The life of a Motorcycle.com editor is mostly the same as yours – good days balanced by ones we’d rather forget. Hammering out endless streams of words for your education and entertainment steals opportunities for the seat time behind a handlebar we all crave, and we have several friends who spend more hours riding than we’re allowed. But then every so often our motojournalist cards can provide entry into the kinds of experiences most civilians can only dream of.
And so as 2016 comes to a close, we again look back at the highlights that made us grateful to be part of the MO team. Come along as each editor brings you their personal stories about their exceptional days on motorcycles in 2016.
Troy Siahaan, Features Editor
2016 Yamaha FZ-10 launch, Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina
Last year I picked the Yamaha YZF-R1 launch as my personal highlight of the year. The all-new R1 tugged at my heartstrings like no other literbike I’d ridden to that point, save for the Aprilia RSV4. It handled great, felt much lighter than its predecessor, and its crossplane crankshaft inside the 1000cc Four-banger was a joy to listen to and a hoot to exploit.
So this year, when I was lucky enough to be the MO staffer picked to pilot the new FZ-10 at its launch, I had high hopes. Making the experience that much sweeter was the fact I’d be riding the bike at the (in)famous Tail of the Dragon on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Powered by the same basic engine we loved in the R1, we were told in this application the power would shift from being top-heavy and be fattest where it counted most on a streetbike – the midrange. I’ve heard that tagline before on other bikes, and it usually meant the bike would be tame, dull, and otherwise a missed opportunity.
Those notions quickly vanished the moment I was able to hoist a power wheelie exiting one of the 318 turns on the 11-mile stretch of road. From then on, all I wanted to do was loft the front wheel every chance I got. And I did; no matter which of the three power modes I was in, a good tug on the bar and whack of the throttle would separate front tire from tarmac, and for those brief moments all was right in the world. The FZ-10 engine was just magical in my eyes – a point that was cemented once we got a test unit back home in SoCal to flog for an extended period of time.
More than just a wheelie machine, the FZ-10 made quick work of the Dragon, its wide bars making it a snap to just throw the Yamaha wherever I wanted. For street riding, its upright seating position is the exact opposite on the comfort scale as its tortuous R1 sibling, and standard cruise control is a dream if you have to slog it for a while to get to the fun roads. Oh, and let’s not forget the sound. That glorious, glorious sound.
Yeah, you could say I had fun at the FZ-10 launch, and it definitely stands out as my highlight of the year.
Evans Brasfield, Spiritual Editor
2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster Launch, San Tropez, France
One of the realities of our lives as motojournalists is that we travel to lots of exotic places to ride the latest, coolest machinery. One of the least-known aspects of these trips is that, from the moment we board our flights to the time that we sit down in our seats for the trip home, our schedule is dictated by the manufacturer whose bike we are going to ride. The only time we have that is – sort of – our own consists of the minutes we are alone in our hotel rooms. With the rise in power of the ever-hungry internet beast, that room-time is mostly spent in front of the keyboard.
In the 20 years I’ve been at this gig, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve stayed over for an extra day or so after an introduction. With that in mind, imagine how stoked I was when I learned that Harley-Davidson scheduled for its Roadster launch an extra day in San Tropez. What made this even better was that I could do anything I wanted – including borrowing a bike!
So, while some of the younger attendees decided to hit the beach in search of topless sunbathers (It was late April and a bit too cold, poor saps.), I arranged to have a 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster for a day’s ride. Just wrap your head around this: A day in the south of France to ride anywhere I wanted. No photo stops, no schedule, no group meals. Just me and a motorcycle and the French countryside.
If you know anything about me as a rider, you’re aware that riding is a very spiritual, emotional act that resides right there, next to my children, as the reason I was put on this earth.
So, I crammed a full day of riding to-and-through-and-back-from the Verdon Gorge (a.k.a. the French Grand Canyon). However, it wasn’t just about riding a fun streetbike. I found the time to just sit, drink espresso, eat a hand-crafted pizza, and enjoy a view while soaking in the less-frenetic European pace. Then it was back in the saddle for miles of scraping canyon pavement followed by rolling countryside – with even a little rain riding tossed in for good measure.
Yeah, I may have arrived back at the hotel a little bit late – too late to shower before dinner – but nothing compares to an A-list day in the saddle, making the Harley-Davidson Roadster introduction my 2016 high point, one that approaches the high-water mark of my 20 years scribbling about motorcycles.
Tom Roderick, Content Editor
2017 KTM Super Duke R Launch, Doha, Qatar
Compared to last year’s highlights of riding Honda’s exotic RC213V-S in Valencia, Spain, followed by another Honda launch in South Africa for two days aboard the new Africa Twin, 2016 might seem a little anti-climatic.
In March Triumph flew us to Portugal for the launch of its reborn Bonneville and Thruxton R models, but that was a cramped, ride-two-bikes-in-one-day experience disqualifying it as a highlight (if Triumph had only given us one day aboard the Bonneville on the street followed by a second day riding the Thruxton around Estoril, it’d be a different story). Yamaha’s XSR900 was a local event in May in San Diego, and the bike proved to be one of my personal favorites for 2016, but not the highlight of my year.
In terms of staff trips, Riding around Death Valley and its surrounding ghost towns with my fellow MO editors for our Baggers Brawl was a treat, as was our our full-leather escapade aboard a group of 125cc minis for our Battle of the Ankle Biters shootout. Of course I’d be remiss to not mention our getting-lost and bike-destroying event of the year, which is what the 2016 Wire-Wheel Shootout turned out to be.
But forced to single out only one event, the self-absorbed me chooses the only the bike I couldn’t live without: KTM’s Super Duke R. That KTM chose the MotoGP season-opening track of Losail as the venue, and made sure we rode the SDR in both natural daylight and the illumination from the manmade flood lights surrounding the circuit, heightened the experience to my favorite of 2016.
Riding the torque wave produced by the 1301cc V-Twin is right up my alley of laziness. Outfitted with the optional quick-shifter for those rare times you actually have to change gears on The Beast, and I’m even more in love. New electronics allow for more personalization of the bike’s performance, while handling and comfort remain largely the same as last year’s model, balancing streetability and trackability into a package that excels at both.
When the MotoGP guys grid-up for the first time in the 2017 season, I’ll be able to say I’ve been there as they bend through each one of Losail’s 16 corners. Thanks, KTM!
John Burns, Senior Editor
American Iron Bagger Shootout, Illinois and Wisconsin
Harumph. In my day, we made our own fun, and when I was a kid, it involved getting out in the woods on our Huffys, fishing crawdads out from under rocks, pursuing the wily squirrel with BB guns, eating bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread – that type of wholesome American thing. Do kids still read Huckleberry Finn in school?
Last June, I got to do the adult equivalent, when we put together a story which had me, Editorial Director Dirty Sean Alexander, and Dirtbikes.com EiC Scott Rousseau rolling through Illinois and Wisconsin to test some American cruisers in their native habitat and visit their factories, which coincided with a visit to the Springfield Armory in Geneseo, Illinois.
I’m not as big a gun guy as my two compadres, but the Springfield Armory people welcomed us with such open arms (get it?) and such a huge stockpile of ammo, how could you not have a blast? Their local shooting range is like a golf course. The whole area is like a golf course; it rains back in there in the springtime – and the town of Geneseo is straight out of a Frank Capra movie.
After that, we three musketeers were back on our bikes and rolling along the mighty Mississippi, through Savanna, past Ulysses S. Grant’s house in Galena IL, then on to the Victory/Indian engine assembly plant in Osceola WI, before heading on to Milwaukee for a spin through the H-D Museum – and to complete the trip, a hassle with the H-D Museum security man while shooting pics outside: You kids get off the lawn!
The whole three or four days was an orgy of deep-dish pizza and/or deep-fried everything else, held in check only by the fact that we were behind schedule most of the time, which didn’t keep us from stopping at unexpected places along the way that coincidentally held amazing antique motorcycle collections and all kinds of suspiciously friendly people who had plenty of time to talk. None of them could out-talk Dirty Sean or Scott Rousseau, though, two of my favorite knuckleheads in the motorcycle industry who make it super easy to keep up my end of the non-stop conversation. I did not know there is now a Hofbrauhaus in Chicago, which there is, and our last night involved authentic German schnitzel and bier. Lovely.
For me, it was a great roll down memory lane; for Sean it was an introduction to how “American cruising” is actually practiced in the heartland, and for Scott, well, he had a great time also and even got to be enlightened by some of my ideas concerning politics; I’ve been sharing my wisdom with the kid since he was an intern at Cycle magazine in 1991! Win, win, win!
Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief
2017 Ducati Monster 1200S Launch, Monte Carlo, Monaco
I was fortunate to have several choices for the highlight of my year on motorcycles. Most profound to my life was giving my daughter her first rides on streetbikes. Those rides stirred up all kinds of emotions for me – old memories from when I was kid getting intrigued by motorcycles as well as new emotions caused by having to confront how best as a father to raise my girl. But I’ve already used that meme in this editorial I wrote around Father’s Day, so I’ll move on.
Then there was a magical trip to Mandello del Lario to ride Moto Guzzi’s new V9s, which also included some extra time to ride around Lago di Como and to browse through Guzzi’s factory museum in which the span of 95 years of production is represented in an awe-inspiring breadth of highly interesting machines. But I’ve already written an editorial about that, too!
So, then let me bring you to the south of France, not much more than a Grenache bottle’s throw from where Evans rode Harley’s Roadster presented earlier.
Ducati was my host for the introduction of its nicely refreshed Monster 1200, and it graciously gave us most of a day to acclimate to the time zone on France’s Mediterranean coast before transporting us to the independent microstate of Monaco on the French Riviera. In addition to being a lovely spot to park a yacht, Monaco is a sweet place to avoid paying income tax because there isn’t one. No surprise, then, that of the 38,000 or so residents, about one-third of them are reputed to be millionaires.
The Mediterranean coast is lovely, of course, and Monaco’s harbor is littered with multimillion-dollar yachts, but it was the mountains rising from the sea that brought me to this lap of luxury. Roads get spaghetti twisted when carved into hillsides, and the ones within an hour’s ride of Monaco were a wondrous playground on which to ride Ducati’s improved Monster. There were so many corners that I was glad to be aboard a naked sportbike with a relatively tall handlebar rather than low clip-ons such as on a full-on sportbike like a Panigale.
Corners were attacked with whatever gusto is appropriate for riding someone else’s finely developed sportbike on unfamiliar roads. Cool weather and wet patches of roads challenged rider talent and Ducati’s Safety Pack of traction control and ABS. Meanwhile, the face of the Monster’s pilot swelled with grin after grin, corner after corner, surfing on 1200cc of V-Twin torque and shots of adrenaline and espresso.
It was glorious, and I didn’t want to come down from my high nor from the mountain.