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Common Tread

Spurg's unsolicited opinions on EICMA 2019

Nov 11, 2019

From minimal updates to Suzuki's V-Strom to a Kawasaki-Bimota hybrid, EICMA 2019 introduced a slew of motorcycles worthy of further consideration.

As the articles rolled out, and social media posts went up, I was nearly as intrigued by all of the commentary around the bikes as I was by the bikes themselves. As I am lucky enough to have Common Tread to help me amplify my opinion, I am weighing in on some of the comments I’ve seen roll in.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Concept
Husqvarna Norden 901 concept bike. Photo by Husqvarna.

The Husqvarna Norden 901

People are losing their shit over this bike. This is like the second coming of the Yamaha T7, if the Yamaha T7 had actually had a first coming. Other than the fact that this is an exercise in styling that appeals to people who feel the KTM is too “bug-like,” I just don’t see what the fuss is all about.

Looking at the crash bars and massive amount of plastic and material up around the handlebars, this thing looks incredibly top-heavy. Not something that is typically a selling point for adventure bikes, which need to be able to handle themselves both on- and off-road. The entire package just looks a bit porky.

“But wait Spurg, this is a 901, which means it also gets a bigger engine!” To which I respond: Who was asking for that? KTM already had a 950, which morphed into a 990, then it grew to an 1190, before topping out with the 1290 Super Adventure R. In 2017, the 1090 Adventure R was introduced for people looking for a bit more of a manageable experience and this year we saw the 790 Adventure R come to fruition.

Those bikes made sense. People were asking for smaller and lighter machines that were more capable off-road while still working for long-haul street treks. Now we’re already seeing displacement creep with the 890 Duke Super Scalpel and this 901 Norden concept. Just seems a bit backwards to me. Maybe I’m wrong here, but considering the fact that Huskys usually command a premium price tag over their KTM counterparts, I don’t see this as a threat to 790 Adventure R sales.

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Rally
2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Rally. KTM photo.

The KTM 790 Adventure R Rally

I’ve read some comments on the price of this bike being “too high” and I couldn’t disagree more. If you want to argue that it’s too tall for the average rider, I’m willing to concede, but this bike isn’t for the average rider. This is a purpose-built bike for the off-road enthusiast who enjoys pushing their adventure bike to the limits.

For an MSRP of $19,499, you get every bell and whistle added to KTM’s standard Adventure R, plus the Rally seat, Akra exhaust, and the WP Pro Components Cone Valve suspension. A similarly equipped BMW R 1250 GSA would run you nearly $24K and even then the suspension wouldn’t come close to this.

Sure, the BMW would probably be more comfortable cruising down the highway with a passenger, but that’s like saying a Toyota Highlander is more comfortable on the street than a Tacoma TRD Pro. Sure, OK. But which one do you want when the Zombie Apocalypse comes? I’ll take the TRD Pro, please and thank you. (As long as I’m making absurd requests, I’d really like the 2018 model with a manual transmission in Cavalry Blue.)

For those of you out there looking for a Zombie Apocalypse motorcycle that can haul gear and haul ass over a variety of terrain, the 790 Adventure R Rally is going to be the bike to beat in 2020.

2021 Harley Davidson Bronx
2021 Harley Davidson Bronx. Harley Davidson photo.

The Harley-Davidson Bronx

In fairness, we know very little about this bike “officially,” aside from the fact that Harley-Davidson is promising us that we’ll see it at the end of 2020 as a 2021 model. But that doesn’t mean I can’t infer a few things, the main one being this bike looks freaking awesome.

For all of the Harley naysayers out there, what the hell are you mad about with this?

Harley says the 975 engine makes 115 horsepower and lays out 70 foot-pounds of torque, we can see from the photos it’s got real sport wheel sizes and rubber to match, it’s got Brembo brakes and what looks to be a pretty competent suspension. Now, that could all be for shit once reality meets the road, but the one thing that can’t be denied is that this bike looks killer.

For all of those of you out there who constantly whine about the aggressive, bug-like, transformer styling that has taken over naked sport bike design over the past few years, here ya go. Clean, simple, stylish lines with a round headlight. Now put your money where your mouth is.

Even as I say that, I realize it’s impossible to do because we have no idea how much this thing is going to cost. If Harley was smart, this would be priced somewhere between $13,000 and $15,000, depending on the components.

For as much as I am really excited about the Bronx, the Pan America left me quite skeptical.

2021 Harley Davidson Pan America
2021 Harley Davidson Pan America. Harley Davidson photo.

The Harley-Davidson Pan America

There are folks on Harley’s Instagram page who seem to be begging Harley-Davidson to take their money for this bike. I don’t know if I agree with their fervor. 

Don’t get me wrong, Harley needs to branch into new markets, and the adventure segment remains one of the fastest growing markets in America. But as much as I commend Harley for finally going after new riders in different areas of motorcycling, I’m just not sold on this bike.

It’s looks top-heavy and bulky, the front headlight shroud is ugly, and I am really skeptical that this bike is going to be released with a price tag under $20K. Over $20K, why not just buy a BMW?

If I’m being honest, I think what really bugs me is the fact I’ve heard die-hard Harley people say  they’ve always wanted to get into adventure riding, but haven’t been able to until now simply because they won’t buy anything other than a Harley.  Really?

For me, I will always buy the best bike available for its intended use. There are too many great bikes out there to stick to one brand. I can’t imagine not getting into an entire segment of riding that you find interesting just because your preferred brand doesn’t offer a model to suit your needs.

Harley, I’m not sold on this one, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. This might be the first Harley press event that is more appropriate for me than it is for Lemmy.

2020 Aprilia RS 660
2020 Aprilia RS 660. Aprilia photo.

The Aprilia RS 660

As long as I’m calling dibs on press events, I’m claiming this one for my own. I know Mark Gardiner already made a play at this test ride with his comment on Lance’s article the other day, but I’m pulling rank. (Sorry, Mark, you can have that Kawi Bimota launch.) Reading past Mark’s comment, I couldn’t agree more with the majority of our readers. This motorcycle looks amazing.

What’s not to drool over?

An aggressive look but with a bit more of a street focus, 100-horsepower parallel twin, and all of the electronics and high-spec components found on their larger displacement models. If there were a way to mount luggage on here, this could be the sport-focused sport-tourer Lance has been looking for.

That being said, my one critique is that it looks like they took a play from BMW’s playbook and went with the clip-on handlebars that are integrated into the top triple tree. From a customization standpoint, this design makes no sense. In order to swap the clip-ons, the entire top of the triple tree needs to be replaced. This is simultaneously not ideal for racers who want something more aggressive and for street riders who want something more comfortable.

Aside from that, bravo, Aprilia.

Bimota Tesi H2
Bimota Tesi H2. Bimota photo.

The Kawasaki Tesi H2

As I mentioned earlier, this one is all yours, Mark.

Who out there thought this was a good idea? I mean, it’s cool from an engineering perspective, but that’s about it. Based on the cost of the regular H2, I can’t imagine this bike isn’t going to cost a fortune if it actually goes into production.

I’m sure there are some folks out there much wealthier than myself who would be happy to scoop one of these up to display in their collection, but I just can’t see the business practicality from Kawasaki’s perspective.

In what world is this seen as a better investment of resources as opposed to say, oh I don’t know, a supercharged Ninja 400 making about 75 horsepower with up-spec suspension, brakes, and electronics. Build that bike, price it under $10K, and watch what happens. I'm no marketing executive, but I’d be willing to bet Kawasaki would sell a boatload more of those than whatever this thing is.

Ducati DesertX Concept
Ducati DesertX concept. Ducati photo.

The Ducati DesertX Concept

Don’t pull a Yamaha T7 on us, Ducati. Build this. Build it now.