How to keep riding your motorcycle during COVID-19 restrictions
“Stay at home, shelter in place, self-quarantine, and practice social distancing.” These are the messages we are receiving from The Powers That Be during this stressful time, but these simple, bottom-line messages don’t tell the whole story. While the details of the public mandates vary from area to area, there is still an emphasis on solo activities and being mindful of mental health. Essential travel only, is the rule, so why not use your motorcycle, weather permitting.
How is COVID-19 affecting the motorcycle industry?
The news is chilling and fears are heightened over the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world, but as we evaluate our individual lives, our thoughts can’t help but turn to how this affects us and our activities. As motorcycle riders, we’re left to wonder, how is this affecting the motorcycle industry?
1973 Kawasaki Z1
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. made an indelible mark on the world motorcycle scene back in 1972 with the unveiling of its 1973 Z1 model. The Z1 broke new ground as the first Japanese bike with a transverse-mount four-banger, and it’s widely recognized as the island nation’s first literbike with a 903 cc engine and thrilling performance for everyday riders.
2020 Vespa Sprint 50 S
Piaggio refreshed its Vespa Sprint 50 range for the 2018 model year and added an “S” version as its top-shelf offering within the family that carries over through 2020. This is Vespa’s sportiest line, and it’s made even more so by the new 4T3V powerplant and digital instrumentation package. Of course, that timeless Vespino look shines through all the modern touches to tie in with the factory’s long-running history and deliver an up-to-date riding experience.
2020 Indian Roadmaster Elite
Indian Motorcycle brings classic and contemporary together for its limited-edition Roadmaster Elite. Powered by the new, 116 cubic-inch Thunder Stroke plant and enhanced with top-shelf infotainment features as well as safety equipment, the Roadmaster Elite serves as Indian’s Flagship entry in the tourbike bracket and looks like it’s set to take on its domestic competition.
2020 Zero SR/S
EV bike builder Zero Motorcycles beefs up its street-centric offerings ahead of the 2020 model year with its new SR/S. This ride carries a bit more in the way of bodywork than usual to break new ground for the marque, but the grunt-tastic performance remains in line with its super-naked sibling, the SR/F. As with most of the rest of the on-road lineup, the factory has a full line of accessory goodies that let you mix and match for just the right combination of range and recharge times to suit your riding style.
2015 - 2020 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS
The Ninja ZX-14R ABS continues to serve as Kawasaki’s non-H2 Ninja flagship as we head into the 2020 model year. Essentially unchanged since this generation hit showroom floors back in ’12, the “14R” brings almost a liter and a half of four-cylinder supersport-goodness to the table along with the ride-quality and safety subsystems you’ll need to keep it under control. Make no mistake; this is a serious ride meant for experienced riders, and not another one of these racebike-looking commuters so popular with the masses right now.
2020 Indian FTR Rally
Fresh off its European release, the 2020 Indian FTR Rally returns to home turf for a North American launch. The Rally comes set up more as a proper dual-surface scrambler than the street-centric, base-model FTR 1200 and souped-up 1200 S models. Power comes from the same 73 cubic-inch engine as the rest of the range with a set of stealth knobbies to make the connection to terra firma. To further the Rally’s multi-purpose mission, the factory offers a quartet of accessory bundles that add four more potential personalities.
2019 - 2020 Vespa GTS 300 HPE
The Vespa division of the Piaggio Group expanded its footprint in 2019 with a brand-new powerplant for the GTS scooter line with the GTS 300 HPE. Fans of the brand rejoiced at the news of the most powerful engine to make it onto a Vespone descendant, and for many, this is the engine they’ve been waiting for. Safety comes standard with a few traction-protection subsystems as part of the stock package, plus it features LED forward lighting to help you see and be seen. Best of all, it remains faithful to the design progression that began right after WWII, so it has that classic look that really seals the deal.
2019 - 2020 Vespa Sprint 150
Vespa’s Sprint line has always been distinguished by its modern design and youthful lines, and the newest versions of the colorful 150 cc Chrome Crest and decidedly-dark Notte models carry that appeal into 2020. Built for the younger buyer base with low-emission, high-mileage engine, and compact build, the small-frame Vespino are bestowed with modern electronics and technologies that increase rider safety. Those selling points should appeal both to the rider and the people who love them.
2020 Vespa Primavera 50
Vespa’s Primavera line marked its gold anniversary in 2018 with, among other things, a range of refreshed models in its 50 cc range: the Chrome Crest (CC), Yacht Club, and Touring. Each sports its own choice of colors and brings something unique to the table in its design, but the overall panache and proven, 4T3V engine technology are a constant across the board. Also available through the Primavera 50 is the Limited Speed variant that restricts top speed to 30 mph, allowing you to ride with a driver’s license and no motorcycle endorsement.
2020 Vespa GTS SuperTech 300 HPE
Vespa rolls into 2020 with the new GTS SuperTech 300 HPE as its top-shelf entry for the GTS Super line. The SuperTech carries the updated high-performance engine with a handful of electronic safety features to make your rides safe and comfortable. Special paint and trim sets this unit apart visually from the rest of the family and adds an air of exclusivity to the mix.
2017 - 2020 KYMCO Like 150i
The Kwang Yang Motor Company (KYMCO) takes on some pretty heavy hitters in the low-displacement scooter market with its Like 150i. The Like carries itself with an overall modern look that borrows from classic influences with tasteful results. Power comes from a thumper that rocks electronic fuel injection to help the Like meet U.S. emission standards. At a glance, it looks like good basic transportation. Add the Noodoe Smart system for connectivity, and it becomes more than that.
2020 Indian Scout Bobber Sixty
Indian Motorcycle treats us to a mid-year release with its new, stripped-down Scout Bobber Sixty. Crisp and clean, the Scout Bobber Sixty rolls with the essentials plus some minimally-intrusive safety electronics, all powered by the proven, 78-horsepower “Sixty” plant. Blackout is the word of the day for the Scout Bobber Sixty as it expands the Scout lineup into the less-than-$10k territory.
2021 Micro Microletta: Our First Look at the Newest Electric Three-Wheeled Scooter
Micro, the Switzerland-based electric-mobility company, premiers a brand new concept for EV fans who prefer to have their fists in the wind – the Microletta. It’s an electric scooter that combines the fun of a tandem-seat two-wheeler with the safety and stability of a Delta trike, and is not entirely unlike Piaggio’s MP3 in its configuration.
2019 - 2020 Vespa Sprint 150 Sport
Piaggio’s Vespa division beefed up its small-frame Vespino offerings with the MY2018 Sprint 150 Sport that serves as the top-shelf unit for the model family. The Sport line comes in its own distinctive color packages with a sticker package that further sets it apart from its siblings, but it’s the details that are less obvious at a glance that really makes the Sport special. Upgraded lighting and electronics boost safety and infotainment options as the icing on the cake.
2020 Vespa GTS SuperSport 300 HPE
Piaggio’sSport 300 HPE for the 2020 model year, the third such revision for the line over the last nine years, and it brings a new level of capability and tech to the market. Naturally, the old-school Italian charm comes stock with a number of visual improvements as well. Of course, the High-Performance Engine (300 HPE) serves as the almost-hidden crown jewel, and it sports a variety of improvements over the previous generation and comes complete with safety-related electronics to round out the package.
2018 - 2020 Vespa Sprint 50
Piaggio’s Vespa division renewed its classic Vespino design ahead of MY2018 with a new Sprint 50 Chrome Crest (CC) model and an accompanying blackout model, the Notte. The factory touts this smallest Vespa as a “green” model due to its stellar fuel economy, and a compact build makes its physical footprint as small as its carbon footprint. Timeless Italian style and a modern engine make these Vespinos ideal for students or commuters who are looking for a ride with class and taste with an eye toward environmental health.
Vespa’s Primavera 150 Sport builds on the Primavera CC (chrome crest) with a handful of unique paint packages and an upgraded instrumentation package. It sports the usual Italian good looks paying appropriate homage to the marque’s rich history but maintains a contemporary flavor that is confidence inspiring. Since the fuel consumption is just a few points shy of 100 mpg, the Sport delivers a very economic ride/commute.
2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard
Harley-Davidson makes some progress on its “100 new bikes” promise with the mid-year release of the new Softail Standard. The Standard presents a combination of old-school and custom features over a rather minimalist design, and that has the effect of keeping the price down to make this the least expensive Big Twin the MoCo has to offer. It also makes for a great starting point for you would-be bike customizers out there who are looking for a suitable platform.
2020 Vespa Sei Giorni II Edition
Vespa expands its mid-range models with the new Sei Giorni II Edition that pays homage to the marque’s past racing success. Following the success of the first Sei Giorni, the “Second Edition” pairs classic looks and specific racing references along with modern performance and safety electronics. Perhaps best of all, it boasts the most powerful engine ever to run under the Vespa badging, the 23.8-horsepower 300 HPE powerplant. If you like your tribute pieces both authentic and capable, this Vespa needs to be on your short list.
Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 30th Anniversary
Harley-Davidson marks three decades of production for one of its most-iconic families with the release of the 2020 Fat Boy 114 30th Anniversary model. This machine proudly displays DNA from H-D’s immediate post-WWII era all the way down to the old-school frame geometry that mimics the rigid rear ends from way back in the day. Harley powers it with its largest production engine and wraps the whole project in a unique graphics package complete with a limited-edition serial number and 2,500-unit limited production run for an extra bit of exclusivity.
2020 Vespa Elettrica 70 KM/H
Piaggio is committed to the progression of EV scooters, and the Group proved it yet again at 2019 EICMA with its Vespa Elettrica 70 KM/H model. As the devilishly clever name suggests, the top speed has been raised to a more useful max for increased utility as an around-town commuter/grocery-getter. The range increase pairs well with the beefed-up output and higher speed to complete the improved drive package, and of course, it comes clad in that timeless Vespa body style that evokes images of the machines that once mobilized a post-war Italy.
2018 - 2020 Vespa Primavera 150
After a fairly major update in 2015, Vespa’s Primavera 150 scooter was brushed up yet again ahead of the 2018 model year. This newest iteration brings a number of improvements to the table to include larger hoops, all-around LED technology with some aesthetic improvements to boot. In addition to the 150 cc base model, the factory also released a cargo-friendly Touring model and now there’s a Yacht Club variant for a nautical spin. It must be quite the undertaking to keep a model family relevant as long in the tooth as the Primavera, but Vespa doggedly stays the course and treats us to yet another handful of successors here half-a-century after the release of the original.
1932 - 1958 Rikuo RT2
Sometimes a motorcycle tells a story, and the Rikuo RT2 spins a tale of cooperation and national interdependency that preceded a period of strife with connections that contemporary readers may find surprising. It takes us back to the Great Depression, when the Harley-Davidson Motor Company struck a deal with Japanese manufacturer, the Sankyo Seiyako Corporation, and sold them the plans and tooling to produce their VL model in-country. The rest, as they say, is history, and this machine was named by The Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan as one of the 240 landmark machines of the Japanese Automotive Technology. It also has the distinction of having served armies on both sides of the Pacific theater during World War II.
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special
Harley-Davidson goes to the top shelf for the goodies on its 2020 Road Glide Special. The Milwaukee-Eight 114 powerplant carries over from the previous year, as does the well-rounded infotainment system and ABS protection. Harley’s Reflex™ Defensive Rider System (RDRS) is available as optional equipment, but if you like your paint to be a little on the wild side, the Special Edition model carries it as part of the standard equipment.
1958 Honda Super Cub
Every once in a while a machine transcends the constraints of time and taste to become a modern-day legend, and Honda’s Super Cub is just such a machine. From its humble beginnings back in 1958, the Super Cub (aka Honda 50 or Honda C100) has, according to sales numbers, grown into the most popular motorcycle. Ever. Back in 2018, the line passed the 100-million-unit mark, and I am old enough to remember when McDonald’s had served fewer burgers than that according to their sign out front, so that is a lot of units around the world.
2019 MV Agusta RVS #1
MV Agusta, the RVS #1 delivers outstanding stoplight-burner performance courtesy of its 140-horsepower engine, and it comes with all the electronic ride-control features you’ll need to keep this beast under control. Unique styling and an air of exclusivity serve as the icing on the visual cake to give the #1 a surplus of curb appeal that’ll make it stand out in any crowd.
2020 Piaggio Medley 150
Piaggio updated its Medley range with a host of top-shelf tech items and a facelift that mixes new aesthetic features with classic touches to set them apart from the previous generation. LED tech replaces the incandescent lighting with a new digital LCD instrument bundle to handle the pertinent metrics. Perhaps best of all is the new i-Get powerplant that pushes output up to the top of the range for the 150 cc displacement bracket to deliver GT-like performance in an around-town scooter.
1959 Triumph T120 Bonneville
The Bonneville model-family is arguably one of the most recognized in the world, and it is the embodiment of the quintessential British cruiser that had taken shape during the 1950s. Named after the motor-vehicle proving grounds at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the first example rolled in 1959 and launched a legend that persists to this day. This model represents the heyday of British dominance and was one of the bikes to beat on both street and strip.
Ducati rolls into 2020 with an all-new flagship model for its Scrambler family; the 1100 Sport PRO. The Sport PRO builds on the base 1100 PRO to bring the best the factory has to offer. I’m talking about top-drawer electronics and Öhlins suspension equipment that collectively deliver safety and comfort with all the adjustments needed to dial in the ride to suit the conditions and/or your personal taste. Of course, it all comes wrapped around the proven, 80-plus horsepower, air-cooled L-Twin powerplant that delivers a deep torque well and a tractable nature.
2020 Triumph Tiger 1200 Desert
There’s nothing quite like a special-edition to spruce up a model family, and Triumph takes that to the bank with its new top-shelf Tiger 1200 Desert Edition. The “Desert” builds on the mid-grade, off-road-centric Tiger 1200 XCx with titanium and carbon-fiber touches and a model-specific “Sandstorm” paint package with Desert Edition graphics to set it apart visually from the pack. Of course, the factory maintains its premium electronics suite and active suspension system, and it drives it all with its proven 1,215 cc triple.
2020 Triumph Tiger 1200 Alpine Edition
Triumph Motorcycles has long been on the cutting edge of adventure-bike design with its venerable Tiger line, and the British giant expands it top-displacement, mid-range technology bracket with the addition of the Tiger 1200 Alpine for MY2020. Special paint and graphics set the Alpine apart visually from the rest of the family, and under the “hood”, Triumph’s premium electronics suite works to keep it dirty-side down. The in-line triple delivers well over 100 ponies with almost 100 pounds o’ grunt to drive the Alpine over the hills and dales it was designed to conquer.
2019 - 2020 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
Kawasaki’s Ninja family has been a household name for over three decades now, and the factory aims to keep it that way with a couple of new-in-2019 models in the liter-bike range: the ZX-10R base model and its KRT variant. Toward that end, Kawi boosted power through a number of individual improvements in the engine. The engineers also added a few items that will certainly endear these siblings to the hearts of the race fans and wannabe knee-draggers out there and the electronics were upgraded with even more fandanglery on the menu.
2017 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide
Harley-Davidson updated its sharknosed Road Glide in 2017 and replaced the little-loved Twin Cam engine with its new Milwaukee-Eight powerplant, a combination that persists into model-year 2020. There were a handful of aesthetic adjustments made over that span, but the model remains pretty much as it was when it hit the showroom floors in MY17. On the current-year model, top-shelf infotainment capabilities join with a plush suspension system and a half-dozen paint packages to deliver the comfort and style H-D riders expect, and the Mil-8 107 engine turns out the torque that we demand.
2020 MV Agusta Brutale 1000RR
Italian heavy MV Agusta fills out its hyper-naked range with its drag-tastic, new-for-2020 Brutale 1000RR. This new liter-sized Brutale follows the design characteristics established by its predecessors, and is absolutely saturated with performance-enhancing features and top-shelf electronics to make it a threat on both street and strip. Windtunnel-tested bodywork finishes the package in style and contributes to its overall speed and stability to show a synergy in the design that is somewhat rare for a street-legal machine.
2019 - 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
Triumph brings classic scrambler looks and modern performance together with its new-for-MY2019 Scrambler 1200 XE. The “XE” carries itself with plenty of the old-school standard DNA on display and an off-road bias that leaves no doubt as to how it’s meant to be used. Proper “any-road” hoops deliver the goods on just about any surface, but it’s the top-shelf safety electronics that really sell this Bonneville-powered ride. Triumph promises a machine with a true dual-identity.
2018 - 2019 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport
For MY2018, Ducati released the Scrambler 1100 Sport elevating the family line to a whole new level with some top-shelf suspension components and race-tastic livery meant to appeal primarily to the go-fast crowd. Much is shared with its big-bore siblings — chassis, engine, and electronics — but the Sport endeavors to increase the line’s inclusivity by drawing in those fiery-eyed pegdraggers.
2020 Ducati Scrambler 1100 PRO
Ducati fills out its large-displacement Scrambler lineup ahead of MY2020 with the Scrambler 1100 PRO that also doubles as the platform for the top-shelf 1100 Sport PRO. The 1100 PRO serves as a gateway vehicle so both new and experienced riders have a capable machine for their entry into the scrambler-tastic lifestyle. A liter-plus mill delivers 86 ponies, and the electronics include corner-sensitive safety features to help you keep it rubber-side down regardless of your experience level and the prevailing conditions.
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
Harley-Davidson makes progress on its 100-new-bikes promise with the mid-year release of the updated CVO Road Glide. Built with a bagger-tastic bent, the revamped custom Road Glide carries the largest production Big Twin the MoCo has built to date. Under the hood you’ll find H-D’s new safety and ride-quality electronics along with the usual top-shelf infotainment goodies, and it all comes wrapped in bodywork that makes a solid connection to the current popular custom culture.
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700
Yamaha’s Ténéré line expands down into the mid-range with the all-new Ténéré 700 (XTZ700). The “700” brings solid dual-sport capability to the adventure-touring range with an off-road bent that definitely favors soft terrain. Yamaha’s CP2 engine delivers the goods with a transmission and chassis tuned specifically for trips off the beaten path, much more so than its bigger brothers in the Super Ténéré family. After a race to the top, this model marks a new front in the battle for market supremacy as the factory seeks to fill in under the 1,200 cc units.
2017 - 2020 Suzuki SV650
Suzuki continued with the evolution of the SV650 line with the all-new-in-2017 SV650. Built on the success of the original SV650 that covered 1999 through 2008, and its offspring, the SFV650 “Gladius,” the new ride carries the SV DNA into a new generation. With a revamped 645 cc engine, it has more horsepower than ever before.
1955 - 1958 Yamaha YA-1
Post-War Japan gave rise to the beginnings of the Big Four even as it saw the launch of dozens of other small domestic motorcycle builders, and the Yamaha Motor Company owes its own genesis both to this era and to its first effort, the YA-1. Like so many of its counterparts, the YA-1 was a scant half-step up from the powered bicycles that preceded the motorcycles proper. But, after its success in various domestic racing events it found itself catapulted into the spotlight and into the prominence that would eventually build to the powerhouse of production we know today. The YA-1 was named one of the island nation’s 240 landmark automotive technologies by the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan.
2019 - 2020 Honda Super Cub C125
After much speculation and anticipation, Honda finally released the all-new Super Cub C125 ABS to U.S. dealerships in January 2019, and will carry over into 2020. This iconic ride brings the same 124.9 cc powerplant that drives the popular Grom coupled with a semi-automatic, clutchless shifter, and four-speed gearbox delivering the same ease of operation that helped to make the original such a hit. A disc front brake and ABS bring the classic design closer to modern standards, but the looks are straight outta’ the ’50s for a genuinely dated vibe that is impossible to imitate. Entry-level pricing provides the icing for this charming little cake in order to endear itself to that critical market segment, but I’d argue that this ride is good for more than just as a trainer.
1975 - 1979 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
The D-Type “Dream” of 1949 may have put Honda on the map, but it was the U.S. release of the Gold Wing in 1975 that eventually made the marque a power in the American touring market. Originally built as a power-cruiser, the domestic consumers had a different purpose in mind — long-distance touring — and with that a legend was born. The basic parameters had been established that would go on to create a family of bikes that, to this day, serve as a staunch competitor to American manufacturers Indian and Harley-Davidson, and enjoy a reputation for speed and agility as well as comfort.
2020 Aprilia RSV4 FW-GP
Aprilia reinforces its reputation as the Piaggio Group’s racebike division with its RSV4 “Factory Works” family line that delivers out-of-the-box track readiness, and the “GP” version resides at the top of the totem pole. This is Aprilia’s flagship public-sale racebike with all the best of what the Italian marque has to offer, and part of the overall price and delivery process involves factory training so you can get the most out of the machine. Make no mistake, this is a track-only bike with none of the equipment you’d need for safe and legal road operation.
2019 - 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC
Triumph Motorcycles bills its new-in-2019 Scrambler 1200 XC as an “all-road” machine that’s got what it takes to tackle everything you throw at it. Not quite as off-road-tastic as its sibling, the 1200 XE, it nevertheless delivers top-notch performance by anyone’s standards. Adjustable, long-stroke suspension components join a “scrambler-tuned” engine and wire wheels for the brown-top work, and for the blacktop, there’s a whole slew of electronic safety goodies that give the “XC” its split-personality. Bonneville power and classic looks come together in the XC.
2019 - 2020 Ducati Hypermotard 950 / 950 SP
Ducati revamped its Hypermotard range ahead of MY2019 with the 950 and 950 SP to replace its outgoing Hypermotard 939 models. The new 950 borrows from the supermotard world for general design and rocks sharper angles for a more aggressive look. The 950 dropped some weight compared to its predecessor and replaced it with ponies for greater performance across the board, and the “SP” comes with top-shelf suspension and wheels, plus an expanded electronics suite and carbon fiber components to sweeten the deal. The hooligan-bike sector isn’t what you’d call the most populated by any means, but I’ve already got some potential competitors in mind for Ducati’s newest jackass bikes.
1949 Honda Dream D-Type
Every motorcycle builder has that one model that, while it may not be first, is the one that put the factory on the map. For Japanese giant Honda Motor Company, the first motorcycle was the 1949 “Dream” D-Type aka “Type D or Model D,” though nobody living knows for sure who gave it the “Dream” name. The D-Type brought all of the elements of a proper motorcycle together with a 98 cc thumper. It did away with the need for a traditional clutch lever through a clever shifter and cone-clutch arrangement to appeal to a broader rider base through easier operation. Success would follow, though it was short lived, but a legend was born, first in the island nation and then on the world stage.
2019 - 2020 Ducati Monster 821 Stealth
The Ducati Monster can trace its heritage back to the ’93 Monster 900, and the new “Stealth” variant serves as what you might call a highly-functional tribute piece for that venerated machine. It totes the usual suite of electronic gadgets with Ducati’s Quick Shift feature added to the stock package, and it boasts 100-plus horsepower in a design that is, paradoxically, both sexy and stocky at the same time.
2018 - 2020 Triumph Speed Triple S / RS
Triumph refurbished its Speed Triple family ahead of MY2018, and the British giant carries its new-in-’18 Speed Triple S and Speed Triple RS straight over into the 2020 lineup. These two rides epitomize the “performance naked” subgenre with a stripped-down look. They come with an updated powerplant alongside a robust electronics suite on the base model that gets even better on the “RS” variant. Power, poise and control, the new Speed Triples seem to have it all.
2017 - 2020 Kawasaki Z650 ABS
Kawasaki makes inroads into the naked streetfighter market with the new-in 2017 Z650 and adds some brush-up changes for 2020. Drawing from the popular Ninja line, the factory gave the Z650 that 649 cc parallel twin and put it in a new, lighter weight frame for improved handling and a exponentially greater fun factor.
2020 MV Agusta Rush 1000
MV Agusta built the Rush 1000 with a single purpose in mind: drag strip domination. The factory took its 200-plus horsepower Brutale engine and mounted it in a bike that, in true dragster tradition, carries only what is needed to function. No weight is wasted on superfluous equipment or body panels to convert as many of those ponies as possible into brute acceleration. Those weight-savings measures extend to the engine and include the use of titanium to reduce the reciprocating mass of the mill and deliver faster revs. The electronics suite is all about that drag-tastic life to deliver the safety and control you’ll need to manage the power and keep the thing rubber-side down.
2018 - 2020 Ducati Monster 821
Newly revised in 2018, the Monster 821 from Ducati benefits from some trickle-down engineering from its big brother, the Monster 1200, and a host of new design touches all its own. A new tank, tail section, headlight and muffler gives it an all-new variation on the classic Monster look with due consideration for the original Monster 900. Duc’s Testastretta L-twin powerplant serves up streetfighter performance with 109 horsepower tucked away in the stable and a host of safety systems to aid the rider in keeping it all under control. Not an entry-level ride by any stretch of the imagination, the Monster 821 does offer an experienced rider a mercurial platform that can shift personalities at the touch of a button for a wide range of conditions and skill levels.
2019 - 2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2 R
Many of the major players offer a pure-D racetrack hypersport for the public’s consumption, and for Kawasaki, that honor falls to the freshly updated Ninja H2 R. The H2 R brings to the table the best Kawi has to offer along with top-flight aerodynamics and a supercharged engine on top of a full electronics suite making it a threat on the track right out of the box. That’s about the only place it’s a threat though, since the H2 R is far too awesome to be street legal, and as a track-only bike, it wastes not an ounce on any silly old mirrors, headlights, or turn signals. Carbon-fiber components complete the package with their own brand of lightweight strength.
2018 - 2020 Honda Monkey
Honda puts out a lot of fun products, it’s true, but few machines can match the level of whimsy you get from the Honda Monkey. That’s right folks, the iconic “Monkey Bike” that served as a mini self-Uber in Japanese amusement parks back in the ’60s is back with a new look and powerplant for what the factory surely hopes is a new era of monkey madness. The 2019 update of this little pocket bike bears the genetic markers of the original without being a slave to it with a 9.25-horsepower modern powerplant, larger wheels (thank goodness) and disc brakes.
TJ’s Top Ten Picks For The Most Significant Bikes In Motorcycling History
What goes into moving a particular motorcycle into the “Historically Significant” category? That depends upon whom you ask, of course. What their priorities are, how far back in history they are interested in delving and even upon which surfaces the bikes are built to travel. Verily I say unto thee; the possibilities are legion. With that in mind, I want to tackle that question myself today, but first I will qualify what it means to me for the purpose of this article. Some will be mechanical marvels of their time, and some will be rather mundane yet have astronomical sales figures as an indicator of consumer popularity. I’m going to stick to street/road bikes and exclude off-road machines, plus I’m going to leave scooters alone as well ’cause they have their own history and deserve to be looked at as a major branch on the two wheeled-tree unto itself. As far as how deep I’m willing to go into the annals of history, I’m going to say “all the way.” Let’s get to it.
2017 - 2019 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
Ducati added to its “Monster” family in 2017 with the accessible and relatively rider-friendly “797” version of its popular naked bike. This ride uses the same 803 cc mill that drives the full-size Scramblers, so while it isn’t a net-new engine, it is a proven one. Dual front brakes with ABS, Pirelli tires and fat Kayaba forks are but some of the features included in what looks to be the closest to an “entry level” ride that the Monster family has managed to date. I was eager to take a look at this new ride ever since it was revealed at the Milan show, and what I see so far does not disappoint. In 2018, the Monster 797+ replaced the base model with some extra goodies added in.
2020 MV Agusta Superveloce 800
Italian marque MV Agusta throws its hat into the retro-tastic ring in 2020 with its Neo-Classic Racer model, the Superveloce 800. Clearly a modern machine, the factory managed to incorporate the flavor of the old café racers to deliver an interesting blend indeed. A high-compression triple delivers 148 horsepower with an electronics suite that gives the machine multiple personalities to match your own attitude and skillset. Make no mistake, this is a racebike through and through, but one built for the road rather than the racetrack, just like the original café racer bikes.
2020 Honda Gold Wing Tour
Honda shows its commitment to continual improvement with its 2020 array of top-shelf, tour-tastic Gold Wing models. The Gold Wing range received a handful of improvements to include reworked heads and cylinders that reduce the weight of the drivetrain plus stock foglights and revised ergonomics to boost performance, safety, and comfort across the boards. Of course, this comes on top of the speed and handling for which the Gold Wings have long been famous to make it a serious competitor in the U.S. touring market.
2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally / Rally Pro
Triumph’s new Tiger 900 line covers an array of bases throughout its range, but while the base model and GT versions are built for urban touring/commuting, the Rally and Rally Pro are clearly geared toward off-road work. Long-stroke suspension components and laced wheels set the tone with the full spectrum of ride-quality and safety systems, several of which benefit from the IMU to deliver corner-optimized performance both on-road and off. All of this delightfulness rides on an all-new chassis with an also-new, 888 cc powerplant that cranks out 10-percent more grunt than the previous “800” to drive your multi-surface adventures.
2020 BMW F 900 XR
BMW buffed its mid-size adventure-bike range with the new-for-2020 F 900 XR model that builds on the equally new F 900 R roadster. The XR is built as an on-road tourbike/commuter on a new chassis with a new plastic-welded gas tank and a handful of top-drawer electronic safety and ride-quality control features to polish off the package. A new parallel-twin engine drives the XR with nearly 100 ponies on tap to drive your asphalt adventures.
2020 Honda Gold Wing
Honda greets the new decade with a buffed-up, base-model Gold Wing range that’s best described as a BNG-Plus treatment with a few extra goodies thrown in. The sheet metal comes shot in a new, monochromatic finish with generous blackout treatment over the rest of the machine to take a deep dive into Honda’s dark side. Updated damping values tune up the suspension system along with improved electronics to complete the package. Of course, this is all accompanied by the performance and handling that has always held the Gold Wing in good stead and keep the line in an excellent competitive position within the U.S. market.
2020 BMW R nineT /5
The half-century mark is an important milestone for any motorcycle manufacturer, and BMW Motorrad celebrates by building the retro-tastic R nineT /5. This is actually a fairly faithful visual representation of the original R 50/5, R 60/5 and R 75/5 that populated the streets back in 1969 and on into the early ’70s. A 110-horsepower, modern boxer engine drives this tribute piece with all the contemporary electronics and features “under the hood” that we’ve come to expect from our meticulous Bavarian friends.
2020 BMW F 900 R
BMW Motorrad finally gave its mid-size sportbike range a much needed update ahead of MY2020 with its new F 900 R roadster. Built for fun, the F 900 R delivers the goods with a new chassis, new all-plastic fuel tank, and a bevy of electronic systems for ride-quality and safety control. A new, parallel-twin powerplant drives your on-road adventures with almost 100 horsepower on tap, and as always, BMW has a well-rounded accessory line that pulls from the top shelf to boost its capabilities even more.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure
If you’re looking for a mid-displacement adventure bike that will actually handle some off-road work or a solid commuter for the urban jungle, then Suzuki’s 2020 V-Strom 650XT Adventure should be on your short list. This model builds on the 650 platform and it boasts extra protection for both bike and rider along with stock dry-storage and a proven V-twin powerplant. As usual, Suzuki rounds out the package with a bevy of proprietary ride-quality electronics to back up the various variables built into the mechanics of the bike to deliver a customizable riding experience.
2020 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR
Aprilia rolls into the new decade with its racebike-inspired Tuono V4 1100 RR. The factory drew on its own not-inconsiderable WSBK experience to turn out this track-capable ride, and the targeted demographic would be those riders who actually aspire to hit a closed-circuit or road course. A 175-horsepower V4 plant delivers the goods with a full array of revamped, race-centric, ride-quality electronics and corner-sensing technology to complete the package. Essentially, what we have here is a liter-sized superbike with some of the bodywork stripped down to produce a very capable naked streetfighter.
2020 Honda Rebel 300 / 500
Honda rolls into the new decade with the first overhaul to its newest-generation Rebel range. It has only been a few years since the classic Rebel line was replaced by the current iteration, and the added features are largely due to feedback from the new rider base. New suspension components improve the ride along with upgrades to the lighting and clutch pack to increase overall safety and expand its buyer base.
2020 Triumph Thruxton RS
Triumph Motorcycles took last year’s Thruxton R and levied a bevy of improvements to create the new-for-2020 Thruxton RS. The tuneup is far from just being a facelift. Power increased almost 8 horsepower on the torque-rich powerplant, the bike dropped about 13 pounds from its curb weight, and grunt comes on earlier for a broader, more useful powerband. Triumph finished it off with top-shelf safety electronics, contemporary style, and a two-tone paint package over a blackout frame and powerplant.
2020 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
Aprilia created the 2020 Tuono V4 1100 Factory to deliver real racebike experience in a naked-sport package for riders who may actually get beyond the parking lot at the local track. Since Aprilia acts as the racebike division of Piaggio & C. SpA, it brings considerable trackside expertise to the end product for a genuine racebike experience no matter where you ride. V4 power drives an aluminum chassis with robust ride-control electronics with a definite bias for track use, and it comes adorned with weight-saving carbon-fiber bits and bobs to minimize mass. This is a serious bike for serious riders. Don’t be fooled by the relatively low price that slides in just below the $19k mark. That accessibility doesn’t fully express its overall worth as you shall soon see.
2015 - 2019 Suzuki Boulevard M50
Suzuki’s Boulevard M50 cruiser carries into 2019 with more of that custom American style that made it popular ever since it evolved from the old Intruder. Low-slung good looks join the 42-horsepower, 805 cc V-twin and faux-rigid frame for a package that’s meant to drive the imaginations of entry-level riders who might appreciate the style but be uninterested in worshiping at the Altar of Harley. Moderate power and a low seat height makes it appropriate for the young and/or inexperienced, and the lack of excessive electronic fandanglery makes it relatively easy to service and maintain, which is always a bonus for the uninitiated.
2020 Triumph Tiger 900
Triumph up-sized its outgoing Tiger 800 adventure model ahead of MY2020 to create the all-new Tiger 900. This machine serves as a platform for a number of upscale stablemates, but today I want to focus on the base model. The factory balances capabilities and cost to deliver a bike that can both tour and serve as a daily commuter. The safety electronics covers the basics and come bundled with a handful of ride-quality controls for push-button personality changes to round out the package and give the 900 a bit of versatility.
2020 Indian Roadmaster
Indian Motorcycle made a number of changes to its touring lineup ahead of MY2020 including a new powerplant for its full-dress Roadmaster. The base-model Roadmaster hits important historical high notes and maintains the full-size front fairing, but the real news here is the addition of the new Thunder Stroke 116 engine that toes the family line and pumps out over 120 pounds of stump-pulling torque. Comfort and luxury for the every-rider are the hallmarks of the Roadmaster, and it delivers with its usual style and aplomb.
2020 Energica Eva Ribelle
Italian EV bike builder Energica rolls into the 2020 model year with something a little different; the new Eva Ribelle. This newest offering rocks a naked-sportbike look in a bid to expand its footprint while it acts as an ambassador for the electric sector in general – a genre that’s still scrabbling for mainstream acceptance. The Eva Ribelle relies on a new 21.5 kWh powerpack to deliver an impressive range, and it comes complete with a full ride-quality electronics suite and surprisingly fast recharge capacity along with safety equipment that should make it competitive against the current smoker bikes.
2020 Triumph Tiger 900 GT / GT Pro
Triumph’s new-for-2020 900 GT and 900 GT Pro brings an urban bias to its multi-surface, adventure-bike Tiger line making it a good prospect for long-range/touring riders as well as those looking for a solid commuter. Power comes from an all-new, 900 cc plant, but the real star of the show is the electronics suite that delivers safety along with push-button personality changes to give this pair extra flexibility. The question is whether it’s enough to be genuinely worthy of the Gran Turismo moniker.
2020 Aprilia RS 660
Aprilia, the racebike-building division under the Piaggio & C. SpA umbrella, treated us to a glimpse at the future during 2019 EICMA with the unveiling of its new RS 660. The RS 660 rolls with windtunnel-tested bodywork that aids comfort and stability over a new, parallel-twin powerplant. A robust electronics package comes standard, so you can count on top-shelf safety and ride-quality gadgets to help you keep it between the lines.
2019 Triumph Speed Twin
Triumph expanded its “Modern Classics” lineup ahead of MY2019 with the new-in-’19 Speed Twin as a tribute piece paying visual homage with all the modern-ness you’d expect tucked away under the hood and out of sight. The result is a clean-looking classic with gobs of retro appeal, and that’s an important detail because the newest generation of riders has shown themselves to have an interest in the old-school looks, much to their credit. So let’s take a closer look at Trumpet’s newest Speed Twin, not the first of its name.
2017 - 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
Suzuki’s V-Strom is definitely one of the major players on the adventure bike market. A few years ago, Suzuki made the decision to drop the V-Strom 650 Adventure, which it has since brought back, and focus its energies on the base model 650 and 650XT. The result is palpable with a number of improvements made in the 2017 model year that will likely endear these rides to their fans even more. Now we have more power, plus a traction control system to help manage said power as well as some nifty aesthetic tweaks.
2018 - 2020 Suzuki SV650X
Suzuki expanded its SV650 roadster lineup for the 2019 model year with a café-tastic SV650X ABS. The “X” adds some subtle changes to the bodywork, plus a not-so-subtle bullet fairing to make that crucial historical connection to the target era sometime back in the seventies. The suspension system was updated for the whole SV650 family across the board, and it brings a spring-preload feature to the front end that is difficult to match at this price point and genre. Power comes from the same 645 cc twin that pushes the rest of the family with 75 ponies ready to go and a handful of electronic fandangelries to help manage them.
2020 Suzuki Katana
Suzuki reaches back all the way to the early ’80s for the design inspiration behind the new 2020 Katana GSX-S1000SM. The reinterpreted “samurai sword” serves as a sportier alternative to Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 platform for those who are looking for an everyday ride with roots. Modernized looks pair with a modernized drivetrain in an attempt to revive the line, and of course, it rocks the expected ride-quality adjustments that are nearly ubiquitous at this point even if they aren’t quite guaranteed in this genre.
2019 - 2020 Yamaha Tracer 900 / Tracer 900 GT
Yamaha was busy last year adding a brand-new name and refurbished looks to its lineup with the Tracer 900 and a slightly more tour-tastic Tracer 900 GT. Fans of the FJ models — and indeed the FZ/MT-09 range — will recognize the 113-horsepower, 847 cc triple and adventuresome flavor of this new sport-touring family. The base model landed somewhere near the “sport” end of the sport-tour spectrum, though it wasn’t carried forward to 2020 in our market. The GT model is a bit more balanced with a set of hard-side panniers that provides some secure dry storage and a host of features that long-distance riders will certainly appreciate.
2020 Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark
Ducati’s Scrambler line has proven popular with the masses, and the factory expands its footprint further with its new Icon Dark. The “Dark” brings all the usual Scrambler-tastic charms to the table along with a custom bent meant to give would-be customizers a gentle nudge down that homegrown-bike path. It rocks the same 73-horsepower, 803 cc L-twin as the rest of the mid-range Scramblers along with the usual electronics suite, but it takes a turn toward the Dark Side with ample blackout paint and a monochromatic finish on the sheet metal.
2016 - 2020 Ducati XDiavel / XDiavel S
It’s safe to say that “cruiser” isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of Ducati, or even the third, yet here we are with the XDiavel and its slightly dressier “S” stablemate carrying the brand into uncharted waters. The “X” signifies the cross and blending of the two worlds — cruiser and sport — and the end result is what the factory calls a “Techno-cruiser” due to its melding of Italian performance DNA and a more cruise-tastic rider triangle than you normally see from this brand. Powered by a 1,262 cc Testastretta engine, the XDiavel duo put the “sport” in “sport-cruiser” and opens the performance field to folks that ordinarily wouldn’t have such an option.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Adventure
Suzuki produced a next-gen V-Strom 1050 ahead of the 2020 model year with a revised frame, tuned powerplant, and updated electronics, and it builds on that platform to deliver its new flagship globetrotter, the V-Strom 1050XT Adventure. The historical design references are every bit as strong in this model as they are in its somewhat less-noble siblings with plenty of old-school DNA in evidence, but it’s the under-the-hood, ride-quality fandanglery and stock dry-storage capacity that puts it over the top.
2019 - 2020 Piaggio Liberty
Piaggio brings its not-inconsiderable scooter experience to bear on its Liberty line to deliver the goods with the new-in-2019 versions of the Liberty 150 and Liberty S 150 models that carry over into MY2020. The proven i-get powerplant reprises its role as the beating heart with highway-friendly speed potential and Euro 4 emissions compliance. Both models come with ABS protection to help you keep it dirty-side down. All of this pairs with that unmistakable Italian style across the board, and of course, the “S” variant brings even more eye candy to the table with custom paint and saddle stitching to breathe new life into the 20-plus year old model family.
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Austrian bike builder KTM revamped its top shelf naked bike — the 1290 Super Duke R — for MY2020, and it treated the world to a first glimpse at 2019 EICMA. This newest Super Duke R represents a natural evolution and a rather radical reimagination of KTM’s flagship hyper-naked model to include a new chassis, revised electronics, and reworked engine that together deliver more of what made the Super Duke R such a popular machine in the first place. All of this comes with re-imagined aesthetics that adds new visual elements to the unmistakable KTM panache.
2016 - 2020 Yamaha SMAX
Yamaha’s new-in-2016 SMAX scooter features a 155 cc engine, which knocks it off the usual tier-license tables, but brings us a minimal-displacement highway commuter option for the U.S. market. The unusual engine size puts the displacement just over the line making it legal to hit the interstate and second now in size to the XMAX in the Yamaha scooter stable for 2020.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
Suzuki builds on its new retro-tastic V-Strom 1050 platform to produce the even more capable V-Strom 1050XT. The 1050 XT has an improved electronics suite along with its enhanced engine performance and classic looks. The addition of an inertial-measurement unit brings a corner-sensitive element to the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) to put this ride near the top of the technological totem pole as it were. This is most definitely a de facto long-distance adventure tourbike built with an eye toward comfort and safety.
2018 - 2020 Yamaha XSR700
Part of Yamaha’s700 is based largely on the proven MT-07 platform. It is a reinterpretation of a vintage design for a modern-retro look, clearly meant to draw in the hipster/Millennial crowd, as well as those with an appreciation for classic design elements. It’s not all about looks, though, the mill churns out a claimed 73.8 horsepower and 50.2 pound-feet of torque to push the 410-pound wet weight, so there’s no shortage of thrills to be had on Yamaha’s mid-size roadster.
2020 Piaggio Beverly 350
Piaggio rolled into 2019 EICMA with a new 2020 Beverly lineup that covers a range of variants, but the only one that makes it to our side of the pond is the BV 350, a moniker only used in the U.S. market. This model is essentially a renamed Beverly 350 S ABS/ASR, so it brings the same level of rider protection and rideability to the table in a bid to grab some of the urban-commuter market. It also packs a wallop with a 30-horsepower engine that’ll push the scooter up to interstate speed making it a definite candidate for young urban professionals and well-heeled students alike.
2021 KTM 890 Duke R
KTM added to its mid-range naked-sportbike bracket with the 890 Duke R, and it looks like it’ll make it over to our side of the pond just in time for the 2021 model year. Essentially, the factory took its proven 790 Duke and buffed it with fully-adjustable suspension, racier ergos, and better anchors. An all-new powerplant gives a boost in power and torque along with a handful of rider aids to add an element of control over the ride characteristics.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050
Suzuki unveiled its new V-Strom 1050 line at the 2019 Milan show with an aggressive new look and expanded capabilities meant to make it easier to range hither and yon over a variety of surfaces. In addition to the new rally-style look, updated electronics and upgraded engine performance are part of the package for MY2020. The V-Strom 1050 serves as the platform for the top-shelf “XT” models but even the stock base model comes packed with upgraded electronics and net-new tech to make it attractive and competitive within the adventure bike market.
2019 - 2020 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled saw its first major update ahead of MY2019 after only two years on the market, and the new version has a handful of things to offer over and above the previous gen. It starts with the bones reinforced to better withstand the rigors of off-road riding and rally-style tires that are designed for same. Rideability and comfort was buffed along with the security system, and the electronics suite features an off-road-specific upgrade as well. Those are the broad strokes, but as ever, the devil is in the details, so let’s dive right in and start chasing them down.
2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Suzuki improved its GSX-R1000 ahead of MY2020 in a bid to “reclaim the King of Sportbikes crown” as the factory so succinctly puts it. This rebuild comes close on the heels of the last revamp that landed just a couple short years ago, but it adds some significant features, most of which can be found “under the hood” or in the electronics suite. A couple of tweaks to the frame tune handling characteristics while the cornering ABS feature and variable valve-timing engine carries over from the previous generation. All in all, Suzuki turns in a very streetworthy racebike that’s nothing short of a technological showcase on two wheels.
2018 - 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400
Kawasaki took the next step in the struggle to find that perfect balance between displacement, performance, and affordability with the new-in-2018 Ninja 400. This ride delivers the aggressive styling that you expect from the Ninja family with a host of improvements over the previous generation. More power, less weight, and a mature presentation should hold the new Ninja in good stead in the highly-competitive small-displacement sportbike market that serves as the main battlefield in the contest to instill some brand loyalty in the increasingly important new buyer base.
2020 Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer 10th Anniversary
Moto Guzzi celebrates a decade of V7 Racer bikes with the 2020 V7 III Racer 10th Anniversary. The factory builds on the third and current generation V7 Racer with some café-tastic bodywork that sets it apart from the base model. There are Easter Eggs a’plenty from models past scattered about this celebratory machine to turn it into something of a rolling tribute piece. As with the rest of the V7 III line, power comes from the signature, transverse-mount V-twin with over 50 ponies on tap and a new, adjustable, house-brand traction control feature to help you keep it under control. Under the hood, wireless connectivity to web-based services brings an infotainment element to the table along with bonafide modern credentials.
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
Honda spruced up its CBR1000RR-R SP superbike and plans to release it summer of 2020 as a 2021 model. The long-rumored updates will finally hit the road in the foreseeable future, and the factory even relented in its long-standing practice by actually using the “Fireblade” moniker in the U.S. market. The factory stuffed in its most powerful four-banger with over 200 ponies on tap and followed up with top-shelf electronics to turn out a machine that, in its own words, is “born to race.”
2018 - 2020 Yamaha XMAX
Yamaha brought the XMAX to the U.S. market with a 27.6-horsepower mill that promises enough speed to be safe, even comfortable, at highway velocities, and that’s muy importante in the American market. This performance comes bundled with a decidedly modern and mature look that just screams metro-commuter.
2018 - 2020 Moto Guzzi V7 III Rough
Moto Guzzi expanded its V7 III footprint off the black and onto the brown with the new-in-2018 “Rough” variant. As its cleverly-ingenious name implies, this model comes set up to have some definite scramble-tastic tendencies with street-knobbies that perform as well on soft terrain as they do on the pavement. Like the rest of the family, power comes from a 744 cc V-twin that delivers 44 pound-feet of torque for solid holeshots and plenty of hill-conquering grunt. There’s plenty of that characteristic MG style as well, courtesy of the sideways engine mount and fuel tank design. Best of all, the Rough beefs up its entry-level bike claim with ABS and traction control that can be turned off for a raw ride, or enabled for maximum stability.
2020 Ducati Panigale V4
The MY19 Panigale V4 was Ducati’s best-selling bike worldwide, and the factory looks to build on that success through a host of improvements ahead of the 2020 season. Ducati’s engineers struck a balance by increasing rideability and potentially laptimes to deliver more of what made the previous generation such a hit. Top-shelf electronics and a 200-plus horsepower engine complete the package, and it all comes wrapped in low-drag, windtunnel-tested bodywork for both performance and curb appeal.