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And the 2017 Bike of the Year winner is...

2017-09-13 10:58

Image: KTM

Dries van der Walt

Johannesburg - The judges have spoken and the votes have been tallied. It was a a tough call, but the winner of this year’s Pirelli Bike of the Year award is the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.

The format for the 2017 adjudication was changed from previous years in the interest of safety: testing on public roads was swopped for Gerotek’s excellent vehicle testing facility west of Pretoria, which gave us the opportunity to test the bikes to our hearts’ content without having to worry about traffic, pedestrians and the myriad of other dangers of public roads. 

Usual mix of categories

The finalists were the usual eclectic mix of bike categories, with five adventure bikes, three sport bikes, two sport tourers, three nakeds, a retro bike and a cruiser.

As always, picking one winner out of a group of very good finalists was a tough task.

Although no single bike stood out for me, there were a number of pleasant surprises. Both of the small bikes, the BMW G 310 R and the Kawasaki Versys-X 300, offered very good performance for their engine capacity, and both were pleasant to ride (although the Versys seat is a tad on the hard side).

Ducati’s SuperSport and Kawasaki’s Z1000SX were impressive sport tourers, both offering handling and pace combined with relaxed ergonomics. 

Another bike that turned out to be a big surprise for me was the Indian Scout 60, Although it has 134 cm² less capacity than its bigger sibling, the Scout 60 doesn’t suffer for it – it still packs a hefty punch at low revs and handles like no cruiser has ever handled before.

The two bigger naked bikes, the Suzuki SV650 and the Kawasaki Z900, lived up to the category’s standards for being huge fun to ride, and it is hard to say which one I enjoyed more. Both bikes offered exceptional dynamics and were very competent on the Gerotek handling track, but equally easy to ride on the ferry rides to and from Gerotek.

With its advanced electronics package, the Honda Fireblade SP impressed me more than the Suzuki GSX-R1000, although their performance levels were very similar. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the Suzuki, but the Honda seemed to be just a tad more refined. That said, I wouldn’t mind parking either in my garage.

The remainder of the four big adventure bikes among the finalists, the BMW R 1200 GS Rallye, the Ducati Multistrada 950 and the KTM 1090 R Adventure, were all exceptional bikes in their own right, but the judges felt that the 1290 Super Adventure was the bike that best met the adjudication criteria. 

This year’s award comes in the midst of a crisis for the bike industry, with bike sales plummeting year on year. Combined with ever less younger riders entering the market, the outlook for the industry seems anything but positive.

Judging by the current crop of new bikes, as reflected by the finalists, the manufacturer’s response to the crisis seems to be sensible – make the best bikes you possibly can to stay relevant in a tough market. 

Perhaps that also explains why it was so hard to choose a single bike among a group of worthy contenders.

Wheels24 readers Bike of the Year.

We asked readers to vote for their 2017 Bike of the Year. The BMW GS Rally3 topped the votes as the readers' pick.


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