Triumph has the bike for the way you are

Roland Brown previews this year's Motor Cycle Show in Birmingham

There will be some notable omissions at this year's Motor Cycle Show, which opens at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham today. Harley-Davidson has opted to miss the show and the organisers have churlishly retaliated by banning all the firm's bikes from other stands. As usual the latest Italian exotica will also be absent, held back for launch in Milan next month.

But there will be plenty of new bikes on display at the NEC, most of them made in Japan. Yamaha, in particular, has bounced back after a quiet couple of years with a host of fresh bikes, headed by a pair of four-cylinder sportsters. The YZF1000R Thunder Ace and similarly styled YZF600R Thunder Cat are based on the existing FZR1000 and FZR600 fours, but contain enough changes to justify their strange names and "new model" labels. With aggressive looks, powerful motors and impressive chassis specifications, they look set to challenge Honda's recent domination.

Yamaha also introduces a couple of distinctive new sports bikes. The SZR660 is a stylish, light machine powered by the 48bhp, single-cylinder engine from the Tenere trail bike. The TRX850 Super Twin, whose 80bhp parallel-twin engine is based on that of the TDM850 roadster, features styling and a tubular steel frame design owing inspiration to Ducati.

Harley-Davidson's absence from the NEC gives added impetus to Yamaha's new Royal Star. This is a huge cruiser, powered by a watercooled, 1300cc V4 engine tuned for low-rev torque, and costing about pounds 10,500.

Suzuki's show star is very different: a new version of the GSX-R750 race- replica. The original GSX-R revolutionised motorcycling 11 years ago with its combination of power and lightness, but has lost ground in recent years. The latest model is sleeker, lighter and more powerful, and looks set to restore the GSX-R's reputation as the ultimate speed-freak's machine. In contrast, Suzuki's GSF1200 Bandit, a simple four-cylinder "retro-bike", and the updated DR650, a single-cylinder trail bike, will sell on price as much as performance.

Kawasaki's highest-profile newcomer, the ZX-7R, is a challenger to the GSX-R in the 750cc super-sports class. But although the ZX is powerful, its relatively dull styling and extra 30kg of weight are likely to prove a serious handicap. Weight will not be a problem for Kawasaki's renamed cruiser models. The VN1500 Classic and the smaller VN800 Classic,are Harley clones updated with mainly cosmetic modifications.

Honda has had a superb year in 1995 but may come to regret its lack of new models for '96. The fearsome CBR 900RR FireBlade sportster gains an enlarged, 918cc engine producing 126bhp, plus numerous detail changes. Honda's only all-new bike is the CMX250C Rebel, a twin-cylinder cruiser with high handlebars and a softly tuned 18bhp engine, intended for novices.

In contrast, two of the best new European bikes are aimed at experienced, long-distance riders. BMW introduces the R1100RT, a luxurious, fully-faired tourer powered by the firm's eight-valve "boxer" engine. And Britain's Triumph has a modified version of its Trophy sports-tourer, available in both 1200cc four-cylinder and 900cc three-cylinder forms. Triumph also introduces a 900cc cruiser that is treated to a new name, the Adventurer, although it is essentially a restyled Thunderbird triple.

Italian newcomers include Ducati's M750 Monster, a smaller-engined version of the unfaired 900cc Monster V-twin. Laverda's 650 Ghost is another naked roadster, in this case powered by a 70bhp parallel-twin engine.

Scooter sales are currently booming in Italy, and two firms have new 125cc models. Aprilia's Leonardo and Piaggio's Sfera 125 promise quick, stylish and economical urban travel - if only the British public can be persuaded to try them. Even in the scooter market the Italians face strong competition from Yamaha. The zippy 50cc BWs, favoured mount of upmarket pizza-deliverers nationwide, is updated to produce two racy new scooters: the BW's Next Generation and the SPY. Yamaha also has a new giant 250cc scooter called the Majesty, complete with big protective fairing, luggage compartments and 65mph cruising speed. If 1996 does not prove to be Yamaha's year, that certainly won't be for lack of choice.

The Motor Cycle Show, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, 28 October- 5 November, 10am-6pm.

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