2009 Motorcycle of the Year

Cashing In The New Currency

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

Best Touring Bike
Kawasaki Concours 14

Maybe you absolutely have to get from the Santa Monica Pier to Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market overnight. Maybe it's the pure, twisted joy of covering 1137 miles in 17 hours. Either way, the Concours 14 is still an affordable version of Kawasaki's 186-mph 700 Series bullet train: infinitely easier to park, more fun through the twisty bits and it still corners on rails. Essentially a more comfortable ZX-14 with removable hard bags, optional ABS and adjustable wind protection, the Concours puts an honest 150 horsepower to the pavement with a shaft-drive system that keeps all that power from pushing the chassis around. That's muscle enough to dispatch slow-moving traffic in 2 seconds, or cover a quarter-mile in 10.52 at 130.5 mph. Either way, accurate fuel delivery equals seamless acceleration. And the Concours' slipper clutch makes your next corner entry just as smooth.

Alternative Take
Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide

The beauty of Harley's '09 'Glide is that it only looks the same. Beneath that timeless exterior, the Twin Cam 96 engine lives in a simpler steel frame that transforms road manners with more rigidity than its forefathers. The vibration-canceling rubber engine mounts and 2-1-2 exhaust are new. So are those 28-spoke wheels and 180mm Dunlop D407 rear tire.

Best Adventure Bike

After six months and 5000 miles, the smaller, simpler F800GS got around its bigger boxer brother. In the end, it happened on a nasty, rocky excuse for a trail that dives off the pavement in San Francisquito Canyon. Armed with a Rotax-built parallel-twin that refuses to stall, better front-end feel and enough dexterity for the tight bits, this one leaves the heavyweight champion behind. On the other side of the tach, there's enough thrust to reel in miles of 80-mph fire road. The 2/3-scale version of Munich's best-selling omnivore inhales the worst commute in L.A. without gagging, with a little weekend tour for dessert. All it asks in return is a gallon of mid-grade unleaded every 45-50 miles and a little chain lube. The $4000 you didn't spend on the R1200GS could finance a pretty nice expedition, which sounds like more fun than watching Ewan and Charlie on TV. Again.

Alternative Take
BMW R1200GS Adventure

What do you do with 530 pounds of XXL German eccentricity? Just about anything you'd like, really. BMW has sold more than a half-million copies of the big GS since 1980 for that simple reason. You'd really like six bikes in the garage but there's only room for one? This is the one.

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