Jeffrey Zani heads to EICMA 2019 to chat with the models at the stands then, err, wander around talking to the bikes. Give us two of whatever he's had! Words & Pics: Jeffrey Zani
EICMA 2019 has just finished, Jeffery Zani attended the event in Milan and provides us with a wrap of the event, everything from the girls to the bikes, with news, new models and prototypes from manufacturers such as Honda, Suzuki, Aprilia, Ducati and more…
My question is raised on Tuesday, November 5th. It’s about 11:00am, the 2019 EICMA show in Milan opened to media representatives just a few hours ago…
MV’s latest concept has many features: the lenticular rear wheel coupled with the single-sided swingarm, carbon-fibre parts here and there, the 200-plus horsepower engine coming from the Brutale 1000 RR. The Russian blonde model – from the same country as the co-owners of the Italian funded brand – will be at the MV stand for another five days, mainly sitting on the bikes on display.
“I never rode one in my life”, says the 27-year-old. “I’ve been working as a model for 10-years, never been to a motorcycle show. It’s my first time. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it”…
Well, let’s see if at Ducati girls are into motorcycles…
Italian model Federica Negri is smiling above the screen of the Panigale V2, based on the already known 955cc V-twin from Borgo Panigale, which was improved mainly due to the adoption of twin injectors per cylinder, of larger size and improved efficiency, now delivering 155hp…
“When I was a teenager my daily commute was a 50cc two-stroke ‘motard”, says the 23-year-old, who’s familiar with the MotoGP paddock by working as a grid girl. “I don’t ride anymore, because I don’t have a license”…
In Honda I find a different model with a slightly different story. Natascia Bonifetto says she has a license, but no bike…
“I like the CB1000, I’ll buy one sooner or later”. Not a bad choice, since the latest updates on this model include a 16 per cent increase in peak power and 5 per cent more torque in the mid-range, which should make it easier to ride. “My father is scared about the idea of me on the street on a motorcycle, but I’ll do it anyway”, says the Italian from the seat of the Africa Twin.
It’s her sixth year at the Honda stand at EICMA: “We’re like a big family, I love being here”.
It’s hard to get the girls to talk more. Too many photographers around: they need their poses and smiles to get a good shot. Too many male visitors asking lots of questions, trying to interact.
Elena Berlato makes no exception. While gripping the handlebars of the Suzuki GSX-R1000R she says she has no license but would like to get it. I tell her that’s the most common answer I get here. “The other girls copy me”, she laughs. Is it some kind of strategy to cut my interview short?
No way I can gather enough material to write an acceptable story this way. But wait a sec. Who’s that talking next to me?
“If you want to hear a good story, just listen. It’s about sand, sweat, struggles, bravery and speed. In other words: the 1990 Paris – Dakar”. Well, believe it or not, the words are coming from the DR750 that Italian Beppe Gualini rode through Africa nearly three decades ago!
“I see these youngsters and think: they’re amateurs”, the bike whispers. “In my era there were no cellphones, no GPS, nothing. Come on. Look at me. A single-cylinder engine, two wheels, a basic chassis. Nothing more. My job was to be as fast as possible and reliable. The rider made up the rest”.
The bike clearly inspired the look of the new Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT, with a V-twin engine capable of more than 100hp, as did another DR that raced in Africa, this time at the Pharaohs Rally. Risk, foolishness and bravado are part of the reputation of the ‘old style’ long distance and extreme races that saw many Europeans leave the Continent and point towards the Equator.
Among the brands that took a similar path is Ducati, with a Scrambler dressed in a modern interpretation of the Cagiva Elephant, which brings back to the years when the manufacturer from Northern Italy was in the same group as Ducati, run by the Castiglioni brothers (later owners of MV).
Speaking about Italian manufacturers, EICMA 2019 hosted the first model of the new Bimota era powered by Kawasaki, now co-owner of the brand from Rimini.
The supercharged engine of the fresh Tesi H2, coming from the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and delivering nearly 230hp, is fitted in a wild chassis: a hub-steered system at the front: “Bimota started its history developing stunning and super handling frames around Japanese engines”, the bikes remembers.
Not by chance I visit this stand after Ducati’s. An important figure played relevant roles in both: Massimo Tamburini, one of Bimota co-funders and later the man who designed the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4, which re-launched Schiranna’s brand in the late 1990s.
Tamburini was described as the ‘Michelangelo of motorbike design’. He passed away about five years ago and is still a respected and celebrated figure.
But who’s the most popular Italian person in the motorcycle environment? Valentino Rossi, of course. The nine-times World Champ’s MotoGP bike is on display at the Yamaha stand with no barrier around it. I spend about 10-minutes noticing that all kinds of people can’t resist touching it. As if it has some sort of magic. A power to give good luck, or suggest something.
Here people slightly bend the M1’s winglets, squeeze the carbon-fibre discs between their fingers, check the consistency of the slick Michelin tyres, talk to each other as if they’re experienced engineers.
“I feel better in the hands of the Monster Energy Yamaha team”, the bike says. “Please bring me back, I’m on duty in less than two weeks, the last round of the 2019 calendar, in Valencia, is approaching. I want to perform well”.
Honda, on the other hand, protects its fresh 2019 MotoGP World Champion bike on a stand, so nobody can touch it – except, of course, for the girls seated on it.
Its rider, Marc Marquez, is the main figure that the Japanese manufacturer chose to promote the performances of the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade, with more than 210hp.
Photos and videos of the prototype testing in Suzuka with German rider Stefan Bradl were spread several weeks before the show, such that Honda’s guys decided to put on display not only the model on sale, which features inner fairing winglets that somehow remember Marquez’s RC213V, but also the test version…
“There’s a lot of expectation, since Honda signed Alvaro Bautista for the World Superbike Championship and has high goals. We’ll do our best”, the bike assures.
“Our approach to the 2020 season will be top secret. We will not be part of the first series of tests, showing our potential just before the first race. We’re already focused”.
OK, I’ll not bother you any longer. KTM stand. Back to Dakar. Again. With a modern bike, this time. The one your own Australian rider Toby Price rode to victory in the last race.
“What we did is pretty special”, the bike recognized, “Toby started the rally having not fully recovered from an injury to his wrist, but we managed to do it”.
I listen to a less epic but still impressive story in the Triumph area, where Ernie Vigil’s Scrambler 1200 was shown without being properly cleaned. Immerse in the polished surfaces of EICMA, it stands out for its crude and pure shape.
“I don’t think many expected a retro-styled bike could perform so well in a race like the Mexican 1000, where we finished fifth in our class and 17th overall”, the bike says.
“We had previously planned to try our luck at the Baja 1000 endurance race, but Ernie got injured during training and that was it. During the Mexican 1000 he was fit and we performed very well, carrying the number #278, which was a tribute to Steve McQueen, who used it during the 1964 ISDT”.
Speaking about stories and traditions, Aprilia has a huge one at discovering young talents: it was the Italian brand that launched Valentino Rossi at the European championship in 1995, and took him to his World Titles in the 125 and 250 classes.
Aprilia also had monobrand championships in Italy that saw, for example, the debut on a 125 bike for Andrea Dovizioso, current Ducati MotoGP factory rider, who started with a production bike in 2000 before winning the European title the following year, this time with a GP bike.
Now Noale’s manufacturer seems ready for a similar mission in partnership with the Italian Motorcycle Federation, preparing a 250 four-stroke racing bike for the Italian Domestic Championship. But what stuns visitors at EICMA is the RS660, which in some way reflects the philosophy of the ‘old’ two-stroke: a light bike with an engine that was great fun. About 100hp for the new parallel-twin engine, nearly 170kg the weight of the bike.
The BMW R18 Concept showcased in Milan by the German manufacturer looks way more heavy. In terms of capacity, it is simply awesome: 1800cc. Wow!
The inspiration comes from the 1936 R5: “You know, it seems that just 2,652 bikes were built under that name. It featured a modern telescopic front fork, a double-cradle frame. It was the first BMW to use a foot-operated four-speed gearbox, while before that they had handshift. It had a 500cc engine, reaching a top speed of over 130km/h. Not bad at all. But I’m better, way better. You bet I am”.
Today, if you want to look at the most unexpected move in the environment, you’ll probably have to turn to Ducati and to its move in the electric bicycle segment. No V-twin, rather a Shimano unit. No words from it. It’s so young, it can barely speak. And anyway, there’s no story to tell for it. Yet.