The 2016 EICMA motorcycle show, in Milan, Italy, is now well underway. Most of the manufacturers have displayed their new motorcycle models, and most of those bikes can be seen here on CMG. We’ll likely have a few other updates from the show before the week is over, too.
So what was the big deal at this year’s show? There were several interesting threads to follow throughout the day, including:
The rise of the mini-ADV bike
For a few months now, we’ve seen spy shots and other glimpses of information that hinted at an explosion of small-capacity bikes on the adventure motorcycling scene. Now, four of those machines have debuted. Honda brought out the CRF250 Rally, Kawasaki brought out the Versys-X 300, BMW introduced the G310 GS, and Suzuki confirmed the V-Strom 250 project.
Considering no major motorcycle manufacturer has had an adventure bike in this class since Honda dropped the NX250 from its lineup, that’s a pretty busy day.
None of these bikes are in the same class as the NX250 (or its high-spec equivalent, the AX-1). They’re all just repackaged versions of existing technology — not super-powerful, and not that light. They’re all based on budget machines. But they should be much more comfortable to ride on the street than the old farkled-out dual-sports that were the answer for riders wanting a small-capacity adventure bike in years gone by.
North American riders will bemoan the lack of techno-wizardry and big horsepower on these bikes, but the reality is, machines like these are the future of motorcycling, brought on by a combination of emissions standards, rising buying power in developing countries, lackluster sales in our own market, and the harsh realities faced by companies struggling to cut costs and streamline production. This is the future, like it or not.
The long arm of emissions laws
Many of the motorcycles that were updated this year received minimal tweaks. Why bother changing them up at all? Two words: Emissions regulations.
Just like we saw at last month’s Intermot show, the manufacturers all know they have to meet the soon-to-be-implemented Euro4 regulations.
That meant we saw a lot of machines getting exhaust and EFI upgrades, with some minimal styling exercise thrown in to keep the designers busy (there’s a good example here).
And, guess what we didn’t see? Once again, another show season is going by with no mention of any hot new single-cylinder motorcycles, another victim of emissions regs. The Big Thumper appears to be dying, with KTM/Husqvarna being the only major manufacturer interested in 650-class singles (and even Husky is holding off on the 701 Vitpilen concept for now).
Naked bikes are alive and well
Although they seem to be getting uglier all the time, the naked bike class continues to get a lot of attention, with plenty of machines receiving upgraded engines, refined chassis, improved electronics packages, or all three (KTM Super Duke R, MV Agusta Brutale 800RR, KTM 390 Duke, Kawasaki Z650, Kawasaki Z900, Aprilia Shiver, Aprilia Dorsoduro, Ducati Monster 1200, Yamaha XSR Abarth).
While the brutish streetfighters of the 1990s arguably looked better than the Transformers-styled machines of today, they had a lot less horsepower and nothing like the traction control, wheelie control, cornering ABS, etc., found on today’s crop.
There’s been no better time to buy a naked bike, especially with Kawasaki appearing to become more interested in the scene, and Ducati making a new commitment to a budget-friendly Monster lineup.
Retro still sells
In the past couple of years, the Euro manufacturers have really learned how to leverage their brands’ respected history — not by creating faux Harleys (the only new cruisers were from Moto Guzzi, and they were far from H-D knockoffs), but by echoing back to the scramblers and cafe racers that Europe exported from the 1950s to the 1970s.
We’ve come a long way from the early 2000s, where “retro” meant “tasseled fringes on handlebars, low seat height, forward controls.”
Money is tight
But the hot all-new models — the retros from the Euro manufacturers, and the mini-adventure bikes — are all at the low-priced end of their manufacturers’ lineups.
Ever since 2008, money has been tight in the developed motorcycle markets. While high-end motorcycles are selling better than ever, the days of booming mid-range sales seems to be gone for now. So, the manufacturers are all playing it safe, by recycling old technology and keeping costs down for the most part. Nowhere is this more evident than the Suzuki lineup, which confirmed two more made-in-China projects, the GW250 and GSX-250R.
Really, motorcyclists should be encouraged by this show season. Between Intermot and EICMA, we did see several interesting new models, and despite cost-cutting measures, the manufacturers are finally showing interest in dormant segments like the sport bike scene.