Yes its silly season again and undoubtedly you’ve seen some of the multitude of EICMA and Motorcycle Live videos if you didn’t go there yourself. I thought I would let the Clamour quieten and the dust settle before I said too much.
I may come back and do some videos on a few bikes and brands that stand out for me, and if there are any specific bikes you want me to do a video on just let me know in the comments.
But I have a question.
Do you think Motorcycle Live and Eicma are Still Relevant?
Or are they just a big jolly for industry bigwigs to go and pat each other on the back and tell each other how wonderful they all are?
Like it or not we live in a world where instant and personalised communication is the norm. Companies have rightly begun to value that direct form of communication, and strive to tailor it as best they can to the individuals it is sent to.
I am bombarded on a daily basis by model updates and sneak previews of bikes that are coming in the not too distant future.
We have already known about most of the so called new releases for ages, although most of those new releases aren’t actually ready in dealerships yet.
Kove 800X Super Adventure
The Kove 800X Adventure bike has been promised and the design is looking more finished now. I have been told the first production run for Europe is underway and they should be available from February, so fingers crossed. All specs look pretty close to the prototype, most importantly, the weight is still quoted as being lighter than any of the competition. The Rally version does look like a very stripped back bike and I am still hoping this is worth the wait.
We knew that BMW were bringing an all new 1300GS, because as we all know 1250cc just wasn’t big enough anymore. Barely out of the show and we already have a pile of faults being reported. That fabled BMW back light still only works when it feels like it. Pick ups have already been delayed and recalls are already being talked about. Fittings have dropped off the luggage rack and there have been other issues with the luggage locking system.
Gearbox seals are also leaking straight from the factory, and there has been problems with recurring gear selection issues, some people not being able to select Neutral, others who have multiple gear selection problems.
Yes, all companies have occasional recalls, but BMW have had so many recalls over recent years it is getting silly. Finish on the 1300 has also been criticised as being much worse than the 1250 too. So the 1300GS isn’t off to a good start.
We knew there would be a bigger KTM too. That Zero were bringing their new short stop adventure bike and Moto Guzzi would be bringing the Stelvio.
We knew Kawasaki were closer with the new Hybrid motorcycle but how close was anyone’s guess, and being honest, I don’t know anyone at all who is excited about it.
Royal Enfield would finally be bringing the new 450 Himalayan and possibly a 650 Scrambler.
Ducati had the SuperQuaddro 650 and there were rumours that Honda would be introducing their new electronic clutch on something too, but no word on what.
Some new engines that were unveiled are the Aprilia 450 twin and the two V twin Moto Morini engines. CF Moto have a 450 twin, a 500 four and a 650 triple. Then we have the Triumph 400cc engine that will power the speed 400 and scrambler 400X. There was also the 250cc engine for the new MX bike, all actually built by Bajaj Group in India.
More of a surprise was that Zontes turned up with a new 700cc triple engine and Keeway group came with a 1000cc 90 degree V twin.
Was there anything we didn’t know about before the show?
Were there any Surprises at all?
Well, I will get to that.
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Anyway, to the bikes.
So, Was There Anything Really New in 2023?
Well we did get a few things actually.
Not a complete surprise but one of the more exciting looking bikes was the Fantic 300cc Enduro bike powered by a new Minarelli XE300 fuel injected 2 stroke engine that has been in development for 3 years.
Fantic have deep connections with Yamaha, who own Minarrelli, and the frame looks like it was lifted straight from the YZ range. The engine may well have design features drawn from the Yamaha too, but it is Italian designed and built, not just a bored out version of the YZ250.
For a start it has a hydraulic clutch with a Brembo master cylinder which I know many YZ riders have been calling for.
2 stroke genius Jan Witteveen, who worked on the Gilera and then Aprilia race teams, was brought in by Minarrelli a couple of years ago and as one of the most renowned 2 stroke wizards of the modern era has helped bring this engine from a carb fed prototype to a race ready fuel injected monster of a dirt bike.
It has twin port injection as well as electric start. Fully adjustable Kayaba suspension is fitted and gives you 11.8” of travel at the front and 12.4” of travel at the rear. You get Nissin brakes and an Arrow exhaust system and it has a multi-level traction control system that is adjustable on the fly via a simple handlebar map switch.
They talk about a revolutionary cooling system but I am struggling to find details of how it is so revolutionary. If anyone knows then please tell us in the comments.
Dry weight is 107Kg or 236lbs which is exactly where is should be and seat height is 38 inches. I couldn’t find the ground clearance but it looks pretty good. The engine and chassis are very compact.
The Return Of Two Strokes
This bike is Euro 5 compliant on emissions, so is a new road legal 2 stroke dirt bike that has, I think, a lot of potential. It doesn’t have ABS, but is street-legal in Europe because of its classification as an enduro bike. However, it does have multiple engine maps and adjustable traction control.
Price is set at just over 10,000 Euros so it isn’t a cheap option, but the company does seem to be on a mission to expand their share of the market. There is a factory spec XEF version that is, it seems, even more ready to race, but I don’t have any real details of that really yet.
There is a new 700cc Caballero too which uses the same Yamaha CP2 engine used in the Tenere and others.
Ducati SuperQuadro Mono 698 Hypermotard
Then there is the Ducati SuperQuadro Mono 650 Hypermotard. A 650cc bike disguised as a 700cc Supermoto, but I’ve said enough about that already as you will see in the video linked above.
One of the bigger surprises was from Zontes who came with an unannounced 700cc triple engine, which is their biggest offering to date. It is featured in a sports bike and the Zontes ZT703F adventure bike. Both looked like they were pretty much production ready.
Rumour has it that these are the first of a modular range of engines similar to the way Triumph began at their rebirth. So we should get at least 2 different capacity triples and then a 4 pot version using the same block. This means in time we will get a 1000cc 4 cylinder engine.
The Zontes ZT703F could be one of those unsung stars from the show. It has a distinct and quite different look. It has a nice looking set of tubeless spoked rims with a 21-inch wheel up front and 18-inch rear. Full protection bars and a sump guard are fitted and the exhaust is run high to keep it out of the way of damage, unlike many modern Adventure bikes.
A full luggage system, a big screen and an all aluminium chassis finish off the package well and I am hoping this will be a smaller lighter and more off road capable bike than the old Triumph Tiger 800, which never quite got the Rally treatment until the latest 900cc iteration.
Details were thin on the ground but the engine will produce around 100HP and 85Nm of torque on the ZT703F Adventure bike, and 110HP and 70Nm of torque in the ZT703RR sports bike.
With the return of the Benelli triple, the Keeway triple and the CF Moto 675 triple as well as the Yamaha, Triumph and MV Agusta offering, we will be spoiled for choice in the 3 cylinder sector, which is great news.
Royal Enfield 450 Himalayan
We finally got the Royal Enfield 450 Himalayan too, as well as an electric Himalayan concept bike. I do just wish they had put tubeless rims on it, although it looks like they may be fitted to the Rally model, so will hopefully be available as extras. I still think it should be lighter, and that exhaust looks absolutely terrible, as well as being in a very vulnerable position.
Only time will tell how people react to the new model. The air cooled lump is one of the things that set Royal Enfield apart for me.
I was disappointed we didn’t even get a look at the new 650 Scrambler that has been seen in spy shots. You would think it shouldn’t take that long in development.
Triumph Speed 400 and Scrambler 400X
Then of course we have the Triumph single-cylinder 400’s made by Bajaj group. The global reveal happened what seems like aeons ago now. They arrived at the show, again, and have been doing the rounds with the journo’s. They are available already in India where they are made, but we still won’t get them until the new year and then only if you have put a deposit down first.
So almost a year after the hype started, it still continues. There is already talk of a new Thruxton 400 model too, even though the first models haven’t arrived in the showrooms yet.
CF Moto 450MT
We did get a new 450 twin-cylinder Adventure bike though. CF Moto revealed the 450MT. Initially the weight was quoted as 175Kg, but that was a dry weight, so after being initially more excited, I was a bit disappointed in the end.
The 450MT does have fully adjustable Kayaba suspension front and back with around 8 inches of wheel travel, which is better than most. It has a 21 front wheel and tubeless spoked rims and an adjustable screen. Foot-pegs have removable inserts and it has a pretty good 220mm of ground clearance, so it ticks a lot of boxes.
You get a 5 inch TFT display and Bluetooth connectivity and importantly, ABS can be switched off at the rear wheel. Price hasn’t been announced yet but the 450SR has been priced at £5600, so it will likely be under £6000, making it a little cheaper than the Honda CB500X, and with what looks like a lot more off road potential. I just wish it had been closer to 175Kg wet.
We got a very short look at their new MTX concept too, but to be honest it just looked like the next incarnation of the KTM 890 Adventure.
We didn’t see anything about the 675 triple or 500 four that I featured in the video linked above, but give them time I guess.
We got 2 new Moto Morini V twin engines and the bikes that they have spawned as well, I first heard about a new 1200 X Cape last year when I did this video linked above, but I had given up after hearing nothing since.
Now we have both a 750cc and a 1200cc engine and multiple bikes. I am looking into the engine to see what has been carried over from the original 1200cc CorsaCorta engine because this isn’t just a copy.
As far as bikes go, we got a 750 Corsaro, a 750 Corsaro Sport, a Milano 1200 and an X Cape 1200. The 750 Corsaro Sport looks like it could have been lifted straight out of a Ducati showroom, and the other bikes do look interesting. So far reliability with the X Cape 650 has been pretty good, so it has obviously given Moto Morini confidence to expand their range, which has to be a good thing.
Then there were some bikes from the Keeway group. A TX450 Rally which looks less Rally and more light adventure bike, but does look very interesting, and they also gave us a glimpse of a new 1000cc V twin Adventure bike too.
This I would think will feature the same 1000cc V twin as the MBP C1002V which would give it around 90HP and 90Nm of torque. Its a slower revving engine when compared to the Ducati and KTM V twins, but not slow revving like a Harley. I imagine the engine will have characteristics similar to the old Yamaha TR1. It should have plenty of low down grunt, so unless it is too heavy it should make an excellent power plant for a new adventure bike.
MBP who are part of the Keeway group, brought that engine in a new 1000cc V twin cruiser called the C1002V. It is already available in the UK, but I know very little about it to be honest. I have seen it in showrooms, and the build quality looked pretty good. They are another company that talk about having a design house in Italy with manufacturing in China.
Then Beta gave us several new bikes, but the two that looked the most interesting were the new Alp X and the Alp 4.0, both powered by a 350cc water cooled four stroke engine that produces 35HP and is mated to a 6 speed box.
The Alp X is an Off Road biased Scrambler. A Scrambler actually built for the dirt. It comes with a 19” front wheel and a 17” rear, has a decent bash plate as standard, the pegs have removable inserts and It comes with some luggage options too. So I think it will make a great all round bike.
The Alp 4.0 is even more off road biased. It comes with a 21” front wheel and 18” rear and weighs in at just 140Kg dry which is pretty light. You get 270mm of ground clearance but you get a decent pillion seat, luggage options and generally a bit more refinement that your average dirt bike or dual sport.
The 11 litre tank could be bigger and in my view is the biggest mistake. That might be big enough for a dirt bike, but one of them at least should have had the option of a bigger fuel tank. Even 15 litres would have given it a more acceptable range. I haven’t been able to get service intervals yet, so you will have to watch the main Beta website for that information.
The Two Strokes
Beta did also bring their new 2 stroke competition bikes, which I have to say seem to get better year by year. The Beta 300 Cross Trainer is another 2 stroke that is eating into the market of bikes from the CRF300 to full on dirt bikes too. So there does seem to be a bit of a Renaissance as far as the 2 strokes are concerned, which has to be good news.
So there were some definite new additions, just not maybe coming from where you would expect.
Take out the marketing bullshit and there were actually some interesting new bikes on show.
The Big Players
However, did any of the big four Japanese manufacturers actually bring anything new?
I guess the closest was the new Honda CBR650 with Honda’s new electronic clutch, and the Yamaha XSR 900GP. There was a small electric Kawasaki too I guess, but alas, in reality, not much.
Yes we had the delivery of the new parallel twin platforms from Honda and Suzuki, but they are last years news now.
This year I have seen nothing really new come out of any of the big four’s portfolio’s.
There are rehashes and redressed versions of the same thing, and bigger or faster or different styles of the same thing, but nothing really new.
BMW and KTM are no better either.
Is it laziness?
Could it be that because they, probably more than anybody, are trying to operate within tightening world regulations?
Is it because of the downturn in the Japanese economy?
Or are they scared to step out of their comfortable position?
I will leave you to ponder that one.
Thoughts On The Market
One thing I think is very relevant to us Brits is that so many big companies didn’t even bother coming to Motorcycle Live.
There are always some missing, but not usually the big players like Moto Guzzi.
What does that say about the importance of the UK market now?
This is something I have been looking at, and in the various countries I have looked at, there does seem to be very different approaches to advertising and marketing.
From what I see, although it isn’t on the level it was in the 80s and 90s, in the US, motorcycle advertising is still a regular feature on TV and other traditional advertising. If some US viewers can let me know in the comments how that differs from State to state that would be really interesting.
In Spain, where they tend to keep their bikes for much longer than we do in the UK, you see far more brand advertising for actual motorcycles.
In France and even more so in the UK, the advertising we see is much more likely to be for accessories and upgrades than it is to be for the bikes themselves. It is used on social media more than traditional advertising like TV too. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw a TV advert for a motorcycle in the UK.
In India, in the cities, you will be hard pressed to go anywhere without seeing some advertising, and China is in a similar state.
Australia, Canada and New Zealand I am not so sure about, so again, let me know in the comments what the advertising landscape there is like if you could.
The big players in the industry think very carefully to maximise the return from their advertising spend.
Does that mean the industry in general has given up on the UK?
Could the industry itself be doing more to attract new customers and especially young riders where you live?
New Graphics And Paint
Another big bugbear of mine is graphics. I’m sorry, but new paint or graphics does not mean it’s a new bike. Its a colour variant, that’s all. Nothing more and nothing less.
I said last year in the video linked above that I thought the 400-500cc sector of the market was set to become the new battleground and it seems I have been proven right, but one question I have been asking, is why do so many bikes like the Aprilia 450 twin never make it to the UK?
Why is it that over the years, wherever we are, we just never see some models.
Think of all the old Goldwings there are in the US now, yet in the UK, finding a decent old one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Yet I know we got many bikes that would seem to have fitted the US market better.
Australia seems to be another anomaly, where different ranges entirely were launched at times.
Are these companies now too frightened of loosing sales of their bigger more expensive bikes if they release smaller capacity machines that are too capable?
Is that the reason it has taken so long to see a dirt ready 450 to 600cc twin adventure bike that weighs under 175Kg has a 21” front wheel, good suspension, decent ground clearance and space for 2?
The rule of more might make sense for manufacturers, but where will it end?
What Do Customers Want?
Who are the customers and what do they want?
In the UK the existing rider community is getting older and without putting too fine a point on it dying. In general many are now looking for smaller, lighter bikes.
Sales of sportbikes, where the riding position is extreme, fell off a cliff years ago. Sales of bigger ADV bikes have reached their peak, and advertising is at an all time low.
We also have the problem that the focus of dealers now seems on finance deals, clothing lines and “extras”, and the level of aftercare by most dealers is woeful in general.
This has all seen overall sales suffer, particularly with new younger riders.
It has also seen the rise of the Mega Dealerships and sales rooms. I use the term Mega Dealerships for places who stock multiple big brands but have few if any specialist technicians who “know the brands”, and sales rooms as those places filled by bikes bought by the “we buy your bike” companies that now seem to be everywhere.
Most, even the main dealers, simply employ fitters, not real mechanics, so outside of everyday servicing or replace and refit services they are lost. Computer diagnostics have taken over from specialist knowledge and the small specialists are finding it harder and harder.
Engines get ever more complicated to make non main-dealer servicing more difficult and electronics are often made to be dealer dependent. Yes I know there are many ways around that with some bikes, but it’s not always possible.
It all goes to make the rider less independent and more reliant on the dealerships, which again, I don’t see as a good thing.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they kept a stock of parts but they don’t. How often do you go in and ask for something to be told “yes, it will be here in seven day”, then go back and look on eBay to find you can get it cheaper and with next day delivery?
How any of this works to attract new riders, when low cost at point of entry was central to why most people chose motorbikes in the first place is beyond me.
Anyway, that is going off at a tangent, again.
What I was thinking about is what new riders want?
Watching the Industry trends. While the rest of the world gets more smaller, more economical bikes, we get bigger, more expensive, high tech bikes. Is that really what you want?
If not, the answer is simple, vote with your feet. It is amazing how fast the industry can react when it wants to.
That brings me nicely to something else I want to talk about, and I think it is very relevant.
That is the rise of what I will call bullshit marketing.
I will use the term bullshit marketing because that is what it is.
Remember the statement “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics” here. It can be applied equally well to marketing bullshit.
Its relatively easy to make something sound faster, more powerful and more alluring than it is, Advertising exec’s have been practicing their art for a long time, but the age of digital creation has given them endless new opportunities.
They have spent decades now convincing people that bigger is better. Then just made everything bigger heavier more expensive and more powerful until there are many bikes out there that are now well beyond the capabilities of the average rider.
Where will it end? Will we end up with a 4 litre V6 soon? Weighing half a ton and needing a reverse gear to get it out of the garage? Oh wait, we have them already, pretty much.
The Rule Of More
I know different markets want different things but if you look at the actual weight of motorcycles over the years, what the market calls a middleweight now is the size and weight of what the biggest bikes were just a few years ago.
I do think laziness comes into it. The conditioning they have done over the years means they think all they have to do is put a bigger number on it and we will buy it. They don’t even think they need to put a bigger engine in now.
BMW and Triumph are both using different numbers for what are essentially the same engine. If its a 900cc engine call it a 900, not an 1000 an 800 or a 700 depending on tuning. Ducati seem to have joined them now too, trying to make a 650 sound bigger than the 690 KTM by calling it a 698.
I still don’t know where that 698 number comes from.
This is a bad trend as far as I am concerned and I don’t like the way that it seems all of those companies view the intellect of their customers.
But then I remember how many people seem to fall for the hype.
More BMW Recalls?
The latest example of complete bullshit is how the new BMW 1300GS is 12Kg lighter than the 1250. Well let us look at that. The base model 1300 weighs in at 237Kg,whereas the base model 1250 was 249Kg. The new drive train is theoretically 6Kg lighter, but where has the rest of the weight change come from? Well the new 1300GS doesn’t have a centre stand fitted, so there is the first saving. It is also fitted with a Lithium battery, which saves another 2Kg. Then you loose the rear rack, passenger grab rail and a proper passenger seat, none of them are fitted to the 1300 as standard.
Using cast wheels instead of the spoked wheels of the 1250 saves more, and means you have to add the spoked wheels to the extras list. The exhaust is listed as lighter too, There is more, but look at this and you will soon see how the figures really stack up.
Take the centre stand off your 1250, swap to a lithium battery, take of the rack and passenger grab rails off and swap the exhaust for a lighter silencer and magically your 1250 will be just as light as the new 1300.
The moans list does go on too. No backlit switches and no new Brembo Stylema brakes, on a range topping bike.
Next and related. Showing pro riders doing jumps and aerial stunts on adventure bikes is ridiculous. Most are barely used to go for coffee and breakfast. We don’t have a crew of people with a spares truck to pick up the broken pieces following them; and we don’t usually have the luxury of having multiple takes for the same photo opportunity.
Most riders have nowhere near the skill levels needed to pull off the sort of stunts they make out YOU can do if you buy one of these bikes.
I once heard one of the Triumph reps say “yes, but you are selling them the dream”. Well I’m sorry, I want the reality, not a dream.
Anyway, back to the shows again.
Having said all I have said, there were some interesting bikes at EICMA and a few made it as far as Motorcycle Live.
The most exciting ones for me are mainly in the new smaller capacity middleweight sector. The CF Moto 450MT was one of the most interesting, although it seems like the weight was under-represented a little to make it stand out as lighter than its competition.
It is better equipped and more powerful than either the new Triumph 400 singles or the Royal Enfield 450 Himalayan and it has all the advantages a twin gives for road riding.
It has the 21” front wheel of the Himalayan for Off-Road and tubeless rims too. That probably makes it a better all round package than either the Triumph or Royal Enfield in my eyes.
I do like the look of the new Beta Scramblers too. They don’t look like they are quite ready to be adventure bikes yet, but they seem to be aiming for the market that the Fantic Caballero cornered so well.
With small tanks and short service intervals, they aren’t going to trouble the likes of the Tenere 700 and it’s rivals, but they are light and will be more capable off-road than any of the present Scramblers and ADV bikes. I have heard very good things about their reliability too in recent years.
How will they sit in the dual sport market place?
Given the choice of the new Himalayan, the Triumph 400X, the CF Moto 450MT and the Beta Alp 4.0, which would you choose and why?
In some ways I would say the Beta 4.0 with a bigger oil supply and longer service intervals and a bigger fuel tank would sound very interesting. I had hoped the Fantic Caballero would grow into that role, but alas it didn’t.
I would have liked to see a 450 Tuareg with less electronics, using the new Aprilia 450 twin engine, but it didn’t arrive, maybe next year.
So the CF Moto 450 twin does probably stand out as the motorcycle that attracted my attention the most at the show. The 450 twin engine should make a great ADV bike. Let us hope it is as good as the specs describe. I do just wish it had been a little lighter.
Lastly, a few things that Stood out in the wrong way.
Has no one told Moto Guzzi that it is a stupid idea to have the exhaust headers on the outside of the engine on an ADV bike? It might be a great looking bike, but it means those headers will be the first thing to get destroyed in a tumble off road. Is it me, or is that not really obvious?
Also, something else I don’t understand, when you have a practical and well selling bike, why would you completely re brand it without making any serious changes?
Yes, I’m talking about the NOT Honda CB500X which they are calling the NX500.
Why? What was the point really?
I would rather they spend the money they spent on rebranding and paying the advertising exec, on making the bike better.
Give us the Rally version people have been shouting for.
Longer travel suspension. Or making it a little lighter. Giving it tubeless spoked rims, a power up chip for after someone has passed their test and for A1 licence holders, a high level exhaust and a serious bash plate are just a few things that would make the bike better, but no, just rebrand it and put some fresh bodywork on. It’ll be OK.
Will we now get a slightly cheaper version of the Transalp with a 19” front wheel too? To lure the people who would have bought the CB500X into spending a little more?
Will the CB500X be dropped entirely? Or will we get another case of 7 bikes that are essentially 2. A CB500 and a CB500X, an NX500 and an NX500 Rally which might be interesting, and a Transalp GT and Rally to go with the standard Transalp.
Would You Buy From A Company That Thinks You Are Stupid
The next point I touched on earlier, but come on Triumph, Ducati and BMW, do you really think your customers are that dumb? Sorry, I forgot you had already answered that question.
So I will ask you, the customers a question, Would you buy a motorcycle from a company that thinks you are stupid?
So in conclusion, Ducati and KTM are taking pot shots at each others markets. Triumph and Ducati think they are the best at everything. The Japanese are content to be patient and pick up the pieces. But the Chinese are listening, so may pick all the pieces up before the Japanese get there. Just like the Japanese did with the Brits in the 1970’s.
Highlights From The Show
I do think the CF Moto 450MT and the Beta 4.0 Alp are probably the highlights of the show for me. I want a small, light, but capable ADV bike that doesn’t cost a fortune. It needs to be fine on highways and in the dirt, and have a decent passenger seat.
Am I asking too much?
Also, I know the shows are a big thing for many YouTubers, but some occasional criticism would be nice. Not just constant brown nosing. If you don’t want to see the negatives. Just watch the different companies own marketing material surely.
It would be really nice to hear something like, “The paint on these is a bit rubbish”. “Why didn’t they fit stainless brake lines”, or “these switches feel really tacky”. Something, Anything.
Rant over for today anyway.
I wonder how many of the bikes that were unveiled this year actually make it to market before the end of 2024?
We shall see I guess.
Triumph have now said the MX bike is ready. I will be doing a video about the foray of Triumph and Ducati into the MX world soon.