Best Standard Motorcycle of 2021

John Burns
by John Burns
Best Standard Motorcycle of 2021: Triumph Trident 660

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2021: Triumph Trident 660

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.

Nobody expected that much from the new Trident 660, for which Triumph itself sort of set low expectations, rolling it out as a middleweight standard of low price, pedestrian specifications, and a triple-cylinder engine tuned for torque – code words many times for bland beginner bike.

In the actual event, the Trident immediately established itself as one of those special machines that is – to use another stock phrase that gets over-used in the MOBO awards – more than the sum of its parts. In last June’s Naked Middleweight Shootout, the new Trident destroyed the field in powering to the win, beating out long-time favorites and the new Aprilia Tuono 660 with a combination of power, suspension, comfort, and price none of the others could match – and trouncing the competition with a 92.5% Grin Factor on the official MO scorecard.

Forty-two-point-eight pound-feet of torque isn’t the most, neither is 72.3 horsepower, but combined with perfect fueling and a wet weight of just 427 pounds riding on Showa suspension well dialed-in by Triumph, as always, the Trident just happily gets the job done, any job, commuting or playing.

Not only is this the least expensive Triumph you can buy, Triumph says the Trident will be its least expensive motorcycle to own, too. After the 600-mile break-in service, you’re good to go until 10,000 miles, and valve clearances don’t need checking until 20k miles. LED lighting is standard, and the Trident sports a very nice level of detailing for an $8k bike.

Your magnetic tank bag won’t stick to the 3.7-gallon plastic fuel tank, but that’s more than offset by the fact there’s no ugly tank seam along the bottom edge; the front fender takes up the theme as it protects the inverted fork’s sliders. The paint on our Crystal White test bike was impeccable, with a nice pearlescent sheen to it, and just a few tasteful Triumph identifying marks with a hint of Union Jack. Like the KTM 390 Duke, the Trident looks like it should cost more. It rides that way too. We don’t blame Triumph at all for being proud of this one.

2021 Triumph Trident 660 Review – First Ride

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2021 Runner-Up: Honda NC750X

This could be a Machiavellian power play on the part of Ryan Adams, who I believe was the guy who threw the NC750X out there as a possible Best Standard, and who encourages me to drink too much at the company Christmas party. I wasn’t going to argue, since I’ve been singing the praises of this happy Honda since the miraculous virgin birth of the NC700X in 2012. Strangely, no one else objected to the NC being runner-up this year either – but I know the MO peanut gallery will fire up their torches and pitchforks, and why is everybody wearing togas?

2021 Honda NC750X Review

Like we said, the whole Standard category is about as amorphous as it gets, capable of ranging anywhere from BMW R nineT to Ducati Scrambler, encompassing all kinds and sizes of nakeds and adventure bikes along the way. If there’s a common thread, it’s that a good standard needs to be a bike you can ride every day almost anywhere, and if it’s sporty and even slightly sport-toury, even better.

When Honda made the 700X the 750X a while ago, it threw on a better fork and more power, via a 75cc displacement increase (4mm bigger bores) that bumped the parallel Twin to 745cc. They also gave it a full 1000-rpm bump in redline, to 7500, and the 270-degree crank gives it that Italianate sound we all crave. Four drive modes now allow full exploitation of the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), two-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), and adjustable engine braking, too.

The NC’s not supposed to be a sport bike, but like nearly every Honda ever built, it does a convincing imitation, with the shifter paddles at your left thumb and forefinger providing instant, perfect shifts whenever and wherever you want them. Alternatively, leave it in auto and roll lazily around town. Or across the state, getting 60+ mpg the whole way. There’s plenty of room for a toothbrush, clean undies, and your bowling ball in the big storage locker where the gas should be, and the windshield provides good protection too. We don’t know why we can’t have cruise control, an omission we’re only able to forgive on the NC.

So, bring on the hate and the b-word – boring. Projection is all the rage these days. The NC, and the enlightened people who ride it, wish you Merry Christmas and happy holidays anyway.

2021 Honda NC750X First Look Best of 2021 Categories

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John Burns
John Burns

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