Tokyo Motor Show 2019 Bikes creating buzz and the reasons behind it

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The 46th Tokyo Motor Show 2019 came to a successful close. The theme of the show was OPEN FUTURE. The showcomprehensively showcased bikes and cars thatwill open the way for a new era, and furthermore envisages the future of people and cities. The show produced many topics.

In this section, we aim to anticipate motorcycle trends in the 2020 decade by taking another look at the exhibitions held by two-wheel vehicle manufacturers.

The distinctly unique manufacturing craftsmanship of motorcycle manufacturers

The global automotive industry is currently undergoing a major transformation. In light of this, the two-wheel vehicle exhibition zone garnered a great deal of attention owing to questions about the direction Japan’s motorcycle manufacturing industry is headed in, the true needs of the market, and the mode of integration of these needs to realize the innovations that are required by the times.

Japan’s four major two-wheel vehicle manufactures—Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Kawasaki), Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki), Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (Honda) and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. (Yamaha) —showcased more than 60 models of motorcycles, including 14 world premiere models, and nine Japan premiere models. Each of these models contained a message for a new era, including concept models that envisage future technologies, sports bikes that evoke excitement and eco-friendly compact mobility.

I was most impressed by the unique qualities that were embodied in the manufacturing craftsmanship of each motorcycle manufacturer. In particular, the spotlight was on the Kawasaki Z H2, Suzuki Gixxer SF 250, Honda CRF 1100L Africa Twin and YAMAHA MW-VISION, at each of the company’s respective booths. These motorcycles expressed the unique characteristics of each individual brand. We spoke with each development project leader to learn how their respective models can be enjoyed in our daily lives.

An array of remarkable bikes that enthusiasts cannot wait to see in the market

At the Kawasaki booth, there were two world premiere motorcycle models featured on a carousel emblazoned with the traditional emblem of Kawasaki Group. Visitors were glued to these two bikes—the Super Sport Ninja ZX-25R, with a 249 cc engine, and the Super Naked Z H2, with a 998 cc engine.

The Ninja ZX-25R has a 250cc, 4 cylinder engine which is long-awaited in the class. The bike is scheduled to be rolled out in or around autumn 2020. The Z H2, which will be referred to later, is slated to hit the market in summer 2020.

Furthermore, at the back of the booth, the new version of W800, which is set to be launched on December 1, 2020, made its world premiere. The source of this retro design, the Kawasaki 500 Meguro K2 (released in 1965) and the 650-W1 (marketed in 1966) were also on display. In addition to being nostalgic, they also imparted the rich flavor of “W.”

In this fashion, Kawasaki’s exhibition displayed an array of new models which enthusiasts cannot wait for. Each vehicle also imbued a superb texture and was promoted as the “future within reach.”

A group of four in their 20s that visited the motor show demonstrated a keen interest in the Ninja ZX-25R. They gazed intently on the bike making comments such as, “They finally came out with a 250 cc, 4-cylinder engine, if this hits the market, people will really want this,” and “the appearance is considerably cool and it will likely be pricey, but I would like to try riding it anyway.”

In recent years, each brand’s 250cc full cowl sport bike has been vying with rivals for popularity and sales. The advent of the Ninja ZX-25R is likely to significantly stimulate the market of light motorcycle category in 2020.

Z H2 with a superchargedengine that can be casually enjoyed

Another bike that gained high attention at the Kawasaki booth was the Z H2. This was the world premiereof the flagship model in the super naked “Z” series. This is the first time Kawasaki equipped a naked model with asupercharged engine*, which Kawasaki is proud of. It exerts the power and acceleration that reach the maximum level for a street legal model.

The H2 engine, which is applied to the Kawasaki Ninja H2 Super Sports series,boasts astonishing performance. The maximum output of the engine for street legal models reaches 200 horsepower. Koji Ito, who was responsible for development, casually stated the purpose of putting this “monster” engine on a light weight naked model. Ito said, “Development was based on the concept of having the charm of the H2 engine casually enjoyed on a daily basis. The engine is powerful but the Z H2 is designed to be easy to handle. I think this bike allows users to enjoy an exciting feeling whether taking a one day touring on a day off or taking a short ride in the vicinity.”

According to Ito, there is a marked difference in torque between 200 horsepower of non-supercharged engine and that of the Z H2’s engine. The Z H2 engine has rich torque from a low rpm range and offers a huge increase in torque in middle & high rpm ranges. These capabilities are said to be a unique feature of the supercharger.

The styling feels tense as if a beast is aiming at its prey. Keishi Fukumoto from the Styling & Design Department described the motorcycle as follows. “In integrating the H2 engine with the aggressive styled Kawasaki Z, we tried to enhance a stronger and more muscular image. We realized awesome, individualistic styling, like left-right asymmetric looks, and the novel face design.

*Note: Supercharger sends a large volume of air into the engine’s combustion chamber.


Showcasing the excitement of automobiles and motorcycles

The Suzuki booth displayed a colorful cars and stylish motorcycles. The theme was creating WAKUWAKU SWITCH for EVERYONE, generating excitement for everyone with your own excitement. As a comprehensive mobility manufacturer, the exhibit was a compilation of technologies.

The motorcycles on display mainly consisted of sports models—the 249 cc Gixxer 250 (show model), the new model 998 cc Katana, which was rolled out in 2019 and resonated with fans, Suzuki’s super premiere sports model, the 999 cc GSX-R 1000R ABS, and the 645 cc SV650X ABS, a stylish neo-retro, café racer. One after another, visitors straddled all the bikes that they could sit on to confirm the feel of each bike. In particular, visitors formed a long line to get their turn to take a commemorative picture sitting on the GSX-RR, a MotoGP machine with a 1,000 cc engine. The bike was set against a background duplicating a race in which the visitor appears to be performing a full bank.

A female visitor in her 20s said she came to the show as she was in the market for a minicar. She continued saying, “I somehow found myself drawn to the motorcycles. I was amazed at how the riders on racing bikes lean into the curves and also at how expensive motorcycles are!”Her tone rose in excitement after listening to an explanation of the Gixxer 250, which was on display in front of her. She eagerly went on saying, “I can’t believethis bike is really for beginners? When I heard this, I began to take a serious look at it. I began to think this bike might be for me. I started to wonder how much it cost?” It seemed that her WAKUWAKU switch had been pushed.


Gixxer 250/Gixxer SF 250Featuring a newly developed oil-cooled engine

At this show, Suzuki demonstrated its own proprietary direction in motorcycle craftsmanship. The company developed a new generation oil-cooled engine. The 249-cc Gixxer 250 and 249-cc Gixxer SF 250, both of which were unveiled by Suzuki as their Japan premiere, are equipped with a new type of engine (oil-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC 4-valve single cylinder engine).

Since the release of the GSX-R750 (749-cc engine) in 1985, Suzuki’s oil-cooled engine models have won high praise. However, since 2008, the company has not released a commercially available oil-cooled engine model. This time around is the first time in 11 years that Suzuki released a long-awaited oil-cooled engine model.

According to Suzuki’s Chief Engineer in charge of development, Tetsuji Nojiri, “The development concept for the Gixxer 250 was to create a 250-cc sports bike that was affordable for young consumers but which featured a discriminating design. We wanted to create a compact, powerful engine. This led to the idea of using an oil-cooled engine.”The benefit of an oil-cooled engine is that it requires fewer parts than a water-cooled engine, and is more compact and light weight. This would allow us to curb cost but achieve sufficient performance in terms of horsepower and fuel economy. This perfectly matched the concept for the Gixxer 250.

Engine designer, Koji Mori, provided the following explanation. “The progress made in manufacturing technology during this period, considerably enhanced the possibilities of the oil-cooled engine. The cooling channel of the new engine boasts a passage structure similar to that of a human intestinal tract. This resulted in an increase in surface area boosting the heat dissipation. In addition, oil also circulated fasterfurther enhancing the cooling effect.”

A refined and graceful design. As a model affordable for young consumers, the 250-cc sports bike is anticipated to make its big break as an entry level model.


Vehicle exhibition hosting a wide array of models - Proposing a bike that is fun and playful

Honda took the stage to present the world premiere of the BENLY e: and GYRO e:, two business EV scooter models. The lineup of vehicles on display consisted of a variety of models. This included several commercially available vehicles and the Japan premiere of the Goldwing Tour, a 1,833-cc grand tourer(DCT*1). The visual layout was impressive, a synchronicity of two-wheel and four-wheel products that is associated with various lifestyles.

Visitors flocked to the Honda booth to see the world premiere of the CT125 concept model. The CT125 is a leisure model with a scrambler style exhaust that was inspired by the CT110 Hunter Cub (105 cc), which was manufactured in the 1980s. The bike appears to be the embodiment of fun as it sparks the adventurous spirit of riders and can be taken off-road for full enjoyment.

A couple in their 30s who live in Tokyo visited the booth.. The boyfriend said, “This is a cool bike. I am sure it’s great off-road but I would want to ride it in the city.” His girlfriend found the experience eye-opening. She was not well-versed about bikes, offered the following comment. “The design is cute. I think it will be popular among women assuming it can be ridden like a bicycle. It also fits this camp atmosphere.”

Honda’s display floor also showcased a historical lineup of the CB series, as it was the 60th anniversary of the series release. There was another display commemorating the 60th anniversary of Honda’s participation in the world championships for motor sports. These displays drew in many Honda fans who looked on nostalgically, appreciating each vehicle they saw.

*1: Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). Automatic gear change system. Eliminated the need for left-hand clutch operations and left foot gear shifting.


Promises a more comfortable motorcycle trip - CFR1100L Africa Twin

I would like to highlight world premiere of the CRF1100L Africa Twin(DCT)(1,082 cc engine) and CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports(DCT)(1,082 cc engine) at the Honda exhibition.

Speaking of the Africa Twin, it was revived in 2016. This adventure sports model earned high evaluations. Honda aimed to implement a full model change. The company unveiled an all brand-new vehicle which is scheduled to hit the market on February 14, 2020*2.

Kenji Morita, Honda’s Large Project Leader responsible for development, talked proudly with us about the new points of the Africa Twin. “We boosted the engine displacement from 998 cc to 1,082 cc to make it more powerful. We placed importance on the unique traits of the African Twin while revamping the frame and making adjustments overall to achieve a more compact, lighter weight bike. This made for agile and energetic driving, and an easier-to-handle bike. We also revised the bike’s suspension to further increase the enjoyment of off-road riding.”

Raising the engine displacement resulted in powerful on-road driving at high speeds on freeways. The electronic control was also upgraded enabling the extensive riding modes to firmly support the rider. Not to mention, in the case of a DCT spec vehicle, long distance travel is more enjoyable and comfortable. Moreover the height of the seat was lowered40mm. This largely improved feetability. Morita said, while laughing,“This model incorporates the best of everything.” He went on to say that, “Our goal was for the rider to enjoy the feel of the ride of the Africa Twin itself and the adventures and fun at the touring destination.” This new model can be said to have evolved into the most luxurious travel bike proposed by Honda.

*2. The CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES, which employs an electronic control suspension, was released on December 13, 2019

Many exhibitions featured mobility to support lifestyles in the future

Based on the theme of ART for Human Possibility to make people happier, Yamaha showcased many types of mobility, not just motorcycles, that will play a role in various lifestyles.

The Land Link Concept was positioned at the center of the booth. The Land Link Concept freely moves across the land and engages in various types of work. The concentric layout also introduced futuristic vehicles, including the E01 (equivalent to 125 cc) and E02 (equivalent to 50 cc) EV bikes, the YPJ-YZ (a race spec E-BIKE), the TRITOWN (a compact, electric-powered standing form of mobility), the YNF-01 (a low-speed electric-powered mobility), and the YAMAHA MW-VISION(concept mobility), which we will discuss later.

Motorcycle exhibition also ambitious. World premiere of the TRICITY300 (300 cc class), which has been newly added to the LMW* lineup

A man in his 20s stood staring at the bike. He gave a thumbs-up, saying “TRICITY300 is cool and exudes luxury. It looks convenient and fun for both commuting and touring. I look forward to its release.”

Yamaha carried out the Japan premiere for the adventure tourer Terene700 (689cc), which is to be launched in the summer of 2020, and the new model super sports bike,YZF-R1(1,000 cc class), which is slated to be rolled out in autumn 2020. These models caught the not gaze of many visitors.

*LMW stands for leaning multi wheel. Vehicles with three or more wheels that lean like a motorcycle when turning.

YAMAHA MW-VISION-In pursuit of next-generation Jin-Ki Kanno (seductive exhilaration of being one with the machine)

At this show, Yamaha globally released the YAMAHA MW-VISION. This is a compact personal mobility concept model with a cocoon-shaped cabin. In addition to the LMW technology, it also utilizes robotics technology to achieve independence and the capability to prevent falls. This was put on display as a concept model that is actually drivable.

A unique feature of the model is that it uses interactive communication between the user and the vehicle. The interior of the cabin is equipped with a band of light (LED) and a 3D sound system. The seats have a system that transmits stimuli (vibrations triggered by an actuator). For example, when turning right or backing up, the vehicle conveys this information to passengers in the vehicle in form of lights, sound and vibrations. Conversely, passengers intuitively respond to the information communicated through sensations. Through instinctual behavior, it is as if the vehicle and user are talking. This allows users to enjoy a new sensory communication.

We caught up with Hirokazu Tanaka, head developer, discussed the following. “We integrated the technologies Yamaha nurtured thus far with human sensitivities with the goal of producing mobility that anyone can drive easily and drive comfortably. We are pursuing an unprecedented form of fun of mobility, where humans commune with machines. In addition, during normal driving, the rider balances their body while maneuveringour vehicle. During unstable situations when traveling at low speed and when stopping, the actuator control supports vehicle maneuvering and balance. The machine is close knit with human sensitivities.” The theme of Yamaha’s manufacturing craftmanship—Jin-Ki Kanno(a technology that fuses people and machines into one at a high dimension to create human happiness and excitement) —is now paving the way for the future vehicles.