The year’s international shows have drawn to a close and a few issues stood out, some of them influenced by a number of factors such as legislation, fashion or technology. Here is a brief summary of some of the issues that set the tone during the show season:
IMUs(or Inertial Measurement Units)
Not so long ago, not many people had ever heard of the acronym IMU. Fast-forward to today and IMU has become an essential part of mainstream technology. IMUs are nifty electronic devices that will form the basis of a wide range of next-generation technological processes. They were first used on high-end superbikes, but they have gradually started being incorporated in the standard models in 2017.
IMU's combine gyros and accelerometers and they can calculate sharp angles and multi-directional acceleration. They are sometimes called 5-axis or 6-axis IMUs, based on the number of sensors that they carry.
The gizmos can calculate the angle of a bike when it comes to front-to-rear pitch and cornering lean. In addition, they can measure cornering forces and acceleration and are therefore extremely important to the most up-to-date cornering stoppie or wheelie-mitigation, ABS and traction control electronics.
The rapid spread of the devices can mainly be attributed to Bosch. The company sells ABS and traction control electronics to almost all manufacturers. In addition, ABS has been made compulsory in 2017 for the European market and naturally, companies are banking on Bosch to supply the anti-lock systems. Some are choosing to do upgrades so as to have the most current cornering ABS devices equipped with IMU's.
Small-engined adventure motorbikes
This is the year for small-capacity motorbikes, unlike last year when retro-style scramblers were all the rage. This can easily be proved by the prevailing trends in the sale of motorbikes the world over. In the last ten years or so, big adventure bikes, epitomized by the BMW 1200 GS, have come to be hugely successful particularly in the developed markets. Because riders dream of owning them, it is strange that small engine equivalents have taken this long to become popular.
These are Bikes like the DL250 V-Strom (Suzuki), Versys-X 300(Kawasaki), CRF250 Rally (Honda) and G 310 GS (BMW).The prototype for TRK502 by Benelli was unveiled last year and it has finally entered the production stage. The Himalayan bike by Royal Enfield is on the verge of hitting the international market.
Euro 4 rules
The rules and regulations on particular markets can extend to other areas. This has been clearly demonstrated by the new European regulations (known as Euro 4) that are now being mentioned in all stories about 2017 models.
Mainly focusing on the topic of exhaust emissions, these new European rules aim at minimizing both noise and harmful outputs. But they also have indirect effects. For example, in addition to tightening the previous limits, they bring in the need for motorbike manufacturers to show that their bikes will stay compliant even when they get old. The implication is that the latest motorbikes need to go over the new limits by a significant margin, bearing in mind that their performance is sure to be affected by wear and tear.
The European rules, starting from January, make ABS mandatory for every bike with an engine capacity of over 125cc.They also introduce requirements that the inbuilt diagnostic systems that monitor emissions do not fail. Small changes to the rules also suggest that European bikes are embracing the unsightly side reflectors that used to be compulsory for the American market.
The comeback of homologation bikes
As a result of the WSBK regulations that permit bike makers to race against bikes manufactured in small numbers(just 500 are enough, and they are given two years to do it), suppliesthere is a multitude of new homologation bikes in 2017.
There is the CBR1000RR SP2 (by Honda), the newly-launched ZX-10RR (Kawasaki) and the GSX-R1000R (by Suzuki) while the R1M (Yamaha) is also back for one more year. These motorbikes, especially the Kawasaki and Honda, will only actually perform to their maximum once race kits are installed. But all the same, buyers will still scramble for them. This will hopefully spice up racing.
Phasing out of the supersport 600
As mentioned earlier this year, our suspicions about the impending demise of the Supersport 600 turned out to be mostly true. It is anticipated that many of the competitors in this category will be discontinued.
This is attributed, again, to Euro 4 -although the ever-declining sales figures also played a part. Highly-tuned, high-revving small engines are most hard-pressed to adhere to the new laws. It is doable, but it will often be accompanied by a reduction in performance or there has to be a notable increase in the technology and engine cost.
The valves must overlap a lot so as to attain peak power and a high-rev performance. This is a problem because it means that a lot of unburnt fuel will get to the exhaust at lower revs. Variable valve timing could resolve this, but it is costly and difficult to incorporate in small engines with high revs.
Yamaha has gone against the grain and chosen to rehabilitate ITS R6 to make it conform with Euro 4. Curiously, it seems like it has taken a few engine alterations to achieve this. It is noteworthy to mention that currently as we speak, the company has not disclosed the motorbike’s torque or peak power.
Platform-sharing is not exactly a new idea, but manufacturers are pushing the boundaries every year. The basic idea entails raiding your current suppliers merging elements to make new models or gain entry to new niches, all this without incurring the massive research and development costs that come into the creation of a completely new bike.
Triumph especially is becoming adept at this. This is evidenced by the continuous range Bonneville –based bike models that have been launched in the past few months. The four-tiered range of 2016 has been replaced by an eight-tiered line-up in 2017, and apparently, the company is not finished yet. A new speed twin is in the works, accompanied by cruiser derivatives.
Ducati is also not being left behind in the mix-and-match stakes. Examples of this can be seen in the Monster 797, SuperSport 939, Multistrada 950 and Scrambler Café Racer and Desert Sled-all to be seen in 2017.
Vastly-expensive motorbikes are on the way
A couple of years ago, it might have been viewed as madness to hint that there was a stable market for superbikes with massive price tags. During the 1990s, Honda toiled badly when trying to market the NR750 technologically advanced (by then) bike, and companies like Bimota have always teetered on the brink of bankruptcy with their super-expensive bikes.
But it was no problem to find consumers to buy the RC213V-S road bikes in 2016, and this also applies to the Kawasaki H2Rs and H2s.In 2017, even more vastly-expensive motorbikes are on the way. After plunging into these waters with the Desmosedici RR (the first super-expensive motorbike to record decent sales), Ducati is back, this time introducing the 1299 Superleggera.
Norton has found the consumers to place 200 orders for the yet-to-be-built V4 SS models (that come with carbon wheels) over the next year. BMW also enters the fray later in 2017 with their HP4 Race. This indicates that there is an imminent trend to construct the body, wheels and frames of bikes using structural carbon fiber.
Image credit: worldsbk.com