Bikes of 2010


Not a big year, but a good one

There were not as many new models as usual at the Milan Motorcycle Show but, like this CR&S Duu, they were still well worth seeing

Well, it seems the Italians don’t have an equivalent of Hanrahan. Nobody at the Milan motorcycle show EICMA was claiming we’d all be “rooned” or forecasting the end of the world; even companies that had seen sales go backward in the global bank stuff-up were optimistic and showing new product. The positive attitude was obvious among other European manufacturers, too, including BMW, Triumph and KTM.

Harley-Davidson even had a substantial stand for Buell, despite killing the brand off a few days before the show, and Victory was there in force with new models and lots of enthusiasm.

But the optimism wasn’t nearly so pronounced among some other non-Italian manufacturers. Honda and Yamaha did a no-show this year, choosing to launch their new bikes — and not many of them — more cheaply at the Tokyo (car) show. And, while Suzuki and Kawasaki were there with decent-sized stands, it was with a very limited number of new models.

I suspect that any manufacturer who didn’t put some effort into EICMA this year will regret it. I spent one of the public days walking around the show (actually pushing my way through the enormous crowds) and found myself absolutely lifted by the enthusiasm. That was shared by other exhibitors, too. Draggin Jeans’ Grant Mackintosh, who makes the pilgrimage to Milan every year and has a substantial stand, told me he was very happy with the response this time.

The stands that offered something new, like Moto Guzzi’s, were so crowded it was physically impossible at times to get anywhere near them.
Moto Guzzi with something new? Oh yes.

None of us expected this, but some of the most exciting models of the show (except possibly the MV Agusta girls) came from one of the smaller and definitely more troubled local brands. Moto Guzzi might be owned by the giant Piaggio conglomerate, but it has recently been treated as more of a poor relation than a vital part of the offer. But here it outshone even BMW’s flash new six-cylinder “sports tourer” with no fewer than three “studies” based on the V12 and designed by no less than Pierre Terblanche. The ex-Ducati star designer outdid himself with these minimalist machines.

“Miguel Galluzzi and Pierre Terblanche capture the essence of Moto Guzzi and inject it into motorcycles to drool over, designed with one thing in mind: pure riding pleasure,” said the Moto Guzzi press pack.

“This is Moto Guzzi’s tribute to the one engine that turned the ‘Italian eagle’ brand into a myth (sic) of motorcycling and to its unique character. It is a statement of Moto Guzzi’s commitment to keep developing and improving its flagship engine for the years to come.”

Mind you, Terblanche was a long way from certain that the bikes would see production. “The ways of management are inexplicable,” he said when asked, echoing the feelings of many of us moto-scribblers.

There were also a couple of V7 specials on the Moto Guzzi stand, which attracted almost as much attention and which looked as if it would be possible to re-create them without even bothering the factory.

BMW’s latest design study was a big attraction as well. The high-tech across-the-frame six-cylinder machine with its startling resemblance to Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett drew a lot of attention. The bike looked like a runner, too, although none of the photos on the press CD showed it being ridden. Despite that, I suspect they’ll build this one — the investment in the engine would have to be recovered somehow.

Of course, nothing more was ever seen of the Lo Rider, the prototype bike that stood in the same place last year. We can but hope that the six will fare better, though to be fair it’s a bit difficult to see where there is room in BMW’s range for another sports tourer. But then, despite BMW’s insistence, the bike looked a bit more “sports” than “tourer”, anyway.

Whatever happens to it eventually, it justified its display space on the stand — there was a crowd around it practically all the time.

But, as usual, I really prefer to write about the bikes that we’ll be able to buy in this coming year rather than the ones we can only dream about.
Apart from the Terblanche Guzzis, the big news from Italy was an all-new Multistrada from Ducati. It’s grown to 1200cc and puts out a most impressive 150 horses, and with upgraded suspension and a dry weight below 200kg, it’s clearly meant to finally tackle BMW’s GS. Ducati has made sure of the bike’s versatility by producing “four-bikes-in-one”.

“Four different motorcycles, available at the touch of a button, change the fundamental characteristics of the new Multistrada 1200,” says the factory. Power and torque delivery, suspension settings and traction control can be changed — even while riding — to enable the motorcycle to adapt to the needs of the rider and not the other way around.

The Sport Mode provides 150hp combined with a sports-oriented suspension set-up. Touring Mode still provides 150hp; however, the output is designed with much smoother torque delivery. Selecting the Urban Mode drops power to 100hp and sets the suspension to the perfect setting for tackling the maze of city streets full of speed bumps and drain covers.

Finally, the bike also features an Enduro Mode with the smooth 100hp engine, higher suspension and the option to disable the ABS. Traction control is reduced to the minimum of level 1 for almost no intervention.

“The four-bikes-in-one concept uses three technologies, which interact to instantly change the chassis set-up and character of the Multistrada 1200,” says the factory. “Fitted as standard equipment on all versions, the electronic ride-by-wire system administers three different engine mappings to change the character of the engine, while Ducati Traction Control (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control. For the ‘S’ version, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) instantly configures the suspension set-up to suit ‘rider only’, ‘rider with luggage’, ‘rider and passenger’ or ‘rider and passenger with luggage’.”

We’re very much looking forward to sampling the new Multistrada. Predictably enough, the bike took out the award as bike of the show, like the Streetfighter last year. Ducati did quite a bit of upgrading on the rest of the range, too, adding ABS to the Monsters as well as introducing the new “baby” Hypermotard 796 with 81 horses.

BMW’s R 1200 GS got a general upgrade ready for the 30th birthday of the GS (or initially G/S) sticker, and the RT was upgraded as well.

Honda’s BMW competitor, the VFR1200F, didn’t make it to the show but the Japanese didn’t exactly set the world on fire this year, anyway. The upgraded ZX-10R from Kawasaki, with 188 horses and 208kg wet, was welcome, certainly, but not especially different from the bike it succeeds. Suzuki’s star of the show was the GSX 1250 FA, a sports tourer that will win a lot of friends but that isn’t actually terribly … new, you know. It was flanked by the M800 cruiser and the updated GSF 1200 Bandit.

BMW’s satellite brand, the Swedish/Italian/German Husqvarna, launched a very sweet-looking 630 Supermotard. That was matched by KTM’s Duke 690R with 72 horses and less than 150kg weight.

Benelli is taking advantage of the deep pockets of its new Chinese owner; the marquee showed the new TNT R 160 with just exactly that many horses, a dry clutch and a lot of carbon fibre.

Aprilia’s new RSV4 R offers precisely the same power from only 1000cc and presents as the people’s version of Max Biaggi’s Superbike. MV Agusta didn’t seem unduly concerned by Harley-Davidson’s decision to put the company back on the market. It showed an upgraded F4 on a substantial stand that also included a full-on desert-racing “Lucky Explorer” Cagiva.

Hyosung had a neat new 700cc cruiser on show. Ossa’s relaunch was more than a little disappointing — yes, the cloverleaf brand from Spain is back, but only with a pretty unimaginative trials bike. One of the American journalists put it into perspective when he called it another t-shirt company with a bike — like Indian.

You’ve seen most of the news from America, including the new touring Spyder from Can-Am and the upgraded Harley range, but there’s more to come. Two new cruiser tourers from Victory, the CrossCountry and CrossRoads, looked just terrific — we’ll give you more details on these in the next issue of Cruiser+Trike magazine. The Hammer S from Victory is a factory chopper rider’s factory chopper with 1721cc, 97 horsepower and 153Nm of torque, and you’ll see more of that, too, in due course.

Of course, the bikes and scooters (more on those soon) aren’t everything at EICMA. It’s a trade show first and a consumer show second, which means business-to-business contacts are the really vital part of the event — and most of those are between manufacturers and potential distributors of accessories and parts, rather than entire motorcycles. I’ve already quoted Grant Mackintosh from Draggin Jeans above, but there were dozens and dozens of other suppliers with stands at Milan.

A lot of these were Chinese stands and one of the biggest pieces of news at the show was that the EICMA people will help the Chinese to run a show in Canton next year. It looks like being absolutely huge.

Yes, we have an invitation — that should be interesting, especially from an Australian point of view!

More on all this stuff soon, as I mentioned above. Well, all except the new electric-powered three-wheeler from Peugeot. This will remain a mystery to me (and you) because the tight-lipped girl on the desk refused to give out a press kit to anyone who wasn’t Italian.

Ah well, can’t win ’em all, even at Milano!