A little change makes a lot of sense.
Every November, motorcycle manufacturers gather in one central location to unveil models for the upcoming year. Like everything in 2020, this year’s announcements favored social distancing and internet virality, not the person-to-person variety. Despite this year’s EICMA cancellation, brands found novel ways to hype new motorcycles, and against the odds, we're just as excited for the 2021 model year.
Impending Euro 5 emissions standards also influenced future lineups, with existing models receiving a sprucing up in 2021. However, we’re more concerned with the models that gained substantial upgrades or didn’t previously exist. With markets ever-changing and technology ever-evolving, these are the five bikes that I’m looking forward to in the new year.
Yes, this year’s Ducati Multistrada ditches the iconic V-twin for a V4 powerplant. Yes, the new motor opts for springs instead of Desmodromic valves. Yes, some devoted Ducatisti would consider that sacrilege, but is that the most polarizing feature of the full-size adventurer? By no means. For that, one would have to turn to the electronics and the model’s new Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
Whether you believe ACC is a convenient tool or the harbinger of the techno-apocalypse, Ducati is putting all its chips on the table with the technology. The Bologna brand won’t offer the Multistrada V4 without ACC, though autonomous vehicle-averse customers can still purchase the Multistrada 1260 Enduro (without ACC) in 2021. With BMW already implementing its own version of the Bosch-developed ACC for the 2021 R 1250 RT, it won’t be long before more manufacturers whip up a proprietary version of the radar-based tech. How soon that develops all depends on the Multistrada V4’s success or failure in the market.
Ducati didn’t hesitate to test the faithful’s resolve this year. Aside from doing away with Desmodromic valves in the new Multistrada, the house of Borgo Panigale stripped the Monster of its emblematic trellis frame. In its stead, a Panigale-derived chassis reduces weight, helping the beastly bike shed nearly 40 pounds in 2021.
A new Monster also loses the 821 variant thanks to a new 937cc Testastretta engine cranking out 111 horsepower. Primed to take on the sub-1000cc nakeds in the class, the original streetfighter boasts top-notch features such as a 4.3 TFT dash, three ride modes, quickshifter, and a full suite of rider aids. As the premium option in the segment, we can’t wait to see if the Monster makes a triumphant return to the middleweight class.
If Yamaha’s MT-series bikes are the workhorses of Iwata brand, then the MT-09 might be the most versatile steed in the barn. For 2021, the standard trim MT-09 fetches a reworked 890cc inline-triple to meet Euro 5 standards but the SP variant adds a much-needed upgrade to the platform’s suspension. A fully-adjustable KYB inverted fork helps the naked’s handling while a fully-adjustable Ohlins shock in the rear steadies the load.
Suited for both the road and track, the MT-09 SP is a more budget-friendly option in the class without sacrificing performance. Finally offered in North America in 2021, the SP has long been a favorite in the European market and would only intensify competition in an already cluttered field. Sure, the Monster got lighter and faster for 2021, but it’ll sure face stiff competition with the MT-09 SP.
Superbikes have seen drastic revamps in the past few years. From the S 1000 RR’s makeover in 2019 to the CBR1000RR-R SP overhaul in 2020, manufacturers continue to push the genre forward with WSBK and MotoGP-developed updates. One brand that’s lagged behind (no, not Suzuki) is Kawasaki. Despite dominating WSBK with Jonathan Rea aboard the ZX-10RR, the Ninja’s aesthetics have fallen behind over the years.
Kawasaki remedied the outdated styling with a new facelift in 2021. Originally revealed at the WSBK winter tests, the ZX-10RR's reshaped front fairing optimizes aerodynamics and stability. Under the skin, team green also revised the superbike’s chassis, engine, and electronics suite to match its modern visage. Can the Ninja take it to Ducati and BMW on the WSBK circuit? No doubt. The question is, can it take them on in the showroom in 2021?
The Rebel 1100 has been rumored since March, 2020. Thankfully, Honda unveiled the upcoming factory bobber just eight months later and the reveal didn’t disappoint. Offering an automatic DCT variant and three ride modes, the big Rebel embraces technology and performance. The 1,084cc Africa Twin-derived parallel-twin adds instant street cred and the $9,299 starting price undercuts its competitors.
With Harley-Davidson dragging its feet on a Sportster replacement, and Euro 5 emissions eliminating the model for Europe, the market is ripe for a new mid-size cruiser option. Even if Honda can keep Rebel 300 and 500 owners riding Red instead of jumping ship for a Hog, the Rebel 1100 will make a big impact in the segment.