BIKE OF THE YEAR CONTENDER: The Indian Scout has oodles of low-down torque and a good lean angle, making it a comfortable cruiser. Image: Dries van der Walt
CAPE TOWN - As the number of finalists for the 2015 Bike of the Year award has doubled there isn’t enough time to review all the bikes beforehand.
Instead, I decided to give readers my opinion of each of the finalists – maybe it will help inform your choice for our Readers’ Bike of the Year competition...
Judging will be held over August 12-14 and Wheels24's Van der Walt is a member of the judging panel.
BIKE OF THE YEAR
Wheels24 readers can vote for their favourite bike and stand a chance to win one of three R500 shopping vouchers. You can also vote - independently of the prize competition - on our home page voting booth.
Kawasaki Ninja H2
I haven’t had the opportunity to ride Kawasaki’s flagship superbike but by all indications it lives up to the hype. Blisteringly fast and hideously expensive, this one is for advanced students only.
Has Yamaha succeeded in outdoing the very competent BMW S 1000 RR? By all accounts, if it hasn't the company came within a whisker of doing so. A fast and powerful superbike, it can be tamed with various aids to suit the rider’s taste (and skill).
BMW S 1000 RR
During the media presentation BMW referred to the S 1000 RR as the safest superbike - and after riding it on a racetrack I didn’t think their claim was exaggerated. With its combination of almost flawless handling, huge stopping power and competent electronic rider aids, the RR makes an average rider look good and a good rider look brilliant.
Aprilia says the RSV4 was designed around the only four-cylinder 65° V engine yet fitted as standard to a road bike. The bike-maker says, is a direct descendant of a dynasty which has won 18 titles and 143 GP's. With this in its DNA, I have no doubt the Aprilia will hold its own in the competition.
Ducati 1299 Panigale
Ducati has taken the trick bits from the 1199 Superleggera and applied them to the increased-capacity 2015 Pani. Described by some as a supercomputer on wheels, it should easily match is cronies’ ability to make insane performance accessible to the man on the street.
The current generation of Ducati’s Sport Tourer Adventure Commuter has a new Testastretta engine with desmodromic variable timing and a semi-active suspension among a slew of electronic riding aids. It hasn’t been available for me to test but on paper I see no reason why it should stand back to the KTM it is up against.
KTM 1290 Super Adventure
During the launch I preferred the technologically advanced 1290 to its lighter and simpler 1050 sibling. Yes, it’s tall and heavy, but it is one of the most stable bikes under hard cornering that I have ever ridden. For all its macho looks, it's a tourer rather than an adventure bike.
Aprilia Caponord Rally
Aprilia’s adventure tourer is also said to be more at home on road than off. Its advanced electronics put it in the same league as the Ducati and KTM entries. Like the sport-bike segment, this category is tightly contested between machines that are almost equally capable.
IMAGE GALLERY:2015 Bike of the Year finalists
Triumph Tiger 800 XCx
The little engine that could. After testing it, I was mightily impressed with the fact that the Tiger punches well above its weight. The XCx is equally competent on and off the tar and has a number of features not found on other bikes in its price range.
A very single-minded design brief ("Make it fun") led to a multifaceted, multi-purpose, bike. Light and nimble, with a grunty 800cc V-twin engine, a good price and the Ducati name, what’s not to like?
Almost everybody who laid eyes on Indian’s “diesel-punkish” entry-level cruiser praised its looks. Oodles of low-down torque and a surprisingly good lean angle bring out the beast in this beauty. If you’re considering buying a cruiser, this one is a great first choice.
Harley Davidson Street 750
The big question with Harley’s made-in-India Street 750 is whether or not it is a dyed-in-the-wool H-D. After riding it at Africa Bike Week in Margate earlier this year, I came to the conclusion that it feels like a Harley, sounds like a Harley, and looks (almost) like a Harley. If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…
BMW R nineT
I loved the RnineT not only for its looks or customisability but also for how good a housing it was for the 1200cc boxer engine. Light, responsive and quick, it reminded me of the honest simplicity of the R 100 RS that I dreamed of owning when I was a teenager.
Yamaha MT-09 Tracer
The naked MT-09 was well-received by the judges of last year’s BOTY so one expects that the Tracer, the light sport tourer, will be as popular (if not more because the addition of a fairing). By all accounts the Tracer has lost none of the plus points of its naked sibling, so will it be the dark horse in the competition?
Suzuki GSX-S 1000F
It’s the tried-and-tested formula: drop a previous-generation sport bike’s engine into a commuter-friendly frame and tune it for more mid-range punch. I’ve always held that this recipe yields some of the best bikes you can buy and I’m expecting the Suzuki version to reinforce my opinion.
First of the few or first of the many? Decent range, high performance, and low total cost of ownership come together in the Zero range to open up the possibilities of electric bikes. Technological progress is likely to make these bikes even cheaper, more efficient and more practical in time, which means that the Zero S might well be a harbinger.
The sheer variety of the entries into the 2015 competition will make choosing a winner a difficult call. Whether you choose with your heart or your head, whether you decide to be led by my opinion or choose to ignore it, whether you are impartial or loyal to a brand doesn’t matter – what matters is your opinion.
Let’s keep the conversation going – feel free to use the comment section below or email Wheels24 with your thoughts and we'll publish them to explain your choice to your fellow bike fans.
And good luck in the competition!