KLX250S Project Bike – March Update

Since we first introduced our KLX250S project bike last October, we’ve tinkered here and there with it. March marks out first major update to the bike which sees us install a new bar, bar risers, sprocket, chain, new hand guards, grips and skid plate. It adds up to quite a lot and all of it was done with one goal in mind – making the KLX250S more capable off-road.

Let’s start at the rear. We replaced the OEM chain (which hadn’t been looked after by the previous owner) with a nice RK chain. We’re going with a clip type master link which while isn’t as reliable, will serve a purpose – more on that later. More importantly, we replaced the OEM 42 tooth sprocket with a 48 tooth one from States MX. This is a hybrid steel/alloy sprocket – steel on the teeth and allow elsewhere to create a great combination of longevity as well as weight reduction. It also comes in pretty Kawasaki green.

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Now, going for a 48 tooth sprocket when the stock one is 42 is a big jump and it most certainly comes with compromises. The biggest downside is obviously when on the highway – our KLX250S now gets close to redline while in sixth gear when doing 110 kph. That’s neither comfortable or economic – but there is method to our madness.

Having the bigger sprocket now means we can crawl along in either first or second gear off-road without having to play with the clutch lever. It’s been a godsend on the more technical terrain, although if we’re honest, first gear is probably somewhat useless now – it doesn’t allow enough speed with our new setup. However, it does help with engine braking while going down steep declines.

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Ultimately, we may go down maybe to 47 or 46 in the future when off-road, or we might wait to see how the dynamics of the bike changes when we eventually increase the bike’s capacity to 350cc. Either way, we do need to factor in how the bike performs on the open road, which we’ll get to later.

Up front, we’ve changed just about everything to do with the controls. The biggest change is our new bars – a set of fat bars from Kwala which helps a lot with off-road riding while standing up. The new Kwala bars, aslong with the risers from Spex, mean total handlebar height is now around an inch higher. Both items seem to be top quality and ooze strength.

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We know rising the bars so much isn’t ideal for sharp and quick handling, but even with this new setup, I’m still having to bend my knees to comfortably hold onto the bars while standing on the pegs. Being 6’3″ does that. The Kwala bars seem extremely strong and from all reports, the OEM bars they’re replacing bent on first impact.

We’ve also put on some Kwala grips which are quite a bit more comfortable than the stock ones. We’ve also replaced the Barkbusters with a set of plastic guards from Polisport. No doubt the Barkbusters provided better crash protection, but they were bulky and quite frankly, rather ugly with their multiple attachments to actually connect to the bars. We save a bit of weight with the Polisport guards and they’ll provide protection for all but the worst impacts.

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Speaking of impacts, we’ve now also greatly improved the crash protection to our engine. Our new skid plate actually provides protection to some of the most expensive bits of our bike. Why things like this don’t come standard on dual sports we’ll probably never know.

So, why have we decided to sacrifice the KLX250S’ performance on the road? That’s because on our next update, we’ll be showing off our supermoto setup for the bike. What we’re hoping to achieve is a roll off, roll on setup where we can quickly change the bike from an enduro machine to a daily street machine in a matter of minutes. With this we hope to show how you can have a one size fits all motorcycle with just a little bit of effort.

That means a separate set of wheels with their own properly sized sprocket for the street, and thus with a clip type master link, removing the off-road chain and putting on the supermoto chain will be quick and easy. That at least is the plan…

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Armotia 2WD Electric Dirt Bike and Supermoto Near Release

Italian startup company Armotia is getting close to the release of their extremely exciting debut machines – the Due R dirt bike and Due X supermoto. Both are fully electric and both are two wheel drive with electronic distribution of torque front and rear. The company is slated to begin offering public test rides of the bikes next month and they’ve just registered both bikes with the European Trade Mark office.

These two little gems received very little fanfare upon their debut at EICMA last year – we were among most publications that didn’t even comment on them. In Italy however, they’ve gotten more coverage and despite their startup nature do look likely to deliver a real product this year.

While electric bikes aren’t exactly unique anymore, electric bikes with two wheel drive certainly are. Unlike other two wheel drive systems (such as the Christini AWD), the Armotia doesn’t use a secondary chain and sprocket to drive the front wheel but a second motor. One motor is located together with the battery where the fuel tank and engine usually sits, while the second is on the front hub. A proprietary system controls torque to both front and rear wheels while various modes allow you to split the torque to your choosing on the fly.

The other unique trick that Armotia is planning for the Due R and Due X is tight smartphone integration. While a number of companies now have systems where the bike can communicate with a smartphone, Armotia puts it front and centre. Your phone will sit where the instrument cluster normally would and in addition displaying telemetry data, will also easily allow you to make videos, monitor driving performances, save your telemetry data and share any of your route.

Otherwise however, Armotia has been pretty quiet about the technology behind the machine. While they’ve quoted specifications for much of the bike, there’s little detail on where the components have come from and who manufacturers them. Little is also known about who is stumping up the capital for the company to give potential buyers the confidence to invest what is expected to be around €15,000 for the bikes.

All that being said, if Armotia can deliver on what they’re promising we’ll have two very unique and impressive new motorcycles on the market.

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Zero Introduces the FXR – an Electric Supermoto

The planets have aligned and given us the 2016 Zero FXR – a supermoto with truckloads of instant torque thanks to its electric engine. It’s a new model for 2016 just announced by Zero and could well end up being one of the most entertaining motorcycles on the market today.

When coupled with a 6.5 kWh battery, the Zero FXR is propelled to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. While that’s not earth shattering, the fact that this bike which weighs only 133 kg produces 95 Nm of torque from rest is. Just to put that in perspective, the current model Triumph Street Triple only produces 68 Nm and that’s only once it reaches nearly 10,000 rpm. Most literbikes produce just over 100 Nm of torque towards redline.

Top speed is still a license revoking 132 km/h and range in the city is 145km – certainly not enough for long trips but adequate for local journeys. Front and rear wheels are supermoto sized 17 inchers and are shod with Pirelli Diablo Rosso rubber. Bosch ABS brakes and fully adjustable Showa suspension is also included.

As part of their 2016 model refresh, Zero have announced a new accessory called the ‘charge tank’. According to Zero, the charge tank effectively triples the on-board charging speed by working with level 2 charging stations on the popular J1772 standard. The dealer-installed accessory complements the standard on-board charger of many 2015 and later Zero motorcycles, reducing typical charge times to 2-3 hours. It includes a new tank section that eliminates the tank bag from the motorcycle. Availabitilty will be in about six months and will cost a rather serious $1,988.

Pricing for the Zero FXR starts at $8,495.00 with the cost increasing for the larger capacity batteries and quick charger.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and 701 Enduro to be Released Simultaneously

We’ve received confirmation that both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and its knobby tired brother, the 701 Enduro will both be released at the same time. That means in November across Europe and Australia and in February in North America. And yes, both bikes will find their way to the US and Canada.

This has been confirmed to us by a number of dealerships around the world where Husqvarna has been doing product previews and demonstrations with sales staff in preparation for the upcoming release. We’re also hearing some additional information that might answer a puzzling question about these upcoming Husqvarna releases.

That question is why is Husqvarna making such a big deal about the 701 Supermoto (and no doubt the enduro version when it’s released) when they’re both pretty similar (if not identical) to the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 Enduro R? Well, some – but not all – of the dealerships that we’ve spoken to say that those two models won’t be released in 2016 by KTM – effectively leaving the bikes as Husqvarna exclusive models.

That would make sense as there isn’t a big enough a market for the two companies to cannibalise each others sales. It also gives the two brands greater differentiation as they continue to branch off in direct ways.

Both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and Enduro will feature a 690cc thumper producing 67bhp, ABS brakes, WP suspension and multiple engine modes. The supermoto features a slipper clutch which is something we’d assume is deleted for the enduro model, along with slightly modified suspension and geometry.

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Husqvarna Unveil the 2016 FS 450 Supermoto

Husqvarna is really starting to differentiate itself from sister company KTM and the release of the updated 2016 FS 450 Supermoto certainly contributes to that. While Husqvarna is busy hyping up the forthcoming release of their 701 Supermoto, the FS 450 Supermoto is actually a bike that doesn’t have an equivalent in KTM’s lineup.

That to us is far more interesting than the 701 Supermoto which is as far as we can tell just a rebadged KTM 690 SMC R. The new FS 450 Supermoto is derived from the heavily revised FE 450 Enduro which was announced just a few months ago and that means it gets a whole lot of great features that the previous years model did not.

That includes a new subframe which is made of a composite material that is 30% carbon fibre and features a three-piece construction, which is 1 kg lighter than its equivalent in the previous model. The new cast aluminium swingarm has been redesigned, is stiffer and lighter than before as well.

Like its enduro cousin, the FS 450’s motor gets a serious overhaul as well. The new engine is 23 mm shorter, 23 mm narrower and 9 mm lower than before. Total weight reduction for the engine is a very impressive 1.8kg. Even the cylinder head gets some work to reduce weight.

The 5-speed gearbox comes standard with a slipper clutch and the clutch lever is hydraulic. The gearbox gets some tweaks to make it more compact and lighter too. The FS 450 also features a standard handlebar map switch which also activates launch control, a function that limits the amount of power to the rear wheel for approximately two seconds. This results in improved traction and the prevention of loss of control under hard acceleration.

If upon looking at the pictures below of the bike you were wondering why the exhaust headers looked suspicously like something from a 2-stroke, you’re not imagining things. The resonance chamber is integrated into the header pipe to resemble a 2-stroke expansion chamber which not only helps with weight distribution, but also reduces noise.

The proprietary WP rear shock has been specifically designed for Supermoto and features 266 mm of rear travel. It features fully adjustable rebound and high/low speed compression while up front you get 48 mm WP closed cartridge forks with 280 mm of suspension travel and is also fully adjustable.

The brand new 2016 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto will heat dealer showrooms in Europe this month and will hopefully find it’s way internationally soon thereafter.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Specifications Begin to be Revealed

Husqvarna has updated the microsite for their upcoming 701 Supermoto showing off many of the technologies the bike will incorporate upon its release later this year. Unfortunately for those hoping for a surprise, it appears that there’s no new features compared to the KTM 690 SMC R which the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is based on.

In fact, the more we see the more it would appear the 701 Supermoto will be a direct copy of the KTM with different plastics and stickers. That’s not a bad thing as the 690 SMC R is regarded as a great bike. It’s just that 690 SMC R is over two years old now and for Husqvarna to make its ‘road bike’ come back a carbon copy of an existing bike is a little underwhelming – hopefully it surprises us with the price.

According to Husqvarna, the 701 Supermoto will benefit from a ride-by-wire throttle system allowing for precise and consistent throttle control as well as three engine-modes allowing you to fine-tune the 701’s power delivery for a wide range of possible riding surfaces and weather conditions.

Also included is a slipper clutch, 48 mm upside-down forks by WP Performance Systems with 215 mm of travel and separate damping circuits in each fork tube allowing for compression to be damped via the left tube and rebound via the right. The rear shock is pivot-arm articulated and features both high and low speed compression adjustments.

ABS is standard but disappointingly just like the KTM 690 SMC R, you have to pay extra for an optional dongle unlocks supermoto ABS, allowing the rear wheel to lock with full ABS function upfront. We thought it was poor form to not have this standard when the 690 SMS R was first released – it’s possibly even worse now considering we’re two years down the track and looking at what’s supposed to be a more value orientated brand.

The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is expected to be released by November this year.

Is the Honda NXR160 Supermoto Coming to the West?

Honda has filed a design patent with the European Trade Mark and Design Network for the NXR160 – a supermoto that has been available in Brazil since late last year. This by no means is an indication that Honda is considering selling the bike in Europe as companies often register in other jurisdictions to protect their intellectual property. But given the importance of the entry level market, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Honda release an entry level supermoto.

The engine of the NXR160 would likely have to be modified significantly (or completely changed) to work in Europe, which makes the business case for it a bit harder. The Honda NXR160 as it currently is configured in Brazil features a flex fuel engine (able to take both normal fuel and ethanol) and is air cooled. It also only makes 14.5 hp – less than half what some of the entry level competition is currently producing.

Alongside adventure bikes, entry level supermotos are a virtually non-existent species at the moment and it would be great to see a company dip their toe into the water to gauge the potential of the category. But for the moment it’s most likely this is an exercise in protecting IP rather than a serious move by Honda.