You hear it when you're stuck in traffic or halfway through some impenetrable presentation. A soothing voice--Sir John Gielgud, maybe--says you should be out riding instead. It might recommend riding what's in your garage. Or maybe something you want--Val Rossi's Yamaha M1, for instance. Either way, 2005 offers plenty of top-shelf machines to choose from, many of which are featured here in our annual look at the best bikes and products of the year. This year's section includes eight category awards along with our '05 Motorcyclist of the Year and the biggie--'05's Motorcycle of the Year.
Best SportbikeSuzuki GSX-R1000 Like the 2005 AMA Superbike chase, this contest was never what you'd call close. As the 200-plus-horsepower Yoshimura-built GSX-R1000 racer was flattening everything in its path on the racetrack, Suzuki's 162-horse over-the-counter version cleaned up in every relevant magazine comparison between Los Angeles and Lisbon. No other liter-class superbike is stronger. Nothing else is more agile, athletic or slot car-stable on tarmac. Meanwhile, the big GSX-R is at least as remarkable for the linear and usable way it dispenses all that muscle. If you can restrain your right wrist and deal with its uncompromisingly compact ergonomics, Suzuki's latest sporting flagship is a perfectly civil way to get to work or idle across town for a dozen Krispy Kremes--especially if you're in a hurry. Still, the only way to experience the GSX-R's real genius is on the racetrack. Tape up the lights, lever on some track-spec rubber and, if you've got the skills, this one will take you to a place no other motorcycle wearing a license plate can touch.
Alternative TakeKawasaki ZX-6RAs we proved last month, bigger isn't necessarily better. When the less-is-more bloc of the Editorial We wants to taste a little more of a sportbike's capabilities than sanity and the California Highway Patrol will allow on the GSX-R1000, it heads straight for the 636.
Best Adventure BikeBMW R1200GSAdventures shouldn't be limited to sub-Saharan Africa or the Kenai Peninsula. And on BMW's omnivorous GS, they aren't. For anyone with sufficient cash, vacation time and spousal indulgence, the most venturesome adaptation of the 1170cc boxer is happy to oblige. But it's just as happy on shorter, mundane missions. Rule out motocross and Superbike racing and there aren't many avenues in this two-wheeled world the GS isn't willing to explore if you are. Clip on the optional saddlebags and it's comfortable enough to take you from Newport Beach on the left coast to Newport, New Hampshire, on the right with ease. Amenities abound: heated grips, ABS and adjustable wind protection are just the beginning. No need to restrict yourself to pavement when that tasty shortcut beckons somewhere in Wisconsin. And since getting to some sort of gainful employment is a necessary evil for most adventurers, it's a good thing the GS is one of the most capable commuters on the planet. No other motorcycle on earth offers more motivation to take the long way home.
Alternative Take KTM 950 AdventureIn a certain state of arrested development, pavement is bad. Dirt is the only surface on which you can have any fun. If you find yourself there, KTM's relatively Spartan 950 Adventure is lighter and quicker when the blacktop runs out. It's no slouch on a twisty road, either.
Best Naked BikeTriumph Speed TripleSome argue Triumph's 1967 Bonneville started this whole naked-bike thing. There have been serious mutations to the DNA between '67 and '05, but the engine-and-wheels hooligan persona lives. Hinckley's latest 1050cc Triple is an eminently civilized brute--much stronger and, dare we say, civilized than the original T509 version. The fortified triple's extra thrust is part of what pushes it to the head of this year's naked pack. It's a whining, whirring, growling, shrieking symphony of internal combustion menace squelched to socially acceptable levels by a pair of chrome muffler cans wedged under the stubby seat. The new chassis is brilliant; so are those radial-mount front calipers and 320mm rotors. Imagine an open-class motocrosser in the city and you've pretty much nailed the Speed Triple experience. It's comfortable, but it's not a tourer. It's quick and quite agile, but impossible to mistake for a plastic-wrapped race replica. Thanks to those bug-eye headlights, it's impossible to confuse the Speed Triple with anything else. Maybe that's why we like it.
Alternative TakeAprilia TuonoOur factious faction insists three cylinders are one too many, and Italia--not Britannia--is the ancestral homeland of any meaningful naked romance. In that case, peel Aprilia's Mille and you have a Tuono: stout and quick, it's a jack-of-all-trades and master of some.
Best Touring BikeBMW R1200RTAside from an American Express Platinum card and clean underwear, touring is all about a comfortable ride that's howling good fun through the twisty bits. Therein lies the true beauty of BMW's new R1200RT. It balances the comfort and accoutrements that make 1000-mile days possible with unexpectedly athletic handling. The 2005 chassis is a big improvement over the old RT's, but this new 1170cc boxer seals the deal. It's smooth enough to cross Kansas with no trace of vibration-induced anesthesia and strong enough to whistle past slow-movers on steep mountain passes. Let gadget-heads and aficionados of the posh have no doubt, the new RT's luxury credentials are beyond reproach: heated grips, integral ABS-assisted brakes, an electrically adjustable windscreen, cruise control and commodious hard bags. Options? There's a trip computer, heated seat, electronically adjustable suspension and even a sensor that checks the oil while you ride. What more could the dedicated motorcycle touring enthusiast conceivably want?
Alternative TakeHonda Gold WingThe once and future king of luxury motorcycle travel has come a long way in 30 years on the road. Honda retired the old Winnebago Wing back in '01. With an 1832cc flat six in an aluminum-spar frame, the '05 version is the rolling definition of transcontinental opulence.