Motorcycling today is a study in contrasts. (We cribbed that from an eighth-grade filmstrip on Brazil, in case you're wondering.) Okay, that's trite, but it is true. Over the last few weeks, as we gathered our editorial wits to look back on a year of new, not-so-new, and egregiously old hardware tossed into the miasma of retail sales and foisted upon us at press launches prominently featuring egg-salad sandwiches and Kirkland sodas, the bifurcation of the market has become clear. Power at the top, movement at the bottom, not much in between. Signs, as they say, of the times.
Low-cost motorcycles continued to do well in 2013. Early returns on Honda's latest round of high-value bikes suggest that Big Red hit the target with the CB500s and the CBR250R. Its new-think NC700X has also done fine, even as sales of hard-core sportbikes continue to languish. We hear rumors of even more machines coming our way that makers hope will balance on the razor-thin price/performance fulcrum. Those who predict such things are convinced that growth and credibility at the economy end of the scale makes up the best and most sustainable path to a full recovery for the motorcycle industry.
But high-end machines, usually from Europe, continue to find buyers with the affluence to make payments manageable or even unnecessary. In that category, perhaps none is growing as rapidly or as prominently as the adventure-touring (ADV) segment. These outsized "dirtbikes" have become the modern equivalent of "everybike," put to use as touring machines, errand runners, canyon-strafing toys, and even, dare we suggest this, off-road vehicles. What the Triumph Scrambler or DT-1 did for your fathers and grandfathers, the BMW GS is doing today. The Europeans own this segment now, but it won't be long before they have some competition.
Our Motorcycle of the Year, revealed with an easy and no-obligation flip of this page, reflects the strength of a relatively new market segment and highlights one manufacturer's final stage of gestation from purveyor of stodgy old machines for stodgy old riders to a technologically savvy world leader. Scattered among the pages that follow are even more standout motorcycles in categories as diverse as Best Touring Bike, Best Naked Bike, even Best Bang for the Buck, each making its own strong statement about both the state of the motorcycle market and the state of the art. We've also highlighted another Motorcyclist of the Year, remembering it's more than just machines making up this sport that we love. Even if motorcycling seems more divided than ever before, striking out in newer—and newly rediscovered—directions, we still each find our place in it. Spend some time in the next few pages and see where you find yours.