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SEE: Want to ride the top motorcycles in the country? 2018 SA Bike of the Year finalists announced!

2018-10-04 11:30

Dries van der Walt

Ducati 1260 Multistrada

Image: Brian Cheyne

It is almost time to decide which bike walks away with the coveted Pirelli Bike of the Year Award for 2018, and the 12 finalists for this year’s competition have just been announced.

The final line-up

Once again, the finalist bikes represent a good spread across the various bike categories – two sport bikes, two adventure tourers, four nakeds, two full-dress tourers, and two sub-500cm³ machines.

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The judges, drawn from the fraternity of bike journalists from SA’s leading motorcycle publications, were given the manufacturers’ nominations and asked to vote for the bikes they felt should make it into the competition.

Here are the 12 bikes they selected as finalists:

BMW G 310 GS

BMW G 310 GS

                                                                          Image: Supplied

BMW’s baby GS has been met with some controversy, mainly centred around the use of the GS nameplate on what is essentially a road bike. That said, the 310 GS makes for a great proposition as an affordable highway-capable commuter.

BMW K 1600 B

BMW K1200 B

                                                                          Image: Rob Till

BMW’s Bagger is unashamedly styled for the US market, which might count against it in South Africa. Think of it as a 7-series on two wheels – all the luxury and comfort you could ask for on a trip down the length of Mzanzi. As long as you stick to the highways, that is.

Ducati Multistrada 1260

Ducati 1260 Multistrada

                                                                             Image: Brian Cheyne

Lighter, nimbler and more powerful than its predecessor, the big ‘Strada breathes new life into the Adventure Tourer category. It is a pleasant bike to ride, but with the normal rough edges of an Italian thoroughbred.

Ducati Panigale V4

Ducati Panigale V4

                                                                             Image: Supplied

The V4 is the quickest Panigale yet, and one of very few Ducati four-cylinder bikes to see the light of day. Despite its legacy (Panigales can be a handful, I can tell you from experience) and added power, the V4 is a surprisingly manageable bike to ride.

Honda Goldwing

Honda Goldwing

                                                                         Image: Honda Motors

Now in its 6th generation, the new-from-the-ground-up 2018 Goldwing has slimmed down and become more compact, although it retains a 1 800 cm³ flat-four motor. It offers just about every conceivable luxury, so it should give BMW’s Bagger a run for its money in the contest.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

                                                                      Image: Supplied

Built around the KTM 690 Duke’s motor, the Vitpilen 701 is a fashion statement par excellence. But standing out from the crowd comes at a price: with the handlebars and seat on almost the same plane, it is not the most comfortable bike out there.

Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki Ninja 400

                                                                        Image: Supplied

The baby is growing up. With an engine capacity increased from the previous generation’s 300cm³, the venerable Baby Ninja gets a welcome power boost. It joins the G 310 GS as a contender for the title ‘Commuter of the Year”.

Kawasaki H2 SX

Kawasaki H2 SX

                                                                        Image: Kawasaki Motors

The beast has donned a tuxedo. Team Green has added a smattering of practicalities to the supercharged H2 – notably a pillion seat, panniers and cruise control – and reduced the power output from “absolutely ridiculous” to “still not even remotely sensible”.

Kawasaki Z900RS

Kawasaki X900RS

                                                                           Image: Kawasaki Motors

Kawasaki homage to the original Z1, the stuff teenage dreams were made of in the Seventies. The styling would be familiar to anyone who has seen the original Mad Max film, but for all its retro looks the RS is a competent modern all-rounder.

KTM 790 Duke

KTM Duke 790

                                                                          Image: Supplied

At its local launch, I felt that the 790 Duke was set to play well in the hotly-contested mid-size naked category. It is nimble and punchy and does nothing to hurt the positive reputation of the other Dukes. Soon enough we’ll see if the other judges agree with me.

Triumph 765 Street Triple

Triumph Speed Triple RS

                                                                              Image: Triumph

With its Daytona-based 765cm³ three-pot mill, the Street is as much fun as its 1 050cm³ sibling, but lighter and nimbler. Every inch the quintessential street fighter, the smaller Triple has been described as one of the most electrifying, agile and thrilling bikes you can ride.

Triumph Tiger 1200

Triumph Tiger 1200

                                                                            Image: Triumph

If the Bavarian-badged Bagger is a 2-wheeled 7-series, the big Tiger is a Discovery minus one pair of wheels. Rugged, sophisticated and versatile, it will take you wherever you want to go, irrespective of whether a road leads there or not.

In previous years there have been several comments to the effect that it is unfair to pitch, say, a BMW G 310 GS against a Triumph Tiger 1200, but the adjudication has been designed for that not to be the case.

The judges’ brief is not to compare the bikes directly against each other (unless they fall into the same category), but rather judge them against other bikes in that category.

To help ensure objectivity, the judges’ evaluation is guided by the following set of questions:

• How has the bike moved its category forward? 
• Is it introducing new technology to the category?
• Is it a new departure for the manufacturer?
• Is it competitively priced?
• How good is it dynamically?
• Is it accessible for everyday riders or is it just for experts? 
• Can it be serviced anywhere or must it be taken to selected dealerships?
• Does it fulfil the requirements of the class?
• Does it have the ‘wow’ factor; which one would you buy with your own money and take home?

The intention is that the overall winner not be one that has one single outstanding feature (such as speed, comfort or handling), but rather the bike that demonstrates the biggest overall advance over other bikes in its category.

We value our reader’s opinions, which are sometimes very different from those of the panel of judges. So, as usual, we are giving you the opportunity to vote for your choice, so please use our poll to let us know which bike you think should be named the 2018 Pirelli Bike of the Year.

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