The Three Big Trends That We Saw at EICMA

The 2017 EICMA show has come and gone, and with it our glimpse at the new motorcycles that will arrive for the next model year, and beyond. EICMA week has always been my Super Bowl, as it culminates the year’s work, and also sets the tone for the upcoming riding season. Beyond just my limited world though, EICMA sets the trends and the expectations of the motorcycle industry. There is no trade show in our two-wheeled microcosm that has a larger influence than EICMA. So, while all the new models that we just saw are the week’s big headlines, it is really the trends and movements that will dictate the future of the motorcycle industry. For this round of the EICMA show, three major trends presented themselves in Milan, along with a few more notable occurrences.

ARCH Motorcycle’s Next Bike Won’t Be a Cruiser

ARCH Motorcycle is in Italy right now, and they just took the wraps off three bikes, one of which isn’t so much a cruiser, as it is a naked roadster model. Built using carbon fiber MonoCell chassis technology, a building technique usually reserved for ultra high-end sport cars and Formula 1 racing chassis, the ARCH Method143 features a potent 143ci (2,343) v-twin engine. Though, instead of the performance cruiser layout the company is better known for, the ARCH Method143 will have mid-body rearsets for the feet, and clip-on handlebars for the hands, making for a very sporty riding position. Backing up that notion is the use of Öhlins suspension, which includes a proprietary Öhlins FGRT series front fork with carbon fiber airfoil covers.

No One Seemed to Notice that the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR Is New for the 2018 Model Year

We had to search high and low for information about the 2018 MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR – it doesn’t help that MV Agusta’s press site is offline right now – but it seems just about every news publication missed the fact that this attractive roadster got some serious changes for the 2018 model year. These unnoticed changes certainly are partially due to the fact that MV Agusta went without a press introduction at this year’s EICMA show, but it is also due to the company’s never-ending line of “bold new graphics” changes, one-off customs, and special livery designs, which only muddy the waters for when actual changes occur.

Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe Brings Modern to Retro

Kawasaki made an impression at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, debuting the new Z900RS standard. The premise was simple there: take the potent Kawasaki Z900 street bike, and dress it in retro clothing. The effect was something that looked incredibly like the Kawasaki Zephyr of old, but with modern brakes, suspension, traction control, and even a slipper-assist clutch. Now we see that Team Green plans on already expanding the line, debuting today the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe. Basically the Z900RS with a bikini fairing, this modern café racer should be a perfect fit for those riders that want an older looking motorcycle that doesn’t run like an older looking motorcycle. Mostly a visual exercise, the basic stats of the Z900RS Cafe don’t stray too far from the donor bike from whence it came.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Debuts with Track Goodies

For the 2018 model year, Kawasaki continues to develop its superbike package. As such, the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE brings some special new features, to earn those extra letters after its name. The big addition is the new Showa electronic suspension, which is the only semi-active suspension system on motorcycles that includes built-in stroke sensors. These stroke sensors are able to measure the movement of the fork and shock internals, allowing Showa’s suspension to measure and change its damping settings on the fly, as you ride. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE also gets the forged aluminum wheels found on Kawasaki’s homologation-spec superbike, the Ninja ZX-10RR, which should help the Ninja ZX-10R SE feel more nimble on the race track, despite its 459 lbs wet weight.

So Many Photos of the New KTM 790 Duke to Drool Over

We are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the new KTM 790 Duke is the bike of this year’s EICMA show. Making a potent 105hp from its 799cc parallel-twin engine, packed into a 418 lbs (wet)steel trellis body, the 2018 KTM 790 Duke brings a host of features to the middleweight sport bike category. In typical KTM fashion, the 790 Duke left no angle behind in its high school honors geometry course, and the LED headlight builds upon the common design features that KTM has been putting together on its street-going machines. Not quite the vision that was the KTM 790 Duke prototype, the production model still evokes the same emotions, and is handsome in its own right – allaying our fears when seeing spy shots of the machine.

Mega Gallery: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

We have had to wait two years to see it come into production, but the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 will finally be available to motorcyclists in March 2018. As an added bonus, the street-going machine stays true to its concept design, which wowed the crowd at last year’s EICMA show. This year in Milan, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is all the talk of EICMA, and while “Best in Show” at EICMA almost exclusively goes to an Italian marque, the real winners are surely coming from Austria, as both the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and KTM 790 Duke look like winners. A duality from Mattighofen, KTM and Husqvarna approach motorcycles from two opposite spectrums. KTM lives in the extreme, with an edgy focus on its “Ready to Race” mentality. Conversely, Husqvarna is subtle and sophisticated…maybe even understated.

Aprilia RSV4 Comes with Winglets for 2018, Yup…Winglets

The Aprilia Factory Works program has always been an impressive part of the Noale company’s lineup, and it offers the 250hp Aprilia RSV4 R FW-GP to any mere mortal who can afford such a thing. For those of us who have to work for a living, perhaps the Superstock version of the Aprilia RSV4 RF factory works bike is enough to suffice for our track and racing needs. It makes 215hp at the crank, is totally race legal, is hand-built by factory race technicians in Italy, and oh…IT COMES WITH WINGLETS. Aprilia prefers the term “aerodynamic appendages” in its press release, but we all know what they are talking about. Developed by Aprilia Racing as part of the Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP bike program, now you too can benefit from GP-level aerodynamics.

Officially Official: KTM 790 Adventure R Prototype

We were the first outlet to bring you photos of the KTM 790 Adventure R prototype, but now this 799cc trail-shredding machine is out in the wild, and we can share with you more specs, details, and higher resolution photos. The first point is the obvious, the KTM 790 Adventure R will not be a 2018 model, but instead will debut for the 2019 model year. It shares a parallel-twin engine with the KTM 790 Duke, which also debuted today at the EICMA show in Milan. The 105hp engine is a fully stressed part of the steel-tube chassis, which means there should be excellent weight savings for the 790 Adventure R. A full electronics suite is expected as well, with the 790 Duke already showing itself to be fully stocked against the competition.

Moto Guzzi V85 – A New Platform, A New Enduro

A quirky bike in its own right, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio had a strange cult following behind its bulky adventure-touring frame. As such, it was missed when it disappeared from Moto Guzzi’s lineup. Well, now it’s back…sort of. The following is what’s being called the Moto Guzzi V85 concept. It’s a loud enduro model that picks up where the Stelvio left off, and it also boasts a new 850cc engine platform from the Italian brand, which with its 80hp, will sit between the V7/V9 family of bikes, and the big 1400 cruisers. Strangely, Moto Guzzi isn’t sharing too many details about the new V85 concept, though we know that it will have a fully digital dash, as well as LED daytime running lights.

Seeing its 27-year-long joint-venture with Honda come to an end last year, Hero MotoCorp has been picking up technology partners with an intense pace. With its 2014 rapidly approaching, Hero already counts Erik Buell Racing as one of its technical partners (as well as a potential acquisition target), and now Hero has now announced that the Austrian engineering design firm AVL will help the Indian company with a new range of larger-dipslacement motorcycle motors.

The move towards larger displacement engines is surely a sign that Hero MotoCorp has its eye on the export market, as it already accounts one of every two motorcycles sold in India. Surely seeing the work that rival Bajaj has done with KTM and the Duke series of motorcycle, we can expect Hero to go after a similar position in Europe, with even larger models for the American market.

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Erik Buell Racing Partners with Hero MotoCorp

02/22/2012 @ 8:43 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

While we have been expecting Erik Buell Racing to join forces with a larger company at some point this year, today it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that EBR has partnered with Hero MotoCorp. The deal sees Hero becoming the title sponsor for two teams in the AMA Pro Racing National Guard Superbikes Championship — Team Hero and AMSOIL Hero, while Erik Buell Racing will give Hero design and technology inputs for bikes destined for the Indian market.

In practicality, this partnership would seem to suggest that Erik Buell Racing will help Hero MotoCorp, a company recently freed/dumped from its partnership with Honda, build sporty two-wheelers for the Indian motorcycle market, while the cash-infused Indian manufacturer will help the boutique American sport bike maker continue to go racing in the United States. This news also puts Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR 1190RS for the 2012 season, while Geoff May will continue with the AMSOIL Hero EBR 1190RSThanks for the tip Kevin!

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Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen

11/21/2011 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Back in 2009 Suzuki and Volkswagen made some headlines, as the German automaker took a 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer. The basic points of the agreement were that Volkswagen would get access to Suzuki’s small-displacement motors and Indian presence, while the latter would benefit from Volkswagen’s larger-vehicle technologies, etc.

Seemingly however doomed from the start, the partnership in motorcycle circles erroneously spurred some interesting thoughts of a Volkswagen motorcycle coming to fruition. While industry journalists spun gold out of hay, the two behemoth manufacturers failed to come to terms on any of their proposed partnership goals, leaving both parties to wonder why they were interested in each other, let alone financially intwined.

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When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

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Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat

02/17/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

It seems Ducati is willing to put its label on just about anything these days, boats being no exception. And when this press release hit our inbox this morning phrases like “you’ve gotta be f*ing kidding me!” echoed off the walls of our still unfurnished office. But in all honesty when we opened the email and saw pictures of the red & white Cigarette Racing boat, we perhaps regretted our initial impression.

Straight out of a Miami Vice episode, the 42′ hull of the Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat is pure white with red accents and Ducati logos. We’re not that into the ocean boat racing thing, but boy have they come a long way from what little of the 1980’s we remember. While we’d probably never own such an impractical machine (motorboats are cheating anyways), we certainly wouldn’t turn down a chance to romp around for a day in this 42X Ducati Edition speed machine, what with its dual 1,100hp Mercury Racing engines (that’s 2,200hp for the mathematically challenged).

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Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List

01/10/2011 @ 8:41 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse is slowly becoming the Lord of the Rings in MotoGP — bringing together some of the largest brands outside of the industry into the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. Already announcing Mercedes Benz’s tuning house AMG as its official car sponsor to the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati announced ahead of today’s start to the Wrooom event that apparel company Diesel would be added to the team’s rostrum of sponsors.

The maker of tight skinny jeans and other fashionable items, Diesel will be adding its “Made in Italy” brand to Ducati’s Italian bikes, and will also supply the Ducati Corse team with apparel for the 2011 season, which we can also only imagine will be made available to the public as well with a modest mark up on the not so modest base prices. Still say what you will about Italians and their fashion, one thing remains impressively true: Ducati is crushing it right now when it comes to finding dollars to go race in MotoGP.

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AMG Sponsoring Ducati MotoGP Team

11/17/2010 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Announced last night at the L.A. Auto Show, Ducati and AMG (Mercedes-Benz’s tuning house) have formed a partnership between the two brands the will first manifest itself by having the German car tuner sponsoring the Italian company’s MotoGP team. Rumored for over a month now, this announcement finally puts to bed the speculation that Fiat would sponsor Ducati now that Valentino Rossi has joined the Rosso Corse team, and is also the first official sponsorship announcement for Ducati Corse’s 2011 season.

With Rossi healing his wounds back in Italy, Nicky Hayden was on hand for the event with a Ducati Diavel and Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG on stage with him. Asked what he thought about the partnership, Hayden replied, “Well, if this is my company bike and this is my company car, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.” We’d tend to agree.

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According to Indian publication Bike Advice, Bajaj is looking to cultivate its relationships with KTM & Kawasaki further, hoping to create a three-way alliance that would build off the strengths of each company. Since 1986 Bajaj has had technical ties to Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki, with Bajaj paying royalties to Kawasaki for basing its creations off Kawasaki designs. Bajaj and Kawasaki also share distribution channels, with Bajaj motorcycles being sold at Kawasaki dealerships, and vice versa.

In 2007 the Indian manufacturer bought a 17% stake in KTM (Bajaj has since increased its stake in the Austrian company to 35% in 2008, with further investment plans rumored), which allowed Bajaj access to Europe and KTM access to India. Bajaj has also gained some of KTM’s knowledge on two-stroke motors, while KTM has seen the small-bike specialist help them with its soon-to-be released KTM 125 Duke project.

With all these relationships being fostered, and obvious synergies existing, Bajaj wants to take its relationship with each company to the next level (in America we call that Third Base), and change the level of collaboration so it goes three-ways. The affect would be a merger, without the merger.

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It’s hard to make strategic business partnership announcements sound sexy. Between all the hyperbole about how two companies are going to shift the industry paradigm and synergize the supply chain matrix, the average consumer’s eyes glaze over, and drool starts seeping out from the corners of their mouths. So bear with us on this one, because the announcement (or is the term Brammouncement?) of Brammo and Flextronics is an important one not only for the Ashland based company, but also for the electric motorcycle industry as a whole.

Some of the biggest problems facing any startup in the motorcycle industry are distribution and assembly. With the demand for electric motorcycles being a global issue, electric motorcycle startups, which are based primarily in the United States, have to not only grow their businesses domestically, but perhaps more importantly they need to foster a presence abroad in foreign markets.

With Europe and Asia easily out-pacing the demand in the US for electric transportation, an issue of contention for cash-strapped startups like Brammo has been how to grow globally and effectively with their limited budgets. The solution in this case for Brammo, is partnering with Flextronics, and using their scalable global production facilities.

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Oklahoma powersports startup US Highland recently announced they have one or two deals in the works. First they have a “tentative agreement” with a “global OEM” to license their motor technology. They are also discussing a deal to build bikes for a company to rebrand. It is unclear if the “global OEM” interested in their engines is the same one looking to rebrand the Highland machines.

However, both deals could bring US Highland from it’s original plan of building 700 motorcycles in 2010 and 1500 motorcycles next year to 20,000 units per year by 2012. To accommodate this growth US Highland will hire 200 to 300 people at their Oklahoma headquarters by the end of 2010. Hear more about US Highland and see the full press release after the break.

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