Some combination of excellence, significance, and audacity gets a bike the highest honors of the year in CW. Being really close gets it an Honorable Mention. But there are other forms of greatness or, ahem, distinction, that land a motorcycle on this list called The Ten Rest.
I wanted to thank Nick lenatsch for his “Avoid The Blind Spot” article in the June issue. While it is always great to hear tips for staying safe, it is refreshing to hear the tone of accountability in Nick’s piece. Motorcycling is something to be enjoyed, but throughout society today, people are not held accountable for their actions, decisions, or mistakes.
It has an eagle in its logo and a long history of making aircooled V-twins. Its newest cruiser was designed in Pasadena, California, at the Piaggio Group Advanced Design Center by Miguel Galluzzi and is dressed in glossy black with lots of chrome, plus pinstripes, floorboards, whitewall tires, and wire wheels.
1 Two words: round and smooth. Starting point for the Corsair-X is Arai’s customary egg-shaped shell. Company engineers call this “R75,” defined as a continuous, convex curve of a minimum radius of 75mm. Should the helmet glance off an object, energy-absorption capacity can be reserved for a second, third, or even fourth impact-what Arai calls the “realities” of a crash.
The coverline “Giant Killers” couldn’t have been more appropriate reflecting back to when I read this article for the first time all those years ago. The Japanese-market Honda CBR400RR and Yamaha FZR400RR SP sportbikes that were featured might as well have been Ferraris; even if I could have found a gray-market example, I never would have been able to afford one.
Those wanting to take POV filming to a new level might consider the 360fly ($399, available in August) single-lens camera that captures video in a 360-degree format. During playback, you can drag the cursor on screen to view all the different angles captured. This 2.4-inch water-resistant sphere can be mounted just about anywhere. → (412) 922-6002 360fly.com
Staying connected on group rides has been revolutionized, Packtallk ($329.95 single/$579.95 pair) from scala rider features Dynamic Meshwork Communication (DMC), allowing up to 10 riders to talk within a 3-mile range. Settings can be changed via SmartSet app. Packtalk can communicate with any other brand or model of intercom. → (800)488-0363 cardosystems.com
If you like your adventures way off the beaten path but don't want to lose contact, the Iridium Extreme ($1,300-$1,500) satellite phone is a great choice for motorcyclists. Water-, shock-, and dust-resistant unit might look like a ’90s flashback, but it’s packed with features such as GPS positioning, SMS capability, tracking, and an SOS button. → (866) 947-4348 iridium.com
Communication devices are commonplace, so it's no surprise to see more helmets prewired with speakers and a microphone Schuberth's M1 ($550-$580) features an integrated sun visor, while the optional Schuberth Rider Communication System ($200 single/$400 pair), snaps into the back of the shell. → (949) 215-0893 schuberthnorth america.com
Match your personal archetype to your perfect bike type
John L. Stein
The Japanese have a term, "jinba ittai," which translates to, "the rider and horse as one." Some years ago, Mazda picked this up to describe how it wanted the MX-5 Miata driving experience to feel. But the concept really is more suited to motorcyclists, who should absolutely choose the correct “horse” for their type of riding.
The fuel that most interests motorcyclists is gasoline because that's what almost all motorcycles burn. But the fuel that drives our lives is diesel, powering farming, all medium and heavy trucking, all the railroads save for the Northeast corridor, and all coastal and international shipping.
We had guests for dinner, Suzie Heartbreak and I, and brother Scott spun tales of his rafting expeditions in the Grand Canyon’s geologic depths. The canyon’s many-hued strata are a time line of compressed ages, but Scott threw a wrench in my reckoning.
Yeah, we know, we technically should have called this story “Burn & Turn” because we conducted our straight-line acceleration tests to 180 mph (and beyond) at the Lemoore Naval Air Station before dragging knees at Buttonwillow Raceway Park.
It was a bitter disappointment that Kawasaki didn’t bring the track-only H2R to the Party of Speed we threw for it at NAS Lemoore (see page 28), but we must nonetheless honor this force-fed 326-claimed-hp monster for the sheer audacity it represents and the very real performance we experienced at the bike’s introduction in Qatar (June). This is “Superbike” with a capital “S” and the most intense motorcycle we’ve ever ridden. And while this blown batbike might not come with a cape, it does have wings. If it doesn’t blow your socks off, your boots are too damn tight.
This was last year’s Best Middle-weight, but after hammering our long-termer for a year and trying the 2015 with its refinements, we couldn’t think of a better candidate for Best Standard. It epitomizes sporting all-rounder, serving as a fine commuter, back-road scratcher, or even a trackday mount. Price this year has crept past the $8,000 mark, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a greater performance-per-dollar value on two wheels. And its three-cylinder powerplant might be the most spirited and fun street engine we have ever sampled, a great helping of its 108 horses and 62 pound-feet delivered right now any time you twist the throttle. It’s a bike that does it all and will make you smile every time you ride.
It was a vicious debate down to the last minute in 2014 as to whether the YZ250F or Kawasaki KX450F would take the prize. We went KX for all-out speed coupled with surprising rideability from a 450-class machine. But with that green 450 taking a step backward this year and detail refinements improving Yamaha’s YZ250F, the tuning-fork bike gets a boost to the top spot. It doesn’t hurt that the YZ is totally rideable by just about anybody, while also becoming a mega-successful championship winner in just two years. With Pro Motorcross and Supercross West titles to its credit, the YZ250F is the comeback kid of the decade.
If the battle for the loyalty of motorcycling’s next generation is happening anywhere, it’s in the lightweight Streetbike class. The great offerings under 500cc fight not only for new riders but also for enthusiasts with decades of experience. The fast and fun Yamaha YZF-R 3 won our recent light sportier shootout for good reason, but when we sat down to hash out the best all-rounder in the class, we kept coming back to the standard-style 390 Duke. Its 373cc single offers lots of tractable torque and a 40-horse peak in a practical, affordable package. Pure flexible fun for all kinds of riders.
There are about 450 different motorcycle models at your pleasure in dealerships right now, in a variety of styles and at a level of excellence that makes it pretty easy to be a new-bike owner if you can afford the price of a couple fancy cups of coffee a day.
As adventure bikes get bigger and more powerful, they lose some of the off-road maneuverability and power-manageability that makes them easierto handle off-highway. If this is an important factor for you, consider the Tiger 800 XCx. Output from the 799cc inline-triple is unchanged in 2015, but Triumph has made huge strides in equipping the 800 with a comprehensive suite of electronic rider aids and features, including cruise control, that puts this bike into the same league as the big luxury adventure-tourers but with less bulk.
The spiritual core of BMW is its flat-twin, and despite the deviant engine platforms the Germans have adopted over the decades, nothing says “travel” more than the boxer, particularly in the fantastic R1200RT. Rock-solid handling, high-level comfort, electronic semi-active suspension, and the most responsive and flexible version of that engine make for one of the finest traveling bikes everto turn a wheel.
If there is one thing holding the FZ-07 back from snatching a Ten Best Bikes award, it is Big Brother. No, not the Orwellian version but literally its also-budget-minded and performance-oriented FZ-09 stablemate. The 07 packs a surprising amount of fun and performance into a value-priced, $6,990 package. Power delivery from its 689cc parallel-twin defies the displacement number, while fit, finish, and quality of components exceed expectation at this price.
We all love the thrill of acceleration and speed. And while WFO sprints down an expansive, perfectly smooth Naval Air Station runway is one way to fuel the need, diving deep into a sharp curve on the binders down to the apex and then carrying a low, hard-driving power wheelie on the corner exit or running full-tilt lean through a 90-mph sweeper is quite another.
WHAT DO I REALLY THINK ABOUT HONDA'S STREET-LEGAL MOTOGP MACHINE?
There's so much critical chatter about this new Honda that I'm weighing in as well. In general, people seem disappointed that the RC213V-S is not a take-no-prisoners pavement ripper, equivalent to a Hayabusa with 650-hp turbo kit, or Kawasaki’s supercharged 500-plus-pound H2.
When I learned to ride dirt bikes in the mid-1970s, an experienced buddy taught me that the correct technique for downshifting was to blip the throttle before releasing the clutch during downshifts, which he called "double clutching." I have been using this technique for 40 years now on all my motorcycles, and I notice quite a few other riders do it as well.
BASIC SPECS: Simplicity is the name of the game. Nearly 35 years ago, Yamaha introduced the 1981 Y-Zinger, renaming it the PW50 in 1991. It’s been virtually unchanged (other than color) since. This nearly indestructible little dirt bike has an air-cooled 49cc two-stroke motor, a single-speed transmission with a centrifugal clutch, and maintenance-free shaft drive.
Where World Champion Troy Balsas drowns in the depths of dirt track and the world learns just how good these guys really are
After being on the ropes for 30 years, the most American of motorcycle sports is making an unlikely comeback thanks to a high-profile list of international heavy-weight allies. Now dirt track is blinking in the spotlight, unaccustomed to anyone giving a gosh darn about it.
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