Weird and wonderful new motorcycles that grabbed us at EICMA 2021
EICMA: it's motorcyclese for Christmas, when the factory elves bring forth a bounty of gifts for the coming year and unwrap them in front of ... Well, generally in front of a gaggle of hungover journos who have been lured to the event with truckloads of free grog. And yet there's many a twinkle in many an eye when a manufacturer manages to correctly gauge which way the wind's blowing years in advance and present the perfect motorcycle for the moment.
Anecdotally speaking, the great plague of 2020-21 seems to have been a boon for motorcycling. Lockdowns and travel restrictions worldwide created a new type of COVID customer out of those lucky enough to remain employed; with fewer holidays and less going out, bank balances swelled along with spicy wanderlust over future adventures in the great Afterwards.
Garages started looking like they had a bike's worth of extra room in them, and people had the wonderful excuse that they didn't want to go catching public transport and getting sick. Sales rocketed skyward.
So it's a rejuvenated and energized industry hitting the pavement in Milan this year, even if sales are likely to drop back off when things go back to normal, if there ever was such a thing. Here's what's caught our eye so far.
Yamaha MT-10 SP gets next-gen Ohlins semi-active suspension
The king of Yamaha's torque-monster MT streetbike range, the MT-10, gets its first proper refresh since it debuted in 2016. A hardly-necessary 5-horsepower bonus brings the total peak to 164 ponies for 2022, with claimed increases around the midrange as well, where it matters on the street.
The airbox has been acoustically tuned to give the rider a nice soundtrack even though the exhaust is Euro-V, a six-axis IMU unlocks advanced rider aids like cornering ABS, TC and wheelie control, the quickshifter's now standard too, and, crucially, the Big Empty now gets a set of disapproving eyebrows your great-aunt would be proud of. Yamaha has done nothing to dilute the willful, brutal ugliness of this machine, and I'd say that's an excellent decision.
The fancy SP version, meanwhile, becomes the first bike to be fitted with Ohlins' second-gen active suspension system, meaning you can now choose between three different active damping modes and three manually editable static suspension modes, as opposed to the previous version, which only had two active modes and three static modes. Righty-o then. I'm sure it's a beaut ride. More information. Here's a video.
Kawasaki H2 SX gets radar-adaptive cruise
The grownup, touring-friendly version of the gratuitously supercharged Kawasaki H2 now becomes the first Japanese bike to get Bosch's radar system, following a handful of European bikes. This would be bigger news, I feel, if the H2 SX sold for a more Japanese price, but either way, adaptive cruise, control blind spot monitoring and forward collision warnings are a handy addition.
The full color, 6.5-inch TFT dash on this 197-horsepower, force-fed widowmaker has been significantly upgraded, too, to work in even closer with a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. And of course, this is on top of what was already a very comprehensively decked-out set of wheels, with lean angle-sensitive everything including cornering headlights. I'm not sure it's worth nearly twice the price of the old-faithful ZX-14R, but then nobody's out there buying H2s with practicality or value top of mind. More information. Check out a video.
Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello: The world's first bike to roll with active aeros
Moto Guzzi has heaved its bulk into the new millennium with a sporty-looking whippersnapper of a thing it's calling the Mandello. It's the first Guzzi with Ohlins semi-active suspension, a six-axis IMU, cornering ABS or a quickshifter, and it's the first bike anywhere to ship with active aerodynamics. It's not super exciting; it's a couple of flaps that either sit back against the sides of the tank, or automatically poke out at speed to "reduce air pressure on the rider by 22 percent ... close to the level of air protection afforded by more voluminous and less sporty tourers."
I don't think anyone would've picked Guzzi to beat its Piaggio stablemate Aprilia to the punch on active aeros (especially after the RS660 concept bike introduced the idea in 2018), but here we are. The Mandello's not a bad looking bike at all, either, with an all-new 1,042 cc engine sending 115 horsepower and 105 Nm (77 lb-ft) down a "no linkage required" shaft drive to the rear wheel. It looks comfy, quick and capable, with a modern new angle on the Guzzi style. Check out a video below.
Honda Fireblade CBR-1000RR-R SP celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Fireblade
Honda's Fireblade has always been a terrific bike for pirates, who would've been delighted to receive yet another R when the CBR-1000RR-R SP first debuted last year. Four whole Rs! This must be the sportiest motorcycle in the world! Power stays steady at 214 horsepower for 2022, but it's been tweaked for stronger midrange, better traction management and throttle feel, says Honda – and the rear sprocket has jumped up a surprising three teeth. That's why we used a wheelie picture above, not just because we like wheelies.
There's Ohlins, there's Brembo, there's plenty of electronics – as there was before – but our favorite bit here has to be the paint job, which harks back to the 1992-tastic livery that debuted with the Fireblade back in 1992 and looks sharp today plastered across a set of very un-1992 aerodynamic winglets. More information. Here's a video. Man, it's been too long since I did a track day, this just looks spectacular.
Bimota reaches hitherto uncharted levels of retro-fugly with new KB4
Does anyone know what they're smoking down in San Marino at Bimota HQ lately? After subjecting us to the eye-battering Tesi H2 two years ago, the Italian coachbuilder has now released another pair of ultra-exclusive, Kawasaki-engined sportsters that strike out in a retro direction but end up looking like a dog's breakfast. Incidentally, here's a stock photo for that, should you ever need it.
The front end of the faired KB4 looks pretty nice, quite a lot like Triumph's new Speed Triple 1200 RR Cafe Racer. We can definitely get down with the cockpit. But the chunky tail, which houses the radiator and fans, looks awful over a very drab swingarm, and the banana-swoop fairing connecting the flanks to the backside... Well, put it this way; it's pretty unique, and if the gods are truly benevolent, it'll stay that way.
An unfaired KB4 RC hits the same discordant notes, without the nice front end to save it. These will be reasonably quick and agile bikes, making 142 horsepower and weighing 187 kg (412 lb) dry. Certainly lighter than the Ninja 1000 bikes that donate the 1,043cc inline 4 engine. But while every part strives to be engineering art, the big picture weirds me out almost as badly as those Japanese Bosozuku bikes. Then again, I've never been accused of having good taste, so go ahead and fork out the squillion dollars it'll cost to be seen on one of these in public, if it somehow butters your muffin. More information. Video below.
MV Agusta prepares to hit the middleweight ADV market with Lucky Explorer 5.5 and 9.5
Finally, a pair of motorcycles for all those legions of riders that have said "I want to take my modern MV Agusta bush-bashing." The Lucky Explorer bikes are just concepts at this stage, but they signal MV's clear intention to get back out in the dirt and wring some sentimental shine out of the old Cagiva Elefant, which bagged its parent company MV two Dakar wins in the early 90s.
The 5.5 will run a 550cc parallel twin engine, developed with MV's new Chinese distribution partner QJ Motor. The 9.5 will be a premium product based on a new 930cc triple that MV says will deliver 123 hp and 102 Nm (75 lb-ft), at the same size as the current 800cc motor. This one will be available with a Rekluse auto-clutch, and an optional "electro-actuated gearbox," and it'll run 21- and 18-inch wheels. This doesn't seem like a recipe for a half-assed attempt, and both bikes look pretty slick already, so we're interested to see how they end up in production form.
MV's wonderful press team tells us the Lucky Explorers are "not just a cold but smart marketing project." Instead, it's about "a comprehensive world of emotions, memories, values and a way of being," into which you may submerge yourself by signing up at a website to be marketed at further.