2009 Motorcycle of the Year

Cashing In The New Currency

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

Best Sportbike
Kawasaki ZX-6R

Best middleweight sportbike, anyway... Kawasaki's ZX-6R went from being the runt of the litter in '07 to the big dog at the park in '09, with alpha-dog styling and a bite to match. A comprehensive overhaul (including engine, chassis, suspension and bodywork) led to a massive 25-pound weight reduction and added power across the board. The all-new engine is seriously potent-especially in the midrange-making every corner exit feel like blast-off at Cape Canaveral. Silky-smooth throttle response and a buttery transmission make releasing all those ponies easier, and a race-ready slipper clutch, Showa's innovative Big Piston Fork and powerful Nissin brakes give the Ninja a distinct advantage on the racetrack. Take into account that, at $9799, it's the least expensive purebred in the pack and it's easy to see why the ZX-6R is our Sportbike of the Year.

Alternative Take
Ducati 1198

You can look at the new-for-'09 Ducati 1198 two ways: as a 100cc larger version of the acclaimed 1098, or as a mass-produced version of the 1198cc 1098R on which Troy Bayliss won the 2008 World Superbike Championship. Though the price went up $500 this year to $16,495, that's still less than a 999 cost in '03.

Best Naked Bike
Ducati Streetfighter

Score one more for the boys from Borgo Panigale. Ducati's sawed-off Streetfighter is the latest in a long line of stunners from the famous Italian motorworks, marrying true superbike performance with better-than-Monster ergonomics to produce the ultimate naked bike. There's nothing more we can say about the 1098cc V-twin, one of the most charismatic and satisfying engines ever inserted between two wheels. With chassis geometry carefully optimized to suit the unique demands of the naked architecture, and a seat that you actually want to sit on for more than a few minutes at a time, the Streetfighter sets a new standard for standards. For everyone out there who ever said they'd buy a Ducati superbike if only they weren't so bloody uncomfortable, well, that excuse just expired. Ducati might never sell another fully faired superbike to a street rider again.

Alternative Take
Harley-Davidson XR1200

Hallelujah! For decades, fans of Harley-Davidson's evergreen XR750 dirt-tracker have been begging for a street-going replica, but all they've ever gotten is an orange-and-black Sportster. Granted that's what the new XR1200 is as well, but it's a vastly improved Sportster, with a 90-horsepower engine featuring downdraft induction. Ironically, it took The Motor Company's European importers to make it happen.

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