11/11/2011 2011 Milan Motorcycle Show: Best of Show
At the EICMA in Milan, the two-wheeled industry is showing its new models for 2012, including some unusual and varied concepts. Classic Driver has had a look around the world's largest motorcycle show and brings you the ‘Best of Show’.
Those looking for the transport of the future might not need to look any further than the motorcycle: simple, nimble, economical, fast – and already around for more than 100 years. At the 69th EICMA in Milan, you can see where the industry is heading – and more importantly, what will be the fashions of the coming season. Following in the wake of the global economic crisis, the European brands have once again taken up their position at the forefront of the industry, and in some cases have improved on their pre-recession form. Flagship brands such as BMW, Ducati and Triumph have set themselves bold strategic goals and have developed new, sometimes revolutionary models, but have also revisited their own histories. At the same time, the sector has been enlivened by the small factories and custom workshops which have sprouted like mushrooms here at the autumn Italian fair. And the image of a ‘biker’ has changed, too: a few years ago, the term would conjour up thoughts of bearded, leather-clad men; but now, riding a motorcycle is suddenly a fashionable lifestyle statement.
The biggest star of the show also made the shortest journey: the new Ducati 1199 Panigale (named after the district of Bologna where Ducati is headquartered) is the superbike of the season. Equipped with an all-new Superquadro V-Twin engine boasting an impressive 192bhp, the Panigale weighs just 164kg and has all the latest race-derived electronic gadgetry, leaving it with no serious rival. Deliveries will start at the beginning of 2012, with basic, sports or Tricolore specifications offered. In addition to the flagship bike, Ducati will show its Streetfighter derivation of the 848, and Chromo and AMG versions of the successful Diavel model. Classic Driver also interviewed Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio to find out the Italian marque’s plans beyond the new range additions.
The legendary, but rather small Italian motorcycle brand MV Agusta is also prominently represented in Milan: inside a glamorous pavilion you can admire the new F3 675 in its full glory. The three-cylinder superbike with its eponymous 675cc engine delivers 126bhp, plus top speed of around 160mph. The new F3 appears first as a desirable special edition ‘Gold Series’. The second important EICMA debut is the MV Agusta Brutale 675.
Moto Guzzi’s display comprises a successful coupling of vintage chic and modern two-cylinder technology. Shown alongside the V7 Classic and seventies-styled V7 Café Classic is the V7 Racer, whose colour scheme captures the attention of anyone in the vicinity. Also new on the Moto Guzzi stand is the revised Stelvio road bike, which can be seen in Milan alongside the NTX 1200 8V.
At Husqvarna, we meet Adrian van Hooydonk who – as Design Director at BMW – is responsible for the Swedish subsidiary’s product development. The brand is positioned in the niche between motocross and road, summarised by the MOAB Scrambler study – a convincing tribute to the off-road machines of the sixties and seventies. Above all, though, there’s the famous Husqvarna 400, on which Steve McQueen rode during the movie On Any Sunday and which recently sold for 144,500 U.S. dollars. The celebrated 400 was the inspiration for the concept study, with its off-road tyres, long bench seat, and straight and wide handlebars.
When it comes to large and comfortable machines, BMW has been sitting firmly in the saddle for many years. Now it also plans to further explore the promising scooter segment; demand for small and nimble scooters has grown in recent years thanks to increased urban traffic and rising fuel costs. At the EICMA, BMW presents two large scooters in the form of the C600 Sport and the more comfortable C650 GT. Both are equipped with newly developed two-cylinder engines with 647cc and a CVT transmission to transfer the 59bhp. In addition to the scooter, BMW also shows off its ‘real’ bikes such as the technically revised S1000 RR supersports, and facelifted F800 R roadster, as well as various special editions.
While BMW remains at the forefront, British manufacturer Triumph stakes its claim for the cross-touring market with the Triumph Tiger Explorer. And while Husqvarna looks to benefit from the current hype surrounding the McQueen name, Triumph’s ‘Steve McQueen Edition’ of its T100 Bonneville makes its formal debut, inspired by the TR6 from the ‘The Great Escape’. The military khaki matte paint and other features will grace just 1,100 copies of the limited-edition machine. The ‘naked’ R version of the Speed Triple can also be seen in all its glory for the first time.
Harley-Davidson is still very much regarded as the epitome of American motorcycling, and presents four new 2012 models in Milan. Three of them – namely the Road Glide Custom, Street Glide Softail Convertible and Ultra Classic Electra Glide – are products of Custom Vehicle Operations, or CVO. All CVO models are powered by a twin-cam 1800cc engine with a cheerful 110lb ft of torque, available exclusively in this series. Also making debut appearances are the V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition and the Dyna Switchback.
Custom-made in Italy: Borile, CR&S, Headbanger
The EICMA is also a good opportunity for smaller Italian manufacturers to present their offerings to the world. An interesting concept is that offered by Borile – manufacturer of retro-modern scrambler bikes with Ducati technology – a series of aluminium frames for on-and off-road use that are sold without a motor and given the name ‘Bastard’ (yes, really). CR&S also has some equally impressive machinery on its stand, in the form of its limited-number muscle bikes which are hand-made in its Milanese factory. An impressive example of this work is the DUU model: that's Milanese dialect and means ‘two’ – two litres (1916cc), two cylinders and two seats. Meanwhile, Italy’s answer to Harley-Davidson is present in the form of Headbanger Motorcycles, which has a display populated by innumerable stand-girls.
Electric Avenue: Brammo, Evolve, Zero Motorcycles
As well as its increasing prevalence in the car industry, electric propulsion is also finding its way onto two-wheels – particularly in the U.S., where interest is growing fast. Founded in 2002, Oregon-based manufacturer Brammo has brought its whole collection to Milan, including electric racing machines and a cutaway model, as well as its forthcoming road models: Enertia Plus, Empulse, Engage and Encite. The latter two are the first production electric motorcycles with a gearbox: a six-speed unit operated with a conventional clutch lever. Zero Motorcycles in California is also committed to emission-free riding and shows its series models with electric drive, which promises a range of more than 100 miles. However, the electric manufacturer likely to grab the most headlines is Evolve Motorcycles, which makes real-life electric scooters but also revealed its roadworthy Tron-style sci-fi motorbike to stir up attention in Milan.
Scooterama: Vespa, Piaggio, LML
We are in Italy, so we are obliged to visit the booths of the big scooter manufacturers, whose products dominate the street scene – and indeed the urban background noise – from Milan to Palermo. Vespa’s retro models are ever-present, as you would expect. The Quarantasei concept stands out above all, with wasp-like styling that leans heavily on the Vespa MP6 prototype of 1946. It’s business as usual for Vespa’s parent company Piaggio, which remains focused on the contemporary scooter look. The final surprise comes courtesy of Indian general importer LML, which has a collection of multi-coloured scooters that look like Smarties – but probably cost rather more.