“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” (1977), “Dow 36,000” (2000) and “Rossi has the title wrapped up” (Valencia, 2006).
That’s the great thing about making predictions. It keeps you humble. The Common Tread team is always in need of humility and accountability, so it’s time to revisit our 2017 predictions for the motorcycle world and hand out some grades.
With no further ado…
Lemmy has been lobbying for a straight-A report card since January. I guess he hasn’t quite gotten that humility thing down yet. Or doesn’t know me that well.
Prediction: Kawasaki brings back the ZRX.
Comments: This was the most surprising prediction of the bunch. I thought Lemmy knew better. Companies don’t “bring back” old products, they make new ones. It’s easier to get consumers interested in something new than in something they got tired of buying years ago. The reason Lemmy didn’t get an F on this one is that he was correct that Kawasaki needed a retro. But they produced it in the form of the Z900RS, not by pulling an old model out of retirement.
Update: Lemmy looked over my shoulder as this was written and immediately filed a protest, stating that when he wrote "ZRX" he clearly did not mean a ZRX1100 or ZRX1200, but rather a vintage-inspired inline-four. Thus, with the Z900RS, he feels vindicated. I feel confused. The court of public opinion can make the final call.
Prediction: The Yamaha XSR700 comes stateside.
Comment: Technically, the XSR700 didn’t arrive this year, as he predicted, but the announcement by Yamaha that it’s coming has been made. Close enough for a B+.
Prediction: Lightweight ADVs will sell like gangbusters, then totally die off here in America.
Comment: As Lemmy himself stated, this is a multi-year prediction, calling for strong sales at first for motorcycles like the Kawasaki Versys-X 300, Honda CRF250L Rally and BMW G 310 GS, but then falling off in three to five years. So far, they’re selling well. We won’t know if he’s right about the second part for a few years.
Long-shot prediction: The new Honda Rebel tanks.
Comment: Lemmy says the Rebel will be gone in a few years. We’ll see, but I think I’ll take the opposite side of that bet.
Spurgeon’s predictions for 2017
Prediction: Yamaha introduces a middleweight ADV bike.
Comment: Spurgeon also bet $5 with a friend on this one because he was sure Yamaha would come out with a production version of the T7 concept bike. I spared him from getting an F because Yamaha is still hinting they’ll do that. But it didn’t happen in 2017 as Spurgeon and many others expected and hoped. Pay up, Spurg.
Prediction: Ducati’s Desert Sled wins at scrambling.
Comment: Spurgeon predicted the Scrambler Desert Sled would be the most off-road-worthy entry among the scramblers that proliferated last year. He’s probably right. Unfortunately, among the Common Tread team, only contributor Jake Bright has gotten his hands on one so far. His story backs up the general consensus, however. If you’re going to take one of these fancy scramblers into the dirt, the Desert Sled is the best choice.
Prediction: Honda returns to MotoAmerica Superbike.
Comment: Spurgeon correctly predicted the return of Honda to the AMA-sanctioned series. This A is more credited to his ability at eavesdropping than any in-depth knowledge of professional roadracing in the United States, however.
Prediction: Retro goes in a different direction.
Comment: Spurgeon predicted that the Triumph Bobber would signal a new trend, away from scramblers and UJM-styled classics toward choppers, bobbers and cruisers. We did see some new approaches to retro or neo-retro bikes in 2017, but not really the styles he predicted.
Long-shot prediction: Kawasaki releases another supercharged bike.
Comment: Technically, Spurgeon was right, because Kawasaki announced the Ninja H2 SX. But what he was really predicting was something beyond the H2 line, bringing smaller, less expensive supercharged options to the market. We still haven’t seen that.
Lance’s predictions for 2017
Prediction: Increasingly, middleweight is where the action is.
Comment: I think I got the general direction right, because many of the interesting new bikes we saw emerge this year were in the middle segment of the market, from the new Triumph Street Triple to the KTM 790 Duke. I got some of the specifics wrong, however. Like Spurgeon, I also expected to see the Yamaha ADV bike based on the T7.
Prediction: Nicky Hayden runs in the top three in World Superbike but falls short of becoming the first dual MotoGP/WSBK world champ.
Grade: It just doesn’t matter.
Comment: It hurts just to bring up this one. I overestimated Honda and was wrong thinking Nicky could challenge at the front on the new CBR1000RR. There was that one glorious win in the rain in Sepang last year, however. The rain is when it comes down to the rider, not the bike, and Nicky proved he still had the skill and nerve, if only he had the right ride. Sadly, all that became irrelevant in May, when he died after a bicycle crash. Nobody predicted that, and most of all, nobody wanted anything bad to happen to Nicky Hayden, one of the most genuine good guys ever to walk a race paddock.
Prediction: Manufacturers realize it’s not about retro, it’s about style.
Comment: Look at the redesigned Honda CB1000R at the top. Is it retro? Well, kinda, sorta, maybe. More importantly, it has a distinctive style. I said that people were looking for style more than retro when they bought popular bikes like the Yamaha XSR900 or BMW R nineT, and I predicted that would continue. So far, that seems to be true.
Prediction: American manufacturers face their demons.
Comment: I predicted Polaris would sell more motorcycles but still face challenges (I did not predict Victory would be shuttered). I noted that Harley-Davidson faced stagnant sales and a high debt load. My prediction was that the executives were aware and moving to address these weaknesses. I guess you could say that closing down Victory was a recognition that something needed to be done, and Harley has responded with a raft of new models and an upgraded engine. What leaves this incomplete, however, is that Indian has still not followed through on its promise to expand beyond heavyweight cruisers and Harley seems to remain steadfastly opposed to that idea. I’m hoping both companies take the steps necessary to change with the times, but it’s not yet a sure thing.
Long-shot prediction: A heartbroken Lemmy learns it was just a translation error.
Grade: Technically, an F; spiritually, a B
Comment: A year ago, I wrote: “For more than a year, Lemmy has been checking his inbox daily for new model announcements from Kawasaki, ever since he heard that the company was coming out with at least half a dozen new supercharged models. Over the year, his attitude has deteriorated from excited to impatient to sullen to downright surly as none of this has materialized. In 2017, he finally gets invited to a Kawasaki press event, finds the lone Japanese executive quietly sipping a mai tai, backs him into a corner and demands his blown engines right now. The startled and nervous executive explains that he really said Kawasaki was coming out with half a dozen superior, hard-charging machines but the translator preparing the statement in English got it confused. Sorry, Lemmy-san.”
So, to be honest about it, Lemmy behaved himself extraordinarily well at industry events in 2017 and didn’t accost any Kawasaki execs. But I do think he has come around, as sad as it may make him, to the realization that maybe something was lost in translation.
So that’s it for 2017. Check back next month when we fail to learn from history and we again put the tattered remains of our reputations as industry experts on the line with a list of daring new predictions for 2018.