With Honda being the first of the Japanese to bring a true performance dual-sport bike back to their line, we sincerely hope the trend continues from the Big Four. Times are good and getting better for the category. After taking a look at the current dual-sport offerings from each manufacturer making them, we as consumers have a pretty nice spread to choose from this year. Since we love writing and publishing Top 10 lists here at Motorcycle.com, I thought I would throw together a list of the top 10 dual-sport motorcycles of 2019, the way I see it.
For the tenth year in a row, The Sachsenring lay down and gave it away to Marc Marquez, who didn’t even have to buy a wrist corsage. Starting, as usual, from pole, Marquez seized the lead on the back side of the first turn, entered the express lane, and never broke a sweat on his way to the win and a ghastly, dispiriting 58-point lead as the series heads for summer vacation.
On a cool, clear morning, the Indian Scout 60 fires up and settles into a steady, V-Twin idle. I text John, my neighbor two doors down and tell him I’m getting ready to leave. From the yard, I can hear John’s well-thrashed Suzuki 650 thumper stumble to life then stall. The cycle repeats; each time the Suzuki runs for a bit longer. We’re going to take a lap of Lake George, Florida’s second largest lake and a stone’s throw (if you’ve got a cannon for an arm) from Daytona Beach.
If you’re into motorcycle racing – and why else would you be here reading this drivel? – today’s Italian Grand Prix was a work of art. 28-year old Danilo Petrucci, who six years ago was flogging something called an Ioda, fought off Honda wonderkid Marc Marquez and factory Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso for his maiden MotoGP win. The 83,000 frenzied fans saw 23 laps of knife fighting at close quarters in what must be the feel good moment of the 2019 MotoGP season.
Suzuki announced five returning off-road dirt bikes and one dual-sport model, each coming back for 2020 with color updates. Some of these models, like the RM-Z450 and RM-Z250, received substantial updates in the last couple of years, so it’s no surprise that they’re only getting updated graphics for 2020. Others, like the DR-Z125L, DR-Z50 and RM85 have remained relatively unchanged for quite some time now, so there’s no surprise there. The only street-legal model Suzuki announced today, the DR650S, is another long-standing model getting a new palette for 2020.
The MotoGP world, turned on its ear by qualifying on Saturday, was put back in its proper order today in Jerez by the incandescent Marc Marquez, who led wire-to-wire. The Petronas Yamaha SRT team, which spent Saturday night in the penthouse, ended Sunday in the outhouse. Rising Suzuki star Alex Rins took second, and Maverick Viñales found the podium for the first time since Buriram 2018. Four riders were separated by nine points heading to Jerez; four riders remain separated by nine points heading to Le Mans. Life is good.
The 2019 Argentine Grand Prix produced another dominant display by Repsol Honda prodigy Marc Marquez. A benevolent dictator, Marquez allows the other MotoGP riders to follow him around these tracks, not bothering to charge for lessons. Today’s easy win at Rio Hondo was the Catalan’s third in Argentina, putting him on top of the championship standings and bringing a sense of foreshadowing to the rest of the grid.
Judging from the roll-out, Suzuki really wants us to like its new 2020 Katana. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to Japan for a bike launch, probably because I never have been. For this one, they spared no expense – flying a bunch of us to Tokyo, shooting us via Shinkansen bullet train to the Kyoto Brighton Hotel, and renting out the Arashi Yama Takao Parkway for us to ride up and down upon unmolested for a day. When we weren’t cleansing ourselves with the remote control Toto Washlets in every room (the bidet, it turns out, is for saps), we were touring the local temples and noshing expensively on the Miyazaki beef. They kept dragging us away from the hotel, though, to visit a guy who forges katanas, to tour the new Suzuki factory in Hamamatsu and the Suzuki Museum.
Suzuki’s been doing business out of Hamamatsu for quite some time now. 1909, in fact, is the year Michio Suzuki officially began building looms to serve the Japanese weaving industry. Motorcycles and cars came along decades later; you can trace the whole history of Suzuki’s monozukuri culture in the three-story museum – designing and making things with a spirit of craftsmanship. Here are 10 things that jumped out at me.
I’ve never been a fan of the mid-’90s – early 2000s Suzuki Katana. To me they were fat, underpowered, and hideously ugly – three traits that should spell instant death to any motorcycle. It’s an utter shame the Katana name – a once well respected and sought after model – was attached to that motorcycle in the end. I made my distaste of that bike well known when I met James for the first time. He laughed it off, even agreed with me on some points, then changed the subject. It was like he knew the Katana he was riding was bad, but didn’t want to dwell on it any more than he had to. Maybe he got it for free?
With the championship already decided, what was there left for fans to root for in the MotoGP finale at Valencia? How about Pol Espargaro earning his first ever premier class podium? How about him doing it on a KTM machine, giving the Austrian factory their first MotoGP podium as well? How about Álex Rins giving Suzuki four podia in a row for the first time since 1994 and establishing his dominance over your boy Johann Zarco?
MotoGP’s traditional Valenciana finalé, in years like this, resembles a boxing match in which the undercards are vaguely entertaining, and the main event is moved from late Saturday night to Tuesday afternoon and closed to the public. Sure, it would still be great to have a ticket. Even with all three championships decided, you could still get solidly buzzed, maybe work on your tan, and stoke a few adrenaline rushes of your own for your €100. Get your picture taken with a bunch of bored fashion models, too.
For the first 16 laps of today’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi and his Yamaha YZR-M1 took us back in time to the days when he was reeling off world championships like the Chicago Bulls. We were brought hurtling back to Earth at Turn 1 of Lap 17, when The Doctor lost the rear and slid off, handing the win to the trailing stronzo Marc Marquez. Álex Rins and Johann Zarco joined #93 for the joyous podium celebration, but it felt like the end of an era.
With the title decided, the factory Yamaha “team” of Valentino Rossi & Maverick Viñales, joined by Ducati ace Andrea Dovizioso – the next top three riders in the remnant of the 2018 season left after Marc Marquez secured the championship in Japan – have determined to slug it out until the bitter end in Valencia in the chase for second best in 2018. The young upstart facing the current powerhouse facing the still-competitive old man in the figurative fight to caddy for Marquez as he golfs his way around his world during the winter. Only a mother could love this part of the season.
Five laps into today’s Australian Grand Prix, four of the top riders in the world had become spectators. The residue of this carnage produced a bizarre top ten, headed by Maverick Viñales on the factory Yamaha, cracking a non-win streak for the brand extending back to Assen 2017. Alvaro Bautista finished fourth on Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati GP18. Even Bradley Smith made a KTM top ten appearance. All in all, a mell of a hess.