#318 Big boots to fill

There’s a genuine air of excitement with the launch of Model Year 2016.

With the EICMA motorcycle exhibition in Milan now in the rearview mirror, most but not all the announcements for 2016 models have been made. There will be a few more but for the most part we have the big news with a surprising number of new bikes for 2016 and even a couple previews of 2017 models.
In late breaking news, Honda announced the VFR1200X would come to Canada for 2016 to bookend the Africa Twin. The VFR-X is based on the excellent V-4 of the VFR1200 but perhaps it is now better placed as a big, fast, comfortable lite-ADV.
At the time of this writing Honda had not announced a price for the Africa Twin, its most anticipated model for 2016. MSRP in the US is $12,999 but with our fluctuating dollar setting a price for the Canadian market is problematic. It will be intriguing to see where the VFR1200X and the Africa Twin get tagged for the cash register. The Africa Twin is an entirely new machine and the flagship bike for Honda this year. It has extremely big shoes to fill based on the name alone and must come out of the factory at the top of its game.
The VFR1200X however has been in Europe since 2012 and it is surprising that North Americans have not seen it until now considering the rise in the ADV category and Honda’s lack of a category filler. Now there will be two Honda machines to cover the extremes of the big bore segment. Which one will have broader appeal will be dependent on price, seeing as each bike’s strengths are so different.
A great price on the Africa Twin in a segment where it has very little direct competition or a higher price on the VFR1200X in a segment where it has a lot of competition? Either could be a make or break decision so I don’t envy Honda the task.
Price is going to play a factor in several other segments. Indian Motorcycles is taking a very aggressive stance with the release of the Scout Sixty, a 999cc version of the Scout that in basic black is said to come in around $10,999. Ducati has made a foray into the entry-level market with the Scrambler Sixty2, a 399cc air-cooled twin. The price for this bike is going to affect its acceptance in the young hipster not-necessarily-motorcyclist crowd Ducati so desperately wants to lock down. Yes, it has the Ducati cache but does that qualify it for a premium over the other excellent small displacement bikes that are suddenly making for a formidable selection in this once forgotten category?
Triumph’s spanking new liquid-cooled Bonnevilles are another line that will be price sensitive. The air-cooled version started at a great price that barely nudged over $9,000. Where will the new liquid-cooled models fall in the segment? Bringing modernity to a “classic” while retaining its “classic” appeal is not simple or inexpensive.
But leave price aside because some decisions come down to straight excitement and emotion.
At Milan Ducati introduced its DiavelX, which is more clearly defined as a cruiser than the original Diavel. But it wasn’t the only interesting cruiser to appear in Europe as Moto Guzzi launched a striking bagger in the MGX-21.
On the opposite end of the spectrum Victory was scheduled to unveil a sportbike of sorts based on its Pikes Peak machine. This is the continued evolution of Victory into more than a cruiser company. The company’s branded electric bike is already available and their electric race bike did well at the Isle of Man.
Was there an overriding theme to EICMA this year? A trend? Difficult to say as most segments got new entries but Scramblers are definitely hot and the focus is on affordability. That can only be good for the future.

Keeping Canadian riders informed and entertained since 1980.