Of all the classes and categories that exist in motorcycling, none is as hotly contested among manufacturers as that of the supersports. Middleweight sportbikes represent the cornerstone of street-going product in the United States, with bragging rights and consumer demand driven directly by success on the racetrack.
It may seem naive to assume truth in advertising, but MV Agusta's description of its bikes as “contemporary motorcycle art” can be regarded as reliable: Its F4 1000 Tamburini—named for Massimo Tamburini, the designer of watershed sportbikes such as the Ducati 916—might be the most technologically advanced motorcycle available today.
The tangerine red Ducati Monster S2R parked in front of a small café in the hills outside Fermignano, Italy, quickly attracted the admiration of two stout, elderly men. One of them furrowed his brow in deep concentration, carefully choosing words from his charming economy of English. “In America, Harley-Davidson is patriotism; in Italy, Ducati is religion.” That elegantly encapsulated the reverence with which Italians regard Ducatis, an esteem that verges on the sacrosanct.
We all fantasize about creating the ultimate bike, one that combines the improbable ideas we dream up during commutes, long flights, or while lying on a beach. For most of us these chimeras remain unrealized, but occasionally someone surfaces with the drive, determination, and—above all—the resources to build a dreambike.
Fire up the radial-valve 998cc 4-cylinder motor of the MV Agusta F4 Tamburini (MT4), and you will know that this masterpiece of design, bristling with technological innovation, must be Italian.
Since the reintroduction of Triumph motorcycles in the mid-1980s, the English motorcycle manufacturer has continued to make pragmatic, measured movement forward with its motorcycle model lineup. Its engines have grown gradually larger and more powerful, the styling slowly has become more modern, and sales figures have continued to climb. Triumph built its loyal fan base with reliable, enjoyable motorcycles, but it also established a reputation for having a relatively conservative nature.
While the Japanese manufacturers set superbike standards with lightweight, high-horsepower production motorcycles showcasing futuristic technology developed on the racetrack, Italian bike builders created a signature niche with handmade, race-inspired motorcycles that fit like exquisitely tailored suits. But German BMW long scoffed at the crotch rocket tradition, declining to engage in such two-wheeled games. Until now. BMW has finally entered the high-speed fray with the introduction of its new K 1200 S.
Few motorcycles can claim a longer life span or more loyal following than Honda's 30-year-old flagship tourer, the Gold Wing. As I give the 2005 Honda Gold Wing a stationary once over, it becomes rapidly apparent that the fit and finish of the machine is first rate.
When the powers-that-be in Tinseltown are presented with a talented, yet unusual thespian who doesn't fit their idea of a leading man or sex symbol, they are quick to categorize him with the ingratiatingly backhanded label of “character actor.” However, with the fickle history of movies as proof, it is quite often the character actors who leave an indelible performance etched in celluloid, while the stars they supported have long since withered from memory in ephemeral wisps of stardom.
In stock trim, Yamaha's fire-breathing R1 is an astoundingly capable machine. However, after some detailed modifications from Kyle Racing, this particular R1 has been taken to an even higher level. (Click image to enlarge)
Tis' the season once again, and though a motorcycle electric vest would be nice, or an intercom system might bring you and your partner closer together—let's face it— nothing really says, “I love you” like a full-blown Harley-Davidson motorcycle.