It’s all relative. How good or bad a thing is all depends on the competition, doesn’t it – a thing that’s kept us employed and entertained for more than a few years now. Competition is good for business; MO comparison tests usually always draw in more eyeballs than single-bike reviews. In a perfect world, we’d gather up all five or six contenders in a given class for a week-long flog over hill and dale and racetrack. But in the real world of today, well shoot – it looks like our Top Five most-read comparisons of 2020 are only two bikes each.
Our fifth most clicked-on comparo of 2020 was this Troy Siahaan screed, in which we pitted the all-new bargain BMW twin against Kawasaki’s super-popular and improved-for-2020 naked Z900. In fact, BMW made it easy for us by coming right out and saying it was the Z that the new $9,000 F900R was gunning for, and so the battle was joined. Troy was a bigger fan of the BMW. I, JB, much preferred the much faster and smoother-running Z900.
In a knock-down, drag-out battle of two MOrons locked in a highly skilled ballet of high-speed passive aggression, this strangely scorecard-free comparo results in kind of a draw. Until you read the comments following both the written test and the Youtube vid, anyway, where a clear winner emerges. Note please, also, the Standard Motorcycle Runner-Up of 2020. (It ain’t the BMW.)
Some people are saying, and we don’t know if it’s true, that Kawasaki built the H2 Carbon mainly to confuse the MO staff: Would we be able to come up with anything else to compare to a supercharged 206-rear-wheel horsepower, 525-pound roadburner? Not up to the challenge, we ignored it and instead looked to history. To wit, 1984 and the last time Kawasaki built an unnaturally aspirated motorcycle, the GPz750 Turbo. We borrowed one from a generous benefactor, and checked former Motorcyclist magazine heartthrob Ken Vreeke out of the rest home for a day, to reprise the role he played on the cover of that mag 36 years ago.
The result was a stunning, seat-o’-the-pants examination of life’s trajectory, how far motorcycle tech has come in what doesn’t feel like all that many years, and a video that hasn’t yet been nominated for anything. Pretty sure it was the most fun I had all year, though.
Retro is big and it’s not hard to see why. Comfy ergonomics, standard-bike utility and vintage character all roll into one reasonably affordable package – especially for the Boomers they’re mainly meant to appeal to. When Suzuki sprung its Katana retro, it was only natural we’d throw it in the octagon with one of Kawi’s Z-based retros, resulting in a turgid stew of prose that had yours truly hearkening back to the Beatles and Nancy Reagan among other cultural touchstones.
In the end, Ryan Adams and I decided the Z900RS and the new Katana are horses for not quite the same course, but we couldn’t resist giving the win to the Suzuki and its decidedly un-retro 138 horsepower engine and sharp, sporty handling.
By September, we were chomping and champing at the bit to compare Triumph’s highly anticipated all-new Speed Twin to something. Anything. We all needed to get out of the house. What we decided on was another leading retro contestant in the form of the BMW R nineT, which Troy S. and I had to agree slightly outshone the new Triumph, thanks largely to the BMW’s upscale suspension components.
Even more excitement was lent to this contest when Troy tested his new Alpinestars air vest against an oncoming Porsche Boxster. When Triumph gets here with a Speed Twin R, we’ll be happy to ride to Malibu for a rematch. Between the bikes I mean.
And the numba one comparo of 2020 was this one, pitting the last of the redhot 600 Supersports against each other around Chuckawalla racetrack, by our own Ryan Adams!
“Don’t you ever get tired of reading track comparisons from guys that are riding at international race-winning levels?,” asked an unusually introspective Ryan Adams last February. “From guys who have been racing their entire lives and who drag elbow like it’s their job (literally)? Me neither, but the guys here at MO and I thought there might be someone out there who could appreciate insight from what a novice track rider might experience when comparing some of the latest 600-class supersports. The two most recently updated of which happen to be the Yamaha R6 and Kawasaki ZX-6R.”
Personally, I think if you’re going to all the trouble to arrange a trackday, I’d like to hear the Novice’s opinion and the Expert’s, and most of all mine… maybe some lap times. But that’s just me, and none of it stopped this one from rising to the very top of the charts. At the end of the day, RA pretty much concluded the R6 is probably a bit racier, and the Kawasaki’s probably the preferred street motorcycle, with all the Commenters in agreement. Win, win.
Winning! Let’s do it all again next year, and then some!
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