Top 10 Underhyped Bikes of 2015

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

However you look at it, 2015 is destined to be an exciting year for motorcyclists. Seemingly every manufacturer is coming out with new models next year – a sure sign the moto industry is recovering nicely from the doom and gloom of the economic downturn. It seems to me, though, that certain bikes have been hogging the limelight. I’m talking Yamaha R1, Ducati Scrambler, and of course, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and H2R, just to name a few. While I’m not saying those bikes don’t deserve their moment in the sun, the 2015 model year is filled with machines deserving of more attention, all of which I’m genuinely looking forward to riding. So in this week’s Top 10, I give you my list of 10 underhyped bikes of 2015.

10. Kawasaki Versys line

Lost in all the Ninja H2 and H2R hoopla over at Kawasaki are two do-it-all performers: the $7,999 Versys 650 and $12,799 Versys 1000 LT. We’ve long been fans of the smaller Versys, and its ability to be one of our favorites in terms of practical, real world motorcycling. Hell, Editorial Director, Sean Alexander, loves it so much he actually used his own money and, gulp, bought one! The 650 Twin may not be the most character-rich engine out there, but it gets the job done. Really, the biggest complaint about it was its questionable styling, and for 2015 Kawasaki has addressed that issue. The new bodywork is much more elegant and modern looking, and thankfully, while Kawi was giving it a facelift, it went ahead and gave it more legroom, new suspension and brakes, and with the LT variant, luggage.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT Preview + Video

Our European friends have been enjoying the Versys 1000 for a few years now, and for 2015 we’re finally going to get to enjoy a thoroughly updated and more attractive version on this side of the pond. In fact, we’ll be getting the LT version, complete with bags, traction control ABS, and a similar facelift as the 650. Powered by a retuned version of the Ninja 1000 1043cc inline-Four, the bigger Versys is seemingly a Ninja 1000 with more suspension travel…which isn’t a bad thing. All in all, while the H2 and H2R are bikes I’m obviously excited to ride, the two Versys (Versii? Versailles?) models are ones I could actually live with everyday.

9. Aprilia RSV4 RR

One of my favorite sportbikes, the RSV4, is getting even better for 2015. The problem? Most of its competition is raising its game as well. No matter, with a claimed 205 horsepower at the crank, the RSV4 RR (and the limited edition RF) appears to lose none of the sweet handling characteristics I’ve loved about the bike since day one, only adding more power from the equally sweet V-4 engine.

2015 Literbike Spec Chart Comparo

Aprilia engineers had a whole grocery list of items to sort through to get the power up on the V-4 engine, but the majority of their efforts went towards reducing friction, losing weight, and producing a more complete and efficient explosion during each combustion cycle. Thankfully, they knew to leave good enough alone in the chassis and handling department and only lengthened the swingarm 14mm to help reduce the tendency to wheelie. Had Aprilia debuted this revised RSV4 last year, it might have had a strong shot at one-upping the literbike field, especially its Italian rivals in Bologna. But because 2015 just happens to be the year of the literbike, Aprilia’s refresh gets largely pushed aside in favor of superchargers and electronic suspensions. Personally, behind the new Yamaha R1, the RSV4 is second on my list of literbikes I’m anxious to ride.

8. Yamaha FJ-09

From the moment I saw Yamaha’s FZ-09 in person, at its launch in San Francisco, I knew its story was only beginning. The bike didn’t look finished, especially up front, where the headlight looked like it was bolted on as an afterthought. There were bolts covering threaded holes which served no purpose on the FZ, but looked fairly obvious they could be used for other iterations of the bike. Those assumptions have come true in the FJ-09, Yamaha’s budget sport-tourer.

2014 EICMA: 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Preview

Take the same 847cc Triple, give it some EFI updates to fix the issues the FZ had, add on dual headlights and its associated fairings, an adjustable windscreen, traction control, ABS, larger tank, centerstand, 12-volt outlet, luggage mounts and a $10,490 price, and this is a bike I can’t wait to put some miles on. Granted, my attention has mostly been steered towards another Yamaha – the R1 and R1M, of course – but the FJ-09 deserves a bit more of the spotlight.

7. Suzuki GSX-S1000

If 2015 is shaping up to be the year of the liter-class sportbike, 2014 could very well be the year of the Streetfighter. So it would seem like Suzuki might have missed the boat releasing the GSX-S1000 in 2015 as an early release 2016 model. That said, as a big fan of the K5 (2005 – 2008) GSX-R1000 engine, to see it being repurposed in this guise gives me great joy. That engine is a gem (even if it is going to be tuned for torque), and to see it equipped with TC, ABS, upright bars and slightly newer suspension, it should be a blast to ride while ripping up the local canyon. Not to mention, commuting to and from the local twisties won’t be such a chore, either.

6. Kawasaki Vulcan S

Contrary to popular belief, I like cruisers. From American to Metric, V-Twin or otherwise, I have nothing against cruisers. Sure, their styling feels a little dated for a millennial like myself, but that’s where bikes like the new Kawasaki Vulcan S are so appealing. Undoubtedly a cruiser, but with styling that appeals to a younger crowd, the Vulcan S, I think, is just the ticket to attract new blood into our sport. With a starting price of just $6999, it’s certainly affordable to this demographic as well.

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S Announced + Video

Why do I like it? The aforementioned styling and price are attractive. So is the 649cc parallel-Twin shared with the Ninja and Versys 650 models. What I’m really intrigued with, though, is the amount of adjustability available to suit riders of virtually all shapes and sizes. In fact, this is one of the big selling points Kawasaki is using to advertise the Vulcan S. Not horsepower or torque or bold styling. Maybe more so than any other category of motorcycle, cruisers are about individuality. The Vulcan S embraces that, but in its own unique way. It’s no attention-grabbing H2 or H2R, but it’s significant and, I think, underrated.

5. MV Agusta Stradale 800

My reasons for liking the MV Agusta Stradale 800 are quite simple. First of all, look at it. What a beauty! Second, that 798cc Triple is immensely fun. Now that MV Agusta has finally nailed its EFI mapping, my largest complaint about MV’s Triples (wonky low-speed fueling) seems to be a thing of the past. Third, with similar DNA to the Rivale, which is another outrageously fun motorcycle in its own right, building a pseudo touring version by slapping on an adjustable windscreen and saddlebags seems to be a brilliant idea.

2014 EICMA: 2015 MV Agusta Stradale 800 Preview

MV also addressed the biggest issue facing the Rivale – a tiny 3.4-gallon fuel tank – and expanded it to 4.2 gallons. It’s a step in the right direction, but for the Stradale 800 to have any real touring aspirations, even light-duty touring, it’ll either need more capacity or find a way to be incredibly miserly with its consumption. Considering this, and the fact MV delayed a year in producing the Rivale after showing it at EICMA 2012, and again stalled with the Turismo Veloce it showed at EICMA 2013, it’s understandable hype around the Stradale 800 isn’t what it could be.

4. Aprilia Tuono

Like the RSV4 RR in the number-9 spot, the Tuono is one of our favorite naked streetfighters on the market. Hell, if it weren’t for the awesome KTM 1290 Super Duke R, the Tuono might still hold the number-1 spot among the MO staff. In a bid to nudge KTM off the top of the hill, the new Tuono V4 1100 brings more firepower to the table in the form of a bigger engine. The new Tuono’s 1077cc V-4 promises more power and torque, which should make lofting wheelies an even easier affair (not that I’m any good at them, but with the standard wheelie control maybe I can practice?).

2014 EICMA: 2015 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Preview

Its electronics package gets similar updates as the RSV4, which includes a specialized version of the Piaggio Multimedia Platform which turns a smartphone into an onboard multifunctional computer. Using the phone’s GPS sensor, the V4-MP connectivity can be programmed to offer corner-by-corner adjustment of the APRC electronics to suit different portions of a race track. The system also provides a connected smartphone with telemetry data and an adaptive race assistant which suggests the optimal points on a track to brake or open the throttle. Old school riders may scoff at the proliferation of electrons in today’s motorcycles, but I personally don’t miss the days of changing carb needles or busting knuckles on rounded bolts.

3. Yamaha R3

After the success Kawasaki has had with its Ninja 250, and now Ninja 300, frankly I’m surprised it has taken the other OEMs so long to tap into the beginner sportbike market. Honda’s line of small displacement sportbikes, starting with the CBR300R (formerly CBR250R), CB300F, and the 500 models are great choices for the newb rider, but I’m really looking forward to Yamaha’s entry into this field: the R3.

AIMExpo 2014: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 Coming To America

It’s weird to consider there’s a displacement contest taking place in a class meant for riders learning their craft, but since I’m long past the days of waddling through a parking lot, trying to impress my MSF instructor, the 320cc parallel-Twin in the R3 should be the class of the field (save, perhaps, for the KTM RC390). It has more displacement than the Kawi or Honda, looks better than the other two, and promises a sporting personality typical of Yamaha sportbikes. What’s not to love?! Like the FJ-09 at the number-8 spot, if it weren’t for the R1 and R1M stealing the headlines, the R3 would likely get much more buzz.

2. BMW R1200R/BMW R1200RS

I recently had the opportunity to ride the BMW R1200RT, and after only 100 yards past my driveway, I became a huge fan of the new liquid-cooled wasserboxer. It’s a fantastic engine, filled with character and impressive performance. So when BMW announced that engine would make its way to the new R1200R and R1200RS, I thought it would be big news.

Intermot 2014: 2015 BMW R1200R Gets Liquid-Cooled Boxer Engine

That same awesome engine wrapped in athletic gym clothes instead of its formal attire in RT guise (or hiking apparel in GS form) sounded very appealing to me. Both models would make practical commuters, with the ability to rip it on the occasional canyon run. In the case of the RS, a weekend getaway with the wife would be entirely doable as well. It seems to me, however, that the R12R and R12RS have been overshadowed by the heavily updated S1000RR sportbike and S1000XR for 2015. While both bikes are deserving, this is my attempt to bring some attention back to the two Boxers.

Intermot 2014: BMW R1200RS

1. KTM 390 Duke

The 390 Duke is KTM’s littlest sibling (in this country, at least) to our bike of the year, the 1290 Super Duke R, and the roadster boils down the essence of the 1290 into a much smaller package. With its 373cc Single pumping out 44 (claimed) horsepower, mini-Streetfighter styling, and the sharp handling characteristics KTM is known for, I bet the 390 Duke would be a fun toy to embarrass lesser riders with in the twisties. And at $4,999, it seems to be an incredible value for a bargain-rate exotic.

2015 KTM 390 Duke Announced For US With $4999 Price Tag

KTM has a lot to be excited about in the street segment with the new 1290 Super Adventure, 390 Duke and RC390, especially as the latter, in the form of the KTM RC Cup, was recently announced as being a MotoAmerica feeder series for aspiring young racers in the U.S. That attention has understandably taken some of the spotlight away from the 390 Duke, making it one of the most underhyped bikes of 2015.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

More by Troy Siahaan

Join the conversation
2 of 26 comments
  • Auphliam Auphliam on Nov 24, 2014

    I've never been a fan of Katoom's origami styling, but seriously...How many great bikes can one manufacturer release in one year? I think they've earned themselves a pat on the back after this year.

  • Keith E. Sterling Keith E. Sterling on Jan 09, 2015

    the R3 will be in my garage the day it hits the floors