Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fashion show season…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike reviews

Given my wardrobe of jeans and T-shirts, I’m about as un-savvy when it comes to clothes as someone can possibly be. However, it is my understanding that every year the eyes of the entire fashion industry turn towards a series of industry shows which will define the fads and trends for the following 365 days. It is at these fashion shows that all the movers and shakers of the apparel world show their stuff.

Well, this weekend marks the first of the motorcycle “fashion shows” as the major manufacturers show off their new models, brag about the improvements to their current products and divulge their concept bikes. Tomorrow the doors of the biennial Paris Motorcycle show will open giving all the major bike makers a chance to strut their stuff. In addition to the primary players in Japan and Europe, these motorcycle expos give smaller companies a chance to get industry eyes on their products as well. Up and coming bike makers from Korea and China will be trying to convince the market that their products have improved to the point they can compete with the big players. Specialty one-off makers will be showcasing their custom creations. Even the aftermarket firms will be using Paris as their first chance to stoke up the buzz about their new products. As a result, the Paris show should be all over the motorcycle news for the next month or so.

The Paris motorcycle show is big, perhaps even the biggest in the world since it only happens every other year but it is hardly the only place where new bike announcements will be made. The European companies like BMW, Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia and MV Agusta all like to unveil their marque bikes at European motorcycle shows. If they don’t reveal something new this week in Paris then they made do so in a few weeks at the Intermot show in Munich, Germany which will take place in mid-October. Obviously folks like BMW and KTM tend of focus their biggest marketing efforts at this show since it is in their home office. Likewise, Triumph often keeps at least one surprise in store for the NEC show in Birmingham, England coming up at the end of October. Likewise, all the Italian manufacturers (or at least all the ones that aren’t in the middle of bankruptcy each Fall) should have something to show in mid-November when the annual EICMA show show opens in Milan, Italy. Finally, the Japanese companies are the last to show their trump cards since the Tokyo Motorcycle show in Tokyo, Japan doesn’t happen until spring.

Even before the Fall’s bike expositions begin some of the new bike announcements have already started. So far here are some of my favorites:

Triumph has so far announced three new bikes but only one of them really strikes my fancy: The new 900 Scrambler. This is really just another repackaging of the Bonneville with the upgraded 900cc parallel twin engine put into a new chassis that looks like a 60’s era dual sport bike. The primary visual changes are longer suspension and a set of high mount mufflers. Technically, this bike probably falls into an adventure touring catagory but it will probably be marketed based on it’s retro look rather than it’s off road qualities. That doesn’t matter because, like the Thruxton version of the Bonneville, this new Scrambler just pegs my cool meter regardless of how well it performs on dirt roads or whether it has a usable bash plate. If I had a bigger garage and a more reasonable wife I’d already have one on order…

Another bike that was announced this month is the Aprilia - SVX 4.5. This is a new supermoto bike using the amazing 450cc v-twin engine that was first seen in the world Supermoto championship this past year. This tiny motor cranks out around 60 hp in a package only an inch or two larger than the current range of single cylinder motocross engines. It is the motor that has me so enamoured with the SVX but the styling is impressive as well. I wouldn’t keep my license for a month if I had one of these but, oh, would I love to try one out anyway.

The press release writers at Japan Inc have been busy too. Honda have been flooding the industry with info about the new air bag option on their Gold Wing but that really doesn’t do anything for me. What I did like in the press I saw coming out of Big Red was the new dual exhaust on the CRF250R dirt bike. All the four stroke motorcross bikes have been steadily increasing their power output and decreasing their weight which is what have allowed them to completely overwhelm the 125cc 2-stroke bikes in performance. Adding a second exhaust is increasing weight which normally wouldn’t impress me but the reason I like this is that is shows a concerted effort by Honda to decrease the noise coming from their production dirt bikes. That’s definitely a move in the right direction and I hope the other dirt bike makers take note and follow this trend even if the extra weight actually hampers the performance of the bikes a little.

Suzuki made some tantilizing announcements about their new GSXR 600 and 750 models but didn’t provide enough information to make this earth shattering news. Hopefully some info about their production B-King and the GSX1400 will be forthcoming since those look like interesting bikes. I’m also expecting a lot from the new GSXR600 so hopefully a lot more data on this bike will be available soon as well.

Unlike Suzuki, Kawasaki has already dropped two bombs: The dynamite news is the new 650R twin cylinder sport bike which is presumably slated to replace the venerable 500 Ninja. The bike looks like a reasonable entry level sport bike but the real excitement is that this new motor could end up in an adventure tourer to replace the ancient KLR. Now *that* announcement would shake up parts of the motorcycle world. If the new 650 was an explosion then the news of the new ZX-14 was an A-bomb detonation. This mega-GT bike replaces the ZZR-1200 but does so by super-sizing the engine to 1400cc. This bike will make a great sport touring bike but will make an even better platform for a serious drag racing machine. The Hayabusa riders may want to keep a close eye over their shoulder because the new ZX-14 is coming fast.

Finally, Yamaha made a bunch of new bike announcements to go along with their 50th anniversary celebration but the most exciting are their two top of the line sport bikes. First, the new R6 will bring more horsepower, less weight and better suspension to the 600cc bike party. This new middleweight rocket may be generating nearly 120hp at the rear wheel with a 17,500 rpm redline and a dry weight which could easily be under 350 lbs. It might even be worth giving up the sheer power of a liter bike just for the thrill of zinging a bike up to 17,000 rpm on every ride. Still, no matter how tempting the new R6 is, the new R1LE really does it for me. Fully adjustable Ohlins suspension, a slipper clutch and light weight Marchesini wheels mean this limited edition bike is a serious object of moto lust. Add in the yellow/black Kenny Roberts replica paint job and it is outright motorcycle porn. I didn’t even consider the R1 when looking at a new sport bike this past spring but the R1LE may be the best liter bike available in 2006. Wow.

Yamaha MT-03 concept bike

What all this means is that the next two or three months are the most exciting time to watch the motorcycle industry. The new bikes, those already announced and those that will be shown in the next few weeks, aren’t the only things to watch out for. The concept bikes which are shown each year are always interesting and they often give a glimpse into the future. Just in the past few years concept bikes like the Honda Rune, the Yamaha MT-03, the Suzuki B-King and the Moto Guzzi Griso have all made the leap from prototype to production. So don’t just ignore the hydrogen fuel cell powered, air suspended, hub steered, fully computer controlled robo-bikes that may look completely pointless because they be showing up in show rooms in just a few years.

Finally, I want to point out that a much less glitzy version of these premier motorcycle shows does happen here in the US. The Cycle World International Motorcycle Show doesn’t have the same level of prestige as the Paris or Tokyo shows but it is slowly gaining more importance among the manufacturers so it may yet reach a point where it becomes a showcase for new products. For the moment, its a place where most of the major manufacturers put all their current models on display. The series visits many of the major cities in the US and this year it will be in Denver the weekend of Nov 18-20. If nothing else, its always a good place to stock up on the latest trend in motorcycle T-shirts for next year…

[image from the Made in Tokyo web site.]

1 Comments so far


christophe Labedan
September 28th, 2005 at 4:55 am

Hi, I’m obviously in the wrong section but culdn’t fond the email contact. I have been following your blog for some time now, it’s great.
I publish a motorbike blog in France (I suppose someone has to…). I’d love to swap link with you if you’re interested. we are on

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