blipped aggressively. It came from the Time Attack section. As I made my way over I saw an oil-cooled R 1200 GSA being ridden expertly around that tough course. But what caused the laughter and shouts was this guy running next to the rider, pulling on his arms – in an effort to slow him down! It was among the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my 30-odd years of riding. (I got there too late to shoot pictures or video. Sigh.)

While the activities carried on, groups upon groups of bikers visited the Rimba Raid grounds throughout the day, some to lend support to their friends who were competing, some to spectate. Whatever their intention, no doubt everyone went away impressed and in awe.

Virtually every manufacturer present provided test rides. KTM provided the KTM 1050 Adventure on knobbies (incidentally the very same bike I rode during the KTM Weekend Adventure with Chris Birch). Kawasaki showcased their Versys 650, KLX150, and probably their centerpiece lightweight adventure bike, the Versys-X 250. BMW Motorrad’s centerpiece was the new G 310 GS.

As the action wound down, the riders retreated to their tents. A few took the opportunity to swim in that very stream that claimed their bikes or their buddies’. The foot massage therapists had brisk business. Sustenance was provided throughout the day by Rimba Raid exclusively for the competitors, as did food trucks and a catering service called Teddy… (do try their grilled German sausages and mini pizza if you ever ran into them).

The organizer and riders later went out on a Night Recce to ride the trail for the next day’s test, before returning to the camp site for dinner.

Day Two saw the competitors leaving the camping grounds for the trail section. “This is where they are tested on their fitness and stamina.” They were separated into groups of 20 to complete the section. Having 60 riders of different skill levels and on machines of different capabilities would have probably been “morbid.”

The results from Day One (which constituted to 40% of the overall score) and Day Two’s were tallied at the end of the day.

Finishing third was Syed Hafiz Bin Syed Sheikh, from Singapore. In second was Bee Wong, who relinquished the coveted #100 yellow number plate to his brother Alex Wong. Browsing through the results, it’s apparent that the competitors have to be good overall. However, given some of the tough sections, to participate in Rimba Raid is itself a great achievement, hence every participant apart from the winner received a competitor’s medal as a token of appreciation, regardless of their finishing positions.

To conclude, the Rimba Raid is the one of – if not the – most fun non-professional offroad competition and event that I’ve had the pleasure to experience. To the spectators, the atmosphere, the proximity to the action, and the sight of heavy (read: expensive) adventure bikes being hammered in the rough was an unprecedented experience. As for the competitors, they had something to achieve while having fun at the same time. Sometimes there’s just no way of gauging your riding capabilities unless you measure it against your peers’ – in a controlled environment, of course.

Of course, there were a few gripes from the competitors, but Capt. Nik said it best that Rimba Raid is still new and they’re still learning and evolving. In my humble personal opinion, Rimba Raid has the immense opportunity to grow into a premier offroad event.

Oh, by the way, am now itching to enter the next Rimba Raid. Anyone care to loan me a bike?

PICTURE GALLERY

  • The Works Minister has confirmed that motorcycles are allowed on the Federal Highway due to bike lane upgrade.

  • His clarification was in response to a press article about bikes “invading” the highway.

  • The works are slated to be completed in April 2018.

We recently highlighted a press article by the Malay Mail, questioning about motorcycles on the Federal Highway and the lack of apparent enforcement.

Motorcycles on the Federal Highway – “What choice do we have?”

That Malay Mail “report” had induced a firestorm of finger pointing especially by drivers against motorcyclists. Truth is, as we already knew, parts of the motorcycle lane were closed for construction.

And that’s exactly what the Works Minister, Ybhg. Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah Bin Haji Yusof clarified.

From www.tv14.my

According to the Minister, the Public Works Department (PWD or more well known as JKR) has been carrying out upgrading works on an 8.1-km stretch on both sides of the Federal Highway from Kota Darul Ehsan to Kelab Gold Subang. The upgrade is slated to be completed by April 2018.

As such, motorcyclists are allowed to use the main carriageway i.e. Federal Highway itself.

However, he added that Section 79(2) of the Road Transport Act 1987 stated that any motorist or even pedestrian who did not comply to traffic directions and signs is liable to a fine of not less than RM300 and not more RM2,000.

This statute has been set aside for the moment due the upgrading works and the traffic police and other relevant enforcement agencies have been informed of such work. It’s good to know that the authorities are being fair in this matter. But, please do not assume that we are allowed to ride the entire length of the highway outside of the motorcycle lane. We know the motorcycle lane is dangerous but the law’s the law.

He didn’t elaborate on instances where motorcyclists were forced to abandon the motorcycle lane due to flooding, however.

While we laud The Malay Mail’s effort in bringing such issues to light, we are still wondering if The Malay Mail had actually requested clarification with the relevant authorities first before publishing that particular “report.” It would’ve have been more constructive instead of being damning towards the plight of motorcyclists.

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