There’s a lot of metal coming our way next year and that can only be a good thing for Indian motorcycling. There seems to be a general theme hinting towards the achievable performance segments – something that the KTM 390 Duke started three years ago and has ruled without any real competition since then. The Dukes have been catalysts for change for biking enthusiasts, putting lots of power in the hands of common-folk. Other manufacturers seem to have taken cue. There’s some action above and below this segment as well, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s all the fun stuff at attractive price tags that has me excited! Here’s what I can’t wait to ride in 2017!
BMW G310 R
What? A BMW Motorrad bike that is affordable? Well, if it is priced as well as people think it will be, then yes! The G310R made waves with its first look in the form of a stunting machine and then with its road-going production version on display at the Auto Expo in February. There’s some unique technology there too – with the ‘introverted’ engine placing the exhaust ports to the rear and the inlets to the front. On paper, this has its advantages but we’ll just have to wait and see how that translates to the real world. There’s a lot of hype and hopes riding on this machine being made by TVS for BMW Motorrad and we’re guessing that a price as close to the likes of the KTM 390 duke as possible (Rs 2 – 2.5 lakh) should make the BMW G310R a big hit. This little German is probably the most anticipated motorcycle in the country for 2017 – or maybe just a close second to the next motorcycle on this list.
2017 KTM 390 Duke
The King of the Affordable Performance Ring is getting an upgrade and it includes some very delicious goodies like that all-new LED headlamp cluster, a slipper clutch and complete smartphone connectivity! There’s a bit of a redesign too and all we can say is that the new Duke is sharper than ever before. There are already a bunch of buyers lining up for this baby – including existing 390 Duke owners who are selling off their older versions and making space for the new one. Top Tip: Loads of the current gen Duke 390s are becoming available on the used bike marketplace, so if you want one, now is the chance. Despite a whole lot of fresh competition in the space, there is little doubt that KTM will continue to rule the roost in 2017 as well for two reasons – the price point is extremely tough to match and the Dukes have first mover advantage already. Anyone out there betting against it?
With TVS and BMW joining hands on the G310R project, you wouldn’t expect the Indian manufacturer to lose out on the sales charts and that’s exactly where the Akula fits in. It’s a smart move too – BMW will target lovers of the street and adventure type of motorcycles with the G310R and the G310GS, while TVS will take the lead on the fully-faired track-bike types. For now, the Akula is embedded in my head as the slick, carbon-fibre clad prototype that was showcased at the Auto Expo earlier this year and if TVS can stick to the same design (minus the carbon-fibre, obviously), the shark-inspired Akula could just be the big one for its maker in 2017. It could in fact, be the one that starts troubling the likes of the KTM RC 390 in the space – especially since the RC refresh isn’t as hot as the Duke refresh.
Royal Enfield Continental GT 750
A little while ago, I wrote this elaborate piece on medium-capacity multi-cylinder motorcycles that cost about Rs 3 lakh or so. Could the Royal Enfield Continental GT with its 750cc parallel twin motor (currently being developed in the UK), be the bike that fits that mould? It’s an interesting and likely prospect for sure, and if that does happen, then RE will be rolling in the dough no doubt. That kind of a price point (even with a Rs 50,000 grace) would really give some heart burn to a number of manufacturers – Triumph and Harley-Davidson included. Either ways, with the Himalayan, RE has shown that it does have a penchant for modern, thoughtful engineering and just that has made me curious about their first parallel twin motorcycle. This is going to be super interesting.
BMW G310 GS
If you had to take a wild guess and pinpoint one motorcycle that BMW Motorrad is famous for, it would be the GS adventure motorcycle. The engine capacity may be lower (much lower) but the DNA remains the same with the G310GS that first broke cover just a couple of months ago. With its powerplant shared with the G310R, the coming of the GS is the boost that adventure biking in India truly needs – after all, when a manufacturer decides to use such a big brand on a smaller capacity motorcycle, you’ve got to take notice. They’ve done a great job with the design as well and this G310GS just looks exactly like it’s from the same bloodline as the bigger ones.
Back in July when the first images and videos of the brand new parallel-twin CBR 250RR surfaced, it pretty much broke the internet. Maybe it was simply because we’re all used to seeing the Honda 250 as a mild-mannered machine that is more relaxed tourer than aggressive animal. Developed mainly for Asian markets, the CBR 250RR is still making waves – some even vaguely comparing it to older two-stroke machines of similar capacity thanks to its performance – many riders have crossed 170km/h on it. There may be no concrete word on this one’s arrival in India yet, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for sometime in 2017. Even if it does make it here, it is likely to not be as cheap / affordable as the current single-cylinder CBR 250R of course, but its pricing will still be interesting.
Kawasaki Versys X300
The RE Himalayan may have taken the lead as far as affordable adventure motorcycles are concerned, but the rest of the world is more than warming up with the idea and set to catch up soon. At Milan and EICMA this year, lots of manufacturers displayed similar (in principle) motorcycles and some of these really caught my attention – the Kawasaki Versys X300 for example. If you’ve ridden the bigger Versys before, you’ll know how good a motorcycle it is for India and the X300 will carry on the same functionality with a smaller, 296cc engine borrowed from the Z250. It’s got 170mm of ground clearance and a sharp, chiselled styling. Price however, will remain a big question considering the Japanese manufacturer’s pricing strategies previously.
Suzuki V-Strom 250
Staying with the small capacity adventure motorcycle bug that seems to have bitten the manufacturers all at once, the Suzuki V-Strom 250 seems like an interesting machine. It takes its engine from the Suzuki Inazuma and features everything you’ll need to go off-tarmac and explore the great outdoors. Seat height seems to be low enough to be a good fit for Indian riders and the bike should come in with disc brakes and ABS on both wheels. The one thing that doesn’t quite go the V-Strom’s way here, is the complete lack of imagination in its design – the round headlamp is just too morbid when you compare it to the likes of the BMW G310GS and the Kawasaki Versys X300.
Ok, so there is absolutely no confirmation to whether Honda will actually end up making the sexy urban-adventure concept that they showed at the 2016 Auto Expo into a reality. But what’s life without a little hope? Turned out in red and grey, the CX-02 is exactly the type of motorcycle India needs and I’ve been saying this forever now. In many ways, the CX-02 is comparable to a scaled down version of the NC700X that is available in foreign markets and would just be so much fun to ride here at home. The concept is said to have the CBR500R parallel twin nestled in there, and that’s just about the right capacity according to my earlier column on the subject as well. So, will Honda make it? Can’t wait!
Bajaj Dominar 400
Yes, this one has already launched in 2016 – I was there for the event. But this is about actually riding the motorcycle, which is most likely going to happen in 2017 for me, and that’s the sole reason why the Dominar 400 has made it into this list. The whole power-cruiser stance looks interesting and was aggressive enough when I swung over the motorcycle at a stndstill. Hopefully, it will be just as involving while on the move as well. Power comes from Bajaj’s version of the KTM 390 Duke engine and this is the first motorcycle in India to feature full LED headlamps as well. Stay tuned for the ride report next month!
In what is probably one of the biggest announcements in Indian motorcycling for 2016, Mahindra will be bringing back the Jawa and BSA brands, with the Jawas set to make it to showrooms here as well. Jawa has always been a brand known for its simple to maintain and fun to ride bikes – how that will translate on the newer motorcycles to be made by Mahindra is something we’ll have to see. Regardless, and hoping that they become a reality by the end of 2017, it should be quite nostalgic to hop on to a modern-day Jawa and take it for a spin!