WORDS: Tim Carrithers
Things have changed. Anyone with a garage full of internal-combustion mouths to feed-or a mortgage on the roof over their 16-valve heads-knows that. The latest motorcycles have changed as well, but not as much as the way we look at them. Once upon a time, maybe a year ago, going for a ride was a way to plug your neural USB connection into something above and beyond the pressing realities on the home front. An escape, if you will, though we won't.
But with the economy in the tank and fuel prices way over the top, motorcycles are beginning to look less like a way to outrun those outrageous fortunes and more like a rational way of dealing with them. That whole discussion put a different spin on our inter-office Motorcycle of the Year polling for 2008. As much as some of us like to avoid the P-word, practicality looms larger here than it ever has, and it's rising up everybody's list of reasons for riding, whether you like it or not.
The wallet-wrenching realities of '08 exert more influence on The Big Picture and our Motorcycle of the Year choice than on the category awards recognizing the other eight best bikes in their respective classes. The best sportbike is exactly that. Parsimony, in this case, gets pushed downstream by more pertinent factors. Impertinence, for instance.
We've also singled out the best gear and the best new technology that make this whole thing easier, safer and a little more fun, along with the annual Greg McQuide Memorial Trophy for the motorcyclist who best embodies the unquenchable enthusiasm of its namesake. Maybe you'll agree with our picks and maybe you won't, but one thing seems fairly certain: You'll see things just a little differently afterward.