Photography by Jeff Allen
As this ride evolved over four days, the bikes seemed to separate themselves into two groups. Group A included those bikes where your desire to ride hard, fast and long was appreciated by the engineers who designed your windshield, saddle, suspension and luggage. Group B took in the Weekenders—more laid back, with smaller bags, so-so seats, softer ride and only a vague idea of the distance between our two American coasts. Some seemed to follow a generic template filled in with weight.
Curiously, the Group A bikes all had more of that hard-core quality we sometimes call “character.” Others might use a less charitable word, but there’s no doubt that a distinct mechanical personality—along with permanence of value and lasting garage appeal—plays a large part in all our preferences and buying habits.
The Triumph Rocket III Touring won going away, picked as number one by three riders and making everyone else’s top-three list. The Harley Road King—despite being a lame-duck model that gets replaced next year—finished second, followed by the Moto Guzzi California, which just edged out the fourth-place Honda VTX1800T. The Victory Kingpin Tour—though DQ’d for its big pipes—still floated into a popular fifth.
As author of this test (or at least the dogged transcriber of others’ notes), I have to put in my own 2 cents. For my own money, in my own garage, it would have to be the Harley, which combines authenticity, comfort, reasonable size, real luggage, a good dealer network and surprising refinement.
A Guzzi dealership within 100 miles might change things, however. And I must say that the Triumph is a fine motorcycle, for such a big thing.