Rider Magazine’s 2012 Motorcycle of the Year

Our 23rd Annual Award!

The chilly “New Economy” seems to be thawing slightly at this writing, but it’s been a challenging 12 months since Rider last presented its Motorcycle of the Year award. Any new bike introduced into this fiercely competitive environment has got to be a solid hit, drawing in plenty of enthusiasts with the combined promise of excitement, performance and affordability, while still bringing a profit to the manufacturer, distributors and dealers. Nevertheless 13 manufacturers stepped up for 2012 with more than 30 new motorcycles—by our count even more than last year!

Picking one of those bikes for our top honor is never an easy task. As always Rider chose its Motorcycle of the Year from the list of all-new or significantly changed bikes, this year those designated 2012 models, many of which are featured in The Contenders section that starts below. The winner is the one motorcycle we think succeeds best at its intent and lengthens the list of history’s truly significant motorcycles. Rather than a single overriding theme to the group of new machines, this year, the manufacturers seemed to go their own ways to win customers, pushing the envelope in the areas of performance (e.g. Ducati 1199 Panigale), practicality (Honda NC700X), affordability (Harley Softail Slim) and luxury (BMW K 1600 GTL), even factory specials (Star Raider SCL).

Any previous-year models that didn’t reach us for road testing in time for last year’s awards were included in the current year’s judging. Due to manufacturer test bike and production timing some 2012s (the Honda NC700X, for example) may not have reached us by our deadline of March 30, 2012, in order for us to ride and consider them, in which case we’ll put them up against next year’s contenders. And though we may have already ridden several early release 2013 models that could reach dealers before the end of this year—the Victory Judge and BMW C 650 GT maxi scooter, for example—since they’re not 2012 models they’re not eligible for this year’s deliberations. More grist for the mill next year!

We have to say that one exceptional new model made our choice a little bit easier this year. Congratulations to our winner and all of the contenders—you made 2012 special indeed!

The Contenders

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And the winner is…

2012 BMW K 1600 GTL
2012 BMW K 1600 GTL

More than 30 new motorcycle models were introduced in the U.S. for 2012, but any way you look at it, this is the year of the K 1600. History will look back upon both the BMW K 1600 GTL and GT as ground-breaking machines in the luxury and sport-touring motorcycle segments. They share an in-line 6-cylinder engine that out-guns anything in either class, and have unique features that are right out of the future, like a dynamic-leveling Xenon headlight and fingertip-close Multi-Controller for scrolling through the many menu-accessed functions.

Here at Rider we feel that—so far—the K 1600 platform makes the most sense parked under the GTL luxury tourer’s standard equipment. Stacked against its luxo competition, the GTL offers less weight, more power and load capacity, and if the owner of one wants more of a sport-touring experience, the top trunk is easily removed (and it fits and is offered as an accessory for the GT). Comfort is equal to or better than anything in the luxury-touring class (although the stock seat needs a rethink), and the GTL steers, stops and handles like it weighs even less than its 776 pounds ready-to-ride.

Rider magazine is far from alone in picking the 2012 BMW K 1600 GTL for its top honor. Thanks to the GT and GTL’s early introduction in February 2011 in South Africa (Rider, May 2011), both have been racking up countless awards from publications all over the world for more than a year. The bikes are so good, some pundits even based their decision solely on the preproduction bikes at the introduction. Both common sense and our MOTY rules wouldn’t allow that, but we have to admit to digging out the ol’ bylaws and having some in-depth discussions about them as soon as we all got back to the office after South Africa….

Congratulations to BMW for the K 1600 GTL, winner of Rider’s 2012 Motorcycle of the Year award!

(This article was published in the July 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)


  1. You forgot the Honda NC700X! This bike cost $6,999 and gets anywhere from 50- 90 mpg US depending how its ridden.
    It is the reason I bought new instead on used. There will be more people by the NCX than any other bike for getting to a from work, than your $25,000 -$40,000 bikes. This bike will be like the old Volkswagen that is made for common folk .Not everyone is trying to keep up with the Jone’s. The NCX is a winner and I’m tickled I pick it over the Strom. My best mpg has been 83.6 mpg US and I know I can beat that.
    Lets see the BMW do that!


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