Rider Magazine 2010 Motorcycle of the Year: Honda VFR1200F

2010 Honda VFR1200F
2010 Honda VFR1200F

We would normally include in the 2010 judging any prior-year models that didn’t make it to us for testing in time for the 2009 contest, but there were no carryovers this go-round. Due to manufacturer production timing, two 2010 BMWs—the R 1200 GS/Adventure and R 1200 RT— weren’t available to be ridden and considered by our deadline of March 30, 2010, so we’ll add them to the 2011 roster. Typically we would have ridden a few early release 2011 models by the end of the first quarter, but not this year, making 2010 a tidy contest model year-wise.

Chap-deep in yet another riding season—Rider’s 36th to date!—the recessionary clouds have parted and the forecast is ideal for motorcycling. We salute you, dear reader, for riding out the storm with your helmet held high. And we commend the OEMs for continuing to innovate rather than stagnate. Let’s give a big round of applause to the Contenders and Rider’s 2010 Motorcycle of the Year.

The Contenders:

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BMW S 1000 RR: Germany declared war on the Japanese Big Four with this all-new in-line-four, liter-class sportbike, which makes 190 horsepower and uses sophisticated electronics to adjust power, ABS and traction control.

Ducati Multistrada 1200: And Italy lobbed a salvo across BMW’s bow with this radical make-over of Ducati’s venerable Multistrada, which also offers high-zoot electronics to switch between four modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro.

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited­: The new top hog in Harley’s non-CVO touring line—the Ultra Limited—rides on the all-new FL chassis, is powered by a 103ci V-twin (vs. the standard 96) and has a wish list of extras.

Honda Fury: Big Red surprised everyone when it unveiled a chopper in early 2009. Radical-looking but easy-riding, the VT1300 platform also begat Honda’s new Sabre, Stateline and Interstate models.

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Honda NT700V/ABS: Filling the middleweight sport-touring void left by the VFR800 Interceptor, the NT700V with integrated hard saddlebags has been a favorite in Europe for over a decade, known there as the Deauville.

Kawasaki Concours 14: Our 2008 MOTY was updated and improved for 2010, with a new fairing that better dissipates heat, a bigger windscreen, a fuel-economy mode and traction control (on ABS models).

Kawasaki Z1000: After a year-long hiatus, Kawi’s radical streetfighter returned for 2010 with an even wilder look, a bigger engine and sharper chassis and suspension. This sit-up sportbike is heart-attack serious.

KTM 990 Supermoto T: Touring and supermoto may seem odd, but KTM has blended the essential sporting elements—light weight, exciting motor and great chassis, suspension and brakes—with all-day comfort and bags.

Triumph Thunderbird: The Brits bucked tradition and built a 1,600cc parallel-twin cruiser that is one of the most comfortable, best handling, strongest braking, slickest shifting cruisers we’ve ever ridden.

Victory Cross Roads/Country: With a powerful 106ci V-twin engine, plenty of comfort and great handling, Victory’s Cross bikes add two new, tasty flavors to the touring cruiser menu. Another American civil war?

And the 2010 motorcycle of the year winner is…

2010 Honda VFR1200F
2010 Honda VFR1200F

Honda VFR1200F
Rider’s MOTY award is presented to an all-new or significantly changed motorcycle designated with the current model year. Every one of our contenders has a viable shot at the title, but one stands out for its singular contribution to motorcycling history. Although the BMW S 1000 RR and Ducati Multistrada 1200 have raised the bar of technology, both represent an evolution of programmability we’ve seen on other bikes in recent years. A paradigm shift occurred with the introduction of Honda’s VFR1200F, our 2010 MOTY winner.

The VFR’s DNA goes back two decades, to Honda’s earliest V4 racing engines, and continuing through a model line that set new standards for performance, handling and refinement and won countless awards, not to mention a cult following. For 2010, Honda’s clean-sheet design integrated the very best of its MotoGP and MX racing technology to build a much more powerful and fuel-efficient, yet lighter and more compact, V4 engine than its predecessor. But Honda’s trump card is the optional dual-clutch transmission (DCT), a first on a motorcycle. Available on some high-end sports cars, DCTs provide silky smooth, split-second shifts, and Honda’s does so in two automatic modes (Drive or Sport) or manually with a trigger shifter—no clutch lever, no shift lever. All this on a genteel sportbike equipped with shaft drive, ABS, optional hard luggage, and exquisite fit and finish. We based our selection on riding the DCT-equipped VFR at its intro in Japan and our full road test of the standard model, which has a six-speed transmission with slipper clutch. Look for a full test of the DCT model in an upcoming issue. Our congratulations to Honda for the VFR1200F, Rider’s 2010 Motorcycle of the Year.

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