The two most important motorcycle expos of the year are Intermot in Cologne, Germany, which took place last month, and the EICMA expo in Milan, Italy, held earlier this month. These shows are where we find out what the world’s manufacturers have in store for us in the next 12 months.
For the first time in what seems like years, there is plenty of activity on all fronts, with a welcome resurgence in activity from the Japanese in particular. So, what is there to get excited about? Plenty, as it happens. Way too much, in fact, to cover in this article, so allow me to pick out a few of what I think are the really interesting developments.
As I said, the Japanese have been very quiet since the global financial crisis hit in 2008, so let’s start with some new models that show that the land of the rising sun is once again marching forward. Kawasaki has made possibly the biggest splash with its new H2. The H2 designation is borrowed from the original H2 of the early 1970s that sported a two-stroke triple-cylinder engine that brought new levels of performance to motorcycling.
This new H2 is setting out to have the same kind of devastating effect on today’s sport bikes and brings a somewhat unexpected technology to the market. This four-cylinder superbike has the usual one-litre capacity, but ups the ante with the addition of supercharging. A race version called the H2R was released at Intermot, and with its mean and nasty looks, backed up by a claimed 224kW, it understandably stole the headlines. We have been treated to the unveiling of the street version, now “down” to a peak of 157kW (with the ram-air system in full flow).
Kawasaki has opted for a steel trellis frame to give the H2 as much agility as possible, and has used a single-side swingarm for the first time. At 238kg it’s not light, but given that it’s a street bike destined for imperfect road surfaces, it should not be a problem. It’s the supercharger that sets this bike apart. The forced induction should ensure that the H2 has a spread of torque and kind of acceleration that normally aspirated bikes can only dream about. Honda also made a statement in Milan with the debut, after what seems like years of rumours and wishful thinking, of its MotoGP-inspired RCV road bike. Double MotoGP champion Marc Márquez rode the RCV on to the stage at EICMA; it is effectively the street-legal version of his race machine.
After the hype died down, it became apparent that Honda was not about to reveal any further details, so we have to wait to find out how it will perform. Given all the other new superbikes breaking cover in the past few weeks, it will have to push out somewhere just north of 150kW to be remotely competitive. Expect overall weight to be class- leading, and do not expect it to be cheap. This is a limited edition model meant to complement the Fireblade, not replace it. Honda also chose Milan to unveil its “True Adventure Prototype”, a new version of its iconic Africa Twin that once ruled the adventure bike world.
Details were thin, so we have no idea about capacity, performance or price. The adventure bike market is hugely important these days, and Honda has not had a serious contender in this class of true offroaders, other than the road-oriented soft-roading Crosstourer. At last The Big H seems intent on making serious inroads into the segment. Yamaha was the first of the Japanese manufacturers to start awakening from its recession-induced slumber, last year debuting the triple-cylinder MT-09 and MT-07 all-round road bikes. Now it has revealed what we have all been waiting for, a new R1.
Yamaha has retained the MotoGP-inspired cross-plane crank engine (which makes it sound like a V-twin rather than an in-line four) but obviously worked on it to bring it up to the magic 150kW mark. Most attention appears to have been lavished on a range of electronic rider aids. Traction control and ABS work in conjunction with lean angle sensors to provide optimum cornering performance, and with that comes a launch control system, anti- wheelie control, variable power modes and a quick-shifter. Yamaha will also release a higher-spec version of the R1, to be known as the R1M, which will lean even more heavily on its MotoGP experience. This model features electronic Ohlins suspension and a data-logging system with a built-in GPS system. You will be able to examine your data or upload new settings wirelessly via a cellphone or tablet.
Next year is set to be an exciting one for new bikes, especially those coming out of Japan. Next week, we will take a look at what Europe has up its sleeve to counter this new onslaught from the East.