The Top Six Bikes of EICMA 2021…sort of

The Bimota KB4RC model, looking like something from the Lang Hindle era. Photo: Bimota

It was a weird year at EICMA. The world’s biggest motorcycle show, running in Milan, returned after taking a year off because of COVID-19 restrictions … but not all the manufacturers returned to show off their bikes. It’s a trend that actually started before COVID-19, but tightening budgets and the changing realities of the show circuit meant some of the largest OEMs stayed home.

Somewhat cheekily, a couple of the week’s biggest bikes were debuted online during EICMA week, getting on the hype train without the expense of running a massive display at the show. All’s fair in love, war, and marketeering, though, and this is the Internet age, so expect more of this in the future, not less.

With all that in mind, here are the top five bikes of EICMA last week … even if they weren’t actually unveiled at EICMA.

The neo-retro Bimota KB4, powered by Kawasaki. Photo: Bimota

1. Bimota KB4

These days, Bimota is undergoing a revival. Long under-funded and hampered by business missteps (not to mention difficulty sourcing engines and other key components), Bimota is now partly owned by Kawasaki, which means Team Green wants the boutique sportbike brand to succeed. A couple of years ago, we saw the Tesi H2 debut, mixing the supercharged Kawasaki H2 with Italian styling and weirdo chassis design. Now, we see a more sensible bike (if you can say that with a straight face): The KB4, with neo-retro clothes. There’s also the KB4 RC, which is basically the same thing, with less neo-retro clothes (not exactly a naked bike, but close).

This is basically a Ninja 1000 in new clothes, with some cool suspension changes and an innovative chassis. And, a radiator tucked under the seat, leaving the bike’s front end looking very tidy. In fact, the KB4 RC’s front end looks a lot like a vintage superbike from the early 1980s, with oil cooler tucked away over the four headers.

This is almost surely not coming to Canada, at least not without a bunch of expensive paperwork, but it truly is a beautiful bike, with innovation showing that there are still engineers and bike designers out there with exciting ideas.

A sporty roadster that converts into a tourer. Photo: Moto Guzzi

2. Moto Guzzi V100 Mandelo

For a couple of years, we’ve been waiting for the world’s first motorcycle with active aeros—in other words, a motorcycle whose aerodynamics automatically changed to change performance as riding speed increases. The Moto Guzzi V100 Mandelo is that motorcycle, but it’s not exactly what we expected.

The general expectation was, the first bike with active aeros would use those aerodynamic features to increase downforce as speed picked up. The V100 Mandelo’s aeros don’t do that; instead, they’re designed to increase wind protection as speed picks up. Basically, Moto Guzzi has created a motorcycle that converts from a roadster into a tourer once you’re on the highway.

Cool stuff! But, there’s more going on here than just that. This is still a transverse V-twin, as you’d expect from Moto Guzzi, but it’s liquid-cooled with chain-driven cams, finger followers and four valves per cylinder. It also has the heads rotated from standard Moto Guzzi configuration. Even though it’s a 1,042 cc engine, it’s physically smaller than other Guzzi engines because of that liquid-cooling system. It makes 115 hp, and over 77 lb-ft of torque.

Throw in a single-sided swingarm, six-axis IMU and other modern features, and this bike (which was made to celebrate Moto Guzzi’s 100 years in business) paints a picture of the company’s future.

2022 MV Agusta Lucky Explorer 9.5 Photo: MV Agusta

3. MV Agusta Lucky Explorer 9.5

MV Agusta launched two new machines at EICMA in its Lucky Explorer adventure bike line. The Lucky Explorer 5.5 is a re-badged, fine-tuned Chinese design; interesting, and probably practical for many users, but not the sort of thing that sets the industry on its ear.

The Lucky Explorer 9.5 is more exciting, with a three-cylinder engine that’s similar to the F3-series 800 triple that MV Agusta has been using for years in its street bikes. It comes with hydraulic clutch, while a Rekluse clutch and electronically-managed gearbox are optional.

We don’t have many details on the Lucky Explorer 9.5, except that it has a 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear, and it seems designed to handle real off-road use in the spirit of the Cagiva Elefant. MV Agusta now owns the Cagiva marque, and is very keen for its customers to remember that brand’s glory days at Dakar.

MV Agusta is trying to re-establish itself in global markets after years of struggle. If the Lucky Explorer series is well-built with good performance, these ADV machines could be a major part of that rebirth.

2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. Photo: Kawasaki

4. Kawasaki Versys 650 LT

This wasn’t the only Kawasaki unveiled at EICMA; the updated H2 SX with adaptive cruise control is a much flashier machine, but for many readers, it’s more than they can afford.

However, almost anyone should be able to find enough change in the couch cushions for the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT (even though the price has gone up, just a bit). At this point, this is really the only middleweight touring machine that’s readily available in Canada, complete with hard bags, at this just-over-$11k price tag.

It is still a basic bike powered by a basic parallel-twin engine, but with a new TFT screen, adjustable windscreen, LED headlight and traction control system, this bike receives a wide range of incremental improvements without seeing a complete re-think. In other words, Kawasaki made it better without an expensive re-design that would have raised MSRP. Good for them—we don’t all have deep pockets, and frankly, the industry didn’t seem too interested in releasing budget-friendly bikes at EICMA this year.

2022 KTM 1290 Suuper Duke GT. Photo: KTM

5. KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

We’ll just get this out of the way at the start: The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is probably not coming to Canada for the start of the 2022 riding season, and maybe not ever. The previous versions of the bike weren’t exactly big sellers here. It’s too bad, because the 2022 version (launched online, instead of at the EICMA show) looks even more fun than the previous versions.

The GT now comes with updated WP Apex Pro semi-active suspension, a new 7-inch TFT dash (with updated navigation tech), and a set of lighter wheels lifted from the Super Duke R. The changes should all add up to a bike that is better-handling, and better at banging out long miles.

It seems the engine itself sees little or no change, but since previous versions of the bike had more than enough jam, this shouldn’t be an issue.

2022 Ducati Panigale V4 S. Photo: Ducati

6. Ducati Panigale V4

Although the EICMA show is in Ducati’s backyard, Ducati chose to not run a massive display at the show, instead launching the latest generation of its Panigale V4 superbike online. Ouch.

The bike itself isn’t some great departure from previous Panigale V4 models; instead, Ducati basically presents it as the ultimate refinement of those technologies, with latest-gen electronics onboard, and engine and chassis developed with expertise derived from the company’s racing programs. A new six-axis IMU powers the updated safety electronics, there’s a new fairing, the suspension has been tweaked, and so on. It’s not a complete re-think of the Panigale formula, but it should be the most exciting one yet.


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