Deciphering what the words mean.
Following EICMA in November the complete picture for the 2020 model year is clearer as the Italian show is the marquee event of the season. Although, with several of the new models announced as 2021s, nailing down the model year itself is getting tougher. Considering which bike is new and which one was surprising, I couldn’t decide if there is a breakout arrival for the 2020 model year that eclipsed all the others. Last year there was the Niken but it was more engineering marvel than motorcycle. Before the Niken there was Kawasaki’s H2R, which pushed the needle on the interest meter well past anything since the days of the original Hayabusa and ZX-12.
There are many improvements and additions to bikes for 2020 but there is less that is ground-up and all new and to determine that requires parsing the hype. The definition of “all new” seems to range from entirely ground-up, nuts, bolts and rubber new to heavily revised “all new,” which means there was something existing before but much wrenching and welding and components have been worked over to get to the “all new.” Then there are bikes that say simply “new” and sometimes you have to look close, scratch your head and dig into the specs and pictures from the last few model years to decide exactly what is different. The Tenere 700, the Pan America and Bronx, the BMW R18, are definitely all new, of that we are sure.
The Suzuki Katana is a beautiful bike and one that will catch a lot of eyes in the showroom, but you don’t have to scratch the surface deeply to find a GSX1000S— albeit heavily disguised. But if you pined for an all-new Katana, this is as good as you could have asked. New also relates to extending a line of existing bikes with another model or two. This year Ducati has the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour as the most luxurious new bike in the touring line but it is basically a Multistrada with a nice set of bags and unique colour schemes.
The Z H2 from Kawasaki is a new model but an extension of the H2 platform in naked guise. Yamaha’s MT-03 is a naked version of the R3. It helps that all these bikes were derived from excellent platforms but are they truly all new or only kind of new?
There are myriad improved models for 2020, and larger engines seem predominant. A little more power and a little more torque. Nobody is going to complain about that. Electronic riding aids continue to appear on more and more machines and range into an astounding number of acronyms and are precursors to a suite of more environmentally aware safety features.
You could make the obvious choice of all new and go with the LiveWire but Harley launches in August so then you have to consider the 2021 Pan America and Bronx as the most significant all-new bikes of the year. And in terms of significance, with the Pan America Harley is going in a completely new direction starting in 2020. They said they would and are following up on that promise.
Model year 2020 is a new and improved year for motorcycles rather than an all new year. There were a couple of surprises such as Triumph’s new Rocket3, which should get an all new designation based on how old the old Rocket III was.
But in terms of which is the most important bike of the year, perhaps that has to be decided through the lens of time.