2011 Motorcycle of the Year | Kawasaki Ninja 1000

The Brightest Idea

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Jorge Nunez

We saw some of this coming. Anybody with a passing grade in Discernment 101 and basic information-gathering skills could have told you BMW was primed to fire a high-velocity bombshell at Honda’s Gold Wing. Nobody but Hendrik von Kuenheim and The Amazing Kreskin would have predicted a 1649cc, 160-horse straight-six with headlights that look around corners. Rumors of a revamped Triumph Tiger had been brewing longer than the perennial half-full pot of decaf in the Motorcyclist mess hall, but Hinckley’s 800cc triple turned out to be more outgoing than everybody but John Bloor expected it to be. If Ducati power-cruiser sounds like an oxymoron, the Diavel says otherwise.

Despite all that and more, new motorcycles aren’t exactly flying out of showrooms. Everyone but professional on-air/online pessimists figured the global economy should have made a more convincing comeback from the Great Implosion of ’08 by now. It’s three steps forward and two steps back too much of the time. Nobody was ready for the devastating earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan last March or the deadly tornadoes ripping through America’s heartland in April and May. Still, any card-carrying motorcycle-riding optimist knows one thing for sure: We ride right through this stuff. Sometimes we’re not sure how, but we do.

Give it some time to sink in and the biggest surprise of 2011 shouldn’t have been all that surprising after all. The simplest things pull us through life’s disasters, big and small, public and private, natural and manmade. So here’s one simpler truth we hold to be self-evident: Even when the things outside your helmet seem upside-down, inside-out, improbable, impossible, unpredictable or a little too dark, going for a ride lets you see things in a better light. This year, the best bike to do that on isn’t particularly complicated or expensive or dressed to impress anybody but you. It’s just the best.

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