Best Standard Motorcycle of 2020

John Burns
by John Burns

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2020: Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC

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.

2020 Indian FTR1200 Rally Vs. Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC

The XC uses the same burbly/growly 1200 cc parallel Twin as the Speed Twin, but in High Torque tune instead of High Power. A dyno-tested 75 rear-wheel horses at 6500 rpm always feels like enough, and 68 ft-lbs torque at only 5000 rpm is even better – all of it built on top of the solid bass laid down by that 270-degree crankshaft.

They can call it a Scrambler if they want to, but this one’s a bike you can ride every day, largely due to the quality of its suspension, excellent seat, and upright ergonomics – all the things we found slightly wanting on the Speed Twin. The Showa fork serves up 7.9 inches of comfortable but controlled travel in front, and a pair of fully adjustable piggy-back Öhlins shocks out back do the same. In spite of the long-travel cushiness, the seat’s only 33.1 inches high, which is not too much for most people. The XC doesn’t quite have the offroad chops of its Scrambler XE sistership, but it’s close enough to that Baja-winning bike to largely eradicate nearly every paved bump you’ll ever encounter.

The XC might not be quite the roadster that the Speed Twin is, but it would be a damn close contest, and the beauty is that you can totally go way more places than the ST, thanks to the adventurousness of the thing – and its 21- /17-inch wheel combo. The XC also benefits from an Offroad mode in its electronic bag of tricks that’s excellent at helping you dig yourself out of tight, sandy spots.

At $14k, the XC is a bit pricier than the Speed Twin, but considering all you get, including a bright TFT display in a classic-looking round housing, brushed aluminum accent bits, and yes, cruise control, it was easy for us to agree it’s the Best Standard of 2020. A bike you can ride every day, every where.

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2020 Runner-Up: Kawasaki Z900

There was a little jousting back and forth here, with the new BMW F900 R the main challenger, but in the end the revitalized-for-2020 Kawasaki Z900 was impossible to deny. A subtle nose job/ tummy tuck took a little of the edge off the angry, crouching-predator Sugomi demeanor. Strengthening the pretty trellis frame around the swingarm pivot area, stiffening the suspension a smidge, and outfitting the bike with Dunlop’s new Roadsport 2 tires made the Z much more backroad floggable (while retaining its smooth manners). Then they gave it bright new LED lights and a 4.3-inch TFT with a Bluetooth chip in it.

2020 BMW F900R Vs Kawasaki Z900

The Z already had one of the smoothest-running inline Fours around caged within that steel trellis frame, and the fact that it cranks out 116 rear-wheel horses and 68 ft-lbs of torque means it can holds its own against critically acclaimed and more expensive motorcycles like the new 890 Duke and Triumph Street Triple.

If you need to be Ready to Race at all times, you probably need the new KTM. But for the 40-year old, 5’11”, semi-married male who’s twisty-backroad riding 35% of the time, commuting 50% of the time, and with a median riding experience of 15 years and household income of $91k (117k for the ABS model) – like Kawasaki’s research says – then this Z900 very well might be a more practical and economic solution. Heck, for $8,999 it’s a good candidate for Best Value too ($9,299 for ABS). Best of 2020 Categories

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John Burns
John Burns

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  • Walter Walter on Dec 14, 2020

    Considering how most of these will probably be used- a 19/17 wheelset version would seem to be a better way to go. But I guess Triumph feels the imagined 21/18 curbside cred is more important.

  • Laci Ludas Laci Ludas on Dec 18, 2020

    After reading the choices of the best bikes of 2020, I have to realize ; there is a lots of drinking going on in the office of