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Common Tread

INTERMOT 2014: Random observations from the floor

Oct 01, 2014

After the first day at INTERMOT, my brain was fried, and my neck was sore from the number of times my head snapped in a different direction to try to take it all in. So without much formality, here are some thoughts and observations on a few of the new bikes that dominated attention in the early going.

The unavoidable Kawasaki H2R

I might as well talk about the Kawasaki H2R first, because trying to avoid it is like trying not to notice the giant Transformer smashing cars and apartment buildings on your city block. In fact, if you’re a nut for the Transformers movies and have a Lamborghini Aventador as your iPad wallpaper, then you will love the H2R.

Personally? Maybe I’m a little cynical these days, but when I see promotional hype to this level, I wonder if the company has realized it should have built something else. Even Formula One banned the tacked-on carbon fiber wings. For the well-heeled track-day rider, all I see are expensive bits to get snagged, chipped and broken just getting the damn thing out of the garage.

On the other hand, the thought of supercharging in smaller engines has me very interested. And I suppose Kawasaki’s plan is a shrewd way to introduce the concept: Start by building a monster that blows everything else out of the box, and you get attention. Then, a year later, you build attainable versions of the same technology. Maybe even a super-economical, hyper-mileage commuter (which would have gotten a yawn, if built first). Kawasaki built brand equity by going the most nutter of nuttiness. Smart.

I don’t expect to see many H2Rs, but I’m sure you’ll see millions of downloads for that wallpaper.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 and 650

So while the crowd is drooling over H2R carbon fiber, there’s this other bike off to the side that keeps catching my eye. It has nice angular looks, without resembling a Transformer (sorry H2R), and I notice the adjustability of the wind screen, the hand guards, comfortable and upright seating that puts you in control. Self, I tell myself, this is a bike I would be happy to take around the world.

Everyone wants a picture of the H2R. But then they go throw a leg over the Versys 1000.

BMW R 1200 R and R 1200 RS

There’s a similar phenomenon in the BMW display.

The first bike introduced is the R 1200 R. The presentation is highly efficient, in true German style. BMW could have just slapped a round headlight on the new roadster. Or just used the asymmetrical lights off the S 1000 RR. Instead, the R 1200 R gets its own lights. It’s a small thing, but it shows that BMW is optimizing the details, instead of taking the easy route.

The R 1200 R has set its sights on challenging the Ducati Monster contingent. This motorcycle is more muscular in its stance and is more brutish than you have ever seen from a BMW R series. BMW wants to steal the Ducati’s lunch, and take his girlfriend, too.

While the roadster got more attention, I think there’s significance to the second bike BMW introduced, the R 1200 RS. How about a little historical perspective? When BMW started building K bikes, some feared the iconic air-cooled boxer twin would disappear, victim of tighter emissions regulations. Instead, BMW invested in modernizing the boxer. The "oilhead" engine appeared just over 20 years ago, and in what model did it debut? The half-faired, sport-touring R 1100 RS. That was also the first boxer to have the Telelever front end.

2015 BMW R 1200 RS
The 2015 BMW R 1200 RS is a significant new model. Photo by Ed Wildman.

While the RS version has importance for BMW historically, that importance has dwindled in recent years. The last RS was the 2001-2005 R 1150 RS, which looked a little staid and didn’t offer any advantage over its RT sibling. The new RS is much sportier, and takes styling cues from the uber-successful S 1000 RR. And the Telelever is gone, ditched in favor of a standard inverted fork.

I love how aggressive BMW went with the look of the R 1200 RS. Only Aprilia makes a three-quarter-fairing bike that looks more aggressive and sporty.

Then there’s the S 1000 RR. Hmmm. The shark gills are tighter. The exhaust can keeps getting bigger, ensuring sales of aftermarket units. And… Let’s face it. The S 1000 RR was a landmark statement bike for BMW. But that’s another year’s news.

That’s a few observations from my first day at Intermot. I’ll be back later with a look at some of the new gear being introduced.