2008 Motorcycle Of The Year

Taking stock of a changing landscape

BEST TOURING BIKE

KAWASAKI CONCOURS 14
So you've got to get someplace faraway fast. You've got lots of options, but if your preferred means of transport is a single-track vehicle, none is better than the Kawasaki Concours 14. This second-generation Connie follows the same basic formula as its namesake: Take one Ninja sportbike, season with hard luggage, shaft drive and taller windscreen, simmer and serve. But where the original Concours was based on the original Ninja 1000, this new one is based on the mighty Ninja ZX-14. So it's powerful and fast, and thus eminently suited to devouring long expanses of asphalt at highly elevated rates of speed. Perhaps best of all, at $12,899 this Japanese bullet train is priced many thousands of dollars less than its predominantly European competition. If history repeats itself, it'll still be in Team Green's lineup in 2033.

Alternative Take

HONDA GOLD WING
Riding the Gold Wing alongside the other baggers in this issue's "Long Rangers" comparison reminded us of that old adage "competition improves the breed." Because as good as it is, without any real competition the GL1800 is resting on its laurels, long overdue for a redo. Two-liter, eight-cylinder automatic anyone?

BEST NAKED BIKE

SUZUKI B-KING
Not since Yamaha's first V-Max appeared 23 years ago have we seen a production motorcycle with as much raw attitude as Suzuki's radical B-King. From its gladiator-helmet headlight to its outsized, ray-gun exhaust jutting out the back, Suzuki's badass B-King is an extrovert's dream that looks ready to rear up on its fat, 200mm-wide Dunlop and devour the doddering Prius in front of it. Unlike so many overstyled and underpowered naked bikes, however, the B-King has the muscle to back up its bad-boy posture. A barely retuned version of the Hayabusa's hyper, 1340cc inline-four puts down 161 bhp and 97.9 lb.-ft. of torque---talk about naked aggression! Combining sci-fi styling with superbike stonk, and completing the creation with comfy ergos, capable suspension and strong, radial brakes, Suzuki tops the naked bike class. Long live the B-King!

Alternative Take

TRIUMPH STREET TRIPLE
The 1050cc Speed Triple, Triumph's original streetfighter, can be overpowering in its intended urban environ---like boxing in a phone booth. The smaller, livelier, 675cc Street Triple takes less time (and real estate) to reach its fun zone, making it more satisfying for urban warfare without sacrificing any of the attitude or visual impact of the original.

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