Standard Motorcycle of the Year Winner: BMW R nineT
By Kevin Duke
The “Standard” motorcycle category is notoriously vague, encompassing a wide variety of riffs on a motorcycle with a traditional riding position and unencumbered by bodywork. Streetfighter-style sportbikes fall within this definition and dominated this category until we divvied up the pie in 2013, giving Streetfighter/Hooligan its own class.
If not for the creation of this recently added sub-class, BMW’s amazingly competent and versatile S1000R might’ve taken the honors this year. Instead, it’s another Beemer that captures our imagination and amazes us with its finish detail and overall execution. Sure, it’s fairly spendy, priced at $14,900, but the nineT’s exquisite detail touches proudly display where BMW’s money was spent. Pictures can’t adequately display the high-end moto jewelry that becomes evident when seen in person.
Most every silver-colored component on the bike is high-grade aluminum, including the fuel tank and its hand-brushed and clear-coated sides. Also tasty are the nineT’s seat supports, triple clamps and front fender brackets that aren’t just cast-aluminum pieces, but are costlier, stronger and prettier forged bits that receive a lovely glass-beaded finish.
In un-Germanic fashion, BMW has incorporated various ways in which to facilitate customization, including an easy-to-remove rear subframe. Separating the vehicle wiring harness from the Boxer engine’s electronics enables plug-and-play swapping of instruments, turn signals and headlights. Easing customization efforts on the nineT was so important to BMW that it abandoned the R-series’ Telelever front end in favor or an inverted telescopic fork, which allows further customization and also provides more natural front-end feedback than a Tele.
With its relatively low seat height (30.9 inches) and the praiseworthy balance offered by the flat-Twin engine, the nineT makes a fantastic around-town funster. A torque-rich motor and lower gearing endows the bike with enviable squirt in both urban and highway environments, and its 5.8-gallon tank enables a generous fuel range.
To our eyes, the nineT strikes a perfect balance between a retro homage and a contemporary roadster, a feeling backed up by incessant smiles and nods of approval everywhere we ride it. The S1000R offers more performance and a superior suspension, but it feels rather ordinary when compared to the charismatic and uber-cool R nineT.
Honorable Mention: Yamaha FZ-07
By Troy Siahaan
Many readers will remember the Universal Japanese Motorcycle, or UJM for short. As the name implies, it was a Japanese motorcycle that didn’t fit into the pre-determined molds we have today. Nowadays, we’re constantly drumming up new names for increasingly specific forms of two-wheels (sport-adventure-bagger-fighter-touring, anyone?), but leave it to Yamaha to keep things simple and bring back the modern interpretation of the UJM. Meet the Yamaha FZ-07 (MT-07 for our European readers).
With minimal bodywork, an upright seating position and enough space behind the rider to strap down a milk crate, the FZ-07 embodies all the characteristics of the classic UJM but with 2014 amenities like fuel injection, modern brakes and a spritely 689cc parallel-Twin engine. Best of all, it’s an incredibly fun bike to ride, with a grin-factor rating far above any streetbike in its price range . Whether you’re clutching up third-gear wheelies or simply running some errands, the revvy engine delivers a broad torque curve. Feeling lazy? Keep it in third or fourth and ride the wave of torque. No problem. If you’re feeling a bit sporty, playing with the power and rowing through the gears is a rewarding experience, too. More than a few journalists, myself included, have likened the FZ-07 to a new version of the dearly departed Suzuki SV650, one of the best value-for-money motorcycles ever made, but with an engine that has a wider spread of strong power.
As a modern take on the classic UJM, the FZ-07 builds a strong case for itself as a better machine than even its FZ-09 sister in the Yamaha camp, a bike that might’ve won this category if not for its wonky EFI tuning issues. The FZ-07’s engine exudes character you might not expect from a Twin, it weighs a feather-light 397 pounds, ready to ride, and, amazingly, Yamaha found a way to price it at a paltry $6,990. If a standard’s mission in life is to be able to do a little bit of everything while keeping a smile on your face, the FZ-07 more than fits the bill and was only narrowly edged out by the BMW for top honors in this category.