With the big reveal day at EICMA done and dusted, the three studious CMGers who got up at 4 am this morning in order to cover the whole affair, take a moment to ponder what just went down. Michael Uhlarik, Zac Kurylyk and the only person with a sensible last name, Rob Harris, offer their take on the big show.
Oh, if you missed the fireworks, you can relive the excitement and smell of gunpowder at our handy EICMA wrap up page here.
What was the one motorcycle that took your breath away? Why?
MICHAEL: For me, nothing seemed dream-worthy or even particularly special until I saw the Husqvarna 701. A true concept design, not only in cut of the bodywork but all of the mechanical details were created from scratch to follow a strong vision.
I love the proportions, I love the finish, and most of all I appreciate what a low expectation bike can become when you inject a lot of creativity into it.
ROB: I was a little disappointed too. The Vitpilen is a very interesting bike for sure, but I’m kinda drawn to the Benelli Leoncino, which sadly will likely not come here. If we’re talking non-production bikes then the Honda Six50 adventure / scrambler caught my eye too.
MICHAEL: Why? What caught your eye about it?
ROB: The Honda Six50 is an interesting play on the scrambler moment. In an industry where so many bikes claim more than they can possibly deliver, the Six50 takes an inline four motor and wraps it up in a punk adventure chassis. It doesn’t look like it will work well at anything but would likely be a hoot at everything.
ZAC: There were a couple bikes that caught my eye. The obvious one is the Vitpilen. In a world where everyone is striving for more normalcy than the next person, this is a bike that breaks all the rules. It’s ugly, but it’s bold, with social niceties scrapped for performance.
The Honda 650 concepts were quite visually interesting, and I’m glad to see Honda using that exhaust to recall the classic 400/4 pipes of the 1970s. Usually, the Japanese don’t do throwbacks well (see: Yamaha XSR900). Honda nailed this, with a classic reference in a modern and uncluttered design.
I also thought the Moto Guzzi Stornello was visually beautiful, perhaps the best-looking bike at the show. I would be afraid to take it off-road, though, in case I beat up all that lovely aluminum bodywork.
MICHAEL: I really liked the Six50 too, not least because it was based on the real world CBR650 that I fell in love with this summer. How refreshing to find that a dream bike can come from an economical and usable platform, and not just be reserved for the uber-hyper-mega sports segment.
What did you think was a big miss? Was there a corporate move that you find strange or totally disappointing?
MICHAEL: I was most disappointed by Piaggio, as in the whole group. I am a shamelessly biased, self-professed Vespa / Aprilia super fans, because I was an intern at Piaggio (they gave me my big break) and worked on and off for Aprilia during the golden era. They are so utterly rudderless, so colossally devoid of direction in either design or product planning now as to make me wonder if they even want to be in this business. Seriously, it is the EICMA, and all they gave us was a Guzzi Harley Sportster clone? So, so sad.
ROB: On a corporate level I was surprised that Honda and Kawasaki did not have more to offer. Bike-wise, the MV Agusta Lewis Hamilton Dragster managed to make a striking bike into a gaudy one, and likely add a few bucks to the price as a result. It was helped by the hipster dude in the blue pinstripe suit in the pics, but even he could not save it.
ZAC: For me, the BMW F700 and F800 were disappointments. That motor is very long in the tooth, and very raw for the price it commands. So what do we get? Bold New Plastics (the modern-day equivalent to Bold New Graphics).
I was surprised Kawasaki did not have anything new and exciting either. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce a middleweight supercharged machine, but obviously Team Green is taking time to work on that tech, probably for good reason.
Lastly, the Ducati SixtyTwo: Really? A sleeved down 800, that costs almost the same as the full-sized Scrambler? They should have cut a deal with Borile and licensed their design, or built something similar, just making sure to sort out the mechanical lumps. The world does not need a 400cc Scrambler that’s basically the same as the 800. It could have used a nice, light single-cylinder, but noooooo. Maybe some other year.
What was the brand BIG WIN?
ZAC: Husky stole the show with the Vitpilen. Until then, I was kind of meh on most of what I saw, but that woke me up. Also, I think Suzuki is going to be a quiet winner. Their new Gixxer is not the next-gen hyperbike that people were hoping for, but it is a step forward. And they’re smart to bring back the SV650. At this point, the originals are almost considered classic bikes, since they debuted in the ’90s. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with the platform, and bringing it back in through more up-to-date version is smart for Suzuki, especially if they keep the price down.
While Suzuki has not had as much innovation in recent years as their competitors, moves like the re-introduction of the Bandit 1200 at a bargain price, and now the SV650, should attract buyers who want a good motorcycle at a decent price and are not as driven by new tech. It’s a smart survival technique.
ROB: Ducati got a lot of product out there and got a lot of attention by doing the live show the night before so I’d say they won the battle of the hype, but I’m left feeling a little flat by their offerings. It’s odd, but I like that Benelli did not do any hype and then slipped a smart 500 cc scrambler into the show, showing a change in company direction and that they can come up with something new and relatively unique to boot.
MICHAEL: So Rob , you are saying that Benelli is the show winner for you? The brand with the biggest overall success (relatively speaking)?
ROB: To me, yes, but it was not a blow-away win by a long shot. I don’t think 99% of other journos even saw the Leoncino, so not likely to success for the company. On the bigger player level I’d have to go with Zac’s choice of Suzuki, they did what was expected of them.
MICHAEL: I hate to say it, but for me the big brand winner was Honda. I have historically never been wowed by Big Red, but the last few years I find almost all of their products compelling, intelligent and just plain classy in a world of over-designed, over-hyped machines made for ever slimmer niche markets. Today, the official Honda R & D Europe designed concepts on the CBR650, plus the city adventure 750 scooter show demonstrable leadership in design, market development and just plain cool-factor. I like the Six50 enough to almost consider the best in show (but not quite as much as the 701!).
ROB: Good point. Honda certainly hit the ball out of the park with its concepts.
Scrambler-ification. What gives? Is this a fad or does the sudden need for everyone from BMW to Suzuki to offer versions of naked bikes have any legit market legs?
ROB: I think it’s testament to what a good job Ducati has done with its Scrambler. By all accounts it’s a hot seller and hits the target buyers that the industry has found so elusive – the young. Why spend all that time and money on trying something new when you can see what works and hop on board? But yes, it is a fad.
ZAC: Scramblers are the new cafe racers are the new choppers. There always has to be a fad and scramblers are “it” at the moment. It’s clever, really; it ties together both the ADV subcultures and hipsters. And I do not really have a problem with that. It means we should see more generally useful motorcycles, bikes that can handle a gravel road as well as a paved highway.
I would have liked to see more of that Suzuki SV650 scrambler, but it must have just been a concept. In any case, it seems all the manufacturers are on board, more or less. My only real beef with the fad is that the manufacturers are as clueless as the custom industry, who started this craze. Hipsters all over the world are putting knobbies on UJMs, strapping on high pipes, adding K&Ns, removing air boxes and front fenders, and calling them scramblers. Uh, no. The resulting mechanical nightmares are too heavy for fun off-road use, and the industry seems to be headed too far in the other direction now, just as it did with adventure bikes.
The Benelli scrambler got more to the root of what these bikes should be like. I’d love to see a scrambler version of the Suzuki TU250, as THAT would be light enough to actually have fun with off-pavement (although the suspension would be a bit jarring). Or maybe even the S40. Scramblers should be light and affordable.
MICHAEL: I can not tell a lie (usually – at least not to your face). The Ducati Scrambler was a brilliant move by the only European motorcycle product planning department with any vision for exactly the reasons both of you say. Cheap, cheerful, fun and light (literally and emotionally) motorcycles that normal, non-condescending, non-motorcycle enthusiasts can actually use and enjoy.
After the heresy of the cruiser / chopper and adventure bullshit of the past fifteen years, I too can get behind the simple pleasure of low seat height, low horsepower, reasonable price street bikes. Oh and by the way Rob, if you actually measure the ergonomic riding triangle of, say, V-Strom, you will find not much difference ‘twixt it and that of a Triumph Street Twin or Ducati Scrambler, which puts paid to the fantasy that only adventure bikes are designed for long distance comfort.
ZAC: Agreed. Ducati paved the way I cannot believe it took this long for everyone else to see the light.