Look back at any review of a Harley-Davidson touring model (and any other model than the Pan America), and there’s a good chance you’ll find a sentence or two about Harley’s weird choices when it comes to suspension. Specifically, the rear shock(s). It seems as though, in order to bring the seat height as low as possible, Harley has sacrificed ride quality in the back by putting on a shock with hardly any suspension travel. Sure it works, but it doesn’t do the human spine any favors.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but we’re big fans of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 around here. The do-it-all naked bike is fast as hell when you want to get crazy, but as docile as a puppy when you don’t. For years, fans of naked bikes have yelled to the hilltops for a manufacturer to build one that was a sportbike without fairings. No neutering, no “re-tuned for torque” BS, just pure naked power – and a handlebar. Ducati has firmly delivered with the Streetfighter V4 and we’ve sung its praises endlessly. Which begs the question: what on earth could Ducati possibly do to warrant yet another press intro and new model launch?
It’s a little strange to hear Nate Kern call me, and everyone else in the rider’s meeting, one of his kids. “It’s true,” says the childless Kern as he can see the weird looks on our faces this chilly December morning at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. “I’m man enough to say I care about you guys and when you’re here, at one of my trackdays, all I want is the best experience possible for you.” This might sound like lip service since every trackday provider wants you to have a good time, but Nate Kern and his eponymous DoubleRFest trackdays have the weight of BMW behind it to come as close as possible to ensuring this sentiment rings true.
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.
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.
Let the record show that, despite my best efforts, Yamaha’s MT-10 was not included in either the street or track portions of our mega seven-way open-class naked bike shootouts last year. I fought for its inclusion but was ultimately denied by the Bossman who wrote it off by saying our field was big enough and it wasn’t going to win anyway. That and we also knew a new one was already on the way.
The future of transportation and mobility is facing an interesting problem. Actually, a series of problems. For one, humankind is contributing to a climate crisis that needs to be corrected. For two, there are far too many internal combustion engines littered across the globe to simply scrap them all and start over with electrification. For three, as we’ve long known, eventually our supply of dead dinosaur juice is going to dry up and we won’t be able to produce fossil fuels anymore. And while that could solve problem number one (if the planet isn’t completely screwed by then), it just makes problem number two that much more serious. So, what do we do?
The thing about any of the electric motorcycle companies actually taking product development seriously is that, more often than not, each new model they introduce is markedly better than any model before it. Considering the EV market is still in its early stages, you expect a marked advancement with each new model.
Let’s clear the air right off the bat with this one: This is *not* a crash-tested review, though I can understand why you would think so after I wrote about my recent experiences tumbling down the road in the Forcite MK1 helmet and Alpinestars’ own GP Force Chaser entry-level suit. While it’s never a great time to crash a motorcycle, the timing of those experiences brings a great deal of context to the latest in safety innovation by Alpinestars: the Tech-Air 10 airbag system.
Reviewing a crash-tested piece of gear is up there on our least favorite things to do on this job, and when said piece of gear is a helmet, we’re especially annoyed – and that’s putting it mildly. However, the fact I’m here and able to write a review about a crashed helmet at all is a good sign, especially when the helmet comes from an up-and-coming company in the smart helmet space.
The Harley vs Indian rivalry is up there with some of the biggest rivalries in modern pop culture. Think Coke vs Pepsi, Mac vs PC, Army vs Navy, Edison vs Tesla. Then there’s Harley vs Indian. These two titans of motorcycling built a rivalry that lasted for decades, and despite the fact Indian dropped from the scene for 60 years, ever since its resurgence in 2013, it’s as though the rivalry picked right back up where it left off. And we’re all better for it.
American motorcycling is known for big touring bikes, and the recent Showdown between the Harley Road Glide Limited and Indian Pursuit Limited Premium was as Americana as they come. However, cruisers are also a staple of the American riding experience. Chief among them (Indian pun not intended) the Harley Sportster and Indian Scout. These two lightweights of cruiserdom are anything but light but have historically been the bikes to reach for if simplicity and bare-bones cruising were what you were craving. Low and slow, as they say.
Ducati has finally released details about its much-anticipated electric race bike, known internally as the “V21L” prototype. The V21L is important for several reasons. Not only is it the platform with which Ducati will tackle the MotoE championship, starting in 2023 as the sole supplier, but it can also give us some clues as to some of the solutions Ducati are experimenting with in regards to a future production-based electric motorcycle available to all.
A few years ago, I took a break from my lovely MO family and decided to get a real job, complete with an actual commute. Without the pick of the litter to choose from anymore, I had to actually buy a bike to get to work on. The pick? A Kawasaki Versys – anecdotally, the number one motorcycle actually owned by motorcycle journalists (or former ones, in this case). When asked, Brad Puetz (pronounced like the Fight Club actor but not nearly as famous), Kawi’s PR guy, spouted off a series of names of folks in this job who own the VERsatile SYStem.