For the cruiser category of Motorcycle.com’s Best Of awards, we have two new motorcycles representing different arenas of the cruiser spectrum. These bikes will help to bring new motorcyclists into the fold for different reasons. They aren’t the most technologically advanced or most powerful, nor would they be the best pick for riding across the country. However, they represent some new thinking about desirable aspects to what makes a cruiser cool.
Best Cruiser Motorcycle of the Year: Triumph Bobber
The Triumph Bobber is the British manufacturer’s salute to those soldiers of days gone by who came home from war, chopped and bobbed their bikes, and used them as a kind of therapy and brotherhood in the days of less pharmaceutically driven remedies. Triumph has done an outstanding job by going all in on the bobber styling for the 2017 Bonneville-derived cruiser. Rather than putting fat tires on a motorcycle, blacking everything out, and maybe chopping a fender or two, Triumph’s design department took the time to bring a technologically advanced motorcycle to the market with style reminiscent of the 1940s.
Under the visually pleasing exterior sits a modern motorcycle befitting of the 2017 model year. The Triumph Bobber is outfitted with a torquey and powerful 1200cc parallel-Twin, rather than a V-Twin that is typical of this class, although its 270-degree crankshaft gives it a V-Twin-esque exhaust sound. A host of electronics are hidden away under the bobbed exterior, including ride-by-wire throttle, standard ABS, traction control, and two ride modes while also allowing options such as cruise control and heated grips from the factory. The folks at the Hinckley HQ have also done a great job at making what is generally a spine-compacting motorcycle-style comfortable enough with a nicely sculpted seat and 3 inches of suspension travel in the rear.
The Bobber takes the cake this year due to the technologically advanced motorcycle Triumph has managed to cram and sculpt into a period-looking, sexy bike, that pleases the eyes of our staffers and, apparently, the general public.
Triumph tells us the Bobber has been the most successful model in the English manufacturer’s history in terms of sales, a distinction previously held by the recent Street Twin. More customers took delivery of Triumph Bobbers in the first 30 days than any new Triumph. Ever. While that is certainly important in terms of sales to an OEM, it is also important to motorcycling as a whole when we see such huge interest in something so different. Kudos to Triumph for going all in with the Bobber design and not leaving out any of the modern niceties.
Honorable Mention: Honda Rebel 500
Like the MOBO-winning British sexpot above, the Honda Rebel 500 is another motorcycle that represents more than the sum of its parts. We bestow our honorable mention on the new-for-2017 Honda Rebel 500. With an engine borrowed from the CB500 line, the mid-sized cruiser comes with fuel injection and liquid-cooling, not before seen in the Rebel line-up which previously, had only a 250cc option. The Rebel now comes in two capacities: a 286cc Single and the 471cc Twin. The two models are identical besides engine size. We chose the larger of the two because it allows a motorcycle you can live with around town and on the freeway without feverishly flipping through the gears.
Also, like the motorcycle above, the Honda is about bringing new riders to the land of motorcycle-dom. Honda’s Rebel 250 of past years was the quintessential beginner motorcycle and a staple at MSF courses for decades, boasting light weight, modest power, low seat height, and maneuverability that will have you getting your class M license in no time. The new Rebel 300 fills that role.
Thankfully, Honda now offers the bigger brother at 500cc which stretches the boundaries where a beginner motorcycle ends and a decently powered, easily customizable motorcycle begins. Honda has painted the picture, which we have seen at launches and motorcycle shows, that the new Rebel line is easily customizable so new riders can feel comfortable on their bike not only in terms of learning to ride, but also with the thought that they can make it their own.
While some old-school riders have scoffed at the style of the new Rebels, it seems to be a hit for Honda’s intended demographic. Dealer surveys reveal that the Rebel’s style is the #1 reason for purchasing the bike. Honda reps tell us that dealers wish they could get a greater supply of Rebel inventory, always a signal of success.
It is essential to motorcycling’s future that manufacturers continue to produce intriguing options to bring interested parties into the sport, and we are happy Honda has made a bike that will make you feel cool while doing so.