Motorcycle.com's Most Read Shootouts of 2022
Looking back on a year of Showdowns
Shootouts have long been the bread and butter of Motorcycle.com’s reviews. Some of this is because the expandable nature of web pages makes long-form content much easier than back in the print media days. Another reason is that the MO motto has always been “more is more.” So naturally, we changed things for 2022. Instead of more bikes, we decided to focus on more shootouts for the year. We think the experiment was largely a success (although you can feel free to give us your opinion in the comments), and for 2023, we are considering a hybrid of shootout models to see if that is the magic combination. However, before we ride into 2023, we need to look at what made the previous year such a good one. So, here are the shootouts that you readers decided with your clicks were the best 2022 had to offer.
3. Showdown: 2022 Kawasaki Ninja 400 Vs KTM RC390 – At The Track
This was a surprise. While we know how popular smaller bikes are amongst our readers, we didn’t expect this Showdown to rank so highly because it was track only. Well, we were wrong. It turns out that tons of you wanted to see how the long-dominant Kawasaki Ninja 400 stacked up to the updated KTM RC390 in a closed-course environment. So, we gathered four different riders to see how the bikes stacked up.
Since the KTM was designed as a track bike, we thought it might shake things up against the Ninja’s street-first focus. While the KTM made some huge strides, a couple misses kept the ranking to the status quo: “On paper, there’s a lot to like about the KTM, but in the real world, the Kawasaki’s overall package wins the day. It’s true the KTM has the superior chassis for track use, and it really is the bike’s shining star, but its engine and transmission let it down in a huge way. Even though the Kawasaki is meant to be a street bike first, it’s far from unrideable at the track. Like we said before; if you can master it, you’ll be prepared for any bike you ride next.”
2. Showdown: 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Vs Indian Scout Rogue
Another surprising result came in the form of this Showdown. While the Harley-Davidson/Indian rivalry has a storied history, the importance of the cruiser class has been on a multi-year decline. Nevertheless, this shootout clawed its way to the number two position for 2022.
What we had in this head-to-head was a pair of motorcycles that seemed to follow the same formula when you looked at the spec sheets. However, once we turned the ignition keys, we realized that they were quite different critters, one that pitted the MO Scorecard against the feelings of our pair of testers: “we approached this test from a fairly specific viewpoint: that of the classic American V-Twin cruiser. Keep that in mind, as our performance-biased scorecard will show the Harley as our winner. In reality, the scorecard can’t capture the “it” factor that is lightweight V-Twin cruising, and that’s why, in our minds, the Indian is the real winner here.”
1. Showdown: BMW R 1250 GS Vs Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special
The winner, as chosen by reader clicks, was exactly what we expected. While this Showdown was the first one of the year, it continued to be a top performer in our analytics for most of the year, long after other early shootouts subsided. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone when the “it” bike and 2021 Motorcycle of the Year gets pitted against the bike that pretty much single-handedly popularized an entire class of motorcycles, sparks are going to fly, and you readers ate it up, giving this story enough clicks to dominate MO’s 2022 statistics.
The real surprise of this showdown was that the results were as close as they were. Before the actual testing, we’d debated whether technical prowess or a decade’s refinement would take the win. In the end, it was refinement that claimed victory by one of the smallest differences ever on the MO Scorecard: “Even as we sat on granite boulders in Alabama Hills with the sun slipping away behind Mt. Whitney in the background, I couldn’t decide on a winner. It wasn’t quite as close for John, he had made his decision to stick with the R 1250 GS as the winner. After we had been home with more time to ruminate on our experiences, the BMW eked out a score just 2.5% higher than the Harley for John’s subjective scores, and only 0.83% ahead on my own. This produced grand totals of 92.27% for the R 1250 GS and 91.14% for the Pan America..”
Honorable Mention: Showdown: Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX Vs Suzuki GSX-S1000GT+
For those of you who thought that the Showdowns from earlier in the year were the only ones that had a chance in this list, the battle for second and third place was surprisingly close, with only a couples of hundred clicks keeping the last Showdown of the year out of third – and it was posted on November 4th! This is good news for fans of non-ADV-styled sport tourers.
Arising seemingly from its deathbed, this steamy shootout serves as a shot across the bow of those “sport tourers” with 19-inch front wheels. If you don’t plan to take your bike off the pavement, you might be better served by a bike designed for the tarmac. In the end, versatility was the deciding factor: “Both the Kawasaki and Suzuki are closely matched in many areas, and yet, they’ve also formed their own identities. The Kawi veers more towards sport, the Suzi towards touring…we liked the Ninja’s comfort and agility, but as capable as both of them are in this sport-touring game, the Suzuki’s livelier engine, fantastic quickshifter, (slightly) better saddlebags, and balanced chassis ultimately won us over.”
With 2023 only days away, we’ve already got some great shootouts in the works for the upcoming riding season, and we hope that the new year provides all of us miles more riding memories.
More by Evans Brasfield