Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
The Motorcycle Live show at the NEC in Birmingham is fast approaching and from 17-25 November it’s the place where you’ll be able to see all the new 2019 models for the first time in the metal.
There’s little more frustrating than leaving a show only to find later on that you’ve missed something, so here’s a guide to the bikes you need to catch, and where to find them.
For simplicity, we’re presenting them in order that you’re likely to see them. Start in Hall 2, the first on the left when you enter the Show, and work your way through Hall 3 and 4, and you should catch all of these in one sweep.
The show opens on Saturday 17 November and runs until Sunday 25 November, with the halls opening at 9am on weekends and 10am on weekdays, and closing at 5pm. Advance tickets must be booked before 5pm on 16 November and cost £19.50 for adults, £12 for over 65s and only £1 for children between 11 and 16, but. Kids 10 and under get in free with an accompanying adult. On the day, prices are £25 for adults and £15 for over 65s.
A new superbike from BMW doesn’t come along every day and we know the firm has been slaving away on this machine for years to make sure it’s ready for the market.
It’s the world’s first superbike to have variable valve timing and lift, thanks to BMW’s unique ShiftCam system, and that promises to give the 204bhp machine a massive slug of midrange torque without detracting from its peak power.
It might not look much different but BMW’s new R1250GS is probably going to be one of next year’s best-selling bikes. Within a few months you’ll be seeing them everywhere, but take a good look at the NEC while they’re still a novelty.
Again, BMW’s ShiftCam variable valve timing system is the key to a huge torque boost – now 105lb-ft – while a capacity hike from 1170cc to 1254cc pushes peak power up from 125bhp to 134bhp. There are several versions, including the larger-tanked Adventure and the sporty-looking Rallye model, and the same 1254 ShiftCam engine is also appearing in the 2019 R1250R, R1250RS and R1250RTs, also on show.
There’s no doubt that after the ecstatic reception that the parallel twin KTM 790 Duke received this year, the appearance of the same engine and technology in an adventure bike is even more exciting. The 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R both use the same 94bhp LC8c motor as the Duke, and tech including a colour TFT dash, cornering ABS and cornering traction control, but with off-road styling – more extreme in the case of the ‘R’ model – they’re hitting a more popular market and will surely be the firm’s best-selling machines in 2019.
Suzuki hasn’t had much to shout about this year but the revival of the Katana name – and its application to a bike that perfectly melds modern tech with retro influences – mean that it’s got a star bike to show off, even if it’s not an entirely new machine.
Underneath, the Katana shares the vast majority of its bits with the existing GSX-S1000, and that’s not a bad thing; there’s a 148bhp engine derived from the legendary GSX-R1000K5’s and an alloy frame that keeps kerb weight down to a respectable 215kg. But the new bike’s styling is what will guarantee it sales. It’s not an out-and-out retro but it strikes all the right notes to be instantly recognisable as a descendant of the original Katana.
You might have seen the Svartpilen 701 in the past as a concept bike, and the 2019 production model manages to look remarkably close to that original show machine.
Underneath, there’s the same chassis and KTM-sourced, 73hp, 692cc single that’s used in the existing Vitpilen 701, but the Svartpilen adds flat-track inspired styling that’s even more distinctive and eye-catching.
Whether you see the Arc Vector electric cafe racer as a vision of the future or merely an entertaining side-track, you’re sure to be intrigued by the prospect of a British machine, largely made of carbon fibre, offering 133bhp from an electric motor and combining superbike acceleration with a 200-mile range. At £90,000 a piece it’s not going to be for everyone, and with proposed production of only 399 examples, this might be the only chance you ever get to see one.
Yamaha hit the jackpot with its MT-07; an unmatched value-for-money proposition that led to massive sales, so the anticipation that’s grown around the Tenere 700 adventure bike is unsurprising.
If you liked the World Raid prototype shown a year ago, you’re in for a treat, as the production Tenere 700 is near-identical. Unlike many bikes in the class, the Tenere’s off-road style is more than just a façade; it’s inspired by Dakar bikes, and looks every inch like it would be at home in a Rally-Raid competition.
Paying homage to the 1981 XT500, the XTribute is a fairly straightforward reworking of the existing XSR700 but it’s one that hits the mark with sniper-like accuracy. Suddenly, the slightly oddball, retro-inspired XSR becomes a scrambler that’s not a slavish copy of bikes of yore but one that hits the right notes with virtuoso fluency. The simple addition of fork gaiters, a scrambler seat, wider bars and the XT-style paint works wonders.
Electric bikes have yet to break out of the oddball fringe in the view of most riders but the addition of a battery-powered machine to the mainstream line-up of a legendarily famous firm could be just what the market needs to bring it into real contention.
Few would have expected Harley-Davidson, of all bike firms, to be the one that makes the step into electric bikes, but that’s exactly what it’s doing with the 2019 LiveWire.
Derived from its 2014 concept bike of the same name, the production LiveWire has strong specs – although key power, range and price figures have yet to be revealed – and manages to look better than most electric machines. Could it be the bike that tempts you to buy a Harley? Or the one that persuades you to consider electric power? If it does either, then it can be considered a success.
>> Find out more about the LiveWire in our video interview and walk-around here
A year ago the one bike you needed to see at Motorcycle Live was the Ducati Panigale V4. The machine that finally showed that Ducati wasn’t wed to V-twins has proved a huge success already and the new £35k V4R version is the model that will take the bike onto the worldwide racing stage next year.
The price may be high, but your cash gets a MotoGP-derived V4 that revs to 16,000rpm and beyond, making 217bhp in road-legal form as it does so. Chuck on the track-only exhaust and power rises to an astounding 231bhp.
That remarkable engine is wrapped in a bike that sports the best of everything – Ohlins and Brembo logos abound – and stands out from normal Panigales with be-winged bodywork that makes more downforce than the firm’s real GP bikes can achieve.
Ducati’s Diavel has always been a head-turner and the completely revamped 2019 version is even more impressive.
Derived from the more recent XDiavel cruiser, the new Diavel gets Ducati’s variable-valve-timing, 1262cc V-twin making 157bhp, new styling and cutting-edge electronics, including cornering ABS and lean-sensitive traction control.
One of the only worldwide launches taking place at Motorcycle Live, the Norton Atlas scrambler is a huge step forward for the British firm, marking its entry into a competitive middleweight market.
Powered by an 84hp, 650cc parallel twin, the Atlas will initially be sold in two versions – the £9995 Nomad and the more off-road-style, £11,995. Norton will even be accepting deposits for the first 500 examples (250 of each version) at the show, promising delivery of those first bikes before the end of 2019.
>> Get all the details and see our video interview with Stuart Garner, Owner of Norton, right here
Triumph’s retro range has been riding the crest of a wave since the introduction of the 1200cc Bonneville a few years ago. Follow ups including the astoundingly successful Bobber have kept interest high, and in 2019 the new Scrambler 1200 promises to perform the same trick.
Two versions will be on show – the lower-spec XC and high-end XE – but both look spectacular. The XE is more off-road capable, with a different chassis and suspension, but both bikes have high-end parts including Brembo M50 brakes and IMU-assisted traction control and ABS.
>> Take a look over the details and see our video on the new Triumph Scrambler here
Much has been said about the decline of the 600cc supersports class, but Kawasaki is working to keep it alive with the revamped 2019 ZX-6R.
While it’s based on the previous-generation machine, the 2019 bike gets completely new styling and ensures its future – at least for the next few years, by featuring a Euro4-complient engine.
At 128bhp, it’s the most powerful bike in its ever-shrinking class, while revamped technology including a quick-shifter helps bring its spec up to date.
Although lacking the off-road intentions of some of its rivals, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 makes a strong case for itself in the adventure tourer class and in 2019 it’s become stronger still with a complete stylistic and technical rework.
Although the engine and chassis are carry-overs, the bike gains new electronics including ride-by-wire, lean-sensitive traction control and ABS and, on the high-spec SE version, electronic semi-active suspension.
Ariel’s Ace of Diamonds is a limited edition in the truest sense – just 10 will be hand-made by the firm – and they’re likely to sell fast as it’s also the most attractively-priced version of the Ace yet.
The 1237cc Honda V4-powered machine, with 173bhp, costs £19,982 and carries over much of the same technology that the Honda VFR1200 that donated its engine and suspension already used. But it’s all wrapped in a fabulous CNC machined frame and composite bodywork, finished in whatever colour the customer specifies.
With several mass-produced bikes available at a similar cost and performance point, the Ariel has the added appeal of being individually crafted, making its price seem quite reasonable. With so few being made, Motorcycle Live is probably the only time you’ll ever see one.
>> For all the details on the new Ariel, click here
Honda’s ‘Neo Sports Cafe’ style has spread across much of its naked bike range over the last year – starting with the CB1000R, CB300R and CB125R. And now there’s a mid-sized CB650R to join them.
Based on the old CB650F, the CB650R gets much improved running gear to go along with the neo-retro styling, with upside-down forks and radial brakes, while the engine gets a power boost to 93bhp.
The same suspension and engine tweaks also go into the new CBR650R, a fully-faired version of the bike that effectively replaces both the old CBR650F and the CBR600RR, sitting between them in an all-rounder role that’s reminiscent of the original CBR600.
Guzzi’s V85TT could well be one of 2019’s surprise hits – an 80hp air-cooled V-twin that combines retro-adventure styling with the convenience of a shaft drive. It’s been years since Moto Guzzi has offered anything that has such mainstream appeal.
There’s no question that it looks good, and any riders who find the latest generations of BMW GS becoming too high-tech, heavy and high performance for their tastes might find that the Guzzi is a pleasant throwback to earlier generations of twin-cylinder adventure tourers.
Not that it’s low-tech; there’s still traction control and ABS, plus riding modes, and at 229kg it’s lighter than some of its rivals, too.
With 214bhp the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory manages to stand out in two ways. First, it’s got a fraction more power than its clearest rival, the 211bhp, 1103cc Ducati Panigale V4. And second, it’s got wings.
Apart from the new 1078cc version of Aprilia’s impressive V4 engine, the RSV4 is largely carried over, with same chassis as its 999cc predecessor, but there are tweaks to geometry and improved suspension and brakes. Those wings, though, will be the main topic of conversation. Yes, they create downforce, adding stability, benefitting braking and boosting acceleration by keeping the front wheel down.
Promised by last year’s FTR1200 concept bike, Indian’s new flat-track-inspired production machine is quite a departure from the firm’s usual offerings, with a level of sportiness that we haven’t seen it attempt before.
The 120bhp, 1203cc engine is a water-cooled, DOHC twin-cam, with a superbike-bashing 85lb-ft of torque. IMU-assisted cornering ABS and traction control are standard on the higher-spec ‘S’ version, too.
At the moment, Indian’s UK sales are relatively small when compared to its main rival, Harley-Davidson. But the FTR1200 might just be the bike that could turn the tables, so make sure you get a proper look at it.