Motorcycle.com’s Best Of (MOBO) award season is finally here again! As has been our recent tradition, we use the MOBOs to begin our December wrap-up of the 2022 model year before we jump into the new model introduction season. Although EICMA was only a couple of weeks ago, and the bulk of the 2022 motorcycle models have been announced, the 2022 model year isn’t officially over until we wrap up our awards!
Each year, we gather as a staff for the task of choosing Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle of the Year (MOTY). Sometimes the debate can be heated – and lengthy. This year, we reached consensus on the top two choices relatively easily. What caused the debate was the ranking of the two, but we were able to come to an agreement (some possibly reluctantly) as to their final standing. Remember, the MOTY is not about choosing the absolute best motorcycle of 2022. While the bike needs to be one of the best by winning one of our MO Best Of categories (MOBO), the bike needs to be something more; it needs to say something about the current state of motorcycling. The 2022 MOTY is no different. In fact, it was alone in winning two MOBO categories. When you combine the two, the motorcycle says a lot about its current class of motorcycles, in this case adventure-touring and value motorcycles. The 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 illustrates the continuing advancement and the maturity of the adventure-touring market.
It was a hard choice between winner and runner-up in the Adventure category which means we’re the real winners. There are so many great options not only in the middleweight category, but also the genre as a whole. The Ducati and Aprilia are two of the latest entrants into the segment and the Tuareg managed to eke out the win for precisely the reason we’ve seen it twice now in our MOBO selection – its exceptional value proposition.
It seems a little crazy that anyone with the cash can just pull up to a Ducati dealer and walk away with a Panigale V4 S. What it has to offer would have seemed like science fiction just a decade ago. For starters, a decade ago who would have thought Ducati would deviate from its beloved L-Twin for its flagship superbike? Not only has Ducati doubled up its cylinders, but it has continued its winning ways. The 2022 Panigale V4 S is the byproduct of many of those lessons. It’s done so while keeping in mind that pros and regular schmucks like us ride these things too, so making it easier and more accessible to ride – and ride quickly – was also a focus. The convenient byproduct is that a bike that’s easier for average Joes to ride quickly also translates to a bike the really fast guys and gals can ride quickly, too.
Allow me to say it before you do: this is cheating. I know. The Ducati Streetfighter V4 SP is bonkers. And while it technically meets our rules of being available for purchase by the time of posting, it also kinda doesn’t because each of these were spoken for within a week of its release. Sorry.
From a pure performance standpoint, the Ducati in the runner-up position would wipe the floor with the Suzuki here. But every year it’s worth reminding readers that these awards are about more than just outright performance. We also factor in the intangible factors, like what a certain model means for the brand or for the category, and the GT+ is a sign that the traditional, non-adventure-based, sport-tourers are still alive and kicking. There’s also just the shock and awe factor. As in, we expected Suzuki’s GSX-S1000GT+ to be a nice motorcycle – but we didn’t expect it to be this nice.
It’s been a few years since an adventure-style moto made its way into this category – though with the popularity of the class still truckin’ along, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see another ADV rip its way into the ranks of the Best Value category. For 2022, the Aprilia Tuareg boldly displays its impressive package starting at $11,999. While $12k isn’t an insignificant sum, what you get for your money with the Tuareg transcends from being an excellent value in the ADV world to an excellent value overall.
Frankly the first modern-era Triumph to wear the legendary Speed Twin moniker was a tad disappointing when it rolled down the skids for 2020. All was forgiven, though, when Triumph made it all right with the 2022 version. The weedy suspension components of the first bike (which, in fairness, may have been more period-correct) gave way to a new, 43mm inverted Marzocchi fork brandishing radial-mount Brembo M50 monobloc calipers squeezing bigger, 320mm discs. A pair of “higher-spec” shocks brought up the rear. New lightweight 12-spoke cast wheels rolled onto the scene, shod with Metzeler RR Racetec rubber.
Man, it’s been a while since we managed to get seven baggers together for a real-live comparison, but last time we did, in 2018, this BMW won it against the usual suspects from Harley-Davidson, Indian, et al. They’ve all received upgrades in the ensuing years, but nothing earth shattering to upend the pecking order. And nothing to upset our earlier, semi-collective conclusion that a bagger does not have to be built in America or powered by a big V-Twin.
After years of KTM owning this class with its 390 Duke and (390 Adventure), there’s a new kid in town – new in the US, anyway – in the form of the CFMoto 700 CL-X. It’s only fitting, really, since CFMoto’s Chinese manufacturer and KTM have a decade-long history together. That same Chinese OEM had a pre-existing relationship with Kawasaki also, and if CFMoto’s 700 CL-X isn’t powered by an engine eerily similar to a Versys 650 parallel Twin, I will eat my cat. In fact, the 700 CL-X is powered by a Versys twin that’s been stroked by 4mm, to 83 x 64mm dimensions – a thing Kawasaki’s never had the decency to do. That takes it to 693 cubic centimeters, and a claimed output of 74 hp at 8,500 rpm (and 48 lb-ft at 6,500 revs). Which makes this one a tad larger than our usual Lightweight winners, but for $6,399, how can you not supersize it?
Just because the candidates for Best Electric Bike this year are rather sparse doesn’t mean there isn’t a motorcycle worthy of an award. Energica’s new Experia certainly appears to be worthy of consideration, but as we mentioned in our opening page, a model needs to be available in dealers by the time of our posting. The Experia is not. This leaves one really excellent motorcycle left to choose. It would be hard not to recognize the Zero DSR/X in the Best Electric category after basically calling it the best motorcycle Zero has made so far. If you look at where Zero started – as essentially a glorified mountain bike – to where the company is now, and in a relatively short amount of time, the DSR/X is very impressive. In a way, you could say the DSR/X is the ultimate evolution of that original glorified mountain bike. Built to capitalize on the ADV craze sweeping the industry, it certainly is the most capable Zero so far.
To those of you who have been paying attention over the past year, our selecting the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special as Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle of the Year should come as no surprise. To win the MOTY, a bike has to do two very important things. First, it has to claim victory in one of the MOBO categories, proving that it has the chops to successfully compete against its peers. For the Pan America to do this in the ultra-competitive heavyweight adventure touring class in the first year of its production says a lot about how seriously Harley took the task of stepping out of its cruiser/bagger comfort zone. Second, the MOTY has to say something about the current state of the motorcycle art, where the industry is, and where it’s going.
Before you start peppering me with hate mail about how on earth a Yamaha R7 could possibly be the best Sportbike, let’s remember what our MOBOs are about in the first place. It’s not strictly about performance. If that were the case, then clearly the Yamaha would be pretty far down the totem pole. How the machine works is a factor, sure, but it’s also about a motorcycle’s significance in the greater overall context of its category and motorcycling in general. Considered in this context, the R7 should start to make a little more sense.
With the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour taking top honors of our sport-touring MOBO in 2020, it should come as no surprise that the 2021 Multistrada V4 S further cements the Italian’s dominance of the category. The new Multi V4 is basically better in every way, from its stonking new V4 that can play the part of mild tourer or wild canyon ripper, to its more versatile 19-inch front wheel and world-class electronics package that includes adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring as well as electronic Ducati Skyhook suspension. The new Multi continues to impress in a way that is surprising for a bike of its size.
Here goes the broken record again: The Ducati Streetfighter is So. Damn. Good. We rode it a lot this year; first it was the First Ride review, then we rode a $50,000 modified version, then threw the stock one back into the mix for some street and track testing during our seven-bike Heavyweight Naked Bike test. Over and over, we walked away thinking, “Damn. That was good.” It came out on top of the street portion of our naked bike test, and it came one spaghetti strand away from taking top honors in the track portion as well.
This one may or may not come as much of a surprise to those paying attention. If Harley-Davidson entering the adventure bike segment made waves, then doing so with such a solid offering from the get go was a tsunami that stirred up emotions all across the interwebs. Promising a machine that would compete with motorcycles the likes of BMW’s well-established and venerable GS line while having never operated in the segment previously was bold. The Pan America had detractors from the moment the plan was sussed out by our own Dennis Chung in 2017, where he surmised the moniker’s eventual product category: “… Even wilder, how about a full-fledged American-made ADV?” Wild, indeed. Mr. Chung.
Being the penny pinchers that we are, we like a good value when we see one, and the Triumph Trident 660 is certainly a wise choice for those looking to get a lot of bang for their buck. Let’s take the $8,095 price tag out of the equation for a second. The Trident 660 is a nice bike we’d expect to pay a few grand more for. Starting with that sweet three-cylinder engine, we were initially bummed (and a little confused) to hear it went down in displacement to 660cc from the 675cc it started life as in the Street Triple and Daytona, but once you ride it, everything starts to make sense.
Best Standard is a crazy class that can and has vectored all over the map. But strangely enough, the last few years have been an all-Triumph affair. Last year we picked the Scrambler XC (and Kawasaki Z900 as runner-up). In 2019, it was the Street Twin eking out the win over the Husqvarna Svartpilen 701. The year before that, it was Triumph’s Street Triple 765 RS doing the deed. Before that is ancient history.
How’s this for a no-pressure assignment? Completely redesign the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the best-selling Harley that’s been around since 1957. Start with a clean sheet. Make a motorcycle that appeals to people who’ve never considered a Sportster. Whatever you do, don’t offend the Base. On the other hand, it’s okay and even preferable that it offends some people – the ones who’d never consider a Harley under any circumstances.
If you’re tired of hearing us gush over KTM’s second-smallest Duke, imagine how tired we are of gushing. The 390 Duke took its first Best Lightweight title following its 2015 introduction, and it’s won the class every year since except 2018, when we gave the award to Kawasaki’s new Ninja 400. And okay, last year the award went to the KTM 390 Adventure, which is almost just a longer-legged Duke. That 373 cc counterbalanced single-cylinder just keeps shining through. The Duke’s engine is light, compact, torquey, powerful – and most importantly, it’s smooth-running enough that you’d never know it’s only got one cylinder. We used to call them “thumpers” for good reason; that descriptor really doesn’t fit the 390 Duke, or the 690 either.
One of the biggest barriers to entry that adventure bikes face is seat height. Most folks, unless they’re well over six feet tall or simply have experience dealing with them, will have an issue with tall seat heights. At the peak of skyrocketing saddles, the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports was topping out at 36.2 inches. Adventure motorcycles face the challenge of balancing reasonable seat heights while still delivering enough ground clearance and suspension travel to make them worthy of the nomenclature. While dirt bike benches regularly top 37 inches, they also weigh under 250 pounds and are narrow. Adventure bikes, on the other hand, can tip the scales at more than double that.
Motorcycle.com’s Best Of (MOBO) award season has finally rolled around again! While we typically roll out each year’s MOBOs before EICMA, this year we were so busy with the Heavyweight Naked Shootout that we decided to delay the MOBOs. Although the bulk of the 2022 motorcycle models have been announced, the 2021 model year isn’t officially over until all the accolades have been handed out. So, let’s get started!
Every year, we are faced with the task of choosing Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle of the Year (MOTY), and typically, the debate is heated – and lengthy. This year, we reached agreement remarkably quickly – a rarity with any decision made by this crew of misfits. As we say each year, however, the MOTY is not about choosing the best motorcycle of 2020. While the choice needs to be one of the best by winning one of our MO Best Of categories (MOBO), the bike needs to be something more; it needs to say something about or do something for motorcycling. Looking back at the last five years, you’ll see that we’ve spread the MO love around, choosing an adventure bike, a sportbike, a sport-touring bike, an entire motorcycle platform, and a cruiser. Each choice has been an exemplary motorcycle, but each has expanded the way we think about motorcycling. The KTM 890 Duke R, MO’s Motorcycle of the Year 2020, is a great example of this characteristic.
The Ducati Superleggera V4 borders on obscene. With up to 235 horses on tap with the race exhaust and pushing something hovering at around 400 pounds, the sheer amount of thrust bends your perception of…well, everything. And yet, despite the absurd amount of power mixed with its carbon-fiber and titanium-infused diet, the Ducati Superleggera V4 still handles and circulates around a racetrack as well, if not better, than anything else I’ve ridden. And if the stopwatch ultimately proves me wrong someday, certainly nothing I’ve ridden to date can match the utter exhilaration the Superleggera V4 provides.
There are Sport-Tourers, and then there are Sport-Tourers. The Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour is the latter, a cut above the rest. It checks all the boxes: stonking engine, state-of-the-art electronics, great suspension and brakes, decent-but-not-isolating weather protection, and included cargo-carrying capacity. Every time I ride the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour, I think how retirement is a long seven years away and wouldn’t I rather just pack my bits and bobs onto the back of this bike and head for parts unplanned?
Perhaps it’s time to change the category’s name since both bikes mentioned here surely classify as hyper-nakeds. With both of these bikes, you get big, burly engines mounted to aggressively styled chassis. For riders who believe that too much of everything is just enough, 2020 is the year for you in naked motorcycles. To our eyes, the Kawasaki Z H2 embodies the best of this category and achieves it through a unique powerplant, making it worthy of the Best Naked Motorcycle MOBO. When we have one in the MO Garage Complex, the boys are always fighting over it. Here’s why:
We always say it’s a great time to be a motorcyclist. There are so many great bikes for all sorts of end uses these days. Perhaps the best example of this is the Adventure category – specifically the red hot middleweight adventure class. There are a handful of middleweights that quite thoroughly span the breadth of what moto-wanderers might consider necessary to tackle the unknown. In MO’s collective opinion, no motorcycle quite runs the gamut like Triumph’s new Tiger 900 Rally Pro.
We generally associate value with cheap when, in reality, this isn’t (necessarily) the case. The KTM 890 Duke R is a perfect example. For under $12,000 you get a motorcycle packed with performance KTM could charge 15-large for, and you still wouldn’t feel ripped off.
Going into it, we were thinking Triumph’s new Speed Twin might be a heavy favorite for the win again in this tough category. But in the actual event, after we got our mitts on one for testing here at MO HQ, we were just slightly underwhelmed with the first modern Triumph to wear that name since the original Speed Twin, way back in 1936. Our disappointment turned to joy, though, when we traded the Speed Twin a couple weeks later for a new Scrambler 1200 XC.
There was a lot of racket in the cruiser/bagger world this year, and this thing could’ve gone several ways. But we like a little performance with our cruisers, and it was Triumph’s audacious Rocket 3 that blasted off to the win. The previous version was a hoot to ride, but the new one’s less like the world’s biggest-engined production motorcycle, and more like the world’s biggest Speed Triple. It likes to party. From the 2294 cubic centimeters of the original Rocket 3, to 2458 cc, now there are three 4.3-inch pistons producing a claimed 163 ft-lbs of torque and 167 horses at 6000 rpm. More to the point is the additional lightness; Triumph says the new Rocket’s 88 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, at just 642 pounds (claimed dry weight). It definitely looks way more svelte than the old bike; the new seamless gas tank doesn’t hurt in the looks department. Neither do the brushed alloy intake and hydroformed exhaust header balancing the left and right sides of that big engine, totally reminiscent of a Supermarine Spitfire.
The Duke 390 has almost owned this class since its 2015 introduction, with a brief interruption by the new Ninja 400 Kawasaki two years ago. So it was nice of KTM to make it easy for us to mix things up a bit this year, by giving birth to the KTM 390 Adventure. It, of course, makes use of that same amazingly ingratiating little 373 cc Single-cylinder as the Duke but places it in an all-new ADV-style housing, adventuring being all the rage lately.
Typically our MOBO awards have a winner and a runner-up. But we’re going to break from tradition this one time and award our 2020 Best Technology prize to airbags. The runner-up? Also airbags. If you’re a regular follower of Motorcycle.com, then you’ll know exactly why.
Motorcycle.com’s Best Of (MOBO) award season is finally here! In a typical year, this would have happened a while ago, just before the motorcycle show season began, and now, we’d be in the thick of the new model introduction season, delivering you our first impressions of the new motorcycles scheduled for release in 2021. However, we don’t have to tell you that 2020 is an unusual year. In response to the unique nature of this model year, we decided to push back our MOBO celebration to fill part of the gap left by the lack of new model introductions. Now, just in time for the end of the calendar year, we’re going to wrap up the 2020 riding season in the best way possible – before diving headlong into the 2021 season.
It’s not every year a motorcycle hits the scene and redefines the boundaries of its category. The KTM 790 Adventure R has done just that. KTM has taken its decades of off-road championship-winning pedigree and infused it into what we believe is the most capable adventure bike to hit the market in some time. The 790 Adventure R utilizes KTM’s fully-adjustable WP XPLOR suspension front and rear, componentry previously only found on the company’s XC-W, EXC-F, and Enduro R models. The compact 799cc Parallel Twin and low slung gas tank only adds to the maneuverability of the bike, giving it a nice low center of gravity. Whether tiptoeing through a rock garden or blasting through sand washes, the 790 Adventure R handles in a way no other adventure bike does, mostly thanks to keeping its CG as low as possible.
The loss of Carlin Dunne to the motorcycling community was absolutely devastating. Dunne’s skill was only overshadowed by his humble character, which went a long way towards masking the fact he could haul ass on anything with two wheels, regardless if it had an engine or not. The undisputed King of the Mountain, Dunne made the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb look easy, so much so that he stepped away from competition for a few years to help guide new competitors to the mountain and show them the way. That’s why his death, at the hands of the very same mountain top, is so hard to bear. He was so close to tasting victory and setting an astonishing lap record. Instead, he left us far too soon. I’d be lying if I said I was friends with Carlin Dunne, but I raced Pikes Peak the same year he took the crown on the Lightning electric motorcycle and was awed by his speed. I again shared the racetrack with him this year, as he was testing Ducati’s new Streetfighter, and again was floored by his speed and his easy-going nature. He was simply someone you wanted to be around, regardless of how you felt about motorcycles.
We’d kind of written Royal Enfield off as a niche builder of weird bikes for weirder people, but 1.4 billion Indians can’t all be wrong. Five years ago RE enlisted the help of Harris Performance in England to build the frame for its pretty little Continental GT (which sadly contained a really old Single left over from colonial days).
Talk about staying power. Ten years on and the Aprilia RSV4 platform is still the cream of the crop. With the RSV4 1100 Factory, however, the newest member of the RSV4 family is simply stunning. The way Aprilia has achieved this, though, is a little deceiving. Yes, the 1078cc V4 (sorta) shared with the Tuono 1100 sees some improvements the Tuono doesn’t get, but Aprilia found a way to integrate the increased power into the same magic chassis without upsetting its balance – a task which can’t be overstated. Riding the RSV4 1100, you can tell there’s more punch than before, but it doesn’t blow your socks off like the Ducati Panigale V4 S does. The senses have more time (although, not a lot more time) to process the incoming speed, and the chassis works its usual magic in placing you exactly where you want to be without any drama. The experience isn’t too far removed from the 1000cc RSV4, until you look down at the stopwatch and realize how much faster you were than before.
Well, the new-for ’19 RT has put on 20 pounds compared to the R1200 RT that preceded it, but one good thing about that weight gain is it makes it that much easier for us to justify calling it Best Touring Bike – an award that’s traditionally gone to your Gold Wings and your Harley-Davidson FLs.
Well yeah, the FTR did not win our little Monster 1200/Yamaha XSR900 comparo, and is currently taking heavy fire in the Comments section from the sportbike purists. But as you know, MOBOs are also selected using other criteria, including historical significance, originality, and the debating skills and/or ability of a given bike’s proponent to wear the other contenders down with BS via Google Hangout.
When I think back to how underwhelmed I was at my first read of the upgrades announced for the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S, I have to chuckle to myself. The big changes appeared to be focused on the 6-axis Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and all the automatic adjustments to suspension, braking, and power delivery it offered. While this was good news, it was hardly the press release that would point to the motorcycle winning the year’s Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle MOBO. But here we are.
The KTM 790 Adventure R blurs the lines between street-worthy adventurer and off-road capable dirtbike more than any machine that has hit the market thus far. While there are worthy contenders in the category when it comes to overall street manners, nothing we’ve tested yet has delivered the kind of off-road capability KTM’s new middleweight adventure has. If there’s any brand that is poised to dominate the serious adventure category, it’s probably KTM. The Austrian manufacturer has more than a few off-road championships under its belt including 18 straight wins of the Dakar Rally this last one in grand fashion, might I add, with a podium sweep. While those bikes are tricked out to the hilt, tech trickles down.
Triumph knows a thing or two about winning Best Standard MOBOs. Last year, the Street Triple RS took home the honors, and two years before that, the Street Twin landed a MOBO. Impressive. And that’s the word that we would use to describe the 2019 Triumph Speed Twin.
Out of all the categories on our MOBO roster, the Lightweight/Entry Level division was actually one of the easiest to fill out. That’s because, as you might remember, we’ve already put these two machines against each other. In the winner’s category, we’re talking about the KTM 390 Duke (which means you can likely guess what the runner up will be). A powerhouse of a little motorcycle, the 390 Duke continues to prove that big fun does come in small packages. Starting with the 373cc Single, the dyno says it puts out 26.9 lb-ft and 42.3 horses. While not much, the Thumper pulls cleanly from the bottom and gives just enough up top to easily distance itself from traffic. Slow is not a word we’d use to describe the 390 Duke, but you do have to shift a lot, which isn’t so bad thanks to its slick (not to be confused with quick) shifter.
The last 10 years have taken us through the childhood of electric motorcycles, and now we find ourselves firmly in the technology’s adolescence. Through it all, only one manufacturer has been producing electric bikes that entire time, Zero. This year, the company finally advanced to the Zero SR/F, a no-excuses motorcycle, competent in its ability to take a blast down a winding mountain road as it is in the daily grind of commuter duty. Yes, battery technology still has a ways to go to achieve the convenience that we’ve enjoyed with internal combustion engines (ICE), but the SR/F is the first bike from Zero to truly incorporate industrial design to feel like a full-grown motorcycle; one that bears only a passing resemblance to its older, less capable siblings. Electric bikes have finally come of age.
The Honda Monkey brings nostalgic feel to the already wildly popular Grom platform. Bikes in this category are small in stature but massively fun and rife with potential. Whatever you can dream up, you can do. I’d like to think Troy and I showcased some of the fun that is to be had with small machines in one of our recent adventures.
Who would’ve thought the Scooter category would be the one to tear apart our once happy and cohesive team, leaving it in tattered shreds of its former glory. Sometimes it’s up to the youngest and brightest to stand up to the old guard to bring to light what is honest and true. [Easy there, Sparky. —Ed.] And that, in this case, is bestowing the 2020 Vespa GTS 300 HPE platform with Motorcycle.com’s Scooter of the Year award.
If there’s one thing that motorcyclists look forward to almost as much as the beginning of riding season, it has to be new model season – when all of next year’s updates are announced. It’s a bench-racer’s heaven. However, in a longstanding MO tradition, we like to pause before the rush of the new to look back at what the previous year offered the world of motorcycling.
Today, we arrive at the end of Motorcycle.com’s award season. Up to this point, we’ve named motorcycles in nine separate categories, the very best bikes that each class has to offer. The Motorcycle of the Year draws upon these winners and then looks deeper for the selection of the motorcycle that not only beat its direct competitors, but also embodies that special something that points to the road ahead for motorcycling as a whole. The 2018 Motorcycle.com Motorcycle of the Year does just that. The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S is a special motorcycle – one that simultaneously defines the current two-wheeled state-of-the-art while also expanding what we can expect from motorcycles in the future regarding the role technology will play.
We’ve waxed poetic about the Kawasaki Ninja 400 more times than I care to count here at MO. Just check the Best Lightweight/Entry Level category posted a few days earlier to see what we like about the bike. Aside from being a polished, handsome, and fun motorcycle for both new riders and experienced veterans alike, what we didn’t mention in the Lightweight/Entry Level piece was just how affordable the little Ninja is. Ranging in price from $4,999 to $5,499, depending on color choice and ABS, the 400 is easily accessible for students on a budget – we’ve even had readers report dealer markdowns in their area on the Ninja 400.
To say Ducati has a lot riding on the Panigale V4 series is quite an understatement. For Ducati to finally admit its beloved V-Twin had reached the limit of development and abandon it for its flagship model is a huge deal. It meant whatever replaced it would have a lot to live up to. Ladies and gentlemen, the 1103cc V4 more than lives up to the hype. It’s fast, it’s ferocious, and yet, it’s surprisingly easy to ride at the limits of your talent – assuming your skills are enough to warrant you riding a bike of this caliber, anyway. Maybe best of all for Ducati fanboys (and girls) out there – it still sounds like a Ducati but better. The Twin Pulse firing order ignites the front cylinders together before doing the same at the rear, essentially making the Panigale V4 a glorified V-Twin, at least as far as exhaust note is concerned.
Okay, right, we already had this discussion about whether a bike not powered by a rumbly big V-twin qualifies as a “Bagger” shortly before the K1600B blew everybody’s doors off in our Big Dam Tour last February. Instead of a big V-twin, this one’s got BMW’s 1649cc inline-Six, which not only out-torques all the big Twins – 106 lb-ft at 5200 rpm – it also demolishes them in the horsepower department: 132 hp at 8000 rpm is 57 more than the best-bagger runner-up’s 75. Yeah, but it lacks character, some say. Blow me, is the proper retort. Character schmaracter.
From the moment that the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour was only a product of the rumor mill, we knew that it was going to be a big deal. After all, how many manufacturers can claim to have a model in continuous production for 43 years? This also means that there was tremendous pressure on Honda to make sure that the newest Wing had the proper acknowledgement of the model’s storied past while still being a radical enough update to carry the bike into the future. We here at Motorcycle.com think that Honda succeeded.
Our love affair with Triumph’s three-cylinder engines is no secret. The Speed Triple has long been a favorite of ours, as has the smaller-displacing 675cc Street Triple. Last year saw the first major revamp of the Street Triple since 2013, with the biggest change being the dyslexia-inducing increase in engine size to 765cc. It’s always a worry when a manufacturer changes a model we love, but our worries were swept away the moment we rode the new 765 S-T – it takes everything we adore about the outgoing model and amplifies it some more. It’s so good, in fact, that Brent damn near cried man tears when he finally had to part with it.
This was a pretty easy pick. The newly domesticated version of the mighty supercharged Kawasaki makes enough power in stock form – 171 on our dyno – to provide even the sickest speedfreak a full dose, but it does so in a sneaky, gentlemanly way: That air-cooled supercharger means the 998 cc Four only needs 10,000 rpm to produce all that power, and it’s making 89 lb-ft. of torque at only 8600 rpm. Suddenly the world is flying into your faceshield at an alarming rate, with no vibratory or auditory warning. Holy Kawasaki! That’s what we call efficiency, of which another byproduct is the SE’s ability to squeeze 40+ mpg from a gallon of gas, which gives it 200-mile range.
The Lightweight category of motorcycling is growing like a wildfire, with tons of cool bikes that offer style and performance that’s readily accessible for a new or inexperienced rider. But to us, the motorcycle topping the list of all those competent performers is the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Some May claim that the “small-displacement” moniker no longer applies, but to get hung up on 100cc is a waste of time for what’s otherwise an excellent motorcycle. The increase in size from the previous Ninja 300 brings with it a modest bump in power suitable for newbies, but also entertaining for experienced riders. Combine that with styling inspired by its bigger Ninja siblings, and new riders no longer have to feel self conscious about their beginner bike looking dated and ugly. This, in turn, helps keep riders from graduating to bigger, sexier machinery they may not be ready for.
When choosing our MOBOs, it’s not always the spec-sheet shootout winner that takes the cake. There is a lot more to consider when deciding MO’s Best of award. What does the motorcycle mean for its category and how does it impact the industry as a whole? These are but a few of the variables that must be considered for our MOBO awards.
Well, it’s that time, again. As the motorcycle industry heads with its collective throttle pinned into the 2019 model year, we here at Motorcycle.com have taken a moment to look back at the previous year. What a year it has been! In case you don’t remember, it began with an amazing 38 bikes announced during EICMA 2017. Since it is our goal to review each and every motorcycle we can throw our legs over, our butt dynos are well calibrated and our typing fingers limber from all the bike tests and shootouts we cranked out for the 2018 model year.
It takes a really special motorbike to win our MOTY award, and the Super Duke GT comes from premium stock, as it’s based on the winner of our 2014 Motorcycle of the Year, the 1290 Super Duke R. The uncanny beauty of the GT is that it retains the wonderful virtues of the R and expands the platform with a plethora of comfort and convenience updates that enhance the bike’s appeal without appreciably hindering its performance capabilities.
For less than the price difference between a Ducati 1299 Panigale and a Panigale 1299S, you could have one of the most value-packed and fun motorcycles we’ve ever ridden. It’s astonishing how many desirable features are available on the KTM 390 Duke, a stylish and capable motorbike that retails for just $5,299.