CW ARCHIVES: Ten Best Bikes of 2001

Motorcycles for the new millennium

ten best bikes 2001 awards
Ten Best Bikes of 2001Brian Blades

Much of our older content has been stored on the back shelves of our offices... we always have fun looking back at days gone by and we hope you enjoy these little gems as well!

Sometimes, picking the Ten Best Bikes of the year is easy. Other times, it's hard. Sometimes, shootouts in each and every one of the categories give us clearcut winners, so deciding the Best Bike is a simple matter of re-reading the last paragraph of each. Other times, there's only one new bike in a class, which doesn't quite warrant a shootout, so we're left guesstimating where exactly it fits in. And often, factors other than measurable performance creep in–things like significance, practicality, styling, cost, etc.

This year, it was half and half. The Superbike, Touring, Middleweight Streetbike, Cruiser and Motocross categories were slam-dunks, but the Sport-Touring, Open-Class Streetbike, Standard, Dual-Purpose and Enduro categories were subject to debate. Which wouldn't have been such a problem if it weren't for the fact that, as a group, the Cycle World staff couldn't even agree on where to go to lunch to discuss these issues!

We ended up at the swank Golden Truffle Restaurant in Newport Beach, where crack chef (and motorcycle enthusiast) Alan Greeley laid on a feast that would do the Gods proud. Good thing it was just lunch; we'd never have been able to select a wine to go with dinner!

In the end, we again managed to select the Ten Best Bikes of the year. But really, there were only two things everyone agreed on: 1) We make our choices, and 2) we'll spend the next 12 months defending them!

Best Superbike: Suzuki GSX-R1000

suzuki gsx-r1000 on-track action
Suzuki GSX-R1000Mark Wernham

Picking the new GSX-R1000 as Best Superbike was a no-brainer. Suzuki's recipe for success was simple: Take last year's Best Superbike, the GSX-R750, bore it out a little, stroke it a lot, add a counterbalancer to quell the vibes, light the wick and then run for cover! With 144 rear-wheel horsepower, sub-10-second quarter-mile capability and a 176-mph top speed, the Super Gixxer possesses the kind of performance usually reserved for rocket sleds like the GSX1300R Hayabusa. But because it weighs in at just 407 pounds, scarcely 20 more than a GSX-R600, it really handles. The result is so rapid that most of our testers came back from their hot laps wide-eyed and white-knuckled. The only thing "wrong" with the GSX-R1000 is that we're not worthy!

Best Sport-Touring Bike: Aprilia RST 1000 Futura

aprilia rst 1000 futura static 3/4 view
Aprilia RST 1000 FuturaCourtesy of Aprilia

We were predicting big things for sport-touring bikes when we added the class to the Ten Best two years ago. After all, BMW, Ducati and Triumph had just released sportbikes-with-bags that transcended the traditional big-rig Touring category, and ongoing rumors suggested the Japanese were poised and ready to strike. This year, however, the only truly new sport-tourer is the Aprilia RST 1000 Futura, so thankfully, it's a good one! With 99 horsepower and 65 foot-pounds of torque at the rear wheel, the Futura's RSV Mille-based 998cc V-Twin makes competitive power, and its twin-spar aluminum chassis elevates class standards for handling. The German-spec testbike we now have in-house benefits from recalibrated fuel-injection settings that eradicated the low-speed-driveability problems we discussed in our May issue's riding impression, and forthcoming American models are said to be identical. And the styling…well, love it or leave it, the Italian designers deserve credit for daring to be different.

Best Open-Class Streetbike: Yamaha FZ1

yamaha fz1 wheelie action
Yamaha FZ1Jay McNally

What's the difference between Best Superbike and Best Open-Class Streetbike? Good question, and one which with we struggle every year. This time around it was even more difficult, because there was the question of where the new 125-horsepower Yamaha FZ1 fit in. Having defeated the new eight-valve Ducati Monster S4, ZX-11-based Kawasaki ZRX1200R and GSX-R1100-based Suzuki Bandit 1200S to win the "Live Nude Bikes!" comparison in June's "4x4" issue, the YZF-R1-based machine seemed like a shoo-in for Best Standard. But the truth of the matter is the blue streak is better than that–so good, in fact, that we deemed it Best Open-Class Streetbike. If you insist on using the term "standard" to define the FZ1, make sure it's in reference to the new ones it sets!

Best Standard: Kawasaki ZRX1200R

kawasaki zrx1200r on-road action
Kawasaki ZRX1200RBrian Blades

This whole "standard" thing is out of control! At one end of the spectrum there's the Kawasaki W650 pushing people's nostalgia buttons, while at the other the Yamaha FZ1 is nosing into sportbike territory. Where's the new ZRX1200R fit in? Smack dab in the middle, thank you very much. The ZRX's café-racer styling evokes memories of the early-'80s GPzs that started the sportbike movement, while its engine derives from the ZX-11 that reigned as Speed King for almost a decade. Retuned for torque, the ZRX pumps out 113 horsepower and 81 foot-pounds of torque, the kind of numbers that make sportbike and cruiser riders envious. Maybe it's all the other bikes that should be painted green?

Best Touring Bike: Honda GL1800 Gold Wing

honda gl1800 gold wing studio side view
Honda GL1800 Gold WingCourtesy of Honda

They don't get any easier than this! Honda arguably created the touring class with the 1975 GL1000, and a quarter-century later, its six-cylinder successor, the GL1500, was still selling strong. But the introduction of the Ten Best-winning BMW K1200LT in 1999 forced Honda's hand, and the totally-new-for-'01 GL1800 was the result. And what a tour de force it is! With a 1832cc fuel-injected flat-Six engine housed in a sportbike-spec twin-spar aluminum chassis replete with single-sided swingarm, all hidden under sharp new bodywork that appeals to Gen X'ers and Preparation H'ers alike, this hum-dinger of a Wing scores a direct hit, and reclaims its rightful position atop the Touring Bike throne. The Wing is dead; long live the Wing!

Best Middleweight Streetbike: Honda CBR600F4i

honda cbr600f4i static 3/4 view
Honda CBR600F4iKevin Wing

All right, we admit it: We came down hard on the new, fuel-injected CBR600F4i in our January issue's test, speculating that in their quest for class-leading performance, Honda's engineers might have sacrificed some of the CBR's traditional user-friendliness. Compared to the F4i's carbureted predecessors, the F4, F3, F2 and the original Hurricane, that's true. But compared to all the other 600cc sportbikes on the market, the Honda still fits in exactly where it always has, serious enough to win Supersport races (as it did at Daytona this year), but suitable for sport-touring duty as well. The fact that the F4i is competitive on the racetrack and comfortable on the street gave it the win in our "Stompin' 600s" shootout in last month's "4x4" issue, so there's little surprise it landed here. Deservedly so.

Best Cruiser: Honda VTX1800

honda vtx1800 static side view
Honda VTX1800Brian Blades

Sometimes, we can't help feeling that our comments are falling on deaf ears. Then, a bike like the Honda VTX1800 comes along, and we feel vindicated. For the past half-decade, we've been telling anyone who'll listen that what cruiser buyers want are hot-rods–bikes that perform like the modified Harley-Davidsons that people actually ride, not the showroom-stock equivalent. And finally this year, after we'd sampled enough 50-horsepower boat anchors to hold the QEII at bay, we got what we wanted. Honda's VTX1800 is a good-looking and, equally importantly, hard-running cruiser that will likely set the direction for boulevard bikes for years to come. We'd say we told you so, but we'll let your local Honda dealer do that for us.

Best Dual-Purpose Bike: Husqvarna TE610

husqvarna te610 static side view
Husqvarna TE610Brian Blades

In the pendulum swing that defines the dual-purpose market, buyers' desires shift back and forth between street-focused, full-dress adventure-tourers and barely legal dirtbikes with lights. In between is a vast wasteland, but this year, Husqvarna found the happy middle ground. The new TE610 manages to combine features that we previously thought incompatible. It's powerful yet smooth-running. It has dirt-worthy, long-travel suspension and a low seat height. It's a product of European craftsman, yet it boasts Japanese levels of refinement and reliability. Ingredients that add up to a superb go-anywhere, do-anything motorcycle, and the Best Dual-Purpose Bike of 2001.

Best Enduro Bike: KTM 200 E/XC

ktm 200 e/xc off-road action
KTM 200 E/XCJeff Allen

If you're the sort who likes to read the last page of a novel first, read on. If not, turn to page 68 and read our enduro comparison… Okay, now that he's gone, we can talk about why we picked the KTM 200 E/XC as Best Enduro Bike. The term "enduro" encompasses all of off-road motorcycling, which in turn encompasses a wide range of riding conditions. And in what was probably the most diverse enduro comparo this (or any other) magazine has ever conducted, the 200 E/XC came out on top, heralded as seriously competitive yet riotously fun. Best of all, it doesn't wear you out. That's important when you're spending a day–or maybe Six Days–in the saddle.

Best Motocrosser: Yamaha YZ250F

yamaha yz250f off-road action
Yamaha YZ250FBrian Blades

If it weren’t for that freak of nature Travis Pastrana rewriting the laws of physics on a more-or-less weekly basis, Yamaha’s stunning new YZ250F would be damn near unbeaten in this year’s AMA 125cc Supercross Nationals. But that’s not why we named it Best Motocrosser of 2001. We did so because it makes us happy! From our most serious race-faced testers to our most jaded, haven’t-smiled-in-years Vets, everyone who rode the YZ-F came back sportin’ a Shiite-eatin’ grin. Forget about the whole should-a-250-be-legal-for-the-125cc-class? controversy that it spawned, the YZ-F ought to be outlawed before someone dies of laughter. If four-strokes like this are the wave of the future, we say bring it on!