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Brit bikes star at Motorcycle Live

The UK’s biggest bike show is at the NEC and some of the best exhibits are from British brands, with a few that weren’t also on display

Phil West

Words by: Phil West

Published on 23 November 2023 | 0 min read

Hot on the heels of the EICMA show in Milan, the world’s biggest motorcycle trade show which in early November was the setting for many of the unveilings of the new 2024 machines, came Britain’s own version – Motorcycle Live.
Held at the NEC in Birmingham for 10 days at the end of November, Motorcycle Live is the first opportunity for most to see 2024’s hot new bikes in the metal, try them for size and also to enjoy demo rides, celebrity appearances, stunt shows and more. It’s also a favoured opportunity for the increasing number of revitalised British brands to show the home crowd something special, which is why many of the star exhibits at this year’s event were very much local produce. Here, we choose some of the highlights, in no particular order, both British and otherwise…

Norton – 125th anniversary paint

OK, cynics might say there were actually no new Nortons at Motorcycle Live, and they’d be right. But having been reinvigorated by its purchase by Indian giant TVS in 2019 Norton pretty much made up for it by having arguably the poshest stand at the showand also for publicly unveiling not one but SIX new Limited Edition models designed to celebrate the brand’s 125th anniversary, all recreating some of the marque’s classic liveries. These include the 1990s 588 rotary racer in V4SV, V4CR and 961 form and 961-based ‘homages’ to the 1970s John Player Nortons, ‘50s Manx and 1902 Energette. Just 125 examples of each model are to be produced.

BSA – back in black

Another historic British marque enjoying revival under Indian ownership (this time by Mahindra) BSA also wowed the crowds at Birmingham with a large and impressive stand so packed with retro goodness it almost felt like a time machine back to the 60s! The brand unveiled its first bike a year ago in the shape of an all-new, single-cylinder retro-roadster called the Gold Star 650. That bike was still the only model on show in Birmingham, but it was joined by an appealing new variant, the Gold Star Shadow Black. As the name suggests this is a blacked-out, slightly more budget-priced version thanks to the reduction in chrome and other trim which will be on sale shortly for just £5,999 – or £501 less than the standard version and a full £1,001 less than the Legacy model.

Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 – Enfield reaches new heights

Although actually unveiled earlier this autumn, Motorcycle Live provided the first opportunity for the British public to see in-person what is arguably Royal Enfield’s most important machine in decades. Yet another brand prospering under Indian ownership, although Royal Enfield has a long history of fairly basic, rugged bikes, that all started to change when it set up its UK Technology Centre in 2016, with a flurry of new bikes including the 650 Interceptor and Continental GT, 350 Meteor and more. The new Himalayan 450 is its boldest advance so far, given it’s a middleweight adventure offering with an all-new, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine, monoshock rear suspension and more.

Triumph – new 400s and Thruxton Final Edition

Although all the new products from Britain’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, Triumph, had either been unveiled at EICMA or earlier, the Hinckley brand’s massive stand and myriad of bikes and special editions still proved one of Motorcycle Live’s biggest draws. Highlights were the new Tiger 900, and Thruxton Final Edition, complete with sweet, heritage style Triumph tank logo. But our standout bike, or should that be bikes, were the all-new, A2-licence compliant 400cc singles – the roadster Speed 400 and the Scrambler 400 X. Both go on sale in January at £4,995 and £5,595 respectively, look fab, produce an impressive 40 horsepower and are slickly styled and equipped. Although based on the same running gear, the Scrambler is also conspicuously larger and taller, due to its larger front wheel and taller handlebars. Meaning a small bike bigger riders can also enjoy.

Oset TXP – the electric all-rounder

If electric bikes have yet to achieve a significant foothold on the street as an off-road leisure tool they’re going from strength to strength, especially with kid-friendly products. Leading the way is another British brand, OSET, which was formed in 2006 and taken over by no less than Triumph in 2022. Its big news at Motorcycle Live was its all-new TXP two-bike range, the ‘20’ for those aged seven to nine and the larger ‘24’ for teens, which not only boast more power and range than ever but also a novel, convertible seating system which effectively enables each to be transformed from a versatile trail bike to a competitive trials machine.

… and five that were NOT British…

Honda Hornet 1000 – the ‘beast’ is back!

True, the new Hornet 1000 had its global debut in Milan but it was only on seeing it in the metal in Birmingham that its lightweight looks and nimble, dynamic dimensions were obvious. The new 1000 also capped off the return of Honda’s historic ‘Hornet’ moniker, not just in this 150 horsepower 1,000cc form, but also in a renamed, slightly restyled, A2-compliant 500cc twin (previously known as the CB500F), with both now joining this year’s new CB750 Hornet to create a wholly reinvigorated Hornet family.

Kawasaki ZX-10RR Anniversary Edition – shades of ZXR…

A new Japanese bike that WAS a Motorcycle Live exclusive was Kawasaki’s new, UK-only ZX-10RR Anniversary Edition. A limited edition restricted to just 40 machines, it’s Kawasaki’s world superbikes-winning ZX-10RR delivered in special 40th anniversary Ninja homage livery. Created to mark the 40th anniversary of the original GPz900R Ninja in 1984, three historic paintjobs have been created, mostly reminiscent of early 1990s ZXR750s. You also get Kawasaki’s ‘Performance Edition’ specification, meaning it’s equipped with an Akrapovic can, pillion seat cover, smoked screen and tank pad, a paddock stand, special bike cover and Ninja 40th anniversary keyring. Each bike also features an anniversary plaque on the top yokes bearing the special moniker ‘1 of only 40’, along with the anniversary logo.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 Extreme – the more off-road, off-roader

Just when you thought Yamaha’s family of Ténéré 700s couldn’t grow any bigger, following the original MT-09-based 2019 standard version, 2020 Rally Edition, 2022 World Raid and Explorer variant unveiled earlier this year comes this, the most serious off-road oriented version yet. It comes with the longer travel, fully adjustable KYB forks from the World Raid (but not its bigger tank), a one-piece seat and an off-road style, two-piece, raised front mudguard. ‘Dirty’ enough for you?

Suzuki GSX-8R – Watch out R7!

Yes, it had already been unveiled in Milan and, yes, it had also been long time rumoured so it wasn’t really a surprise. But the appearance of Suzuki’s new GSX-8R in Birmingham was still worth a close-up shuftie. Based on the 80 horsepower, parallel-twin GSX-8S roadster launched earlier this year the 8R is the fully faired sports version with lower bars, sharper steering, more aggressive posture and, it has to be said, a headlamp arrangement reminiscent of a character from ‘Monsters Inc.’ Maybe that’s a good thing. Everything else about it is, even its R7-rivalling £8,899 price…

MV Agusta LXP Orioli GP – the surprise Italian

One of the biggest surprise exhibits at Motorcycle Live in Birmingham was not only the full-scale stand from Italian exotica experts MV Agusta (which in recent years has rarely bothered to attend the British show) but the presence on it of not its star exhibit from Milan, the clumsily named LXP Orioli prototype adventure bike. OK, you’re not likely to buy or ride the 931cc in-line triple any time soon, especially as the luxury machine’s projected price is likely to be approaching £30,000. But it was certainly worth looking at while we had the chance…

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