And just like that, 2021 ends not quite with a bang but not exactly a whimper either, as we slowly try to get ourselves back up from another pandemic year. But it with 2020, however, the general mood in the local motorcycle industry was one of cautious optimism. People were beginning to spend again, motorcycle sales picked up, and there were plenty of new-model launches to keep the public interested. Heck, some of these launches were even (thankfully) live events and not just another Zoom presentation.
With 2022 on the horizon and the prospect of better economic times ahead, here’s a recap of some of the most interesting things to happen in the world of two wheels.
Harley-Davidson’s resurgence. With a new Revolution Max 1250 engine to leverage on, the house of the sword and the shield unleashed two new offerings for the big-bike crowd: the Pan America adventure bike with cool stuff like automatic ride height, and the not-quite-tracker-not-quite-cruiser Sportster S. Faced with criticism that Harley-Davidson has for too long been relying on a traditional market that was aging itself out, the two new models aim to bring in a younger crowd, attracting buyers who had heretofore been uninterested in a Harley.
BMW Motorrad continues to dominate. With a mid-year celebration of its eye-popping 40 Years Edition models, BMW once again proves that brand cachet reinforced with tasteful aesthetic and functional upgrades will keep current models interesting while no all-new bikes are actually coming yet. Special editions aside, the company probably has the most complete big-bike lineup now, with the G310 GS at the low end, about half a dozen middleweights from the F platform to choose from and, of course, the best-selling R1250 GS, the R nine T, and the R18 for the high end. No wonder it’s rare for a window-shopper to wander into a BMW showroom and not place an order.
Triumph gains a foothold. Newly opened in late 2020, Triumph Motorcycles is quickly gaining a following among riders who’d like to try out British style instead of the usual Japanese or German. With its entry-level Trident roadster a popular choice for most riders, the company has been relentless with new-model/series releases this year ranging from the Speed Triple RR to several limited-edition bikes that are honestly hard to keep track of. An upcoming Tiger Sport and an all-new Tiger 1200 should keep adventure- and touring-bike customers interested for next year.
KTM and Husqvarna continue to impress. With the locally assembled 390 Duke and Adventure, and the Svartpilen and Vitpilen, KTM and Husqvarna offer a ton of value in their affordably priced bikes. Leveraging on tried-and-tested engines and frames, then utilizing stellar componentry at an unbeatable price point, they’re the go-to brand for expressway-legal bikes that won’t break the bank and don’t wear a “Made in China” sticker.
The Chinese are catching up. Of the various Chinese bikes in the market right now, none impress more than CFMoto. Following on the success of affordable big bikes like the 400NK and the 650MT, the 700CL-X Sport is a credible alternative for the middleweight-roadster segment. Packed with features like adjustable suspension and Brembo brakes, and solidly built for a tick under P400,000, it makes more expensive (and thinly specced) Japanese competitors look less attractive especially if you’re open to Chinese products. For beginner sport-bike riders, the 300SR is an unbelievably affordable P165,000.
Vespa scalpers go under. Yes, yes, Vespas are cool and stylish, and riding one to work is so much swankier than, oh, a Yamaha NMax. For a time, local Vespa dealers had a problem with scalpers who were scooping up all the units they could find and reselling them at ridiculous markups on various Facebook groups. Then, we and others spoke up about this predatory tactic and voilà! It looks like the scalpers have gone away. Or maybe they’ve just gone underground. In any case, we don’t see them anymore so there was probably a small victory there.
Scoots are still the way to go. We can gush about big bikes all day long, but in the real world, if you have to ride commute every day, the scooter is still the best kind of motorcycle to have. Easy to ride, thrifty, and some semblance of storage make it a top choice for literally millions of commuters. This year saw a multitude of new-model launches from Yamaha, Honda, Kymco and Vespa, and we’ve been seeing more and more Suzuki Burgman Street units out on the road.
McKinley Kyle Paz competes in Moto2. Like I said in an earlier column, in a world of kamote riders, we can all look up to McKinley Kyle Paz. For his rookie year, he did quite well at the FIM CEV Moto2 European Championship, earning enough points to finish 16th and gaining a ton of knowledge and experience. Pegged as the future of Philippine motorcycle racing and backed by Yamaha, the “Wonder Boy” is an inspiration for many a rider. Ride responsibly on the streets, and scratch that itch on the track.
“The Doctor” hangs up his leathers. With more than 400 race starts, 115 wins, and 235 podium finishes, no other professional rider has as many accomplishments as Valentino Rossi. But this year marked his final season as a racer, and we’re forever thankful for his lasting influence on the community.
The bubbles are going, going, gone (sort of). While it seemed like the better part of the year had us confined to our local bubbles due to COVID lockdowns, the fourth quarter was somewhat better as vaccinations began to take hold and LGUs shifted to a more nuanced “alert-level” status to determine freedom of movement. For riders who naturally want to go farther than the nearest regional border, the shift to Level 2 meant an end to innumerable coffee rides and a chance to finally go exploring. More adventurous riders, especially those who have the time and patience to fill up various travel application forms, have been venturing further out.
While the threat of the virus is still here (and Omicron isn’t something to take lightly), 2022 looks like a year to finally get some needed miles on our bikes and see more of the Philippines on two wheels. Ride safe, and whatever you do, don’t be a kamote.