It’s not every year a motorcycle hits the scene and redefines the boundaries of its category. The KTM 790 Adventure R has done just that. KTM has taken its decades of off-road championship-winning pedigree and infused it into what we believe is the most capable adventure bike to hit the market in some time. The 790 Adventure R utilizes KTM’s fully-adjustable WP XPLOR suspension front and rear, componentry previously only found on the company’s XC-W, EXC-F, and Enduro R models. The compact 799cc Parallel Twin and low slung gas tank only adds to the maneuverability of the bike, giving it a nice low center of gravity. Whether tiptoeing through a rock garden or blasting through sand washes, the 790 Adventure R handles in a way no other adventure bike does, mostly thanks to keeping its CG as low as possible.
The loss of Carlin Dunne to the motorcycling community was absolutely devastating. Dunne’s skill was only overshadowed by his humble character, which went a long way towards masking the fact he could haul ass on anything with two wheels, regardless if it had an engine or not. The undisputed King of the Mountain, Dunne made the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb look easy, so much so that he stepped away from competition for a few years to help guide new competitors to the mountain and show them the way. That’s why his death, at the hands of the very same mountain top, is so hard to bear. He was so close to tasting victory and setting an astonishing lap record. Instead, he left us far too soon. I’d be lying if I said I was friends with Carlin Dunne, but I raced Pikes Peak the same year he took the crown on the Lightning electric motorcycle and was awed by his speed. I again shared the racetrack with him this year, as he was testing Ducati’s new Streetfighter, and again was floored by his speed and his easy-going nature. He was simply someone you wanted to be around, regardless of how you felt about motorcycles.
We’d kind of written Royal Enfield off as a niche builder of weird bikes for weirder people, but 1.4 billion Indians can’t all be wrong. Five years ago RE enlisted the help of Harris Performance in England to build the frame for its pretty little Continental GT (which sadly contained a really old Single left over from colonial days).
Talk about staying power. Ten years on and the Aprilia RSV4 platform is still the cream of the crop. With the RSV4 1100 Factory, however, the newest member of the RSV4 family is simply stunning. The way Aprilia has achieved this, though, is a little deceiving. Yes, the 1078cc V4 (sorta) shared with the Tuono 1100 sees some improvements the Tuono doesn’t get, but Aprilia found a way to integrate the increased power into the same magic chassis without upsetting its balance – a task which can’t be overstated. Riding the RSV4 1100, you can tell there’s more punch than before, but it doesn’t blow your socks off like the Ducati Panigale V4 S does. The senses have more time (although, not a lot more time) to process the incoming speed, and the chassis works its usual magic in placing you exactly where you want to be without any drama. The experience isn’t too far removed from the 1000cc RSV4, until you look down at the stopwatch and realize how much faster you were than before.
Well, the new-for ’19 RT has put on 20 pounds compared to the R1200 RT that preceded it, but one good thing about that weight gain is it makes it that much easier for us to justify calling it Best Touring Bike – an award that’s traditionally gone to your Gold Wings and your Harley-Davidson FLs.
Well yeah, the FTR did not win our little Monster 1200/Yamaha XSR900 comparo, and is currently taking heavy fire in the Comments section from the sportbike purists. But as you know, MOBOs are also selected using other criteria, including historical significance, originality, and the debating skills and/or ability of a given bike’s proponent to wear the other contenders down with BS via Google Hangout.
When I think back to how underwhelmed I was at my first read of the upgrades announced for the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S, I have to chuckle to myself. The big changes appeared to be focused on the 6-axis Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and all the automatic adjustments to suspension, braking, and power delivery it offered. While this was good news, it was hardly the press release that would point to the motorcycle winning the year’s Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle MOBO. But here we are.
The KTM 790 Adventure R blurs the lines between street-worthy adventurer and off-road capable dirtbike more than any machine that has hit the market thus far. While there are worthy contenders in the category when it comes to overall street manners, nothing we’ve tested yet has delivered the kind of off-road capability KTM’s new middleweight adventure has. If there’s any brand that is poised to dominate the serious adventure category, it’s probably KTM. The Austrian manufacturer has more than a few off-road championships under its belt including 18 straight wins of the Dakar Rally this last one in grand fashion, might I add, with a podium sweep. While those bikes are tricked out to the hilt, tech trickles down.
Triumph knows a thing or two about winning Best Standard MOBOs. Last year, the Street Triple RS took home the honors, and two years before that, the Street Twin landed a MOBO. Impressive. And that’s the word that we would use to describe the 2019 Triumph Speed Twin.
Out of all the categories on our MOBO roster, the Lightweight/Entry Level division was actually one of the easiest to fill out. That’s because, as you might remember, we’ve already put these two machines against each other. In the winner’s category, we’re talking about the KTM 390 Duke (which means you can likely guess what the runner up will be). A powerhouse of a little motorcycle, the 390 Duke continues to prove that big fun does come in small packages. Starting with the 373cc Single, the dyno says it puts out 26.9 lb-ft and 42.3 horses. While not much, the Thumper pulls cleanly from the bottom and gives just enough up top to easily distance itself from traffic. Slow is not a word we’d use to describe the 390 Duke, but you do have to shift a lot, which isn’t so bad thanks to its slick (not to be confused with quick) shifter.
The last 10 years have taken us through the childhood of electric motorcycles, and now we find ourselves firmly in the technology’s adolescence. Through it all, only one manufacturer has been producing electric bikes that entire time, Zero. This year, the company finally advanced to the Zero SR/F, a no-excuses motorcycle, competent in its ability to take a blast down a winding mountain road as it is in the daily grind of commuter duty. Yes, battery technology still has a ways to go to achieve the convenience that we’ve enjoyed with internal combustion engines (ICE), but the SR/F is the first bike from Zero to truly incorporate industrial design to feel like a full-grown motorcycle; one that bears only a passing resemblance to its older, less capable siblings. Electric bikes have finally come of age.
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.
Who would’ve thought the Scooter category would be the one to tear apart our once happy and cohesive team, leaving it in tattered shreds of its former glory. Sometimes it’s up to the youngest and brightest to stand up to the old guard to bring to light what is honest and true. [Easy there, Sparky. —Ed.] And that, in this case, is bestowing the 2020 Vespa GTS 300 HPE platform with Motorcycle.com’s Scooter of the Year award.
If there’s one thing that motorcyclists look forward to almost as much as the beginning of riding season, it has to be new model season – when all of next year’s updates are announced. It’s a bench-racer’s heaven. However, in a longstanding MO tradition, we like to pause before the rush of the new to look back at what the previous year offered the world of motorcycling.
Today, we arrive at the end of Motorcycle.com’s award season. Up to this point, we’ve named motorcycles in nine separate categories, the very best bikes that each class has to offer. The Motorcycle of the Year draws upon these winners and then looks deeper for the selection of the motorcycle that not only beat its direct competitors, but also embodies that special something that points to the road ahead for motorcycling as a whole. The 2018 Motorcycle.com Motorcycle of the Year does just that. The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S is a special motorcycle – one that simultaneously defines the current two-wheeled state-of-the-art while also expanding what we can expect from motorcycles in the future regarding the role technology will play.