Two-wheeled highlights of the year gone by
Happy new year, everyone! I'm particularly pleased to wish you because, 2015 has turned out to be a spectacular year for motorcycles. It sets the tone for 2016. 2015 was one of those years when manufacturers, some happily and others reluctantly, paid more attention to motorcycle enthusiasts rather than commuters. The buffet spread for us still isn't perfect, but man it looks better than it did this time last year!
The change of pace also reflected in our awards this year where enthusiasts' motorcycles dominated proceedings and the commuters failed to get even a toe in the door. To the extent where even I was surprised at how unanimous the votes for the Yamaha YZF-R3 ultimately proved to be. This was, despite its price, a conclusion that the seven jury members each reached all by themselves. In fact, I was betting that the IMOTY would also go to the Yamaha long before the voting began. It's been that kind of year.
Let's quickly see the other highlights of the year. Honda, ever chasing market share and Hero's market, suddenly gave us the CBR650F. Yes, it proved to be a little optimistic in price, but it's a terrific motorcycle overall. I do think Honda could have done more at least a more meaty upgrade to its other CBRs.
Hero's premium bikes, though, didn't fare quite so well. Both the Xtreme Sports and the Karizma (2014) were more miss than hit but it at least shows that Hero haven't forgotten us enthusiasts and their new R&D head and his new team should give us vastly better, hopefully worldclass products.
All-new entrants were Benelli who opened up a big range of motorcycles at affordable price points. Genuine Italian and some Chinese-developed bikes create a whimsical range with a fair spread of options.
Bajaj finally redid their Pulsar line and I like the fact that they're beginning to talk about more defined roles and hopefully the next generation comes soon with more specific hardware differences. Conspicuous by their absence were KTM who continued to sell their excellent value range of naked and sports motorcycles. But it broke many hearts when we learnt that the adventure (tour-enduro) bikes based on the Duke platform were on the backburner. I do hear that talks about bringing those bikes forward are on but no confirmations yet. TVS also had a quiet year apart from their Dainese-showcasing blue RTR advertisement. But I'll circle back to them.
Suzuki was another brand which made no announcements after the Gixxer SF expanded the range. But the unprecedented success of the Gixxer would probably have moved the focus to consolidation rather than further range expansion.
Other players? Kawasaki added bikes, Vespa added a bigger scooter... Wow, it's a long list.
But what is really exciting is that the head long rush of premium motorcycles is still on and shows no signs of abating.
Kawasaki have at least one new bike and one update on their 2016 to do list. Ditto Piaggio, who will probably show their first for-India motorcycle plus more focus on their CBU and incumbent CKD lines.
DSK and Benelli will probably be quiet for the beginning of the year but towards the end, the Leoncino and the TRK 502 should arrive bearing fresh engineering, modern day quality levels and hopefully, thrilling performance. The Tornado 302 should arrive too, bearing ABS.
KTM too should have something, at least significant updates to their line-up, though Bajaj's reluctance to enter the CKD and CBU space with KTM is beginning to get on my nerves. Hero's HX probably needs a fair amount of work thanks to Erik Buell's iffy work on the Karizma and Xtreme Sports, but still, before 2016 is out, that bike should be out as well. Bad news for Impulse fans the bigger engine-d bike is still on but not a priority.
Suzuki have big plans for 2016 as well and while they're tight lipped about it, I'm convinced that there are at least two CKD products coming and maybe an expansion of the CBU line is also due. But the headline grabbers will be BMW and TVS. The G 310 R looks very delicious and it holds immense appeal and promise. In some ways, it's the bike Honda should have done this year (sigh!). But yes, the BMW will be launched mid-year and the TVS version should come before the calendar year runs out.
All this action! It makes me want to jump up and down with excitement. It all kicks off with the Auto Expo (page 109) in February and I cannot wait. I hope you have terrific rides, immense amounts of fun and your guardian angel is always there when the need arises.
Happy new year, motorcycle lovers!
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