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Does the Frankfurt Motor Show offer any clues to Motorcycling’s future?

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With the Frankfurt Motor Show in full swing this week, we take a quick look at the four-wheeled offerings from the manufacturers to see if there are any hints as to our immediate, two-wheeled future.

There’s undoubtedly a sea change happening in the world of automobiles at the moment. With the young (ish), Tony Stark-alike (not really) Elon Musk having successfully disrupted the industry once again with the launch of the Tesla Model 3 – and with orders for the electric-powered car literally stretching into the next decade – the world is waiting for the more established car makers to fire their return volley in the war of electrification.

Or should that be de-dieselgate-ification? Anyway, we digress…

It could be argued that the major car manufacturers have been investigating ‘alternative’ powered drive-trains for some time now. BMW’s first electric Mini actually arrived somewhere around 2008 but it wasn’t until the launch of the BMW i3 and i8 that the manufacturer could be said to be taking the whole ‘petrol won’t last forever’ seriously.

BMW i Vision Dyncamics Concept

In fact, despite rumours over the past few months that this ‘i’ line of cars was close to being dissolved and absorbed by the Bavarian maker, BMW revealed their new i Vision Dynamics concept vehicle in Frankfurt and, alongside it, doubled-down on their electrification efforts by promising to have at least one drive-train in each of their ranges being electric by some time in the early ‘20s.

The launch of the production version of which will probably be the i5 around this same time.

Also – and perhaps tellingly so – they physically rode their Concept Link onto the stage, as a statement of future intent and a promise for the (literal) road ahead. There is no doubt for BMW that electric drive is the future.

BMW Motorrad Concept Link

We’ll ignore Mercedes’ song-and-dance presentation. Mainly because they don’t hold any major sway within the determination of our motorcycle-based future, but also because their press conference was so batshittingly, moon-howlingly insane that we don’t think we’re quite ready to talk about it just yet.

They did show a Smart car electric concept that drove people around cities whilst matching passengers dynamically based on their love of ‘Asian food’ though – which was cute.

So what else?

Well VW, who are – at least at the time of writing – still owners of Ducati, didn’t show off any two-wheeled plans but the rest of their fleet is storming towards battery power.

VW ID Buzz Minibus

In fact, before the Frankfurt show, VW boss Herbert Diess confirmed that the entire group were aiming at 50 electric models being available to the public by 2025, with 23 of them being VW badged.

But as for examples? These were thin on the ground, with just a few concepts on display, such as the ID Buzz minibus, but these have already been released. Volkswagen’s message would seem to be more one of damage control and consolidation at the moment in time.

It’s telling perhaps that it was both VW and Mercedes, the two manufacturers who have been tied-up the closest within the ‘dieselgate’ saga, who spoke the loudest for the Internal Combustion Engine’s future. BMW distanced themselves from the other two members of the alleged ‘cartel’ during their press conference – and actively embraced their new electric future – but VW and Merc cried constantly and loudly about how ‘banning any specific drive-train’ would be bad for the globe and that we should think about a more ‘holistic’ series of engine/motor types. If the ICE is going the way of the Dodo, it’s not doing it without a long, and noxious fight.

Praise then, should be given to Honda, whose President and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo committed the company to featuring ‘electrified technology’ in all of their new ‘car models’ from now; essentially meaning that every new Honda car will be available in electric/battery-powered form somewhere within the range.

Honda Urban EV Concept

That they did this whilst revealing the cute, Golf Mark 1 reminiscent, and ‘on sale by 2019’ Urban EV Concept should be applauded. It was a brief glimpse of clarity and focus from a company that has seemed uncharacteristically lacking in direction over recent years.

But how does this relate to motorcycles?

It’s clear that BMW have at least one large toe in the water with their current C-Evolution and the new Concept Link, and Honda have been showcasing electric concepts – including the gorgeous EV-Cub – since what seems like forever. But will either of them make the plunge this year at the EICMA Milan motorcycle show? Honda have hinted that they’ll have an electric scooter on sale by 2018, so could November be the time for the big reveal?

Honda EV Cub Concept

When we spoke to the head of design for BMW Motorrad, Edgar Heinrich in late 2014 during the C-Evolution launch, he was expressing his dismay at the weight and size of the batteries that he was being asked to squeeze into a typical motorcycle package. But then – just a few months later – he and his team wheeled an electrically powered S1000RR onto a stage. It was a statement of intent, even if it wasn’t perhaps a statement in ergonomics and handling.

Up until the concept release earlier this year however, the electrical intentions of BMW Motorrad haven’t been clear. There have been no rumours, no spy shots and certainly nothing that would appear even close to production.

Maybe with the sister company taking the lead in four-wheels, this year at EICMA will be the time for all of that to change?

The same could be argued of Honda. We’re still waiting for the stunning RC-E, but that was first shown six years ago and we’ve stopped holding our breath, but the EV Cub as a realistic commuter prospect for our streets? We wouldn’t bet against it.

Honda RC-E Concept

But the fact is that the only major manufacturers of motorcycles who have had anything close to an electric motorcycle on sale in recent years have been KTM with their Freeride E motocross bike and Polaris (the owners of Indian) with their now no-more Victory Empulse. Neither of these were big sellers though and we’re not even 100% sure if the KTM has the Freeride E as part of their range anymore.

 

KTM Freeride E

Rumours of an electric Duke 390 persist however, so maybe we might actually see a production electric motorcycle this year?

Time will tell of course.

But with the car manufacturers having kept their heads buried in the oil-soaked sand for so long, should we really expect manufacturers of such a niche mode of transport as motorcycles to behave any differently?

The CEOs and marketing men behind the myriad start-ups focused on electric scooters, eBikes and every other method of transport in-between would probably have a few things to say about that last statement. As would Elon Musk.

The future of transport is up-for-grabs…

It’s just waiting for somebody to take control. But on the evidence of the car manufacturers at Frankfurt, nobody really seems to want to be the one to grab the bull by the horns. Maybe the motorcycle industry will be different and collectively surprise us all at EICMA?

We’d love to say that we think that this will be the case, and that this ever dwindling industry that we love so much will finally step-up and start the revolution that it so desperately needs.

But if the example of the majority of the four-wheeled manufacturers is anything to go by… We very much doubt that it’ll come for some years yet.

 


Motofire will be at the International Motorcycle Show in Milan (EICMA) this year from the 9th – 12th November 2017. Join us as we shine a torch over the cream of the world’s motorcycling industry.

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Steve fell in love with motorcycles at an old age. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it fate, but nothing can keep him away from feeding his two-wheel addiction.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden

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The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.


Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto

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BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.


This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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