At this year’s Motorcycle Live bike show at the NEC I had a chance to see the bikes I speculated over a couple of weeks back from Milan’s EICMA. This is what caught my eye.
The Honda CRF250L Rally (left and right) was attracting a lot of attention, and quite right too. Who’d have thought it’s only a 250 kid’s bike. I have a soft spot for the ‘Rally’ look. After all, the original ‘adventure bikes’, not least the 650 Africa Twin, XL600M (right) and the Tenere were all based on the looks of big-tanked Paris-Dakar desert racers. As for being a useful travel bike, acres of plastic apart, the 10L tank will be good for 300km and, away from the gloss black, I did notice a bigger sidestand foot. Good thinking, Honda. You wonder if the rear subframe might have been beefed up a bit, too. A mate of mine in Switz has already ordered one for February delivery.
The regular 250 (left) looks less flash but has the same slight power increase and ABS for Europe which will put it up to 150kg+. We’ll probably be riding these new CRFs on next year’s Morocco tours.
The BMW GS310 also looked great in the flesh. I predict this bike will be a hit, just like the full-size GS. With an 11-litre tank, 19-inch front wheel and a low seat height, it’ll be a comfy road bike, but officially weighs a staggering 169.5kg dry so may be a handful in the dirt. Sounds like a chip off the old block then! Detailed official specs on the right.
Over on the Kawasaki stand, the new Versy-X 300cc twin also looked promising in real life. The spec board was incomplete bar the £5149 starting price, but the fuel tank is said to be a huge 17 litres which, again, will easily manage 400km, and kerb weight is 170kg, same the BMW 310 dry. Seat height and power were unlisted but ought to be similar to the BMW, with the twin cylinder motor being a bit smoother. I don’t just make this stuff up, you know!
Sidelined in the shadows alongside the new 300 was the venerable KLX250 (left) getting it’s annual rearrangement of the green-black-and-white paint. For four grand in the UK, there’s nothing wrong with this 250 (as I can attest) – but no one seems to notice it.
Excepting the enduring cult of the KLR650 in North America, of all the Jap dual sporters, Kawasaki are the least popular travel bikes, certainly in Europe. I’ve never seen one in North Africa. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because Kawasaki never officially (and rarely privately) contested the Dakar Rally or similar events. Doubtless in domestic circuit racing their KXs are on par with RMs and YZs, and as flat trackers Kawasaki do alright too. More VersyX pics here.
Loaded with lots of plastic luggage isn’t a great look to me, so the Suzuki V-Strom 250 twin (right) appeared a less sprightly than the similar VersyX, but maybe the mini-tourer look will catch on with some. Of the two the 300-cc Kawasaki looked a bit more like it.
Outfitted in a similar clunky touring set up rather than as a lithe overlander, SWM’s Super Dual didn’t seem to be a triumph of Italian design, and to finally see it was a disappointment. Nineteen incher on the front and laden with crash bars and plastic luggage, it’s a long way from the sporty TE630 whose motor the Dual uses. Expedition Portal did a overlanding makeover on a TE (right) in 2015 – that’s what I hoped SWM might have done. In fact the same-engined RS650R (left) looks much more like it, especially with a claimed 144kg dry weight. Tank is 12 litres and it’s only £5700, but reviews call it ‘agricultural’. As it is, all the accessories help pile up the Super D’s weight up to a claimed 187kg so it’s not the new XChallenge, more like an XT660 Tenere, but I liked the rear shock remote preload knob. Price is £7599 with Givi luggage. Me, I’d save two grand and 40 kilos with an RS.
The Enfield Himalayan had it’s own exclusive sandy stage behind their well-known modern vintage bikes. They’ve elected to bring it in to Europe with ABS and fuel-injection to achieve compliance. They do things differently in India, which is refreshing – I like the tankside storage but I can’t help thinking that by the time they’ve emissioned the motor down to Euro 4, there won’t be much left of the 28-hp.
The 2017 Husky 701 was also on show (right). I was riding a 2016 model in Morocco last week – impressions here. Next year’s model has a lot more power – the last thing it needed, IMO – but does it look better?
The adventure world needs a new kind of motorcycle that can offer the genuine long distance versatility and pure durability of the original Ténéré, combined with contemporary design plus cutting edge engine and chassis technology. Yamaha T7 promo-blurb
The T7 Yamaha – a Tenereised MT07 concept bike – looked great, an agile, rally-styled bike. But it’s not a serious Dakar contender so what’s it for and will it happen? I’d pessimistically imagined the new Tenere twin would be closer to a Tracer than this T7, with all the unwanted weight that entails. In other words, a disappointment. All that in exotic alloy and carbon made me merely assume it was just an experiment rather than a prototype but the latest issue of Bike magazine is much more confident: ‘… make no mistake. This is going into production and you’ll be riding one in 2018’. I’ll take their word over mine.
Judging from Yamaha’s page, it looks like Yamaha are imitating Honda’s gradual seeding promo strategy of the Africa Twin – and that didn’t turn out too badly. I loved the engine when I rode an MT-07 last year. Fitting it in a light, ‘180-kilo dry XT700Z’ sounds a bit radical for the Japs, but it will be like a a blend of Rally Raid’s CB500X and the CRF1000L Africa Twin – both very popular machines whether you’re a traveller or not.
So it does appear some of us are getting what we wished for – lighter, smaller adv bikes with genuine off-road utility for regular riders, not tank-wrestling stuntmen. It will be interesting to see if any of these shape up to be potentially good travel bikes in the next few months.
Eye-catching apparitions elsewhere included a Tron bike and on the right, a distinctive girder-framed overlander with a positively subterranean saddle height and jerrican panniers that were clearly copied off my 1982 XT500 desert bike.
It has to be said Ducati’s Desert Scrambler (left) has something going for it with some serious off road intent, not just retro looks. It brought to mind the similarly cool-looking Husqvarna Baja concept (right) of a few years ago. Make one of those with a detuned 701 motor, please.
As for gear, Kriega’s new but as yet unnamed plate-on-rack-mounted panniers were on show, but not for sale yet. I had a close look at them a while back and may be trying a set later.
Nearby, Dave Lomax showed me Adventure Spec’s new meshy desertwear (right) – a breathable kevlar mesh jacket similar to Rev It’s Cayenne and Klim Induction. I had a couple of guys on the Morocco tour wearing these sorts of jackets, but they did do a lot of stopping to put on or remove layers. I get the feeling such jackets are for full-on, high summer or tropical riding where even with all the vents going, you don’t want Cordura, far less a waterproof/breathable membrane.
Klim are about to ditch their Overland jacket – a new look Traverse is taking its place, or an altogether new Carlsbad (right) with an integrated hip belt to help take the weight of the jacket (seemed to work) and velcro-free arm cinchers. Price will be around £600 they say, and it’s not all black! Must say, now I’ve added some mesh ‘drop pockets’ inside (right), I’ve grown into my functional Overland which may still be going for just £300 at A Spec if you’re quick.
And finally, over at Bell Helmets, no great surprise to see they brought back the Moto III lid from the 1970s and early 80s (right). But now of course it’s being pitched as hipster/retro wear, not a proper dirt biking helmet. Trying it on it’s a lot more comfy that the original brick – not hard to do – and I must admit I like the plain widget-free exterior. Made of fibrelass, it costs £280 and comes in a bunch of snazzy colours.