October 15
Motorcycle PR man Dan Sager feels the heat checking out the cool bikes for 2007 at Intermot in Cologne.
I last visited Intermot in 2002, when it was held in Munich, and remember being overwhelmed by the scale of the exhibition.  In spite of relocating to the slightly smaller Köln Messe (Cologne's 'NEC') and having to cope with the Italians running their EICMA show in direct competition (tempting many of their domestic manufacturers away from Germany) this exhibition is still MASSIVE by UK standards.  Occupying a total of 7 halls, 5 of which are substantially bigger than their NEC equivalent, and devoted entirely to display (retailing is 'verboten') this is a truly international event with major manufacturers from Europe and Japan using it as a platform for significant new model launches.  If you want to be one of the first to see the hot new metal for 2007, this is a cool place to be.  Before I unveil the exciting new products that I saw, I must pay homage to Dr Marten's footwear, without which I would have been extremely footsore and Kölsch beer, without which I would have been exceptionally thirsty.
The first fact that I must report is that the Chinese are coming.  It's clear from the UK registration figures that the Chinese brands are appearing in ever greater numbers in the 50-125cc sectors and several manufacturers had built impressing island site stands putting on a serious show of force.  Not only did the quality of machines look sound, the styling has come on leaps and bounds and is verging on the 'contemporary'.  They are also moving up the capacity stakes; I spotted numerous 250cc motorcycles and Jialing had a 600cc single as the centrepiece on their stand.  The only aspect that let them down was the quality of marketing and support - the Chinese had come to Cologne to sell machinery, not to build brands.  Maybe when the next show comes around, in 2008, they will have European sales & marketing offices with parts distribution hubs.  Then they will have arrived.
So to the big names.  Triumph unveiled the all-new 1050cc Tiger and it made one feel proud to be British.  By Jingo this road-biased adventure sport bike has an aggressive appearance at the front end, while side-on it looks light and flick able.
With national pride at stake, the German factories offered up an eye-catching selection of models in all shapes and sizes.  BMW launched the G-series, and update on their F650cc singles, now available in enduro, supermoto and trail styles.  All were lighter and more powerful that their predecessors and all looked fabulous in white/blue colour schemes.
BMW were not the only German manufacturer using Intermot to reveal new models.  MZ uncovered their 1000SFX 'superfighter' (presumably half supermoto, half streetfighter) and Sachs were in bullish mood, with a restyled XTC125 that looks even more supersports a la mode than the current model.
Custom bikes are big news in Germany, (as are leather chaps, Village People style moustaches and mullet hair cuts) and there was plenty of big V-twin and chrome action to be had.  Harley Davidson were promoting their Dyna, Softail Tour models with improved twin cam 1584cc motors, although I have to confess it was the   XR1200 'flat tracker' and Night Rod Special that caught my eye.  Not to be outdone, the Japanese had key developments in this sector, such as the Honda VT750 Shadow, Kawasaki VN900 and Yamaha XV1300A.  These machines are growing in popularity over here slowly but steadily and Intermot provided a fantastic opportunity to check out the vast array of customising, tuning and clothing accessories, many of which are not yet available on this side of the Channel.
For those who appreciate less conventional machinery, there was the Ulysses XB12X from Buell, now pumping out 101 bhp and the striking 650cc Versys twin from Kawasaki.  If you suspect that the future is Orange then the potent KTM 690SM supermoto, belting out 60bhp in a lightweight package, might convince you that it is.  Even the Honda Hornet 600 had been given a fairly radical makeover and up to the minute 'stubby' exhaust.
Sports bikes remain the backbone of the UK market and the Japanese 'Big Four' had plenty of big fours to get the pulse racing.  Honda had boosted the output of the CBR600RR to 120bhp, Kawasaki had their new-look Z1000 with a 130bhp motor, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 gets 3-stage rider-controlled settings to adjust its increased power and the brand.  Pride of place on the Yamaha stand went to the brand new R1, now pumping out 186bhp with increased torque to boot.
Flying the tricolour for Italy was the recently reborn Moto Morini factory, showing off their Veloce, a sporty take on the 140bhp Corsaro 1200cc V-twin.  Bravissimo!
It would take a fitter man than I a full day to take in all the new models at Intermot and bear in mind that I haven't mentioned Benelli, Ducati, Gas Gas, Highland, Husaberg, Hyosung, Italjet, Peugeot, Royal Enfield, Sherco, Ural or the plethora of specialist mini bike, quad and scooter manufacturers.
However, the really impressive aspect of Intermot is that Press Day is just that - exclusively for the press (and associated media 'luvvies' like PR men) and the following trade day is just that too, so it's easy to move around before the throngs of paying punters pack the halls out.  The next Intermot will be held in Cologne from 8-12 October 2008, so make a note in your diary - you won't be disappointed.