10 Great Motorcycles of 2017: Editor’s Picks
Last week I wrote about the motorcycles I want to ride in 2018. Now, I present you with the Top 10 motorcycles I rode in 2017. These motorcycles spoke to me, and I loved riding every single one of them.
Remember, I’m only counting new (or significantly changed) motorcycles on this list, and keep in mind that I’m not a superbike guy—we have other staff members more than capable of approaching 200 mph on a racetrack.
I’m not in all the photos, but I did ride all the motorcycles—quite a bit in some of the cases. There were plenty of great bikes last year, and this list topped 20 when I started. However, I gritted my teeth and narrowed it down to these Top 10 motorcycles I rode in 2017. Yes, they’re in order, but it’s pretty much an arbitrary order than could change by the hour.
1. 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled. While I’ve enjoyed the various flavors of Scrambler, the Desert Sled really is something special. Ducati didn’t just take the standard Scrambler and change the seat, bars, and paint. Instead, they dove head-first into the Desert Sled concept and fully reimagined the Scrambler as a true off-roadable motorcycle with proper suspension and wheels—and Ducati succeeded spectacularly.
2. 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob. I can’t say enough good things about the new Harley-Davidson Softail platform, with its all-new chassis and Milwaukee-Eight motor. It is an outstanding replacement for the old Softail, as well as the now-discontinued Dyna line. To illustrate just how great the new Softails are, the Street Bob goes from being a Dyna and one of my least-favorite offerings from The Motor Company, to being a Softail and an absolute blast to ride.
3. 2018 Aprilia Shiver 900. Although it feels heavy when you’re pushing it around, and one could argue that the new V-twin motor is a bit underpowered, all of that goes away when you’re riding the new Shiver 900. There’s plenty of real-world power, and it has the suspension and handling to go with it that you expect. It would have been nice for Aprilia to modernize the look, but I’m just happy to have a more powerful Shiver to glide through the canyons.
4. 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i. While I’ve ridden fuel-injected two-stroke observed trials motorcycles before, we’ve all been waiting for EFI enduro two-strokes. Getting a pre-production Husqvarna TE 250i was a treat. We all know the Husky is going to handle great with excellent WP suspension. The big news is that the 250i motor is absolutely flawless, allowing you to crawl through technical sections as if you’re on a four-stroke, but without the weight, and with the ability to spin the motor up quickly, as needed—this is how it’s supposed to be!
5. 2017 Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber. This motorcycle looks incredibly cool, and it is fun to ride. Credit goes to to the rough-and-ready upright ergonomics, plus the new V9 motor breathes more life into the classic air-cooled, pushrod V-twin design. Sure, the suspension could be a bit more sophisticated, but you can rationalize that it is giving you that rugged ride you expect on a vintage bike.
6. 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT. This is a classic adventure motorcycle in a nice little niche of its own. While I love the 1000XT for long-distance touring, the V-Strom 650XT is much more manageable off-pavement—a must for a true ADV motorcycle. After fussing with the 650 recipe for a few years, Suzuki got it just right with the 2017 V-Strom 650XT. Not only does it work on the dirt, but you can also put serious highway miles on it if you like.
7. 2017 Kawasaki Z900. I liked Kawasaki’s now-discontinued Z800 and Z1000, but the Z900 really hits the sweet spot. The decision to soften up the low-end power and go with a rev-happy powerband for the inline-4 works great. The Z900 is easy to ride in-town, and hauls in the canyons as needed. It’s no simple task for one motorcycle to replace two models satisfactorily, yet Kawasaki achieved it without breaking stride.
8. 2017 Indian Chieftain Elite. It’s great to see Indian step up to the luxury market. I was already a fan of the Chieftain tourer, but the Elite has the accoutrements one expects from an all-out full-dresser, including exclusivity. The paint looks great, and the motorcycle itself is a pure pleasure to ride, due in no small part to the Power Stroke 111 motor. Now I want to ride one with the new Thunder Stroke 116 Stage 3 powerplant.
9. 2017 BMW R nineT Pure. I can’t put my finger on why, but I like the low-spec Pure better than any of the other more-expensive versions of the R nineT. The air-cooled boxer puts out great power, and the non-adjustable suspension works just fine in the city and out in the twisties. Sometimes a motorcycle surprises you, and the R nineT Pure is much more than it looks like on paper.
10. 2018 Honda CRF250R. I rarely venture out onto the motocross track these days, even though I do more than my share of off-road riding. However, I went along with Associate Editor Ty Cullins to the CRF250R introduction to take pictures, and packed my gear—just in case. As it worked out, I put in some admittedly slow laps at Zaca Station. The CRF250R’s sweet handling and manageable motor resulted in me having one of my most fun rides of the year.