A motorcycle, a scooter or both?

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What the hell is this new Honda Integra anyways? It’s feet-forward, doesn’t have foot controls, has room for a 3/4 helmet under the seat and is twist-and-go, just like a scooter. But, that transmission isn’t a CVT, it’s a dual-clutch arrangement that’s actually more advanced than that used by the VFR1200. The 670cc engine is located between the rider’s legs in a steel tube frame, both of which will also be shared by future Honda motorcycles. The forks are beefy 41mm items which hold a 17-inch wheel. Same diameter at the rear too, where there’s also a Pro-Link shock. It makes more power than a 1,200cc Harley, yet returns over 65mpg. Can something be both a motorcycle and a scooter? And, does such a combination even make sense?

The Integra has been designed for markets — Europe, Asia — where people actually use powered two-wheelers as practical transportation. Visit a city like Milan, for instance, and you’ll see hoards of large-capacity scooters like Yamaha TMAXs, Piaggio MP3s and Suzuki Burgmans on the highway, piloted by people in business suits as they commute into the city for work. Highway speeds, ease of use, weather protection, storage and very low running costs just make maxi scoots extremely practical and extremely popular. Enter the Integra, which promises to eliminate the last of the configuration’s problems — handling, power — while raising the bar for fuel economy and running costs. One maxi scoot to rule them all?

Don’t be fooled by the visor, that’s a 3/4 helmet under that seat; all that will fit.

But, in adopting a motorcycle’s wheels, suspension and frame, it also loses some traditional scoot strengths. The configuration was likely chosen by Honda to facilitate a low price. By sharing R&D and manufacturing costs with two future models — a naked and a street-focussed ADV bike — all three models can come in a little cheaper. But, some drawback are immediately apparent:

Storage: you can only fit a single 3/4 helmet under the seat. The TMAX, for example, can hold two-full faces with room to spare. Optional panniers and a top box expand storage massively, but sort of miss the traditional scooter point — convenience.
Passenger accommodation: the pillion pad is nearly sportsbike like in its diminutive size. Other Maxis have gigantic, comfy lounge chairs in comparison.
Weight: at 525lbs (wet), the Integra is 35lbs heavier than that TMAX. There’s also the question of how that weight is carried. Do the motorcycle frame and engine raise the center of gravity, making it more of a chore at very low speeds?

YouTube Preview ImageThis is a good explanation of how DCT works, albeit on the VFR1200.

Having said that, the all-new engine, advanced DCT and fancy chassis also bring huge benefits:

Fuel economy: the 670cc engine makes a strong 50bhp and 45lb/ft of torque, yet returns 65mpg (US). In comparison, the 44bhp TMAX only delivers 47mpg.
Ride: Traditionally, scooters locate their motors on the swingarms. As you’d expect, this contributes massively to unsprung weight, destroying the ride and leading to handling issues at higher speeds when you hit a large bump. The cheapo shocks aren’t really able to cope with the momentum of a wheel, tire, swingarm and engine bouncing up and down. The TMAX fixed that by moving the engine off the swingarm, but the Integra goes one step further, adding that shock linkage. That’ll create a more linear path for the shock, improving ride, traction and handling. The 17-inch wheels will help there too, being less subject to flaws in the roadway.
Handling: well, more like stability. That shock linkage, the big wheels, the beefy forks, the strong frame and mid-mount engine should all contribute to motorcycle-like steering, turning and stability at highway speeds. Smaller wheels, cheaper suspension and weird engine locations can have other scoots feeling nervous as you approach 100mph.
Technology: ABS brakes are standard and that DCT transmission is already awesome in the VFR, so here benefiting from a reduced weight (not specified, but current version is 17lbs), it’ll provide a much better connection between throttle and rear wheel than that traditionally offered by the belts and pulleys of CVTs. That transmission also brings switchable driving modes — manual (with buttons), sport and regular drive. Unlike a CVT, there are actual gears in a DCT.

So what does all that add up to? We see a bike that’s going to handle better, be faster and be more confidence-inspiring on the highway than a traditional maxi scoot. Over a motorcycle, it’ll be much easier to use, more comfy and add some practicality in the form of all that weather/wind protection and dinky underseat storage. Good fuel economy too. But, with less onboard storage and inferior passenger accommodation than a traditional scooter and a big question mark hanging over its price tag, the Integra could face an uphill battle for acceptance over the super convenience and cheap-as-chips prices of regular scooters.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Sorry, this is the only Honda Integra I’ll recognize.

    Interesting concept though.

    • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

      The more I look at it, the more it becomes Honda’s Pacific Coast, but with an automagic transmission. While not something I’d ride, I know a couple of dudes that rode the wheels off their P-Coasts.

  • Mugello Fire

    ohhhh brother, Honda lost their mojo.

  • NitroPye

    That is not an Integra. Never will be.

  • Archer

    This something your Asian and Euro readers will instantly understand and appreciate. Here, in uhhh-merika, not so much.

  • Gene

    It’s “practical transportation” alright, however I’ll bet Honda will price it far out of reach. I’ll bet they’ll be wanting $8K-$10K for it. Which is a shame, as it’d have a good chance of being my 1st Honda since my Hawk 650GT. (A “scooter” should not cost more than my SV-650…)

    And yes, the name is retarded.

    • robotribe

      That’s a tough price comparison, but I understand the sentiment. An SV650 was a relative bargain compared to the competition at the time. The challenge with maxi-scoot pricing is the size of that market compared to the “traditional” motorcycle market; Suzuki’s profit potential is spread over many more units of S Vees sold as compared to, assumingly, fewer Burgmans.

      Unless this Integra is a total parts bin concoction, there’s likely a good bit of unique engineering and components that aren’t shared with other models to bring the price as low as we expect it to be compared to say, a CBR600. I bet the profit margin on this is relatively low.

      That said, nice effort on Honda’s part, but I think it’s fugly.

    • DoctorNine

      A better comparison for the Hawk 650GT would be the Honda Deauville.
      Frankly, I think they compare well in many ways.
      This Integra appears to be the spiritual successor to the Silver Wing.

      • Gene

        It’s not a comparison, it’s how long since I’ve owned a Honda… (1989)

  • greg

    I like it. Id buy it in a heartbeat if they brought it stateside. Huge improvement over the silverwing/burgman.

  • Ax

    The TMAX can only hold one helmet. However, it’s “lesser” sibling, the Majesty, holds two helmets with room to spare. TMAX = “sport” scooter, Majesty = “touring” scooter.

  • Denzel

    Inching toward a Judge Dredd future…

  • DAVID

    because of the big rear wheel, it lacks a big luggage compartment that most conventional scooters have. even my 50cc Honda Metropolitan has room under the seat for a full face helmet and a bunch of other small items. That is one of the primary features that makes a scooter better than a motorcycle for basic transportation.

  • Bill

    I’m liking this scooter hybrid thing, and I’m for the most part pretty hetero.

    Those who think it should be priced along the lines of the SV650 are ignorant dolts. Top of the line scooters are already pushing the $8k barrier and the Integra is easily a notch or two above what will instantly become a distant second best option.

    I won’t buy one of these since I prefer real motorcycles, but if I was a typical car owner looking to switch to 2 wheels for the first time, this one would be my top choice.

    • Kevin

      “I’m for the most part pretty hetero”: a line I do not recommend you put in your e-Harmony profile.

  • Campisi

    Honda’s Y-Light styling appears to be maturing nicely.

  • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

    Something that will help them in europe is the asshole image the tmax riders have, like an M3 driver is expected to be a douchebag.
    Some truth to that, mainly due to trend-motivated purchase and the fact that a shitload of maxi scooter riders are messengers (and the general attitude of scooters here, like routinely driving on sidewalks at nearly road speeds, tmax is just the most iconic and the only one a non rider will identify).

    If it doesn’t become mainstream trendy, it will appeal to business man. If it does it will appeal to a younger market of squids. Either way, if the price is in the ballpark of the tmax they’ll sell like hotcakes here.

    The lower storage capacity is not really an issue (topcases with 30+ liters capacity are practical and relatively cheap), the only real deal-breaker will be the maintenance of the chain drive and to a lesser degree the hassle of getting grease on your hands when you put your chain on the wheel.

  • Scott-jay

    Got any neked pictures?

  • Johndo

    If I was to buy a scooter, I’d go for this. Looks ten times better then any scooter I’ve seen before.

  • PCPaul

    I have a PC 800 AND a Silver Wing scooter. NOW what am I supposed to do? I think I’ll go ride the Enfield for a while…

  • Tromper

    HP & Torque are not far off my B650 from what I can find. The weight is a fair bit lower (burgers are about 600 wet), but that doesn’t necessarily include luggage et al (not specified). I suspect it’s a bit more efficient to the wheel vs. the ECVT, so probably a bit quicker, & definitely better mileage but sacrifices some of the practical storage I use daily. Yup I could add the cases, but I can do that to my Burgman as well. Looks neat, love the fuel mileage, but so far not ’nuff to make me drop 10k+ on one (if they came to the states). I could buy a lot of gas for that…

  • Troy R

    My inner old-man totally digs it.

    Paradigm-changers are always a good thing for 2 wheels.