TimHuber

64 months ago

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My Top 10 Must Ride Bikes For 2019

Los Angeles, California, United States

With another new model year on the horizon, we dive into our picks for the top ten motorcycles we’re most excited to swing a leg over in 2019

So many bikes, so little time...

So many bikes, so little time...

1. Kawasaki Z400

For years Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 was the entry-level model for those looking for a sporty option. Fast-forward to today and the small displacement market is brimming with fantastic machines spanning across pretty much every genre of two-wheeler under the sun. So with so much competition, Kawasaki knew it needed to really deliver something special with its new pint-sized naked, and from the looks of things, Team Green has done exactly that.

Big Kawa Z style, little Kawa Z package

Big Kawa Z style, little Kawa Z package

The new Z400 provides a forgiving platform highly conducive to learning and developing one’s skills as a rider, while still packing enough punch to keep up on the freeway or have fun in the twisties. Like most entry-level sport models, the Z400’s aesthetic design is influenced by the larger models from Kawa’s naked, Z range. We’ve already became acquainted with the Z400’s 45hp 399cc parallel twin last year when we tried out Kawasaki’s then-newly released Ninja 400, so the prospect of a naked version of the 400 is definitely attractive to us. As the old adage states, “it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow”.

Price $4,799 (Editor’s Note: The Z400 is $500 less than the full-faired Ninja 400)

** 2. T****riumph Scrambler 1200 XE**

Over the last decade the term “Scrambler” has been used increasingly liberally by marketing teams. While a “Scrambler” motorcycle should technically possess off-road performance capabilities, more often than not today’s “Scrambler” labeled offerings are little more than a styling exercise – if not being a ‘Scrambler” in name and name alone. With this in mind, Triumph set out to buck the trend and create a genuine, bonafide Scrambler that not only looked the part, but could also hold its own in the dirt. Like, ya know…a Scrambler!

Triumph's Scrambler 1200 not only looks the part (and then some) but is also said to be highly capable in the mud, sand, gravel, and dirt

Triumph's Scrambler 1200 not only looks the part (and then some) but is also said to be highly capable in the mud, sand, gravel, and dirt

Typical of high-end European machinery, the Scram 12 is equipped with an array of top shelf components from the likes of Brembo and Ohlins. Despite its retro-themed appearance, the new 1200 boasts an impressive amount of modern moto tech and amenities such as cruise control, heated grips, USB ports, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, multiple riding modes, traction control, and ABS, just to name a few. Though 1.2 liters is admittedly on the larger side — especially when going off-road, granted the big-bore ADV crowd would beg to differ I’m sure — there’s really nothing we don’t like about the Scrambler 1200, placing it squarely on our top ten list of must try bikes for 2019.

Price: $15,400

3. Moto Guzzi V85 TT

While we’ve come across quite a few marvelous one-off Guzzi builds, the Italian marque hasn’t released a model in recent years that we’ve found to be particularly stirring. Though the outfit’s V-Twins do have a lot of character, too often we feel the company’s designers appear to be afraid of taking risks, resulting in half-measure-esque designs like the Moto Guzzi V7 Bobber; it’s not really a bobber, it’s just kind of uninspired. For that reason, it came as a huge surprise when Guzzi announced it was putting its breathtaking, custom-inspired V85 TT concept into large-scale production.

Guzzi's new V85 TT is, IMHO, the best looking ADV bike on the market

Guzzi's new V85 TT is, IMHO, the best looking ADV bike on the market

After first seeing the prototype back at EICMA in 2017, we were cautiously optimistic about the potential production offering, as we thoroughly dug the concept, but feared by the time it hit production it would be a watered down version of its former awesome self. Guzzi however proved us very, very wrong, and have delivered a very, very cool motorcycle. With obvious inspiration from the customs world, V85 TT looks to make for a solid (and very attractive) tourer, and time will tell if its rugged appearance —large capacity tank, ample crash protection, fork guards, hand guards, skid plate, high-mounted exhaust, beaked fender, dual headlights, etc) is largely for show, or if it’s got genuine scrambling chops to boot.

Base Price: $11,990

** 4. Indian FTR1200**

We definitely like Indian Motorcycle as a company, and readily acknowledge the American firm makes a fine product, however it tends to stick with the status quo when it comes to releasing new or updated models. So when the company announced a road-going production version of its championship-winning FTR flat track racer was headed to dealerships, our ears perked up.

Indian's FTR 1200 takes things in a sporty new dirrection for America's oldest moto marque

Indian's FTR 1200 takes things in a sporty new dirrection for America's oldest moto marque

Unlike the baggers and cruisers typical of Indian, the FTR1200 is decidedly sportier than any previous offering from the Harley competitor. While I personally think the FTR1200 looks strikingly similar to Ducati’s largest Scrambler range models, I also happen to like said Ducati. So in terms of both looks and performance, the FTR1200 is a very unorthodox offering to leave the Indian factory and is sure to attract a lot of customers that otherwise may not have given the brand much consideration. Having ridden BMW’s R nineT and Ducati’s Scrambler range, we’re very eager to swing a leg over the FTR and see what Indian’s street tracker is all about.

Price: $12,999

** 5. **KTM 690 SMC R

Riding a proper supermoto is legitimately a life altering experience. After spending a few hours on one, it’s easy to be genuinely baffled by SuMos not accounting for a market share similar to cruisers. The things are just plain awesome and some of the most fun one can have on two-wheels. Be it on city streets, the kart track, or the canyons, the nimble characteristics of a torquey single with an insane power-to-weight ratio make for a wildly exhilarating experience. And few do factory supermotos better than KTM.

It might not be the sexiest hooligan machine, but that doesn't matter when you're riding (the wheels off) it

It might not be the sexiest hooligan machine, but that doesn't matter when you're riding (the wheels off) it

The Ready To Race brand’s latest SuMo is powered by a liquid-cooled, four-stroke, OHC single (married to a six-speed and PASC slipper clutch) that makes a claimed 74hp and 54.2ft-lbs of torque. Housing the Austrian-made thumper is a chromium-molybdenum-steel trellis frame paired with WP suspension, aluminum spoked rims and Brembo brakes. Early reviews of the new 690 sing its praises, and based on having ridden earlier-model KTM 690 singles, I’m seriously excited to put the 2019 SMC R through its paces, though I do worry that the thing inspires the kind of riding that jeopardizes one’s license, albeit in the most fun way possible. 

Price: $11,699

6. Yamaha Niken GT

Having attended a press and media presentation Yamaha gave for the Niken a few months back, part of me wants to tell you about the unique front-end suspension system the Tuning Fork Company cooked up for the kooky three-wheeled contraption, but I still think the most compelling argument for the Niken is, “just look at the thing!”

Checkout that front-end...need we say more?

Checkout that front-end...need we say more?

Based on the FZ-09 (aka MT-09) – a machine we adore — the Niken GT is said to allow for, in Yamaha’s own words, “unprecedented front-end grip” thanks to it thanks to increased contact patch surface area. Yammy also makes it abundantly clear that, despite the presence of a third wheel, the Niken isn’t aimed at novice riders, in fact, quite the opposite. Because the front-end boasts more grip, riders are able to in theory push the bike further and harder than one could otherwise — and that is exactly what we want to put to the test, and why the Niken GT made it on our list.

Price: $17,299

** 7. Zero SR/F**

If you ride motorcycles and have never experienced an electric powertrain on two-wheels, then you really owe it to yourself to make an appointment for a test ride at your local dealership, even if you aren’t in the market for a new bike. While there are undeniably limitations associated with electric bikes such as range, charge times (and lack of station availability), but if simply being used as a daily commuter or urban getaround vehicle, you can’t do much better than an electric. And, electrics just happen to boast an insane amount of torque (always on tap!), which unlike horsepower, can actually be exploited on the street.

Zero's new SR:F is by far the electric firm's most attractive design to date

Zero's new SR:F is by far the electric firm's most attractive design to date

So, not only are electric bikes insanely fun to ride, but Zero’s new SR/F is said to take electric motorcycles to a new level of performance for the California brand. While yeah, it’s no Lightning LS218, the SR/F packs more than enough oomph to have a blast in the twisties or on the track — not to mention it comes in at a fraction of the price. As someone who values raw performance, it’s hard not to be excited to take the SR/F for a spin.

Price: $18,995

** 8. **Harley Livewire

For the last half-decade we’ve been seeing marketing and teasers for Harley’s first production electric model, though the hype has simmered down quite a bit since the initial announcement years ago. For whatever reason the MoCo released some specs and numbers on the bike — including a $30K MSRP —a few months back, only to this week release an updated spec sheet with improved figures (0-60mph in 3 seconds, 60-80mph in 1.9-seconds, 0-80% charge in 40 minutes, and 0-100% charge in 1 hour when using DC Fast Charging, 140-mile city range).

The Livewire takes Harley in a bold new dirrection just in time for 2020

The Livewire takes Harley in a bold new dirrection just in time for 2020

Above all else, we’re genuinely curious to see how the electric Harley performs. Not unlike Indian’s FTR1200, Harley’s Livewire is decidedly sportier than any previous model to leave the factory in Milwaukee in the recent years — or possibly ever, aside from maybe the XRTT — with the ebike sporting an inverted Showa front-end and rear mono-shock, Brembo braking hardware, and a relatively aggressive riding position and equally sporty visual design.

Price: $29,799

9. BMW S1000RR

When the Bavarians first released the double-R back in ’09, the superbike was a game-changer, offering an electronics package that set the standard in the top-shelf literbike market. Though the S1KRR has received minor tweaks and updates over its decade of production, it wasn’t until 2019 that BMW Motorrad finally opted to treat the ground-breaking model to a full model update, both visually, structurally, and mechanically. For the first time on any of its two-wheeled offerings, BMW will be giving customers of option of purchasing an “M-Package” upgrade for the 2019 S1000RR, like the Bavarian brand has long done for its high-performance “M” car range.

The latest S1000RR features a new bodywork design, frame, and engine, as well as a revised electronics package

The latest S1000RR features a new bodywork design, frame, and engine, as well as a revised electronics package

With a sleek new redesign — that’s finally symmetrical — covering a new aluminum chassis and power train, BMW says the new literbike is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. The 205hp inline-four, aided via some of today’s most advanced electronics, not only ensures a wildly powerful ride, but like previous gen 1KRR’s, tricks you into thinking you’re a better rider than you actually are — which is something I don’t have a problem with.

Price: $20,000ish

** 10. **Ducati Panigale V4 R

Ever since Ducati’s 750 GT left the factory in the early ‘70s, the famed Italian brand has utilized the unique 90-degree “L-Twin” engine layout on all of its bikes. Whether it’s the Scrambler lineup, the XDiavel cruiser, Hypermotard, Multistrada ADV mount, or 1299 Superbike, the Bologna-based business uses an L-Twin…until now that is.

How can you look at this thing and not want, nay, need to ride it?

How can you look at this thing and not want, nay, need to ride it?

Derived from Ducati’s MotoGP platform, the new model gets its name from its engine configuration, which is of the V4 variety. Though Ducati already pulled the cover off the absurdly sexy Panigale V4, the outfit has more recently unveiled the homologated liter-sized version of the flagship model in the form of the R-spec. In a nutshell, if you want the pinnacle of what Ducati has to offer, you want the Panigale V4 R. 221hp, 83ft-lbs of torque, forged Marchesini rims, aluminum tank, MotoGP-style carbon winglets, pro-grade Ohlins and Brembos, and so on.

And like the BMW, Ducati’s 1,000cc rocket boasts the full suite of top-shelf rider aids including Ducati’s Cornering ABS Evo, traction control (DTC), slide control (DSC), wheelie control (DWC) EVO, engine braking control (EBC) EVO, and a trio of riding modes (Race, Sport, and Street). 

Price: $39,995

Honorary Mention: Husqvarna Svartpilen 701

This year one of the highlights at EICMA was Husqvarna’s release of the new Svartpilen 701. The new tracker-inspired model joins the Vitpilen 701 and 401, and the Svartpilen 401, though unlike the Vitpilens — which are both modern takes on the café racer aesthetic — the Svartpilen 701 doesn’t share its little siblings scrambler vibe, and instead is clearly a contemporary take on street trackers.

The best looking big thumper on the block

The best looking big thumper on the block

Unlike the Z400, which shares a retuned version of the Ninja 400’s same engine, the new Svartpilen uses the same mill as the rest of the KTM/Husky 701 products. While the sexy new bodywork digs make the new big Svartpilen one attractive motorcycle, we don’t think just a visual redesign warrants a spot on the list, though kudos to Husky for the stellar design, and we are huge fans of the 701 platform. After all, when you have to narrow it down to just ten, you have to leave some off the list.

Price: $11,999

*Price = Base Price / Base Model

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Courtenay

63 months ago

Got the Z400 a few weeks ago and it’s a pleasure to ride! Very friendly for short riders (like me!) who are experienced enough to be bored by the power of a 300 but not quite confident enough to handle the weight of a 650

parul001

64 months ago

Amazing Bikes