> By David Hilgendorf ANGLE
31, 2017, for
a chance to
win a $1,000
EVERY FALL WE look forward to motorcycle show
season, where shiny new bikes are unveiled for
the coming year. More than 100 new or heavily
updated models were announced between EICMA,
INTERMOT and U.S.-based IMS—that’s a lot of
international two-wheeled love. What’s risen from
the ashes of the 2008 industry meltdown?
With so few players, it’s easy to spot trends.
Increasingly prevalent are technological advances,
including ABS, traction control, ride-by-wire,
selectable modes, slipper clutches and LED lights.
The side effect is prices have escalated. It’s common to see a well-equipped bike surpass the price
of an entry-level automobile. No wonder so many
hipsters are driving Priuses and Souls instead of
donning three-quarter helmets and fighter-pilot
goggles. Often, they buy cheap beaters from the
70s or 80s and mangle them into something ridea-ble. Convinced the world went retro, OEMs began
pumping out café racers and scramblers.
THE CURRENT SOLUTION is platforms with
bolt-on parts, and all of the majors have them.
Yamaha’s 942cc Bolt platform started as a Sportster clone in 2013, followed by the bobber R-Spec,
now retired, café-inspired C-Spec and a new SCR
scrambler (pg. 18). BMW introduced the ret-ro-roadster R nine T in 2014, which was so successful they actually dumbed it down. By changing
components to lesser-grade parts, BMW was able
to reduce the price and chase vogue. The 1170cc
boxer receives both scrambler (pg. 18) and café
racer packages as well as the self-inspired retro
Urban G/S and a naked roadster named Pure—five
models sharing the same underpinnings. BMW
also announced its first sub-$5,000 G 310 R (pg.
28), which receives its first costume in the quick to
follow G 310 GS, a mini adventure bike. If the 310
platform brings in the targeted entry-level customers, we will wager on the next two stylizations.
Ducati is surprisingly specific in naming its
platform Scrambler. The 803cc motor powers six
configurations, if we’re counting the repackaged
Monster 797. Scrambler also wraps the smaller
displacement 399cc Sixty2. For 2017, reimaging
includes the true off-road suspended Scrambler
Desert Sled and—surprise—a café racer.
One of the originators of scramblers and café
racers is still playing the game. Building off the
success of last year’s 900cc Street Twin, Triumph
has rounded out the “Street” platform with the
retro T100 and, you guessed it, the Scrambler and
Cup (café racer). Are we following the trend yet?
FOR THE ANSWER to why so many new models
and platforms, we look no further than Euro4,
which requires emission reductions of roughly
half. It is every manufacturer’s dream to build
“world bikes.” That means a bike saleable in every
country with minimal modification. The requirement for all bikes sold in Europe to be Euro4
compliant by Jan. 1, 2017, meant most manufacturers had to update their engines, controllers and
emission systems, while simultaneously reducing
overall noise and hydrocarbon release, including
fuel vapor. The good news for OEMs is Euro4 is so
restrictive that meeting the standard means bikes
should pass requirements globally, including the
notoriously strict California Air Resources Board
(CARB). The bad news is building new platforms,
or updating old ones, is prohibitively expensive.
Don’t think for a moment that the recently
released Milwaukee-Eight engine was Harley’s
eagerness to change—its hand was forced. Emissions regulations were the death of the two-stroke,
carburetor and without doubt, sometime in the
near future, air-cooling. Technology like fuel injection, variable valve timing, ride-by-wire and giant
exhaust systems all help improve efficiency, which
is partly why the price creep continues.
Euro5 is right around the corner, in 2020. We’re
eagerly anticipating the next 100 new bikes—
hopefully they aren’t all scramblers. MCN