Analysis: The cheers and jeers of EICMA

The EICMA show in Milan is the biggest motorcycle event of the year for two reasons. First, it’s when you see most of the new, upcoming motorcycles, including concept bikes. Second, it’s because the show itself is often a good barometer of the industry, showing how much confidence the manufacturers have in sales.

So how’d this year go? Overall, none of the major manufacturers did anything we didn’t expect, but there were still some encouraging signs. So, here are the …

Cheers and jeers of EICMA

Packing enough horsepower to stop from getting bored and not too bad-looking either. The Z400 is an interesting option.

Cheers: Kawasaki, for releasing the Z400 naked bike, with basically the same equipment as the Ninja 400—almost 45 horsepower and ABS to boot. Compare this to the old KZ400 of the 1970s, and it shows how far the motorcycle industry has come. Even the noobest of noob bikes now has tech that would have been space-age only a generation ago, with more than enough power to satisfy a competent rider. So will the Z400 actually sell in any real numbers? Visually, there’s nothing that screams “Buy me!”; the Honda CB300R offers Blade Runner stylings for $300 less, and the Husqvarna 401 models also arguably look better—but carry a $6,999 MSRP. The Kawasaki has a $5,799 price tag, and still looks better than most of the Japanese naked bikes on the market of any size, while packing better performance than all its competition, particularly the rest of the Big Four. This bodes well for Team Green. Kawasaki also announced the W800 lineup would return, after everyone thought the classic vertical twin models were dead, and they’re coming to Canada. Sweet deal!

Still waiting for the Tenere 700. Stillllllll waiiiiiiting.

Jeers: Yamaha, for the Tenere 700 debacle. For years now, adventure riders have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Yamaha’s mid-displacement adventure bike, based on the MT-07’s parallel twin engine. Last year, we saw the prototype again but were told to wait, and then saw Yamaha ride a more-or-less finished prototype all around the world all summer, whipping up interest. Then yesterday, the bomb dropped: Euro riders will be able to buy the bike sometime in 2019, but North American riders won’t be able to buy it until late 2020, as a 2021 model. The ADV market was shocked, then disgusted. You can bet most of them won’t be waiting around until then to spend their money.

You don’t see big industry hype over the CB500X, but it’s definitely got the attention of a lot of real-world riders who want something affordable and easy to ride. The bike gets even better with the addition of improved suspension and 19-inch front wheel.

Cheers: Honda, for upgrading most of its more boring bikes. Let’s face it, Honda’s 500 twins aren’t the tire-shredding screamers that experienced riders salivate over, and even the four-cylinder 650 line isn’t exactly the stuff of hairy-chested horsepower showdowns. But, these are affordable, sensible motorcycles that are popular because they get the job done. Kudos to Honda for updating them, especially the CB500X, which now offers much more offroad capability, thanks to a 19-inch front wheel and better suspension. We hear there’s a sudden opening in the North American mid-displacement adventure bike market … Also, good on Big Red for bringing the neo-retro CB650R to market; this machine has the potential to be a proper hit, if the pricing is competitive.

The revived Katana was announced earlier this fall, but Suzuki didn’t follow up with anything at EICMA except for this black paint job. Bummer, dude.

Jeers: Suzuki, for releasing nothing. At least, nothing we heard about. Not even a concept bike. There was a black-painted version of the Katana, but that’s not a game-changer.

The KTM 690 Enduro R is good news for big bore thumper fans.

Cheers: KTM, for revamping the 690 Enduro R and reviving the SMC 690 R. Who says big-bore singles are dead? Who says we don’t need factory supermotos? KTM knows better, and delivered. True, this tech wasn’t exactly new, it’s just a refinement of the existing engine, and has shown up elsewhere in the Husky/KTM lineup. But who cares? It’s been a decade since anyone else did anything with the big-bore thumper market. KTM also revealed the production version of the 790 Adventure, which has taken its time getting here, but is definitely not far-off-future vapourware. Perhaps most significantly, KTM announced the SX-E 5 electric minibike. That’s going to mean a lot of fun for kids, and creates a market of future electric bike customers.

The T120 Bonneville Diamond looks pretty good, but it isn’t much different from the standard model.

Jeers: Triumph, for only showing off repainted T120 Bonnevilles. To be fair, Triumph had just announced the Scrambler 1200 XC and Scrambler 1200 XE last month, perhaps in a bid to get its news out without being lost in everyone else’s EICMA hype. Whatever the reason, the Brit manufacturer didn’t really wow anyone at the show, with the T120 Bonneville Diamond and T120 Bonneville Ace only serving as cosmetic revisions of existing motorcycles.

The BMW S1000 RR revolutionizes BMW’s superbike game.

Cheers: BMW, for the significantly revised S1000RR superbike. Depending whose figures you trust, the litrebike gained up to 11 hp with this year’s updated, and lost 11 kg. Those are big numbers. BMW’s Shiftcam technology is a very important part of this update, especially as it allows the superbike to make its power across a wide RPM range. Not only is the bike better-suited for track work, it’s also more rideable on the street. Right on, BMW, right on.

Accessory kits for the FTR1200? Not the sort of launch that blows your socks off.

Jeers: Indian, for releasing nothing more than an accessories collection for the FTR1200. OK, it’s true the American manufacturers rarely announce much at the European shows, but an accessories collection? Weak.

The Livewire debut puts Harley-Davidson ahead of all its competition in the electric bike segment.

Cheers: Harley-Davidson, for announcing the Livewire. Now it’s true that we’ve known this was coming for years, and Harley-Davidson still hasn’t really announced much of the nuts-and-bolts information. Performance? Range? Price? We don’t know. But, Harley-Davidson is the only major manufacturer with a full-size electric motorcycle planned to hit the market in the immediate future. That counts for a lot.

The SuperNEX is super-awesome, maybe. We’re still low on details.

Cheers, but maybe Jeers: Finally, it’s hard to know what to make of the Kymco SuperNEX electric superbike concept, but for now, we’re calling this one a cheer. If Kymco actually brings this to market, it will be a game-changer, as no other mainstream manufacturer is building anything similar. But if it turns out to be a market no-show, never actually arriving in showrooms, this bike will be a major jeer.

The bikes of EICMA:

Listed by manufacturer, here are all the machines unveiled at EICMA this week.

RS-660 concept, Aprilia RSV4 Factory

C400X, F850 GS Adventure, R1250 R, S1000 RR, R1250 RS, R1250 GS Adventure,

Monster 821 Stealth, Ducati V4 Panigale R, Multistrada 950 S, Diavel 1260, Diavel 1260 S, Hypermotard 950, Hypermotard 950 SP,


CB500, CBR500, CBR650, CB650 R, CB500X

EE 5, Svartpilen 701, Vitpilen Aero Concept,

W800 Street, W800 Cafe, Ninja H2 SX SE, Z400, Versys 1000, Versys 1000 SE,

SX-E 5, 690 Enduro R, 790 Adventure, 790 Adventure R, 690 SMC R

SuperNEX concept

Moto Guzzi
V85 TT

MV Agusta
Brutale Serie Oro

T120 Ace, T120 Bonneville

Updated engines

Niken GT, R1 GYTR, Tenere 700,


  1. Yamaha is a mystery… They have been teasing that bike for years now and it’s still not quite ready.Too bad really, from what a saw the red and white T7 is a beauty!

    Except (somewhat) for Kawasaki Japanese manufacturers are asleep it seems.

    Thankfully the European brands are picking up the slack. All of them have announced amazing machines this year. I’ve always been a Japanese bike guy myself but my next bike will likely be from one of those brands.

    • Yamaha is a mystery indeed. Apparently their North American sales for 2-wheelers is down about 17%, why delay (yet again) something that might help bring their numbers back up ? Instead we’ll get the Niken – at least its got 3 wheels so it’ll be easier to bolt to the showroom floors…

  2. “Who says big-bore singles are dead?” Well…you did Zac.

    And you’re not entirely wrong as the Japanese makers have at best ignored, or at worst discontinued their models. Honda stands alone having released the 450L and the 250’s as another manufacturer investing R&D into the segment.

    So the segment isn’t necessarily dead with KTM and Honda investing in it but it’s not exactly a focused battleground.

      • I think the 450 applies. It’s certainly competition for the 690/701. I have wanted a 690 for years, but am now also considering the 450. The deciding factor will probably be the quality of the KTM dealer near me and a touch of brand loyalty.

        My remark about the 250’s was that Honda is at least interested in the segment.

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