Top 12 Picks of 2014 Motorcycledom
As the chill air moves in and 2014 comes to a close, I look back at what has been an astounding year for motorcycledom.
It marked further recovery in the industry, the explosion in naked and ADV entries and so much great hardware throughout. Technology has advanced rapidly in virtually every segment and manufacturers are playing their A-game while trying to develop product and pursue new generation riders.
Some are better than others but there isn’t a bad bike out there. The same goes for equipment. Motorcycle and related engineering have eliminated most of the guessing that was part of development in years gone by and the result is bikes that are an order of magnitude better than anything that has gone before.
Here are my informal categories and best-of picks for the year in fields crowded with excellence. Argue with my choices all you like but I could only pick one winner for each.
• Best Naked – BMW S1000R: Eschewing V-Twin grunt and the Siren’s song of the V-4, my choice is this new, do-all upright that has it all. Whether your ride is around town or dicing with the fastest guys you know, the S1000R has the chops. As the exhaust bubbles and crackles when rolling off the throttle I am reminded to never believe the pundits who say an inline four engine has no soul. This was a tough call to make.
• Best Race Replica – Aprilia RSV4 Factory aPRC ABS: Few bikes make me feel as at home when going fast as this specimen of grace and precision. The RSV4 Factory taunts you to more speed then covers your faults with its prodigious abilities. All accompanied by a soundtrack that goes straight to the heart of any motorhead. OK, another tough call.
• Best Cruiser – Honda Valkyrie: There are few amenities, no storage and little breakthrough technology yet the Valkyrie is a dreamy ride. Competition in this category is diverse and fierce but one ride is all it takes. It’s smooth as glass in a silken frame, fast, comfortable and looks amazing. Do not buy this bike if you don’t like meeting people.
• Best Tourer – BMW K1600GTL Exclusive: This machine may be too much for some. It may not be the right bike for running errands around town, either, but if your diet includes massive numbers of miles on every imaginable sort of paved road then this is your only choice. Portland to Pembroke Pines is no problem and the K1600GTL will run through the tight stuff like a sport bike. All this while offering every amenity known to mankind.
• Best Retro Roadster – BMW RnineT: This bike has a charming nature and good looks that elicit so many favorable comments from riders and gawkers alike. What’s even better is riding it. Whether you flog it with your friends in the canyons (yes, it will) or ride high, wide and handsome at 50 mph on your favorite byway, the RnineT will keep a smile on your face all day. Guaranteed. Also a great bike for making friends.
• Best ADV – Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS: We all know the big players in this segment. Their amazing bikes do it all and it would be easy to pick any one of them. The V-Strom is the perfect choice to do the same job if you don’t have the money and don’t care about specification comparisons. It will cruise easily all day at any speed and rails in the canyons. It takes care of its rider and asks little in return.
• Best Motorcycle Suit – Camaris Jacket and Ravero Pants by Held: I’ve tried many wonderful suits that run the gamut of protection from heat, cold, rain and any other element you want to throw against them. I chose this Held suit because I wear it more than any other and it looks good on almost any bike. Its liner can be worn over or under the garment for easy weather transitions. For most of the year here in California it’s about perfect.
• Best Motorcycle Jacket – Dainese Air Frazer Jacket: Summer in the city gets hot and a good mesh jacket is what the doctor ordered. The Air Frazer’s combination of leather, mesh, armor, fit, construction quality and good looks makes this a winner.
• Best Motorcycle Pants – BMW City 2 Pants: These are a perennial favorite that have been around for years and that’s because they fit well, have lots of pockets and are made right. There are no vents because the fabric allows enough airflow on the hottest days, yet they are good to the mid-50s when the mercury heads south.
• Best Motorcycle Helmet – Schuberth C3 Pro: It’s hard to beat quiet and comfort. I’ve had mine for over a year. Many other helmets have come and gone during that period. Most of them were fabulous but when I go for a spin and I’m not testing one I usually reach for the C3 Pro.
• Best Motorcycle Boots – Dainese TR Course Out Air Boots: This boot will take you from track to touring and I’ve done just that with them. They are super comfortable, well-proportioned and built, good looking and easy to don with their rear zipper. Another piece of kit I reach for more than most.
• Best Bluetooth Headset – Uclear HBC200: All the units we tested from many manufacturers had their strengths and weaknesses. I still like the Uclear for its Adaptive Beam Forming technology that eliminates the need to mount a microphone and build it into the earphones. It has all the features and music sounds pretty good.