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Intermot Motorcycle Show 2004

Wed, 23 Mar 2005 00:00:00 -0800Motorcycle design is a term that conjures up many images to different people. To the majority North Americans, designing a motorcycle suggests a garage where several enthusiasts resembling the hit TV show Orange County Choppers assemble bikes based on the Harley Davidson model, with acres of chromed after market parts and hand lacquered custom paint jobs.To many others no thought is given at all to how the shapes of the bikes on the street came into being. The reality is that the major motorcycle manufacturers employ professional designers and serious technology the same way as in the car industry does, even if the final product is so different.

The Intermot exhibition held in September in Munich is the largest international show of its kind in the world attracting 1000 exhibitors into its more than 100,000 square meters of halls. Alternating with the EICMA show in Milan every other year, these annual shows are where the worlds motorcycle, scooter and accessory manufacturers unveil their newest products. In addition to the displays, live demonstrations of motorcross, outdoor closed circuit racing and a classic bikes section adds to the festival atmosphere. As part of the 2004 exhibition, Intermot proudly hosted a Design Cafe where many of the worlds manufacturers and independent designers and consultancies showcased sketches and prototype models from past years. The Motorcycle Design Association used this venue to present the awards for the best designs of 2004. (www.motorcycledesign.com)

The 2004 show was interesting since the many smaller specialized manufacturers clearly stole the show rather than the Big Four Japanese brands (in order of size: Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki), who normally overwhelm visitors and exhibitors alike with dozens of new models and concepts in each category each season. The contemporary motorcyclist demands more originality and character than before, and for bikes to succeed commercially they need to have this as well as exceptional performance and quality. The best of the smaller specialists now appear to have discovered this balance, as they have caught up in reliability and quality, areas where the Japanese traditionally dominated, but also add an authentic brand heritage and exclusivity the Big Four sometimes fail to reflect.

Honda

Honda had no significant new model on show, other than the XR660 in both enduro and supermotard version which was little than the old Dominator warmed over with some new parts and chromed plastic. A notable European introduction was the Zoomer, a kind of hollow scooter than was previously only available in Japan. Its ultra utilitarian, tubular steel design makes it seem more like a portable generator than a vehicle, in stark contrast to the often over-styled plastic scooters that have flooded the market in recent years. It has proven very popular in the Japanese market, and may do so here as well.

Even though they presented impressive advanced ideas like the Nubia Hybrid concept scooter and another scooter with passenger airbags, the Honda stand was large and scarcely filled with old models sporting only new paint schemes and minor technical refinements. Two such models included Grand Prix replicas based on their CBR900 Fireblade and CBR600RR with the Repsol graphics worn by the official factory team on which Valentino Rossi so famously won last year's world championship.

For the worlds number one manufacturer of powered two wheelers to not issue significant new production models, it stands to reason that they are busy with serious developments for next year. Honda has been clear announcing its intent to offer standard ABS on all models and have industry leading emerging technologies like alternative fuel engines available soon.

KTM

The relatively small Austrian manufacturer KTM which specializes in motocross and enduro (off-road) shocked and amazed show goers with several radical road models. Its RC8 supersport concept was known since its debut at the Tokyo show last year, but sharing its stand was an intriguing street fighter (essentially a semi naked RC8) named Venom. Both bikes share frame, tank and tail bodywork, but differ wildly up front. The hard edged, rectilinear shape language synonymous with all KTM bikes was dominant on both, but taken to an extreme level that polarizes opinion. The Production ready RC8 features some novel thinking for the supersports category, such as the under belly exhaust exiting through a ovular ports, minimal tail piece devoid of passenger amenities, and the vertical splitting front fairing sandwiching the front lights. The Venom streetfighter is much more sculptural with evocative ram air scoops twisting around the front forks and somehow appears more balanced than the fully faired RC8 from which its derived.

KTM also extended its formidable off-road and enduro range by adding the production Duke 2, a radical 950 cc street rod and a more traditionally styled supermotard derivative. These loud looking machines, like the RC8 and Venom, take the KTM hard edged language to the extreme, polarizing opinion and continuing to mark out this brand.

BMW

BMW, a traditional brand that caters to quite a conservative touring audience (a complete contradiction to the aggressive sport pedigree image of its four wheel cousin) launched the K1200S, a model boasting 165 hp and claiming to vie with the heavyweight japanese for top supersport touring honors. As with most BMW street models, the K1200S looks very front heavy with a vast fairing and tall screen necessary for good rider protection at high speed. The proportion suggests that the volume becomes complete with the occupant sitting on board. The Naked version of the same presented only on press day continued BMW Motorrad's quirky styling themes of asymmetry and revealed the novel front suspension which does away with the traditional telescopic fork.

Another BMW model that appeared for the first time at a major show, though has been available commercially since the spring is the GS1200 enduro. This large capacity on/off road touring bike has been a runaway success for the Bavarian brand since the mid 90's. This latest version features acres of exposed aluminum structure, advancing the strong no-nonsense utility theme that made previous versions so popular. The alloy fuel tank is left partially exposed, the rear luggage rack integrates locks for optional aluminum hard case luggage and GPS navigation is also available.

The GS's smaller sibling the F650 is styled to appear like an enduro, but is clearly marked for dominantly urban use, like most modern SUVs. Thoughtful touches like no-maintenance belt drive (replacing the conventional chain), integrated luggage space and low seat height have all contributed to make this BMW's best selling motorcycle line ever.


By Michael Uhlarik