What We Want?

Story by David Booth//
January 1 2020

Every year, the motorcycling world gathers at the Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori – better know to us bikers as EICMA. The EICMA is the most important motorcycle show in the world, a precursor to our own expositions here in the Great White Frozen North and the exposition is a glimpse of what we motorcyclists will be riding in the next 12 months to 10 years. Virtually everything that matters in new motorcycles emanates from the EICMA.

The EICMA is also a crucible that tells us what the motorcycle industry thinks we want: the concepts, the future models and even the accessories proposed are the engineers’ best guess at what we, the motorcycling faithful, lust for. With that in mind, this is what EICMA 2019 – and the same products that will show up at our own Canadian motorcycle shows – say about us:

1. We motorcyclists – common, everyday biker and high-tech engineer alike – are still dreamers.

Kawasaki bought Bimota. Not for any financial reason since, as far as anyone can see, Bimota has never been financially viable. If the company ever made money, its profitability was sporadic in the extreme. And yet, not only did Kawasaki buy into the Bimota dream, the pair has already produced a hub-steering supercharged monster. If ever there was proof that the lab-coated wonks that design our motorcycles are just as crazy as the rest of us, the Tesi H2 motorcycle is it.

That said, I think Kawasaki’s silly supercharger is the perfect mate for the Tesi. Bimota’s hub-centre front end, always a tad more cumbersome than traditionally telescopic-forked motorcycles, is a paragon of braking controllability and high-speed stability – both attributes I think we can all agree are important when you have more than 200 horses at the rear wheel. And, judging from the cohesive, ground-up design, Kawasaki appears to be putting serious money into the project. A hub-centre, supercharged hyperbike may not be my cup of tea, but, damn, I’m glad someone is building one.

2. Electric motorcycles are a hotbed of innovation.

Electric motorcycles have been a huge failure: the much-ballyhooed Isle of Man TT Zero race has been cancelled and e-motorcycle makers refuse to divulge their sales numbers lest we find out how truly unsuccessful they have been in converting bikers to batteries.

But despite – perhaps even because of – ebikes’ poor sales, engineers and designers alike are taking more chances with both technology and styling. For example, we’ve been teased with hub-driven bikes for years, but an electric-powered two-wheeler – the Verge TS – would seem the perfect candidate for moving forward into production. With a gaping hole where an axle should be, the TS looks a little different. If circular minimalism is your thing, Verge is taking deposits on the 24,990 euros ($36,400) the manufacturer is said to be charging for the TS.

3. Mid-range sport bikes may be back, but they just won’t be 600 cc fours.

Aprilia’s RS660 was arguably the hit of this year’s show, and I couldn’t be happier about what this says about the motorcycling industry. For one thing, the previous game of one-upmanship in the 600 cc sport bike segment was absolutely stupid. Who cares that this year’s model has half a horsepower more than last year’s and weighs a kilogram less? And yet, that’s exactly what motorcycling’s marketing mavens tried to convince us was important.
Instead, Aprilia’s RS660 is sexy and sensible (or, at least, as sensible as any product from an Italian manufacturer can be). On the one hand, the RS660 is powered by a 660 cc parallel-twin that, for economy of scale’s sake, is based on one-half of the RSV4 V4 and, although the bike wears clip-ons, they’re located above the triple tree for user-friendly ergonomics. On the other, the bloody thing looks like sex on wheels. If Aprilia prices it right, the kids are going to flock to the RS as if it is a gold-plated iPhone.

4. Harley-Davidson’s desperation is our gain.

That times are bad in Milwaukee is no secret. Every sales quarter brings worse news; Harley-Davidson’s ebikes aren’t selling for you know what; and the Trumptards, usually so pro-Buy American, are pissed at Harley for building plants overseas.

But if the result is the Pan America, then maybe there is a silver lining to the fiscally sour sow’s ear. Yes, the Pan America looks awkward in Harley’s traditional white-and-orange livery. But in monochromatic black, this bike is a looker. The 1,250 cc, 60-degree V-twin is both powerful and compact, and Harley looks to be serious about its off-road bona fides. I am sick and tired of the copycat, horsepower race in adventure bikes these days, which makes the Pan America the large-displacement Adventure I’m most looking forward to testing.

5. Speaking of which…

Could I be any more bored than I am with the unveiling of KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R? Seriously, KTM’s super-naked needed more horsepower? Why? So your shoulders could be ripped out of their sockets at 300 km/h instead of 280? This silly horsepower race in adventures and nakeds is going to have the same result as it did in middleweight sport bikes: pigeonholing an entire segment.

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