There’s an old saying that we’ve said many times on the pages of MO: It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow. Never has that adage held more truth than during this, our comparison of the Moriwaki MD250H and Aprilia RS125 in 2010. One (Moriwaki) was designed to be a purebred track machine, while the other (Apriila) distilled the company’s long-standing history of 125cc two-stroke racing into a street-legal model. Considering the difference in performance between the two machines, it was a no-brainer the Moriwaki would be the superior machine around the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack, but it isn’t every day that two small-displacement motorcycles as unique as these two come around our direction, and the opportunity to pit the two of them together proved too much to resist. For more photos of both bikes ripping around the track, be sure to visit the photo gallery.
The idea of a Panigale with 330cc less engine initially didn’t seem especially exciting. Like all good Americans, I largely subscribe to the more-is-more theory of excellence. Turns out, though, that riding Ducati’s sleek 959 Panigale at the Ricardo Tormo MotoGP circuit in Valencia, Spain, was considerably more exciting than I had anticipated.
Our Australian correspondent, Jeff Ware, was blessed with the jackpot of motojournalist opportunities: testing an important new superbike-class contender ahead of its official world launch event. Ware, author of our recent 1980s Turbo Bike Shootout and the test of a Cagiva 500cc Grand Prix racer, is one of just five journalists to have spun laps of Oz’s Wakefield Park circuit on Kawasaki’s latest ZX-10R, the most exciting new regular-production sportbike of 2016. Ware says he expected improvements, but what he experienced was stunning. —Kevin Duke
In the presentation for the 959, Ducati described its new bike as having “perfect balance,” which is a descriptor I immediately dismissed as pure PR speak. After all, every OEM would want to say that about one of its new products, but after having spun laps on the latest Panigale at the Ricardo Tormo MotoGP circuit, I’m becoming a believer in this Italian balancing act.
Increasing the 899 Panigale’s stroke from 57.2 to 60.8mm, while retaining its 100mm bore (3.94 inches), in addition to a bunch more changes, brings us to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale. The crankshaft was redesigned to support a brand-new crank journal lubrication system and completely new connecting rods, while compression remains the same 12.5:1.
Beauty on two wheels is obviously a subjective issue, but I defy anyone to claim the 2008 Bimota DB7 1098 is not a gorgeous motorcycle. So for this week’s Church feature, we turn to our European correspondent, Tor Sagen, for his take on one of the world’s most exclusive motorcycles.
What’s this? A cruiser claims the Motorcycle of the Year title even though we’ve called 2015 the year of the Superbike? Yes, it might provoke a little cognitive dissonance until you think a little further. First, because the Indian Scout was introduced at Sturgis this time last year, many riders mistakenly thought of it as a 2014 model. To qualify for a MOBO, a motorcycle must be on sale to the public prior to the nominating process at the end of each July, and the Scout wasn’t available until late last year. Additionally, our MOTY must be something special, and the Scout is more than just a class-beating cruiser.
Suppose you wanted a nice new orthopedically correct naked bike, but you didn’t want all the latest fly-by-wire techno-gadgetry that accompanies the best of them along with the $15,000-plus price tag. Well, you’re still out of luck, really, because Suzuki’s all-new GSX-S1000 does use the traction-control system (first seen on its latest V-Strom 1000) to tame its mighty GSX-R1000 Four-cylinder. And ABS is a $500 option.
Remember the mega splash Harley-Davidson made last summer with its electric LiveWire? No one expected the usually stodgy Motor Company to veer so sharply into the future, and the stylish e-bike was prominently featured across mainstream media outlets. Never before had electric motorcycles made such a huge impression on the general public.
In spite of protestations from various peanut gallery season-ticket holders who claim disinterest, our mostly annual Superbike Comparison remains MO’s single biggest deal of the year when it comes to clicks and comments. Apparently, many people who don’t have much interest in owning any of these motorcycles are still really interested in riding them vicariously, which is fine by the MO staff; we’re willing to make the sacrifice, for a few weeks anyway. Whether you lust after one or not, it only makes sense to be interested in them, since this is where the new performance stuff turns up first, as motorcycles, like everything else, grow more sophisticated.
From the unchained environment of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where performance is the sole consideration for victory in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout, we move to the confines of public roadways to determine which superbike renders the best street-legal exhibition. As tight as our track test results were, the street shootout was just as close with a half-percent separating second from first place. If the MO offices were located in Florida, I’d demand a recount.
When MO’s Managing Editor and enthusiastic sparring partner, Tom Roderick, flew to Spain back in October for the intro of BMW’s heavily upgraded S1000RR, he discovered a motorcycle that’s been comprehensively honed to advance its tech cred and lower its lap times.