Two wheels good: The best new production motorcycles of 2018
It's probably fair to say 2018 hasn't been the world's most revolutionary year in production motorcycling, no matter how crazy things have been in the electric market, the custom world, and the technology work around the edges of the scene.
Realistically, a lot of companies are probably holding out for next year to drop the really fun new gear, because there's little point building a new model for 2019, when Euro 5 emissions regulations are going to come in and change the game again in 2020. But there has still been some shining lights in the production world, and here's our favorite new bikes from 2018.
The dirty, and the dirtish
Honda went big and broad with its CRF450 lineup this year, but nothing seemed to ring folks' bells quite like the CRF450L. Honda took its beastly CRF450R motocrosser, and comprehensively overhauled it until it reached street-legal status. At 131 kg (289 lb), it's heavy for a motocrosser, but joins some of the most extreme street-legal road/trail bikes on the planet, with a dash of Honda reliability.
And then there were two major additions to the middleweight adventure market that we've been waiting on for several years now. KTM dropped its 790-series Adventure bikes, and Yamaha finally officially launched its Ténéré 700. Both had been quietly bimbling about in a series of semi-public off-road rally testing scenarios, but now they're here, and a pleasant anathema to yesteryear's trend of monstrous 1200cc tourers masquerading as off-roaders the average biker can wrangle.
Here's what you need to know: there are two versions of the KTM, one more road focused and one more mud-happy. Both use the 790cc motor making 94 horsepower, while the Yamaha uses the 689cc MT-07 motor making less at 72 horses. The Yamaha is lighter, and looks like a Dakar bike. The Katos hold more fuel, and the R model has a couple inches more suspension. Both are very exciting machines.
Norton also made something pretty in the "hipster funkybike with chunky tires that you could probably ride on grass" segment. Lopping its V4RR superbike engine in half, it came up with a 650cc parallel twin – a revvy little thing making 84 horses. And thus was born a pair of Atlas 650 scramblers. They look neo-retro-tastic, and we're looking forward to seeing them on the road.
Sportsbikes and hyperbikes of note
There's a new King Dingaling in town, and he wears red and silver. The Ducati Panigale V4R, a WSBK homologation machine, gives Ducati the honor of having the most powerful street-legal production superbike in the world. The V4R superbike stands alone at a monstrous 234 horses once you fit the naughty Akrapovic exhaust kit. The rest of the bike is equally special.
That Ducati, however, will cost house-deposit kind of money. So for those who are actually looking to get something within the realm of sensibility, the new third-generation 2019 BMW S1000RR looks like the pick of the crop for next year. Gone is the trademark asymmetry, which will please some buyers, and somehow BMW's also hacked a whopping 11 kg (24 lb) from the weight of the thing, giving a fully fueled weight of just 197 kg (434 lb) to go with a sizeable power increase up to 207 peak horses with a fatter midrange. Giddy up!
Ever since the Kawasaki H2 first poked its supercharged, mirror-finished nose into showrooms a few years ago, there's only been one hyperbike that matters. And for 2019, the new H2 has received a thoroughly unnecessary 31-horsepower kick up the bum to make it even more berserk than it already was. 231 horses out of the box is wonderfully insane, and we'd love to know what it can do with a pipe, a chip, a tune and a boxful of fresh undies.
And here's something from left field: the Vins Duecinquanta, which we covered just before we rang in the new year, and which a lot of folk probably missed. Using carbon forks, carbon rims, carbon bodywork and a lightweight 90-degree two-stroke v-twin motor, this 250cc, road legal scalpel makes somewhere around 60 horsepower and weighs just 95 kg (209 lb) fully fueled. That is some absolutely next-level lightweighting, it must be extraordinary throwing this thing at a set of corners!
New streetbikes of distinction
We may as well start at the loony end of the scale, with the most powerful production nakedbike ever built: the MV Agusta Brutale 1000 Serie Oro, which makes a highly nutty 208 horsepower, enough to allegedly catapult you to 187 mph (302 km/h) without the soothing benefit of a fairing. The rider that can achieve this speed and hold on for a solid few minutes will get off looking like he's just gone three rounds with Mayweather. Actually, not Mayweather, maybe somebody that actually punches you instead of running away all night.
Retro continues to be the name of the game in motorcycle styling, but Suzuki became the first company to extend retro design into the 80s era when it pulled the covers off its Katana 3.0 at Intermot in Germany. Based on the GSX-S platform, and thus the K5 GSX-R motor, the new Kat is technically not all that remarkable, but it should ride beautifully, and it's got plenty of style – so we look forward to seeing if it makes an impact on sales charts.
Harley-Davidson signaled this year that it's planning on some pretty wacky pivots come 2020, but for 2019 it's bringing out a very tasty power cruiser with an emphasis on aggressive riding, including some crude attempts at lightweighting and even some thought put into cornering ground clearance. The 2019 FXDR 114 looks badass, sounds badass ... and we dig it.
We could've put Triumph's new Scrambler 1200s in the dirt-ish category, but they strike us as retro street machines first and foremost, and this category frankly needed filling out, so we'll leave them here. The new 1200s come in road- and dirt-focused XC and XE versions, they use a grunty 89-horse parallel twin, they have lovely dashes, twin high pipes and a surprisingly comprehensive list of high-tech luxuries on board.
And finally, you guessed it, the Indian FTR1200. Last year's "hottie of the year" got a full reworking as Indian turned it from a droolworthy custom into an actual production streetbike, losing surprisingly little charm in the process. The 120-horse V-Twin motor will be a ton of fun on the street, this thing looks like a proper banger. But this twin high-rise shotgun exhaust kit from S&S should be made mandatory. Here, look at the difference they make:
These are only the production bikes that caught our eye – make sure you check out our 2018 motorcycle technology roundup to see what's going on in the electric world, the custom world and the technologies that are shaping the bikes of tomorrow.