Common Tread

TeamZilla's 2018 moto predictions

Dec 19, 2017

By now you know the drill: Every year we predict what we expect to see in the motorcycle world and every year the universe humbles us by handing us a different future. Nevertheless, we persist.

So let's get straight to it.

Spurgeon’s predictions for 2018

Yamaha introduces a middleweight ADV bike. If this prediction looks familiar to you, it should. It’s the same prediction that started off my 2017 list. While we saw a new prototype released this year as an evolutionary step over the T7 concept, there is still no production version available. There is no way we won’t see a production version introduced in 2018 as a 2019 model.

Yamaha XSR700
The Yamaha XSR700 was one of the neo-retro models of 2017. Spurgeon expects to see a competitor from Kawasaki. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Kawasaki introduces a retro-themed Z650. Naked bikes are hot. Retro naked bikes are even hotter. Kawasaki took a page out of Yamaha’s playbook with the release of the Z900RS, a classically styled motorcycle built on the same engine in the Z900. It's a similar approach to what we saw with the release of the XSR900 which mirrored the foundational elements of the FZ-09. I expect to see a Z650RS introduced to combat Yamaha’s XSR700, which I tested last month.

Motorcycle sales continue to decline in America. For most retailers, Christmas is boomtime for sales, but for most motorcycle dealers that pop has already come and gone for 2017 and the outcome doesn’t look great. While you might argue that if folks aren’t buying new it’s because they’re buying used, that doesn’t help out the OEMs that are trying to figure out how to move units in today’s economy. This is a prediction I’ll gladly take an “F” on next year from Lance, as I would love to be proved wrong in this particular instance.

Triumph Street Triple RS
Spurgeon loved the Triumph Street Triple RS, especially when he taped it up and took it to the track. Now he expects to see a sport-touring RT version in the coming year. RevZilla photo.

Triumph finally releases a sport-tourer based on their Street Triple line. With the introduction of the new 765 cc engine in the Street Triple, many thought we would also see a sport-touring version introduced. When it didn’t arrive, Lance was so upset he locked himself in his garage and vowed he wouldn’t come out until Triumph remedied this oversight. He eventually got hungry and gave up his protest, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us still aren’t hopeful we’ll see this bike become reality in 2018 (as a 2019 model).

Valentino Rossi 1997
Valentino Rossi won his first world championship 20 years ago. Does he have another one in him? Aprilia photo.

Long-shot prediction: Rossi claims one last championship before retirement. When news of Rossi’s broken leg erupted over the internet, a collective groan went up from fans around the world who were holding out hope for a comeback this year. While I know the outlook is far-fetched for a 2018 championship win, I’m going long this year with my hopes for a victory for 46, as his age gets dangerously close to his number.

Come to think of it, Lemmy is pretty close to old man Rossi’s age. What do you say, Lemmy?

Lemmy’s predictions for 2018

Suzukis get real cheap. Suzuki doesn’t appear to have any crazy-fresh models to roll out for 2018. With that said, I am betting their bikes can be had a little cheaper (in the dealership, not on the sticker) than the competition’s, if you want a current-year model.

Kawasaki Z900RS
The Kawasaki Z900RS is probably the most interesting neo-retro model yet. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Retros sell like crazy… to the wrong customers. They’re all the rage. Modern bikes that ride nicely and don’t break down, dressed in the fashionable styles of yesteryear… it all seems so appealing. And it is. The problem is that their intended audience simply isn’t buying them in droves. Rather than attract the very young motorcyclists, it looks like retros do sell in considerable numbers to aging riders looking to remember their youth a bit. It might not happen in 2018 all at once, but I think we’ll see the neo-retro throwback bike replace the full-dress garbage wagon as the “old guy” bike of choice.

Versys at Hawks Nest
Now that it's been everywhere, will Lance finally stop being a cheapskate and replace his old Versys? Photo by Lance Oliver.
Demo rides become a thing. Dealers are going to start caving on this. They have to. Incidentally, you guys can rally behind this prediction and make it clear to your dealer that you’re not buying a bike you haven’t ridden. #goodforallofus

Long-shot prediction: Lance buys a bike. He’s been sniffing around. What he wants is a 300-pound, 100-horse bike, with a sporty riding position, good upper fairing, shaft drive, three or more cylinders, and it can’t cost more than six grand new. OK, so I may be exaggerating a few [Ed.: or all] of those figures. But he is shopping. He’s the only Common Tread staffer to not have a single bike change in his garage in his entire tenure here, so the time seems ripe. And despite the fact his Versys runs like a top, every time he talks about it he sounds so tired of that motorcycle. I give it a 50/50 chance… long enough to be a long shot.

And that brings us to:

Lance’s predictions for 2018

Jake Gagne
Good news: Jake Gagne has a World Superbike ride for 2018. Bad news: It's on a Honda. Geocrash photo.

Honda doesn’t build a V4 Superbike, doesn’t support Superbike race teams and U.S. riders suffer. In the second half of 2017, there wasn’t a single U.S. rider racing full-time in either MotoGP or World Superbike. The good news is that will change in 2018 with both Jake Gagne and P.J. Jacobsen getting World Superbike rides. The bad news is they’ll both be on Hondas. It’s a mystery to me why Honda, a company with a long history of taking no prisoners in the pursuit of race wins, has been so uninterested in tossing a few measly performance parts to the WSBK and MotoAmerica teams racing their bikes while still willingly spending eleventy bazillion euros on MotoGP. Running around in 10th place can’t be helping CBR1000RR sales. Meanwhile, every year some publication predicts Honda is going to come out with a V4 Superbike that’ll blow everyone away and it never happens. I hope I’m wrong, for the sake of Jake and P.J. and all the talented U.S. racers trying to follow them into the big time, but I don’t expect any of that to change in 2018. Wild card: WSBK has a new rules plan aimed a creating closer competition through any means necessary, by penalizing winners and helping losers, so maybe they will force Honda to the front.

Victory was one of the fallen soldiers in 2017. More casualties are predicted for 2018. Victory photo.

Financial stress: Another shoe drops in 2018. In this article a year ago, none of us predicted that Polaris would shut down the Victory brand, but it happened less than a month later. In November, Motorsports Aftermarket Group, which owns 19 different brands, filed for bankruptcy to reorganize. The U.S. motorcycle market is not growing and corporations and individuals alike have piled on debt, encouraged by historically low interest rates. On the consumer side, as income inequality grows and real incomes stagnate, the stress shows up in various ways. Harley-Davidson Financial Services has seen delinquencies steadily rising since 2010. Meanwhile, some motorcycle loan lenders are following the example of the car world and extending loan terms (now as long as seven years) and Ducati is even trying the idea of leasing ($99 a month for a Scrambler Icon), all in the name of getting the monthly payment down to a level people can afford. If these signs of stress are showing up now, what happens when the next recession hits? I’m not smart enough to know who it will be, but I predict we’ll see at least one more high-profile bankruptcy reorganization or a business shut down in 2018 that will take us by surprise and further reveal the stress fractures in the industry’s foundation.

An embarrassingly thin MotoAmerica grid somewhere, sometime. The worst roadrace of 2017 was a MotoAmerica Superstock 600 last chance qualifier at New Jersey Motorsports Park which had two starters and zero finishers (one broke down, one crashed). MotoAmerica has revamped its classes for 2018 and, fortunately, eliminated Superstock 600 and those last chance qualifier races. But the end result of the changes will be five races per day instead of four. Where will the additional racers come from to fill the grid on another class? I predict we’ll see some thin lineups somewhere during the season that make the series look bad.

Marvin Musquin and KTM team
Marvin Musquin became just the second rider to win the $1 million Monster Energy Cup prize. Can he convert that momentum into a Supercross championship? KTM photo.

The best Supercross season in years. Last year, I predicted a new winner would take the Monster Energy Supercross championship in the 450 class, and instead we got the eighth straight year with a champ named Ryan. With the Ryans (Villopoto and Dungey) retired, this year it’s a safe bet we’ll have a first-time champ. The favorites each have a question to answer. Can Ken Roczen come back from the horrible injury he suffered last year and the subsequent multiple surgeries? Will Eli Tomac find the consistency he needs to go with his unquestioned speed? Will Marvin Musquin be able to build on his impressive momentum that dates back to the end of the last SX season and extends right up through his $1 million win at the Monster Energy Cup in October? This is Supercross, so there’s always the chance injuries will rob us of a three-way (or more) title fight, and Tomac is a solid favorite, but I predict we’ll see multiple winners and contenders in the best title fight we’ve had this decade.

Long-shot prediction: Indian puts the Scout FTR1200 into production. Lemmy breaks down at his desk and weeps semi-muffled sobs of joy, Spurgeon wets himself, and Common Tread readers everywhere check their FICO scores and make an appointment with their loan officers. For the first time, I actually look at an Indian and can imagine owning it, but I don’t buy one because I’m a cheap bastard (see Lemmy’s long-shot prediction above) and because the lines are too long at Indian dealerships. OK, so all that is hyperbole, but I’m going to put it down here anyway just to try to encourage Indian not to back out. Given Polaris’ record of getting us excited and then disappointing us with stale leftovers, however, I have to make it a long-shot prediction.