However you look at it, 2015 is destined to be an exciting year for motorcyclists. Seemingly every manufacturer is coming out with new models next year – a sure sign the moto industry is recovering nicely from the doom and gloom of the economic downturn. It seems to me, though, that certain bikes have been hogging the limelight. I’m talking Yamaha R1, Ducati Scrambler, and of course, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and H2R, just to name a few. While I’m not saying those bikes don’t deserve their moment in the sun, the 2015 model year is filled with machines deserving of more attention, all of which I’m genuinely looking forward to riding. So in this week’s Top 10, I give you my list of 10 underhyped bikes of 2015.
10. Kawasaki Versys line
Our European friends have been enjoying the Versys 1000 for a few years now, and for 2015 we’re finally going to get to enjoy a thoroughly updated and more attractive version on this side of the pond. In fact, we’ll be getting the LT version, complete with bags, traction control ABS, and a similar facelift as the 650. Powered by a retuned version of the Ninja 1000 1043cc inline-Four, the bigger Versys is seemingly a Ninja 1000 with more suspension travel…which isn’t a bad thing. All in all, while the H2 and H2R are bikes I’m obviously excited to ride, the two Versys (Versii? Versailles?) models are ones I could actually live with everyday.
9. Aprilia RSV4 RR
Aprilia engineers had a whole grocery list of items to sort through to get the power up on the V-4 engine, but the majority of their efforts went towards reducing friction, losing weight, and producing a more complete and efficient explosion during each combustion cycle. Thankfully, they knew to leave good enough alone in the chassis and handling department and only lengthened the swingarm 14mm to help reduce the tendency to wheelie. Had Aprilia debuted this revised RSV4 last year, it might have had a strong shot at one-upping the literbike field, especially its Italian rivals in Bologna. But because 2015 just happens to be the year of the literbike, Aprilia’s refresh gets largely pushed aside in favor of superchargers and electronic suspensions. Personally, behind the new Yamaha R1, the RSV4 is second on my list of literbikes I’m anxious to ride.
8. Yamaha FJ-09
Take the same 847cc Triple, give it some EFI updates to fix the issues the FZ had, add on dual headlights and its associated fairings, an adjustable windscreen, traction control, ABS, larger tank, centerstand, 12-volt outlet, luggage mounts and a $10,490 price, and this is a bike I can’t wait to put some miles on. Granted, my attention has mostly been steered towards another Yamaha – the R1 and R1M, of course – but the FJ-09 deserves a bit more of the spotlight.
7. Suzuki GSX-S1000
6. Kawasaki Vulcan S
Why do I like it? The aforementioned styling and price are attractive. So is the 649cc parallel-Twin shared with the Ninja and Versys 650 models. What I’m really intrigued with, though, is the amount of adjustability available to suit riders of virtually all shapes and sizes. In fact, this is one of the big selling points Kawasaki is using to advertise the Vulcan S. Not horsepower or torque or bold styling. Maybe more so than any other category of motorcycle, cruisers are about individuality. The Vulcan S embraces that, but in its own unique way. It’s no attention-grabbing H2 or H2R, but it’s significant and, I think, underrated.
5. MV Agusta Stradale 800
MV also addressed the biggest issue facing the Rivale – a tiny 3.4-gallon fuel tank – and expanded it to 4.2 gallons. It’s a step in the right direction, but for the Stradale 800 to have any real touring aspirations, even light-duty touring, it’ll either need more capacity or find a way to be incredibly miserly with its consumption. Considering this, and the fact MV delayed a year in producing the Rivale after showing it at EICMA 2012, and again stalled with the Turismo Veloce it showed at EICMA 2013, it’s understandable hype around the Stradale 800 isn’t what it could be.
4. Aprilia Tuono
Its electronics package gets similar updates as the RSV4, which includes a specialized version of the Piaggio Multimedia Platform which turns a smartphone into an onboard multifunctional computer. Using the phone’s GPS sensor, the V4-MP connectivity can be programmed to offer corner-by-corner adjustment of the APRC electronics to suit different portions of a race track. The system also provides a connected smartphone with telemetry data and an adaptive race assistant which suggests the optimal points on a track to brake or open the throttle. Old school riders may scoff at the proliferation of electrons in today’s motorcycles, but I personally don’t miss the days of changing carb needles or busting knuckles on rounded bolts.
3. Yamaha R3
It’s weird to consider there’s a displacement contest taking place in a class meant for riders learning their craft, but since I’m long past the days of waddling through a parking lot, trying to impress my MSF instructor, the 320cc parallel-Twin in the R3 should be the class of the field (save, perhaps, for the KTM RC390). It has more displacement than the Kawi or Honda, looks better than the other two, and promises a sporting personality typical of Yamaha sportbikes. What’s not to love?! Like the FJ-09 at the number-8 spot, if it weren’t for the R1 and R1M stealing the headlines, the R3 would likely get much more buzz.
2. BMW R1200R/BMW R1200RS
That same awesome engine wrapped in athletic gym clothes instead of its formal attire in RT guise (or hiking apparel in GS form) sounded very appealing to me. Both models would make practical commuters, with the ability to rip it on the occasional canyon run. In the case of the RS, a weekend getaway with the wife would be entirely doable as well. It seems to me, however, that the R12R and R12RS have been overshadowed by the heavily updated S1000RR sportbike and S1000XR for 2015. While both bikes are deserving, this is my attempt to bring some attention back to the two Boxers.
1. KTM 390 Duke
KTM has a lot to be excited about in the street segment with the new 1290 Super Adventure, 390 Duke and RC390, especially as the latter, in the form of the KTM RC Cup, was recently announced as being a MotoAmerica feeder series for aspiring young racers in the U.S. That attention has understandably taken some of the spotlight away from the 390 Duke, making it one of the most underhyped bikes of 2015.