This year looks like a particularly exciting time to be a motorcyclist, if for no other reason than the variety of bikes available across every category, including electric! Here then is our list of the top 10 bikes we’re eager to ride in 2013, in alphabetical order. Be warned, our picks might surprise some of you.
Aprilia Caponord 1200
Another year, another contender in the large-displacement adventure-bike game of thrones. The undisputed king of the segment, the BMW R1200GS, wears the crown. Beemer’s benchmark bike just keeps taking on all comers – and continues to bat down each and every challenge, as in our 2012 Adventure-Tourer shootout. This year brings a reincarnated Aprilia Caponord to the game, initially unveiled at EICMA 2012.
Based on the aforementioned Dorsoduro 1200, which we loved during our 2011 review, the Caponord has the underpinnings for a great long-distance machine. Throw in the hard panniers, RSV4-inspired styling, ABS, traction control, multiple ride modes, adjustable windscreen, hand guards, and semi-active suspension (aka Aprilia Dynamic Damping) and the technology-laden Caponord is sure to be a contender for the A-T crown this year.
We’re glad to see Aprilia jumping on the A-T bandwagon in a big way. But it faces some stiff competition for top honors. "Since its introduction the Ducati Multistrada has been in a class by itself,” says Content Editor Tom Roderick. “This new Caponord, with semi-active suspension, looks to finally give the Duc a run for its money."
In regards to the Beemer, Associate Editor Jon Langston remains skeptical. “Knocking the GS from the top of the heap has proven impossible thus far. It’ll be interesting to see how well the new Caponord measures up – not only to the GS, but against the other contenders.”
Perhaps the worst-kept secret for 2013 was BMW sticking radiators on its venerable, all-new R1200GS. Secrets aside, the new liquid-cooled GS is arguably the most anticipated motorcycle this year. “The GS is a true icon in the moto world and is BMW’s best seller,” says Chief Editor, Kevin Duke. “New from the ground up, this liquid-cooled model is critical to Motorrad’s success and will likely reset the Adventure-Touring bar.”
That’s a big claim, but a bump to 123 hp and 92 ft.-lbs. (from 110 and 89) thanks to the new engine are sure to help its cause. On the technology front, the “E-gas” ride-by-wire throttle enables cruise control, five different ride modes, and Automatic Stability Control (ASC). Of course ABS is included, and as the company that pioneered electronic suspension adjustment (ESA), the Bavarian one-ups itself with the inclusion of dynamic ESA, similar to the system seen on the new Aprilia Caponord 1200 and Ducati Multistrada.
Everywhere you look, the new 1200GS impresses. It was already a winner on and off road, as seen by the A-T shootout above, but its bevy of electronics, like the spinwheel borrowed from the K1600 to control the gauge cluster via the left grip, should make the user experience even more enjoyable. Is there anything this bike can’t do?
Not if you ask Tom. "The 2012 BMW GS still reigned supreme among strengthening competition from other OEMs in the big Adventure-Touring market. With the engine and suspension upgrades for 2013 the GS should easily continue its dominance. Alaska Highway, here I come!"
Ducati Hypermotard 821/Hyperstrada
If it wasn’t for the high likelihood of our driver’s licenses getting revoked during the first hour of ownership, all of us at MO would have a Ducati Hypermotard in our stables. Instead, the more sensible among us prefer the Multistrada or Monster as some of our favorite jack-of-all-trades machines.
But the new Hypermotard – with its all-new engine – has us chomping at the bit. “A fresh 821cc, liquid-cooled V-Twin takes the Hypermotard into a new era, with more power than ever offered in the Hyper range,” says Duke.
Meanwhile, a new hybrid model also utilizing the 821cc, 11-degree engine, the Hyperstrada, combines some of the traits we love about the Hyper and Multi into one package. “I like riding the other two separately, so how could I not like riding this new FrankenDuc?" asks Tom rhetorically.
Though the Hyperstrada may be the more sensible choice, make no mistake, both models still pose a threat to your license. Both bikes feature three riding modes, highly capable suspension, and comfortable, all-day long ergonomics. With a crankshaft rating of 110 hp, the new four-valve-per-cylinder engine pumps out more power than the air-cooled, two-valve 1100cc mill could.
The Hyperstrada adds a touring windscreen, saddlebags, centerstand, mud and engine guards, taller bars compared to the Hypermotard, plus a broader seat. All this to be able to break the law in more comfort. When you combine such thrill-inducing ingredients with adrenaline junkies like your MO staffers, it’s not hard to see why we eagerly await some seat time.
Honda CB500F, CB500X and CB500R
“Despite not breathing fire or incorporating the very latest of technology, the CB500 platform is an interesting new direction for mighty Honda,” says Kevin.
It’s not just an interesting direction for Honda, it’s an interesting twist to this list, as these three models are undoubtedly the most technologically modest bikes here. But low-tech doesn’t mean low fun, and sometimes even we here at MO enjoy simply riding motorcycles without the intimidation of 150-plus horsepower.
Whether you’re into sport riding, naked bikes or faux Adventure-Touring, the big question is whether the 500cc parallel-Twin in the CB500F, CB500X and CB500R will be enough to attract people to showrooms.
Our cruiser guy Jonny thinks so: “Combine the line’s variety with Honda’s dependability – and the phenomenal $6000 price point — and I think all kinds of riders, from newbies to economy-minded vets, are going to come out for the CB.”
At MO, we live by the notion that it’s better to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow. So getting the chance to wring out the R version appeals to us, but we’re anxious to ride them all. "With three bikes to ride,” says Tom, “in this case, more really is better."
KTM 1290 Super Duke
KTM’s been making big splashes on the dirt side recently, leaving us street guys with “just” the RC8R, 990 SM-T and 990 Adventure series to satisfy our Austrian cravings. But now with the sexy new 1290 Super Duke, our lustful desires are enough to make our wives jealous.
"This bike gets me more excited than admission to the AVN Awards after-party!" remarks T-Rod after channeling his inner 20-year-old. It’s easy to see why he’s so excited, considering the new Duke is powered by a reworked version of the LC8 1195cc V-Twin found on the RC8R. This version now has ride-by-wire, and is one in which KTM itself calls a “beast.”
In a world where legal departments stifle bold and aggressive marketing claims, if KTM is calling the 1290 a beast, we believe it. With defeatable ABS and traction control, aluminum wheels, Brembo brakes, WP suspension, single-sided aluminum swingarm and distinct trellis frame, the beast should be able to tear up a twisty road as well as it eats up inferior machines. Welcome back, KTM, to the competitive naked bike category.
Moto Guzzi California 1400
In our recent review of the 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring, Tor Sagen marveled at the newly redesigned cruiser’s power, comfort, and “superb handling and great brakes.” Sounds like a respite was just what the doctor ordered.
The quirky California, introduced in 1971, never reached beyond niche appeal in the U.S., and production was scaled back after Piaggio acquired Guzzi in 2004. Two-thousand-ten saw the introduction of the Black Eagle, a custom-style California using Guzzi’s long-serving 1064cc V-Twin, but by 2012 only a limited-edition California 90 was produced.
Under Piaggio’s wing, Guzzi has redesigned the big cruiser for 2013, giving it a new 1380cc engine – the largest European V-Twin ever. Cruise control, ABS, switchable ride modes and traction control are also new additions. The result, as Sagen stated, is a “fantastic package” slated for U.S. showrooms in two forms by spring 2013. First is a fully dressed Touring model (MSRPs are expected in the $18-19k range), and the standard Custom ($15-16k). A Limited Edition is also in the works (ETA unknown as of press time).
For the most part, Sagen gushed over the new Cali. “Remember, Tor only rode the Touring version of the California,” Langston says. “I can’t wait to dive into corners on what’s sure to be a lighter, quicker Custom.”
MV Agusta Rivale 800/Brutale 800
Ducati isn’t the only Italian company launching two bikes with the same engine this year. Not to be outdone, the MV Agusta’s Rivale 800 and Brutale 800 are looking to steal some of that limelight from its rivals in Bologna. Both are powered by a beefed up version of the 675cc Triple powering the F3, punched out to 800cc. “With its added cubes and the intrinsic appeal of a Triple, it will sure make for a fantastic street engine,” says Duke.
While the Brutale platform isn’t new, the addition of the mid-level 800cc engine and its accompanying electronics package (ride-by-wire, traction control and power modes) should pose a serious threat to anyone considering the Triumph Street Triple or Ducati Streetfighter 848. That’s not a threat to be taken lightly.
Meanwhile, the new Rivale should give the Ducati Hypermotard – and anything else in the muscle-motard category – a run for its money. With a commanding riding position, Brembo brakes, slim chassis and 125 hp (claimed), it’s not hard to imagine why this is one of the most hotly anticipated machines of 2013.
But if Tom has his way with it, MV may never return our phone calls. "Voted 'Best in Show' by EICMA attendees, I want to ride the sexy new Rivale to my favorite dive bar, get it drunk and take advantage of it in the alley out back."
Triumph Daytona 675/R
I’m one of the fortunate few who have been lucky enough to sample the 2013 Triumph Daytona 675R, and after my glowing review, the rest of the gang here at MO is understandably eager to get its paws on one. "The best three-cylinder sportbike on the market [Triumph Daytona 675] is now even better for 2013,” says Tom, “and Troy already rode the R version in Spain. F@#k you, Troy!"
A more oversquare (76mm x 49.6mm vs. 74mm x 52.3mm) 675cc inline-Triple highlights the new machine, though a new chassis, updated suspension and a switch to a side-exit exhaust all help create a fantastic handling machine that carves corners like a hot knife through butter. “I can’t wait to fully embarrass myself on it,” cruiser guy Langston says.
With such accolades, it’s easy to see why Kevin, too, is excited to try the new bike. “A new, revvier engine and an updated chassis should result in something sensational.” Indeed it does.
“It’s not often we describe a scooter as sexy, but this new Vespa certainly deserves the adjective,” Duke comments. We couldn’t have said it better, Kev.
Scoff all you want, but the Motorcycle.com staffers are not ashamed to admit we’re scooter fans. Especially one as beautiful as the Vespa 946. Inspired by the MP6, Vespa’s original prototype from 1946 (the year which lends itself to the new model’s name), the 946 ushers in a new era for perhaps the world’s most well-known scooter brand.
Underneath the supermodel-like curves, the 946 sports an aluminum alloy frame and horizontally-mounted shock with four preload settings (both firsts for Vespa). Powered by a 125cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke, power output is a claimed 11.4 hp and 7.9 ft.-lbs. Not staggering numbers by any means, but consider it can also return a claimed 130 mpg!
Despite the meager power, the 946 doesn’t skimp on safety features, as it’s also fitted with traction control and ABS, making it one of the most technologically advanced scooters on the market. So while its looks will undoubtedly be the first thing one notices on the stroll to and from the local cafes, the 946’s beauty truly is more than skin deep.
“Here in 2013 it would be real easy for Vespa to get by on reputation,” Langston says. “But all this new tech means the company’s serious about remaining viable into the 21st century.”
The Entire Zero Lineup
Ok, so we’re cheating here and including Zero’s entire 2013 model range, but when you consider the rapid advancement in e-bike technology Zero has been pioneering, you’ll have to excuse us for bending the rules.
“The e-bike market continues to evolve at an astonishing rate,” Duke notes. “Zero likely holds the biggest market share, so when we found out about the 2013 Zero’s doubled power, extended ranges and astonishing quick-charge times, we’re taking them very seriously.”
The flagship S and DS models (starting at $13,995 before federal or state credits) deserve the most attention. With up to 11.4 kWh battery capacity, a purported 137-mile range, and motors capable of 54 hp and 68 ft.-lbs., on paper their performance potential should convince even the most dyed-in-the-wool ICE purist to think twice. And with the ability to recharge to 95% capacity in an hour, we think it’s exciting to be on the front lines of e-bike developments.
After riding the Brammo Empulse R recently and coming away impressed, we’re hoping these new Zeros have enough to give their rivals in Oregon cause for concern, leading Tom to write, “Not only am I chomping at the bit to ride the more powerful 2013 models, but I really want to run the S model against the Brammo Empulse R we recently tested. That’ll be a showdown among electric bikes worth having!"
Langston sees the new technology as a harbinger. “The cruiser crowd is eagerly awaiting its turn at the charging station,” he says. “Zero might be the company to take it there.”
Pairing down this list to just 10 motorcycles was no easy task. The class of 2013 is a strong field, and many just barely missed the mark. Take the Bimota BB2 concept, for example.
Bimota, the famous Italian chassis builder known for making works of art, has created yet another masterpiece centered around the all-conquering BMW S1000RR engine. Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and an Arrow exhaust complete what should be a formidable package. Ultimately, we left it off our list since it’s still only a concept, however Bimota admits it’s working on a production version utilizing the BMW engine.
We also left out the CRP Energica, Italy’s first production e-bike, due to concerns over its actual production date, as e-bike manufacturers have been notoriously inaccurate in their claims. “I cannot give you a precise date for the starting of production,” our CRP rep told us. “But I can say that we expect to be on the market in 2014.”
Other nods also went out to the new KTM 1190 Adventure and BMW’s 90th Anniversary Boxer concept. The KTM won’t be sold in North America this year, and the BMW, while definitely cool, is still largely an unknown quantity due to execs keeping tight lips. With these two factors in mind, we had to cut them off.
Regardless, the year to come should be an exciting year for motorcyclists worldwide. Keep it here as we’ll bring you our impressions of each bike as we ride them.
2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring Ambassador Review
Six New 2013 Honda Models Announced for US
2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Review
2013 Triumph Daytona 675R Review
2013 Zero Motorcycles Lineup
2013 Brammo Empulse R Review - Video
EICMA 2012: Milan Motorcycle Show
Intermot 2012: Cologne Motorcycle Show
2012 Adventure-Touring Shootout - Video
EICMA 2012: KTM Unleashes the Beast with 1290 Super Duke R Prototype
EICMA 2011: Milan Motorcycle Show
2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 Review - Video
EICMA 2010: Milan Motorcycle Show
INTERMOT 2010: Cologne Motorcycle Show