Milan 2015 was, as usual, a glossy show that kept its promise as the world’s top motorcycle show. You’ve already seen and read about the most important motorcycles shown at the show. Here now are trends that spanned manufacturers and segments.
1. Exhausts that stick out
We were a bit floored when the KTM press kit said that the KTM RC390 had been endowed with ride by wire for 2016. Wait, what? I rushed to ask if the bike had traction control. No. Then what else? Turns out it gets an exhaust relocated in the traditional side mounted position where it sweeps up aft of the fairing (which is also new at the bottom). Then I spotted exhausts like this on many, many other bikes – like the Ducati 959 Panigale. How did the mass centralised under-engine exhaust fall out of flavour?
Blame forthcoming Euro4 norms. A source told us that KTM is simply getting ahead of a steep curve and ride by wire will shortly appear in a lot more motorcycles and not orange ones. The simplest explanation we got was that RBW can offer a tiny bit more control over the ride experience and a lot more control over combustion and hence, emissions. We are told the new RC feels a little more direct and crisp to ride but only sensitive riders will notice the difference.
More importantly, the hardware needed to meet the norms adds a small amount of weight and can no longer be contained in the space under the engine. Expect more Euro 4 bikes to start sprouting side slung exhausts.
Clearly Ducati were on to something with the Scrambler. In a year, the skinny Italian retrocycle has peers in every corner. Ducati themselves had a 400cc Scrambler on display but it wasn’t the only one. Benelli showed off the Leoncino, a famous name in their history, that makes a return as a 500cc twin-cylinder scrambler.
A slew of Chinese brands also showed off knobblied retro dirt bikes adding to the gathering momentum at the cheap end of the spectrum.
Lest we forget the Triumph Scrambler continued without updates but you will be able to procure the Scrambler Inspiration Kit that turns the new Street Twin into a Scrambler-a-like.
3. Cafe Racers
They’re very cool, still. The bee Thruxton leads the class from the front with its promise of power and the slick, modern design. But it was far from the only one. Dash motorcycles showed a handful of small displacement cafe racers from 125 to 250cc while HP Corse showed this outrageously attractive Yamaha XS-based cafe racer.
4. Smaller displacement adventure tourers
While KTM more or less told us point blank that the 390 Adventure project wasn’t likely to finish any time soon – that’s a separate story – other bikes held a lot of promise. Unfortunately that’s for the class more than for Indian riders.
The most famous of the lot – and a bike we will get more or less for certain – is the Benelli TRK 502. This shares the engine with the Leoncino but runs totally different gearbox, gearing and chassis equipment. It looks very imposing in the flesh and I suspect that if Benelli nail the engineering, it’ll be a terrific motorcycle for India touring. Fingers crossed.
I also spotted an equally great looking machine at the SWM stall, again a machine that blended an approachable power and seat height to the top-end mass and silhouette of an adventure tourer.
What seems pretty clear apart from the need to respond to the tightening emissions norms is that the top-end motorcycle’s powerful appeal and aura isn’t the sole driving force in the motorcycle world anymore. Manufacturers are taking smaller motorcycles a lot more seriously and less performance orientated classes, like the hipster-mobiles and the adventure tourer are hoping to pull a new class of riders into the market.