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The Motorcycles that could - and really should - exist right now

Forget Euro5, forget volume sales, forget reasonable reason... there are gaps in today's motorcycle ranges and we think they need plugging!

It’s the time of year when not only do the new models for 2021 start being unveiled and teased – Ducati Multistrada V4 anyone? New ZX-10R perhaps? – but Christmas also looms on the horizon, and with it a time of wishes and dreams…

So, with that in mind we started wondering about which bikes we REALLY wanted for 2021, yet probably will never be built. Machines like a KTM superbike for example now the Austrian firm is winning in MotoGP. Or, maybe, a proper, ‘grown up’ Ducati or Triumph retro? Or maybe even a genuine Kawasaki adventure bike rather than the four-cylinder ‘Z1000 on stilts’ Versys they’ve been serving us up with…

Of course, most of these fantasies will probably never become reality (because, you know, what we want we can’t aaaaalways have) but when you look into it and start thinking about what’s possible using existing powertrains and blending those with the styling or components from sister models, some actually might…

It also makes interesting reading as we wait for the genuine 2021 newcomers to be unveiled… So, until then, and in no particular order, here’s our suggestions for the 10 bikes we REALLY wished existed right now. Here’s hoping!

Honda ‘CB1100R’ 

Let’s start off with one which ‘should’ have existed a long time ago. Honda began touting its air-cooled CB1100 retro as long ago as 2006 (yes, really), often partnered by a café racer styled, RCB endurance racer influenced CB1100R version. 

The roadster CB1100 was initially launched in Japan, Australia and New Zealand in 2010, then, belatedly, in Europe and the US from 2013, with still no sign of the R. The roadster, despite its air-cooled engine being a technical wonder and being beautifully built, has never really caught on and, at just 88bhp, also always been a little ‘soft’. 

Although it  improved significantly in 2017 when an RS version was also added, it’s still largely forgotten. Which is all the more reason why Honda REALLY SHOULD now produce the R. 

Imagine: the better braked, suspended etc RS now costs just £9999. How about an R based on it, with café fairing, seat etc, Honda’s usual brilliant ergonomics, HRC paint etc for, say, £11K? Go on Honda, you know you want to…

Kawasaki ‘TR800’ 

This should be the perfect marriage. Or something. Take Kawasaki’s recently updated W800 retro which stands out for its beautiful, bevel-drive, A2-compliant, 47bhp twin yet at the same time is compromised by being a dinky roadster that’s far more expensive than its Royal Enfield and Triumph rivals – and turn it into a physically larger, more distinctive and more appealing ‘70s style trail bike. 

Kawasaki has ‘previous’ here. From 2000 up to around 2011, it built the TR250 retro trail bike, largely for the domestic Japanese market, although some made their way to the UK: a ‘70s-style trail bike with great styling powered by an old air-cooled 250 single. 

Admittedly, that, now, would be far too flaccid for the UK but slot the W800 engine into it – and, don’t forget, plenty of customisers have already converted their W800/650s to the scrambler style – and you’d have a brilliant, useful, well-proportioned, off-the-peg ‘70s scrambler that could be an A2 Ducati Scrambler rival for sub-Ducati money… Probably…

Ducati ‘Neo SportClassic’

Ducati’s original SportClassic retro V-twins, as first launched in 2005/6 then, in the view of many, prematurely deleted in 2010, have long been lamented as ‘retros before their time’. 

The Sport 1000, Paul Smart LE and GT1000 were all great-looking, with 92bhp were decent performers, handled well and were beautifully built – all of which, I’m sorry, can’t actually be said of Ducati’s current Scrambler 1100s. 

So let’s sort that out by bringing them back. No, they weren’t perfect and, yes, times have changed. The original Sport and Smart’s rear-ends precluded pillions (something later sorted, but too late), the Sport’s extreme ergonomics were agony (something, again, Ducati sorted too late) and the old 1000DS engine is now obsolete. 

But, I’m sorry, surely Ducati can produce a retro style V-twin motor with more than the current Scrambler’s 85bhp and surely they can also easily update the SportClassics’ style and spec to be more enticing than that of the odd-looking and plain gimmicky Scrambler? 

Even if it cost £12K I’d still have one over a Triumph Thruxton or Speed Twin…

Triumph ‘Street Triple 900’ 

Now, this may be a little bit contentious and also suggests I’m finding fault with the current Street Triple 765 – nothing could be further from the truth – but it’s also so obvious and necessary we’re amazed Triumph haven’t done it earlier.  In fact, with the original ‘long stroke’ Tiger 800 debuting in 2010, the Hinckley firm could have done it a full decade ago. 

It’s simply a case of taking two facts – and marrying them together. Take one Street Triple 765 (or 675 as it was back then) and replace its already decent motor with the even gruntier, long-stroke 800cc version (now 900) from the Tiger 800. 

Triumph at the time said it couldn’t be done due to the taller engine’s dimensions. Pfff. Not trying hard enough. Plus you could argue, what with the Speed Triple 1050, it’d overload Triumph’s naked range. 

I say: Kawasaki has a Z650, Z900 and Z1000. Besides, 765, 900 and 1050 are beautifully spaced and the 765, for me, is slightly too small and the 1050 a touch heavy. I’ll have a 900, in R spec that’ll completely whup a Yamaha MT-09, for about £9750. Ta.

Suzuki ‘SV1050’

Another one with ‘previous’ – but also one that’s surely so obvious and easy to do it’s a ‘no-brainer’. Suzuki originally launched its SV1000 (along with the half-faired SV1000S) back in 2003 as a bigger brother to the second generation, angular, fuel-injected SV650 but using a tweaked version of the old TL1000 V-twin. 

It was a decent, good value, V-twin road bike, too, although so unfairly overlooked, partly due to oddball, bland styling, that it was deleted as early as 2007. However, with the adventure bike V-Strom living on, now in new, updated 1050 form, plus also the SV650 still around, now better looking and value than ever, surely it’s time for a SV1050 once again? 

Imagine: SV650-esque styling, 1050 V-Strom powertrain, affordable spec… Also, the current SV650 is £400 less than the current VStrom 650. By that logic, a smart, simple, affordable SV1050 could be just £9599. Tempted yet?

Kawasaki X-600/1000

This one’s a bit trickier – but is still crying out to be built. Of all the Japanese ‘Big Four’ manufacturers, Kawasaki has the least convincing heritage when it comes to big adventure bikes and Dakar Rally stuff. 

In fact, recent Versys models aside (which have never had any true off-road ambitions), the closest it has come was its 2004-2006 KLV1000, a short-lived clone of the VStrom 1000 built out of a short-lived tie-up with Suzuki, plus its half-hearted, big-tanked KLR650 Tengai in 1989. 

That said, Kawasaki DOES have a long history in trail bikes and motocross, so we think they should be capitalising on that more. In the US, for example, you can still buy the big-tanked, single-cylinder KLR650, so let’s have that, please, for starters. 

While for a main course, it might be wishful thinking but we’d like to think that Kawasaki could do something with its liquid-cooled, 900cc V-twin Vulcan lump and build a 900/1000cc V-twin adventure bike around it. 

Fanciful? Maybe, but don’t forget, back in the 1980s Honda’s original Africa Twin V-twin was developed from that of the Shadow custom…

Husqvarna ‘Moab v.2.0’

Husqvarna Norden? Svartpilen? Vitpilen even? No, we don’t quite yet get what KTM’s now trying to do with the historic Swedish Husqvarna brand it bought from BMW back in 2013 – but we know what we’d LIKE them to do. 

And that’s to build a retro-styled trailie with decent performance inspired by the classic Steve McQueen-associated Husqvarna desert racers of the 1960s. Hasn’t done Ducati much harm, after all. In fact, Husqvarna has already been here so we’re actually amazed it hasn’t already put them into production, especially as the alternatives are these Norden, Svartpilen things..

Back in 2011, under then BMW ownership, Husqvarna unveiled a concept bike that was just that. The oddly-named Moab had 650 single power, ‘On Any Sunday’ styling and promised to be a mouth-watering hoot – yet never made it into production. 

So we say: ‘KTM, do your duty and revive the Moab but make it better yet. Put the 690 Duke engine in it (or, better yet, the new 890 twin), slap on some red and white paint and think of a better name and we’ll be there.’

Ducati ‘Paso 950’

Ducati is good at many things: superbikes, adventure sports, retro even – but sports tourers aren’t one of them. The current ‘SuperSport’ is unconvincing; the old ST2/3/4 were bland… the list goes on. And yet it could and should be brilliant. 

Ducati sporting ability plus Italian styling and Multistrada practicality yet all at a reasonable price should be possible, shouldn’t it? Personally, I thought the old, three-valve, up-specced ST3S was excellent, it just looked a bit drab. 

Whereas the controversial Paso 750 from 1987 looked brilliant and was comfortable, but handled funny. So, my solution would be to create a modern Paso with a historic brand and bold styling; base it around the brilliant but more affordable Multistrada 950 powertrain with a decent amount of spec and luggage options and, surely, for around £11,500 you’d have a Ducati that does it all without having to look like an off-road refugee? 

I actually asked head Ducati honcho Claudio Domenicalli this very question a good few years ago now and he looked at me like I was an idiot. Maybe there’s your answer…

KTM ‘RC1290 or even RC900’

It’s OK, I hear you already. “KTM don’t do superbikes,” you say. And apart from the old, half-cocked RC8 and more modern tiddlers like the RC125 and RC390, you’re right, they don’t – but they SHOULD. 

After all, they’re now winning in MotoGP, they have one of the most potent V-twins around (the 1290cc 170bhp unit from the Super Duke), produce bikes with some of the best electronic rider aids on the planet and have an avowed target of sporting success – so what are they waiting for? 

Imagine a new generation RC8 with 1290 power, the latest electronics and WP suspension and less-pointy styling. That’s give Ducati something to think about. 

They could even ‘do an Aprilia’ and come up with a middleweight, parallel twin 900cc version for more affordable money. Aprilia’s RS660 has 100bhp and 183kg. It’s by no means a stretch to come up with a KTM RC900 with 120bhp and 170kg…

Triumph ‘X-1050 Hurricane’

Forgive me, this one’s an old chestnut of mine I had to include here. In simple terms, most would agree Triumph is best at two things – modern retros (ie its Bonneville family) and three-cylinder super nakeds (ie the Street and Speed Triples).

So this is simply a proposed marriage of the two to create a modern version of one of the most iconic Triumphs of all time – the 1973 Craig Vetter styled X-75 Hurricane as based on the then 750 Trident.

For me, it’s another ‘no-brainer’: base it on the current, perfectly competent, 1050 Speed Triple but give its now slightly tired, over-exposed bug-eyed styling a shot in the arm with an all-new, X-75 inspired bodykit. Obviously you’d have to forget the 1970s 19-inch front wheel, its tiny 10-litre tank would be rubbish and the three-into-three pipes a challenge but, boy, it’d be brilliant, surely?

Go on Triumph, you know you want to – if only as one of those limited run ‘TFC’ Triumph Factory Customs…

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