In our May issue—a whopping 156-page mailbox-filler, our largest in 30 years—we listed 32 all-new or significantly changed 2011 model-year motorcycles eligible for consideration as Rider’s 2011 Motorcycle of the Year. Of the 11 manufacturers represented, Triumph made the largest contribution to the field, with six additions/upgrades to its lineup. Harley-Davidson added five, Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki chipped in three apiece, Honda and Moto Guzzi rolled out a pair each, and Star and Yamaha one per, though they’re really the same company.
Two models that didn’t make our March 30 deadline for last year’s contest—the BMW R 1200 GS/Adventure and BMW R 1200 RT —were added to the 2011 roster. Three 2011 models that we haven’t sampled—the BMW G 650 GS, BMW R 1200 R and Honda CB1000R—got bumped to next year. And the painstakingly observant among you have no doubt noticed we’ve ridden some impressive early release 2012 models—namely, the BMW K 1600 GT/GTL, Honda Gold Wing and Yamaha Super Ténéré. But they aren’t eligible for this year’s contest due to our rigorous and inflexible model-year rules. Those bikes have set the bar for 2012 pretty high, and we’re excited to see what the other OEMs come up with this year in pursuit of Rider’s 2012 Holy Grail.
Variety being the spice of life, our scientific taste test of nearly three dozen motorcycles from five countries on three continents ran the gamut, from hot and spicy to sweet and sticky, even salty and stale. We donned our bibs, sharpened our knives and tucked into a smorgasbord full of twins, triples, in-line fours and sixes, and a solitary single, with displacements ranging from 250cc to 1,700cc, to identify the tastiest contenders and one lip-smackin’, grin-makin’ 2011 Motorcycle of the Year. Bon appetit!
BMW F 800 R (March 2011): With aggressive, angular styling adapted from the K 1300 R, the sporty, unfaired F 800 R is a gentleman’s streetfighter, the fifth model to be powered by BMW’s torquey 798cc parallel twin.
Ducati Diavel (May 2011): Not since the Star Vmax has a power cruiser been this fast and cornered this well. Powered by the same 1,198cc Testastretta 11° engine as the Multistrada, the demonic Diavel must be seen and experienced to be believed.
Harley-Davidson SuperLow (November 2010): With a low seat height (25.5 inches) and a low price (starting at $7,999), the 883cc, fuel-injected Sportster XL883L makes air-cooled, V-twin torque available to all with trademark Milwaukee style.
Honda CBR250R (May 2011): With one cylinder sliced off a CBR1000RR and styling cribbed from the VFR1200F, Honda’s all-new quarter-liter thumper is sporty, torquey and cheap ($3,999, add $500 for Combined ABS).
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (February 2011): A close cousin of the nekkid Z1000, the Ninja 1000 adds a fairing, adjustable windscreen, more comfortable ergonomics and an extra gallon of fuel capacity for just $400 more.
Star Stryker (January 2011): Easier to manage than the larger Star Raider and a direct competitor of the Honda Fury, the 1,304cc Stryker is a stylish, comfortable middle-heavyweight chopper that doesn’t mind going around a corner.
Suzuki GSX1250FA (June 2011): The air-cooled Bandit 1200 evolved into the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected GSX1250S, which spawned the GSX1250FA, a straightforward, no-nonsense sport tourer with a full fairing and standard ABS.
Yamaha FZ8 (April 2011): Derived from the R1 and FZ1, the 779cc FZ8 is a fun, fast, affordable middleweight sport standard.
And the winner is…
2011 Triumph Tiger 800XC photo by Alessio Barbanti
Triumph Tiger 800 & 800XC!
Rider’s MOTY award is presented to an all-new or significantly changed motorcycle for the current model year. Channeling the warm fuzzies of grade-school guidance counselors, we’d declare them all winners, each one worthy of honor and a gold star. But all motorcycles are not created equal. Some are better looking than others. Some are faster, have cooler technology or are appointed with more impressive features. And still others mark significant turning points in the progress of motorized two-wheeled conveyance.
It has been 21 years since Triumph Motorcycles reinvented itself, emerging from the Dark Ages of the British motorcycle industry under the auspices of John Bloor’s vision and funding. In that short span of time, Triumph has built many great motorcycles, including the Speed Triple, Sprint ST and GT, Daytona 675, Thunderbird and the Tiger 1050, winner of Rider’s MOTY award in 2007. Triumph not only had more new or upgraded models in contention for 2011, it had the best. The all-new Tiger 800 and Tiger 800XC exemplify the practical, comfortable, go-anywhere-do-anything spirit of the growing adventure touring segment. Powered by a smooth, powerful 799cc in-line triple derived from the Daytona 675, these bikes provide complementary answers to the adventure touring question: a street-oriented model with cast wheels (19-inch front, 17-inch rear) and a taller dual-sport model with spoked wheels (21-inch front, 17-inch rear), more suspension travel, beefier fork and handguards. They look good, handle well, are reasonably priced and can be accessorized for any adventure. Our congratulations to Triumph for the Tiger 800/XC, Rider’s 2011 Motorcycle of the Year.