There was good and there was bad.
We recently made the rounds and had everyone on the team share the bikes they’re most excited about in 2021. Despite all of 2020’s shenanigans, bike makers did some good work and unveiled some really cool stuff.
Not all the launches were so exciting, however. There were a couple of misses, disappointments, and flat-out weird occurrences this year which is on- theme with 2020. Yes, we’re talking almost as weird and surreal as the killer wasps from Hell, the U.S. election, and a random metal monolith discovered in the desert.
While we're usually the optimistic, silver-lining types, sometimes, we also need to look back at the industry’s failures, if only for their entertainment value. If we can’t poke a bit of fun at some debatable corporate decisions, what can we do? Anyway, here are, what we think were, the most disappointing bike launches of the year.
Honda Rebel 1100
No, no, don’t freak out! We’re not saying that the Rebel 1100 is a disappointing bike. On the contrary, we’d say that the supersized Rebel was a long time coming and that it’s a great addition to the lineup. No, we mean by that that in this case, the launch itself was a bit of a letdown.
It feels as though the bike deserved more than just a press release and a handful of pictures, no? We’d been hyping the one-liter twin-propelled Rebel since the spring of 2020 and there was a lot to be excited about in our opinion. However, Honda introduced the bike without any big bells and whistles. Honda didn’t even see fit to tease what we think is one of the most important additions to its lineup because, apparently, teasing the mildly updated CB1000R was a bigger priority.
Without any form of build-up and a launch scheduled in the middle of a U.S. election mess and a pandemic, we feel the bike didn’t receive as much attention as it could have, which is a shame.
There isn’t one Suzuki bike launch in particular that was disappointing this year—it was both the lack thereof and all of them at the same time. In December, 2020, Suzuki finally decided to let us in on what models it would bring back for 2021. The answer: all of them, unchanged, untouched, and unspoiled.
Sure, we got a few new colorways and price tags with boosted numbers dangling off the mirrors—price increases range from $50 to $200 depending on the model—but that was it. Since the introduction of the new Katana in 2018, Suzuki has been keeping a (very) low profile. It did try to spark a bit of excitement with the introduction of the DR Big-inspired V-Strom in 2019 but the lack of any significant changes to the bike made the event forgettable.
This year, Suzuki gave us nothing, which is concerning considering how aggressive the competition is getting. Other brands launched new products left and right—including a new serious SV650 competitor, you might have heard of called the Triumph Trident.
Of course, one might argue that this year was the year to keep to yourself, but considering how far ahead some of Suzuki’s competitors seem to be, the cruel lack of any innovation on the House of Hamamatsu’s part is disappointing.
Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
Triumph simultaneously had one of the most exciting and one of most disappointing launches of 2020. It scored high marks with the introduction of the new Trident 660, but fell a little flat with the new Tiger 850 Sport introduced shortly after. Let’s be honest here folks. As much as it pains us to admit it, the Tiger 850 Sport was a bit of an underwhelming launch for Triumph. To be fair, it’s hard to top the Trident.
“You know what I would really like? A detuned Tiger for the city,” said nobody.
The Tiger 900 launched at the end of 2019 was very well received. According to early reports, Triumph had done its homework in improving its adventurer. Talks of an 850 Sport sounded promising, but when Triumph announced that we’d pretty much be getting the exact same bike with a downsized displacement and detuned performance, the excitement rapidly faded.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the 850—we can definitely see the appeal for the European market. In North America, however, not so much.
Thankfully, despite the lackluster set up, Triumph did one thing right with the entry-level Tiger: the price. The 850 Sport is significantly cheaper at $11,995 compared to the 900 that starts at $14,300.
KTM 890 Adventure
This launch wasn’t as disappointing as it was plain weird. Out of the blue, on October 6, 2020, KTM introduced the all-new 890 Adventure—the Adventure R and R Rally to be specific. True to form, Team Orange created a new family of bikes when it first introduced the 890 Duke in 2019. It then used the same 889cc mill, bolted it to an adventure bike frame, and introduced the, well, Adventure version.
Nothing unusual up to this point. Where things get a little weird is when KTM followed up with the entry-level 890 Adventure on October 14. Why? Frankly, the Austrian marque could very well have introduced all three trim-levels on the same day for maximum effect. Nobody really cared about the more affordable 890 at that point—the novelty had already worn off by the time the third bike launched.
This one isn’t a launch that happened but rather a launch that didn’t happen. See, Harley had big plans for 2020 and was supposed not one but two entirely new bikes. We had been waiting for the Bronx and the Pan America for well over a year. The table was seemingly set for the two new members of the Bar and Shield family to debut at some point during the year.
However, a lot of things didn’t go as planned in 2020, including the company’s strategy and launch schedule. A serious leadership reorganization and the introduction of a far more conservative corporate strategy threw a wrench in the company’s plans (and in our expectations).
The launch of new products was pushed back to early 2021 to better align with the riding season and while Harley confirmed that the Pan Am remained on its list of future models, the Bronx seemingly fell off of it. Considering how close the company was to introducing the bike and that an entirely new engine was built for it, the Bronx’s apparent demise is a big disappointment.
Harley declined to comment on the model’s future so, for all we know, the Bronx might come later on, but as things currently stand, we’re not holding our breath.
BMW GS 40th Anniversary Collection
2020 was an important milestone for BMW that celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of its most iconic and important bikes—the R 80 G/S. To highlight the birthday, all the current GS in the BMW’s lineup were offered with a special legacy edition.
The letdown? The fact that the celebration was limited to a plain black-and-yellow colorway. Some of the bikes received a matching set of wheels. That’s it.
40 years of adventuring highlighted with a paint job—an expensive one at that. On the legendary R 1250 GS, the 40th Anniversary edition comes at a $1,750 premium with a set of wire-spoke wheels and a dual-sport, two-tone saddle. The more “basic” treatments, like on the F 750 GS adds $400 to the bill. For paint.
We think the GS history would have deserved a little something more. Instead of five special editions, BMW could have narrowed it down to only one and gone all in on a special edition of the R 80 G/S descendant, the R 1250 GS.
This one is a bit of a bitter-sweet case. For 2021, Ducati thoroughly upgraded the famous Monster, trimming it down by a few pounds—and by few, we really mean a staggering 40 pounds—and wringing more power out of the 937cc L-twin Testastretta. The new-generation Italian roadster is now more muscular and passionate than ever and it wears it well.
All those wonderful changes came at a price, however. The Monster lost its signature trellis frame in the process, something the fans are still reeling from. It now almost looks like a more “generic” Japanese roadster. Gasp all you want; we stand by that statement.
The new Monster will likely ride like a charm, but coming from an Italian house, that look is almost criminal, evolution or not.