by Andrew Maness
Perched on the western shore of Lake Como just a five-minute boat ride from the famous grounds of Villa d’ Este lies the equally stunning, but lesser-known Villa Erba. Built in the 19th Century by Luigi Erba, whose brother Carlo accrued great wealth by founding Italy’s first pharmaceutical company, Villa Erba was inherited by Luigi’s daughter Carla and later her son, the legendary Italian screenwriter and director Luchino Visconti. The home and grounds have been featured in a number of films, but the hosting duties Villa Erba has had over the last weekend in May are of particular interest.
For the past 16 years BMW Classic and Grand Hotel Villa d’Este have brought Concorso d’Eleganza to life, featuring a private event for entrants and invitees at Grand Hotel Villa d’Este on Saturday and a public showing of the same cars on Sunday at Villa Erba. What’s unique to Villa Erba is the display of vintage motorcycles on Saturday and judging of these same bikes in a concours format on Sunday, both of which are open to the public. This year 30 motorbikes—ranging from a 1907 Indian Twin-Cylinder that took top honors from the jury to the original concept 1979 BMW R-80 Enduro—were all highlights. With 111 years of motorcycle history as a backdrop, BMW Motorrad gave us a look at the future of the brand with the new 9cento concept motorcycle.
Speaking with Edgar Heinrich, Head Of Design for Motorrad, we dug into how the concept bike came to look the way it does and discovered that this is no shiny machine intended to impress attendees and nothing more. Rather, the 9cento (pronounced “nove cento”) is “a new interpretation of a complete all-rounder for the mid-range segment,” a blend of Motorrad’s notable high-end performance with adventure bike capability, all at a reasonable price point. Of course this being a concept, no definite figures were discussed, but Heinrich is adamant that this type of bike would be “very accessible, because that’s where new riders are finding the brand.”
In addition to new design touches that we can expect to see on many BMW motorcycles in the future (such as a new headlight comprised of two symmetrical LED elements with LED high/low beams and sport adventure bike derived side fairings for weather protection) the 9cento also shows off a new storage system at its rear. Happily, there’s no groan-worthy marketing derived name for it, so we can simply call it what it is: an electromagnetic clip-on storage case. The case is easily removed and is intended to be brought along as luggage, so one can assume that there would be various sizes and styles made available once in production. In addition to providing extra storage, it also adds valuable passenger seating space, furthering defining the 9cento as a genuinely multi-purpose bike.
While everyone at Motorrad was tight-lipped regarding the chances of the 9cento actually going into production, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it reach showrooms in the next couple of years. Rather than going big and bold with this year’s concept, Henrich opted to show that Motorrad is committed to minting new riders and broadening the horizons of the motorcycle community for years to come. If a balanced, lightweight, affordable and surefooted bike is the future of Motorrad, then the future is very bright indeed.
Images courtesy of BMW