In 1953 the Kronreif, Trunkenpolz, Mattighofen Motorcycle Company entered their first racing activities, the fifth running of the Gaisberg competition, and finished with first, second and third place honors. Fifty years later, KTM—as the manufacturer is now known—has emerged as a modern builder of high-quality, reliable, exceptionally well-engineered motocross, enduro and supermoto machines. They are also the motorcycle of choice by the majority of the two-wheeled field in the Paris/Dakar Rally, taking top honors the last few years in the world's ultimate endurance race.
What does the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R have in common with Spinal Tap? Although clearly not a motorcycle numbers man in the purest sense, Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap clearly understood that more really can be much more. When he said, “If we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? [We] put it up to eleven.” he could well have been talking about Kawasaki's new Ninja ZX-10R, such is the awesome capability of this year's new, more refined machine.
Classic beauty compels the discarding of facile thoughts. Answering the market's current desire for naked retro-style motorcycles, Ducati's latest effort exhibits a profound respect for the esthetic and performance benchmarks it set in the 1970s with its coveted bevel-drive 750 GT and Sport models. The interlacing of traditional Ducati DNA with a 21st century perspective is embodied in the new SportClassic GT1000.
If hyperbolic design is the currency of the custom chopper world, Indianapolis-based Speedway Choppers chooses the contrary approach of distinguishing itself from the inside out. Its LS1 model is visually striking—low slung, clean, and whimsically aggressive—but its calling card is the purposeful hardware underneath the wild bodywork. “We make the invisible parts as good as they can be, and then go out from there,” explains Speedway's designer and builder Randy Reeves, who has been building custom street rods since the age of 15.
In the concrete cocoon of Ecosse Moto Works' Denver warehouse, Donald Atchison forges his industrial art, spurred by his deal with the demons that drive him and stoked by the inspiration of his heroes and icons. One is met at the entrance by neat rows of classic bikes, from Nortons to Velocettes. Upon a diamond-plate dais, the Heretic Ti holds court.
Asserting a Porsche-inspired six-cylinder boxermotor and a seating cocoon that recalls Eero Saarinen's epochal Womb chair, the Honda Gold Wing GL1800 is the undisputed king of luxury motorcycle touring. Even in its basic stock configuration, the Gold Wing secures enough bells and whistles to assemble a Rose Parade marching band. Opportunely for riders and passengers desiring the ultimate in touring efficiency, comfort and form, Honda's Genuine Accessories arm provides dozens of garnishes, allowing you to season your Wing to taste.
Champing at the bit to replace the aging Monster 620, Ducati will proffer the Monster 695 as an early release 2007 model. The centerpiece of the upgrade is a new 73 hp L-twin desmodromic motor that, according to a Ducati representative, has “the highest output per cubic centimeter of all our Ducati air-cooled engines.”
How brilliantly audacious for legendary Italian manufacturer Benelli, resuscitated from the brink of dissolution just a few years ago, to blast back onto the scene with an all-new machine bearing the sinfully appropriate TNT nomenclature. It is a bold statement born from a company that, since its inception in 1911, has endured a tale of exalted success and melancholic near ruin.
From its introduction in 2004, Honda's CBR1000RR (labeled in Europe as the “Fireblade”) has always been a light, agile machine with astounding acceleration. In normal street riding and occasional track excursions, the bike produced far more performance than most of us could fully tap, but somehow it was tamed into a real-world package. Make no mistake, this weapon astonished, and delighted all but the most battle-hardened veteran of the superbike wars.
When Polaris industries launched Victory Motorcycles in the mid-1990s, the upstart did not exactly cause The Motor Company to quake in its engineer boots. Polaris made snowmobiles, personal watercraft and ATVs—scarcely a threat to the primacy of the big boys in Milwaukee. In 1998, Victory introduced the first all-new, mass-production, American-made street bike in over 60 years. Despite listless sales, Polaris persisted, knowing that something big was on the horizon.
The Spanish Andalusian countryside is an endless rhythm of hills, ancient trees and bleached medieval cities—possibly one of the last places one would expect to establish a world-class racetrack. Yet, after months of searching, Dutch racing enthusiast Klaas Zwart, a resident of Marbella, discovered the future home of his Ascari Race Resort while piloting a Eurocopter 130 above the virgin terrain just outside of Ronda.
Because testosterone-fueled monikers like Monster, Firebolt, and Intruder abound, it seems natural that MV Agusta would christen its no-holds-barred machine the Brutale. While first generation Brutales boasted gorgeous design and crisp handling, the 749cc motor came up a bit short on torque and horsepower.
To the disappointment of a number of adherents, the K 1200 GT vanished from the BMW motorcycle lineup in 2005. Striving to satisfy the open-class sport touring enthusiasts, BMW has revived the K 1200 GT designation, assigning it to a wholly redesigned machine. A close cousin of the K 1200 S sportbike, the new GT shares its in-line 4-cylinder motor (albeit in a torquier state of tune), frame, and suspension components with the S.
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.