Motoring: Bike to the future

Roland Brown previews the Motor Cycle show
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Indy Lifestyle Online
There's no doubt about which bikes are the star attractions at this year's Motor Cycle Show, which opens at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham today. Triumph's pair of new three-cylinder road-burners, the T595 Daytona and T509 Speed Triple, herald the arrival of a second generation of superbikes from the Leicestershire firm, six years after it brought British motorcycle manufacturing back from the dead.

A sleek, 955cc, pounds 9,649 sports machine, the T595 Daytona is set to do battle with the fastest superbikes from Italy and Japan. The T595's 12- valve, dohc engine is a fuel-injected version of the previous Daytona unit, tuned with help from Lotus to produce 128bhp.

Triumph's other newcomer, the T509 Speed Triple is an unfaired roadster whose twin headlamps give an aggressive look, with an 885cc three-cylinder engine.

Japan's brightest show stars come from Suzuki, whose TL1000S sportster combines a 123bhp V-twin engine with a racy chassis based on a lightweight aluminium frame. The TL features fuel-injection and an innovative rear damping system.

The NEC will provide most show-goers with their first view of Honda's 1997-model CBR11 100XX Super Blackbird. Their six-cylinder F6C roadster is even more outrageous: a gigantic, naked roadster powered by the flat- six engine from the Gold Wing tourer. For those who prefer their superbikes lighter and sportier, the VTR1000 FireStorm rivals Suzuki's TL1000S by wrapping a water-cooled V-twin engine in a stylish package.

Yamaha has only one real newcomer: the XVS650 Drag Star, a long, low Harley-Davidson replica cruiser developed from the popular XV535. Kawasaki is aiming for the budget market with the ER-5, a 500cc twin-cylinder commuter bike that has just gone on sale for pounds 3695. Kawasaki's only other new model is the ZRX1100, an unfaired four-cylinder retro bike whose raised handlebars and twin rear suspension units recall American superbike racing of the early Eighties.

Harley-Davidson has a new model designed to look even more ancient than all the others. The Heritage Springer holds its big 1340cc V-twin motor in a chassis featuring retro-style "springer" front forks. For the first time at the NEC there will also be a line of Harley-powered Buell sports bikes. The company founded by former Harley engineer Erik Buell is now part-owned by Harley.

Ducati, Europe's most famous builder of V-twins, has been boosted by an injection of money from America. Its main new model is the ST2, a sports- tourer powered by a fuel-injected motor producing a fairly modest 83bhp. Other Italian attractions include Moto Guzzi's V10 Centauro roadster and Bimota's radical 500 V Due, a "clean-burning" two-stroke sportster, plus stylish scooters from Vespa, Italjet and Piaggio.

Aprilia has a new version of its 650 Pegaso trail bike, and the Italian firm will also assemble BMW's F650ST Strada, a road-oriented version of the popular dual-purpose F650 single. But it is BMW's other new bike, the sporty four-cylinder K1200RS, that will create more comment for its fuel-injected engine's output of 130bhp - making this the first model to breach BMW's self-imposed 100bhp limit.

In his Motor Cycle Show opening speech four years ago, then Transport Minister Kenneth Carlisle criticised Triumph's latest 1200cc sportster for being excessively powerful. However, accident figures did not support him and manufacturers continued to develop more powerful machines, and superbike sales have risen. Now even conservative BMW has decided that if you can't beat them, you might as well join in, too.

The Motor Cycle Show, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, 9-17 November, 10am-6pm (pounds 10/pounds 5)

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