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Pavement pioneers

Four bikes that buck motorcycle traditions

Sep. 25, 2009 - 05:20PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 25, 2009 - 05:20PM  |  
2010 BMW S1000RR
2010 BMW S1000RR (COURTESY OF BMW)
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2010 Zero S Supermoto (COURTESY OF ZERO MOTORCYCLES)
2010 Honda DN-01 (COURTESY OF HONDA)

Bikes used to come only in primary colors — no shades of nuance, nothing that really deviated far from the Basic Concept. These days, you've got your choice of Frighteningly Fast or Fantastically Frugal. You can even have more than two wheels if you like.

Here are four coming at you in 2010, each as different from one another in layout, looks and purpose as you can get — and yet they're still part of the same family tree.

2010 BMW S1000RR

This bike is a tsunami of horsepower and aggressiveness. This 14,000 RPM-plus beast features a wealth of technology from BMW's Formula 1 race car engines. No other bike can touch its output: 193 horsepower at a screaming 13,000 RPMs. Or its power-to-weight ratio: The thing weighs 450 pounds. For perspective, a killer street bike like the current Suzuki Hayabusa weighs in at 485 pounds.

The BMW is set up for at-the-limit track days and gunslinger-serious street riding. The bike features Race ABS with four-mode (Rain, Sport, Race, Slick) DTC traction control that monitors and adjusts engine output as you dial in more lean angle in the curves.

Fans of all-out performance are sure to cheer.

In all-black paint, this bike is downright scary. And with a price of only about $13K, it's also within reach.

Base price: $13,000 (estimated)

www.bmw.com

2010 Zero S Supermoto

Here's a bike that gets better mileage than anything on wheels — because it uses no gasoline.

The Zero S is the first mass-production electric motorcycle. And it's not just a two-wheeled Prius. Though it's as efficient as you can get (the company says total operating costs, in terms of electricity to recharge its lithium ion battery, work out to just 1 cent per mile), it's not wimpy.

The Zero's electric motor produces more than 30 horsepower — or almost twice the output of a gas-engined 250cc bike of about the same size.

The Zero's also quick — it hits 50 mph in four seconds flat, making it one of the quickest bikes in its class. The Zero's chassis is ultra-lightweight — the whole bike weighs in at a very manageable 270 pounds.

The thing recharges on either standard 110V household or (faster) 220V appliance current (like you use for your dryer).

So, what's the downside? Range on a full charge is about 50 miles, or about a third the reach of a typical 250cc gas engine.

The government is offering a $1,000 tax credit to anyone who buys an electric bike.

Base price: $9,950

www.zeromotorcycles.com

2010 Can Am Spyder RT

The Can Am Spyder may have three wheels, but that's about all it has in common with an old-school trike. For one, the paired wheels are up front, not out back. For two, they are fully independent, each able to roll with the dips in the road.

Instead of the front wheel trying to lean while the back two fight each other to not lean at all, the Can Am's three wheels rotate and lean together — giving it great road manners and confidence-inspiring stability.

The RT is the latest addition to the Can Am lineup. It shares the same look and layout that made their debut last year with the Spyder RS, but it has 40 gallons of total storage and every bell and whistle that could be bolted on: cruise control, heated grips for both seating positions, an electrically adjustable windscreen, high-end stereo and your choice of manual or semiautomatic transmission.

Power and performance are impressive, too — there's a 998cc Rotax twin developing 100 hp buried deep under all that fairing.

Protection from the elements is much superior to a regular bike but you still get the open-air experience. And no regular bike can match its touring saddle or its ability to carry things along for the ride.

Base price $20,999 (estimated)

www.spyder.brp.com

2010 Honda DN-01

Honda's new DN-01 combines the ease of use of a scooter and the looks — and power — of a sport bike.

It could easily be mistaken for what it's not: Check the fat 17-inch sport bike tires (most scooters have 14-inch tires — if that), the sleek cowl with twin projector beam headlights and sport-bike-like fairing. A real suspension, too: telescoping front forks and a monotube shock/swingarm under the seat.

And it has what many real bikers love best: a fuel-injected V-twin power plant that can produce the same rock-and-roll sounds as any regular middleweight cruiser. The 680cc twin produces enough power to get the DN-01 to more than 120 mph — plenty fast enough to silence any snickers about this bike's credibility.

When you roll up to the next light, there's no need to de-clutch (because, of course, there is no clutch).

This thing runs more like a real motorcycle than anything short of, well, a real motorcycle.

Which, of course, it is — or isn't?

Base price: $15,599

www.honda.com

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