Jeffrey Zani was BikeReview.com.au's man on the ground at EICMA 2017, including the special Ducati and Honda presentations in the proceeding days. Here's the full wrap. Words by Jeffrey Zani, Images Jeffrey Zani and Courtesy of Manufacturers
This story doesn’t start on two wheels, but on many. I’m in Milan for the 2017 edition of the EICMA show, showcasing world premieres that will give us the taste of next year’s models. The Italian city hosts a tram network of over 150 kilometers and some vehicles that were built in the 1920s are still in operation today, which was a large part of my transport around the city.
The Expo starts on Tuesday, November 7th, but some brands offer presentations Sunday and Monday. That means getting there two days in advance, having to travel through a 1.3 million person city and not always being able to reach places with the more convenient subway.
Spending time on the old trams is fascinating however, even though the trips are often quite long. The sky is grey for most of the days and rain will be a frequent occurrence. It’s November 5th, 2017. It’s autumn, it’s Europe. Welcome to Milan.
First stop is the Ducati event, which was broadcasted live on the Italian pay TV channel that covers MotoGP. CEO Claudio Domenicali focused his presentation, under the title ‘Italian symphony’, around the word ’emotion’. It was like a theatre piece. Attention to details was clear.
The speech, timing and tone were accurate. “Style, sophistication and performance,” are Ducati’s key words, Domenicali says. “We search for the right shapes, we try not to be banal in our solutions, we know were we come from – racing. Because a stunning acceleration and a great sound are things that bring deep feelings. But we know that performances also involve safety, reliability and comfort. We are ready for it.”
Before he presents the 2018 catalogue, Domenicali introduces MotoGP riders Danilo Petrucci, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, who was still in contention for the title with one round left to go in Valencia, where he lost to Honda’s Marc Marquez. The results were higher than the expectations of early 2017.
“The key of the season was the Mugello victory, which lead us to a new way of facing week ends and to five more wins,” the Italian said. SBK rider Chaz Davies and MotoGP tester Michele Pirro also showed up, and the Borgo Panigale’s racing department reached second place in the championship with the Englishman and was at the top in the MotoGP class. Thanks also went to a certain tester, Casey Stoner, but where is he?
My answer comes when we get to the most expected moment of the event. In September, during the Misano MotoGP round, Ducati had presented a new V4 engine that was going to be adopted on production motorcycles. So here comes a complete Panigale V4, a 214hp bike that weights 175kg.
There’s a lot of power to manage, so the V4 adopts an electronic package that includes cornering ABS only on the front wheel, slide control, traction control and engine brake control. Then comes a superior version, limited to 1500 units. Different colors, 226hp, 173kg. Who rides it on stage? Casey Stoner, who contributed to the development of the bike, adding, “I had the chance to test it, it’s a great motorcycle.”
The overall aesthetics of the bike are inspired by the Panigale twin. But what really amazes is the sound. During the following days the Ducati stand at EICMA will host a stereo system that will deliver the voice of the V4 to the people. Eargasm.
But let’s go back to business. Day two means Honda. On a tram, of course. Nineteen stops from the Duomo squadre, in the heart of the city, is the venue that hosts the event. Also here, one of the main focuses is on racing. For the Japanese manufacturer, the Chief Officer for Motorcycle Operations, Noriaki Abe introduces all their riders for 2018, from Dakar to MotoGP, including motocross.
Among the bikes presented is the Africa Twin, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special version. Among the other new motorcycles are the CB125R, CB300R and CB1000R, which was brought on stage by another Australian.
If Ducati has Casey Stoner, Honda has Mick Doohan, who was pretty sure that Marquez was going to win the title in Valencia, as actually happened. “He just hasto show up.” May the Spaniard win five titles in the top class with the Japanese manufacturer, as he did? “Yes. He has four in his pocket. Just one more to go.”
Day three and the official show finally begins. Let’s start from the two Ks. Kawasaki and KTM. The first unveils a model that replicates a growing trend – models linked to the past. In this case it’s called the Z900RS and Cafe edition and is clearly inspired by the 1972 Z1. Sober and classy, available in a green and iconic ‘Jaffa’ version.
The Japanese manufacturer won the SBK championship for the last three years, so it was expected to show its muscles. That happened with the update of the ZX-10R SE, which now features electronic semi-active suspension. That means that the suspension is being constantly refined and adjusted to suit the prevailing road surface plus the demands of machine dynamics and rider input.
How? In Kawasaki’s words, “Drawing information from stroke sensors plus other inputs from the machine such as acceleration and deceleration data plus vehicle speed, the bike incorporates a dedicated suspension ECU that communicates with the standard fitment ECU and the inertia measurement unit (IMU) to provide a fast responding and reassuring ride in one of three settings; road, track or manual.”
KTM, on the other side, focuses again on racing. The road bikes are pushed by the growing results of the MotoGP team, the off-road bikes are already on the top. Also thanks to an Italian. Nine-times World Champion Tony Cairoli greets the fans close to the 790 Adventure R, which is unveiled only as a concept and will not be available in the stores in 2018.
On the other side, the street legal brother, called the Duke 790, will combine 105hp with a claimed dry weight of 169kg. Steel frame with the engine as a stressed member, aluminum sub-frame, WP suspension. Ready to ride. Or, as KTM puts it, ‘Ready to Race’. But not on the street guys.
Then comes BMW. With a maxi scooter, the C 400 X, which brings what looks like a new trend – male models on the bikes. Don’t know how the Italian public will take that. But it may mean that the brand is trying to expand its range of customers. Makes sense?
Anyway, BMW redesigned and re-engineered the F 750 GS and F 850 GS, that now adopt a new two-cylinder in-line engine. Power output is 77hp for the 750 and 95 for the bigger sister. The heart is new, and also the skeleton, with a new steel bridge frame in monocoque construction, new suspension geometry and new fuel tank position. And for the ones that don’t like it big but huge, here’s the six-cylinder, K 1600 Grand America, described as the, “Ultimate luxury touring motorcycle in American style.”
Currently involved in the work needed to jump into the racing circus by providing its three-cylinder 765cc engines for the Moto2 class from 2019, Triumph presented the updates to its Tiger 800, which include over 200 new details. The bigger change involves an engine with a more immediate power delivery compared to the previous version.
The Tiger 1200 was also involved in an evolution, among the changes, a 10kg saving in engine, chassis and exhaust. Already set with its classic models, such as the Bonneville, the English factory now seems to be following the racing trend.
Sport bikes were already in the catalogue, now it’s time to make things serious and see how they work in the World Championship. At the moment the tests are carried on with Julian Simon, former 125 World Champion and Moto2 runner up.
Not doing too well in the SBK championship this year and growing in MotoGP, Aprilia pushed forward the performance of its top sport model with a Factory Works kit for the RSV4. It’s basically a series of racing parts that bring the power output to 215hp thanks to new pistons, cylinder heads and exhaust.
Benefits to the aerodynamics are also included, together with lighter components like the fuel tank. The press conference saw on the stage, along with CEO Roberto Colaninno, rider Aleix Espargarò, the racing manager Romano Albesiano and the TV commentator Guido Meda. Again, manufacturers are following MotoGPs popularity. It seems to work.
The Piaggio group, that owns the Aprilia and Moto Guzzi brands, couldn’t resist the temptation of bringing a new concept to Milan. Beside the one-to-one scale reproduction of a camel, on a similar stand to the one that hosted the Africa Twin, was the Moto Guzzi V85 prototype.
Red frame, mainly yellow and white colored, the bike mounts a revised version of the 850cc ‘small-block’ V-twin used in the V9 series. An air cooled and uniquely styled adventure-tourer that should deliver around 80hp.
What emerges from this edition of EICMA is that the factories are focusing a lot on bikes that have a strong link to the past in their aspect and are following the global scene that currently involves cafè racer and scrambler bikes. It’s common for brands to put a new model in the hands of a recognized customiser in order to see what happens and promote the model in a less conventional way.
That happens for example with the Scrambler Ducati, this year with a version designed by Roland Sands and called the Mach 2.0. In the past the BMW R nineT took the same path. Social media helps, bloggers are happy. Remember Humphrey Bogart in that film saying, “That’s the press, baby, the press, and there’s nothing you can do about it, nothing!” Times changed. Doesn’t apply any more.
Suzuki steps into the cafè racer world with a less European approach and presents the SV650X ABS. It doesn’t look for performances, but for a cool look that involves a stylish slotted headlight cowling, clip-on handlebars, a sober tank and a narrow seat.
The liquid cooled V- twin adopts irregular firing intervals to gain a ‘pulsing’ of the engine that makes the job easy for the rider. The manufacturer claims that, “The power output is smooth and easy to control.”
Talking about the exterior design, one of the most futuristics bikes at EICMA 2017 was the Yamaha MT-09 SP, an update of the version presented last year, which didn’t have the last two letters in the name.
Suspension is the main area of improvement, mainly thanks to the extended range of adjustment on the front fork and the rear Ohlins shock. The 847cc three-cylinder engine delivers 113hp.
And for the great finale, a small Italian brand. Moto Morini, that was inspired by the iconic 350 Sport from the late ’60s to design the new ‘Milano’ model. A 1187cc V-twin with 110hp. Cool, elegant, secretive in its price. The double exhaust system on the right side is fascinating, and that was maybe one of the weakest points, on the other side, of the Suzuki SV650X ABS.
Anyway, at the end of EICMA it was the Ducati Panigale V4 that was voted the most beautiful bike of the show from the public. Just one problem. Somebody dropped one on stage. And it was a ‘Speciale’ version. Lots of ‘meme’ spread in the internet, making fun of what happened. It was an involuntary and rather effective way to promote the bike. Wasn’t it?