Milan Show Wrap-up
The Best of the Rest
The EICMA show closed its gates a couple of weeks ago, but there was plenty of news from the smaller OEMs we didn't have time to cover in our previous articles from Milan where the big Italian names put on a good show with Ducati leading the way, followed closely by Aprilia who showed a rather unexpected new 1200 V-Twin.
On the other hand, many other Italian names, mainly those making a comeback, seem to be struggling a bit. At MV Agusta/Cagiva's stand, not much was happening, even if signore Castiglioni must have pocketed quite a hefty sum after selling Husqvarna to BMW. Those fine F4's and Brutale's are starting to show their age regardless of the bigger bore motors. With the falling Euro-to-dollar rate, things don't look too rosy for all these high-end niche manufacturers.
Anyway, here’s an alphabetical run-down of what’s new from these smaller companies.
The once well-known factory from Pesaro was bought out two years ago by Chinese investors and had some fine models on show. Thing is that both the "Due" 750cc parallel-Twin and the 450cc motocross Single were shown a year ago, and since then not much has happened other than a SM and Enduro versions of the Single.
Sales seem to be stalling and I can’t remember ever seeing one Benelli in the street, even here in Italy. It’s hard to believe that the big Chinese Qianjiang group has poured millions into the Italian factory just for fun. But in the meantime, it's hard to figure out where these guys are heading sales-wise.
The little boutique firm from Rimini has created a whole new bike around the Ducati 1098’s liquid-cooled V-Twin engine, so it can at last offer the performance to match their steep prices. Trying to sell well-dressed air-cooled Ducati motors like the Delirio at $30K didn't make much sense, but the new DB7 is closer to the mark. Plenty of carbon fiber parts (like the whole subframe) and CNC-machined alloy blocks mean that weight is only 375 lbs., no mean feat for a Twin.
After the initial confusion around the smaller GS models, it's time for clarifications. Believe it or not, the new F800GS and F650GS are actually almost the same motorcycle, the "650" simply being a detuned version of the "800" with shorter suspension travel and a single disc up front. And please don't ask me about the logic behind this strange move, my life's hard enough as it is. BMW's best-selling bike, the R1200GS got a design upgrade, engine power is up to 105 hp now, and there's an ESA system too that lets you play with suspension settings on the fly. Last, the 1200 GS Adventure gets the upgraded motor too plus an optional shorter first gear to let you sprint away quickly from angry elephants or a wife.
John Kocinski's 500cc GP bike in the stand was a sad reminder of the golden days of this brand. Nowadays production is limited to sporty two-stroke 125s, but the horny Mito 500 Supermono shows that things could change in the near future. The bike was shown last year with the old Mito 125 bodywork, but this year it received Johnnie-boy 500 GP lookalike clothes and it looks finger-licking good. Powered by an (ex) Husqvarna four-stroke Single, it could be the best Supermono-racer-in-a-box since the days of Ducati's Supermono. Just don't let the Mito 525 confuse you, as it looks just the same but is a 125 2-stroke aimed at the acne-ridden market.
The tiny company based north of Milan was once a power to be reckoned with in Trial and Enduro, and it’s making a comeback of sorts. The teenage-sized 125 DOHC powered Caballero models in Enduro and Supermoto trim looked tasty enough to make me wish I was sixteen (and had acne) again.
Just when you thought that under KTM ownership this Swedish set up was going to die, Bam! The tough Nordics hit hard. Nobody was expecting a ground-breaking model from them, especially now that the bikes are only designed in Sweden but assembled in Mattighoffen, Austria. And yet, its new "high" flat single-cylinder motor is a daring move. The advantages to the crazy lay-out are in getting the rotating mass of the crank much closer to the bike's CG, hence gaining in flickability. This is the kind of bike that could get me into off-road riding again. Hats off to these brave Swedes!
The advantages to the crazy lay-out are in getting the rotating mass of the crank much closer to the bike's CG, hence gaining in flickability.
I met a German BMW dealer while waiting for coffee and just couldn't stop myself from asking him: What was the point in buying Husqvarna now that BMW has released it's own 450? "Ve dont nowt, eeder" was his answer. In any case, the takeover has happened only weeks ago, so none of the credit for winning two magnificent Supermoto world championships (S1 and S2) goes to the new German owners. Despite official and half-official teams being fielded by most manufacturers, the Huskys swept the board in World SM, so there was no better timing to show the complete revamped Supermoto line that sees all the four-strokes get fuel injection and new frames. In their new white/black/red color schemes, they look like the definition of cool.
The 650GT (SV650 lookalike) has been on sale in the U.S. for a while, and it even got some nice reviews. Hence, MO'ridians might be happy to know that the Korean company is planning to step into the off-road market as well, starting with this rather okay-looking 450 supermoto. Don't expect it before late summer of 2008, but if the price is right and the performance reasonable, it could be a cheap ticket into asphalt surfing.
The American-based company has managed to impress me already with its very useful electric big scooter (http://www.motorcycle.com/manufacturer/2008-vectrix-electric-scooter-66674.html). Now they are stepping up their game with a wild electric "Superbike" offering that promises a 120-mph top speed and sub 12-second 1/4-mile times. The design is futuristic enough, but here's the catch: Vectrix will produce the thing only if they'll manage to gather 500 orders. At 55K Euro apiece, all I can say is: highly unlikely.
Remember the XT's? Fine and groovy bikes that used to put some strong opposition to them Honda XRs. Yamaha is at it again. Well, at least in Europe, with this fine looking big trailie that's geared more towards adventure touring rather than all-out off-roading. At the other end of the scale, those little crotch rockets aren't R6s but rather YSF-R125s powered by high-tech DOHC 4-stroke Singles. At the main stage, Valentino's GP bike attracted much less attention this year. Wonder why.
Be sure to check out our photo gallery for tons more pictures from the show, including many bikes we didn’t have space for in this article.