Touring on motorcycles has always been fraught with variables, and adventure touring, with its off-road excursions, only increases them – exponentially. We’d been planning a trip to South Dakota to ride the Black Hills’ extensive road and trail system and were scheduled to hit them on the first day of the season. We weren’t going to let a little thing, like a week of rain prior to our arrival, dampen our enthusiasm. So, we were surprised when the trails were mostly dry and not muddy, with the exception of occasional mud puddles that ranged from a couple of inches to a foot – or more – in depth. With the opaque nature of the puddles, we had no choice but to venture through them blindly. What could possibly go wrong?
It seems like all the splash lately has been about the ADV category and all the wonderful things they can do and destinations they can reach. We’re not going to deny adventure bikes their time in the sun, either. They’re definitely fun and capable bikes worthy of all the bandwagoning.
Welcome to Motorcycle.com’s 2021 Heavyweight Naked bike Shootout. If you haven’t noticed, 2021 has been the year of naked bike shootouts here at MO. We’re dubbing it Motorcycle.com’s Naked Summer, and it has all been building up to this moment – seven of the biggest, baddest naked bikes on the market today. We’ve teased the bikes on our Youtube channel for days now, and we’ll also assume you’ve already seen the specs for these seven monsters in our Spec Sheet Shootout, expertly crafted by Dennis Chung.
With the Aprilia Tuono 660 and Triumph Trident 660, we’ve got two brand new middleweight nakeds on the market this year, entering what was already a pretty good field with the Honda CB650R, Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, and the Yamaha MT-07. Obviously, this calls for us to put all six motorcycles together in a shootout.
You all know the saying, “You get what you pay for.” It’s an important life lesson that rings true for many aspects of life. Like cheap tools, the pleasure we get for the minimal cost outlay quickly evaporates as soon as it breaks much sooner than it should. Shoulda bought the good one is what we inevitably say to ourselves every time.
The title of this story pretty much sums it all, doesn’t it? Today’s flagship literbikes are getting increasingly expensive, putting them out of the realm of all but the most well off among us. So, let’s look at sportbikes at the lower end of the price scale, shall we? Mainly the Ducati Panigale V2. Ducati’s last V-Twin sportbike, the super-mid comes in at 955cc and $16,500 (well, $16,495 at the time I’m writing this). I had lots of good things to say about it when I got to sample it around the Jerez circuit at the end of 2019. Mainly, I was impressed with how easy it was to ride (a refreshing thing after hustling 200 hp beasts around lately. I know, I’m spoiled) and how well the electronics work.
When we think of baggers, we think V-Twin engines. Yes, there are some exceptions, the BMW K1600B and the Moto Guzzi MGX-21 (with its unusual transverse V-Twin) come to mind, but aside from those outliers, baggers from all manufacturers are solidly in V-Twin land. However, with the chassis, a couple of choices exist. Do you want a fork-mounted or frame-mounted fairing? In the frame-mounted category, there is one, big-daddy model that dominates the class, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide. For 2020, the grizzled veteran has been called out by a young gun that wants to prove its mettle. The Indian Challenger clearly has its sights on the Road Glide. In a classic battle reminiscent of the Old West, these two gunslingers have stepped onto the street, and the outcome will be determined on Route 66.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. The ER-6n is no more, but Kawasaki will sell you a Z650 for only $600 more this decade later – $6,999. And while Gladius has left the building, the Suzuki SV650 remains, for a mere $200 more than ten years ago – $7,099. Let us bow our heads in honor of the cheap middleweight twin, and haggle. Whirled without end, amen.
You’ll see a theme if you scroll back the last decade or so on MO: we have a thing for the Triumph Street Triple. After numerous rides and shootouts each time it gets updated, it’s safe to say we love that little 675cc three-cylinder. The sound it makes is outrageously cool, the power it delivers is fun without being overwhelming, and the overall package is an absolute blast. Yeah, the looks are kinda polarizing, but none of that matters once you twist the grip.
We probably didn’t really need to compare the Honda CB1000R and Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe since they’re polarized enough in the looks department to make it appear that potential consumers will be drawn to one or the other – and their performance and mission statements both are close enough on paper to make them more or less interchangeable, aren’t they? I think we really just wanted an excuse to ride both of them again, they’re both such charismatic motorcycles. Everybody wants to hang out with them. What is a café racer? One that flits from Starbucks to Starbucks? Close enough for us.
This week you might notice Motorcycle.com being a little quieter than usual. The reason is because most of the MO staff are out riding in our Sorta Annual Big Adventure Bike Shootout. For 2018, we’ve gathered seven of the biggest and baddest adventure machines out there. The plan? To put them through their paces on both the pavement and the dirt. To prove we’re serious about the dirt part, each of the contenders here comes to us with wire wheels, except for one, which we’ll get to in a moment.
When last we left it, in February, the BMW K 1600 B won out over a pack of six other baggers on our overnight whirlwind tour to Hoover Dam, Sin City and parts east. Some didn’t feel the six-cylinder German wonderbike should win since it’s not really a V-twin bagger, but then we’re not really bikers, either, so we just picked the motorcycle we liked best. The BMW was the smoothest, fastest, comfiest, highest-tech two-wheeled vehicle out there that sports saddlebags and a windshield.
As we jump in the vault for this week’s Church feature, we travel back to 1997, a time of change and consternation amongst off-road enthusiasts. Why? Because this was the year California really cracked down on two-stroke off-road motorcycles. A look at showroom floors today reveals (thankfully) that two-strokes haven’t exactly died off, but are far from prominent. Instead, the four-stroke era kicked in, and here we have a test of some modest trail bikes – the 1997 Honda XR400R and Kawasaki KLX300R. Far from speed demons, both bikes are fun on the trials. How fun? Let Len Nelson tell you…