10 awesome motorcycles to get excited about in 2011

Dailies, Reviews -

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With the economy in recession and motorcycle sales in the toilet, it’s easy to focus on two-wheeled doom and gloom. But, even if the bike makers can’t give them away, we’re currently blessed with better motorcycles than ever before. They’re more powerful, lighter, better made and available in a far greater variety than any other time in history. Here’s ten new bikes that are utterly, incontrovertibly, unprecedentedly awesome.

Erik Buell Racing 1190RS

Last year, Erik Buell parted ways with Harley-Davidson. Next year, he’ll begin selling small quantities of a new, hand-made, exotic superbike based on his already-successful EBR 1190RR race bike. Where we typically associate high-performance, high-dollar exotics with countries like italy, the 1190RS will be made by American hands in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Like the RR, the 1190RS is based on the Buell 1125R chassis and liquid-cooled Rotax engine. Back in October, Erik told us that, had he had his way, it’s this bike, not the 1125 ,that would have debuted first, serving as a fitting halo product for the mass-market sports tourer that became the 1125R.

To make the 1190RS, Erik is buying 1125cc motors directly from Rotax then converting them by hand to 1190cc using the fanciest components possible. “We’re using very high-end things like Del West valves,” explains Erik. “The first street bikes will be built to that race level. That’s partly because I want to be able to take the street bike and convert it into a race bike economically. In short, a guy could buy one, put a race pipe and a race chip on it and go pretty fast. It’ll be as good as what Harald [Kitsch] is riding and better than what Geoff [May] is riding. That’s pretty good.”

Expect a price on par with the Ducati 1198 R (which goes for $39,995), but more performance. Where that Ducati makes 180bhp at the crank, the RS should be closer to the 185hp at the rear wheel of the 1190RR.

Erik says he plans to unveil the road-legal 1190RS some time this winter.

Brammo Empulse

Everyone likes to complain that electric motorcycles are slower, more expensive and can’t go as far as their gas-powered counterparts. This is the bike that will change all that.

With tax breaks, the Brammo Empulse could be $500 cheaper than a Suzuki SV650 and, while the 55bhp Empulse is slightly behind on power,  at 59lb/ft it’s way ahead on torque. All three versions will be capable of exceeding 100mph and the most expensive, the 10.0, will be able to average 100 miles on a full battery. That’s calculated with a 50/50 mix of city and highway riding.

Like the Brammo Enertia, the Empulse is designed in Ashland, Oregon by an American company, but a recent deal with Flextronics will see manufacturing (and availability) become global, with final assembly taking place at locations close to the point of sale.

MV Agusta F3

Have you ever seen a motorcycle this sexy? No you have not. The F3 interprets the F4’s already iconic looks into something more lithe. That’d be enough, but the promise of a 140bhp 675cc three-cylinder and a size that promises to make it, according to Giovanni Castiglioni, “the smallest supersport motorcycle ever,” just make the whole thing that much more sublime.

If that’s not enough, Giovanni also told us that the F3 will retail for just €11,500 when it goes on sale in Italy late next year. That’s €90 cheaper than the similar Triumph Daytona 675. Wowza.

BMW K1600GT/L

A 1,600cc inline-six in a motorcycle? That’s crazy! But, that 160bhp, 129lb/foot engine is only the start of the ridiculousness with the BMW K1600GT/L. It’s got first-on-a-motorcycle full color TFT screen with integrated sat/nav, headlights that can see around corners and compensate for lean, electronic everything and even iDrive.

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Relevant? Probably not. Awesome? Totally.

Motus MST-01/MST-R

Another American bike? You bet your star spangled ass. This one comes from a tiny company in Birmingham that’s going so far as designing their very own engine, one based on the most American engine ever, the Corvette LS7.R Le Mans-winning V8.

With four cylinders lopped off and scaled down to 1,654cc, the KMV4 makes something in excess of 140bhp and 120lb/ft of torque. That may not sound terribly impressive for such a big engine, but the goal here was to give it the largest spread of usable torque possible, not chase irrelevant peak power numbers. That’s because Motus wants the MST-01 to be the ultimate sports tourer, something they think should be an all-out sportsbike, just one that’s big and comfortable enough to ride all day.

““The entire Motus concept is basically a rebuttal or counter-point to everything that stereotypes American motorcycles — overweight, inefficient, gaudy, loud, unsophisticated, etc,” says Motus’s Brian Case.

An American-made performance bike you can ride in comfort all-day that sounds and goes like a Le Mans car? America, fuck yeah.

Triumph Daytona 675R

Is it weird that we’re more excited about an up-spec version of an existing bike than we are an all-new model like the Triumph Tiger 800 or a significant model update like the 2011 Triumph Speed Triple? What makes the 675R so neat is that they’ve taken a near-perfect supersport package and fitted the best suspension and brakes money can buy ($4,000 worth), then only plan to charge you $1,500 extra for the privilege.

Tiny, exotic, good-looking and a motor that combines the torque of a twin with the top end rush of an inline-four, now with race-level suspension. Why you’d buy a liter bike is beyond us.

Honda CBR250R

For too long, the beginner bike class has been the preserve of outdated, unappealing motorcycles. No more. Michael Uhlarik, who will be reviewing it for us next week, says the CBR250R is, “THE MOST FUN I HAVE HAD ON A MOTORCYCLE IN 5 YEARS.” Caps all his.

“No exaggeration, it is nearly a perfect motorcycle, and a return to Honda of yesterday,” continues Michael. “Everybody needs to buy this thing, and I am not now nor have I ever been a Honda guy.”

At $3,999 it’s affordable. At 250cc it’s accessible. At 26bhp it should be relatively quick. Hooray.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000

A fast, comfortable, affordable liter bike that you can tour on, that you can commute on, that you can do track days on. This is as close to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle as we’ve been in a number of years.

136bhp, 81lb/ft, 228kg (wet) and $10,999 would have made most liter bike blush 10 years ago. The Ninja 1000 do-it-all bike that you don’t have to make excuses for.

Ducati Diavel

We’ve been kind of harsh on the Diavel, as we are with all cruisers. But where 162bhp and 94lb/ft aren’t unprecedented in a class that includes the 200bhp VMAX or 163lb/ft Rocket III, the Diavel should have one thing no other cruiser before has ever had before: handling. This should finally be the motorcycle that gets cruiser riders to stop pretending and start riding, but just in case that’s too much for them, the Diavel features traction control as standard.

Aprilia Tuono V4R

Performance nakeds are usually defined by their compromises. Sure, it’s got the engine, but Honda put it in a steel-backbone chassis. Sure, it’s got the chassis, but Triumph fitted cheap suspension. With the Tuono V4R, Aprilia didn’t just stop with the same aluminum twin-spar chassis as the RSV4 or the same 999cc V4, it fitted Aprilia Performance Ride Control, which is the most sophisticated set of bike electronics ever and only currently available on the special edition RSV4 Factory.

Yeah, they de-tuned the engine to 162bhp, but there’s still 43mm USD Showa forks, radial Brembos and a 179kg (dry) weight. It’s bug-eyed looks should mirror your facial expression the first time you give it full-throttle in third gear and realize what combining a 600-size wheelbase with a V4 and flat bars means.

Of course, that’s only if you switch off APRC, which includes adjustable wheelie control along with intelligent traction control, launch control and even a standard quick shifter. Compared to bum basic naked bikes of old, this thing’s like the space shuttle.

  • Frosty_spl

    What about the CB1000?

    I see what you are saying about the Ninja 1k, but it looks so blah.

    • CG

      Thanks, as I am currently negotiating the trade in on my VFR for one. Green is currently not available in the States, which since my wife used to call me Kermit on my older Kawa a number of years ago, is probably just as well. The black is really invisible for what it is worth. The Ninja is basically the new VFR1000 that many of us were waiting for, but Honda decided against. Oh well.

      • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

        No green? But…but…awwwww!

      • kashani

        No green? Looks like I ride the ZRX another year. So be it.

    • BATMAN

      Wow, blah? Not to me. If I were in the market for a sporty looking standard, I’d jump at it.

      • Sam

        If it was a Triumph with a speed triple engine in it, then I’d have to move on that!

  • Chris

    I’ve never had the chance to ride an F4 but have read about the MV’s erratic fueling. There is not much as terrifying as unpredictable throttle response on a high performance bike. My 2005 R1 before the faulty TPS unit was replaced under warranty was kind of like a crap shoot when you were trying to get neutral throttle, leaned over, gunnin’ for the apex.
    I hope for all who purchase the F3 version 1.0 ( or perhaps beta version ) that MV sort it out. The funny thing is that you never hear too much bitchin about the F4 on the boards. I guess if you pay an arm and leg for some Italian hyperbike you don’t bitch about it in public anyway.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The fueling is absolutely perfect on the 2010 F4, which is an all-new model.

  • Ian

    I was wondering if you would include the CBR250R. Good work. Such a pretty bike. If I couldn’t run circles around it with my 2004 Ninja 250, I’d be at the dealership right now.

    Nice article. This IS a golden age, in its own way.

  • Kyle

    I’m excited about the 250 and the R3 but the Cleveland cycle works bikes also look good. But if the review for cbr250 comes back positive I may be looking harder into that

    • http://twitter.com/JamesLeeFoley# J Foley

      I am grateful for the CBR 250, but I shed a tear when I didn’t see the CCW Misfit on this list. This is a very exciting bike and hopefully a gateway to additional appealing small American bikes.

      • ike6116

        CCW as a whole is very exciting but I think tempering hopes and expectations is a good thing. I don’t know where I could even buy one at this point or if I could. Also while their bikes look great and are priced great they are sorely lacking fuel injection an ABS option and their product line doesn’t go above 250cc. I have patience and Ill keep my eye on them for sure, having read the interviews with the guy running the show over there I’m confident they’ll get to where they need to be and possibly sooner than any of us expect.

  • RT Moto

    The F3 Is one sexy inanimate object. I really hope they bring it stateside so I can put a deposit down on one. Any word on paint schemes?

  • Your_Mom

    Personally, I am waiting for a naked version of the Motus. Good list guys.

    • BATMAN

      Not really excited about the Motus until it atually comes out. The pics just don’t do it for me.

  • Deltablues

    How can MV offer the F3 (speaking of F3′s: one of the best Hondas I ever owned) for only a few dollars more than the Daytona 675R?

    • Roman

      My thoughts exactly. Something seems off. However, I can see long wait-lists if they can somehow pull it off.

      • Deltablues

        My thought was they have to be getting a subsidy or they are using the money from the Harley deal to off-set the cost somehow. Triumph has been producing the 675 for five years now and they probably have paid for the tooling. Then again, the MV F4 has been around for over a decade and the F3 shares a lot of the same architecture. I do wish this trend to ever “smaller” sportbikes would ease up and manufactures focus on economically comfortable “light weight” sportbikes.

        • Sam

          675R is spec’d out so well.

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    That’s a pretty eclectic list HFL! Wait, where’s the Triumph Tiger 800? ;)

    • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee

      HFL is sleeping on the Tiger. Bike mag did a quick report on riding it and the bike sounds just like what I wanted it to be–a more tossable, revvable take on Bee Em’s small GS. The Street Triple of adventure bikes.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Noticed that all the Brit mags favor triumph? Kev Ash tends to be a bit more balanced and said it was a worthy GS competitor, nothing more. definitely nor worthy of the street triple accolades.

        I’m on a train right now, but you can find his review on the triumph tiger 800 tag page linked above.

        • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee

          I’ve read enough Bike and watched ten years of Top Gear to know Brits favor Brits, but patiotic fawning sounds different than genuine praise, which is what I gathered from Bike’s Tiger piece. Their covers dedicated to the new Norton? Now that I don’t buy.

        • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee

          What does Kev Ash think of the BMW anyway? If he’s a typical sportbike-obsessed journo he wouldn’t care if the Triumph came with blowjobs.

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            Dunno, check out ashonbikes.com, nit sure if he’s got a review on there or not. Like I said, on my phone.

  • fasterfaster

    Great list. Mine would have looked similar. the big addition for me would be the Duke 250, which I think is the most exciting bike in a decade. We can all agree the small displacement category has been neglected for years, but even those that filled it did so with a race-lookalike on budget chassis. This tosses aside both pieces of conventional wisdom:
    - small bike customers are cheap. The KTM is on a premium chassis and has a price tag of a big (if not expensive) bike.
    - small bike customers want plasticky crotch-rockets. The KTM is a naked, built for the streets, not the track. It doesn’t try to be a “replica” of something it’s not.
    KTM might be right or they might be wrong, but I can’t wait to find out.

    • Kyle

      Yea this would be at the top ofthe list except we won’t see one stateside until 2012

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Well, that’s a Duke 125, for now, and it’s not US-bound, for now, so I left it off. Don’t worry, it’s going in another 2011 trend piece I’ll write this week. :)

  • gt1

    You forgot about new paint schemes on H-D bikes.