2009 Motorcycle of the Year

Cashing In The New Currency

By: Aaron Frank, Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Best Cruiser
Star V-MAX

It's somewhere between affliction and obsession. Turn a red light green and some of us-we know who we are, and so does the DMV-devour the next city block, freeway on-ramp or quarter-mile, leaving a trail of smoking rubber to punctuate the moment. Yamaha understands, which is why it builds the Star V-Max. There are quicker ways to cover 1320 feet of pavement on two wheels, but there's nothing like the 110 lb.-ft. kick in the tighty-whiteys from this 1679cc V-four. Unlike your average chrome-plated tribute to the swing era, Mr. Max isn't afraid of showing a little high-tech skin: fly-by-wire throttle, variable-length intake stacks, die-cast aluminum frame ... you get the idea. Technology cured 'Max's chronic cornering anxiety as well, elevating him to the top of the Saturday-night food chain. But omnipotence begets benevolence. So go ahead and look. You can't touch this.

Alternative Take
Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle

Muscle. The name isn't subtle. Neither is the look or the sound. They're perfect. Hence last summer's coming-out party for the latest liquid-cooled twin-cam Revolution twin at the Infineon Raceway drag strip in northern California. If 105 horsepower doesn't sound like much, pull the trigger on this herd and get back to us.

Best Dirtbike
Husaberg FE450

For years, sportbikes have used stacked transmissions to shorten the length of their engines from front to back. Now, Husaberg has come up with something even more unconventional. The Swedish engineers flip-flopped the crankshaft and tranny, so the former is now on top of the latter, with the cylinder jutting forward at a near-horizontal angle. This orientation positions the heavy crank smack-dab at the bike's center of gravity, so it has less effect on roll, pitch and yaw-and in turn, handling. The most common remark heard from test riders was how much the four-stroke single (which is also offered in a 575cc version) handles like a much lighter two-stroke. As bizarre as this configuration seems now, we'll probably see more like it in the future, because recent Kawasaki patent drawings depict sport, dirt and ATV engines that are surprisingly similar.

Alternative Take
Honda CRF450R

"Supercross Superbike" we called the 2009 Honda CRF450R in our First Ride, and that's a fitting description. Where motocross bikes are usually only slightly changed from year to year, Honda pulled out all the stops, giving its off-road flagship fuel injection and an all-new chassis that epitomizes the concept of mass centralization.

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