Holy cow, is it nearly December already? It feels like we just took down our holiday decorations a few days ago, and already, Mariah Carey is haunting our radio stations. We’re not ready to say goodbye to 2023 yet, though, as there is still one important bit of business to take care of.
That’s right, it’s time once again for the Motorcycle.com Best Of (MOBO) awards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the cruiser category of Motorcycle.com’s Best Of awards, we have two new motorcycles representing different arenas of the cruiser spectrum. These bikes will help to bring new motorcyclists into the fold for different reasons. They aren’t the most technologically advanced or most powerful, nor would they be the best pick for riding across the country. However, they represent some new thinking about desirable aspects to what makes a cruiser cool.
Touring motorcycles with their plethora of luxury features tend to be the flagship models for manufacturers because touring riders demand comfort, handling, big power, weather protection, and storage space – and they’re willing to pay for it. Thanks to the Project Rushmore upgrades first seen in the 2014 model year, the ‘Glides have delivered first-class accommodations and the technological features touring riders expect. Just take a look at the Boom! infotainment system and the LED Daymaker headlight. Be it with a frame-mounted fairing as with the Road Glide or a fairing-mounted one on the Electra Glides (among others), the Harley-Davidson touring line commanded a large portion of the luxury touring market. Still, the Twin Cam engine had begun to show its age.
The “Best” bike in this category could be quite an elusive target. Who is asking? Is “best” the best bike in hardcore eastern Enduro settings? The best two-up on the interstate? Best at hitting some sweet jumps? Best at attacking a twisty mountain road? You see, every observer is going to mix their pavement and dirt a little differently, so no single on-off-road capable bike could really be the best for everyone. Understanding that, the ultimate “BEST!” On-Off-Road/Adventure motorcycle available in 2017 is unquestionably the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R! (Your mileage may vary, void where inhabited by short people, consult a Dr. for erections lasting more than five or six years.)
While we had no doubt that an all-new CRF450R was on tap for 2017, we wondered if Big Red would do what it took to raise the CRF450R’s engine performance level up to par with the raw power of other machines in its class. We’re stoked Honda responded with a new version of its Unicam engine that boasts more compression, a more radical cam, a finger-follower-style rocker arm and a new cylinder with a downdraft intake layout that gives the incoming air charge a straighter shot to the CRF450R’s valves. While the new engine doesn’t dominate the class in terms of sheer output, it more than makes up for that by providing the most exciting power delivery of any 450cc motocrosser available.