The biggest motorcycle show of the year opened to the world’s press yesterday, and I stifled a yawn. EICMA in Milan used to be the place where some of the hottest bikes and the coolest equipment and gear made their debuts, but I just couldn’t get interested.
A new Honda Hornet? That will be nice. An MT-10 and MT-10 SP from Yamaha? Just what we need – more big naked bikes, with improved suspensions and more mid-range power and torque. Seriously, it’s all an improvement, yet ultimately it’s more of the same, heading on the same line toward the same target.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but as regular readers know, I also cover cars and trucks for other outlets, and with four wheels, it’s an entirely different story. Over there, it’s all about electricity and alternative power and charging infrastructure and lowering emissions. I couldn’t find any of that innovative buzz happening at EICMA.
Last week, I was at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where many of the major manufacturers didn’t turn up and their places were taken by start-up companies with electric vehicles. Like them or not, they’re the future of mobility and the technology behind them is fascinating. People are talking about them. The conversations are happening now, and things are moving forward.
I’ve written in the past that motorcycles are just not properly ready for electrification, and I still believe this to be so. Bikes are probably five years behind cars in this rush to get away from gasoline. The problem is that while cars can just shove more batteries under the floor to achieve longer range, bikes have a very limited space for the battery and the motor. Until a battery is developed that will drive the bike for at least 500 km, but which is small enough and light enough to be carried in the bike’s frame, then electric motorcycles will be only oddities.
(There are electric scooters, of course, that are designed for the urban landscape, but even they have limited uses thanks to their short range and comparatively long charging times.)
So, the EICMA show was nice to see, but for me, the real news was in the improved technologies, not the motorcycles themselves. It was the “adaptive aerodynamics” of the Moto Guzzi Mandello, and the “adaptive cruise control” of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE, and that electronic suspension of the MT-10 SP. More power, better handling, and safer machines – that’s all good.
But it’s not enough. Governments have already legislated target dates for emissions controls and the end of sales for gasoline-powered cars, and motorcycles will be right behind them. Various city centres in Europe already have prohibitive tolls for anything not propelled solely by electricity, and the British government wants all powered-two-wheelers to be fully electric by 2035.
It’s great to watch EICMA, and to see how far motorcycles have come, but it’s a dead end. The real conversation, like it or not, is happening elsewhere.