22nd November 2016
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Motorcycle Live - Retros & Scramblers
We are living in the age of the Retro. And the Scrambler. Maybe next year it'll be the age of the Scretro. Or the Rambler. Martin Gelder went to the NEC in search of enlightenment and found some interesting stuff...
The NEC Show. Motorcycle Live, they call it now. All about modern bikes, right? Clip-ons, fairings and carbon fibre?
Not any more. Nearly all the major manufacturers field a couple of 'retro' or 'scrambler' styled bikes these days, and for those of us that are looking for something a little off-beat but practical, there's lots to see.
And we'll start here, because Triumph have gone all-in on the retro theme, launching more variations of the apparently successful Street Twin and T120 Bonneville.
Big news is the new T100, which has almost nothing in common with the old T100. It sits in the range between the T120 and Street Twin, with an on the road price of around £8,300 compared to its bigger brother's £9,800 and little brother's £7,500.
The T100 makes 55 horsepower and 80Nm of torque, weighs a typical for the class 213kg (470lbs), and comes with an immense array of options to make it your own. Yes, of course there's a scrambler option.
Perhaps the surprise of the show was the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401; we weren't expecting anything that looked like this. Probably destined to be a future RealClassic in the mould of the Aprilia Moto 6.5, certainly destined to turn heads if you see one on the road.
It's powered by a 375cc single with a six speed gearbox, and weighs just148kg (or 326lbs for those still viewing the internet in black and white). No word on price, but just look at it...
Ducati have taken the success of the Scrambler and run with it, producing variants that must surely be competing with their own Monster range. There's now a cafe-racer Scrambler and a scrambler Scrambler. Where will it all end?
Yamaha have made some iconic bikes in the past, not least the XT500, and the latest version of their XV950 'Bolt' is a tribute to the first of the Japanese big trailies.
There's also a military version and a sort of flat-track type of thing.
Honda broke new ground in the sixties with their small, powerful and distinctively styled twins, so when they decided to climb aboard the retro bus, they chose to revive... a bland four cylinder UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle). We can see where they're coming from with this, but it's very... Honda.
The CB1100EX churns out just 88.5hp and weighs a chunky 255kg (562lbs). It comes in dull red or sickly yellow and has some other specifications but we got distracted by the shininess of the latest...
It's a V4, and is almost certainly designed to be an investment rather than something you acutally ride, either at a trackday or on the road. Very shiny, but significant in the grand scheme of things?
Royal Enfield had a lot of variations on the 535 Continental, including the new Himalayan. No sign of the rumoured twins, though.
The Himalayan is a 411cc long-stroke single making 24.5 bhp (so in a gentle state of tune) and weighing 182kg (401lbs). Five speed gearbox, discs front and rear, 15 litre fuel tank and electric start. Almost a scrambler.
BMW's R-nineT comes in an endless variety of tank finishes and riding positions, but the paint on this one caught our eye.
And there was the R nineT Racer, possibly designed to go head to head with Triumph's Thruxton R. 110hp, 220kg, heated grips extra.
Is it retro? It's certainly eye-catching. Alongside the V7 variants and their larger retro siblings was the MGX-21. It's 1,380cc v-twin that costs a quid short of £20,000 (excluding accessories).
Harley-Davidson didn't so much jump on the retro bus as hang around long enough for it to come back past their stop. They couldn't resist the lure of the scrambler, though.
Instead they were focussing on selling a lifestyle with a DJ pumping out pretty good music that was a nice change from the cliched 50's Rock 'n Roll, comfy seats, a custom show and the chance to try a bike on a rolling road that let you spin the engine up through the gears under the watchful eye of a member of staff.
Probably a good way to entice novices into having a go, although the maximum speed warning looked more like a target to me...
Elsewhere in the show there were some really odd contrasts.
A real Brough Superior attracted a crowd, the new Brough... Didn't.
Neither did a new variation on the Hesketh. Or is it the previous one in a new suit?
And for the first time in many years, I actually saw some people on the Metisse stand. They didn't look like the sort of people likely to spend money on a brand new stripped back desert racer, but at least there were signs of life this year, in contrast to the deserted wastelands of the past.
Let's end with another picture of the new T100, just because.
Words and Photos: Martin Gelder
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