Since 1976, Cycle World magazine has annually recognized ten motorcycles its editors regarded as the best and/or most compelling. As anyone on the txGarage site could guess, over those 40+ years, not only have the motorcycles changed; so have their categories. A ‘Best Superbike’ existed in 1976, but the segment wasn’t as sprawling as it is in 2018. And while most bikes at that time could be repurposed (and were repurposed) as adventure bikes, ADV – again, at that time – wasn’t its own category; today, of course, ‘Adventure Bikes’ are their own industry.
While Cycle World has an expansive 10 Best, for purposes of space I’ll cut their list in half, believing there to be some real overlap in the magazine’s categories, as well as some unnecessary for you, the txGarage audience. The good news: at this weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show at the Dallas Convention Center, beginning on Friday, January 4th and running through Sunday, you can see most of them.
In its pick for best adventure bike, Cycle World chose the KTM 1090 Adventure R. And while I’ve not owned a KTM, I have at least two friends that have, and the Austrian brand is well represented in the DFW area. So, no argument with their pick, but I’d throw an ‘honorable mention’ at Honda’s Africa Twin. While Hondas tend to be ubiquitous, sometimes within an adventure there’s comfort in ubiquity. Finally, if you think your trips on gravel will be – at most – occasional trips, give some thought to Suzuki’s well-developed V-Strom 650.
Whether cruising Deep Ellum, Grapevine’s Main Street or Sundance Square, cruising is best done with (you’ve already guessed it…) a cruiser – and CW believes Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob 114 as the best. While we’d be delighted to ride the big Harley, our one disconnect with most big cruisers is weight – or more correctly, an excess of weight; they are, by and large, the two-wheeled equivalent of super-sized fast food. I think Indian’s Scout hits the sweet spot for something you can easily ride and, at the end of that ride, easily park. And while its architecture is distinctly last century, the execution is of this century. So, try and buy one this century.
The middleweight streetbike is a definition that’s almost infinitely malleable. In the ‘70s, when the CW listing started, Honda’s 350 twin was ‘middleweight’, since most big bore bikes (other than Harleys) topped out at 750cc, and there were thousands of people – the nicest people! – still straddling Honda’s Street Cub. Today, with ‘big bore’ often approaching two liters, something between 500cc and 900cc seems to best fit the middleweight descriptive. The Cycle World staff gave its nod to Triumph’s Street Triple R, while we’d give it to Triumph’s Scrambler. The Scrambler is the perfect bridge between in-town accessibility and actually accessing an out-of-town destination. It’s priced from $11K, with nice pre-owned examples going for roughly half that.
If you’re riding is typically between Dallas’ Uptown – where I live – and White Rock Lake, a responsive 300cc single or twin will be all you and a 110-lb. companion will need; happily, the bike is easier to find than the companion. In identifying the best lightweight streetbike, Cycle World singled out Kawasaki’s Ninja 400, a bike small enough to seem rational for a beginner, yet sufficiently responsive to satisfy a seasoned rider. And while agreeing with the mag, I’d add another for your consideration: Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300. Sharing its 300cc vertical twin with the last-gen Ninja, the way-versatile Versys is perfect for that 15-minute run to White Rock, but could also survive the 4-hour run from Dallas to Austin. And at a price point under $6K, your friend could – and should – buy her own.
We’ve saved, as you’d guess, the best for last. And in Cycle World identifying Ducati’s all-new Panigale V4 S as the best superbike available in these United States, I’m hard-pressed to disagree – and hard-pressed to suggest an alternative. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the maker of Italy’s iconic L-Twin…times two.