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Intermot, EICMA Offer Sense of Motorcycling’s Future

Industry seems to be keeping things low-key this year

We’re a little past the midway point between the two biggest motorcycling shows of 2018, with Intermot now behind us and EICMA ahead. So, let’s take a look at what the various manufacturers have delivered so far and what may still be around the corner.

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By and large, Intermot was a quiet show. Normally a wham-bam, new-bike-a-minute blur (I remember being completely exhausted by the show in 2016), it really only delivered one truly new and notable motorcycle: the Indian FTR 1200. Everything else we saw was a rehash or a refresh, much of which had already been revealed in the days leading up to the event. (Well, in fairness, there was also that Horex VR6, which was pretty interesting, but it is so insanely expensive and exclusive as to not be relevant)

IMG_20181001_171530
I had fun in Germany…

I suspect EICMA will be similar and that, overall, the 2019 model year won’t really blow us away because manufacturers are too busy gearing up for 2020, when they’ll have to address new Euro 5 emissions regulation. But, hey, I’ve been wrong before. When it comes to this sort of stuff I actually like being wrong because my predictions tend to be pretty cynical.

BMW

Intermot was basically BMW‘s turf (the every-other-year show takes place in Cologne, Germany), but the company made little attempt to show off to the home crowd. Its presentation offered nothing new but the reworked R 1250 GS and R 1250 RT we had seen almost a month beforehand. As an aside, I like the fact BMW is remaining committed to the RT. I’m a quiet fan of the luxury sport tourer – emphasis on “tourer” – even though it is insanely wide and expensive and almost certainly something I’d never actually spend my money on.

RELATED: Triumph Quietly Dumps Trophy SE

Looking ahead, there’s an off chance BMW could reveal the production version of its nutty 9cento concept bike at EICMA, but I doubt it. Look instead to see the updated S 1000 RR that’s been teased a bit in recent weeks. Expect bells. Expect whistles. But don’t expect any genuinely new models.

BMW R 1250 RT
2019 BMW R 1250 RT

Ducati

Ducati has been putting out updated bikes at such a pace lately that it’s hard to keep track. We got some new Scramblers a month or so before Intermot, then some more at Intermot (well, I think they were different to the ones already introduced – to be honest, I’ve completely lost track of Ducati’s sprawling Scrambler range). And last week, the Italian manufacturer quickly rolled out a refreshed Multistrada 1260, now packed with even more batshit crazy.

I’ve received an invite to Ducati’s annual “World Premiere” event in Milan, where it traditionally shows off new models, so presumably there’s even more to be seen. My guess, though, is an updated Diavel or an updated Monster, or both. Maybe there’ll be a new SuperSport, or maybe the underwhelming model (it’s fun, but disappointing by Ducati standards) will be quietly jettisoned from the line-up. Genuinely new stuff, however? No. I’m pretty sure this a year of little more than tweaking for the boys and girls from Bologna.

claudio
Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali shows off one of the latest Scrambler models.

Harley-Davidson

A few months ago, as part of its 115th anniversary celebrations in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson rolled out the newly styled LiveWire for journalists to look at – and nothing more. No information was given whatsoever; journos weren’t allowed to sit on it. It was simply a matter of saying, “Here it is,” then rolling it away.

KEEP READING: Harley-Davidson Announces Plans to Make You But a Harley by 2022

EICMA, being at its heart a European show, seems a good place to give the electric motorcycle its proper world reveal. Europe has been a little more receptive to the idea of electric vehicles, in part because it has a better-developing infrastructure (not great but better and improving faster than the US infrastructure). Add to this the fact Harley has slated the LiveWire for a 2019 release. Now is the perfect time to give us answers to the all-important questions of horsepower, range, and price.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire – to be launched in 2109.

I also wouldn’t complain if Harley chose to display a real-live prototype of the Pan America adventure bike it’s promised for 2020. There’s precedent for this sort of thing. KTM regularly displays prototypes one year’s EICMA, then reveals the production version in the next. Harley could wrestle away a fair amount of Indian‘s spotlight by doing this, I think – creating a talking point that journos would inevitably come back to early next year upon test riding the FTR 1200, eg, “One wonders how this will compare against Harley’s foray into Europe-focused bikes.”

Harley-Davidson probably won’t do that, but a fella can hope.

Honda

I’ll be riding to EICMA on a full bells-and-whistles DCT Gold Wing, which I’m looking forward to immensely. But I’m not sure there’ll be anything exciting from Big Red in terms of reveals. It’s certainly not teasing anything. Honda at the moment seems content to win European hearts and minds with its lauded Africa Twin.

I’ll be riding one of these beauties to EICMA. I cannot wait.

I’d love to see a version of that bike introduced for primarily paved-road use. Keep the bigger tank of the Africa Twin Adventure Sports model, but equip it with cast wheels and tubeless tires, as well as cruise control, adjustable screen, and luggage that doesn’t suck. Doing such a thing would probably make the VFR1200X even more pointless than it already is, but, well, c’est la vie. I’d also like to see Honda getting into the middleweight ADV game, to compete against the KTM 790 Adventure R and Yamaha Ténéré 700 mentioned below, as well as the Triumph Tiger 800.

I don’t think Honda will do any of this. Do, however, expect a CB500F and CB650F with the styling of the CB1000R, CB300R, and CB125R.

Indian

I suspect Indian’s pretty much done for the next little while. It’s put a lot of time and effort and energy into bringing the FTR 1200 to fruition and will now be focused on getting keys into riders’ hands. That’s fine. Indian does a good job of appearing bigger than it really is, but in truth it’s still a relatively small company in terms of sales. If it’s living within its means – as I suspect Polaris would force it to do – the FTR 1200 and related dealership expansion will be occupying most of its brain space.

RELATED: Let’s Talk About the New Indian Chieftain

As such, if we see anything from Indian at EICMA it will be a list of FTR 1200 accessories. Expect panniers; there are bolt holes under the FTR 1200’s seat that seem to be designed to take some sort of luggage rack. I’d like handguards, and in my dream world Indian would offer some sort of a kit to add a basic adventure-style fairing on par with the minimalist KTM 790 Adventure R (This is unlikely to happen).

Needs hand guards

As far as the rest of Indian’s line-up is concerned, I’ll be surprised to see anything but new paint for at least a year. I personally feel the Scout could use a bit of a refresh – its styling is just a teency bit too traditional for the audience Indian is trying to hit with that bike – but it’s still got plenty of life in it as is.

Kawasaki

Kawasaki‘s presentation at Intermot was hilariously dull. The company was showing off models that had been tweaked to deliver psychotic levels of power (232 hp, ffs!) but most people in the audience were struggling to stay awake. It was a situation exemplary of my own personal attitude toward the Japanese brand; I know it’s doing some pretty amazeball stuff but I find it difficult to care. I really don’t understand why, but I find it difficult to get excited by the brand.

Not really an adventure bike

I know there are plenty of folks who disagree with me, though. And those folks will probably be looking to EICMA to see if Kawasaki will deliver a replacement for the legendary KLR650, which is being phased out this year. The KLR650 hasn’t been sold in Europe for many a moon due to its inability to pass emissions regulation, which means the company doesn’t really have a legitimate adventure or dual-sport machine. The Versys is a good-quality poor man’s Multistrada but there’s nothing from Team Green with which to live out your world-crossing fantasies.

KEEP READING: Let’s Tell Kawasaki What to Do

The lack of even the slightest teaser for such a thing, however, makes me think we won’t be seeing it this time ’round.

KTM

We’ve already seen the 790 Adventure R covered in mud but EICMA is where we’ll see the bike in full, along with a breakdown of whatever mind-blowing features with which the Austrian manufacturer has decided to equip it. I’ll be interested to see what the company delivers, as it seems the middleweight adventure segment is on the verge of exploding. Knowing KTM, the 790 Adventure R will be really good off road, expensive, inclined to be a victim of British winters in terms of fit and finish, and largely ignored by the motorcycle-buying public.

KTM 790 Adventure R in action

Moto Guzzi

Milan is a very short ride from Moto Guzzi headquarters, but don’t expect to see anything wonderfully new from the almost 100-year-old company. It delivered the V85 TT adventure motorcycle at Intermot (well, sorta – we still don’t know when it will actually go on sale nor how much it will cost), and I reckon that will be pretty much it for the year. There is always the perennial hope that a new Griso would be produced – which would make an insane amount of sense amid current market conditions – but I think we have to accept that sort of thing won’t happen until Moto Guzzi shakes itself from Piaggio.

Norton

Remember those 650cc parallel twins Norton promised at last year’s EICMA? Remember how it promised to start producing them this year? What happened to those? Maybe we’ll see them, or at least a prototype or two, rolled out at EICMA. Maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

I waffle back and forth between two views on Norton: 1) it’s all a sham, headed up by a charlatan; 2) it’s a company that’s made a few missteps but has its heart in the right place. If it’s the former, we’ll never see those parallel twins; if it’s the latter, we might see those parallel twins at EICMA. Or Motorcycle Live (held in the UK a week or so after EICMA). Or maybe not ever. Next time I see a Norton representative I promise to ask.

Norton offered concept drawings of scramblers and cafe racers and all sorts of things for 2018. It’s said nothing about these bikes since last year’s EICMA, though.

Royal Enfield

Speaking of 650cc parallel twins, have you seen the Interceptor and Continental GT in person? I got a chance to check them out at Intermot and the fit and finish is markedly better than I was expecting. The bikes are no frills, carrying only the technowhizbangery necessary to secure EU certification, but look like a lot of fun. And I’ve heard from a journo I trust that they are just as fun to ride. I really wish I knew who was in charge of Royal Enfield‘s PR in the UK. I’d be hitting them regularly with pleas for a press bike.

As far as EICMA is concerned, though, I’m not expecting anything from the Indian powerhouse.

Suzuki

Sad trombone is sad. I mean, maybe we’ll finally see a new Hayabusa, but I seriously doubt it. There have been so many rumors over the last year or so – a new Euro-emissions-friendly DRZ, a new Hayabusa, the fabled Incursion project, an electric bike, etc. – but I’ve lost faith in the Japanese brand to deliver any of it. I agree with the observation by commenter Gura Hamu recently that “we are entering the age of the Big Three.” Suzuki just isn’t a big player anymore.

Triumph

We got a lightly updated Street Twin and Street Scrambler at Intermot. And, of course, the new Scrambler 1200 this week. There are grumblings within the grumbly world of moto-journalism that Triumph has sort of run out of ideas, but I think that may be overly cynical.

As I’ve said plenty of times before, I’d like to see an overhauled Tiger Sport. That is a fantastic motorcycle and now that I’m commuting on a daily basis I kick myself regularly for choosing to get a Tiger Explorer instead. Sure, the Explorer has shaft drive, but the Sport is lighter and more nimble. With the 147hp engine of the new Speed Triple, along with the bevy of electronic tidbits Triumph has taken to throwing at its bikes these days, the Tiger Sport could be an absolute dream. If such a thing is going to happen I reckon it will happen at EICMA. Otherwise, look to see the model quietly dropped from the line-up – an action that would make me extremely sad.

Will we be seeing a Daytona 765 at EICMA?

It also seems inevitable likely that we’ll be seeing a Daytona 765 in the not too distant future, but I wouldn’t bank on seeing it at EICMA. Look instead to see it revealed in March when the Moto2 season kicks off.

KEEP READING: Triumph Unveils Moto2 Bike, Fueling Daytona 765 Speculation

Side note: But for Bonneville variations, Triumph appears to have given up on cruisers entirely. RIP the Rocket III.

Yamaha

We know the Ténéré 700 will be officially launched at EICMA. Yamaha‘s been pretty much outright saying as much since May. I’m looking forward to seeing it, if not simply because I find the MT-07 to be so impressive (and, by extension, its variants: the XSR700 and Tracer 700). I assume Yamaha will be using a dramatically retuned version of that powerplant here. I think it’s valid to be concerned about fit and finish, considering the overly budget feel of a number of other Yamaha models but I also think this bike has the potential to be a legitimately badass world-crosser.

It would also be nice to see Yamaha updating the rather-long-in-the-tooth Super Ténéré in the process (to be renamed the Ténéré 1200, I’d bet), but I’m guessing that if such a change is coming it won’t happen until next year. Meanwhile, an improved XSR900 (better styling, better-quality fit and finish, a teency bit more tech) certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

2018 Yamaha Super Ténéré – A little long in the tooth

Zero

Zero didn’t introduce any new models at Intermot, nor do I expect it to do so at EICMA. This week, the company came out with its 2019 model year line-up, showing the same collection of bikes we’ve come to know and love over the past few years but with improved range and better-quality paint. I think that’s the realm in which Zero will stay for a few more years – tweaking, rather than delivering any wholly new designs. And, by and large, I think that’s OK.

I’ve included Zero in this discussion of the industry because, although everyone says electric motorcycles are the future, Zero’s the only electric manufacturer to survive for any reasonable amount of time. Brammo went kablammo, Mission is still wishin’ (for funds), Alta has falta-ed, and so on and so on. Slowly, slowly, however, Zero is working its way toward being a “legitimate” bike manufacturer, rather than a novelty.

With a number of European countries promising to ban internal combustion cars and vans in the next 10-20 years it seems inevitable that motorcycles will also end up in the crosshairs of government regulation. The value of heritage and history won’t go away, however, and I feel that the longer Zero manages to hang on in these early days the more likely it is it to be THE brand of the future, the one by which all others are measured.

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