11 motorcycles that will make this summer awesome

Dailies, Reviews -



Our friend JonB pinged us yesterday — “New job, new season, time for a new bike. What should I buy? HFL should do a buyer’s guide.” Good idea. Here’s 11 motorcycles you can afford that will make 2011 a summer to remember.

The Sportsbike: Triumph Daytona 675R

Like going around corners? There’s little else that does them as well as the stock Daytona 675. Plus, where Japanese 600s just feel a little disposable, the 675 feels exotic and timeless. That’s backed up by classy, understated looks, an immediacy to the power delivery thats lacking from other 600s and an exhaust note that sounds like a banshee mated with a swiss watch.

The R adds $3,960 worth of the fanciest Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes money can buy, plus a quickshifter, for only a $1,496 premium over the standard bike. That won’t mean much to casual riders, but for diehard sportsbike fans it means near-infinite adjustability, and total control in corners — this bike’s raison d’etre.

Of course you also get plain white paint — thank you baby jesus — and a lairy red subframe, which is just the right amount of brash in an otherwise completely classy motorcycle. $11,999.

The Retro: Ural ST

When you buy a retro motorcycle you want something that looks and feels like it’s from the ‘60s, but that won’t break down three miles into a three day ride. It’s not just about a look and an exhaust note either — if it was we’d recommend the Triumph Scrambler — it’s about a total riding experience that’s simple and pure like motorcycles used to be before they got all fast and efficient.

The Ural ST will involve you in the ride whether you’re cruising on the highway, commuting in town or at the end of a very long dirt road — befitting its roots, it’s as capable off-road as any GS.

It looks like a tank, goes like a tank, sounds like a tank and is built like a tank. A Russian tank. A 40bhp, 460lbs anachronism that never fails to defy your expectations. This is motorcycling as Vladimir Lenin intended it to be. $7,199.

The Dual-Sport: Yamaha WR250R

In an age of 600lbs, 1,200cc adventure tourers wearing knobby tires, it’s easy to forget that dirt bikes don’t need to be big, heavy and expensive. This is the little Yamaha that could. Sharing an aluminum twin-spar chassis and fully-adjustable suspension with the dirt-only WR250F, don’t let the 250cc capacity confuse you — this is a fast motorcycle on-road and off.

Seriously, we had an absolute blast running around LA freeway traffic on these, out-dragging confused Harley riders and taking advantage of the high seats, wide bars and 298lbs weight to carve through stationary traffic. The WR was even happy cruising at 90+ mph in the fast lane for extended periods.

Off-road, it’s a real dirt bike. It’ll jump, it’ll land, it’ll ford rivers and cover your buddies in mud.

Never owned a dirt bike? This is an non-intimidating way to get started getting dirty. Experienced dirt bike rider looking for a reliable dual-sport? This’ll do way more than just get you to the trails and still entertain you once you’re there. $6,490.

The Exotic: Aprilia RSV4 R APRC

Two years ago, traction control was unheard of on performance motorcycles. Do we really need it? Will it slow us down? Will it work on the race track? Turns out it’ll make you faster and allow you to wring more out of your bike under pretty much any circumstances. So exotic V4, tiny proportions, Italian looks and traction control = win, right? The thing is Aprilia Performance Ride Control also brings launch control, wheelie control and a quickshifter, making this the most electronically sophisticated motorcycle ever sold to the general public. How’s that for exotic?

You know we’re already huge fans of the RSV4. Unlike v-twin rivals, this 180bhp V4 doesn’t pull any performance punches. But unlike it’s inline-four rivals, it’s also got character. Think small block V8 in an RS250 chassis and you won’t be far off.

It’s harsh, it’s hot, it’s hard to ride, it scared Tyson Beckford, it’ll beat you up if you ride it badly, but reward you with amazing feel and response if you ride it well. It’s awesome. Shinya Kimura agrees.

Is there a difference between the R and the Factory? Totally. The Factory’s motor hits harder and the Ohlins suspension works better. Is the Factory worth $6,500 more? Not if we were spending our own money. $15,999.

The Dirt Bike: Zero MX

The Zero MX isn’t the fastest dirt bike. Nor is it the cheapest. But, it is the quietest. That completely changes how you experience riding off road.

It’s not just a case of being able to ride in more places, more of the time while pissing less people off either. But it does do that. Backyard tracks will no longer piss off the neighbors, urban enduro will no longer alert every cop in the city, riding on a regular dirt bike trail becomes less about your bubble of violent noise and more about your decisions, your skills and the environment you’re using them in. It’ll completely change the way you think about dirt bikes. Get rid of the flat bill and just get on with riding.

The newly refined MX brings stronger suspension for full-size riders yet only weighs 196lbs. In the past, Zeros have felt like riding a bicycle that wanted to be a motorcycle, this one’s like a motorcycle that’s as easy to throw around as a mountain bike. Top speed is 40mph, you’ll get 30-60 minutes of action out of a two-hour charge (1.2 hour quick charge optional) and you’ll experience motorcycle performance in an entirely new way. Silent speed is the future. $9,489.

The Hooligan: KTM Duke 690

Every time I see one of these, I’m amazed by what a nice bike it is. It’s tiny, yet it’s got radial Brembos, USD forks, Marchesini wheels and the exposed webbing in the swingarm never fails to look stunning.

Over a supermoto, you’re gaining a lower seat height, stiffer suspension and enough refinement that you can sit on the highway for an hour or two without losing your mind. But like a supermoto you’re getting an extremely light weight (149kg) and a torquey, responsive single-cylinder 654cc motor that makes a pretty impressive 64bhp and and 49lb/ft of torque. Wheelies are obligatory.

Everyone always likes to ask why a major manufacturer doesn’t make a light, high-spec, single-cylinder naked bike. Wouldn’t such a thing be perfect for turning your commute from drudgery to hoonfest? It would be such a thing, but people should remember that the Duke 690 exists.

Over heavier, more powerful, more serious bikes like the Duke 990 or Triumph Street Triple, the Duke 690 is going to be much easier to throw around, way more forgiving and just way more fun and involving at the kind of speeds and on the kind of shitty roads we ride on in cities. Other than the odd headlights, it’s pretty much perfect. $9,498.

The All-Rounder: Triumph Street Triple R

So you can only afford one new bike and you need to commute on it, you need to go for weekend rides in the mountains on it and you want to do a few trackdays on it. All the plaudits we heap on the Daytona 675 apply to the Street Triple R, just with flat bars, no fairing and humane ergonomics.

Those changes actually add up to quite a difference. Where the Daytona feels tall, narrow and delicate in town, the Striple is empowering rather than intimidating. The R brings back the nice suspension and brakes from the Daytona, making this a performance naked that’s not dumbed down and is every bit as capable as its fully-faired brother.

Where other nakeds ace the accessibility thing and the comfort thing, they fall flat when you actually start riding them fast. Budget suspension equals poor cornering. “Tuned for torque” equals poor performance. The Street Triple R does all the practical stuff every other naked bike does, but adds performance back into the equation. It does that with a good badge, decent looks and a unique engine that’s torquey like a twin, yet retains the top-end rush of a four. New headlights for 2012 means you might even get a deal on the mechanically identical 2011 model. We like this engine better than the 1050 because you can use more of it more of the time and we like this 416lbs package over the Speed Triple’s 470lbs because it’s easier to ride and probably more capable. $9,599.

The Bargain: Buell XB12R

Don’t feel the need to buy new? I’ve always sort of looked at the XB12R as the American equivalent to the Aprilia RS250. You still get 250GP level handling and impossibly fast steering and you still have to dance on the lever to keep the motor in its 1,000rpm-wide power band. Just here you’re doing that with a sack of potatoes and pig iron rather than a tiny two-stroke time bomb.

The market seems to have strengthened a bit from the time just after Harley killed Buell and prices were in the gutter, but you can still own a piece of low-mileage American history for $3-$6,000. Performance parts abound and you can get the motor up to 100bhp easily and reliably. There’s some dodgy colors out there, avoid anything that looks like a five-year old drew it with crayons.

The First Bike: Cleveland CycleWerks Ace

Buying your first bike? We’ve got news for you, you’re going to crash it. So, don’t buy something fancy, don’t buy something on a huge loan and don’t buy something that’s going to have you going 1,000,000mph when you do fall off. But with the CCW Ace, you can still buy something that’s brand new, that comes with a warranty and won’t break down every time you want to ride it, all for less than $3,000. As an added bonus, the UJM-style Ace is easy to customize and Cleveland plans to supply a range of affordable aftermarket parts that’ll make transforming it into a Scrambler or Cafe or whatever you want even simpler.

The other thing about your first bike that none of the brohams in your fraternity will tell you is that starting small will make you a better rider in the long term. If you buy something like an R1 as your first bike, everything you’re going to learn is going to center around not being terrified and not killing yourself every time you climb aboard. Buy a small, friendly bike like the Ace and you’ll actually learn riding skills like threshold braking, sliding the rear tire, getting the most out of an engine and trying hard in corners that you can then scale to something larger. Start on the Ace, find someone picking up a sportsbike as their first motorcycle around the same time then plan to meet them in two years to see who’s faster. It’ll be you. $2,895.

The Practical One: Yamaha TMAX

Want a bike for more than just getting speeding tickets on Sundays? The TMAX combines the speed of a motorcycle, the ability to cut through traffic and park easily with a car-like ability to actually buy stuff at the store, then bring it home with you. It’ll do that while returning 47mpg and you’ll be able to hit 110+ mph on your way home from Kroger.

Seriously, you can get some pretty good speed out of the 43bhp, 34lb/ft parallel-twin, which makes the TMAX something of a low key touring bike. The riding position is akin to sitting in a lounge chair, the seat is huge and cushy for rider and passenger and the huge screen keeps the weather completely off you. You can even cross your legs while your ride it.

You’re not going to have the kind of performance that’s going to see you keeping up with sportsbike riders on idyllic mountain roads, but around a wet, potholed corner on cold tires? Just try to steer to the inside of their lowside.

As an extra bonus, the ego-free scooter attitude, low key colors and laid back riding position makes the TMAX appear way more stylish to the world outside bikes. $8,590.

The Dream: Hammarhead Jack Pine

Grant and I are in complete agreement. If fifteen large was burning a hole in either of our pockets, we’d get James Hammarhead to build us a Jack Pine. A custom based on a Triumph Scrambler has no right to be this fast, this fun or this good off-road, but somehow Hammarhead spins minimal changes into a major transformation.

Every second you spend on the Jack Pine you’re almost overwhelmed with awesome. Cruising around town? Try to remember everyone’s staring at the bike, not you. Ripping down a fire road? You’ll forget you’re on something that started life as style, not substance. Looking at it, you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure its yours and not Steve McQueen’s. When I rode it for the first time last year I said it was a pure expression of two-wheeled perfection and that remains true today. Come on NY Lottery. $14,500, only one 2011 build left.

  • Kyle

    Phew, I thought you guys forgot about CCW after all the promotions you did for them. Why does the F3 have to come out in the fall…why

  • http://cynic13th.livejournal.com/ cynic

    Damn you HFL, now I feel like I need to buy another motorcycle.

    I think I’ll just go for a quick ride on the one I have and try forget all the other awesome out there.

  • aristurtle

    I absolutely love the Ural and I’m saving up to buy one this fall. But I can’t understand why anyone would get one without the sidecar? It seems like that sidecar is kind of the whole point.

    • Kirill

      The sidecar is awesome but it also reduces its usability off-road and in traffic. I think the Ural ST is designed for people that think KLRs are a good idea but want something more…Russian.

      Like me.

      • Gregory


        Portland, OR
        2008 KLR 650 w. milkcrate

        • Ilya

          This is because Wes hasn’t had a chance to drive 2wd Ural himself yet. We will try to fix it this year.

          • aristurtle

            Yes! I’d love to see what he thinks.

            One thing I can’t figure out: why do you guys paint the bikes in colors other than olive drab?

            • Ilya

              Because olive paint is sometimes hard to get

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            I totally have! We took one with us when we rode the ST in the Cascades.

            • Ilya

              Well, not enough, apparently. Otherwise it’d have made this list.

          • JonB

            Can you buy a Ural direct in Seattle?

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        The sidecar actually boosts off-road ability. All you need to know about them is the off-road ability of a 4×4 quad, but road legal.

        • Taco

          The sidecar actually boosts on-road ability and fun too. You can bring the keg to the BBQ in one. Plus the sidecar helps with balance while driving home drunk, but that’s NOT road legal.

    • gt1

      Ural is not a retro motorcycle. Retro bikes use new technology with old styling. Ural is mostly the opposite- old tech with some modern parts looking out of place. Look at the plastic mirrors or Brembo calipers connected to the forks with some ugly adapters.

  • http://www.cheapcycleparts.com vigor

    Your review of the WR250R convinced my dad to get one! I am so jealous.. I’m thinking about selling my XR250R/L if anyone is interested, hehe.

    • Restless Lip Syndrome

      HFL’s review of the WR250R made me buy the 250X three weeks later.

  • Jason

    It’s a good start that I already own one of the bike’s on that list but I need more!

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Which one do you have?

    • noone1569

      Same here!

    • Miles Prower

      Me too! I have a KTM 690 Duke, but many times, I’ve thought about getting a Yamaha WR250X. (My first motorcycle was a Yamaha XT225 Dual Sport–and boy, was that a fun (and dead-easy) bike to ride!)

  • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

    Solid list! I’m not sure on the Tmax though. I sat on some scooters the other day (Vespa, Tmax, Zumo, etc). Just sitting on them feels wrong.

    I drool every time that I see the Jack Pine.

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

    Buell’s rock. XB9s are teensie-tiny, require practically zero maintenance, and look like space transformers. They pop up on CL every now and again for ~$4k.

    • NickP

      haha so true! I have a white xb12 stt and my friends call it the storm trooper bike :)

      • philn

        I love my brother’s XB12S with the translucent orange. I look forward to riding it every time I visit him in Houston.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    This is a very complete list, except I want a cruiser for tooling to the bar, and annoying my neighbors. What is my best option? Wait, I know the answer.

    Aside, I am so damned pleased that the Duke made it on the list. For me its a question of when, not if for that KTM.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Install speakers on the TMAX?

      • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

        That would really be the ultimate.

        I am genuinely impressed by the TMAX. I had no idea.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

    That Yamaha WR250R has my name written all over it;)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      So stop talking about it and buy one.

    • insomnia

      Fantastic bike. If you see mine out there wave and say hello. I let my kid borrow it about 12,000 miles ago and haven’t laid eyes on it since…

    • Sean Smith

      You should ride my buddy Mike’s. Suspension is all done up, it’s got a pipe and I cut his airbox up a tuned it for him. There’s also a brembo RCS19 master cylinder. It’s awesome.

  • Kirill

    That Ural is so tempting.

    • Ilya

      … says Kirill, slowly opening his valet.

      • Kirill

        Opening my wallet results in little more than flies flying out of an empty crevasse. A shame, since my dad would get a huge kick out me showing up on a Ural.

        • Ilya

          What part of Russia is your dad from?

          • Kirill

            We’re from Moscow, left in 1992.

            • Ilya

              Cool, I’m from Saint-Petersburg

  • NickP

    Great list. My next bike won’t be soon but it will probably be an electric dirtbike. Too many mountain bike trails around me not too, really.

  • Michael

    12th motorcycle that will make this summer awesome: The beater in the basement. Yeah!

    Rock on, high rollin’ bretheren. All I got is this old KZ, three chords and the truth.

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

      Amen: the #12 motorcycle that is going to make this summer awesome is MY (or YOUR) motorcycle.

  • Gregory

    I thought this was a “cruiser magazine”.


    Portland, OR
    2008 KLR 650 w. milkcrate

  • Adam

    I disagree on the Yamaha 250. Ths bike sucks in both on and off road. You can buy much better dual-sport like Husky, KTM or Berg that will be a lot better in both plus they will be a lot lighter. Come on 300 lbs for 250cc and I thought that my Husky 610 310lbs was fat.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Have you ridden one? Small bikes that you can wring the max from over and over and over without them breaking are awesome.

      • Restless Lip Syndrome

        Also consider maintenance intervals. I have a WR250X and a Husky 510 in the garage — guess which one doesn’t need valve checks every few months?

        I bought the Yamaha used and still don’t need a valve check for another 20,000 miles.

        • Adam

          Well, 510 and 610 is a big difference. I know that 300 lbs is a lot and 250 can’t handle it well. I ride my 610 mainly off road and see the limitations of it. Also on road it is a pain to ride. I even had Hypermotard but could not stand that constant wind. Bike that size should be 250lbs max.

  • Tim

    I’m waiting patiently for more news on the Honda CBR250R’s release.

  • bpjester

    I second that emotion on the Street Triple R. It does everything better than my Brutale 910R.

  • stephan

    interesting the lil’ Honda didn’t make it. I thought with all the talk about the CB250 would have made the cut. Wes, how would you compare the Ace vs the CB250R?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The Ace is over $1,100 and 25% cheaper and looks the kind of bike people my age and younger want to ride.

      • stephan

        haha dude im not 60;) no i know but performance / ride wise i’ve heard so much good stuff about the CB. i guess i was wondering if you thought that 1K was in anyway justified in the price in terms of what you’re getting (ABS and what not). or maybe the ace is as well designed?

      • Tim

        I’m looking at the CBR250 as my first step into motorcycle ownership after years of moped building/tuning/riding. Something about the CCW styling is just a bit off to me and I feel like the Honda will outlast it as well. When I want a retro-styled bike I will be finding a RD350 and rebuilding it.

        • Toby

          I’ve owned a CBR250 for 4 months now (here in Thailand) and I’m constantly surprised by how good it is. I thought I’d be pining for the bigger bikes I owned in the States, but nope.

          I did a ten hour round trip ride to Burma in the rain and my ass wasn’t even sore ;)

          • stephan

            i really want one pretty badly. i keep stopping myself from heading over to the dealership every nice day

          • Tim

            Thats good news. I can’t wait to see one in real life.

      • stephan

        incidentally, is the ace not on the CCW website?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          I think it’s still going through CARB and EPA. They’ll be available this summer.

      • Kevin

        That extra $1100 gets you on the freeway, just sayin’ is all.

  • Matt

    I’m taking the MSF course next month. Next step: shopping. On the question of pirate/power ranger/urban hipster I’m power ranger all the way, so tha Ace ain’t for me.

    How about a Craigslist Ninjette buyers guide?

    Suggested title: “Mint condition, my ass!”

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

      Here’s a good link for info on the ninjette. I recommend becoming REALLY familiar with the articles on carb cleaning and valve adjusting. The sad thing about the 250s is people buy them, trash them for 5k miles, don’t follow the break-in period, do no maintenance on them, then sell them on CL. “Only 6,000 miles! A few bent levers, and scratches on the fairing, from tipping over in the driveway. Will trade for R1″

    • aristurtle

      Here’s a buying guide: look for one with visible crash damage, but no bends in the forks or frame. Offer the guy a few hundred bucks less than what he’s asking. (Bring cash.) They’ve all been abused; you might as well get one that’s not trying to hide it.

      Then spend two weeks cleaning the carbeurators, adjusting the valves, and replacing the bent handlebars and levers from when the previous owner crashed it. Don’t worry about dents and scratches in the fairing, tank, exhaust, bar ends, pegs, mirrors, and turn signals; they add character. If the fairing is actually broken, glue it back together. Don’t try to preserve the paint by only gluing the back side: the uglier the glue scar is, the stronger the seam will be.

      Getting your hands dirty repairing the previous owner’s damage will be excellent practice for when you need to repair the damage from your own first crash later.

      If you play it right you might come in under $1000.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

        Not to mention how important it is to build a deeper relationship with your machine my spending time, deep within it. It can sound cheesy, but it’s not your bike until you do so.

        • Devin

          I bought my first bike, an EX500 under similar terms. Second owner, both wive’s of bikers, both dropped it. Bring cash. Already had flush mounts on it due to dropping. Nothing crooked.

          Just putting it out for sale now, and I will lose at most 1K, most likely only $500, not bad for a six year rental.

      • Matt the sperglord

        For the coin a used one goes for in Vancouver, buying a new one would be cheaper than the process you’ve described.

        I could never figure out why a bashed up n00b ridden ’08 Ninjette would sell for 90% of it’s MSRP.

      • Matt

        Thanks Mark for a fantastic link!

        And thanks Aristurtle for the info on what I’ll need to do to get a used bike tuned up.

        Time spent on maintenance is something I hadn’t considered.

        The bike will be parked in a public garage 5 blocks from my apartment so I don’t have anyplace to leave it in a partially assembled state with tools at the ready. And I’ll never be home from work in time to work on it on the weekdays. And I want to RIDE on the weekends!!

        • Sean Smith

          Do what I do to hide your wrenching from the parking lot people: Buy a cheap cover, work on the bike late at night when no one else is around, and if you can’t get it done, set the tank and bodywork back on the bike, throw the cover over it, and leave all your parts underneath.

          Nobody ever has to know.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

    “Buying your first bike? We’ve got news for you, you’re going to crash it.”

    Such great advice in a world where millions of dollars of market usually makes your decisions.

  • JonB

    Ural ST vs. Bonneville vs. W650 vs. Tha Ace maybe?

    Is “the” Ace out yet?

    • Joe

      Same here

      I’m debating between a Thruxton and a CCW Misfit though.

      Left side of the brain says get the Misfit. Right calls for the Thruxton. lol

      • Ilya

        Ural sT vs Bonneville (or better Scrambler) would be a great idea. Wes, how about a real shootout?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Sure, we can do that once I’m out in LA.

          • Robert

            I would love to see that!

            • Devin

              Wes, only if you balls out and declare a winner.

              • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

                Nah, both bikes win, just choose the color you like, bikes are soooo good today that we can’t possibly choose a winner. Slurp, gurgle etc.

    • wes’s soon-to-be LA roomate

      can you really compare those bikes? the price and performance gaps put them in pretty different classes i would think.

  • Colin

    Not sure this is right place for this so apologies, but an open question. I have job interview with Kawasaki this week. What makes them different / better than the other Japanese manufacturers? Cheers

    • aristurtle

      Bright green paint.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Reference the time they told Grant, “Grant, there’s plenty of guys just like you at Kawasaki, they’ve just had their creativity and ambition crushed by the corporation.”

      • Colin

        So fundamentally, they are a soul destroying corporation that sucks the life out of their employees like a harry potter dementor and makes very green bikes. I think i am going to have a great interview! ;-)

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          You’ve got it. Also, remember that Japanese > round eye.

    • T Diver

      Even people who know nothing about motorcycles know a Ninja ia a fast street bike. No other maker can boast that. Sorry guys but your grandmother doesn’t know what a GSXR is.

      • JonB

        In my opinion nothing about that statement equates to cool.

        • ontheroad

          Pretty sure my Grandmothers only definition of Ninja is a stealthy Asian man dressed in black who enjoys leaping around on rooftops.

          What makes Kawasaki different/better? Idk… they took a decade longer than the rest to figure out how to make a superbike that handles properly?

          • aristurtle

            From what I hear from the old-timers, back in The Day, Kawi’s selling point for its halo bike (the KX750 Triple) was the same as that of a Plymouth ‘Cuda or the like: it was cheap, it would go faster than anything in a straight line, and if you tried to go around even a gentle corner, you would be killed; the thing had terrible handling compared to, for instance, the Honda CB750.

            Nowadays, it’s genuinely difficult to tell the difference between the four Japanese bike makers. I’ve got a soft spot for Kawasaki because they were making the only real small-displacement sportbike for more than two decades while the other three figured we didn’t need them, but that’s probably not universal, and in any case Honda’s shaking up that market this year.

            So I dunno. But then, I don’t know where the rabid fans of Yamaha, Suzuki, or Honda come from, either.

            • Roman

              I dunno, I think Kawi is currently making some interesting machines compared to the rest of the Big 4.

              The Versys sounds like a great all-rounder and gets universal praise from people who’ve ridden it. The new generation Z1000 is a legit naked superbike contender. The Ninja1000 is what the new VFR should’ve been. And the Concourse is absolutely dominating the Sport-Touring segment.

              Their sport bikes leave me cold (though the last gen ZX6R won all sorts of comparos), but all in all, not too shabby.

              • aristurtle

                They’ve got a couple things that the others aren’t doing, true. Myself, I’d like to get an ER-6n at some point in the near future, but only if they start selling the US version in bright green.

                • Mr.Paynter

                  I have one, they’re awesome!

                  I got the Stardust Pearl White though, I’m not a KawaGreen fan!

              • kashani

                I was kinda surprised not to see the Ninja 1000 on the list. Sporty and able to commute a few hundred miles a week plus the occasional weekender.

                • Toby

                  Shit, my CBR250 can do that…

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik


      As an industry insider with 14 years experience, having worked for the Japanese (Yamaha) for five of them, and with good friends at Kawasaki, let me give you my take.

      They are good, motorcycle-driven enthusiasts like anyone else. The majority of the technical staff and lower level marketing staff are there for the thrills, not the money (which is not great in this industry as a whole). Most of the top ranking marketing and sales staff will have come from whatever backgrounds, and as such can often be annoying and uneducated.


      The top management is mostly Japanese, and sorry for saying this BUT FOR GOOD REASON. It’s their company, and head office in Japan calls the shots. No different with most US or German multi-nationals. Forget all the Japan-bashing, racist garbage you may have heard. Working in a Japanese subsidiary means a hyper clean, technically progressive and high learning environment. Having also worked with leading OEMs from other cultures, I can say that you will never learn as much, as quickly as from one of the big four. Mistakes are not obstacles to be feared, but opportunities to overcome. Problems are sorted out first, and blame assigned to management, not juniors, a lesson the West could stand to learn from.

      Put your best foot forward, and in my personal and professional view, what makes Kawasaki special is that they make great bikes for enthusiasts, rather than all things to all people (like Honda and Suzuki)

      Good Luck

      • Mattro

        this is an awesome post

        • Alex

          seconded! very informative. you didn’t have to type that up but you did, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  • Colin

    Hahaha. I’ll drop that in!

  • Devin

    Anyone else disapointed to find the Scooter as the best suited bike to them on this list?

    If I had more cash I would definitely have a bike for solo riding and a bike for riding with the wifey to work.

  • ontheroad

    So, I think the overarching question is…. what’s Jon buying??

    • JonB

      I’m at a loss but leaning W650.

      • ontheroad

        Word. Nice little bikes, those. Look nicer than the new Bonnies IMO, and the bevel drive is nifty.

  • http://twitter.com/hagus Luke

    Can we also have a police-magnet rating attached to each bike? You can use “sirens out of five” as a measure.

    Duke 690: 5/5 sirens. Comes with a pre-filled tear-off citations you just need to sign yourself and a pair of handcuffs under the seat.

    Zero MX: 2/5 sirens. Silent engine confuses them, but it can still wheelie.

    Ural: 0/5 sirens. An outboard motor attached to a hippo … unlikely to get stopped by the cops unless you are discharging a weapon (at other people, not at the Ural)

    Yamaha Scooter: ?/5 sirens. Are scooters even legal to drive on US roads? I’m not sure a cop would know what it was. The only place I’ve seen them here is ferrying riders and their peroxide blond girlfriends around the pits. I figured they didn’t meet some minimum fuel consumption law.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ha, great idea. Scooters are totally illegal, but the Hummer-bound cops are too slow to catch them.

  • Miles Prower

    Regarding the 690 Duke:

    “Over a supermoto, you’re gaining a lower seat height, stiffer suspension and enough refinement that you can sit on the highway for an hour or two without losing your mind.”

    Unless you buy the sibling 690 SMC. Same, crazy-smooth engine. Freeway comfortable.

    The current-generation LC4 is awesome. The previous-gen LC4 really shook you up–enough vibration to make you numb after 30 minutes of riding.

    Also, stock seat height difference is about 1”, but you can lower the SMC’s seat height with a new (more comfortable) seat.

  • Thomas

    …again a great input Wes – lot’s of great bikes – the mess is – my garage can’t afford all of them :-(

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      There’d be a lot more room if that carbon-bodied Maserati wasn’t in there… :)

      • Thomas

        …ok, you’ll take it? Want to sell him anyway as I’ve not the time to drive it… That gives room for app. 4 motorcycles?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Sure, I need a new car for LA and that’d be perfect for picking up starlets in. Do you accept payment in monopoly money?

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    first crashed Triumph I get my hands on will be a long term project, hopefully a Scrambler or Bonnie…

  • Stephen

    well my next bike is gonna be a triumph scrambler built into jack pine-esq specs (in Australia you see).

    do you know if the mods would also work on the newer EFI model?

    - steve

    • philn

      @Steve – There’s quite a bit of weight-cutting mods James does to the Scrambler, along with a suspension upgrade, better rubber, and minimalist aesthetics – all of which can be done to an EFI Scrambler. Not sure what performance mods can be done to get the EFI to boogie like the Jack Pines as Wes reported.

      I got my 2010 Scrambler late last year, and just now started trimming the fat. Great bike – you’ll love it.

  • solidaridad

    Triumph! Yeah!

  • Taco

    This is scary. HFL and me must be on a similar brain wavelength. I almost totally agree with the list. The Triumph Daytona, Street Triple and Aprilia are awesome. I totally get the WR250R if I were living in Southern California. The Ural is nice looking. However $8600 for a scooter, no thanks. You can get 4 of the other bikes on this list for less or 3 CCW Tha Ace’s. I also don’t know about the Zero MX either. I’m not hating on the electric bikes though. I’m totally waiting with bated breath for what happens with the Brammo Empulse due out later this year.
    This is a great list. Keep it up guys.

  • markbvt

    Tiger 800 XC. Sorry Wes. :)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Just buy an 800GS and hold your thumb over the squinty light?

      • BMW11GS

        its going to take more than that…

      • markbvt

        Nah, the GS is more expensive, too softly suspended, and likely less reliable. And it doesn’t have a Triumph triple in it.

  • andy727

    HFL makes me want too many bikes! Love the 3 triumphs, duke, and ural. RSV too, it just scares me.

  • x

    i spent an hour drooling over the duke 690 the other day….i just can’t get over that damn headlight.

  • Marlon

    I’m researching my next bike and y’know what? I had forgotten the KTM. That’ll be on the shortlist now.

    Funnily enough so is the Scrambler, the WR, the street triple… Man. Great taste in bikes.

    New bike buying is a fuckin’ wonderful quandry to be in.

  • Mattro

    started my ccw fund last year when the heist was featured, here. can’t wait for it to launch (hopefully), next month. awesome 30th birthday present TO ME.

    the beauty of it is, i’ll be able to afford a hooligun a few months later when it launches. and one of their higher-displacement offerings in the future. my god this affordable motorcycle ownership!

  • contender

    How about a feature on how best to insure/register a (slowly) growing collection? Paying to have three bikes on the road simultaneously seems like a bit of a waste, but sometimes I want to take the supermoto over the R11GS.

    Woe is me.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ha, I wish I had that problem or the expertise to know the answer.

    • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ gregorbean

      I have a friend that has this “problem,” a sizable stable of vintage and modern Ducati’s, all registered and roadworthy at any given time. I believe the answer is LOTS AND LOTS OF MONEY.

      • contender

        I need a different solution.

        • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ gregorbean

          Me too. When I saw all his bikes and he told me they were all up on registration and insurance, I was amazed. I immediately thought, “is there some way you could buy one license plate and switch it from bike to bike as you use them” and in the same second realized that would be totally illegal. I had 4 bikes registered at one time once but I live in WA state where I’m not required to have insurance, so that helped a lot. I’ve since narrowed it down to one, a dualsport/supermoto setup.

          • Sean Smith

            Dealer plates man.

  • Chris

    So between the Street Trip and the Duke which would you go for?

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

      Do a test ride and figure it out. I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The Trumpet’s going to be better at more things. The Duke’s going to be better at very tight mountain roads and city stuff.

  • Kit

    For me this summer’s bikes are:

    1975 Kawasaki G4TR Trail Boss – $500


    1981 KZ1000 CSR – $500

  • http://paulthepcphysician.com Paul M Edwards

    The Buell XB12R was rated at 103bhp stock. Not sure where you got your info.

  • Rich Wentz

    I love Buells. Dreamy.