2012 Motorcycle Roundup

Wander the halls of any motorcycle show on a weekend and you might end up thinking Canadians have suddenly developed a new-found sense of adventure. Oh, sure, there are some new sport bikes — MV’s long-gestating 675R notable among them — but most of the big news seems to be in the adventure touring department.


BMW, already the industry leader in the adventure touring segment, expands its already diverse lineup by reversing direction and making its G650 decidedly more off-road worthy. The new G650 GS Sertão actually eschews a few of the company’s traditional comforts, focusing on its off-road bona fides. Thus, the Sertão rides on a 21-inch front wheel rather than 19, the rear wheel is skinnier and suspension travel has been increased to 210 millimetres at both ends. Of course, that means the seat height has been raised some 60 mm to a substantial 860 mm. There’s an aluminum engine guard to protect the 652-cubic-centimetre single-cylinder during all of these off-road shenanigans and you can switch off the ABS system for off-road use.

On a more traditional front, the most powerful production superbike in the world, BMW’s S1000RR, gets mild updates. Although peak horsepower remains at 193, the 2012 version of the 999-cc four-cylinder sees a substantial increase in mid-range torque thanks to cam timing and inlet and exhaust tract changes. Handling has been improved — particularly when entering corners, with rake and fork offset changes making turn-in easier. Aerodynamics has been improved through revised bodywork.


Some of the biggest news for sportbikes comes from Italy, namely the Ducati 1199 Panigale and MV Agusta’s long-awaited F3 675R. The 675 literally screams — to 14,500 rpm, quite high for a three-cylinder engine — and its high-tech bona fides include an eight-level traction control system, a MotoGP counter-rotating crankshaft and a quick shifter for the transmission. MV claims there’s 128 hp on tap and it has the most sophisticated electronics package in the business, which can be brought up to full race standard with the addition of the optional lean sensor, launch control and anti-wheelie functions.

Finally, we’ll get to see the industry’s worst-kept secret, Ducati’s 1199 Panigale. Claiming an incredible 195 horsepower, its 1,199-cc superquadro V-twin is housed in a frameless chassis just like the company’s Desmosedici racer (though, ironically, it hasn’t worked very well in MotoGP and Ducati is on the cusp of abandoning the technology for racing purposes). Three models are available — the base model with Marzocchi/Sachs suspension, the S with full Ohlins front and rear suspension and the top-of-the-line Tricolore, which adds a titanium exhaust system and a data acquisition system.


Kawasaki’s new Versys 1000 is almost mid-sized, though the 1,043-cc in-line four sourced from the company’s Z1000 will certainly not be underpowered. The big adventure tourer takes advantage of Kawasaki’s expertise in traction control, offering a three-level anti-slip system as well as anti-lock brakes. There’s even a selection of electronically controlled power curves for situations with less than ideal traction. Compared with the popular 650-cc version, the 1000 Versys gets improved wind protection and seat comfort as well as a larger gas tank for greater touring range.

Quite why Kawasaki felt a need for more power in its already over-the-top ZX-14R I don’t know, but the hyperbike sees a four-mm stroke increase to 1,441 cc and a reputed 200-plus-hp at the crank. The engine sees a raft of internal upgrades — stronger crankshaft, oil-jet piston cooling and a revised cam chain — to deal with all that power. Thankfully, the ZX-14R is equipped with Kawasaki’s three-level traction control system. After all, power is nothing without control.


Suzuki’s totally revamped DL650 looks to remain at the top of the mid-sized touring segment. The most noticeable change is the welcomed styling revision, the 2012 losing the original DL’s angular styling. Seat height has been increased for greater ground clearance as well as increased seat-to-footpeg distance for greater comfort. The fairing has also been resculpted for more coverage. Though the engine remains the same (save for a bump in compression and revised cam timing) the 645-cc V-twin has more than ample torque. Anti-lock brakes are now standard and there’s a new model — the DL650 EXP — with rugged aluminum adventure touring luggage.

Suzuki’s flagship GSX-R1000 also sees revisions for 2012 with a return to a lighter, single-pipe exhaust and new Brembo Monoblock front brake calipers for better feel at the lever. Weight is reduced to 203 kilograms and, with a claimed 191 hp, performance should be nothing short of monstrous.


Big is the only way to describe Triumph’s new 2012 Tiger Explorer. Powered by a 1,215-cc version of Triumph’s stellar in-line three-cylinder, the Explorer features a sophisticated ride-by-wire throttle, ABS and traction control, as well as cruise control.

Triumph will be offering plenty of touring accessories and a substantial 135 hp. Combined with Triumph’s typically prodigious torque, the Explorer should make for a speedy package. Also adjustable are the windshield and handlebars. Long-distance tourers will love the huge 950-watt alternator that can power myriad accessories. Large 60-litre saddlebags are offered, as is a 35L topcase.


Yamaha’s YZF-R1 gains electronic traction control for 2012, with seven different settings for allowable rear wheel slip. The R1 also maintains its three-position D-mode system that controls throttle response and power output, so there should be a throttle response/traction control setting for virtually any surface or road condition. The Yamaha already has manageable power thanks to its unique crossplane crankshaft. However, the R1 does not yet gain an anti-lock braking system.

2012 BMW S1000RR. Photograph by: BMW, handout