With the big guns all having fired their loads at Milan’s EICMA show this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at what was released and what that tells us about the industry.
THE SMALL UNS
Since we’re all huge fans of smaller displacement rides here at CMG, the continued growth and evolution of this segment is good to see. But, it seems we’re already seeing a shift up in CCs with Honda unveiling their new CBR300 which we assume will come to Canada (though it is yet to be confirmed) and so push out the 250. You can blame the increase in size on Kawasaki, who cunningly refused to hit back at Honda in the 250 fight, instead making their own new category, the 300, with the launch of the Ninja 300 earlier this year.
Obviously Honda seems to think that this is where it’s at with their CBR300 move. But, will big-boring their single-cylinder to 286 cc and changing the bodywork be enough to take on the twin Ninja? MSRP is still to be released, and we suspect that is where you’ll see the Honda attack. If they can keep MSRP difference to about $800 with performance at least close to the Ninja, then we’d have a real fight on our hands.
We have to wonder if the move to 300 was just the first in the sadly typical cycle of bumping up capacities, until what you thought was small is now mid-range. But with Honda already having the 500s it would seem like there’s a natural barrier, and besides, there are other players entering the fray too …
KTM has maybe made the biggest splash in this market with a trio of new small capacity sport bikes. These include a race-styled RC125, RC200 and RC390 and although we very much doubt all three will appear here, we’re betting that at least the 390 will (and maybe the 390 Duke naked bike as well). After all, it was KTM’s Canadian importer who accidentally posted info of the 390 last week and took all the thunder out of its intended EICMA launch.
This move effectively splits the 300 and 500 class down the middle. It’s also going to add a lot of spice to smaller bikes as KTM is a dominant power in the Moto 3 (250 class) world racing series, so they know how to get a lot of power out of a small bike. Don’t expect it to be priced to compete with the CBR and Ninjas though.
Let’s not forget Triumph. Up ’til now, they seemed to believe bigger was better, reinforced with its presentation of new Thunderbird models at EICMA. But then up popped a slide of their new 250 Daytona. Okay, it was only a sketch, but apparently the motor is in the metal and they seem to think that they have to let everyone know it’s coming at this early stage, so we should see something around this time next year (although it may be a 300 or 39o by then!).
Oh, and can you add Yamaha’s SR 400 to this fray? We think so, especially since it’s a bike that has effectively been around since the seventies and so likely comparable or slightly lower power than any of the others. The interesting thing about the SR is that it’s a real retro small bike (even going so far as to only have a kick starter with no electric boot to help) and so likely will be in a class of its own. Judging by the responses to it on the CMG comments section, if Yamaha do decide to bring it here and don’t knobble it with an unrealistically high price, Canada’s streets should have a lot of SRs booting about in the near future.
OTHER NEW SURPRISES
If we hadn’t seen the leaks about the new Harley 500 and 750s, then they’d have stolen the show, representing the first all new bikes to come out of Milwaukee since the V-Rod hit the scene back in 2001.The new bikes are actually made in India at Harley’s new plant, only to be shipped and assembled in Milwaukee, to keep some Made in America aspect. Whether this is enough for the faithful remains to be seen, but it can be argued that these bikes are not aimed at the faithful anyway, but instead a sensible move by the Motor Company to start people off on their machines rather than try and convert them once they’ve already begun.
Styling cues seem about right and Harley-Davidson even released a sound file so you can hear the potato-potato sound that is a defining attribute to the brand. It remains to be seen whether they will replace the 883 Sportster or whether the riding public will embrace the new Indian angle. Who knows, maybe it’s a cunning plan to piggyback on the new Indians that are coming from Polaris, though those are made in the US of course?
Honda have continued on its push to grab market share with yet another big release of new models. We’ve already covered the CBR300 but the new CB(R)650Fs deserve a look at.
If you remember the old CBR600F4, then the CBR650 will remind you of the days when 600 sport bikes had a modicum of practicality to them – somewhat comfortable seats, higher bars and rearset footpegs that are actually for the passenger, not the rider. Honda has boosted capacity a little from the old 600 and produced two versions – a sporty CBR and a semi-naked CB. Honda Canada hasn’t confirmed whether we’ll get either, but the CB would make a good replacement for the ailing CBF600 that is currently being listed on Honda Canada’s site with a hefty $2,500 discount, and the CBR is good competitor for the very similar Yamaha FZ6R and Suzuki GSX650F.
But what of the mid-range twin class, currently occupied by Kawasaki’s 650 Versys or Suzuki’s Gladius? Enter Yamaha’s new MT-07. Yamaha continue to mess with other-than four cylinders with last year’s FZ-09 triple and now this year’s new MT-07 inline twin (likely to be badged an FZ-07 if it comes here). Styling is similar to its FZ-09 bigger brother and at a claimed 178Kg wet it’s a good 25 kilos lighter than the competition. Alas, supposedly it’s not coming to North America, sigh.
Other new bikes include Honda’s CTX1300 cruiser-tourer that uses the aging but solid ST1300 motor in a CTX styled chassis and a bit of F6B thrown in for good measure. We’re not sure if the CTX styling is something that Honda should be adopting, but it’s an easy way to add a new tourer to the line up. Then there’s BMW’s naked S1000RR; the S1000R (losing one R with all the plastic) is BMW’s new streetfighter coming in with a whole lot of power and $3,000 less than its double R’d father (@$14,700). Keeping with sport bikes reinvented, Ducati released a new 1200 Monster onto the world that uses the Panigale’s 1198 cc Testastretta motor, replete with 135 hp (at 8,750 rpm) and 87 ft-lb of torque. Who needs fairings anyway?
And finally, small but inventive Italian company MV Agusta seems to be finding their stride and launched a sport-touring Turismo Veloce. It uses the same three-cylinder 798 cc motor that MV Agusta has in the F3 800 and Rivale but comes with taller suspension and hard bags and is directed at bikes like Ducati’s Multistrada. The bike will be coming to Canada but may take a while to get here.
AND THE UPDATES
As one would expect from a german company like BMW, updates come in a very logical manner, at least when it comes to the R range. New Boxer motors always appear in the flagship GS but then trickle down the range over the next few years before reaching the end, and then up pops a new motor. Second in line in the R throne is the R1200RT tourer which now comes with the new liquid cooled motor and has a new hill starting doo-dad and electric gear shifter for those too lazy to do either.
Honda has also been busy, with an update to the CBR1000RR (does anyone remember when those were happening every two years?) that boasts more power. What’s more surprising is their new track-orientated SP version with Öhlins suspension, four-piston Brembo monobloc brake calipers, a revised frame and new top and bottom steering yolks with less flex. There’s also a long-awaited update to the VFR800 which essentially has remained untouched since the V-TEC addition in 2002. No word on whether the V-TEC remains but there has been a boost in power and a significant drop in weight of 10 Kilos. Might be a good opportunity for Honda to bring it back into Canada.
Kawasaki also updated their Transformer styled Z1000 to make it even more Transformer-like, Yamaha added some tweaks to the motor on its Super Tenere as well as a ZE version with some additional trinkets including electronically adjustable suspension. Oh and as we mentioned earlier, Triumph made some more variations of its big cruiser Thunderbirds.
LET’S NOT FORGET THE ELECTRICS
The knock against battery bikes has always been limited range. Zero continues to tackle this problem; now, they’ve announced updates to their lineup (an optional add-on battery pack) that will enable riders to get a claimed 275 km of city riding; combined city and highway riding will get you as much as 210 km. Cruising around 90 will get you a 170-km range, and cruising around 110 will get you around 140 kms of range.
At least, that’s what Zero claims – we’ll wait until real-world users start posting their results before we get too excited. Still, this is an important step forward. Every year the Zero lineup adds a few kilometres of range, and hopefully one day they’ll be competitive with gasoline bikes, as long as costs are reasonable.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT?
Sure, the upcoming 2014 models are exciting, but what’s coming down the pipe long-term? Well, a couple interesting concept machines were shown off at EICMA, including a new supermoto from Husqvarna.
Husky’s future in street bikes was in doubt after their sale to KTM president Stefan Pierer, but the company appears to have a return to basics in mind. For years, the only street bikes they made were supermotos, and the new 701 concept follows that vein. Sure, it’s got trick bodywork, LED headlights and other trick parts, but it really appears to be a dirt bike with street tires at heart.
Will the 701 make it to market? It’s tough to imagine Husqvarna not bringing their supermoto lineup back, especially after seeing this, although we’re sure the street-legal models will be neutered versions of the concept, as always.
Yamaha had the other most interesting concept, the Tricity scooter. Basically, it’s a leaning three-wheeler, similar to existing machines like Piaggio’s MP3, but cheaper and lighter with a 125 cc motor. Yamaha actually says they’re going to bring this to market, with a projected cost of 4,000 Euros across the pond.
And let’s not forget the quirky Brits! Some firm has decided to resurrect Brough Superior, with an undated Steam Punkesque interpretation of the SS100, all for a mere 100,000 Euros, and British car makers and Formula 1 race team, Caterham, has decided to try its luck with bikes, introducing three models, one gas-powered and the other two electric.
While they’re all on the quirky side, we haven’t seen any real quirkiness since the market went south with everyone’s cash. Surely a sign that good times are a coming, even if they’ll likely never go on sale in Canada.