Tune in Tokyo

Mild is the New Wild

By Aaron Frank | Photography by Yamaha & Honda

[The rough-and-tumble Yamaha XT250S Ryoku is built like a toy: blocky, burly and ready to withstand an amazing amount of abuse. Even a 2-year-old couldn’t kill it.

In the roaring ’00s, when funny money flowed freely and the global economy had yet to soil the bed, outrageous concept bikes like Yamaha’s MT-01 and Honda’s nasty NAS were two-wheeled reflections of our own wretched excess. But much like governments, we get the concept bikes we deserve. If the crop of showbikes from the recent Tokyo Motor Show is any indication, what we deserve now are cool and unapologetically tame commuter motorcycles.

Maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Practical, economical transportation does seem more in line with our toned-down ambitions and appetites. And no one can argue that the motorcycle industry, especially in America, wouldn’t benefit from more—and more attractive—entry-level machines to lure new and younger riders into the sport. In that context, Yamaha’s all-terrain-inspired XT250S Ryoku and graceful Y125 Moegi concepts are the perfect bikes for our time.

[Yamaha’s bird-like Moegi maintains a bicycle-sized footprint, making it perfect for urban commuting. The 125cc single promises non-threatening (read: uninspiring) performance.

The Moegi is an elegant hybrid of motorcycle, bicycle and scooter. Big wheels and a delicate, cast-aluminum frame resemble the humble YA-1 that established Yamaha as a motorcycle manufacturer in the mid-'50s. Suspension looks like it could have come from a mountain bike and the fuel-injected, 125cc four-stroke single delivers an impressive 180 mpg—a good thing, since the peanut tank holds less than 1 gallon of gas. Belt final drive is clean and reliable and a feathery, 176-lb. claimed dry weight should make it maneuverable, too.

The rugged Ryoku is a mash-up of the XT250’s 249cc single and the TW200’s fat tires, packaged in a chassis that resembles a two-wheeled Tonka truck. All the off-road accoutrements are in place, including handguards, heavy-duty front and rear racks and an engine guard that doubles as a shovel. Trick features like dual electrical sockets on the left side and removable fog lamps that also function as flashlights would be equally useful at a construction job or backcountry campsite.

[Honda’s Motor Compo electric-scooter concept resembles a can-opener on wheels. Like the original Motocompo from 1981, this one folds down to fit inside a car.

Honda’s two-wheeled Tokyo concepts were even more conservative, and all electric—not an internal-combustion engine in sight! The only object of interest here besides the stunning RC-E electric superbike (Up To Speed, February) was an updated, 21st-century version of the old Motocompo fold-up scooter. Like the original, the new electric concept bike is made to be carried inside a car—in this case, the bizarre, motorcycle-tired Honda Micro Commuter also revealed at Tokyo.

None of these concepts are slated for production any time soon, though it’s not far-fetched to imagine either of the Yamahas on your local dealer’s showroom floor. We can easily picture a Ryoku strapped to the back bumper of an RV, or a lineup of Moegis parked beside the local library’s bike rack. That’s admittedly not as sexy an image as the NAS wheelying down the Las Vegas Strip, but maybe motorcycling needs more of this and less of that.

[French Connection
The Paris Show Delivers Performance
WORDS & PHOTO: Roland Brown

If you found the Tokyo Motor Show concepts underwhelming, thank the French for providing some genuine performance at the annual Paris Motor Show. While mainstream manufacturers prefer Tokyo and Milan to debut new models, Paris is the place for specials like this stunning, turbocharged Superbob prototype from Boxer Design.

Designed and built at Boxer’s base in Toulouse, France, the Superbob is powered by a liquid-cooled, 1000cc, 160-bhp V-twin engine built by Akira, the French firm that also built Inmotec’s 800cc MotoGP engine. A carbon-fiber frame keeps weight to just 385 lbs. dry and incorporates a Boxer-designed, non-telescopic aluminum fork. Striking styling is the work of Boxer Design's Thierry Henriette, best known for creating the equally stunning Voxan VB1 a decade ago. The firm is searching for investors now, and hopes to produce 300 units priced at $30,000.