Very few motorcycles have caught my attention lately. The ones that do call my attention are the ones that are breaking old molds, venturing in new terrain, such as the Indian FTR 1200, inspired on flat track racing bikes. This Indian will have the courage to show up in 19-inch wheels, similar to the proportions of motorcycles from past years. I just think this bike is gorgeous, and will probably have a traditional motorcycle feel to it in terms of v-twin motor vibrations, sound, and how torque is delivered. Good, I hope, for a relaxed ride, and yes, with compromises on performance, limitations that take it away from the sports naked world, which I don’t really mind, that’s not my cup of tea. If its looks are kept somewhat close to what this prototype shows, it will be a sweet and different machine.
Outside of that, it is about game-changers in the area of adventure riding, and bikes with the latest technology in terms of riding aids including cornering ABS, cruise control, and improved suspension and riding modes.
Before we get into them, let’s talk about my current motorcycles. I’ve settled with my current five choices, my newest motorcycle, the 2015 Honda CB500X, will already be turning four years old next year. My oldest motorcycle, not counting the 1980 Honda CX500, is the Yamaha WR250R, which will turn 10 years old next year. Then I have the 2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC and the 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak.
One day will be time to start a slow renewal of the fleet. I said slow. But if money was not an impediment, say if I win the lottery which I don’t play (in other words, it’s not gonna happen), these are the five motorcycles I would like to own in 2019.
Starting from the top, I would upgrade my Multistrada for a newer model of the same. I really like this bike. It is effortless on long journeys with full travel gear, and still delivers a sports bike performance. The Multistrada and all other similar bikes from other brands are the best touring machines available, in my opinion. And the Multistrada, as one of the first in this segment, remains, again in my opinion, one of the best of the bunch.
My brief stint with sports naked machines, my Ducati Streetfighter, taught me that while those bikes look great, and are built for going fast, that’s not where I want to be in terms of comfort or at speed. The Multistrada goes almost as fast, if not faster, but does it while offering comfort and with its wide handlebars and height, still provide quick turn-ins when it reacts fast from minimal and effortless counter steering inputs. And still, because your body is on a relaxed position, it allows you more control and great vision for street riding. No wonder such machines outsell sports bikes.
The reasons I would upgrade to the 1260 Pikes Peak are very specific. First and foremost, it has more torque on low end of the RPM band without sacrificing its presence on higher RPM levels (HP has increased as well). Second, it has key electronic improvements when compared to my 2013, especially cornering ABS and cruise control. Some of you complain about the nanny electronic aids, I celebrate them in feeling safer when riding and in paying less for insurance. Third, the Pikes Peak comes with Ohlins suspension, it provides a much better feel from the front end when pushing the bike on corners. Fourth, it has a lower seat position than my 2013, which is always good for someone like me, who maneuvers my current 2013 on tip toes due to my long torso on shorter legs body type (30-inch inseam). And fifth, the TFT display is much easier to visualize important information when riding, the menus are easier to navigate when making changes, and offers a better interface to connect with smart phones.
Next, there is my 2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC. This bike has never quite been a favorite of mine. The sound of its three-cylinder motor under acceleration is great, the feel is not, it made me realize, despite liking some characteristics of it, that I’m much more into twin cylinder motors. Overall, this bike does everything well, it does not excel in anything particularly. I like the looks, its bright orange color from the launch model, and the fact that Triumph had the courage to offer it in the first place. I remember following those first spy shots of this bike when on development tour in Greece, then the first official video of it, where images were too dark to see the bike, or the bike was only shown in split second images, but the full sound of the three cylinder motor being driven in anger was there.
This bike was meant to be my true adventure riding machine, the bike to ride when long distance riding including all types of roads, including gravel, were part of the course. The bike to go to Alaska and down to Tierra Del Fuego. This bike could still do it, but, if one day I would really get into a trip to Alaska, I would much rather be riding the BMW R1200GS Rallye.
This BMW GS has a nice TFT display, you can have integrated GPS, electronic suspension, riding modes, cruise control, cornering ABS and the BMW R1200GS, since the 2013 changes, is the best adventure bike when it comes to managing air flow for the rider in its system of screens. It is not like the Multistrada in terms of power, but it offers more than enough power on a well balanced combination of torque and HP for adventure touring and for some fun on the curves when it comes to that. I always say, if I had to have only one motorcycle, this is probably it. But I’m not ready for a trip to Alaska yet and not at a point that I have to sell my motorcycles, hence the purchase of a BMW R1200GS will have to wait.
Next, let’s talk about my Honda CB500X, with the Rally Raid kit. This bike is probably one of my favorite bikes ever. It is the perfect size, and not too heavy, and delivers just the power one really needs.
The problem is that I use it as my rally machine, and while its size and weight work on its favor when compared to larger adventure machines, its 19 inch front wheel paired with a traditional fork are its Achilles heel. Although much improved from its original fork, thanks to Rally Raid, with its improved valving, spring, and an additional two inches of travel, it works but up to a point. The result is that this machine is perfect for everything, except when you want to go fast, rally style, on rocky terrain. The front wheel has a tendency to crash before skipping over rocks protruding more than three or four inches on the gravel and dirt surface. Slow down and it is a perfect machine.
The major problem with the CB500X, though, is not related to how it performs, but how it looks at the proverbial Starbucks. Even the large KTM adventure machines have their place under the sun with the poser crowd these days, although no one cares or wants to admit it. The CB500X disappears on that virtual scenario of larger displacement bikes.
At the end of the day I’m not offended when someone thinks my bike is not macho enough. I prefer to think it takes more to ride a bike that is the under dog, and that’s what makes me like this little Honda the best: the fact that it is an under dog in the adventure motorcycle world, one that actually performs well. And I like it that I built it myself!
However, the moto industry is threatening to be courageous and seems ready to offer real midsize rally/adventure machines, emphasis on rally, soon. Yamaha has the 700 World Raid Super Tenere in the works, they’ve been teasing us with this bike for far too long in my opinion. First it was the concept in 2016, than the prototype in 2017, then the world raid tour in 2018, it seems they are not convinced this bike in its concept or prototype shape, which both look great, is what we, the consumers want. I fear it will be downgraded too much when a consumer version is put to market, and who knows when it will come to market.
On the other hand, KTM is also readying a new beast for this new segment, the 790 Adventure. Coming from behind on this two-horse race, they’ve gone past the Yamaha and seem ready to present it at this year’s EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. The engine was developed two years ago, shown on a 790 Duke prototype in 2016, which was then introduced in 2017, and that motor moved to the 790 Adventure with a few changes for the application, which was on its turn shown in prototype shape in 2017 and will be introduced this year and for sale in 2019.
If one of these two bikes, the Yamaha Tenere 700 or KTM 790 Adventure weights about the same as my Honda CB500X, then we will know they will deliver better off-road performance than my little Honda. Time will tell. Meanwhile the KTM has moved to front line on my list as a possible bike to replace my Honda CB500X Rally Raid.
My Yamaha WR250R is the oldest of my regularly run motorcycles. It will turn 10 years old next year and has been my go to bike for when riding becomes more challenging. It has been flawless until this last trip to Death Valley when its fuel pump started showing problems when we were in the middle of Mengel Pass.
I imagined having to walk down all the way back to Ballarat… thank goodness we learned that once it cooled off, some 5 to 15 minutes after a stop, depending on how hot it got and how hot was the time of the day, the pump would prime again and the bike would start. Still, this bike at the time of its launch in 2008 was a unique offering from manufacturers, and there were not direct competitors for many years, as no one put together a reliable, smooth operating, well geared dual sport that is light enough, has suspension travel for good times when off road, and it is not so bad on the road. Now we see more offerings from several other brands, and of those, the KTM 500 EXC or its sibling, the Husqvarna 501 are on top of my list. I will fix the fuel pump on my WR250R and ride it one more season before I think about upgrading it, though.
Finally, let’s talk about my 1980 Honda CX500. This is the bike I bought to build into a flat tracker or scrambler.
I like that it has a V-twin motor, transversely mounted like on Moto Guzzis, but it turned out working on it to be more than what my interest could lead me to make it happen. Lack of time is what we say when something is not a priority in our lives. And hence this bike became something that I push around when I rearrange bikes and cars to make room for work or storage in my garage. One of my original ideas before purchasing such a bike was inspired on retro looking machines, like the Ducati Scrambler.
One has to congratulate Ducati for investing on such a line of products and for definitely expanding a segment that had been moving at a slow pace. But the bike just failed to deliver the feel I was looking for. The BMW R NineT line, on the other hand, checked a lot more of the boxes of what I wanted for this space in my shed.
However, when I started hearing about Indian making a street version of their 750 flat tracker, I decided to wait and see what this was going to be all about. The prototype has a 1200 cc motor, derived from the Scout with some modifications to bias the balance more into HP rather than torque, but still keeping enough of a V-twin character to it. The looks are awesome, with the 19-inch wheels.
Let’s wait and see what the street version of this bike will look like. Certainly the fiber fairings will be turned into plastic, the Roland Sands wheels will be gone, and the exhaust will likely be generic. Let’s see. If it comes to look as close as possible to this prototype, I’m in.
That was it for now folks, these are my favorite five bikes that I would like to own today. Hope all are enjoying a great summer, like we have it here in the south Willamette valley in Oregon, albeit a bit warmer than normal.