It's silly season in Milan, with manufacturers jostling for the spotlight with a cavalcade of new bikes, model updates and wacky prototype concepts at the 2014 EICMA motorcycle expo. While the stars of the show were probably the Japanese, with the release of the new MotoGP-inspired Yamaha R1 and the supercharged Kawasaki H2 road bike, there's a bunch of other new bikes that deserve a look too. So here's our favorite highlights in our EICMA 2014 roundup!
EICMA 2014 has made one thing very clear – electronics manufacturers like Bosch are becoming every bit as relevant as engine and chassis manufacturers are. Just about every flagship bike released this year featured a manufacturer-customized version of Bosch's Cornering ABS system, as well as a six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that we presume also came from Bosch. These systems now form the eyes and ears of everything from traction control and braking systems to wheelie control, launch control and slide control systems, as well as outputting huge amounts of downloadable data for post-ride analysis.
We're also starting to see a few active electronic suspension systems that take data from the IMU and adjust compression and rebound damping in real time to suit the road and the way you're riding.
It's heartening to see cruise control beginning to propagate through the sports-touring world and even into the odd sportsbike. Cruise is a wonderful feature that makes pretty much any bike better.
So without any further ado, here's the cream of new metal launched at this year's EICMA Milan.
Supercharged H2 roadbike
Doubtless the striking H2 is the belle of this ball, its supercharged 210-horsepower engine earning it the distinction of being the fastest accelerating production bike on the planet. It's also Kawasaki's first attempt at a trellis frame, and it's encouraging to see how close the H2 looks to its track-only brother, the wild 300-horsepower H2R. The forced induction powerplant of this bike has inspired bureaucratic pen-pushers worldwide to demand it should be banned from sale, despite that fact that there's half a dozen other sportsbikes within 5 horsepower of its insane peak. The result will likely simply be that Kawasaki will gain massive publicity and a fearsome reputation, which is probably the main point of this bike anyway. Mike Hanlon has done a fantastic write-up with more details on the Kawasaki H2 here.
YZF-R1 and R1M
Yamaha is certainly not messing about with the new R1. The 2015 update puts it right back at the pointy end with 200 crank horsepower – a jump of some 20 ponies since the last model, and that's without ram air taken into consideration. It also features an electronics suite that puts it right up there with the leading European bikes of 2014. Mind you, BMW and Ducati have nudged the goalposts a touch further along in the last couple of weeks! Check out our full Yamaha R1 and R1M coverage here.
FJ-09 (MT-09 Tracer) sports tourer
An engine as magnificent as the new 3-cylinder torque monster in the Yamaha MT-09/FZ-09 was bound to multiply ... and here's the first spinoff. The MT-09 Tracer, or FJ-09 in America due to trademark issues, is a sports tourer with added comfort, luggage options, a bigger tank and a better dash, as well as a touring fairing and a set of headlights reminiscent of next year's Kawasaki Versys. It looks like an excellent machine and a step forward from the bargain MT-09, but then, it's US$2500 dearer at US$10,490, so it loses some of the original bike's "I can't believe what you get for your money" appeal, and all that extra plastic and comfort is gonna saw into the original MT's bonkers performance. Still a significant machine and we can't wait to ride one.
Honda's Fireblade is an outstanding road bike, but its 178-horsepower inline 4 is starting to look a bit flaccid next to its 200-horsepower rivals. And considering that the Honda MotoGP program is making the world champion V4 superbike, the world's biggest motorcycle manufacturer really ought to have something on the market that reflects its racing dominance. Will we get it? Sadly, the launch of the RC213V-S MotoGP replica gives us no answer beyond "perhaps." It's a V4 race bike with mirrors and indicators, but we get no information beyond what you can discern from the pictures here.
True Adventure prototype
Honda also signaled it might get back into the hardcore adventure segment again with the debut of its True Adventure concept. Looking pretty close to production and ready to take some serious abuse, word has it the True Adventure heralds a 1,000cc Africa Twin-type adventure machine fit to take to Dakar or around the world the hard way. Everything we've got on the True Adventure is here.
The Panigale has sat at the pointy end of the production superbike world for a few years now, edging out BMW's S1000RR for top horsepower honors ... and in its latest incarnation it's creeping forward yet again to a peak of 205 horses. But the Italian superbike will also split next year into two classes: the Panigale 1299 R World Superbike homologation model, which will remain at 1198cc, and the standard and S versions, which get a capacity boost of nearly 100cc in search of more usable power and torque on the road. The road bikes will become the torquiest supersports bikes ever produced, edging out the EBR 1190RX for top spot. There's also a bunch of electronic upgrades including lean angle-sensitive Cornering ABS. More on the new Panigale 1299 series here.
The Monster 1200 gets a significant upgrade for 2015, finally receiving the water-cooled Testastretta motor from the Multistrada, Diavel and the old 1198 supersports bike. Peak power is down from the 150 horses this engine makes in the Multistrada, but then peak horsepower means little on a streetbike these days (witness the BMW S1000R, which dropped 40 horsepower from its donor bike but became a whole lot crazier) so we'll have to ride one before we can judge its performance. The traditional Monster trellis frame now attaches directly to the cylinder head of the L-twin engine, somewhat reducing its dominance of the design, but it's still a looker. RRP will be US$13,495.
The Multistrada 1200 sports adventure tourer was already an absolute beast of an all-rounder, and the second generation launching in 2015 will be even better. Power is up 10 horses to 160 hp, and the 'Strada's excellent electronics package has been completely overhauled to include an Inertial Measurement System (IMS), giving it multi-stage wheelie control, Bosch's astounding Cornering ABS and cruise control (yay!) to go along with its traction control and multiple riding modes. There's also what appears to be an active electronic suspension system that constantly adjusts itself to adapt to road and riding conditions. Outstanding, and just in time to go head to head with the brand new BMW S1000XR.
BMW, it seems, noticed the critical and sales success the Ducati Multistrada was enjoying, and thought "hey, we've got our own berserk detuned superbike engine we can bring to this table!" And thus the S1000XR joins the fray as a road-focused sports touring/light adventure package. Similar in many ways to the frightening S1000R nakedbike, the XR raises the game electronically with wheelie control and lean-angle sensitive ABS Pro. Putting the S1000XR against the Multistrada back to back would surely be a heck of a comparo test – let's put that one on the wish list! Full details about the BMW S1000XR here.
BMW's stunt-happy middleweight naked twin, the F800, gets a light overhaul for 2015. Power is up 3 horses to 90 hp, gear ratios are shorter in first and second, the seat is lower and the forks are new and inverted. It also loses its winky-robot face, running a chunky single headlight that changes the look of the bike pretty significantly. It's still a quirky-looking thing and should be a good fun, practical all-rounder.
Aprilia's RSV4 superbike was already way too fast for the likes of me in its first incarnation ... and no slouch in the hands of a real rider either, as it just captured the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Sylvain Guintoli on board. Nothing exceeds like excess, though, so Aprilia has whacked on another 16-odd horsepower, bringing the RR's 999cc V4 engine up to 201 peak hp and placing it squarely at the pointy end of the superbike field. The APRC electronics system has also been updated, now featuring wheelie control and race-focused ABS to add to existing features like traction control, launch control (yikes!), engine brake control, quick shift and the variable riding modes. The front end has undergone a complete redesign, although appearance-wise it's not a massive change. It sure is getting crowded at the top!
Tuono V4 1100 RR
Without the need to stay below 1000cc for racing regulations, the Tuono super-streetfighter has grown a slightly beefier set of danglies with a few extra cubic centimeters providing a 5-horsepower boost. The 2015 Tuono V4 1100 RR is now a 175-horsepower roadster, among the nastiest in its segment, although the extended front fairing and triple headlight unit almost make you want to call it a sports tourer instead of a naked. The seat is lower, the bars are narrower and the back seat seems to have been designed specifically to bifurcate a pillion with maximum efficiency, but the Tuono is going to be one hell of a ride. If the standard version isn't mean enough for you, there's the Factory, festooned with carbon fiber and sprung with luxury Ohlins gear.
Italian electric bike manufacturer Energica released a nakedbike, hot on the heels of the Energica Ego sportsbike we wrote about a few months back. The Eva is the alter-Ego (yuk yuk) – a naked version of the 137mph (220kmh), 150-km range electric Ego bike. Lack of fairing will likely pull back the Eva's top speed compared to its sporty brother, but then the weight reduction of removing a bunch of plastic may well make it peppier under the speed limit. It looks a touch awkward design-wise, but it packs a mean 134 horsepower, which will be absolutely ferocious out of an electric, and its 11.7 kWh battery pack is a decent size. We're sure it goes like the clappers – electrics are getting so good these days that perhaps the only barrier to buying one is the fact that next year's bike always promises to be exponentially better!
Tiger 800 XR, XRx, XC and XCx
Triumph has split its middleweight Tiger 800 3-cylinder adventure tourer into four different models to fully test the attention span of its customers. It's a little easier to understand once you work out that XR is the road-focused version, XC is the offroad-focused version, with longer travel WP suspension, and the x on the end denotes an up-spec model not unlike the Street Triple Rx that appeared at Intermot 2014 a month ago. The XCx ups the ante from the base model XC by adding engine protection bars, hand guards and a bashplate, and both x models also get cruise control, center stands and auto-cancelling indicators.
Swedish dirtbike specialist Husqvarna has built a street-legal hooligan machine in the vein of KTM's 690 SMC R. The Husky weighs about 5 kg more than the Kato at 145 kg (320 lbs) but it makes one extra horsepower for a total of 67. Like the KTM, it also features standard ABS and WP suspension. If the bikes look neck-and-neck, that's possibly no coincidence – KTM now owns Husqvarna. But even if it doesn't break the class wide open, this 690cc machine should tear up some serious tarmac on the street.
Vitpilen and Svartpilen concepts
Husky also dropped a couple of odd-looking featherweight prototypes at EICMA, based on the KTM 390 Duke. Weighing in at just 135kg (297 lbs) the Vitpilen (which translates from Swedish as White Arrow) is a futuristic cafe racer with a cool-looking LED ring around its headlight. The Svartpilen, or Black Arrow, takes the same idea to a place that's much more scrambler oriented. Both bikes look a treat, and shouldn't be too expensive to manufacture. Husqvarna says it may do just that if interest is high enough.
Moto Guzzi turned heads this year with a highly streamlined, matt black cruiser concept in the MGX-21. Based on the California 1400, the MGX-21's wheels are the first thing to catch your eye – the front being a solid carbon fiber disc, and the rear being shrouded in a wickedly aerodynamic cowl. There's flashes of red on the trademark Guzzi twin's cylinder heads, as well as the fender and brake calipers, a matt black exhaust header wrap, and the rest of the bodywork is carbon fiber. It looks utterly badass.
Grand Milano 440
SWM (which delightfully stands for Speedy Working Motors) was an Italian trials and enduro bike manufacturer through the 1970s and 80s. Now, the brand is back, with Chinese investment and an Italian factory. The Grand Milano is one of six new models that could make it through to the market, a twin-shock retro cafe racer with spoked wheels, upswept exhausts and a 440cc engine, which it seems may have started out as pre-KTM Husqvarna stock. It’s pretty light for a road bike at 145kg (320 lbs), and has been loaded up with a fair dollop of style. No word as yet on availability, European or otherwise.
For those who found MV's Rivale hypermoto a little hard-edged and impractical, there's now the Stradale. Power is down 10hp to 115 horses in Sport mode, but the 800cc triple is all about torque and fun, anyway. The tank is slightly larger, the rear suspension travel a little more generous, and there's a touring screen, as well as provisions for panniers and a big top box. The Stradale may not really qualify as an entirely new model, but it makes a decent touring package out of a nutty overgrown motard, and should retain plenty of the Rivale's spirit.
Model X Reloaded
Historic British brand Matchless gave the public its first chance to see the Model X Reloaded, named for the Model X which first rolled off the line in 1929. A very quirky design, the Model X Reloaded features a completely new, levering “castle” front suspension system, a single front disc with a 12-piston caliper, a frame that’s designed for controlled flex, a 1916cc S&S v-twin motor and a pair of fishtail exhausts. The riding position is massively adjustable, including adjustable seat height, handlebar height and footrests that can be moved forward and backward to tailor the bike to how you like to sit. It’s not a half bad looking thing, either, in its own quirky way.
For more of 2014's new motorcycle highlights, don't miss our coverage of last month's Intermot 2014 motorcycle show from Cologne, Germany.
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