In the late 1980s Honda released the NX250, a small dual sport with rally styling. It was a fresh look for the market and for Honda especially, who's flagship at the time was the quintessential redneck swamp scooter, the XR600R. That XR had styling to match a mesh "Hawaii 88" shirt you used to rock in high school.
The NX, by contrast, looked more like a BMW than a Honda. It had KTM-like angles and rally lines. Its shoulders pushed forward over the front wheel and it was smooth, but not swoopy. More Walter Colebach and less Ricky Johnson.
More than 30 years later, I see echos of the NX in the new Yamaha T700 Tenere. The Tenere (TEN-er-ray) is a revolutionary new bike that has lots of people talking (and buying). Both bikes share simple, modern forms. Both are balanced, function-first machines with classic rally lines that age well. Both are built around great motors and represent significant departures from current trends. Back then, it was dirt bikes with high, dopey fenders. Today, its overstuffed plastic cladding and huge pannier boxes.
The T700, like the NX before it, is destined to become an all-time classic, not because of fancy new electronics or some other technological add-on, but because its designers exercised restraint. In both cases, good design principles worked to push a stagnant market into new territory. We can look back at the NX and recognize good design thinking that returns with arrival of the Tenere.
Motorcycling, especially in the Light Adventure category, needs more classics like the Tenere and fewer space ships (i.e., BMW R1250 GS). The Japanese have always done it best (i.e., 1968 Honda CB750). I look forward to seeing how Team Honda responds to the new design standard set by Yamaha with their T700 Tenere.