Opinion: EICMA 2019, the cheers and jeers

The annual EICMA motorcycle is running in Milan this week, with many new-for-2020 models unveiled earlier this week, as well as some concept bikes. Here’s a look at a few of the machines I like, and some I don’t like.


Cheers

The KTM 390 Adventure seems to offer incredible value.
KTM 390 Adventure

Hurray! KTM’s finally gotten around to releasing the bike we’ve wanted for the last few years. It doesn’t have the horsepower of bigger adventure bikes, but it has enough to get the job done, and lots more, if you consider the safety package.

Incredibly, the 390 Adventure comes with offroad ABS function (allowing the rear brake to deactivate ABS and reducing the front brake’s effect), and traction control. Cornering ABS is also included — a basic but complete electronics package on an entry-level motorcycle. A quickshifter is optional, but available. All this for the insanely low price of $6,799.

To put it in perspective, $6,799 is less than the MSRP of many of the leftover 2018 and 2019 Kawasaki KLR650s in Canada, and less than most 2019 Suzuki DR-Z400 machines for sale as well. Those are fine motorcycles, known for toughness, and not aimed at exactly the same market, but it’s the same customer base looking at both. Which would you rather buy, a carbureted bike designed in the last century, or an up-to-date machine with comprehensive electronics package? KTM is going to sell an absolute boatload of these things, as long as they’re reliable.

The biggest question about the Aprilia RS660 at this point is, what’s the price?
Aprilia RS660

When the RS660 concept debuted last year at EICMA, there was considerable guessing as to whether it would actually make it to market. Well, it has, and it’s glorious.

Like the KTM 390 Adventure, the RS660 is a good example of modern electronics working their way down the food chain. Just a couple of years ago, stuff like leaning ABS, traction control, wheelie control, engine brake control, cruise control, quickshifter and selectable engine maps were only available on the most expensive of motorcycles.

Now, Aprilia’s including them with a street-oriented sportbike that makes a relatively sensible 100 hp. This bike even has aerodynamic winglets, and the chassis is engineered to cut away as much excess weight as possible. Who cares if it isn’t as fast as a 600 supersport? It’s going to be fun, even without as much horsepower as an inline four.

One possible niggle: We don’t know the RS660’s price tag yet. If it comes in at a too-high MSRP, it’s not going to tempt buyers away from litre bikes and other silly machines with too much power for most public roads.

Honda should stop teasing us, and just go ahead and build a middleweight inline-four adventure bike.
Honda CB4X Concept

To be clear, we don’t know much about this machine; it’s just a concept bike at this point, so even if Honda had listed specs, there’s no guarantee about the finished product.

Having said that: In the past few years, Honda’s been teasing us with a succession of cool-looking ADV bikes with inline-four engines (going all the way back to the Six50 concept in 2015). The CBR650 and CB650 are solid machines, so why not add a street-biased adventure tourer to that line, something similar to the CB500X? There’s definitely room for it in the market, next to the V-Strom 650 and Versys 650, especially as it would likely have more power than both those machines, for not much more money.

Thankfully, this one isn’t a tease. Honda’s updated CBR litrebike was overdue, but appears to have been worth the wait.
Honda CBR1000RR-R

Okay, that’s a ridiculous name — and with that criticism out of the way, kudos to Honda for getting with the program. Honda’s previous litre bike just wasn’t in line with the rest of the competition (podcaster Quentin Wilson called it “the best 600 in the world,” or something like that). Now, with well above 200 horsepower and a six-axis IMU powering a modern electronics package, the CBR1000RR-R is going to be a front row contender on-track. No wonder Honda’s gearing up for a big push in World Superbike next year — it finally has a bike that should battle for wins.

Could the Norden 901 be the best-looking modern adventure bike? If the concept makes it to production, then yeah, maybe.
Husqvarna Norden 901 Concept

For the past few years, Husqvarna’s been selling remixed versions of KTM’s designs. So, the natural question was: When will Husky build something based off the 790 platform? Now we know the answer, with the Norden 901 concept built off KTM’s parallel twin engine.

Though this is a concept bike, it’s likely going to make it to market — so far, Husqvarna’s built everything it’s teased us with. Husqvarna hasn’t announced many details, but it’s almost certainly built around the same engine as the KTM 890 Duke R, but re-tuned for offroad usability. It has a 21-inch front wheel, and an 18-inch rear, and WP suspension. And it’s a very good-looking adventure bike. If Husqvarna packs it with the same technology as the 790 Adventure R (and why wouldn’t they?), then this could become king of its class, if it makes it to market. And again, we can’t see why it wouldn’t.

Just look at all the weird design work here. Is this a motorcycle, or a crashed alien spacecraft? You can see the whole bike in the article’s title photo.
Bimota Tesi H2

Wow — Kawasaki’s investment into Bimota appears to be paying off already. We’re highly unlikely to ever see this superbike in Canada (maybe the MMIC would do us all a favour, and borrow one for this year’s show circuit, so we can ogle it?). But it is an example of what passion and engineering can do when they come together. This supercharged, hub-steering weirdo of a bike looks like it would be mega-fun, even if it’s mega-different. Cheers to Bimota for keeping it weird, but staying in the fast lane.

Jeers

Not a bad-looking cruiser, but why try to re-do Harley-Davidson’s work?
BMW R18/2 Concept

It’s not that the BMW R18/2 concept bike is a bad-looking machine — it’s actually good-looking. But everyone liked the R18 because it looked like a vintage European luxury tourer, something that nobody makes anymore (except for maybe Moto Guzzi). The R18/2 looks like another attempt to replicate the Great American Cruiser, something BMW tried before with the R1200C. That attempt didn’t end well. Why do it again?

When you’re using the signatures of long-dead celebrities to sell bikes, it looks like your brand is in trouble.
Triumph Bud Ekins T100/T120

Triumph was really, really quiet at EICMA this year. That’s partly because its big announcements for the year, the Rocket 3, the Daytona Moto2, and the Street Triple RS, as well as the new TFC line, mostly came earlier in the year.

Still, it would have been good to keep something in the tank. Triumph did announce a performance version of the Bobber — could be a good idea, although it sounds a bit silly. What’s definitely silly is, slapping Bud Ekins’ name on a special paint version of the T100 and T120.

The T120 and T100 are more than good enough to stand on their own merits. Putting Ekins’ name on them, years after he died, looks desperate. Was Steve McQueen’s signature too expensive? This is the same sort of illogical pandering to nostalgia that has nuked the long-term future of the North American motorcycle industry, and caused the revival of countless zombie brands. Speaking of which …

The mock-up of a mockery. Why build a track-only motorcycle that can’t even compete with a production superbike?
Aston Martin/Brough Superior AMB 001

It all sounds good at first. Lots of carbon fibre bodywork! A turbocharged engine! Then you dig farther. Only 100 will be made, for a price of €108,000 apiece, which is $157,000. Despite the supercharger, this thing is only expected to make 180 hp, far less than most production superbikes ridden by the hoi-polloi. And it won’t even be street-legal. Although Brough Superior’s motorcycles were always intended for the rich and famous, they weren’t intended to be display pieces, and realistically, that’s what the AMB 001 is going to be. It’s a shame!

Curious about the other new machines unveiled at EICMA for 2020? See links to CMG’s extensive coverage below:

Aprilia RS660

Aprilia RSV4 Factory, Tuono 1100 Factory

Aston Martin Brough Superior AMB 0001

Bimota Tesi H2

BMW F900 R

BMW F900 XR

BMW R18/2

BMW S1000 XR

Ducati Scrambler Desert X, Motard

Energico Ego, Eva

Harley-Davidson Pan America, Bronx

Honda CB4X

Honda CB1000R

Honda CBR1000 RR-R

Honda CBR1000RR-R SP

Honda Rebel 300, Rebel 500

Husqvarna 901 Norden concept

Indian FTR Rally

Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX

Kawasaki Z650

Kawasaki Z900

KTM 390 Adventure

KTM 890 Duke R

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Kymco RevoNEX

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel

MV Agusta Brutale 1000 RR

MV Agusta Rosso

MV Agusta Rush 1000

MV Agusta Superveloce

Suzuki V-Strom 1050 TFC

Triumph Bobber TFC

Triumph Bud Ekins Bonneville T100, T120

Triumph Thruxton RS

Yamaha T-Max 560

Yamaha Tracer 700

3 thoughts on “Opinion: EICMA 2019, the cheers and jeers”

  1. I agree 100% with you on jeering that BMW r18/2. Instead of farting around with “redesigning” tourers, just trot out an updated R90. It was stupid to quit building those bikes in the 1980s. As for Triumph, the most beautiful bike ever built IMHO was the 1975 T160V Trident. So where is it now? I want that, not Bud Ekins!

  2. I think that CB4X is one stunning looking middleweight*. I sincerely hope Honda decides to make it. It has great lines and just reeks of pure sex, IMO. The more I look at it, the more I want it.

    *I loves me some Zac.

  3. Man, that Norden 901 sure is a looker, and I’m sure will have all the goods to back it up. However, for me, the Africa Twin holds the crown for best-looking modern Adv bike (for now).

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