2005 Motorcycle Of The Year Nominees

BMW K1200R, BMW K1200S, Ducati 999R, Honda CBR600RR, Harley-Davidson Street Rod, Kawasaki Z750S, Kawasaki ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Triumph Speed Triple, Triumph Sprint ST, Victory Hammer, Yamaha YZF-R6

You hear it when you're stuck in traffic or halfway through some impenetrable presentation. A soothing voice--Sir John Gielgud, maybe--says you should be out riding instead. It might recommend riding what's in your garage. Or maybe something you want--Val Rossi's Yamaha M1, for instance. Either way, 2005 offers plenty of top-shelf machines to choose from, many of which are featured here in our annual look at the best bikes and products of the year. This year's section includes eight category awards along with our '05 Motorcyclist of the Year and the biggie--'05's Motorcycle of the Year.

Best SportbikeSuzuki GSX-R1000 Like the 2005 AMA Superbike chase, this contest was never what you'd call close. As the 200-plus-horsepower Yoshimura-built GSX-R1000 racer was flattening everything in its path on the racetrack, Suzuki's 162-horse over-the-counter version cleaned up in every relevant magazine comparison between Los Angeles and Lisbon. No other liter-class superbike is stronger. Nothing else is more agile, athletic or slot car-stable on tarmac. Meanwhile, the big GSX-R is at least as remarkable for the linear and usable way it dispenses all that muscle. If you can restrain your right wrist and deal with its uncompromisingly compact ergonomics, Suzuki's latest sporting flagship is a perfectly civil way to get to work or idle across town for a dozen Krispy Kremes--especially if you're in a hurry. Still, the only way to experience the GSX-R's real genius is on the racetrack. Tape up the lights, lever on some track-spec rubber and, if you've got the skills, this one will take you to a place no other motorcycle wearing a license plate can touch.

Alternative TakeKawasaki ZX-6RAs we proved last month, bigger isn't necessarily better. When the less-is-more bloc of the Editorial We wants to taste a little more of a sportbike's capabilities than sanity and the California Highway Patrol will allow on the GSX-R1000, it heads straight for the 636.

Best Adventure BikeBMW R1200GSAdventures shouldn't be limited to sub-Saharan Africa or the Kenai Peninsula. And on BMW's omnivorous GS, they aren't. For anyone with sufficient cash, vacation time and spousal indulgence, the most venturesome adaptation of the 1170cc boxer is happy to oblige. But it's just as happy on shorter, mundane missions. Rule out motocross and Superbike racing and there aren't many avenues in this two-wheeled world the GS isn't willing to explore if you are. Clip on the optional saddlebags and it's comfortable enough to take you from Newport Beach on the left coast to Newport, New Hampshire, on the right with ease. Amenities abound: heated grips, ABS and adjustable wind protection are just the beginning. No need to restrict yourself to pavement when that tasty shortcut beckons somewhere in Wisconsin. And since getting to some sort of gainful employment is a necessary evil for most adventurers, it's a good thing the GS is one of the most capable commuters on the planet. No other motorcycle on earth offers more motivation to take the long way home.

**Alternative Take **KTM 950 AdventureIn a certain state of arrested development, pavement is bad. Dirt is the only surface on which you can have any fun. If you find yourself there, KTM's relatively Spartan 950 Adventure is lighter and quicker when the blacktop runs out. It's no slouch on a twisty road, either.

Best Naked BikeTriumph Speed TripleSome argue Triumph's 1967 Bonneville started this whole naked-bike thing. There have been serious mutations to the DNA between '67 and '05, but the engine-and-wheels hooligan persona lives. Hinckley's latest 1050cc Triple is an eminently civilized brute--much stronger and, dare we say, civilized than the original T509 version. The fortified triple's extra thrust is part of what pushes it to the head of this year's naked pack. It's a whining, whirring, growling, shrieking symphony of internal combustion menace squelched to socially acceptable levels by a pair of chrome muffler cans wedged under the stubby seat. The new chassis is brilliant; so are those radial-mount front calipers and 320mm rotors. Imagine an open-class motocrosser in the city and you've pretty much nailed the Speed Triple experience. It's comfortable, but it's not a tourer. It's quick and quite agile, but impossible to mistake for a plastic-wrapped race replica. Thanks to those bug-eye headlights, it's impossible to confuse the Speed Triple with anything else. Maybe that's why we like it.

Alternative TakeAprilia TuonoOur factious faction insists three cylinders are one too many, and Italia--not Britannia--is the ancestral homeland of any meaningful naked romance. In that case, peel Aprilia's Mille and you have a Tuono: stout and quick, it's a jack-of-all-trades and master of some.

Best Touring BikeBMW R1200RTAside from an American Express Platinum card and clean underwear, touring is all about a comfortable ride that's howling good fun through the twisty bits. Therein lies the true beauty of BMW's new R1200RT. It balances the comfort and accoutrements that make 1000-mile days possible with unexpectedly athletic handling. The 2005 chassis is a big improvement over the old RT's, but this new 1170cc boxer seals the deal. It's smooth enough to cross Kansas with no trace of vibration-induced anesthesia and strong enough to whistle past slow-movers on steep mountain passes. Let gadget-heads and aficionados of the posh have no doubt, the new RT's luxury credentials are beyond reproach: heated grips, integral ABS-assisted brakes, an electrically adjustable windscreen, cruise control and commodious hard bags. Options? There's a trip computer, heated seat, electronically adjustable suspension and even a sensor that checks the oil while you ride. What more could the dedicated motorcycle touring enthusiast conceivably want?

Alternative TakeHonda Gold WingThe once and future king of luxury motorcycle travel has come a long way in 30 years on the road. Honda retired the old Winnebago Wing back in '01. With an 1832cc flat six in an aluminum-spar frame, the '05 version is the rolling definition of transcontinental opulence.

**Best Dream Bike **Ducati 999RThere are more dream bikes out there than sweaty pillows to dream of them on, but if you absolutely, positively have to blow little Billy's college money on a motorcycle, this is how to do it. It's closer to a real-deal FS05 Superbike than most humans outside the Ducati Corse race shop will ever get. Resplendent in curvaceous carbon-fiber bodywork, the 999R is motivated by the desmoquatro twin that sends 139 horses and 80 pound-feet of torque to the rear Michelin. That's more than any production twin Ducati's ever built--or we've tested. A 2005 GSX-R1000 makes 23 more ponies and weighs 9 pounds less. But once you've heard the X-rated soundtrack that comes from that muffler at 10,000 rpm, the only other facts that figure into the equation involve coming up with those 30 Gs. For fans of Borgo Panigale's handiwork--aka anyone with functional eyesight and a pulse--this is as good as it gets. At least until the Desmosedici MotoGP replica goes up for sale.

Alternative TakeHonda CBR1000RR Ten Kate EditionIf you're dreaming, why not dream a little bigger? If 999R Ducati's are as common as beige Toyota Camrys where you live, punch up an international line and order a CBR1000RR Ten Kate Edition from Gerrit and his band of mad Dutchmen. So it sets you back $35,559-plus ... Billy Jr. can get a scholarship.

Best Bang For The BuckKawasaki ZZR600Who knew Kawasaki jacked up the ZZR600 logo this year and slid a 2002 ZX-6R underneath? Along with nondescript Metallic Ocean Blue paint in place of the Ninja's Team Green livery, the ZZR wears a $7299 sticker price--$1400 less than a new ZX-6R. The ZZR can't quite match its racier brother's performance or tech-appeal. The 599cc four inhales through a quartet of 36mm Mikuni carburetors and weighs about 15 pounds more. This decommissioned Ninja won't win another 600 shootout. Do you care? Armed with a stout aluminum chassis, a ram-air-fortified engine that does serious business beyond 8000 rpm and six-piston front calipers, it's still miles ahead of any other bargain bike. Kawasaki's new Z750 is more comfortable and almost as good an all-arounder for $200 less. But vastly superior suspension, brakes and overall sporting competence put the little ZZR out front and keep it there. Here's another piece of welcome news for residents of the real world: Losing that Ninja badge should shave a few bucks off the ZZR's insurance premium. So unless you're out to impress somebody besides yourself, nothing in anyone's '05 lineup delivers more for our money.

Alternative TakeSuzuki SV650The SV650 has earned thousands of fans, evolving into a blue-chip sporting staple over the years. Commuter or track-day trainer? It weighs about the same as the ZZR and makes a lot less power. So what? For $5949, the fuel-injected 645cc V-twin lets you choose.

Best CruiserHarley-Davidson Street RodCruising isn't a purely linear activity. Any good cruiser is a motorcycle first. Not a 700-pound chrome chaise lounge. A cruiser should move when you twist that thing in your right hand. That's where the Street Rod comes in. This iteration of Harley's hottest engine lives up to its name in more ways than one. The Rod's 60-degree V-twin isn't really open for business until 5000 rpm--right where more traditional Harley-Davidson engines sign off. Peak torque arrives at 7000 rpm. At 1130cc, the liquid-cooled engine isn't as big as Milwaukee's Big Twins, but it's stronger. More importantly for those of us who like to go around corners, the motorcycle it lives in really seems to enjoy such things. The Street Rod's chassis is a much more functional piece than its revolutionary predecessor. With new steering geometry, suspension, brakes and a relative abundance of cornering clearance, The Motor Company's strongest has finally found a worthy home.

Alternative TakeYamaha Road Star WarriorNo less radical everywhere but the engine bay, Yamaha's Warrior is a double-bladed ax against Milwaukee's chainsaw Street Rod. Two 835cc cylinders take bigger whacks but fewer of 'em. It's plenty quick, carves corners as well as the Rod and does everything well.

Best New ProductCycle Cat UCS1 StandTo us, this letter sums it up pretty wellDear Cycle Cat:My boyfriend and I were skeptical about your new UCS1 stand. He uses a Pit Bull stand for his CBR1000RR, and while it's a great product, I can't for the life of me use it to pick up the back of my CBR600. You see, I'm not the strongest cookie in town. So we hopped in the car and found your new stand at a shop in Daytona--and I'll be darned! I was able to pop a CBR929RR onto the stand in a snap. I couldn't believe it! I played around with it last night in the garage, hoisting my CBR up and down over and over. Thank you, Cycle Cat, for allowing me the freedom to work on my bike whether my boyfriend is around to help me or not. Jessica Evers

After wrestling hundreds of motorcycles into the air with conventional bike stands, the Cycle Cat UCS1 (www.cyclecat.com) is a minor miracle. Just slide it under your bike's aft-end, line up those pins screwed into the swingarm, give the handle a shove and you're home. Reversing the process returns everything safely to the floor. For $195 ($295 for chrome), that's cheap peace of mind.

Alternative TakeLoJack for motorcyclesSomebody swiped your bike? If you spent $595 for a LoJack for Motorcycles vehicle recovery system, you can relax. The police file a stolen vehicle report. A tiny hidden transceiver is activated. It leads them to your wheels in 24 hours or your money back. No LoJack? Maybe next time. www.lojack.com.