Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling |
Motorcycle Commentary

On a personal level, 2017 was not good year for riding motorcycles. 

Due to a non-stop flow of surgeries to address some of my wife’s medical complications, my typical riding time was dramatically sliced. During the previous 10 years or so, I had sustained over 20,000 miles yearly across street, big-bike ADV, and track time. 

I was always proud of those numbers. As for 2017, I’m lucky if I even completed 5000 miles. Hell, it may be closer to 3000.

Motorcycles are always my outlet. Thankfully, I get to write about them daily, which basically keeps me in check with reality. This daily workflow exposes me to many different stories throughout the year, some that bring huge smiles and others that tap into the pure pain. 

Following are the stories that hit me the most on a personal level while the bikes remained mostly dormant in the garage.

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: Nicky HaydenNicky Hayden Passes

The motorcycle industry may be small and abundant with competition between publications and OEMs, but when tragedy hits, everyone unites. This sentiment surfaced on a large scale when America’s beloved motorcycle racer Nicky Hayden passed away following a bicycling crash.

The 35-year-old Hayden, then the sole American in World Superbike (Honda CBR1000RR), was hit by a car while bicycle training alone along the Rimini coastline near the Misano circuit. The 2006 MotoGP Champion’s death made me, and thousands of others, take a second look at this thing we call life.

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: Harley Fat BobHarley-Davidson Cuts the Dyna Platform

In August 2016, Harley-Davidson unveiled its new and more powerful air-/oil-cooled Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant. That was one of our biggest stories in 2016. In 2017, another huge story arrived—the end of the Dyna era.

For 2018, all former Dyna models—the Street Bob, Low Rider and, my favorite pictured above, the Fat Bob—are now on an all-new Softail chassis. This got some diehard Dyna fans pissed, but the new Softail chassis is impressive.

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: BMW HP4BMW HP4 Race Launched

I said it before, and will say it again. The BMW HP4 Race is absolutely the fastest motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. My time with the 215-horsepower machine was at Circuit of the Americas in October. 

At $78,000, the track-only HP4 Race is for the well-to-do track rider. Every penny would be worth it, though; the bike is a complete freaking animal. Learn more about through my video with Josef Mächler, BMW HP4 Product Manager, who is known as simply “Sepp”.

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness Breaks Leg

One of my all-time favorite riders is John McGuinness. He’s the Valentino Rossi of international road racing, and I’d argue a much better rider than the nine-time World Champion. Discipline to remain competitive on closed circuits is one thing, but the 37.73-mile Mountain Course at the Isle of Man is a whole other level of discipline. McGuinness is the master of the latter.

Unfortunately, the 23-time TT winner was not able to compete at this year’s TT due to breaking his leg at the North West 200. Honda also didn’t have him listed on any 2018 racing PR. We hope to see him back in 2018, and chase the TT record of 26 held by the late Joey Dunlop. Dunlop is another one of my heroes in motorcycling not only for his riding, but his lifestyle and philanthropic ways.

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: KTM's Sam SunderlandKTM Claims 16th Consecutive Dakar Title

Piloting the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team 450 Rally, Sam Sunderland earned a 16th-straight Dakar title for the “Ready to Race” brand. He also became the first British rider to claim a Dakar Rally title, and the first Brit to win a Dakar stage since John Deacon back in 1998.

Sunderland’s not in the ranks of former KTM pilots Cyril Despres or Marc Coma, who both claimed five titles each for KTM, but he definitely made the Queen smile, along with the legions of KTM fans across the world. Sunderland will carry the #1 plate at the 2018 Dakar. I’m hoping his Honda’s Ricky Brabec can provide America with its first Dakar title. 

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: KTM 1090 RKTM Adventure 1090 R Gets Tested…I’m Buying One

There’s no doubting my passion for the Ducati brand and their V-twin engines. Although the Multistrada 1200 is one of my all-time favorite motorcycles, it simply won’t handle the off-road for the kind of ADV touring I like to do. The biggest problem is lack of ground clearance and small wheels – even the 19-inch front on the Enduro is a bit too small.

I was excited about the release of the MST950, and was hoping Ducati would make a dirt-forward bike with a 21-inch front wheel and serious ground clearance. But nada.

Out of all the unveilings for 2017, one continually resurfaces in my thoughts—the KTM 1090 R Adventure. It blends the best of street touring and off-road capability. After reading the reviews, and riding one, I no longer want for any other ADV bike. I’m in the process of buying one right now, so 2018 is going to be a hell of a lot of fun!

Top Stories in 2017 Motorcycling: Ducati Panigale V4Ducati V4 Unveiled

I already mentioned my passion for Ducati, and more importantly the Ducati V-twin. Ducati has made a bold move, and released the 215-horsepower V4 in its top-tier Panigale superbike. Everything looks great on paper, and the engine sound rivals the GP17 prototype.

I won’t make any assumptions until I ride it, which is coming in a few weeks. Still, I have a feeling this bike will live up to the hype. I just started liking the Panigale’s monocoque chassis over the trellis-framed superbikes, so the V4 may take some time for respect—or not.

There were other stories that stick out, such as Marc Márquez claiming a fourth MotoGP title and Arch Motorcycle unveiling its new lineup, but the ones above had the biggest impact on me. Never mind mine. What were your favorite motorcycle stories of 2017?