The first international show of the fall has come and is now gone. Intermot in Cologne is the first on a series of fall shows where motorcycle manufacturers display their new line up to the public and provide us the dots we connect to make sense about market trends. And as a first shot on making connections, if Intermot is representative of what will take place in EICMA in Italy in early November and AIMExpo in Florida in a couple of weeks, the adventure segment certainly shows health as represented by technology upgrades on motorcycles, it shows expansion with new models, and strength with a few models being upgraded to become more dirt oriented.
But to understand what we should celebrate on the adventure world we need to look beyond the major disappointments so far, which is what we did not see yet and maybe won’t see at all this year. A good portion of the adventure public has had lofty expectations for something really new and exciting in the Adventure world. We talk here about the holly grail of the adventure/enduro world, that multi-cylinder, lighter weight, road capable but very dirt oriented motorcycle. That is what the heavily speculated New Africa Twin from Honda promised to be if rumored specs became reality.
The New Africa Twin rumor is followed closely by rumors of a new mid-size Ténéré from Yamaha. The result is that none of these two highly anticipated motorcycles materialized at Intermot. They remain unattainable dreams so far.
The Adventurization of Sport Touring Motorcycles
Going past these two failed expectations, however, we see an adventure segment showing health and growth. Its borders expand with the “adventurization” of a few sport touring bikes. One example is Honda’s VFR800X, the Crossrunner. Although it remains a road motorcycle, it has gained suspension travel, more upright ergonomics, and the typical electronic aids associated with adventure touring motorcycles. Unfortunately this motorcycle is not likely to be ridden on American soil.
Another example of “adventurization” of motorcycles is what Kawasaki has done to its Versys line. Both the 650cc parallel twin and 1000cc in-line-four models went through an overall revision for the 2015 model year, with the final result showing both bikes with a more adventure stance. The 650cc parallel twin Versys lost that funny looking front-end, where the bike seemed to be unsure what it really wanted to be. The parallel-twin engine has been revised, producing more horsepower and improved fuel economy. There is talk about increased suspension travel as well, but we can’t confirm that at this time. We will know more about this bike at the AIMExpo next week, where it is expected to be officially announced for the American market.
The 1000 cc Versys has also been revised to become a bit more adventure oriented, including more suspension travel and wind protection. No changes to the four-in-line motor, we hear. Now what matters for us in the United States is that this bike is expected to be available in our market for the first time in 2015. Again, we will know more about it at AIMExpo in Florida a week from now.
More Technology and Larger Displacement in the Adventure Category
The 1290 Super Adventure confirms KTM’s trend toward road oriented adventure motorcycles. It is a gigantic beast with a large tank of almost 8 gallons. It has the largest displacement motor of all adventure motorcycles. The 1290 (1301cc) motor is nearly identical to that in the Super Duke. It includes revisions for better rideability which is the usual case for an adventure application. Therefore the Super Duke’s 180HP is translated to 160HP on the Super Adventure. KTM claims it weighs 549 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride.
This bike is expected to pack the most comprehensive suite of electronic rider aids so far on adventure motorcycles. It includes semi-active suspension, for example, with a suspension control unit adjusting damping on the fly, similar to what is available on the 1190 Adventure. It comes with four MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control) modes available: Rain, Sport, Street and Off-road along with the same “Off” setting available on the 1190 for those that wish to ride without traction control. It’s got KTM’s MSC, the lean-sensitive, Bosch ABS system, first introduced in the 2014 1190 Adventure – and I believe no other Adventure motorcycle offers this feature yet.
There’s also a Tire Pressure Monitoring System and something new to the KTM line, an optional Hill Hold Control. This feature senses when the bike is on a slope at a standstill, keeping the brakes engaged until throttle is applied and the bike begins to move forward, preventing the bike from rolling backwards. This bike is likely to go head to head with the R1200GS Adventure in terms of size, rider aids, fuel range, and application. But perhaps it will also compete with the Ducati MTS 1200 in terms of rider aids, horse power and also road performance. The advantage of the KTM 1290 with respect to the Ducati is that it comes with spoked wheels, giving it more flexibility for off pavement applications.
We don’t know yet what the revised 2015 Ducati Multistrada (see more information further down this post) will offer besides increased horse power, but it is likely to remain a more compact and agile package for on road spirited riding than the KTM Super Adventure.
More Dirt Orientated Adventure Bikes
On our biased perspective we like adventure motorcycles that to do well on dirt roads, therefore we are glad to have found out from Intermot that a few motorcycles have become more dirt oriented. In specific we want to mention the Suzuki V-Strom which is now available with spoked wheels.
This bike has come a long way. From its awkward street looks in the 2004-2011 models, it started looking more rugged starting with the 2012 model, and now for the 2015 model year it finally has the XT version, the most adventure version so far when we consider it now comes with spoked wheels. And it also comes with a beak… Why, one would ask? We don’t have an answer for that except to say that back in the late 80’s its predecessor, the Suzuki DR Big, had a beak. Anyway, priced competitively for a spoked wheels bike, the V-Strom 650XT is now a stronger entry level in the multi-cylinder adventure motorcycle market, targeting people with more serious off pavement ambitions.
On the higher end of the spectrum, another more bike that has been upgraded for the dirt is Aprilia’s Caponord which now has the Rally version, “suitable for any trip, ready for any terrain” according to Piaggio’s site.
Among the upgrades, the critical one is spoked rims, including a 19″ size on the front! This brings this bike on level with the BMW R1200GS, Yamaha Super Ténéré, Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX, and KTM 1190 Adventure Standard, all have spoked wheels with the front being a 19 inch wheel. Other changes include new hard panniers with aluminium covers, new oversized windshield, new engine guards, supplementary LED lights. And new colors and paint schemes identifying the bike as the Aprilia Caponord Rally.
These bikes come with the suite of electronics of the previous Caponord models including ride-by-wire with three engine maps, traction control, cruise control and ABS (can be disengaged). It also includes the semi-active ADD (Aprilia Dynamic Damping) suspension system, using skyhook algorithms and acceleration driven damping strategies.
Not revealed at the Intermot, but rumored for EICMA, there is the BMW S1000XR, a more upright version of the S1000R. Not quite an adventure motorcycle, this sport tourer is knocking at the shed’s door of some of us who favor more upright ergonomics on motorcycles and the capacity to carry gear for multiple-day trips. It will likely compete with some of so-called sport/touring/adventure bikes such as the Multistrada.
Talking about it, another rumor on the sport touring side of the adventure gamma of motorcycles is a revision to the Ducati Multistrada. Although it seems as it will keep the general dimensions and profile of the current Multistrada, it is expected to be a new motorcycle, starting with the introduction of variable valve timing (VVT) to its Testastretta motor. Ducati is referring to it as DVT. One can assume there will be an increase in horsepower and fuel economy as a result of VVT, perhaps enough to keep up with the 160HP of the announced 1290 KTM Super Adventure or gets closer to the anticipated horsepower of the speculated BMW S1000XR.
Ducati has announced this revised Multistrada will be unveiled on October 15th, just a few days from today. There is also fairly strong talk about the showing of a KTM 1050 Adventure motorcycle at EICMA. Not much is known about this motorcycle at the time we write this post, but one would expect it will fill the void left by the KTM 990 Adventure. Following on that reasoning, we would expect it to be lighter and more dirt worthy than the 1190.
Not for 2015 but giving an idea about what is next from Triumph there is a spec sheet circulating on the internet as a summary of points from a survey Triumph sent to Tiger owners asking them about their interest on specific features for upgrades to the Tiger 800XC. It indicates Triumph is revamping its Tiger line up soon, perhaps for 2016. Just to summarize, it indicates Triumph is considering adjustable WP suspension, ride-by-wire, riding modes, traction control, and increased fuel economy (probably associated with a specific riding mode).
The Tiger 800XC lags the BMW F800GS on items associated with dirt manners and the available electronic package on the F800GS (traction control, riding modes, etc). If the specs documented on this sheet becomes reality, the Tiger 800 on its XCR and XCR Adventure version will likely match the BMW F800GS in terms of the electronic rider’s aids. And it will surpass the BMW on the suspension department if the “Adj WP” item on the spec sheet indicates adjustable forks. The question is if and when this will happen.
The Star of Intermot 2o14
In our opinion, there was no competition, the star of the Intermot was Ducati’s Scrambler. This bike energized the segment, even if we can’t quite claim this motorcycle is an adventure bike. But this bike represents something new, exciting and desirable.
The bike comes in four versions. The Urban-Enduro version is the more adventure-oriented version.
The Scrambler shows Ducati remains a vibrant motorcycle company looking to expand the boundaries of its product line. The base model, the Scrambler Icon, priced at $8,495 for the red and $8,595 for the yellow, together with its campaign theme where it describes the bike as “inventive, youthful and free-spirited, the new Ducati Scrambler is much more than a bike, it’s a land of joy, freedom and self-expression,” it shows Ducati is going after new customers for its products and with that possibly bringing new customers to the motorcycle industry overall.
That is, Ducati’s marketing campaign for this bike is likely to attract new riders to the market and the Scrambler is likely going to not only be the first Ducati, but the first motorcycle for many. Contextual evidence to this is the released video about this bike titled “The Land of Joy,” which does not offer a hint of engine noise, for example.
And any of the officially released material about this bike, up to its unveiling in the Intermot, has never shown technical or motor specifications. It was probably not deemed important when what matters is what this bike intends to represent. It is something new for Ducati and perhaps something never approached this strongly in the motorcycle industry since Honda’s “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign. And to us the Scrambler campaign itself brings it to the top of what’s new in the adventure world.
And beyond Ducati and the Scrambler motorcycle itself, the Scrambler campaign showed a line of products such as clothing and riding gear, which are likely to sell well creating a strong presence for the Scrambler brand within Ducati. You can say it is a detour from the leading technological edge Ducati represents in the motorcycle industry. But you can’t say it is not a great marketing campaign. As a result I want a Ducati Scrambler. I know I will only buy one Scrambler T-shirt, or two, and will stay clear of Scrambler branded riding jacket or gloves or helmet… But I can see those items becoming popular.
Anyway, Intermot was interesting, we learned a few things from it, and we anticipate there is more to come in a few days at the AIMExpo in Florida. And a lot more to come at EICMA in Italy in early November. Soon we will know about the new Multistrada and we still keep our hopes up for something more dirt oriented from Honda or Yamaha, if not this year then certainly next year. We embrace change and are interested in what the motorcycle industry will bring next to the adventure market.