Milan, Italy, hosts the world’s largest motorcycle show, EICMA, in November each year, where the latest and greatest motorbikes are on display, most of which are receiving their first public display. The Esposizione Mondiale del Motociclismo, as it’s officially called, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and I was pleased to be one of the 6,945 journalists attending the November 3-8 event.
The gargantuan scale of EICMA is intimidating. This year’s show boasted an enormous 3 million square-feet of display area within six pavilions of the Fiera Milano-Rho convention center, which makes American shows like AIMExpo and the IMS events seem like a high-school gymnasium compared to EICMA’s Rose Bowl.
The breadth of new motorcycles shown at EICMA was a good indication of the revitalized health of the moto industry, a status backed up by the 628,600 visitors who made their way to the annual show. This amounted to a 14.7% increase over the 2013 edition, which was an 8% increase from 2012.
Germany’s Intermot event was held a month earlier than EICMA, and it debuted several of the new models we’re excited to ride in 2015. Of particular note was the official unveiling of Kawasaki’s supercharged Ninja H2R, while Ducati took the wraps off its retro-flavored new Scrambler, a relatively affordable Duc that is sure to be the hipster’s choice in 2015. The Deutschland-based BMW displayed in Cologne the majorly updated S1000RR we recently reviewed, plus new versions of the liquid-cooled R1200 Boxer series, the half-faired R1200RS and the naked R1200R roadster. Interestingly, neither uses BMW’s Telelever front suspension like previous R-series bikes and the current R1200GS and RT.
Then it was EICMA’s turn, and we were nearly overwhelmed by the deluge of new models unveiled in Italy. Ducati struck first on the eve of the show, holding an exclusive event to highlight the category-busting 1299 Panigale that boasts an incredible 205 horsepower from its 1285cc V-Twin and a phalanx of electronic rider aids such as cornering ABS and auto-blipping downshifts.
Also of note, Ducati presented a much fuller redesign of the Multistrada than was expected. The new variable valve timing motor, which Ducati reps say makes the V-Twin engine much more tractable and 10-hp stronger, wasn’t a surprise to us, as the Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) engine was already teased prior to EICMA. but we didn’t expect a new chassis, standard cruise control, the optional headlights that peer into corners, nor the S model’s 5-inch, full-color TFT gauges that can sync to your smartphone via Bluetooth. One of our favorite bikes just got considerably better.
A short time later, after a short taxi skip to another location, was Yamaha’s announcements for 2015. We knew a fresh R1 sportbike was on its way, but we weren’t quite prepared for the ground-up overhaul and bleeding-edge electronics it contained, including a six-axis Intertial Measurement Unit that features a Slide Control System that goes beyond what a traction-control system can offer. And the up-spec M version boasts an electronic suspension system from Ohlins, carbon fiber bodywork and a wifi- and GPS-enabled computer that can download performance data from the bike.
A little lost in the R1’s shadow was the new FJ-09, a Multistrada-ish take on the best-selling FZ-09 and its thrilling 847cc three-cylinder engine. Updates include new gauges, an adjustable windscreen, traction control, ABS, and a fuel tank enlarged by 1.1 gallons to a more tour-ready 4.8 gals. It’s a lot of motorcycle for just $10,490.
The next morning was the press and trade day at EICMA that kept us hopping from one OEM booth to another for the whole day. The star of the show was the much-hyped Kawasaki Ninja H2, the supercharged street-legal version of the 300-horse, track-only H2R shown at Intermot. A force-fed literbike would be news on its own, but the H2 also includes high-spec suspension, numerous rider aids like TC, launch control, a quickshifter and adjustable engine braking, Brembo monoblock brakes and full LED lighting. I can’t wait to sample this beast, even if its claim of “just” 200-hp seems rather tame in context of the normally aspirated R1 that claims the same peak power. I’m gonna guess Kawi is understating its true output.
Surely, the oddest unveil came during the Honda presentation when Big Red unveiled a pair of intriguing prototypes: a street-going MotoGP-derived RC213V-S and a new adventure bike dubbed, rather uninspiringly, “True Adventure.” No other details were given – zilch. No price, no specifications, and no dates of availability. The True Adventure has an aluminum chassis and a parallel-Twin engine of indeterminate size (I’ll guess from its apparent size, it’ll be around 1000cc or smaller), but that’s about all we know. Oh, and if Honda doesn’t actually call it an Africa Twin when it enters production, I’ll eat a red-winged hat.
No info was given about the exquisite RC213V-S, either, but a little digging revealed that it will be an extremely limited-production machine that will be built by hand at HRC (Honda Racing Corp.) rather than on one of Honda’s production lines. It appears to be a very close facsimile of an actual GP bike, though it’s unlikely it will have the RC’s pneumatic valvetrain. Pushing and prodding various Honda reps lead us to believe it will be stratospherically priced, perhaps into the six-figure bracket!
The final surprise I’d like to highlight are the significantly updated sportbikes from Aprilia, which sorta got lost amongst the other hype from the show. The Tuono V4, for many years a favorite at MO, gets new Tuono 1100 nomenclature to reflect its bigger engine, now up to 1077cc and 175 claimed horsepower. More power from a hooligan bike is always appreciated, but sharper steering geometry, smartphone linking and a slightly lower seat height also get us excited to enter it into a new streetfighter shootout after it came up a bit short during this year’s multi-part hooning escapades.
Also of note is Aprilia’s latest version of its RSV4. Having earned yet another World Superbike title in 2014, we weren’t expecting any revisions to it, never mind the comprehensively updated version shown at EICMA. The Italians have coaxed out an additional 16 ponies from the 65° V-Four, now pushing the magic 200-hp threshold. CNC-milled cylinder heads improve flow, and all rotating components have been lightened, the intake cam itself lighter by more than a pound. A half-inch longer swingarm helps the RSV4 put its newfound power to the ground more effectively. Time again to rack up the superbikes for another round of shootouts!