A motorcycle, a scooter or both?

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hondamotoscoot

Spy shots and patent drawings are slowly revealing a new series of bikes from Honda that bridge the traditional scooter/motorcycle divide, with the same basic engine and frame possibly being used to underpin both. If true, that cross-category platform sharing will mark a first, saving Honda development costs but creating an interesting marketing conundrum. How do you sell a motorcycle that’s really just a scooter?

All this started with the Honda New Mid Concept, which was unveiled at EICMA last year. Appearing to be a simple maxi scooter, it mimicked the Yamaha TMAX in moving its engine off the swingarm and into the frame. Hence the “Mid” name. But that didn’t appear to be all. Details on the concept were sparse, but it looked like something interesting was going on with the engine and transmission, who’s cases peaked through the all-encompassing plastics.

Snapped at the same time as the Honda Crosstourer spy shots in what was likely a staged photo opportunity for Brenda Priddy’s “spies” — the car photographer regularly works with OEMs to build early buzz around new products — the production New Mid appears to adopt radically different ergonomics from other scooters and appears to share its steel tube frame and single or parallel-twin engine with a new naked bike also photographed at the same time.

There’s licensing issues, so we can’t run them here, but if you compare photos of the scooter to photos of the naked, you’ll see very similar components. Same forks, same brakes, same wheels, same swingarm. Then compare that naked bike’s frame to the one in the above patent drawing. Information — likely given to Priddy by Honda, then passed along to the outlets that purchased her photos if standard practices were followed — indicates that both machines are equipped with the dual-clutch transmission that first debuted on Shamu.

That DCT is actually really neat and would be perfect on an affordable commuter or a big scooter. Unlike a manual clutch, it’s incredibly easy to operate in traffic and unlike a CVT, you get more of a motorcycle experience with the punctuation individual gears provide. Likely saps less power and is lighter too.

Of further interest is the riding position and luggage on the New Mid. The rider straddles the bike rather than placing his feet in a step-through frame and it’s wearing both panniers and side boxes. Motorcycle practicality, scooter performance?

So why is Honda building a scooter that’s similar to a motorcycle and a motorcycle that’s similar to a scooter? Well believe it or not, there are places in the world outside North America where bikes serve as day-to-day transportation. In those magical mystery lands, both maxi scooters and naked middleweight commuters are enormously popular. Often, a professional will own both a fast, fun bike for weekend and something like a TMAX to get him to and from work. Sharing platforms will allow Honda to bring these bikes in at a relatively low price point while still offering innovative, useful, differentiating technology in the form of DCT.

Both inexperienced riders and commuters will benefit from DCT on the naked bike, while riders used to real motorcycle performance will appreciate it on the maxi scooter, while still enjoying a more practical mode of transportation than their weekend 1198. It may be too early to tell as both machines are lightly disguised, but aside from slightly boring styling, Honda could be onto winners here. At least in Europe.

Visordown, Motorcycle-USA and Motoblog.it

  • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

    DN-01?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      But not $15k. Or purple.

      • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

        Not Yet…

  • Zach

    honda did have the hondamatic back in the 70′s (kinda the same in theory).

  • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

    The CB750 auto? It had the same chassia as the 5 speed right? I guess it would be pretty similar

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Except, you know, sharing its chassis with a superbike, not a scooter.

  • Kevin

    “How do you sell a motorcycle that’s really just a scooter?”

    I really don’t know what that means, other than that the lines are blurred.

    • dux

      “If one blurs too many lines, a big mess often results”

  • dan

    The Aprilia Mana 850. Come on, you guys have one don’t you?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yes, there is such a bike as the Aprilia Mana. It doesn’t share any parts with a scooter and uses a CVT, not a DCT.

      • Mark

        Mana is the cousin of Sha-Na-Na

      • Mauricio

        Didn’t Piaggio reuse the entire Mana drivetrain in the Gilera GP800 scooter?

  • frankieapples

    Mana was the first thing to come to my mind too

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    “Motorcycle practicality, scooter performance?” Intentional? Or am I just being obtuse?

    Also, could you explain to me how this can be a scooter — maxi or not — without a step-through frame?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Intentional. It’ a scooter because it intends to be a scooter. The step through thing’s been out the window for a few years now. See Gilera DNA, Italjet Dragster etc.

      • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

        “The step through thing’s been out the window for a few years now” The Gilera may call itself a scooter but I’m not buying this. “A scooter is a motorcycle with step-through frame and a platform for the operator’s feet.” It says so right here on Wikipedia, so it must be true.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Do you also write laws in Texas?

          • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

            Great. Now i have to explain to a colleague looking over my shoulder why i just “laughed out loud” about someone writting laws in texas.

        • Gregory

          In addition to normally having an automatic transmission, a step-through frame and a platform for feet (like a cruiser), I think a “scooter” also needs an engine hanging (un-sprung) on the rear wheel. Hence, the T-Max is _not_ a scooter: its engine is sprung. A Honda Cub is _not_ a scooter. A Burgman or Bajaj _is_ a scooter: its engine hangs on the rear wheel.

          • Ax

            Using that definition, the 400 Burgman is a scooter but the 650 Burgman is NOT (due to its frame-mounted engine). Isn’t it fun trying to make everything fit into neat little categories? ;)

  • dan

    the best commuter. have scoots and bikes, shifties and twist n go on both. cant be the twist n go for city commuting and the Mana when yuour commute is city and high speed freeway.

  • Myles

    I’d love a simple machine, but not with goddamn chain drive.

    I don’t find zen or art in motorcycle maintenance. I find wasted time and headaches. Give this thing belt drive and I’d consider it (the more motorcycle-y one).

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Hydraulic valves, too? That’d be nice.

    • ike6116

      I would like subscribe to your newsletter

  • Ed

    I ride a CB400A – Honda’s last attempt at a practical automatic motorcycle for street use prior to the DN-01 (DoNot-Own1). The Hondamatics of the 1970s and 1980s shared the same frames and engines with the manual transmission twins and 750s. The auto was just an option – just like it used to be with cars. My Hawk 400A is a nimble, easy to ride bike that is great for beginners, easy as a scooter in the city, and fun as heck on a winding road. It has a two speed, foot-shifted auto that operates by torque converter. It is NOT fast, but it is simple and bullet-proof transportation. ( http://www.motorrecycle.blogspot.com/ )Honda has been pushing automatic transmissions from the days of the supercub and of course in all their entry-level off road bikes. They are simply easier to learn and less intimidating — thus getting more young butts on bikes and preventing your customer base from dying off. Why not build just a better maxi scooter? You look WAY cooler when you pull up to your girlfriend’s house on a motorcycle than on a scooter.

  • Thom

    All depends on how well the finished product is executed

    Done right , this could open an entirely new market to Honda as well as anyone else that follows suit .

    Done wrong and it’ll be the M/C embarrassment of the Decade . Or at least a top contender for the (urp ) Honor .

    I’ll reserve judgement till the first one rolls off the line and is properly tested .

    • robotribe

      If it comes in under 400 lbs., performs similar to 600c maxi-scoot and is priced less than 8k euro, then I think this will be the WIN Honda is aching for.

      If it were ever to come States-side (doubtful, given their track record with Euro-made imports), it could be an attractive gateway bike for those intimidated by manual shifting.

  • Critter

    The engine is in the frame and not the swingarm and you still straddle the frame when riding, right? That doesn’t fit my definition of a scooter, even if it looks like one.

  • Gene

    Heck, I test-rode a Suzuki Bergman, and it *hauled* *ass*. Surprised the hell out of me, and I thought the demo model had a km speedo instead of an mph one because “it can’t be going THAT fast!”. I’d like it for commuting even more than my SV-650, buuuuutttt it’s a scooter.

    Speaking of CB400A, there’s the FJR-1300AE with the flappy-paddle shifter and no clutch lever. No torque converter, but a computer-controlled servo that does the clutch action.

    Wait, I just noticed! A scooter with a CHAIN drive? F*ck that!

  • Ted

    So would this make me a mod or a rocker? Dammit Honda and your blurring of the perfectly defined cliques in motorcycling!

    • Thom

      How about a Modern Rocker ?

  • Stacey

    Geez, with all the bitching about simple affordable transport, who cares what it is?
    I actually feel a little guilty about riding my liter bike 5 miles to work and back…I’m thinking about pressing my KZ440 into commuting instead. And I really miss my old P-200E (my entry bike), which is perfect for the ol’ back and forth.

    I’ve noticed more and more scooters here in Seattle. I’m with Thom on this one. Could be awesome…

  • Richard

    Isn’t that some kind of luggage space, on the bike version, behind the airbox?

    • HammSammich

      Probably. The form is very similar to the Aprilia Mana which has a pretty large “trunk” where the tank would normally be – I believe it’ll hold a full face helmet, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what Honda’s going for here too.

  • robotribe

    It’s the on the cover of the latest issue of the French magazine, Moto Revue (Zinio digital subscriptions FTW). Supposedly it’s the Honda CBW600.

    Not bad looking, IMO:
    http://motokando.com/fotos/displayimage.php?album=398&pos=0