This was an awesome year for motorcycles. Not only did we get a new fastest bike ever — the Ducati 1199 Panigale R — but affordable, small-capacity bikes hit the market in large numbers, making motorcycling more accessible for everyone. Electric motorcycles also continued to develop, pointing the way into the future. But, which ones were best? Find out in the inaugural RideApart Motorcycle Of The Year Awards.
The Winner: Star Bolt
How It Moves The Needle: Ever since the Japanese manufacturers beat Harley back in the early 1960s, then started building Harley clones in the 1980s, not a single one has managed to match the simple, honest looks of the Sportster. Enter 2013, that’s what the Star Bolt has unleashed on the cruiser category. Since this is a Japanese motorcycle company, they didn’t stop there, adding things the Harley has never had, like handling, brakes, safety and comfort, too, all for about the same price.
Why We Chose It: The above might sound like a regressive approach, but it’s one that meets market demands. Hopefully the Bolt will be a gateway drug for young riders, giving them enough of a taste of a modern motorcycle that they’ll want more.
Cruiser Runner-Up: Moto Guzzi California 1400
How It Moves The Needle: Want a motorcycle and a brand with tangible history, quality and a compelling underdog story? Look no further than Moto Guzzi. The California 1400 has all the looks, character and presence you could ever want from a cruiser, but rides like a 21st century bike. Handling and brakes are safe and genuinely good, even when compared to performance-oriented motorcycles. And that big V-twin’s rumble and quirkiness still conveys a primal motorcycle experience in an incredibly emotive way.
Why It Didn’t Win: It’s very expensive and very heavy, relegating it to the realms of a luxury item. Guzzi has a much more affordable range of bikes just over the horizon, and we can’t wait to ride them.
Category: Dual Sport
The Winner: KTM 690 Enduro R
How It Moves The Needle: Simply put, the 690 Enduro R is the most capable dual-sport motorcycle out there. Sure, it costs more than $10,000, but it comes stock with all the fancy stuff you’d have to bolt on to a cheaper bike to get it to perform.
Why We Chose It: At the Taste Of Dakar early this year, it was the Enduro R that was the highest performing motorcycle out there. Not only that, but most of the guys with them had ridden them there over hundreds of miles of highway.
Dual Sport Runner-Up: Suzuki DR-Z400S
How It Moves The Needle: Old as dirt, but tough as nails. The DR-Z gets more people dirty in a road-legal fashion than any other bike out there.
Why It Didn’t Win: Takes a ton of modification before it’s genuinely capable. Starting with the absolutely rubbish “Death Wing” tires. Come on guys, at least fit quality rubber as standard.
The Winner: Ducati 899 Panigale
How It Moves The Needle: The Panigale formula is genuinely revolutionary, ditching the frame, achieving unprecedented performance and wrapping that up in futuristic looks. On the 1199, you spend the entire ride managing the ridiculous power output. On the 899, you just ride the thing. Hard.
Why We Chose It: Much more than just a smaller motor, the 899 is simply a sweeter, more exploitable, more agile package. One that’s backed up with very capable electronic aids that made riding it at Imola in the rain not just safe, but positively enjoyable. It’s the best sportbike Ducati makes, and the best one you can buy right now — full stop.
Sportbike Runner-Up: Triumph Daytona 675 R
How It Moves The Needle: Incredibly agile handling backed up with a jewel-like motor and high quality suspension and brakes. Likely the best handling sportbike you can buy right now.
Why It Didn’t Win: Two reasons. One, the Daytona's styling is a step backward; while it's a better performer than the model it replaces, the 2013 model looks older than the previous version and appears cheap, despite the fitment of top-shelf Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes. Two, it only works on the track. Riding one of these on the road is a frustrating lesson in knot tying.