Rider Magazine’s 2015 Motorcycle of the Year

Rider Magazine 2015 Motorcycle of the Year

In the April 2015 issue we listed 60 all-new or significantly changed 2015 model-year motorcycles eligible for consideration as Rider’s 2015 Motorcycle of the Year. After two years of democratic elections with our People’s Choice Motorcycle of the Year (Honda’s F6B topped the voting for 2013, and BMW’s R 1200 RT won for 2014), for our 26th annual award the Rider staff’s executive powers have been reinstated.

The size and diversity of the 2015 field is impressive, with anywhere from two to nine new or updated models from each of 14 manufacturers in six different countries. There are cruisers, sportbikes, standards, sport tourers, luxury tourers and adventure tourers. Retro bikes like the Ducati Scrambler and Yamaha SR400, and futuristic bikes like the Honda NM4 DCT ABS. Beginner bikes like Honda’s 28-horsepower CBR300R and CB300F, and expert-only bikes like Kawasaki’s 300-horsepower, supercharged Ninja H2R. Enough bikes to scratch pretty much any two-wheeled itch.

Because we limit eligibility to current-model-year motorcycles, early release 2016 models you’ve read about in the magazine—the Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally, BMW R 1200 RS and S 1000 XR, Indian Chief Dark Horse, Suzuki GSX-S1000/F/ABS and Victory Magnum X-1, for example—won’t be eligible until next year. And, due to manufacturer production timing, some models originally announced for 2015 got bumped to the 2016 model year.

Choosing the Motorcycle of the Year is a nail-biting, blood-pressure-elevating process. Motorcycles today are so good in so many ways that picking the best one overall is harder than ever. The winner is the motorcycle we believe succeeds best at its intent, stokes our passion for riding and joins the ranks of truly significant motorcycles. Performance, handling, comfort, value, reliability and practicality are all important criteria, but there are also less tangible qualities, like character and soul. When a bike has mojo, you feel it.

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Congratulations to all of the manufacturers for bringing this year’s bumper crop of bikes to market. We’ve whittled the list down to 10 contenders and one Motorcycle of the Year.

The Contenders…

BMW R 1200 R

2015 BMW R 1200 R
2015 BMW R 1200 R (Photo by Arnold Debus)

Read our 2015 BMW R 1200 R First Ride Review

Updates to the roadster include the liquid-cooled boxer twin, a new telescopic fork (to accommodate the radiator), a bevvy of standard and optional features (everything from riding modes to Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment) and fresh styling.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT/S

2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT S
2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT S (Photo by Milagro)

Read our 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT First Ride Review

New Desmodromic Variable Timing delivers power smoothly across the rev range and boosts output to 160 horsepower. A Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit enhances the comprehensive electronics package, and S models get Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo.

Ducati Scrambler

2015 Ducati Scrambler
2015 Ducati Scrambler (Photo by Milagro)

Read our 2015 Ducati Scrambler First Ride Review

Channeling the spirit of its Scramblers from the ’60s and ’70s, Ducati’s modern version is fun, affordable and powered by a feisty 803cc air-cooled L-twin. Choose from the standard Icon or three factory customs–Classic, Urban Enduro or Full Throttle.

Harley-Davidson Street XG500/XG750

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750
2015 Harley-Davidson Street XG750 (Photo by Brian J. Nelson)

Read our 2015 Harley-Davidson Street XG750 First Ride Review

In need of a new entry-level bike for its Riding Academy, Harley created the light, agile, easy-to-ride Street 500 and 750, powered by the liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder Revolution X 60-degree V-twin. They’re affordable, too, starting at $6,799.

Indian Scout

2015 Indian Scout
2015 Indian Scout (Photo by Brian J. Nelson)

Read our 2015 Indian Scout First Ride Review

A year after the debut of its impressive three-model Chief lineup, Indian launched the all-new Scout, a compact, muscular cruiser powered by a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve, 60-degree V-twin that makes 100 horsepower at the crank.

Kawasaki Vulcan S

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S
2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Read our 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S Road Test Review

One size fits all with Ergo-Fit, allowing buyers to choose from three footpeg positions, three seat shapes and two handlebars at no cost at time of purchase. This light, frisky cruiser runs the same parallel twin as the Versys 650.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure
2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure (Photo by Sebas Romero)

Read our 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure First Ride Review

KTM’s new-for-2014 1190 Adventure impressed us with its power, handling and world-first cornering ABS. The super-sized 1290 boosts power, increases fuel capacity and adds new electronics, semi-active suspension and lots of touring-ready features.

Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS

2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS
2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Read our 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS First Ride Review

We’ve had a soft spot for Suzuki’s light, nimble, bulletproof Wee-Strom since its 2004 debut. The new XT version adds spoked wheels that run tubeless tires, an ADV-chic beak, enormous aluminum side cases, engine guards and a touring windscreen.

Yamaha FJ-09

2015 Yamaha FJ-09
2015 Yamaha FJ-09 (Photo by Riles & Nelson)

Read our 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 First Ride Review

Based on the best-selling FZ-09, the FJ puts the same exciting in-line triple in a sport-touring package, with firmer suspension, a better seat, more legroom, a taller handlebar, a windscreen, standard ABS and TC, and optional saddlebags.

Yamaha FZ-07

2015 Yamaha FZ-07
2015 Yamaha FZ-07 (Photo by Riles & Nelson)

Read our 2015 Yamaha FZ-07 First Ride Review

Hoping to repeat the success of its FZ-09 triple, Yamaha’s FZ-07 is smaller, lighter and less expensive. Powered by a torquey 689cc parallel twin that makes 68 rear-wheel horsepower, it weighs less than 400 pounds wet and costs just $6,990.

And the winner is…

Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT (Photo by Kevin Wing)

When Kawasaki’s Versys 650 debuted for 2008, we didn’t know what to make of its unusual name (a mash-up of “versatile” and “system”) and quirky styling. But the Ninja 650-based machine’s back-road handling won us over, leaping through corners like an over-caffeinated gazelle. A liter-sized version based on the Ninja 1000 was launched for 2012, but only in Europe and Asia. Kawasaki thoroughly updated the Versys 650 and 1000 for 2015 (including all-new bodywork) and finally brought both to the U.S. It was worth the wait.

Read our 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT First Ride Review

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Part adventure bike, part sport tourer, the Versys 1000 LT is the best of both worlds. It’s tall enough for generous legroom and upright seating, comfortable enough for solo or two-up long hauling and powerful enough to satisfy our appetite for performance. Impeccably smooth with crisp throttle response and rheostat-like power delivery, its liquid-cooled 1,043cc in-line four sends 110 horsepower and 69 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel. And its stout twin-spar aluminum frame, compliant suspension and excellent Bridgestone Battlax T30 tires give the Versys terrific on-road manners. Factor in standard features such as ABS, traction control, an adjustable windscreen, hand guards, 28-liter saddlebags and a centerstand, all for $12,799, and the end result is an impressive, all-around touring motorcycle that lives up to the “versatility” in its name.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Read our 2015 Comparison Review: Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT vs
Suzuki V-Strom 1000 vs Yamaha FJ-09

The Versys 1000 LT beat the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS and Yamaha FJ-09 in our comparison test because it offered the best performance, comfort, wind protection, saddlebags and value. But what makes the Versys truly special is how easily it won the hearts and minds of everyone who rode it.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Our congratulations to Kawasaki for the Versys 1000 LT, Rider’s 2015 Motorcycle of the Year!

Read our 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT Long-Term Review

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT (Photo by Kevin Wing)

29 COMMENTS

  1. It’s great to see that “Value” is again part of the equation that makes up a great bike. While the Versys 1000 may not be the flashiest bike with the most wizbang gizmos, it appears to be a great basic all-round bike that just does what it does.

  2. Chain drive is a deal breaker for me.. I luv my fjr 1300..red..abs adj. Windscreen..heated grips..and most of all cruise control.. $13100 out the door..tax..title..incl.

  3. So the generic plastic insect wins over the Scout, which is one of the only genuinely new and interesting thing (besides electrics) to come along in years . . .

  4. I’m sorry, I’ve owned this bike since July 20th, 2015, with about 2000 miles on the bike and here are the things that I really dislike.

    Note: Unlike the professional reviewers for magazines, the rest of us purchase these bikes with our own money with the hope that we will have the bike for several years, often without having to spend additional money in replacing parts (seat, windshield, etc.).

    Also, I’ve been riding for more than 30 years and owned several other motorcycles before and this is the first time that I’ve been this disappointed with a bike. These are my previous bikes:
    1995 Triumph Trident 900, 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA, 1995 Honda CB1000 (with an aftermarket National Cycle windshield), 1992 Honda CB750 Nighthawk, 1987 Yamaha Radian, 1984 Honda CB400T, 1986 Zundapp 100, and 1968 Jawa 250.

    Here are the list of things that are REALLY wrong with this bike:

    1. The wind turbulence at highway speed is AWFUL. The front wheel seems to “lift” with any wind and makes the bike feel very unsafe. I’ve also filed a complaint with the NHTSA (NHTSA ID Number: 10749370)
    On the versys1000.com forum, riders have replaced the windshield with Givi, MRA, CalSci, and others with varying results. Sometimes, the same rider has purchased several of these windshields before finding one that works for them (this is mainly to reduce the wind turbulence). I do not have the time nor money to experiment like this.
    I can’t believe the review says that the wind protection is good. My 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA (the Bandit with the fairing) did a wonderful job of keeping wind away from me keeping the noise level low as well.

    2. The fuel gauge is not accurate – the 6 bars seem to have a mind of their own and the drop in the bars from 6 to 5 happens after about 100 miles or so. Again, others have suggested using the trip meter to get an estimate of the amount of fuel left. I’d rather have a broken analog watch which is accurate twice in a day. If you can’t get this to work correctly, just drop it from the display. I have ridden older motorcycles without a trip meter and, in those cases, I would use the odometer reading (remember the last three digits of the odometer reading) on refueling and use that to remember how much more miles I can get on the tank). But, this is 2015 and I expect better. 🙂

    3. Tingling of the hands after riding at highway speeds. Some riders have fixed this by adding bar risers. Apparently, the hand guards may be contributing to this and others have found a solution by adding electrical tape to the bar ends. The hand guards are standard on the 2015 Versys 1000 LT – this should have been noticed during the review.

    4. Excessive engine heat especially in areas where the ambient temperatures are 80F+. I live in California and do expect to be riding in temperatures in excess of 100F sometimes.

    -Siva Kumar

      • Hi Jim,
        See my reply below as well. Yes, I made a big mistake in selling the Bandit. It was a wonderful bike and didn’t have the issues that I’ve listed with the V1000. So, I may still buy it back (or buy a 2016 Bandit) … if I sell my V1000.

  5. I have owned the 2015 Versys 1000 now for 6 weeks. I have 43 years riding experience. The front end of this thing is unstable when subjected to even the slightest turbulence. At 70 mph, approaching a truck (worst case) from 100 yards away, the front starts moving left and right and feels like it is lifting, getting light. Even a small car does the same, to a lesser degree.I tried every adjustment, including preload, rebound and raising the forks 10 mm to put more weight on the front. Even changed windscreen to a Calscience shorty. NO IMPROVEMENT. The front never feels planted, connected to the road. Either the forks are crap or the aerodynamics are. Sorry I bought this bike.

    • I have had no problems concerning stability on this bike up to 130 mph and overtaking trucks…. it always feels planted! Well that’s my view anyway .

  6. At this price point you can upgrade the suspension and cure these problems. But not have the MOTY. That would be the KTM Super Adventure.

  7. Thanks Dale and Siva, your comments as owners are more to the point than the article. MOY Award ? Caught my attention. Rider’s Executive Staff powers of Jury Duty look sadly flawed when placed in context with Dale and Siva’s issues.. Perhaps “Rider” should give actual owners input in future Jury decisions. I won’t be buying this bike because of Siva and Dale’s experiences. Would also have enjoyed seeing Rider show the vote tally in sequence. What bike came in 2nd or 3rd ?

    • Hi Alexander, thanks for your comments. Unlike politicians, I will admit when I make a mistake and purchasing this bike *without* a test ride was mine. 🙂
      (I found out later that I could’ve gotten a test ride at another dealer – the Kawasaki website does give this info based on your zip code).

      On the forums, others have suggested that I just depend on the trip meter to get “estimate” of how how much fuel is left in the tank. As I had mentioned in my comments above, my 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA was accurate with the fuel gauge (or at least consistent).

      Likewise, with the wind turbulence. The excuse is that no windshield works for all riders (based on the height of riders). I recently rode a 2011 Ducati Multistrada with a similar-sized windshield (but cut differently) and it was SILENT. So, the “solution” is to experiment with different windshields until I get one that works.

  8. There is no perfect motorcycle.. no one size fits all that comes from the factory. All experienced riders know this.
    Your choice is an excellent one. I’ve gotten feedback from several riders who purchased this bike, both of very different physical dimensions, and their revue’s were both, ‘outstanding value, outstanding bike’. Nice to see that a well priced, comfortable, versatile bike not over loaded with the latest, greatest computer tech got the notice it deserves.

  9. Siva, I simply cant understand your comments. Most folk would comment on a bikes engine, comfort, reliability, running costs and other important factors. You complain about a screen!!!!!! Your right that other owners are prepared to try a different screen to see if they can improve the experience for them. Would you expect Kawasaki to fit a screen that was perfect for every size of human being in the world?. And the fuel gauge?, This bike has a fuel gauge, which due to the shape of the tank continues to read full until you have covered about 100 miles, and is then very accurate. You are not going to be out of fuel after 100 miles are you?., it also has 2 trip meters, and the meter flashes when you are running low. Most riders would know after 2 or 3 journeys that the bike will do, say 200 miles to a tank, so just use one of the trip meters to instantly tell you when you need fuel. How easy do you want it?. Let me tell you that I have done over 30,000 miles on this bike and it is a fantastic bit of kit. The engine is just a grunt monster, the bike handles well is very comfortable, and is fantastic value for money. I have also owned a 1250 Bandit, and whilst having no specific complaints about that bike, in my opinion it is light years behind the big Versys. The Kawasaki is the best value bike out there simple.

  10. I bought a 2015 Versys 1000 and love it.I have experienced non of the above happenings.My bike go’s stop’s turns in a way I feel totally safe I have had 62 mpg best 51 mpg worst. it is an all day comfortable bike.

  11. It is physically impossible for this bike to get the kind of mileage you describe. Impossible. If you believe the mileage meter you are a fool.
    It is also obvious that some of the crazy positive comment posted here came from plants by Kawasaki.
    I’ve owned this bike since July. I thought it was great the first week I owned it too, until I got it out on the highway at 70 – 75 mph and played in the traffic. I replaced the rear crapper shock with a Nitron, which improved the rear, but the front still is unstable. I’m sending the forks to a suspension specialist to gut them and turn them into what they should have been from the factory. Beware prospective buyer. Bike magazines make ALL their income from ads and articles that promote the sale of their product. You will never, ever see an honest or critical review, ever. I have had three different riders ride my Versys and they all have my opinion.

  12. George do you live in cuckoo land?. I can assure you that I am not a Kawasaki plant !!. I am just an owner that has ridden over 30,000 miles on this bike, and just cannot understand your comments. Steve’s remarks regarding fuel consumption are perfectly believable, I recently did a European tour (starting from England) we covered 2,700 miles with the bike fully loaded, including both side panniers, top box and tank bag. and the bike averaged 61 mpg for the trip. This bike won bike of the year on merit. It is quick enough for most, comfortable for both rider and pillion. Is totally reliable, and is easy to service.And in comparison to most bikes in this segment is fantastic value for money. And just for the record, the Versys 1000 has also had lots of very nice things said about it from bike papers and magazines in England.

  13. Anybody believing ANY 1000cc motorcycle can attain 61 mpg is delusional.
    And anybody stating they rode a 2015 model bike for 30,000 miles in less than a year is just lying.
    Read some of what’s said about not feeling safe riding this bike on the Brit versys 1000 forum.
    The only people who seem to be able to enjoy the suspension on this bike are lardasses who absolutely crush the suspension and ride around at 50 mph.
    I’ve been riding naked sport bikes since 1972 and I think I know what I’m feeling.
    Go ahead folks. Believe all this garbage. Buy one. Then the first day you own it, approach a truck from behind with the hardbags installed at about 70. Hang about 50 to 100 yards back. Enjoy yourself. See how long you can hang there.
    I’m done.

    • I was riding up to Hartside cafe the other week from the Teesside area it only managed 57 mpg I was devastated.. I like seeding other people’s comments and experiences.I am basing my mpg on actual fact .Whether your riding style is the same as mine I don’t know I can’t comment I can only say I love my bike I have no issues that you describe .Turbulence from an articulated HGV would affect any other vehicle.I drive HGV,s for a living doing about 90,000 miles a year for three decades .I tend to believe how many mpg my bike is doing when I go to the petrol forecourt and fill up.

    • There is no such thing as a perfect bike. Every motorcycle has a short coming. Turbulence behind a tractor trailer dynamically effects any vehicle that gets caught behind it. I’ve experienced it on motorcycles, my 325i and running code in a 3 ton ambulance. So does the weather, road conditions and what the road is made from. Riding motorcycles is inherently risky. Correctly adapting to changing situations is part of the the challenge. I just bought a used 2015 Versys 1000 last night. I traded in my 2010 Vulcan 900. I rode one of my favorite routes though the Texas in country in 90+ degree heat. I even got caught behind tractor trailer at 70 mph. The Versys is absolutely superior in power, handling and visibility than my old Vulcan which weighs about 100lbs more than the Versys. I have experienced fork lift on a variety of motorcycles over three decades of riding. It’s called lift. Airplanes use it to take off. Automotive and motorcycle engineers design vehicles that create a certain amount of down force to mitigate lift. I even road a few hundred yards of powerline on the Versys today. First day on this bike and it easily handled the way I expected it to and it was comfortable too. Last Wednesday I had arthroscopy on my left knee to remove bits of a damaged meniscus. I am still having a hard time with the stairs in my house. I rode my Versys today with little to no pain. Something about the riding position on my Vulcan created significant pain in that knee. I had a lot of fun on my Versys today. I intend to put a sh!tload of miles on it this year.

  14. Still love my Versys 1000 2015 model it runs great stops corners really well.I average mpg in the mid to high 50’s (uk Gallons) and have had 62 mpg.Allthough I do not ride Dogslow I ride mixed speed.Everything about the bike was just what I was looking for I am 59 years old and have been riding motorbikes since the age of 12. looking forward to 2016 biking season and many more happy miles on the big V

    • George my OVER 30,000 miles, actually 39,000 on this bike includes, 26,000 miles on the MK1 ( which the US never got) , and 13,000 thousand miles on the 015 MK2..
      Why are you so insistent that the mileage people say that they get from their bikes is wrong?. Why would people do that?. My bike did 61 mpg on a 2700 mile trip, and always does 57/59 mpg in normal use FACT.
      Funny that you should keep banging on about what people on the Brit 1000 Versys site are saying about the bike not liking turbulence, I think that if you look further EVERY single mention of it is from an American owner. And not one mention from anyone else WORLD WIDE. I would recommend anyone thinking of buying one, simply have a test ride and make your own mind up. I just love mine, the engine is an utter peach, it’s comfy, handles well, and is easy and cheap to service. And is fantastic value for money.

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