Two New Honda NSF250Rs For 2012 | Drawing the Line

Two interesting new motorcycles recently broke cover in Europe, one in a very public introduction and the other snapped by a spy photographer. The Honda NSF250R showed up for demonstration laps at the Catalunya, Spain round of the MotoGP World Championship. The bike is the first of the upcoming Moto3 class to see the light of day, and although we knew it was coming, the details are still interesting.

This bike's single-cylinder engine is not a modified motocross powerplant, but a new design specifically targeted at roadracing. Bore and stroke are 78.0 x 52.2mm and claimed output is just over 48 bhp at 13,000 rpm. The cylinder is canted rearward 15 degrees with the 50mm throttle body facing forward, a la Yamaha's YZ450F. The exhaust snakes from the back of the cylinder head, forward and down to a muffler under the engine. Two overhead cams operate four titanium valves.

The chassis is very similar to Honda’s RS125 two-stroke racer. Weight is said to be 185 lbs. and wheelbase a tiny 48 inches. Brakes, wheels and tires are 125cc GP-spec. Honda has made a significant commitment to this class, offering the NSF for sale in Europe at the end of 2011. There are currently no plans to sell the bike in North America, but should a serious racing series be formed here Honda will surely be interested. Price is 23,600 euros, or about $35,000 at current exchange rates.

There will be other 250cc efforts by the time the inaugural Moto3 season starts in 2012, with a partnership between German chassis-maker Kalex and Austria’s KTM recently announced, and more to follow. Honda’s early introduction of the NSF gives teams plenty of time to plan for next season, and the new class should have a solid foundation.

Much more mysterious is Ducati's 2012 superbike, an all-new design that we first saw traces of a year ago (Up To Speed, May 2010). The bike is called the Superquadrata ("Supersquare"), a reference to the extremely oversquare bore/stroke ratio. The engine is still a 90-degree V-twin, but the cylinders have been rotated rearward to make the engine shorter front-to-back.

The steering head is likely carried in a box structure that bolts into the “V” of the engine. On the Desmosedici MotoGP bike, that is a composite part made of carbon-fiber, while on the streetbike it’s likely an aluminum casting. The steering-head box doubles as the airbox, with the throttle bodies directly below.

The single-sided braced swingarm and rear suspension bolt to the engine cases, and the seat support is carried by the cases and the rear cylinder head. The spy photos show the shock in a horizontal position above the transmission, different from the MotoGP bike’s location within the long, double-sided swingarm.

The patented design is a “frameless motorcycle,” and it appears that is indeed what we see in the spy shots; there’s not a trace of Ducati’s traditional steel trellis. The Superquadrata appears significantly smaller than the 1198; about the size of the diminutive Aprilia RSV4. Ducati is sitting out the World Superbike Championship this season to focus on MotoGP, but indications are it will be back with this bike in 2012. We’ve heard rumors that there have been some teething problems with the Superquadrata, but any design as innovative as this is likely to encounter obstacles.

With the NSF250R and the Superquadrata, we have exciting performance to look forward to at two extremes of racing. Bikes like the Honda will build a new foundation for MotoGP and the training of new riders, while the Ducati may well redefine the technical limits of Superbike racing.

Expect exciting new technology on the racetrack next season: Honda’s NSF250R Moto3 racer features a “backwards” cylinder head, while Ducati’s Superquadrata superbike uses “frameless” construction.