Top 10 Best 2015 Motorcycles - Ultimate MotorCycling
Ultimate MotorCycling Magazine Editor Don Williams chooses his Top 10 Motorcycles of 2015
With the 2016s showing up in full swing and the 2015 models disappearing from our fleet, it’s time to assess the 10 Best 2015 Motorcycles. This is an Editor’s Choice story, so it’s all about my preferences and which bikes work for me.
As you can see, I ride a wide range of motorcycles, and love every genre on two wheels. Some people specialize, but I have access to almost every motorcycle made, so why limit myself. Let me know what you think of the Editor’s Choice - 10 Best 2015 Motorcycles in the comments section. I look forward to interacting with you.
#1 Ducati Scrambler
This is a motorcycle that far exceeded my expectations. The way Ducati was marketing the Scrambler, it seemed like it would be a bland hipstercycle that would be fine for enticing the stretch-jeans crowd into riding. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as I welcome anyone to the sport who wants to ride, but I didn’t think it would be my bike. I was wrong, and the Ducati Scrambler is great fun, with a peppy engine (maybe too sporting for absolutely new riders) and much better handling that you’d imagine, especially with the knobby-ish tires. No matter what your level of experience and genre preference, the Ducati Scrambler will put a smile on your face.
#2 Suzuki GSX-S750
It may not have the most sophisticated chassis, and it lacks pretty much all the electronic bells and whistles I have grown to love (and sometimes rely on), but the Suzuki GSX-S750 is an absolute blast to ride. The inline-4 has lots of usable torque and the handling is nicely aggressive (turn-in is awesome), and the bike feels much lighter than its 470-pound curb weight. Like so many other bikes on this list, it works great in-town, as well as on twisty rural roads. Given that I live on the border between Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains, the GSX-S750 feels like it was made for me.
#3 KTM 1290 Super Adventure
A bike that makes me want to go on a road trip is my kind of motorcycle. Putting 1100 miles on the KTM 1290 Super Adventure in three days was a piece of cake, even when a chunk of that was making my way through San Francisco traffic in 100-degree summer heat. The fast, scenic rides on California 1 to the north and south made it worth it, and the 1290 Super Adventure can make congestion feel a bit less onerous. Fantastic handling, an enormous cargo capacity, and a motor out of the stunning 1290 Super Duke naked sport bike, and easily adjusted semi-active electronic suspension gives the big KTM plenty of performance in every situation. Plus, if I have to take it down a long dirt road, no problem. One of our test riders bought the 1290 Super Adventure, it was such a hit around UMC.
#4 Indian Scout
It didn’t take long for Indian to expand on its vintage appeal, and move into the 21st century with the Scout. This small liquid-cooled V-twin packs a punch and turns head wherever it goes. One of the most common questions I fielded was, “How much?” and the answer of $10,999 brought smiles. Still, the biggest smiles came from me when I was riding it. The performance is great--100 horses on tap--as is the handling (though keep a few bucks in reserve to upgrade the shocks). Indian did the Scout name proud with this unorthodox bike. UMC Contributor Mike Schulte liked it so much, he bought one.
#5 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
Calling this an adventure motorcycle is missing the mark- it’s clearly a sport-tourer, as I wouldn’t take this bike off-road for any sort of distance by choice. With fluid handling and the same superb motor I have enjoyed in the Z1000 and Ninja 1000, the Versys 1000 LT is a bike that is happy to take a trip at a leisurely speed, and step it up to a faster pace instantly. Excellent bags and good wind protection cement its position as a great tourer. One of the most interesting aspects of the Versys 1000 LT is that it is a great bike without resorting to extraordinary electronics to work well.
#6 Ducati Monster 821
As much fun as the Monster 1200 is, you can get into more than enough trouble on the 821. And you get to twist the throttle a lot harder along the way. The cliché that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow doesn’t really apply here, as the 821 is not a slow bike. Using a Testastretta 11° motor that puts out a healthy 112 horsepower (different modes allow you to pad it down), and a chassis with an aggressive rake of 24.3 degrees, the Monster 821 is much at home accelerating out of corners as it is diving through them. Technical wizardry from the Ducati Safety Pack increases confidence for me, making this a hugely fun canyon bike, as well as something cool to ride through urban areas with style.
#7 Yamaha YZ250FX
It has been eons since the Japanese offered a legitimate off-road (non-motocross) racer. The YZ250FX is based on the championship-winning YZ250F, with its front-induction EFI and rearward-tilted cylinder. I expected to prefer the easier going WR250F, which was also updated this year. Instead, I came to love the feistier YZ250FX and its ability and willingness to go exactly where it’s pointed. With a light throttle hand, it’s a pussycat; twist the right grip hard and it’s a blue panther. Associate Editor Jess McKinley successfully raced this bike in enduros. I might have to give that a try in 2016.
#8 BMW R1200R
After years of sticking with an air-cooled motor and odd suspension, BMW has gone back to basics while forging ahead. Taking the 125 horsepower liquid-cooled motor from the GS and RT, and then putting it in a chassis with inverted forks. I greatly enjoyed the power and predictable handling of the R 1200 R, especially with the Dynamic ESA and Shift Assistant Pro. There are few motorcycles more comfortable for all-day rides, be they in the crowded city or open rural runs--just be sure to get the Premium Package.
#9 Yamaha FZ-07
Sometimes light and agile is all you want and need, with power taking a back seat, and the FZ-07 fits that bill perfectly. Hitting the scales at under 400 pounds, the parallel twin is immensely fun in the city and canyons. The real-world performance is fine, and you can go more than fast enough to get a ticket in short order. The Crossplane Concept motor is torquey rather than a screamer, so it takes little effort to go fast, as there’s power always on tap. At less than $7k, this is almost an impulse purchase and simply a fun bike to have in the garage. Managing Editor Kelly Callan loved it for commuting.
#10 Harley-Davidson Low Rider
After a bit of an absence from the Dyna lineup, the classic Low Rider is back. There’s nothing I can point out that makes the bike stand out in an obvious way. Instead, I can only tell you that the ergonomics are perfect for cruising around town, and the appearance of the bike elicits plenty of approving nods from passers by. As a bonus the comeback of the Low Rider is accompanied by the flawless Twin Cam 103 powerplant, which means nearly 100 ft/lbs of torque at my disposal. A pair of disc brakes on the front beckons me to push it in the canyons, but the Low Rider is really about low and slow. Though, the reality is, I don’t always ride it slow, so the handling and braking is appreciated. The Harley-Davidson Low Rider is a pluperfect cruiser that defines the genre.
10 Best 2015 Motorcycles - Honorable Mentions
Honorable non-ridden mentions: Although I rode dozens of 2015s, there were a few that escaped me. Only Ultimate MotorCycling Founder and President Arthur Coldwells rode the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and Yamaha YZF-R1M, so they can’t make my list, though he was quite impressed with both. Ducati never managed to get the new Multistrada 1200 S into our hands, despite many requests, so I really can’t tell you if it’s a significant improvement over the previous version or not. This is a bit strange, given the demographics of our audience, but we’re still waiting.