Report card: How many 2016 predictions we got wrong

Dec 07, 2016

It’s report card time.

A year ago, Lemmy, Spurgeon and I predicted what we’d see in the moto world in 2016. With a firm belief that there’s not enough accountability in the world, I’m revisiting those predictions and handing out grades.

My wife is a college professor, so I understand the concept of grade inflation. There’ll be none of that here at Common Tread. The only time I grade on a curve is when I measure how long it takes me to get through the carousel at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on my latest track day. (Answer: always too damn long.)

Recall that we each made several predictions and one long-shot prediction. Here’s how we did.

Lemmy’s predictions

Lemmy has already informed me he expects to see nothing but the letter A on his report card. He’s going to be disappointed.

Prediction: Spurgeon doesn’t build a bike.
Grade: B
Analysis: It’s true that Lemmy is technically correct (see the photo from Spurgeon's garage above). Spurgeon’s “projects” remained untouched except for moving day. But come on, this was a pretty easy prediction to make, based on past performance. Too easy to deserve an A.

Prediction: No diesel bikes.
Grade: B
Analysis: Again, technically right. Again, easy prediction. Gee, here we are almost to 2017 and there’s not one motorcycle you can buy straight from the manufacturer with a really good espresso machine mounted on the rear luggage rack (it's available from the aftermarket, however). And outside of Lemmy Mountain, there’s probably more demand for that than diesel bikes.

Prediction: No national law approving lanesplitting.
Grade: B
Analysis: Lemmy’s still right, and still not going out on a limb.

Suzuki SV650
Spurgeon tests the resurrected Suzuki SV650. Photo by Adam Campbell.

Prediction: The Suzuki SV650 “returns to dominate.”
Grade: Incomplete
Analysis: “Dominate” is a word subject to interpretation. I personally suspect the revived SV650 is not going to outsell the Yamaha FZ-07 and the new Kawasaki Z650, and certainly not by a wide enough margin to get credit for domination. We’ll have to see sales numbers to know for sure.

Milwaukee-Eight engine cutaway
Inside the new Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight engine. RevZilla photo.

Long-shot prediction: Harley-Davidson unveils a new Big Twin.
Grade: A-
Analysis: Lemmy's grade would have been lower except for the fact that some of his best work in 2016 was about the new Milwaukee-Eight engine. His grade would have been higher if he hadn't made this his long-shot prediction and basically said he didn’t really believe it would happen.

Spurgeon’s predictions

Prediction: Lemmy builds a motorcycle, I don’t.
Grade: No credit
Analysis: Yes, it’s true that Spurgeon’s project bikes remain unfinished. But sorry, Spurgeon. If you can make your own prediction come true simply by doing nothing, you get no credit.

Prediction: Retro does not go away.
Grade: A-
Analysis: Spurgeon certainly was right. If anything, he underestimated the new retro-styled models we’d see this year, from BMW, Ducati, Triumph, Yamaha, etc. I give him an A- instead of an A because he also predicted that a small-displacement retro model would be a hit, and that’s a much iffier proposition in the U.S. market.

Prediction: KTM introduces a middleweight adventure bike.
Grade: D
Analysis: KTM did not. Of course Spurgeon was not the only one expecting this and I suspect we’ll see it next year. So he narrowly avoided an F.

Suzuki GSX-R1000
Suzuki finally updated the GSX-R1000. Suzuki photo.

Prediction: Suzuki and Honda update their liter sport bikes seconds before hell freezes over.
Grade: A-
Analysis: True, but it’s not like they hadn’t telegraphed this one. Suzuki was teasing the 2017 GSX-R1000 a full year in advance. Correct, but easy.

Long-shot prediction: Honda introduces a V4 superbike.
Grade: F
Analysis: The Hondreamers have been floating this balloon for years and Spurgeon got sucked in. Instead, Honda offers an RC213V-S that’s about as fast as a CBR600RR and only costs 16 times as much.

Lance’s predictions

showroom
Motorcycles still aren't flying off of showroom floors as fast as manufacturers would like. Photo by Lance Oliver.

Prediction: U.S. motorcycle sales rise in 2016 and sag in 2017.
Grade: D-/Incomplete
Analysis: While it’s too early render a final verdict, since this is a multi-year prediction, it’s not looking good. The theory was that the gradual recovery from the financial crisis era would continue this year but an economic slowdown next year would stop the trend. Instead, we’ve seen widespread discounting of new motorcycles and Harley-Davidson (which doesn't discount) laying off employees due to weak sales domestically and abroad. Fifty-two percent of dealers told PowerSports Business that sales were below plan in the third quarter.  We won’t know for sure until we have real sales figures, but I suspect I’ll deserve an F in the end.

Prediction: A major manufacturer will make an electric scooter that will be a hit.
Grade: D+
Analysis: I keep insisting this idea makes sense. Has it happened? Not yet. But Vespa did announce plans to make an electric scooter in its classic style. So I think I’m going to be right soon. Other than price, why would anyone buy a 50 cc gas-powered Vespa over a simpler electric version that requires nearly no maintenance?

Prediction: Victory won’t buy Buell.
Grade: B
Analysis: I was right, but shooting down those rumors was almost as easy as Spurgeon predicting he wouldn’t finish his “project.”

Ryan Dungey
While the young guns made occasional visits to the podium in the 2016 Supercross season, Ryan Dungey was a constant presence. KTM photo by Cudby S.
Prediction: We’ll have a first-time champ in Supercross.
Grade: F
Analysis: I thought one of the up-and-coming talents would make the leap. Instead, Ryan Dungey dominated. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. If there was a grade lower than an F, I’d give myself one.

Prediction: Suzuki will win a MotoGP race and Maverick Viñales will be the rider to do it.
Grade: A
Analysis: Can’t get any more right than that.

Long-shot prediction: Dani Pedrosa wins MotoGP championship.
Grade: F
Analysis: The theory was that Jorge Lorenzo would struggle with the new tires, Marc Márquez would crash too often adapting to the tires, Valentino Rossi would lack the edge, and Pedrosa would be last man standing. The reality was that Lorenzo did struggle sometimes, Márquez showed great maturity and didn’t crash until after he wrapped up the title, Rossi still has it, and it was Pedrosa who suffered most from the switch to Michelins. In the past, some said Pedrosa had an unfair advantage because of his light weight, but this year it hurt him. He couldn’t get enough heat in the tires to make them work optimally. The only thing I was right about was that the tires would shake things up, but no credit for that.

Now, if anyone had predicted a record nine different race winners in MotoGP in 2016, that would have deserved a huge bonus. But of course no one did. The closest I came was saying "surprises are certain" in my season preview.

We looked a little more like Nostra-dumbass than Nostradamus with our 2016 predictions. So will we learn a lesson and stop making fearless predictions? Of course not. Check back next week for our 2017 predictions and come back a year from now when I’ll tell you how many of them we got wrong.