2006 EICMA Show
Long-time MO European Correspondent Yossef Schvetz just spent some time at the huge EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. Now in its 64th year, the 2006 show had 522,000 square feet of exhibits and was visited by 530,000 fans in six days. Although over 1,000 companies representing 32 countries displayed their wares, the emphasis was on the Italian manufacturers. Let's see what Yossef -- a truly multicultural industry insider who was born in Argentina, raised in Israel and is now working in Milan as an industrial designer as well as a free-lance moto-journalist -- has to say. -Editor.
Another notable trend was the proliferation of electric-powered scooters. To quote rock band REM, it's the end of the world as we know it, and many European city centers are frequently blocked to hydrocarbon-powered traffic. Not so if you're on your fuel cell, GPL or what-have-you clean-power two wheeler. To take advantage of what must be a growing market, the American-based Vectrix company showed an impressive and fully sorted-out solution. See below.
The Chinese motorcycle industry is the big dormant giant. The guys already produce most of our consumer products, so why not bikes? Why not indeed, and the more progressive makers like Keeway are starting to show some muscle as well as shrewd strategy by utilizing Western design consultancies.
EICMA was also a sort of Italy vs. Japan showdown. The Big Four smartly chose Germany's INTERMOT show in September to unveil their new wares, while Italians remained loyal to Milan's EICMA. I can't complain, as having Japan's new products already covered by Bob Stokstad's report made my life easier and my socks less stinky.
But I don't think that anybody expected Italy -- and especially the Piaggio group -- to put on such a show. Things are a-changing in Pizza Land and Piaggio is by now the world's third biggest player. Aprilia, Gilera and Moto-Guzzi are all Piaggio sub-brands and they all had plenty big news.
Piaggio's swift push highlighted the not-so-merry state of Cagiva Group (encompassing MV Agusta, Cagiva and Husqvarna), and to a certain extent Ducati as well.
There was nothing really new at the stand of the triple-brand company, regardless of rather surprisingly good sales of the F4 and Brutale. On the other hand, at Ducati the new 1098 was EICMA's real show-stopper, but it's hard not to notice that technically speaking (and leaving the un-obtainable Desmosedici aside), the Bolognese company has some trouble breaking new ground and seems a bit cash-strapped to develop truly new power plants. The Hypermotard will surely help but new engine families are needed ASAP, in my opinion. But despite these few hiccups, the sqaudra azzura played like kings in their home turf.
There are new players that are gathering momentum like Benelli and Morini, not to mention the host of other small specialist builders. It's hard not to take your hat off in front of the only western country that is able to give Japan, inc. a real run for their money. At the EICMA show, Italy looked better than ever.
Of all the companies that make up the Piaggio group nowadays, Aprilia kicked the hardest. After being stuck for so long with the Mille/Tuono and Pegaso as their only big-bike offerings, an all-new 750 V-Twin naked bike named the Shiver was unveiled at EICMA.
With 600-750cc nakeds being the biggest-selling class in Europe, youth-oriented Aprilia just couldn't afford to not hop on the bandwagon, and the 90-degree, V-twin-powered sport naked looks finger-licking good. It's definitely a match for the 599, Z750, GSR-600 and FZ-6 market leaders.
A step down in sportiness but much more innovative was the 850 Mana. Anticipating Honda's launch of an automatic bike next year, Aprilia has built a comfy super-commuter around the new automatic variator-geared Piaggio V-Twin 850 mill. Other fine touches include a "gas tank" that serves as a trunk; it's big enough to swallow a full-face helmet. Gas is under the seat. The 450 and 550cc off-road V-twins are a reality by now and for 2007 get an amazing invisible exhaust system that serves also as a rear fender. Pretty trick.
Last but not least, the rumored Superbike V4 engine was shown too and if it'll really produce 210hp as claimed, then me thinks that we can start using the term "Hyperbike" from now on. Superbike just sounds too tame. Remember where you heard it first, OK? I just hope MO's Dynojet dyno will be up to the job.
Even more surprising was Benelli's entry into the 450cc four-stroke MX class with its 449. Rumors hold it's partially based on an old Vertemati design, a tiny company that introduced new-age four strokes back in the late 90s-early 2000s and then folded. Nice, but I think it looks a bit too swoopy to be a serious supercross tool.
Oh, just in case you didn't notice, the original 900cc Tornado, with an engine capacity that was fixed to comply with old World Superbike rules got bumped up to 1130cc, just like the TNT.
The tiny trials specialists are a bit of a cult brand so few know that the company has been churning out finely-crafted KTM-powered enduros for a year or two. With EPA/EURO 3 regulations practically wiping out two strokes, the company took the plunge and has developed its own trials-only, 250cc four stroke. Unlike 250 motocrossers, exhaust ports are small to get the down-low oomph required in trials riding.
The Rimini-based company founded by none other than Massimo Tamburini -- blessed father to the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4 -- is trying to make a bit of a comeback. Last year saw the introduction of the Ducati 1000DS-powered DB5 and Delirio; now the company turns its attention back to its trademark hub-center steering Tesi.
The old model needed a serious update for quite a while now and it certainly got it. The Tesi 3D is practically a new bike. Dual swingarms made of steel tubing replace the extruded-aluminum ones of the old model while the design is quite extreme. I've got to try one of these. All of the models are powered by Ducati's two-valve air-cooled mills, rendering them quite expensive 95 hp toys at $35,000 and upwards. The price of exclusivity, you know.
Milano was a big player's show but hidden between the huge stands there was this clever idea for an inboard-of-the-spokes mounted disk. It looked super cool, and you can expect the Custom guys to adopt it soon.
The Bologna company has one World Superbike title and four MotoGP wins for 2006, second in number only to Yamaha and Honda this year. They've also developed a V-twin with a mind-boggling 160 hp and are putting the finishing touches on the ultra-limited-edition Desmosedici. I think it's a nice effort for a company that only makes about 30,000 bikes per year.
The center stage belonged to the new superbike, the 1098. Just when you thought that twins hit the end of the road, bam! Basically, it's the same old formula, just pushed to the extremes. Bigger diameter and thinner tubing for the frame, huge 104 mm pistons, a close to 12,000 rpm redline for those 550cc jugs, 380 lbs, and that's not the end of it, as Ducati is pushing for 1200cc displacement limits for World Superbike in 2008. Out are the polarizing and angular looks of the 999, in are the soft and oh-so Italian feline lines of the EICMA's beauty queen. The Desmosedici, by comparison, looks kind of tame with its ultra-aerodynamic MotoGP clothes.
Other points of interest? The final version of the Hypermotard lost nothing of its aggressiveness on the way to the production line while the successful Sport Classic series got classy new color schemes.
Fantic is yet another comeback. The tiny company used to produce some mean small enduros up through the 1980s but the decline in interest in off-road riding due to land closures in Italy forced the company to fold. Now they're back at it again. The two-stroke 50cc Cabalero won this year's French national championship for youngsters and they are launching a more environmental-friendly air-cooled four-stroke 125cc model. This simple class is going to replace two-strokes in novice-level Enduro competition in Europe. It also might be just what I need to get back into off-road shape after years of street-only riding.
The MP3 previously reviewed by MO gets a sportier brother in the shape of the Fuoco 500. This is an aggressive, leaning three wheeler with a full 500cc, 40hp power unit.
After years of successful sales of the good old California, there's at last a fresh, new and up-to-date cruiser. The 940 matches the new-age engine/gearbox/single sided schwinger plot to custom looks. It's quite a surprise.
These tough Swedish guys have been making self-designed off road V-twins well before KTM, yet they haven't really been going anywhere. Now they are trying their luck with a dirt-track version for the 950 twin as well as a single that's powered essentially by one half of the V-Twin mill.
These blokes are also looking for an investor to step up their game. If only I had a spare buck. Does anybody out there have a few extra krona they can send me?
No leggy chicks on Nicky's past and future bikes though, just plain mechano-porn. The 69 machine is the 2006 990cc RC-211V world championship bike while the 2007 RC-212 800cc bike is wearing the number 1 for next season. Honda engineers did a fair bit of miniaturization to the new engine; just look at the length of the new model's swingarm and the distance of the footpeg to the swingarm pivot compared to the old model. Another trend is shrinking the bike's clothing to the minimum in order to improve fast direction changes. Check out the size of that tailpiece! Beautiful it is not.
A bit more cheerful was the 500cc Mito in bright white. Essentially a groovy 125 Mito with a Husky 500 four-stroke single stuffed into it. People have been doing exactly that in European Supermono racing for years and Cagiva saw the light Gabe says he'd rather ride the bike than the girl. Is that how he got out of the Army? now. It should be a fun tool if it gets into production, though nobody seems to care much about sporty street singles these days.
The old master Massimo Tamburini hasn't been really active lately. After all, his last creations -- the F4 and Brutale -- are a few years old by now. He tried his hand at something more accessible with the blue Husky supermoto prototype(picture is at the start of the article), but I'm not sure the result got blessed with his magic.
The Koreans aren't making leaps and bounds but there's definitely an improvement in the fit and finish level of the 650 twins. The new naked GT650X was actually very good looking.
One of the more dynamic Chinese outfits. No real bikes, but the company -- otherwise known as QingJiang -- actually owns Benelli. They are worth mentioning if only because they understand the trick of designing their scooters and small bikes in Italy for that extra flair. The big scooter unashamedly carried a "designed in Italy" badge. Indeed, the cute 50cc supermoto bike wouldn't look out of place in Aprilia's stand while the quality of components seemed quite good. It'll take them a while but expect much more from them soon.
The first thing I checked at their stand was their plans for the US, and sorry, nothing `till 2008-2009. The bikes are nice though; the 1200cc V-twin's a pretty rabid unit with 140hp. They had a new TDM/Multistrada-like model on display as well as a higher-spec and more sinister-looking "Veloce" version for the Corsaro.
The mother company for the huge group had the least new offerings though it has to be noted that they released quite a few new models during the year. So there's a new 400cc version of the MP3 and a retro-styled small-body Vespa called the S50 and S125 that follows the GT200/250 lines. The popular big-wheel scooters supply the bread and butter and the new big-wheeled Carnaby goes head to head with the Honda SH125/150, the biggest-selling scoot in the Italian market.
Another specialist trials bike manufacturer that's switching over to four-strokes, in this case with de-tuned Yamaha WR250F power units. The southern France-based maker had another two niceties on show. One was a Yamaha 660 single-powered street bike, designed by the noted French design office Boxer. If the name sounds familiar it's because they've created the beautiful "Blue Marlin" prototype for Aprilia a few years back.
Yes, I know that the B-King has been covered in the INTERMOT review, I know. Yet that hot blonde kept giving me these "I want you now!" looks. I could read it in her eyes, I swear. Had to share it, see? I shall dream on. Considering it's one of the most interesting new bikes for 2007, I have to say that the King was far less impressive in real life than in those Tokyo show pictures. Up close it's almost vulgar looking. I'd be embarrassed to ride through town with those twin Japanese cartoon mufflers following me. It should be a hit with downtown rappers though and maybe that's exactly what Suzuki's designers had in mind. My verdict? Over the top.
The "factory" founded by some ex-Ferrari blokes continues developing its absurdly expensive ($23,000 ) Supermoto 450 single. Development, shmedvelopment, the new solid-disc carbon wheels simply look bizarre. I have asked for a test ride but was told that: "It's not the company's policy to let journalists test ride the bike; we are counting on other means of publicity".
Turns out that only Supermoto supremo, British journalist Alan Cathcart, got to swing a leg over the thing. "We were honored that Sir Alan wanted to take it for a test". You get the idea; it's not a Supermoto for the plebes.
A piece of American pie. Surprised? Yes, a group of American investors and inventors stand behind the idea of fully developing an electric scooter, namely a certain Andrew MacGowan and Lockheed Martin. The thing is production ready and even if expensive (1000cc motorcycle price), daily use of four years should pay back in dividends; no gasoline to pour in, see?
The New Bedford, MA-based company put a huge PR effort to push the scoot, including a test course where everybody could have a go on the thing. The verdict? Impressive and by twisting the throttle backwards you can turn the braking energy back into the system, saving loads of electric energy from the batteries. The whole system needs some heavy explaining, so for more info turn to http://www.vectrix.com/.
When Bimota folded a few years back, a certain Ascanio Rodrigo liked his Tesi enough to take on producing the original Tesi with quite a few of his own improvements. Now that Bimota are it again, it seems the aptly-named Vyrus start-up continues to manufacture them. It turns out that patents never covered the bizarre steering system. The Vyrus PR guy is well informed for being a young lad and courageously asks, "Wasn't it the American Ner-a-Car who had it first?" My hat is off for the honesty. If the Vyrus has one card up on the new beautiful Tesi 3D it's in the use the testastretta water-cooled Ducati power unit with 140hp in its top model rather than the 95hp 1000DS unit of the Tesi. The placing of the radiators on the Vyrus is rather interesting to say the least. Vyrus also offers a run-of-the-mill air-cooled Ducati 1000cc model.