Intermot 2008 – Full Report

Our second installment from the giant German bike show


Our European brought you a quickie initial report from the huge Intermot bike show, concentrating on the latest stuff from Honda and Aprilia. He now follows it up with the below report.

On with the Intermot then. The magic of new model’s unveilings in real time might be gone forever, but there’s nothing like touching the new metal and having all them toys under one big roof. First thoughts?

If there is one prevailing feeling then it’s that 2009 might be the best year for big-bore supersport riders in some time. Yamaha put a serious effort in the R1’s redesign, and the uneven firing crankshaft is a real breakthrough after almost 40 years of inline-Four’s development. Overnight, the other three big makers will have to catch up and it won’t be fun. Suzuki’s new 1000 Gixxer might not be as innovative technologically speaking, but it’s no re-heated soup either. New between-the-transmission-shafts distances and different bore/stroke ratio mean that there’s a fully new engine lurking in there.

Intermot in Germany is one of the biggest bike shows in the world.
BMW’s new Superbike contender, the S1000RR.
Kawi’s ER6 is one of Yossef’s favorites.

As good and impressive as those efforts are, Aprilia’s new V-4 stands head and shoulders above them. The raciness of the MotoGP-sized bike was easy to see, on par with the RCV212 race bikes at the Honda stand. So if the dry weight of 395 lbs. and close to 200 hp with a chip and exhaust change, claims turn out to be true, then it’ll be some machine.

In the context of Hypersport bikes, BMW didn’t choose the best of times to enter the deep waters of SBK racing. The specs might say that the BMW S1000RR should be competitive, but it was hard not to notice that for the first time in history, BMW is following the Big Four. The crazy Beemer simply looks too Asian in terms of design and technology, but the engineers at hand on the stand said that all simulations showed that an inline-Four is still the best bet. As if all wasn’t enough, we’ll all have to wait a full year till we’ll be able to swing a leg over a road legal BMW S1000RR. Still, you got to wonder how radically different the riding experience is going to be compared to a Japanese liter tool.

'2009 might be the best year for big-bore supersport riders...'

I have an efficient index to evaluate the level of real innovation at bike shows and it’s called the “new crankcases count.” Namely, the number of engines requiring really new tooling and full development cycles were on the show. Well, only the aforementioned literbikes had new motors by my accounting. All the rest of us, touring riders, streefighters, commuters and boulevard posers will have to make do with motors that are out there on the shelves, no big news really.

Still, the calm middleweight class got some new players using proven power mills. Yamaha decided to add another step in the ladder in the shape of the new FZ6R. Not an entirely clear move, as the existing, half-faired FZ6 Fazer fills almost the same niche. But the new bike’s lower price and better midrange might convince some buyers to go for the lower-spec new FZ6R.

Surprising or not, the Gladius, the SV650’s replacement (or is it?) showed a similar retrograde: a steel frame rather than cast ally. It could have been sort of OK-ish if it didn’t look so much like the Monster 696’s job.

If there’s a middleweight that comes clean from the general 600 confusion then it’s Kawasaki’s ER6. Both the naked and faired version received design upgrades, and this bike remains one of the freshest designs to come out of Japan in recent years. If you only knew just how fast Jimmy Fillice is able to hurtle his ER6-based, 90-hp racer down a track, you wouldn’t be having such a laugh at this cute and unassuming middleweight.

Another reason I like these Kawi twins so much? Honest, in design and execution. After a day of having to swallow fake plastic covers over non-existing frame members, over inflated and grotesque side panels, silencers with anti functional shapes, the works, I was left with the feeling that slowly but surely, rationality is giving way to comic book artists. As if marketing types are pushing us all towards scoots that make sense only when you are watched by non-riders. Definitely not the way to go in my book. Read on. Let us know your thoughts.

BMW

The BMW S1000RR hyper-sports bike.

The new SBK racer from BMW has been unveiled weeks before the show and yet, seeing such a device coming out form Bavaria was mildly shocking. I was half expecting to see a porky Hypersport with a proper German beer belly, but the S1000RR is razor-sharp thin (for an across-the-frame Four, that is). BMW is super serious about the effort, and new factory rider Reuben Xaus said he was quite impressed by the sheer size of the race department base.

Regretfully, the BMW S1000RR will be available first only in its homologation version for SBK racing from your nearest and understanding BMW dealer. If it’s a consolation, David Robb, BMW’s American design chief, assured us that the road-going version will be priced very competitively, i.e. the S1000RR is not going to be a uber-premium “HP” line bike, and as such, it should be really affordable. Affordable SS Beemers? Has the messiah arrived? We’ll have to wait and see. For the lowdown on the 1300cc K-series bike go here.

Benelli

A new 50cc scooter, that was Benelli’s new offering at the Intermot. The Triple still look cool as ever, the good looking Single shown, what, two or three years ago, still rocks. But there was no sign of the 750 Twin and neither the Single nor Twin are on sale yet. There should have been a serous capital injection from the new Chinese owners, but it was hard to notice it. Maybe at Milan’s show?

Ducati

Yeah, definitely nicer to look at than Duke...

You can read about the new 1100 Monster in Kevin’s road test; I’m only here to tell you that in real life, the big cubes version looks a whole lot better than the 696, the engine taking on a much  more imposing presence and the whole bike looks ten times more purposeful. The hot chick stretching on it wasn’t bad either! A female presence was badly missing from Kevin’s story.

Royal Enfield

A unit-construction Royal Enfield – from India!

Crucify for I’ve sinned! There was another new power mill on the show besides the four liter-size Fours: Enfield’s new 500cc Single! Fifty years after taking over the old tooling from the original Royal Enfield factory in England, our Indian friends have finally designed a new motor. And guess what? It’s of unit construction! This new engine should lead Enfield toward a new path that breaks away with the old R.E. design and lets the small Indian company surpass current emission standards by using also electronic fuel injection. The future is here.

Kawasaki

Yossef’s not a fan of insect-like mirrors.

You’ve read all the green news but how do they look in real life? All of the successful ER6 line up, i.e. ER-6n and ER-6r (Ninja 650R in the US) looks better than ever. Those fun 650cc Twins are a huge story on this side of the pond and prove that small can be big fun. Shame that the same can’t be said about the revamped ZX-6R. The micro-fairing design of the ZX-10R, including the insect-like mirror arms, has been applied to the smaller Ninja, and all I can say is: Why? The new middleweight Ninja might now be an all-around badder-ass motorcycle – losing 22 pounds is no mean feat – but why aren’t sportbike rides that surely grow only bigger from year to year allowed to have proper wind protection? Beats me.

MV

Sharon…?

After HD’s takeover, there was a lot of speculation whether the two would show their wares together. They didn’t. There was no sign that something meaningful is happening, at least not yet. There was a big German blonde doing her best to emulate Sharon Stone’s leg-crossing maneuvers in the MV stand that deserved close examination, though, and I swear to god, the timing of the photo was not a coincidence, oh no.

Piaggio Group

Most, scratch that, all of the attention at the Piaggio stand was diverted towards the impressive RSV4. With this entire big happening going on, it was easy to miss the new touring versions for the automatic Mana and Shiver. This might make these outsiders a bit easier to sell stateside. Guzzi had a nice cross-over sporty Breva with the Griso/Stelvio eight valve engine (enigmatically called 1200 4V), while the three wheeled MP3 scooter gets an interesting fly-by-wire throttle system. You can expect more and bigger news from Piaggio at the upcoming EICMA show.

Suzuki

Any Gixxer fans want to disagree with Yossef’s opinion about the new Gixxer Thou?

Take a long look at the new GSX-R1000 from the side and tell me if Manga isn’t taking over Superbike’s designs. All of the sudden, the new and strange Buell 1125 looks almost normal. With its swoopy silencers and countless irrational curves and surfaces, the new GSX-R is not going to win many beauty contests, but then, nobody buys these things just for their looks. The engineering changes underneath the surface, the usual re-shuffling for better power, less weight, more traction and flickability sound solid enough, though.

Harder to swallow is the re-making of the cool and simple SV into another comic book character: the Gladius. Funky shapes, a white/metallic blue color scheme – with female riders in mind, this is even acceptable. On the other hand, the way the steel trellis frame ends in two plastic cosmetic covers is almost embarrassing. Okay, Ducati gave up on a full steel-trellis design in the new Monster, but at least it’s connected to a new and sturdy cast-ally subframe. In the Gladius, you just get the feeling that neither the designers nor the engineers had any idea how to finish the plot, what to do with those frame tubes. Arrgggh!

Triumph

New Triumph Thunderbird cruiser.

Some good old British honesty at last; what you see is what you get. The cool 675 Daytona got a light facelift: new headlights and central air intake and looks uber cool. Good work. Still one of my preferred sportbikes.

After the so-so reception of the huge 2300cc Triples, Triumph takes another gamble in attempt to conquer Amerika. Standing in front of the new 98 cubic-inch parallel-Twins, me and ex-MO honcho Gabe were trying to figure out if a typical American cruiser rider will buy into this British interpretation of the American dream. “They just want something big and massive, and it is,” says Gabe. “It’s got the wrong angle between the cylinders,” says I. After getting burned with the huge Triple, you’d think that Triumph would take the easy way out and build a big V-Twin, and yet they didn’t and took another big gamble. Honest people, daring people, let’s wish them good luck.

Yamaha

At least Yossef likes the crankshaft…

Kudos for the crazy crankshaft in the new R1, forging one where the crankpins don’t line up into a single plane is one mean feat. Yamaha knew about the advantages of such a layout since Valentino’s first season aboard the M1 MotoGP bike, yet it took them quite a few years to find an economical solution that would permit them to mass-produce it. Shame that this stroke of genius didn’t spread over to the exterior design of the R1. Yamaha always stood a step above the other Japanese makers in terms of industrial design, partly because of the good influence by the external GK Design studio. Well, looks like the stuff at GK was ill during the development of the new R1, otherwise it’s hard to explain the bug-like headlights that entail the new R1 with a surprised Wile E. Coyote expression. Hello? Are you listening, Yamaha?

Was kind of glad to see the new VMax in person. Daring, yes, just daring in the wrong direction. And finally convincing me that, indeed, we are under attack. An attack by Manga comic book artist/designers that won’t even notice that the rear tire of the V-Max looks absurdly small compared to the overall bulk of the rear end. They are too busy doing their swoopy stuff, you know.  Let’s just hope that we get over with this trend soon and can go back to ride proper bikes.

Znen

Znen? What’s a Znen?

The Chinese are a fixed presence at the shows. This one, Znen, actually produces for an Italian set up new “Lambrettas.” It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The point is that by now, the Chinese got the quality, the engineering and the resources to step up their game. To stop producing their eternal Honda 125 clones and start making proper motorbikes. That’s the theory, at least, because they don’t really – nobody seems to be picking up that glove. A dormant giant? Only time will tell.

Related Reading
BMW introduces new models at Intermot
Intermot 2008 - New Models Unveiled 2009 Suzuki Dealer Show Report
2009 Kawasaki Motorcycles Released
2009 Yamaha Motorcycles Released
2009 Yamaha R1 Unveiled!

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