5 Dec 2011

Paris bike show

Managed to get to this year's Paris bike show (Salon de la Moto for the French speakers out there) last Friday for a couple of hours. Despite the crowds which made it virtually impossible to get near some of the stands (MV Agusta, for example), here are a few shots of some of the machines that I found interesting. Too many bikes these days look cluttered to me. Even with some of the ones I show here, and which are probably amongst the least cluttered of the show, I often feel I would like to simplify their look and, probably, their gadgets. The other question I ask myself when looking at some of the extremely powerful sports bikes is when could you ever use all of that power on today's roads? Bikes are often paradoxical things. Impractical, dangerous and yet so desirable...

Here is a good example : the latest sports bike offering from Ducati, the Panigale 1199. This is one of the versions with all the bells and whistles on it and would set you back a cool 25,000 euros (at least, I haven't really counted properly). Beautiful, innit? Yet this machine, having ruined you, could almost never be used to anything near its capacity on roads, even with the peculiar French power limitation of 106 cv that is imposed on all bikes. Unlimited, the beast delivers close on 200 geegees! So it is made for production racing and the hands of some pretty good riders at that. Never mind, let's take another look at this piece of sculpture...

This left-hand view is a Ducati catalogue shot that shows the machine better than anything I could ever manage in the cramped conditions of a bike show. It also shows the standard all-red version which I think I prefer. Looks bloody fast even standing still! You will note that Ducati have abandoned the under-the-seat exhaust system that was a hallmark since the classic 916 on all their super-sports models. There are a few other technical things they have abandoned too on this model, like the tubular grid frame, but I won't bore you with that stuff here. Here is a close-up of the new exhaust system that reminds me of what the very creative Eric Buell did to his Harley make-overs (and to think those H-D idiots stopped production of his bikes...)

This looks pretty neat. It is also further proof that these bikes are not meant for waiting at traffic lights: just think of what you would be breathing sitting immediately above the orifices (one on each side to make sure you get the gas).

Now for something simpler and more accessible, in every sense of the term. I have been tempted by KTMs for some time, but have been put off by their (to me) ugly and boxy styling. The garish colours could be dealt with by a paint job, but the origami look is harder, and far more expensive, to get rid of. It looks as if they have calmed down a bit in this department and I found myself (almost) drooling over KTM's new big single, the 690 Duke. It appears smoother to the eye, with less clutter. I am sure it would be great fun to ride and you could certainly use most of its capacities on the road, provided you were able to keep the front wheel on the ground, as it is light enough and must have monster torque.

Another tempter in the increasingly rare road-going big singles category is this new offering from Husqvarna. Their recent take-over by BMW should make the bikes easier to find and have maintained, and I like the relative simplicity of the lines of this machine. Like the KTM, I expect this tool is useable about town and lots of fun on small roads.

Husqvarna have been making more media noise about this bike though. The 900 Nuda (yes, for nude, or naked if you prefer) doesn't look quite stripped-off enough for me and its bulky silencer is pretty ugly too. It uses the BMW 800 vertical twin engine that has had its capacity increased to 900 cc. Apart from the odd niggle about apperance, it could be an interesting proposition and they were also showing a version equiped with bags and all, so they may mean business in the sport-touring area as well.

Bitzas, or should I be using the more chic term "custom bikes", are now making appearances in regular bike shows. A sign of the vigour of this niche market I imagine, aided and abetted by the growing numbers of magazines devoted to them. This Italian one, from a producer called Borile, took my eye on the Paradise Motorcycles stand. With a Triumph engine in an special (and presumably light) frame, it looks fun, apart from the seat which looks just the opposite! Can you imagine sitting on that piece of board for more than 5 minutes? They say in their blurb that you can buy the frame and stick any motor into it. Not sure that that would work, but still, I might just get along to the people from Paradise and check this out. Paradise are also the French importers for Norton (the new ones), MV Agusta and Bimota. Mostly exclusive and expensive gear, and you couldn't even get onto to their stand as it was roped off and crowded round the edges. This may also have had something to do with the particularly beautiful model who was sitting on one of the bikes, crossing and uncrossing her short-clad legs. Quite fascinating (the bikes of course)!

While we are on the subject of "look but don't touch", and "specials", here is what Boxer bikes, an outfit based in Toulouse, were showing. It is apparently turbo-charged and could be a bit if a handful, if it ever gets on the road. Nice piece of work though.

To finish on a more optimistic note, in the sense that I at least have some hope of actually getting my leg over one of these beauties one day (the bikes, what else?), this is the new R version of the very successful Triumph Speed Triple. I still think that the new headlights give it a squinty look, and I still prefer by far the look of the old round-eyed version that it replaced (see below). But never mind, I have been promised a ride on this baby by the excellent Jean-Luc Mars, the boss of Triumph in France, and I will tell you all about it here, when the weather starts to improve perhaps.

Have fun and ride safely

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