You can usually count on the Big Four to bring out some popular new bike launches and intriguing concepts to EICMA, and this year...well...the Japanese brands phoned it in, for the most part.
Before we get into Jensen's complete feeling of disappointment, I first have to apologize because I failed you as a publisher. Much of the disappointment that comes from the INTERMOT and EICMA shows comes from the implications of the Euro5 emissions standards. As a publication, we should have prepared you better for this reality, and we didn't.
There is very little incentive right now for a motorcycle OEM to release a new model. Euro5 comes online for new models in 2020, and for existing models in 2021, which means that many of the motorcycle brands are holding onto their new bike launches for those model years.
As such, the 2019 model year is very much a "development year" for the industry. This doesn't change the fact that the Japanese brands had a weak showing in Milan, especially compared to the Europeans, but at least it explains why...for the most part.
The 250cc platform was an interesting choice for Honda to make for its race-replica dirt bike, especially with the underwhelming debut of the CRF250L model, and thus the want for a 450cc version continued.
Now with the potent CRF450L on the market, it looks like that idea is starting to take shape…though, you would hardly know it from the Japanese brand’s actions at EICMA.
Honda is making waves in the World Superbike paddock for next season, as HRC has pulled its support from the Ten Kate team, and is instead creating a factory team inside the garage of Althea and Moriwaki, who will jointly run the Red Bull Honda WorldSBK racing effort.
Contracted to HRC, Leon Camier will remain on the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 next season, and he will be joined by Ryuichi Kiyonari. Possessing the correct passport, this news means that the 2019 season will mark nearly a decade’s worth of time since Kiyonari last started a World Superbike race.
As we understand it, Althea Racing will run the logistics and hospitality of the new Honda WorldSBK team, while Moriwaki will handle what happens in the pit box and out on track.
Where this news leaves the Ten Kate team remains to be seen, though the championship is currently without representation from Suzuki, Aprilia, and MV Agusta – the latter making its plans to leave WorldSBK racing clear, earlier this year.
A motorcycle that we suspected that we would see at the 2018 EICMA show in Milan, the 2019 Honda CB650R brings a middleweight option to Big Red’s “Neo Sports Café” collection of retro-modern motorcycles.
Based off the Honda CB650F, this latest Honda Neo Café machine promises a 650cc inline-four engine package in a retro-modern style, similar to what Big Red has done with the Honda CB300R and Honda CB1000R.
The Neo Café aesthetic ironically began with the 650cc platform, with the Honda CB4 concept debuting at the 2015 EICMA show in Milan. So, it’s interesting to see the line come, to what seems to be its conclusion, on a machine that basically set the whole ball in motion.
Another week, another rumor about a new Honda CBR1000RR. You can almost set your clock to the rumors that surround Big Red’s future superbike offering, and there are several factors for this.
First, the Honda CBR1000RR is a woefully old machine, even in its “all-new” guise, the current model can trace its lineage back to the 2008 model year. Second, the Honda CBR1000RR is obviously underpowered when you make spec sheet comparisons, by a palpable 20hp/10% margin.
The Honda makes up for this by being one of the lightest superbikes on the market, and it is easily the best handling of the bunch. But even still, in our tests, we found it to be a second a lap slower than the rest of the superbike class…and the stopwatch decides all in this segment.
Despite all this, the real reason that we keep seeing rumors about a new CBR1000RR likely stems from one simple reason: Honda is working on a new machine. Will that new bike debut for 2019? 2020? 2021? Well, that’s the debate, and even a broken clock is correct twice a day, so…
Here we are, another week, and another rumor about a new Honda CBR1000RR.
It had been widely rumored, and long expected, but KTM has finally confirmed that Dani Pedrosa will be a test rider for the Austrian factory for the next two seasons. Pedrosa will take on the role alongside current test rider Mika Kallio.
Rumors that Pedrosa would take on a testing role with KTM have been circulating for some time, ever since it became clear that Pedrosa would not be part of the Repsol Honda team.
The Spaniard had been linked to the Petronas Yamaha seat as well, but in the end, he felt that some of the joy had gone out of racing, and he didn’t feel he had the intensity to keep racing beyond the end of this year.
“The secret,” said Niki Lauda, “is to win going as slowly as possible.” That racing maxim, first recorded by legendary writer and broadcaster Clive James (and how did I miss that he wrote about F1 in the past?) is as true now as it was back in 1984, when Lauda stated it to a press conference in Portugal. And as true as in the early 1950s, when Juan Manuel Fangio may have first uttered it.
If you want to see that maxim in action, watch a MotoGP race in 2018. The action is often thrilling, usually tense, and always absorbing. Race after race, we see podiums separated by tenths of a second, not tens of seconds. The reason for that is simple.
The field is close in terms of rider talent and bike performance, and the Michelin tires can be applied in many different ways, except for one: if you try to take off and disappear at the front, you risk using up the best of your tires, and being caught in the latter stage of the race.
So MotoGP has become a chess game. A battle of minds, as much as machines, of brains as much as bodies. Riders pace around one another like wolves around a herd of caribou, watching out for any sign of weakness, waiting to pounce and destroy their prey. And sometimes, getting it wrong and suffering a severe kicking from their intended victims.
While we were busy running around Cologne, Germany for the INTERMOT show, Honda Motor Europe was busy in France, for the Paris Motor Show. Debuting there another “Neo Café” concept model, the Japanese brand seems set to release a middleweight version of this popular trope.
Based off the Honda CB650F, the latest Honda Neo Café concept promises a 650cc inline-four engine package in a retro-modern style, similar to what Big Red has done with the Honda CB300R and Honda CB1000R. As such, we are very likely looking at an early version of the Honda CB650R.