Some people ride motorcycles because they think it makes them look tough. Not really my thing, but fine. These days, the image of the motorcyclist as outsider and rabble rouser persists, but mostly on television. Most people don’t associate riding a motorcycle with that tough guy image anymore. It’s more likely they associate motorcyclists with their elementary school art teacher who rides his Honda Shadow on poker runs to support the local firehouse, or the retired couple next door who go to Daytona every March on their Gold Wing. Not real Brando stuff here.
To be clear, if you roll into town on your beat-up Yamaha R6 with open pipes, you don’t look tough. If you show up to Applebee’s on a metalflake orange Harley-Davidson CVO in a cutoff shirt, you don’t look tough. If you wear one of those skull masks over your face but are also wearing dad jeans, you don’t look tough.
So even if you’re an actual badass (bank robber? Renegade trucker? Arsonist?), you’ll have to go the extra mile to be believable. We’re talking blacked-out bike and actual horsepower. If your motorcycle has a kickstarter, a hand shifter, or a massive two-stroke engine, even better. But for the badass whose recent hip replacement precludes kicking an old shovelhead to life, or who doesn’t have time in his/her busy schedule (the kids have soccer practice, you know) to fine-tune the jetting on the old CR500, here’s a list of new badass bikes that can be purchased off the showroom floor—with a stack of counterfeit bills, obviously.
The Ducati XDiavel is less for the ripped-jeans and brass knuckles kind of badass and more for the fastidiously dressed, probably-has-suits-tailored-to-conceal-a-9mm kind of badass. More of a cyber crimes/international assassin kind of person. The XDiavel is sleek and low-slung, but it’s a Ducati, so its engine is derived from a superbike. And Öhlins makes its suspension (on the S model. You’ll want to get the S model). It looks the part and is the part.
KTM 1290 Super Duke R
It’s well-known that the KTM 1290 Super Duke R’s LC8 motor is one of the best engines ever put between two wheels. Never been one for wheelies? That’ll change on the Super Duke. Never tried a rolling burnout? Ride a Super Duke and you will. While other bikes _look_badass, the KTM _is_badass. It’ll turn even the most conservative, play-it-safe rider into a hooligan. The 177 hp (claimed) can’t be all wrong. And if loving it is wrong, well… You know the rest.
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
Like the Super Duke, the Aprilia’s performance makes it badass. You can posture all you want on some vintage chopper, but performance calls your bluff. Big horsepower, high-tech electronics, and a race-bred chassis are more badass than anything else. Who’s more badass: Al Capone or the guy with the neck tattoo who held up the local 7-Eleven? The Tuono is Capone.
2019 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
For the traditionalist (or dilettante), I’d be remiss to not include a Harley-Davidson on this list. The 2019 Softail Slim reflects a classic conception of delinquency. If you’ve gotta have an H-D, the blacked-out bobber is the way to go. No need to do a quick Rust-Oleum job on this one either. The stealth look comes straight from the factory. And that Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine is a torquey thing that should be good for evading cops or rival gangs or whatever. The Hollywood handlebar also makes a convenient perch for strapping one’s sawed-off shotgun.
Kawasaki Ninja H2R
With north of 300 hp, the Kawasaki H2R is the most badass motorcycle on the planet. Its supercharged inline-four engine delivers speed like no other production motorcycle. Also, it isn’t street legal, so if you see someone pull next to you on one of these, you’ll know they’ve got some real chutzpah. Don’t be fooled by its H2 sibling with a “mere” 200 hp. The R has it.