EICMA — officially Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori — in Milan, Italy, is the world's most influential motorcycle show. Every fall, manufacturers, customizers and the aftermarket meet to peddle some of the most outlandish and creative rides on the planet. It is the most important exposition of two wheelers of the year and is, quite literally, where the future — both the immediate and long-term — of motorcycling is revealed to the public. Here, then, is just a sample of what you might be riding very soon.
Royal Enfield KX
You know the name but thought they were long dead and buried, right? But no, they've been building single-cylinder Enfields in India non-stop since 1957. And, for those truly nostalgic, most of the bikes they've built in that 60-odd-year time span have been — except for modern fuel injection and disc brakes — absolutely faithful replicas of the bikes made in England back in the '50s.
But with the KX comes an all-new look at the past. First, there's the 838cc V-twin engine. Then we have the truly period-piece 'girder' front fork, not to mention the faux hardtail rear swingarm/suspension. Throw in a single passenger 'saddle,' 19-inch tires front and rear and deliberately rough-hewn crankcases and you have one very classic modern motorcycle.
Husqvarna EE 5
At least one legendary dirt bike manufacturer is taking a truly novel approach in its switch to electrification. Instead of building a headline-grabbing superbike or full-fledged motocrosser, the EE 5 is a….
Yes, a minibike meant for youngsters just learning to shoot their first berm. Its 5-kilowatt motor — 7 horsepower — is about equivalent to a 50cc beginner's bike while is 0.9 kWh battery is small enough that the EE 5 remains lightweight. But, before you dismiss the EE as just a plaything, know that it has long-travel WP suspension front and rear, full knobby tires and disc brakes. The EE 5 is no plaything. It is a serious dirt bike designed for serious dirt bikers, even if they are only eight years old.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 Aero
And now something completely different from the same Swedish bike maker — a 'café racer' version of the Vitplien 701 roadster that took the industry by storm last year. A '70s-style bikini fairing flows into a Bonneville Salt Flats–inspired disc rear wheel, all held together by an extremely sporty, KTM-built 690cc double-overhead-cam single. Throw in a state-of-the-art digital speedo/tach gauge set and a slash-cut exhaust and you have yet another exquisite combination of the modern and retro.
Imagine a 220-kilogram superbike with truly avant garde styling and a top speed of over 240 kilometres an hour. Now, imagine it's electric. Well, imagine no longer, as Arc has built it and called it Vector. The 127-horsepower Vector supposedly has a 200-km range on the highway not to mention top-flight Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes.
As ambitious as the Vector sounds, the big news is that they are being backed, indirectly, by Jaguar Land Rover. While that might sound like a glorious seal of approval, JLR has money woes of its own right now, so how quickly the 90,000-pound — 153,500 Canadian dollars at current exchange rates! — will hit the market is anyone's guess.
KTM 790 Adventure
On a more traditional note, KTM's new 790 Adventure marries the company's all new 799cc parallel twin engine with the Austrian company's strength in adventure touring motorcycles. Sounds fairly traditional, right?
Well, the concept may sound straightforward but the execution is causing quite a stir amongst hardcore adventure enthusiasts, the promise of the surprisingly potent 105-hp twin and off-road friendly light weight — the 790 Duke that uses the same engine weighs but 169 kg — is building an anticipation seldom seen in the touring segment. The 790 Adventure will be offered in both regular and R formats, the latter gaining long-travel WP Explor suspension (240 millimetres) compared with the base model's Apex systems with 200-mm of wheel travel. There's no word on pricing yet but Driving expects to be testing the Adventure in the spring of 2019.
Aprilia RS 660
Aprilia's RS 660 is another concept that might seem like it's just one more mainstream motorcycle. Indeed, its parallel-twin engine is just half of the RSV4's V-4 with the rear cylinders lopped off. But this is Aprilia's first foray into the budget sportbike segment and, more importantly, it is the first motorcycle with active aerodynamics. Yes, the same high-techery that graces supercars like McLaren's Senna and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante.
Thanks to various adjustable screens and venting, the Italian manufacturer says that its Aprilia Active Aerodynamics (A3) can adjust its aerodynamic profile and how much downforce is on the front wheel (to prevent wheelies). Aprilia says it will be applying the lessons learned in designing the 660 into an entire range of affordable sportbikes.
BMW R1250 GS
OK, this one really is mainstream, but since this is the most popular bike in BMW's lineup and the motorcycle by which all adventure tourers are judged, a new Boxer engine for Munich's venerable GS is big news.
The ShiftCam — all BMW's boxers get a nickname — is the first BMW motorcycle with variable valve timing. Commonplace in automobiles, motorcycles are just now catching up and the ability to switch between two camshaft profiles is being heralded as a breakthrough for the flat twin. Now displacing 1,254cc, the Shiftcam is good for 134 horsepower and, more importantly, a Harley-Davidson-like 94 foot-pounds of torque. Look for Driving.ca's test of the new R1250 GS in early February.
MV Agusta Superveloce 800
To my mind, MV's SV 800 hardly looks retro, the only concession I can see to early café racers being the bullet-nosed fairing and the asymmetrical, two-on-the-right, one-on-the-left exhausts (for those wondering about the significance of something seemingly so trivial, that was the arrangement of some of MV's most famed road racers of the past). But it is an MV Agusta, it is gorgeous and the Italian three-cylinder engine does sound like Formula 1 on two wheels, so if the Italians want to peddle this as a modern classic, I'll go along with it. On the other hand, no matter how assiduously MV's marketers try to claim the Superveloce is traditional, the fully TFT'ed dashboard and the expected 150 or so horses are in no way retro.
And now for something completely weird! It's got three wheels but it leans just like a motorcycle. It's got four fork tubes and two front axles. And it looks like an escapee from Aliens.
Indeed, if Ridley Scott's monster du jour rode a motorcycle back on whatever planet generates such terrifying life forms, it would be a Yamaha Niken.
We Canuckians didn't get the original Niken when it was introduced last year. But now that Japan has added a taller windshield, plusher seats and a pair of luggage-swallowing side cases, Yamaha Canada is bring the touring-oriented GT version to our shores. Nonetheless, though it's being marketed as a practical sport tourer, and it's powered by Yamaha's acclaimed 847cc triple, it is that predatory visage that captures all our attention.
Ok, this isn't a motorcycle. And maybe the announcement of a second generation of air bag suits and jackets is not gluing your eyeballs to the screen (that's why we put it last on the list, after all). But inflatable safety restraints are the biggest safety advancement in motorcycling since the implementation of anti-lock brakes (first seen on a BMW K100RS in case you've forgotten).
And, for 2019, Dainese is promising lighter weight, more comfortable D-Air garments. Thanks to advancements in restraint technology, the jackets are now up to 37 per cent lighter, a big deal since the first-gen garments were so darned heavy. Hopefully, they will also be better ventilated as all current air bag suits — not just Dainese's — turn into a sauna in hot weather. The latest range of D-Airs includes a Misano 2 D-Air leather racing suit, the Racing 3 D-Air leather jacket and the Carve Master 2 D-Air Gore-Tex sport-touring jacket for men and there's a Misano 2 Lady D-Air, the first air bag-equipped racing suit tailored specifically for women.