In a scenario with a net downturn in registrations, the Milan show testified to the energy of the manufacturers of two wheels, who were all present with numerous new products; despite some weighty defections, there were many previews by tyre manufacturers that were worthy of note.
Mino De Rigo
On the one hand, the significant figures of a 69th edition of the International Motorbike Show that reconfirmed Italy's role as a benchmark for the entire sector but where optimism tended to be academic; on the other hand, a domestic two wheel market that revolved around itself and where credit restrictions, expensive policies and a drop in consumption led to a 16% downturn in the registrations of mopeds and motorbikes during the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2010. And with the inevitable and ever-lengthening shadow being cast over the components, accessories and spares business. Things are better elsewhere, if it is true that the 6% growth in exports by the domestic sector means that they are holding on. In the middle, the need for a segment - which has revenues of about 5 billion euros and employs a total of 90,000 people in manufacturing and commerce - to continue to renew itself by picking up the gauntlet thrown down by safety and environmental friendliness. Likewise, there is the equally urgent need to get young people back on two wheels by focusing on rationality and emotions that will turn an ideal means of daily mobility into an object of passion. The fact that new generations have to be reacquired is demonstrated by the sales figures; the over-50cc scooter segment was the hardest hit by a recession that has eliminated a fourth of the volumes of 2008. Hence Eicma, a 58,000-square-metre winking, luminous showcase divided among 7 pavilions (15% more than the previous edition) at Fiera Milano, plus another 80,000 square metres in the external MotoLive area for hosting competitions and demonstrations. A show animated by 1,462 exhibitors, 804 of which from 43 countries, and groups of Americans, Chinese and Pakistani that consolidated the global importance of the appointment. And which none of the large manufacturing companies wanted to desert so they came with a substantial number of new products. From Vespa Quarantasei, retro charm and hi-tech solutions, to a revamped Guzzi V7 and the compact, aggressive Aprilia SR Motard, to the new Beverly Sport Touring, the first scooter with ABS and ASR; from the new Ducati 1199 Panigale, a carbon fibre frame and 195 HP, to Streetfighter 848 and the new BMW maxi scooters C600 Sport and C650Gt, to the Honda Integra moto-scooters, prototypes in a new sub-segment; from the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the brand's first on-road vehicle, to the adventure touring Triumph Tiger Explorer and the light little KTM 350 Freeride, 99 kilos unladen. Nevertheless, there was a significant number of defectors among the tyre manufacturers, but Bridgestone returned as well as Continental, Goldentyre (the brand by Pisa company Buymec), Germany's Heidenau, Sava from Slovenia, the main Taiwan brands Cheng Shin and Maxxis (both owned by the same industrial family), Kenda and Duro, all of which are already imported in Italy.
The size of the tyre market for motorcycles and the like should remain substantially the same again this year. On one side, some product segments are growing, especially the radials for adventure touring - even more so than the tyres for maxi scooters and sport touring, a section of the market where price competition is particularly strong; on the other side, according to sector analysts there has been a downturn in blocked tyres and full race (slick and rain) tyres, but hypersport tyres as well as conventional tyres for small to mid-size scooters are taking decisive steps ahead. The trend that characterizes the two types of sports tyres, naked and over-600 cc road tyres, probably indicates that volumes are being increasingly decanted from the hypersport segment to the corresponding sport touring segment: the reason for the transfer is the longer average life of a product with less extreme performance but which in any case satisfies the more sport-fed fantasies of many enthusiasts who have been convinced by their wallets - and maybe because they feel a bit like Valentino Rossi - to opt for the naked rather than the hypersport. The increased performance of sport touring tyres is one of the aspects of a trend that unites main brand innovation with the development of sporty road tyres that are more versatile, safer on the wet and will even clock up more miles. And if safety and durability are the leitmotif in the evolution of scooter tyres, new materials, compounds and manufacturing processes, the emphasis on performance parameters is different for cross, supermoto and enduro, because of a segmentation that is being increasingly driven by specifics rather than main use. As to the new products presented at the Milan show, the following is a brief overview, a partial but significant litmus paper of the developments in the market.
Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S20
The main feature of a mono-theme stand that was totally devoted to this new product, the Battlax Hypersport S20 is a sport tyre for year-round use. Compared to its predecessor, the Bt-016 Pro, which is still in the catalogue at a more aggressive price, the new tyre is credited with better wet grip and longer life. Made with a double compound in the centre and external areas of the tread and optimized to come up to temperature more quickly, the S20 takes advantage of MotoGP technology and the Mono-Spiral Belt for a larger ground contact patch in all riding angles.
Continental ContiSportAttack 2
Targeting the supersport segment, the new ContiSportAttack 2, which is already original equipment on the BMW S 1000 Rr 2012, is the perfection of its predecessor with declared emphasis on handling and safety. The amount of silica in the tread compound has been increased to the advantage of driving on the wet, whereas the Traction Skin that makes the tread surface rough (thanks to special production moulds) benefits mechanical grip from run-in. The continuous multi-compound progressively modulates hardness between the shoulder and central areas to increase grip without penalizing mileage.
Pisa-based company Buymec, the owner of the GoldenTyre brand, has a comprehensive range of new products, with the on-off road Gt201 tyre for large enduros top of the list: the block layout, designed to give the best grip on and off the road (with declared resistance to aquaplaning), and a reinforced carcass to increase comfort, grip and stability with a full load, are both new concepts. The cross line, the traditional war horse, has been completely renewed with the Gt230, 232 and 213 tread patterns. The other new products include the Gt523 tyre, the connecting link between cross and extreme enduro, and the 15" and 16" radial for Gt070 maxi scooters.
Heidenau K40 Classic
A small German manufacturer specializing in tyres for bikes, carts and special uses, Heidenau presented five new products. The main one is the K40 Classic, a vintage design and modern technology available in both road and racing versions in sizes 2.50-18 45S Tt; the second one is the K28 for sidecars (4.00-18 70P Tt). The third and remaining two new products are the supersport K80 in the 120/70-17 58H and 160/60-17 69H sizes, the all-terrain K60 Scout, a candidate for enduros like the BMW 1200Gs, Yamaha Xt1200Z or Honda Xl700V, and the new sizes of the conventional scooter tyre K66 for 15", 16" and 17" rims.
Sava Terracross Sx11
The main new product from Slovenia company Savatech, the owner of the Sava brand and supplier to Italian championships Mini GP, Minibike Motard and, among others, the Polini Trophy, is the motocross Terracross Sx11, a special all-terrain tyre (130/80-18) homologated also for the road and optimized for typical enduro use. The design focuses on puncturing resistance, driving comfort, thanks to special shock-absorbing grooves, and traction with new block shapes. Additional sizes for maxi scooter tyre Mc38 for 14" rims, and for the Mc50 M-Racer sport tyre for small and mid-sized road bikes with 17" rims.
Cheng Shin, Maxxis, Kenda and Duro
Concentrating mainly on conventional tyres for scooters and quads, the new catalogues from the Taiwan company aim at expanding and continually diversifying the range. They go from the new variants and sizes for scooters and ATVs presented by Cheng Shin and its sister Maxxis (owned by the same family of entrepreneurs) to the new motocross and quad models from Kenda, which last year sold about 50,000 units, to new Duro models for scooters and cross.