Once, there was predictability about the timing of new model unveilings.
It is still the most wonderful time of the year even though it is tough to get excited when the riding season is coming to an end. But it’s wonderful in terms of learning about new models. Not long ago the coming few months would be packed with new model announcements and dramatic unveilings of bikes that had been kept under tight wraps during development. This practice is still partly true as manufacturers hold off unleashing the next great thing until the world’s press and enthusiasts have gathered at the two big European shows—Intermot and EICMA, which are held in the fall. The AIMEXPO in the US is also becoming a launching point for splashy announcements and the Japanese manufacturers often hold off something for the Tokyo Motorcycle Show.
But outside of those shows, the practice of new model announcements has changed. Now a manufacturer might drop a new bike at anytime of the year. Within the past few months we have already learned of a few interesting new bikes—Yamaha revealed the SCR900, Kawasaki got into the micro-bike segment with the Z125, and Indian gave us new flat-trackers. The motorcycle industry is becoming more like the auto industry. Year 2017 models are often for sale by mid-2016 as future models are announced earlier. Part of the problem is that it is very hard to keep a bike a secret. Somebody somewhere is bound to have seen it on a road being tested. Everyone seems to have a smart phone these days, and social media is everywhere. Snap! There goes the surprise and the speculation starts flying. It is far better to control the message than let someone else rain on your parade.
Another consideration for manufacturers is not getting left behind. As always the industry follows trends (for example, scramblers). One company launches one and it is a hit, long before a product is ready for production another company will say “Oh yeah, we have one of those too. You may not be able to buy it for a year but ours will be better.”
The other consideration to announcements is that often a new model in one market might have been around in another for several years. The Honda VFR1200X is such an example. It is great to finally have it in Canada but most of us have known about it for several years as that is how long it has been on European roads.
Harley-Davidson is one manufacturer that has kept to a regular schedule with late August being the time for new model announcements and unveilings. As you will read in this issue there is significant news from Milwaukee—a new eight-valve Big Twin for Harley-Davidson’s Touring family. This kind of change doesn’t happen very often with only a handful of basic engine configurations from the Motor Company over the last 113 years. The Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, Shovelhead, Ironhead, Evolution, Twin Cam, Twin Cam B and V-Rod motors are already well established and now there is the Milwaukee-Eight.
There has to be a breath of relief from many traditionalists as the Milwaukee-Eight is still primarily an air-cooled mill in the Harley tradition—although as our road tester Bertrand Gahel will note in his story this issue, the company has gone a long way to make the engine itself quieter.
There are a lot of radiators on old favourites these days: Triumph Bonneville, BMW boxer, and so on. But with the exception of a couple of Twin Cooled variations, Harley-Davidson’s Big Twin is still without extra hoses, and it looks good.
There will be a few surprises coming down the road in the next few months. We have already been promised a handful of new models from several manufacturers, but whether they are 2017, 2018 or 2019 models remains to be seen. It is still a wonderful time of the year.