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2017 SA Bike Festival: New motorcycles launched

2017-06-05 10:35

SA Bike Festival May 2017 saw the second SA Bike Festival being held at Kyalami, with the organisers promising that it would be bigger and better than its predecessor. Image: Dries Van Der Walt

Dries Van Der Walt

Johannesburg - May 2017 saw the second SA Bike Festival being held at Kyalami, with the organisers promising that it would be bigger and better than its predecessor.

As was the case last year, the Festival brought visitors a veritable feast of both bikes and accessories, all neatly displayed in Kyalami’s pit complex.

Manufacturers represented at the event included KTM, Husqvarna, Ducati, BMW, Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, Can-Am, Aprilia, MV Agusta, Hyosung, Harley-Davidson, CSR, BetaRacing, Polaris, Linhai, Zontes and Indian.

New Motorcycles

Once again a number of manufacturers chose the Festival to show off, and in some cases launch, their new model range. KTM and Husqvarna both weren’t content to stick to their 2017 range but also lifted the veil on what 2018 will hold. From KTM’s side there was the 2018 off-road range, the flagship of which is the 300 EXC 6Days edition, while Husqvarna showed the oddly-shaped 401 Vitpilen (and no, it is not what you think – it actually means “white arrow”). 

Husqvarna’s Fred Fensham said: "The Vitpilen 401 is designed to disprove stereotypes. It is intended to make urban motorcycling more accessible and inviting than ever before. We use two words to describe it – simple, progressive – having stripped away everything that’s unnecessary to leave something subtle and style-focused to allow you to experience the simple thrill of the ride."

The star of Suzuki’s stand was undoubtedly the highly-anticipated GSX-R1000, but two of their other offerings that also attracted my attention were the new SV650, a simple V-twin naked that is likely to be a great everyday bike, and the GSX-250R, a pocket superbike with the GW250’s 248cm³ parallel twin engine. The 250R’s pricing is not yet available, but if reasonable it might join its V-twin sibling in shaking up the commuter world.

The long-awaited new Suzuki GSX-R1000. #sabikefestival #kyalami #suzuki #gsxr1000 @wheels24_sa

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And on the subject of commuters: BMW showed, among others, their smallest bike in a long time – the G 310 R, a roadster with a load of attitude and all the engineering you would expect from something wearing the Bavarian roundel. BMW will hold a media launch soon, so expect a report on the competitively-priced Baby Beemer in the near future. I also had the opportunity to ride the R-nineT Racer around the track – while not endowed with superbike-like handling, was an immensely enjoyable machine to lap Kyalami with.

Rivalling the GSX-R1000 for interest is Honda’s new Fireblades: the standard and SP versions. The ‘Blade has been a long time coming, but with increased power and up-to-date electronic it seems to be well worth the wait. With the Winged H’s legendary build quality and rider aids that rival that of the opposition, the Fireblade seems poised to regain the cult status it had in the past. 

Honda's newly-launched 2017 Fireblade. #sabikefestival #kyalami #hondamotorcycles #fireblade @wheels24_sa

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Ducati have, as they did last year, introduced a slew of new bikes. Two that caught my immediate attention were the Multistrada 950 (a smaller and simplified version of the 1200 Multistrada) and the new Supersport, which shares the smaller ‘Strada’s 83 kW 937cm³ engine. Both are likely to help boost Ducati’s sales figures by making the exotic Italian marque more accessible to the average rider. I’ve already booked a Multistrada 950 for review, so more about this bike soon.

But it wasn’t just about bikes on display: in the evenings attendees were entertained with stunt shows presented by Monster Energy. Local stunt riders Alastair Sayer and Dallan Goldman were joined by international FMX star Jimmy Hill to thrill the crowd with seemingly gravity-defying performances. On Sunday morning 1200 motorcyclists took part in the Dunlop charity ride departing from Fairland’s Shopping Centre and culminating in two laps around Kyalami.

Despite dire economic expectations, 2017 has been off to a great start as far as new bikes are concerned, and the Bike Festival has given the public not just the opportunity to see the new models in the flesh, but also to test ride some of them.

As was the case in 2016, the show seemed to be well received by the attending public, and perhaps the best summary of its success comes from one of the visitors I spoke to in passing: “Almost as soon as it is over, I start looking forward to next year's show!”

Suzuki's stand #sabikefestival #kyalami #suzuki

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