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10 Motorcycles for 2020 That I’m Excited About

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade

Last Weekend I Went to the Calgary Bike Show & Walked Away Hyped About These 2020 Motorcycle Models

The 2020 Calgary Bike Show occurred over the weekend of Friday, January 10 through to Sunday, January 12, 2020, and included a lot of full-on manufacturer displays, gear displays, helmet and jacket vendors, customization vendors, and more than a few demonstration areas.

I was sent by webBikeWorld to give the bike show a set of fresh eyes, as I have never attended one of these shows before, not even for fun on my own time.

Simon Bertram
Hello! It’s your friendly neighborhood wBW writer trying on helmets at the 2020 Calgary Bike Show!

The first thing that surprised me when I finally made it in through the doors was just how many people were in the BMO Center convention hall. I was able to get in around 10:30 AM, with the doors opening at 10:00 AM, and the Suzuki display directly through the entrance was packed. There was no tapering off of crowds at all, passing through the Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Harley, Triumph, and KTM displays.

The only area that seemed to be a little less crowded was the Husqvarna display, but I don’t blame it on the bikes, just brand familiarity as Husqvarna is a smaller, less known manufacturer in North America.

2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401

I was able to talk to many sales representatives and even a few company representatives from Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha, and the level of excitement in the hall was palpable. It may have been that there were a lot of new models out and everyone was feeding off all the buzz and hype of new models.

It could also have been me reading a bit too much into it, yet being able to chat to a Yamaha company rep about the R1M vs the R3 Canadian Superbike Championship race bike beside it (below) and comparing the two in terms of power, speed, weight, etc, was a fresh and fun experience.

Canadian Superbike Championship Yamaha R3

Throughout the day, however, I did keep in mind to take quite a few pictures and to keep an eye on what I thought was neat, exciting, beautiful, new, or any combination of any of those. After some thought, here are my top 10 things from the 2020 Calgary Bike Show that either grabbed my attention or grabbed my heart and made it beat a little faster:

#10: Triumph Rocket 3 R

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R nameplate detail

Like many, I’ve seen the half cruiser/half roadster style 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R on the internet in videos and pictures. It’s not until you get up close, see it in person, sit your butt on the thing that you realize that it’s an exquisite bit of kit.

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R front 3/4 angle right

The lines of the bike are far more subtle, yet gently aggressive, than what any picture can convey. As well, the way that it sits long and low gives it a really clean profile, and makes you want to sit on it and imagine what it would be like with that great 2500cc triple up front thumping away.

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R front 3/4 angle right side

I also liked the small details that Triumph put on it, like the logo in the center of the rear wheel with a nice stainless steel “Triumph Motorcycles” engraved around it.

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R rear wheel detail

#9: The Katana Name Returns To Suzuki

2020 Suzuki Katana side profile

I was aware that for 2020, Suzuki was bringing back the Katana name. Up until the show, however, I didn’t know just how much they were going to lean into the 90’s heritage of the name to make the bike a kind of a mixed retro-modern sport naked. For example, the side profile of the silver one above is pretty much what you’d expect from a modern naked…

2020 Suzuki Katana front detail

But man oh man, look at that front headlight lifted straight out of the 90’s. As well, the instrument cluster area is a mix of both, with some 90’s KATANA logo shouting going on, with a digital display area behind it that wouldn’t be out of place on a GSX-R.

2020 Suzuki Katana from the seat view dash detail

But then you walk around behind it and it’s modern again all of a sudden, with a really neat mudguard and license plate holder integrated into the chain cover on the swingarm… it’s a weird, wonderful, modern, retro sport naked that ticks all the right boxes for those of us that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.

2020 Suzuki Katana rear detail

#8: Talking About Returning Names…. How About Fireblade?

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade

At the show was a fully built, full weight, ready to go 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade. Pictures cannot do this bike justice for just how mean this things looks with that gaping front air intake, racing style drop-handles, and the tail sitting way up there, higher than the tank. It looks like a diving hawk swooping in from the sky to catch its prey.

2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade rear 3/4 angle

Adding to the look of the bike, for me at least, are those open fairings leading to the vented fairings. According to the Honda rep I spoke with, it’s all designed to pull air through the radiator, then either direct it out and away from your legs, or vent a little bit of it over the top of your legs and torso to keep some cooling going if you were in a racing tuck position.

It just overall looks beautiful and scary at the same time, and I honestly think that’s what Honda was going for.

#7: Sport Heritage Bikes Are Alive And Well

2020 BMW R Nine T side profile

On display at pretty much every manufacturer’s stand was a collection of sport heritage bikes. Despite rumors to the contrary, it seems that the sport heritage style is going strong, seeing as I wasn’t able to get pictures of the Kawasaki (W800) or Yamaha (XSR700, Bolt, V-Star 250, etc) offerings because whenever I went to take pictures of them, they were being crawled over by people with a bit of a gleam in their eyes. The BMW R Nine T (above) and Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer Cafe (below) I was able to quickly snap in lulls in the crowd.

2020 Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer

I understand that these bikes do attract a certain crowd, and I also understand that they are not the most common or most popular styles of motorcycles, but I have to admit, that Moto Guzzi, when I swung my leg over it and sat down, felt damn cool.

2020 BMW R Nine T boxer engine

Also, and this is just a personal thing, I love that the BMW and Moto Guzzi have weird engines, a boxer-2 in the BMW, and a sideways mounted V-twin in the Moto Guzzi.

#6: The Triumph Daytona 765 Moto2 Special Edition Is Sublime

2020 Triumph Daytona 675 Moto2 side profile

Triumph brought one of their 2020 Daytona 765 Moto2 Special Edition’s to the show (chassis 1 of 765, the demo model), and holy mother of motorcycles, it is sublime. I lean much more towards the standard or sport touring style of bike, but this beauty yanked my eye from a good 100 feet away, and I made a beeline for it. The carbon fiber work on it is exquisite, and the way that the lines all flow into each other makes it feel like a work of art.

2020 Triumph Daytona 675 Moto2 from the seat view dash detail

Just look at all that carbon fiber that sits around you, and the drop-style racing bars, with the TFT screen tucked away up front and perfectly positioned either for a tuck or upright rider to be able to see it at all times.

And Triumph is not ashamed to advertise that that is a special edition. The chassis engraving front and center would give any owner a special feeling whenever they straddled this beast, I think, and the little Moto2 and Triumph logos engraved on the right just make it feel that little bit more “wow!”

2020 Triumph Daytona 675 Moto2 tail detail

And then there is the tail of the thing, which, if anyone was doubting what model you were riding, would answer their questions right quick. And yes, pretty much everything other than the tank is carbon fiber.

#5: The New 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Gets My Vote For Most Beautiful New Bike Of The Show

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 side profile

Take the lines of a V4 S or V4 R from Ducati, shrink them down a touch, toss a V2 engine in there, sling the exhaust low and long, and then paint it Ducati Rosso, and you have a recipe for a beautiful supersport, the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2. I don’t know what it is about Ducati’s, but it’s just that Italian… something about it. It just looks like a supersport should, in the same way a Lamborghini just looks right as a supercar.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 left side details 3/4 view

That side mounted rear shock on the single side swingarm is a work of engineering art, and those air intakes with the headlights hidden within them gives the front an aggressive, almost snarling look, which is not exactly a bad thing for a supersport.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 front details

The seat is also very grippy, something I didn’t expect when I swung my leg over it. In leathers, it feels like it would be just grippy enough that you could hang your hip out, get your knee down, and take a corner in anger without having any anxiety about it.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 seat

And that seat is also in the perfect position for someone slightly shorter than me. When I sat on it (I am 6’1”), my knees were just grazing the outer edges of the tank divots. If you were, say, 5’11”, it would probably fit like a glove.

#4: I Get Why People Buy KTM’s Now

2020 KTM 790 Duke side profile

That, my friends, is a 2020 KTM 790 Duke. And I’ve read on the forums, on reddit, watched on YouTube, etc, everyone saying how a KTM is one of those bikes that fits pretty much anyone. I usually just gave a small eyeroll and muttered “fanboys” about it, but having swung my leg over the 790 Duke’s seat and put my weight on it… it makes sense.

2020 KTM 790 Duke from the seat dash details

Everything comes to hand. The handlebars are perfect for me. The pegs are perfect for me. There is no clutter around the gauge area. My legs felt almost sucked into the tank, and the balance I felt without it even moving was confidence inspiring.

2020 KTM 790 Duke rear details and profile

To me, it also has a really nice rear profile. It’s kind of like an hourglass, with the seat wide, narrowing to the tank, and then flaring out again in that classic KTM Duke style. So KTM guys and girls, I will no longer scoff at you. I understand now. I get it. So much so that honestly, after my butt left the seat of this beauty, this bike is third on my list of “what bikes could I realistically own?”

#3: The Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Is An Awesome Size For A Big Guy

2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 side profile

That there is a 2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701. The first thing I thought? “Oh, that’s taking a page from the cafe racer handbook.” Boy was I wrong. If you want the racing style Husqvarna, the Vitpilen 401 and 701 are both designed that way.

The Svartpilen, however, was incredibly comfortable for me, and I’m 6’1” and hovering between 260 to 270 lbs depending on if I had a big breakfast. I also have very big legs (blame teenage years of martial arts and sports for that!), and as you can see below, my knees are in and solid, with great feel on the pegs, and a relaxed, slightly forward lean to get to the handlebars.

2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 from the seat dash details

The only disappointing thing to me is that I would have loved to have seen a dual gauge up front there, but I can appreciate the gauge within a gauge concept they had for the bike. Still, for what could be considered a “small motorcycle,” the Svartpilen 701 took a tall, slightly fat guy and went “hey, be comfortable, give that tank a hug with your legs and off we go!”

2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 front 3/4 details

#2: The Honda CB500X Was A Surprise Highlight For Me

2020 Honda CB500X

I respect Honda bikes a lot. I’ve known at least four people that either got their start on Honda bikes, or currently own a Honda as their primary ride. To me, the CBR sport bikes have always felt bad with the seats spreading my thighs wider than comfortable, or, with adventure bikes like the Africa Twin, having to damned near jump to get on the bloody thing.

So, being that this was the first time for me at a bike show like this, I decided to wander around the Honda booth, and as I turned around a corner in the back of the booth, the CB line was sitting there, with no one really around them. With a small shrug, I swung a leg over the 2020 Honda CB500X, and my views on uncomfortable Honda bikes changed immediately.

2020 Honda CB500X dash and bars

As I stated earlier in the article, I like standard or sport touring bikes, and this little grey beast was almost giving me a “yeah, go on, ride!” vibe through it, even though it was standing still. The grips were perfectly placed, my legs were comfortable, my butt was super comfortable on that unbelievably compliant seat, and it even has a nice touring windshield on it. The fact that it has a massive TFT there in front of you as well is great. However, as much as I love the CB500X…

#1: Kawasaki Z650 And Ninja 650 Fits Like A Glove For A Tall, Slightly Chunky Writer For webBikeWorld

2020 Kawasaki Z650 with a wBW writer on it

That is me. Yes, I am on the chunkier side of society, but don’t let that dissuade you. That is a 2020 Kawasaki Z650. That expression on my face is me in the middle of saying “holy crap,” because I sat on this bike and everything, and I mean everything, fit like a glove.

Arms are bent at just the right angle, my legs are tucked hard and tight to the tank, and the tank is shaped so a lip comes up and over the top of my thighs a bit. Basically, I fit on this “little” Z650 like it was handmade for me. I have a sense that this very well might be the bike I buy in the Spring or Summer of this year.

The sales person that had talked me into putting my leg over the Z650 said I should also try out the Ninja 650…

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 with a wBW writer on it

As you can probably tell by that slight look of disbelief on my face, the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 also fit like a glove. Absolutely everything was where it needed to be, no adjustments needed, no shifting back and forth on the seat, no need to lean forwards to an absurd angle.

So why is this #1?

2020 Kawasaki Z650 front half side profile

Because the most exciting thing for me, and potentially for anyone going to a bike show, is that  from this show, I instantly fell in love with two bikes, in this case Kawasaki motorcycles. I found a pair of bikes that worked for me, both rated as excellent beginner bikes and also great “keeper” bikes as you get more experienced. I found two bikes that give me an option of a sport naked, or a sport tourer/sport bike.

2020 Kawasaki Z650 from the seat dash details

And the possibility of getting one later in the year is what we lovers of two wheels driven by a motor call “exciting.” I have never felt the urge so much as I do today, writing this article, to just go out and ride. It’s tugging at my heart, it’s worming its way deep into my brain, and I know that come Spring or Summer, this tall, slightly chunky writer for webBikeWorld will 99.9% have a Kawasaki bike.

Special Models Present At The Show

The 2019 Aprilia Tuono Factory Pikes Peak record setting bike in the flesh at the show

2019 Aprilia Tuono Factory Pikes Peak Race Bike left side profile

2019 Aprilia Tuono Factory Pikes Peak Race Bike right side profile

A 2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2R in all its carbon fiber glory

2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2R side profile

2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2R front detail and emblem

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M, a study in engineering excellence

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M side profile

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M front wheel, brake, and suspension detail

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M rear detail

A bit of a rare treat, a 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 Anniversario Edition

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition side profile

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition front fairing detail

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition limited edition engraving

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition rear view

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition exhaust detail

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition lower fairing detail "Ducati Corse"

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 916 25th Anniversario Edition emblem

  1. I’ve owned a Honda 750VFR V4 cyl., single sideswing arm, that had an Incredibly Smooth Torque Curve., and a Not so Radical Riding Position!
    But, when the RC51 V-twin, started Winning at Daytona, I had to have one!!
    Now age has stopped me from enjoying the Race Forward Riding Positions, of the SUPER RACE BIKES!
    So, I too have moved to the more comfortable upright Riding Position of the Honda CB500X. Yes, alot less power, but the the side by side Twin, provides great low end Torque, good Highway speed and can also go Off Roading, with Shinko 705 Dual Sport Tires. The New CB500X, I’m certain is even better than my 2015, but I enjoy it very much, and would Highly recommend checking it out…you may be pleasantly surprised, like I am!

    1. Steve,

      Thank you very much for your input on the article. I personally have found that the forward lean on, as you say, the “SUPER RACE BIKES!” is too hard on my wrists. It may be because I’m a bit ancient myself (I ain’t 20 anymore, let me say), or because I have a wrist injury from skiing way back in the day, but the standard style does just feel much more comfortable.

      The CB500X is definitely in my “bikes to watch” list, because it was a very pleasant surprise. I sat on it and went “wait, aren’t Honda bikes unpleasant for me?” and then wiggled my legs around, got my feet on the pegs, and grabbed the handlebars and it was “oh, well, I think I need to re-evaluate my biases a bit.”

    2. The VFR is certainly a fine ride… I purchased the first one available to the General public Frame number 00006, in 1986 … ( With written verification from Honda). The first 5 bikes were test loaners to publications, and factory demos. These bikes are returned then destroyed by Honda… all Gens are great.. I have A 89 Honda Transalp XL600V … Comfort all day…

    1. Thanks Sandeep! I got the feeling that these bikes were getting attention, mostly as I had to wait until a bit later in the show once the first pass of the crowd had moved on from many bikes to get some good shots. I came back to the Z650 about 5 times, and only got good shots once. 🙂

  2. Your comment on the CB500X made me wonder if you’ve sat on the underappreciated NC750X. I bought one of these for its “frunk” (holds a bag of groceries, or even 4 bottles of wine), for its commuting prowess (far better visibility in traffic than my VFR) and as a commuter. Little did I know what a competent bike it is. While it’s no sportbike, it is very tossable and when you learn to use both front and rear brakes can be hustled through the twisties in a way that puts a smile on my face. It’s no dirt bike, but is competent in the dirt and remarkably is a great motorcycle.

    1. Steve,

      I did have a peek at the NC750X but wasn’t able to get my right leg tossed over it because as soon as one person vacated it, another person was immediately on it.

      Personally, and I must state that this is my opinion, I think the CB500X is a bit better bang for your buck if a light adventure/standard bike is your goal. The NC750X is more than capable as you said, but I got the feel that it’s more aimed towards the commuter crowd. Even in the marketing panels at the show, the CB500X was “the capable country scrambler that can also get you to work” and the NC750X was “the downtown street adventurer.” (paraphrased)

  3. If you like the Kawasakis. Have you considered the Z900 or it’s more stylish cousin the Z900RS?

  4. Simmon,
    I agree with you, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 looks great. However, I took one for a ride at the Columbus, Ohio AiMExpo. If you were stuck on a desert Island, & it was the only thing you had to ride, you might be happy. However, my 2008 HONDA CBR600RR is TEN TIMES Better of a bike. Hands down. It’s a dog. Go buy anything else. Shane Zaborszki

  5. The NC750 design needs the supercharger setup Honda has for it, plus shaft drive or maybe belt drive.

    The ‘S’ model seemed better to me than the ‘X’, so I was sorry to see that removed from their North American lineup.

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