BMW leads the way at Germany’s biggest motorcycle show.

Intermot 2012: The new 2013 BMW R1200GS and company.

Intermot 2012: The new 2013 BMW R1200GS and company.

When you start counting who is not at a show that used to be packed with new motorcycles and media people, you know the industry is going through a real tough moment.

INTERMOT—the international motorcycle, scooter and bicycle fair held in Cologne, Germany, every two years—has challenged Milan’s EICMA in attendance and new-model unveilings since the dawn of motorcycling. The 2012 edition of this important show clearly suffered from the economic crisis that has hit the German motorcycle market; only BMW, Harley-Davidson and KTM have shown positive sales numbers.

This reverberated in the general atmosphere of the show and media attendance. Limited manufacturer budgets greatly impacted the number of media people who were hosted at the event. Also, motorcycles no longer make the news, so daily papers don’t spend money to send correspondents to events. Even in Germany, papers do not get involved with bikes unless they wear the white-and-blue crest of a whirling propeller on the gas tank.

This year, that attitude was largely justified because BMW polarized the attention of the two-wheel world by leaking news about a radical evolution of its legendary boxer-Twin. This further contributed to making Cologne even more BMW’s show.

Cutaway of the new 1170cc water-cooled BMW Boxer Twin.

Cutaway of the new 1170cc water-cooled BMW Boxer Twin.

The unveiling of a liquid-cooled boxer engine delivering more power literally froze the show, and for good reason. This latest edition marks the beginning of a new era for an icon of the industry. Ever-faithful BMW fans of all ages still believe that all BMWs should be powered by this engine configuration. But the younger generation, while not falling in love with the otherwise-perfect S1000RR, has always demanded more power. Now, they have a state-of-the-art Twin delivered in wrapping that is just right for the times.

A KTM press officer, commenting on expectations for new Adventure 1190, confirmed that the only segment of the market that still returns good numbers is “maxi-enduros”—a fashion started by the BMW GS series, he admitted. KTM is a well-managed company, sailing through the stormy sea of this economic crisis thanks to the quality of its products and good intuition, including promptly developing a maxi-enduro around its compact 75-degree V-Twin.

The Adventure model has grown, and the impressive 1190 edition was the strongest challenger to the R1200GS for the “Queen of the Show” crown. If you consider that one of the few novelties from the Italian makes was the recently upgraded Ducati Multistrada and that Triumph was in Cologne with the impressive new Tiger Explorer, I must conclude that my friend at KTM is right. Maxi-enduros are doing for the motorcycle what SUVs and trucks did to the automobile: Big, tall and comfortable is beautiful.

Moto Guzzi was expected to show its new California, but the unveiling of that bike has now been postponed until the EICMA show next month. Guzzi is ready to contend on the floor of the show with the rest of the Italian motorcycle industry, but it was not willing to see its new flagship overshadowed by BMW’s latest Boxer. Add that Mandello del Lario, where Moto Guzzi was born and is still located, is not far from Milan and the whole Lombardy region is very proud of the Moto Guzzi tradition. So, Milan is the right place to show that Guzzi is still worth the eagle-spreading-its-wings crest.

MV Agusta was not at Cologne, either. I know MV is readying the third version of its F3—a supermoto-style naked bike powered by the three-cylinder engine enlarged to 800cc.

Troubled times faced by the Japanese were confirmed by the lack of new product. Honda played the nostalgic key, unveiling a beautiful CB1100 powered by a further evolution of the air-cooled engine we knew in its 750cc and 900 form back in the 1980s. Kawasaki was there with a lovely 636cc ZX-6R and entry-level Ninja 300. Yamaha and Suzuki sent forth their respective heavyweights, the refurbished FJR1300 and Hayabusa. Sentimental favorite was the celebration of the one-millionth GSX-R produced by Suzuki, with Grand Prix legend Kevin Schwantz and Fujio Yoshimura on stage.

The rest of INTERMOT was dedicated to scooters from China and Taiwan, and electric motorcycles from the U.S. Brammo and Zero Motorcycles are apparently doing good business in Europe. Maybe they got it right way ahead of the times.

More INTERMOT 2012

Racebikes, repli-racers and Monsters dominate.
At Intermot, the big news about the Italian manufacturers was that they reserved their biggest news for the

Austrian BMW beater?
Some may call the KTM 1190 Adventure an evolution of the species, but I would rather think of it as the

The look's the same, but almost everything else is new.
BMW has revolutionized its sacred boxer-Twin. It is not the first time, but switching from traditional air cooling

Major makeover for the 2013 FJR, Slicker suspension for the FZ8.
Yes, it really has been ten years since Yamaha's big sporty-tourer came to America, and Yamaha has

Big changes for our favorite little Triumph Triple.
Triumph pulled the wrapper off a redesigned Street Triple at the big Intermot Show in Germany and

Intermot 2012: The new 2013 BMW R1200GS and company.

Intermot 2012: The new 2013 BMW R1200GS and company.

Intermot 2012: The new 2013 BMW R1200GS and company.Bruno dePrato
2013 BMW R1200GS

Intermot 2012: The 2013 BMW R1200GS arrives on the floor.

Intermot 2012: A petite rider takes the new BMW R1200GS to the floor to demonstrate how easily it handles.Bruno dePrato
2013 Ducati Panigale RS13 grey motorcycle

Intermot 2012: 2013 Ducati Panigale RS13

2013 Ducati Panigale RS13Bruno dePrato

Intermot 2012: Kevin Schwantz

Intermot 2012: Kevin Schwantz celebrating the one millionth Suzuki GSX-R. That?s a million GSX-Rs produced since 1985.Bruno dePrato
2013 KTM 1190 Adventure unveiled at Intermot 2012

2013 KTM 1190 Adventure unveiled at Intermot 2012

The impressive 2013 KTM 1190 Adventure unveiled at Intermot 2012.Bruno dePrato
Cutaway of the new 1170cc water-cooled BMW Boxer Twin.

Cutaway of the new 1170cc water-cooled BMW Boxer Twin.

Cutaway of the new 1170cc water-cooled BMW Boxer Twin.Bruno dePrato