2004 Japanese Offerings

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Skagit


2004 Japanese Offerings

At the end of each summer there's always a lot of excitement going on as Japanese manufacturers begin to let loose the details of their upcoming models. Key players at dealerships go to Vegas for the various manufacturer conventions and call home with what they see, the internet lights up like a Christmas tree as the manufacturers begin to release details online and the next thing you know everyone has their own opinion of the new models. So here's ours from a somewhat objective, pragmatic point-of-view.


For 2004 Honda focused extensively on the street bike arena this year, having overhauled it's off-road line over the last few years. In most cases you'll find this years new Honda's to be bit pricy compared to their nearest competitors, but for some there's a price to pay for a name that has spoken quality since day one.

VTX Customs – Honda has announced four custom packages you can get your VTX 1800 in. One hot rod, one performance and two retro's. You decide which is right for you. It's good to see Honda making a commitment to the VTX line and hopefully they'll give the series a better lifespan than its predecessor, the Valkyrie. We have yet to see them go for a serious touring application, but who knows what the future holds. Certainly the bike has the power to be a bagger.

CBR1000RR – Take a good thing and make it better. All the style and performance of the CBR600RR now makes its way to the superbike platform. While it's certain to be a bit of an over-performer on the street, it will be fun to see how the local racing community latches onto this machine.

Shadow Aero 750 – Honda drops the displacement on it's Aero, formerly only available in 1100 cc's. Now you can get it at 750 with a 26 inch seat height at just $6,199. So what's not low about this entry level cruiser? A high number of color options, five in all for its first year. Should compete well against its competitors and bring a smile to the height challenged that want a bit more horsepower.

599 – With the introduction of the 919 in 2003, Honda took the naked bike concept and made it a bit smaller – sort of. The bike looks almost identical to the 919, but has less horsepower as it runs a 599cc motor underneath. What's not small about the bike is the price tag. At $7,099 this bike is only $900 less than the 919, has less power and comes carbureted, instead of fuel injected like its big brother. We may see some great deals on these by the end of the 04 selling season? In the street fighter category, its nearest competitor, the Suzuki Bandit 600S, will not be around in 2004. Sport Touring is pretty much out of the question – until that pipes makes an exit from the right top rear, the idea of throwing a nice set of bags over the seat is unlikely.

Dream 50R/NSR 50R – Two limited edition track bikes round out Honda's offerings for 2004. One retro, one modern day. Perhaps we'll start to see a few 50cc categories making their way back to the track, since the category died a perilous death on the mainstream in the early 90's

Honda Helix –  Back from extinction, Honda re-introduces the Helix in 11 shiny new colors. Priced at the same ticket it went out at, $4,999, its $1000 less than it's more modern day brother, the Reflex. Of course the Helix incorporates 1980's engineering two decades later, nonetheless it's still a great scooter and most who have ridden both models will take the Helix any day over a Reflex.


Yamaha covered ground in both the street and off-road categories this year.

R1 – The R1 gets a total overhaul again this time with a re-angled motor that provides a short stroke and re-engineering of the frame. And while they were at it they shoved the tail pipes up under the seat as is becoming commonplace these days. Hooligans will love it, but the real deal is what happens with it on the track. We'll wait and see.

FZ6 – Yamaha takes a good thing in the FZ1000 and brings it down to earth for lesser experienced riders, making a good thing better at the same time. Yamaha's taken the R6 motor and applied it to a street fighter using an aluminum frame. At press time Yamaha was still on the fence about how to price this, but history has shown they run well under the competing Honda models price, so the 599 may have some stiff competition, even though the FZ6 is a bit heavier at 423 pounds. Love those pipes snugged up under the seat!

YZ Off-Road Competition Models – As the company scuttles to bring four stroke dirt bikes to the market, they complete the deal with two F offerings – the YZ250F and YZ450F. Flat Trackers and scramblers will applaud this move. But Yamaha also did a redo on their two popular two stroke models, the YZ125 and YZ250.

Road Star Models – Last year's V-Star redo percolates over to the entire Road Star class this year. These meaty monsters have been picking up steam in sales and are priced to move against other like cruisers in the market place.

Vino 125 Scooter– Yamaha fills a void in the scooter class, at least from a Japanese perspective that is. It's been some time since any Yamaha or Honda have issued a scooter in the 125 – 150 category. Meanwhile the Italian confabulation has been doing nicely from Aprilia to Vespa. So here ya go.


Kawasaki brings a few interesting models to the market this year, and neary a Suzuki knock-off in the bunch (we all remember the KDX400 which was nothing more than a DRZ400). A little bit for everyone as you'll see here.

ZX10R – Superbikers beware, here's the next generation Ninja in the flesh. 180 horsies and all the styling you'll ever want from a current day sportbike with one thing missing – slight as it may be, the pipe is off to the side, instead of tucked under the fender. Raptor me this Batman: This could be a lot of fun for the Muzzy kids in Oregon?

Vulcan 500 LTD – Finally a 500 class cruiser, unheard of since the Rebel 450 disappeared. The market has been screaming for it and someone woke up and did it! While it's true, most buyers of this bike will own it less than a year, then trade up for a larger bike, but the machine is sorely needed to fill the gap for less experienced riders who don't want to jump on bikes that are too big for their newbie britches. It's here and priced right at $4,699! And how about this, the motor used is extracted from the Ninja 500!

Drifter 800 – With the long success of the Drifter 1500, you had to wonder when a mid-sized model would show up. It's here with the Drifter 800. All the sleek, retro styling at a great price of $6,999. Once again Indian will shiver at the low slung fender wells, but that's just business folks.

Vulcan 2000 – 800 not enough? 1500 not enough? America's power surge continues on in the cruiser market so here ya go with 2000 cc's of what-have-ya. Hot rod this one baby.


A few updates on some staple models give Suzuki a needed push in both performance and offereings.

GSXR 600, GSXR 750 – The only way to keep up at the track is to keep evolving your models. Suzuki does just that re-inventing the GSXR 600 and 750 models. Lighter weight, shorter stroke and new styling make these a step up from their predecessors.

V-Strom 650 – While the V-Strom 1000 was an interesting entrance for Suzuki into the Adventure marketplace, the bike was a bit of a mammoth for most to consider getting onto. The smaller V-Strom 650 is shorter, lighter and friendlier to the shorter or less seasoned rider. It maintains the V-twin motor, but will be a easier to handle in off-road situations. At $6,599 this bike will indeed be a challenge for it's BMW counterpart, the F650GS. The question is will it hold up in the long haul?

GS500F – When they deleted the GS500 from the 2003 line, most folks wondered what that was all about. The GS500 has always been an excellent introductory bike and fit shorter riders well. We recently someone do a 3000 two week trip on one and it ran like a top. Ahhhh. It's back. The new GS500F brings it's old charm back with a new look, much like a GSXR in that it's fully faired. The downside to that will likely result in higher insurance coverage, but it's great to see a good bike return to the marketplace nonetheless.

Marauder 1600 – The sleek cruiser gets a bit bigger. In the past we've seen this bike in 800 versions, with the more beast-like Intruder holding down the 1500 class, but now Suzuki makes a play for the hot-rod market. Keeping the Marauder sleek, it's stiff competition for it's Road star, VTX and Meanstreak competitors, not to mention Harley's V-Rod. For the Suzuki crusier enthusiasts it's just what the doctor ordered. SR!

PT/Fall 03

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