The more I ride the Ducati DesertX, the more I like it. There are so many excellent choices in the middleweight adventure bike segment these days that any ADV-curious motorcyclist should be able to find themselves a compatible match. The DesertX is like that one friend you know is always down for some sort of mischief – more partner-in-crime than just a partner. It’s rowdy, loud (with the Termi pipe seen above), and raucous, and it coerces you into having a good time. Since we’ve been able to pass Ducati’s latest adventure machine around amongst the staff, it’s become a crowd favorite.
Touring on motorcycles has always been fraught with variables, and adventure touring, with its off-road excursions, only increases them – exponentially. We’d been planning a trip to South Dakota to ride the Black Hills’ extensive road and trail system and were scheduled to hit them on the first day of the season. We weren’t going to let a little thing, like a week of rain prior to our arrival, dampen our enthusiasm. So, we were surprised when the trails were mostly dry and not muddy, with the exception of occasional mud puddles that ranged from a couple of inches to a foot – or more – in depth. With the opaque nature of the puddles, we had no choice but to venture through them blindly. What could possibly go wrong?
Some of us were a bit surprised when Yamaha’s newly overhauled 2021 MT-09 snagged first place in last summer’s 900cc(ish) Naked Bike Comparison, against such more-expensive heavy hitters as the new Ducati Monster and KTM Duke 890. And all of us were a little surprised when the XSR900 defeated Indian FTRs 1200 and 1200S, and the now-defunct Monster 1200S, in an only slightly unfair 2019 comparo. (Slightly unfair because our test route was really nothing but tight, twisty roads.) Now, the 2022 XSR900 is newly overhauled just as last year’s MT-09 was, using all the same parts from the waist down, including the new super-sized 890 cc version of that most excellent CP3 three-cylinder and all its electronic controls.
It’s good to be the king. At least, that’s what it feels like to anyone racing a Kawasaki Ninja 400. When it comes to small-bore track or race bikes, what is a field of several – Yamaha R3, Honda CBR500, and KTM RC390 included – has been whittled down to a field of one: the Ninja 400. Virtually anywhere in the world that has a class for little bikes of this size will see a field dominated by the little green machines. Heck, we called it the winner back in 2018 during our Lightweight Sportbike Shootout, too.
Ah, Los Angeles. The city of angels and Dodger dogs, beaches and mountains. It’s the land where everyone is famous – or trying to be. People from all over call LA home, and the result is a really amazing place, steeped with rich traditions and cultures from all over the world.
Honda’s first CL72 250 Scrambler was lashed to the bumper of many a Conestoga wagon as it made its way westward, and I’m pretty sure it was a Kawasaki KLX300 that I wheelied over backwards, circa 1997, that really dampened my enthusiasm for stunting. At least Honda’s had the decency to change its nomenclature over the years to give the impression of evolution. Kawasaki is standing pat with the 292 cc Single that’s powered its KLX since 1996, along with its KLX nomenclature.
You know what they say: It’s more fun to ride a slow motorcycle fast than a fast motorcycle slow. Yet another example of conventional wisdom baloney. It’s actually more fun to ride a fast bike fast, or even a medium-fast one. I’m pretty sure that’s why they keep building faster motorcycles all the time. Heck, you could argue faster bikes are also safer, because power can get you out of trouble just as easily as it can get you into it (once you’ve learned to ride, that is). And power can launch you out of corners, instead of incentivizing you to cling to every mph when you’re diving into them the way slow bikes do when ridden in packs of MOrons. Have you seen a Moto3 race? They’re faster mid-corner than the Moto2 or MotoGP bikes.
I learned about a new-to-me thing this week in a fun Facebook discussion: Oppositional Defiance Disorder. This affects lots of kids who are so fed up and angry about being criticized for a thing, that they keep on doing that thing just to own the criticizer, even though they know the thing they’re doing is wrong and bad for them. Before psychology, ODD was probably best expressed as cutting off your nose to spite your face.
We last performed this public service in 2017, when your Yamaha FZ-07 prevailed over the Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod, and the new and indeterminate Benelli TnT 600, in that order. The FZ-07 has since morphed into the MT-07 amidst a host of well thought-out upgrades in 2018, and then again for 2021. The Z650 got a modern instrument pod in 2020 with a few other tasteful refinements, and the SV650 hasn’t changed a bit (God bless it). The Benelli is still around but didn’t get the call this time, and the H-D Street Rod has been withdrawn from the market under a hail of ridicule. Sad.
You don’t need big bucks or big bikes to have a swell adventure. But it helps. Or, you can have a perfectly fun adventure on either of these cute little Hondas, and still be one of the nicest people at the same time, as you’re getting nearly 100 mpg and treading lightly. These days, you take your adventures where you can get them. Instead of blasting off on a multi-day ride on big gas hogs, we poked around in our own Long Beach back yard.
When Triumph introduced the Daytona 675, it became popular for a number of reasons but primarily because it was different. While the rest of the supersport category relied on four cylinders and 599cc, Triumph ditched a cylinder and made the remaining three spit out 675cc of air. It made a wonderful sound unlike anything else in the class, it was narrow, it handled well, and the power was impressive.
Is Retro still booming? It was when BMW built its first R nineT in 2013, a bike that was so successful they’ve built like five more versions in the ensuing years. In fact, there are so many nineT’s it’s hard to keep them straight. We put the R nineT Pure in last place in 2017, when we shot it out against the now-defunct Honda CB1100EX and Triumph Bonneville T120 Black here. But in 2014, we rated the standard R nineT first, in a comparison involving the also-defunct CB1100 regular and Moto Guzzi Griso 8V.