To many of us, it’s Tuesday, October 24, 2023. However, to exhibitors at EICMA 2023, today is exactly two weeks before the opening date of the year’s biggest motorcycle show on the planet. While they’ve no doubt been readying their new machines and displays for months, the time is growing short to tease all the new, exciting stuff to the public.
Not to worry if you’re MV Agusta, though. The team from Varese officially confirmed a rumor that has been swirling for some time on its social media channels: That it’s bringing its three-cylinder ADV bike to EICMA 2023 at last.
To directly quote whoever is handling MV Agusta’s social posts directly, the text reads, “On November 7th the spotlights will be on her. The “9.5 Project” will be revealed in its final form at EICMA 2023.”
It’s been a long time coming. For a time, it wasn’t totally clear whether MV Agusta would ever release this bike or not. For those unfamiliar with the drama and tumult surrounding the Lucky Explorer project, here’s a brief summary.
MV Agusta, Lucky Explorer, and the Project That Almost Wasn’t
Way back in November 2021, MV Agusta first unveiled its Lucky Explorer project to the world. While the history of MV Agusta in the 2000s hasn’t included anything remotely resembling an adventure bike, both MV Agusta and Ducati have Cagiva in their tangled Italian motorcycle lineage—and both lay claim to the Cagiva Elefant as a moto-ancestor, of sorts. Produced from 1984 to 1998, some version of the Elefant is arguably the first thing that people who remember Cagiva picture when you utter that name.
As the ADV segment has exploded in popularity in recent years, it’s not difficult to understand why both Ducati and MV Agusta wanted to get in on the action. Ducati went its own way with the DesertX, while MV Agusta has been at work for the past few years on getting its Lucky Explorer project in order.
The project was named for the 1990 Lucky Explorer Cagiva Elefant 900ie, with the “ie” designating a fuel injected machine rather than a carbureted one. In the hands of Edi Orioli, this is the bike that won the 1990 Paris-Dakar Rally. It used a specially fettled Ducati 900cc V-twin that had been bored out to 944cc, among other modifications. The name Lucky Explorer, as well as the logo, came from its Lucky Strike cigarette sponsorship.
Fast-forward to 2021, and MV Agusta announced plans to create both a larger 950cc triple-powered Lucky Explorer, as well as a smaller 550cc version powered by a QJ Motors-developed parallel twin engine.
In late 2022, KTM acquired a 25 percent stake in MV Agusta. KTM’s parent company, Pierer Mobility, also owns motorcycle brands Husqvarna and GasGas, as well as other non-motorcycle concerns including Felt and R Raymon in the bicycle space.
While it isn’t a controlling stake, the ensuing back and forth in the media about whether KTM will eventually take over MV Agusta and add it to its stable of brands has produced both a lot of drama and a lot of headlines—mainly because it’s the CEOs of both companies that have been the ones making public statements about the likelihood of such a takeover.
At one point, Stefan Pierer, head of Pierer Mobility and KTM, offered the opinion that “MV Agusta doesn’t need Lucky Explorer.” Even if the company doesn’t have a controlling stake in MV, it’s clear that his opinion matters—so naturally, the moto world began to wonder whether that meant the project was totally dead or might just get a new name.
MV Agusta’s EICMA 2023 Plan
Now, let’s look at the teaser image that MV Agusta just posted on its socials. On the left, you’ll see the image as MV Agusta posted it. On the right, you’ll see a lightly enhanced version, where we adjusted the brightness and contrast to make it a little clearer.
You can clearly see what appears to be an Öhlins front fork, as well as get an overall image of the front silhouette of the bike. The handguards appear to still have the previously-hinted Lucky Explorer red and green circle motif, although it no longer includes the words “Lucky Explorer.” Zooming in on the tank shows the end of the word “Agusta,” indicating that MV Agusta branding will be present on the tank in a way that it wasn’t on the previously shown Lucky Explorer prototypes.
Does this mean that MV Agusta is dropping the Lucky Explorer moniker altogether? Referring to it as the “9.5 Project” makes it seem like a distinct possibility, but we won’t know for sure until MV unveils the real deal at EICMA 2023.
As for whether the bike formerly known as Lucky Explorer 5.5 will ever see the light of day, that’s something else that’s still unclear. Plenty of machines have met a similar fate, so at least it won’t be alone in its consignment to the annals of ‘almost-was’ if it never materializes.