10 awesome motorcycles to get excited about in 2011

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Categories: Dailies, Reviews

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.

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.

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