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Pirelli’s Folly of the Year 2018

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 judges had a combined riding experience of over four centuries; granted, most of them have been riding since the Flintstones invented locomotion, but there is no compromise for time in the saddle.
  • There seems to be no women in South Africa who can ride a motorbike, so there were no female judges.
  • There also seems to be no people of colour who could be found to judge the contest.
  • There was no community involvement or participation.
  • The process, which involved a one-sided discussion last year, and a conspiracy-based procedure this year, has no merit in declaring a winner.
  • There were no individual categories, which means that a cruiser had as much chance to win as a tiny commuter.
  • There is no rating system. It’s just an opinion, which varies on the basis of … who knows what.
  • 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 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.

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