We’ve waxed poetic about the Kawasaki Ninja 400 more times than I care to count here at MO. Just check the Best Lightweight/Entry Level category posted a few days earlier to see what we like about the bike. Aside from being a polished, handsome, and fun motorcycle for both new riders and experienced veterans alike, what we didn’t mention in the Lightweight/Entry Level piece was just how affordable the little Ninja is. Ranging in price from $4,999 to $5,499, depending on color choice and ABS, the 400 is easily accessible for students on a budget – we’ve even had readers report dealer markdowns in their area on the Ninja 400.
To say Ducati has a lot riding on the Panigale V4 series is quite an understatement. For Ducati to finally admit its beloved V-Twin had reached the limit of development and abandon it for its flagship model is a huge deal. It meant whatever replaced it would have a lot to live up to. Ladies and gentlemen, the 1103cc V4 more than lives up to the hype. It’s fast, it’s ferocious, and yet, it’s surprisingly easy to ride at the limits of your talent – assuming your skills are enough to warrant you riding a bike of this caliber, anyway. Maybe best of all for Ducati fanboys (and girls) out there – it still sounds like a Ducati but better. The Twin Pulse firing order ignites the front cylinders together before doing the same at the rear, essentially making the Panigale V4 a glorified V-Twin, at least as far as exhaust note is concerned.
Okay, right, we already had this discussion about whether a bike not powered by a rumbly big V-twin qualifies as a “Bagger” shortly before the K1600B blew everybody’s doors off in our Big Dam Tour last February. Instead of a big V-twin, this one’s got BMW’s 1649cc inline-Six, which not only out-torques all the big Twins – 106 lb-ft at 5200 rpm – it also demolishes them in the horsepower department: 132 hp at 8000 rpm is 57 more than the best-bagger runner-up’s 75. Yeah, but it lacks character, some say. Blow me, is the proper retort. Character schmaracter.
From the moment that the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour was only a product of the rumor mill, we knew that it was going to be a big deal. After all, how many manufacturers can claim to have a model in continuous production for 43 years? This also means that there was tremendous pressure on Honda to make sure that the newest Wing had the proper acknowledgement of the model’s storied past while still being a radical enough update to carry the bike into the future. We here at Motorcycle.com think that Honda succeeded.
This was a pretty easy pick. The newly domesticated version of the mighty supercharged Kawasaki makes enough power in stock form – 171 on our dyno – to provide even the sickest speedfreak a full dose, but it does so in a sneaky, gentlemanly way: That air-cooled supercharger means the 998 cc Four only needs 10,000 rpm to produce all that power, and it’s making 89 lb-ft. of torque at only 8600 rpm. Suddenly the world is flying into your faceshield at an alarming rate, with no vibratory or auditory warning. Holy Kawasaki! That’s what we call efficiency, of which another byproduct is the SE’s ability to squeeze 40+ mpg from a gallon of gas, which gives it 200-mile range.
When choosing our MOBOs, it’s not always the spec-sheet shootout winner that takes the cake. There is a lot more to consider when deciding MO’s Best of award. What does the motorcycle mean for its category and how does it impact the industry as a whole? These are but a few of the variables that must be considered for our MOBO awards.
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.
Well, after our recent two-part Superbike Shootout – road and track – there was little doubt who had to win this category. The Aprilia RSV4 RR cleaned up in both venues. We hate to be so predictable, but that 180-horsepower V-Four in a chassis of the gods is just too much for the competition to overcome, again. Not that Aprilia didn’t make it better for 2017.
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.
This could’ve gone several ways and almost did. As all the world’s manufacturers scramble to fill a burgeoning need for what we used to call just plain old motorcycles, choosing just one becomes more difficult – especially since eligible new players have only recently been made available to us for testing. I liked the new 2018 Suzuki GSX-S750 very much a couple of weeks ago, also the heavily revised 797 Ducati Monster reviewed way back in March. It doesn’t help that “Standard” is such an amorphous category… last year, the new Triumph Street Twin took home the trophy.
Sport-touring motorcycles have a confounding job description. They need to be sporty and deliver plenty of performance capability while still managing to be comfortable enough for when the highway gets straight, flat, and boring. While both of our winners here lean towards the sporty side of the equation, they both manage to take the pain out of long days in the saddle while transporting us to distant locations with big smiles.