It is not often that world-class manufacturers sponsor events that create such controversy in the shrinking motorbike industry. Pirelli has doggedly continued to sponsor the geriatric Bike Show for the last six years and with declining viewership, dwindling sponsors and a staff complement that is dismal at best, it amazes me that it still drags on, much to the embarrassment of the many bikers out there who would like a transparent, representative event in our rainbow nation.
There is certain information I must add before getting into the bikes themselves:
The contenders for this year were:
1. BMW G310GS
Pros: large bike, looks legit, it’s a Beemer.
Cons: large bike, not anywhere as entertaining as the 310R, feels plastic.
2. BMW K1600B
Pros: looks like a Harley with BMW build quality, relatively cheap vs HD.
Cons: easier to work with a Sherman Tank, and the tank would be lighter.
3. Ducati Multistrada 1260
Pros: aggressive engine, lowest ride height for vertically challenged
Cons: not very popular, not really dual purpose
4. Ducati Panigale V4
Pros: incredible bike, best looker of the new gen supers, V-twin thrust with inline-4 top end.
Cons: needs proper rider skill, hard seating, price.
5. Honda Goldwing
Pros: build quality, not too heavy once moving
Cons: price, auto box takes getting used to
6. Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Pros: well-constructed, pseudo modern looks
Cons: hell on wrists, lacks personality
7. Kawasaki Ninja 400
Pros: light, fast, cheap, lots of fun
Cons: none in this bracket
8. Kawasaki H2 SX
Pros: Ehmmm, no idea
Cons: someone stuck power of an H2 with the riding position of the Versys, no-one tested it, blehhh…
9. Kawasaki Z900RS
Pros: reliability, construction, retro bike
Cons: not a true café cruiser, so will appeal to who exactly? Cheaper to rebuild original.
10. KTM 790 Duke
Pros: fast, well-priced hooligan option
Cons: a bit flighty and softer build, not as much fun as Triumph 765
11. Triumph 765 Street Triple
Pros: faster than it looks, absolute fun to ride, bargain bang for buck
Cons: none that I can think of
12. Triumph Tiger 1200
Pros: predatory looks and upgraded engine, good dual purpose option
Cons: should be cheaper in the current market, to compete against BMW
As contests go, any original equipment manufacturer can learn a lot from the precision and professionalism that cars.co.za demonstrates in their Car of the Year annual show.
Although one can appreciate Pirelli doing its best to maintain some semblance of normality in the biking industry, one must look at many factors before supporting an event that is obviously failing.Apart from a transparent process with community involvement, a script that adheres to some semblance of professionalism, camera work that does not make the entire judge panel look like extras from the Pirates of the Caribbean after-party, and venues where one can test all the bikes.
The event itself needs a fresh viewpoint, and the media partner needs new blood, preferably people of colour who do not look like rejects from The Love Boat and an audit partner to verify the results.
Until this is addressed, the Pirelli Bike of the Year is naught but a flirtatious insult to the riding public.