In just a few days 2017 will be here, which means there will be a metric crap-ton of new bikes to ride! This clearly gets us very excited, and so we’re taking the opportunity with this, the last Top 10 list of 2016, to point out the 10 new motorcycles we’re most looking forward to riding in the coming year.
Before we begin, let’s first point out what you won’t see on this list: Not included are 2017 models we’ve already ridden, like the KTM 1290 Super Duke R or Triumph Bonneville Bobber, to name two examples. Also not on this list are bikes that we don’t expect will be ready for testing during the next calendar year, such as KTM’s exciting 790 Duke that still seems to be a year away from reaching production status. Ducati’s awesome carbon Superleggera also isn’t included, as its limited-production status and estimated $80k price might keep it out of our hands.
And to be clear, there are way more than 10 new models we’re eager to ride. Barely missing making the cut are the Aprilia Shiver/Dorsoduro 900 brothers, Husqvarna’s avante garde naked Svartpilen, and Honda’s X-ADV off-roady scooter that still hasn’t been announced it will be sold on our shores.
What makes this list even more fun, is that we’ll get the chance to ride many of the bikes on this list in the next few months and bring you our riding impressions of the latest and greatest. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Ducati is taking the Monster lineup back to its roots with the 2017 Monster 797. Its slim fuel tank is reminiscent of the original, Miguel Galluzzi-designed Monsters, and its air-cooled 803cc V-Twin lacks the unsightly hoses and radiators necessary for the more powerful liquid-cooled Monsters, like the Monster 1200S we rode in Monaco. The result is a cleaner, less cluttered-looking Monster with unmistakable heritage mixed with modern technology. Ducati claims 75 horses at the crank for the engine mostly shared with the Scrambler that spat out 70 horses at its rear wheel, which should be plenty to propel this lightweight Monster well into the fun zone at a rapid pace. It may not have the glitz or the glam as its more powerful 1200 sibling, but we think it looks great, and 75 horses are more than enough for us to have a good time.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had riding the new 2017 Kawasaki Z650 at its intro earlier this year. I figured the bike would be a reincarnation of the ER-6n, the porky naked bike sharing the same basic engine as the Z. Boy was I wrong. The Z650’s 410 lbs (with ABS) feels feathery light between the legs, and the parallel-Twin now has more punch in the midrange and bottom end. Light weight and lots of torque are just the ingredients we like when it comes to the naked bike category.
So, if the Z650 is good, then the Z900 must be better, right? With a claimed 124 hp coming from its 948cc inline-Four, the 900 is also tuned to come alive in the midrange. A steel trellis frame not only looks cool but is said to be even lighter than the one on the Z650. Kawi says the 900 tips the scales at 460 lbs (add 4 lbs with ABS), which is a little on the hefty side, but also why the big Z only slots at the number 9 spot. We’re hopeful Kawasaki cleverly hides the weight and makes the Z900 feel like the Z650 on steroids.
Flogging about on big adventure bikes is a lot of fun, as we demonstrated in our Wire Wheel Adventure Shootout this year, but let’s face it: those bikes are heavy! Big adventure bikes can be taxing when ridden on technical off-road terrain, and there were more times than we care to admit that we had to pick them up off their sides after their mass overcame our balance and strength. And all of them are priced well into the quintuple digits, putting adventure out of reach for many riders.
In response, 2017 is looking to be the year of the mini adventure bike. With no less than four new players in this field – the BMW G310GS, Honda CRF250L Rally, Kawasaki Versys-X 300, and Suzuki V-Strom 250 – getting a taste of off-road adventuring has never been easier. Granted, none of the motorcycles in this quartet have serious off-road chops, but then again, only a small percentage of adventure bike owners really explore the deepest depths of the earth anyway. Nonetheless, the ability to perform approximately 80% of what we achieved during the Adventure Shootout last year, at a fraction of the price and with far less physical and mental effort, is an intriguing premise, and one we’re looking to validate in the year to come.
The four mini adventure bikes talked about in the number 8 spot exist to prepare you for the behemoth that is this: the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. Big, powerful, and ready to conquer the world, the Super Adventure R is KTM’s answer for the one percent of adventure riders who really are world travelers. The 1301cc V-Twin shared with the almighty 1290 Super Duke R streetfighter will deliver similarly outrageous forward thrust in Super Adventure trim, while the revised and updated WP suspension is ready to venture off the beaten path – no matter how beaten that path is. And the full suite of electronics is there to help ensure both you and the bike come out the other side.
Granted, the MO staff may not be world travelers, but we’d like to pretend we are for a day or two. And in a couple of months, we’ll be riding KTM’s ADV beast in Peru.
Liter-class sportbikes may be where all the manufacturers have dumped their resources during the past decade, but we’re glad Yamaha hasn’t forgotten about the venerable YZF-R6 with this long awaited update. Boasting killer looks, more aerodynamic bodywork, R1 suspension, and a full kit of electronics, the new R6 promises to be a light, nimble, and rewarding package we can’t wait to rip around a racetrack.
In contrast to liter-sized sportbikes, the new R6 will be able to be shifted past third gear at most tracks. All while retraining our brains to carry more momentum and corner speed, two skills that will only serve to benefit you on something like an R1. Sometimes (okay, most the time) 200 hp is just a handful to manage, and as literbikes have become more powerful, they’ve become more difficult to exploit around the tight confines of our local tracks. Don’t get us wrong, we like giving it the berries on the big bikes, but flogging a 600 like the R6 for all it’s worth is arguably more rewarding.
The MO staff actually disagree slightly on this one. Names will be spared to protect the guilty, but some of the group really dig the R nineT Racer for its classic, old-school retro-racer looks. It’s the same reason they liked the Ducati Sport 1000S and Paul Smart Limited Edition that came before it. Others, meanwhile, bring up the fact the R nineT Racer is entirely impractical and uncomfortable, with its clip-on bars a long reach from the saddle, just like the aforementioned retro-inspired Ducatis.
Those in that camp point to the R nineT Pure being the more practical choice, just like the GT1000 was the more sensible offering in Ducati’s SportClassic line. With upright bars and lower pegs, it’s the one to be on for longer rides. Though we might disagree on the details, one thing’s for sure: we really dig the R nineT. Both bikes share the same steel frame, suspension, brakes and 1170cc air-cooled Boxer Twin, which, let’s face it, is the star of the show anyway. No matter which of the two we get to ride, we’re just happy BMW is expanding upon the line. And we didn’t even mention the recently announced R nine T Urban G/S.
Triumph is on a roll right now with the release of its updated Modern Classic line, and we’re sure the Street Scrambler is just another example of a platform that will benefit from the new 900cc parallel-Twin first seen in the Street Twin, another bike we really like. Wearing all the right scrambler attire (with plenty more available in the Triumph catalog), the Street Scrambler benefits from slightly different suspension and wider bars compared to the Bonneville on which it’s based. All that aside, here’s a big reason we want to ride the Scrambler: when we see the picture above, of the rider letting loose in the sand, we want to do the same thing!
The everyman’s Panigale, Ducati’s new Supersport and Supersport S models offer sporting capabilities that are more accessible to the masses, while also being more comfortable than the superbike flagship. Powered by a 937cc Testastretta 11º Twin as used in the Hypermotard 939 recently tested at 101 hp at its rear wheel, the bike has plenty of punch, but not enough to be overwhelming like the big Panigale; you could call it the Goldilocks of the Ducati sportbike (or sporty-bike) line. And Ducati has spec’d out various packages as options, including a Sport package and a Touring package to go alongside it. Spell out the ingredients and you have an athletic engine mated to a Ducati trellis frame, with rational street-biased ergos, capable suspension and sticky rubber. We can see the story forming now: MOron rides Supersport to far-away track, ditches the panniers, dons leathers, destroys knee pucks, then rides home. Can you see why this bike ranks so high up the list?
The gloves are coming off now as we approach the two bikes we’re most looking forward to riding in 2017. First up is the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR – a bike that promises to be a massive step forward in the CBR/Fireblade lineage. Honda did something a little different here: instead of marching towards the 200-hp threshold like all of its competitors, Team Red put the CBR on a massive diet plan to make it one of the lightest literbikes on the market, shaving a massive 33 lbs compared to its predecessor by incorporating what was once thought to be exotic materials like magnesium and titanium. If Honda’s claim of 430 lbs, ready-to-ride, is correct then only the Ducati 1299 Panigale beats it with its 420-lb curb weight. Still, that’s a 14% improvement in power-to-weight ratio than the outgoing CBR.
The new ’Blade gets a modest bump in power, 10 horses, but Honda says it also stomps on the old bike in the midrange. Helping to control that power is a bevy of electronic aids centered around an inertial measurement unit (IMU). Traction control, wheelie control, engine brake control, ride modes and electronic Öhlins suspension are just a few of the fancy doo-dads that make the new CBR lustworthy.
Honda’s design focus when developing the 2017 CBR1000RR was “Total Control,” and fortunately for me, I’ll be the lucky sod on the MO payroll who gets to decide if the new CBR lives up to that ethos or not while lapping the beautiful Portimao racetrack in Portugal. Judging from what I’ve seen so far, it’s impossible to think the ’Blade will be dull.
While Honda’s approach to its literbike was to focus on weight, handling, and electronics, Suzuki decided to throw the entire kitchen sink at the new GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R, the motorcycle we’re most looking forward to riding in 2017. All the technical mumbo jumbo is covered in John’s story linked above, but know that variable valve timing is the big talking point here, and it’s said to be one of the big reasons the GSX-Rs (both of them) are rated to meet the magical 200-hp threshold while also increasing midrange power. Couple that with the latest Showa suspension, Brembo brakes and the whole slew of electronics directed by an IMU, and you start to get an idea of why we’re so eager to ride the new Gixxer in the coming year.
In short, Suzuki is sharpening the scalpel that was once the king of the entire sportbike kingdom, and it’s up to us to find out if the effort is a success. Fortunately we won’t have to wait long, as the week after I ride the new Honda, E-i-C Duke will be flogging the new Suzukis at the iconic Phillip Island racetrack in Australia. We have high hopes for both the Suzuki and Honda, which means you should stay tuned for the 2017 literbike shootout because it’s going to be epic!