Motorcycle manufacturers have been hard at work this past few years. In the sportbike realm, they’ve eked more horsepower and less weight out of nipped-and-tucked packages. In the adventure touring world, they’ve made bikes that are more capable than ever before. And in the small-displacement category, they’ve managed to build bikes that actually look like they belong when parked next to their larger-displacement siblings on showroom floors.
While it’s been fun to write about all of the new bikes and the onslaught of electronic rider aids, added power, and more widespread use of titanium, the turn of the calendar has us shifting our attention to the bikes we really, really want to ride in the coming months. Last year was a great one in terms of product (think Yamaha FZ-10, Triumph Thruxton R, Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, etc.), but 2017 could very well top it in terms of fun—assuming these bikes deliver on their promise that is.
What are the bikes we’re most excited about? The ones we’re behaving really well for, in the hopes of getting to throw a leg over? We somehow whittled the list down to 10 bikes. And it looks something like this:
1) Suzuki GSX-R1000
Suzuki’s GSX-R platform has always been one of our favorites, but to say that the GSX-R1000 was in need of an update would be something more than a gross understatement. The 2017 model appears to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Suzuki says its goal was to cut weight and add power while remaining true to the design elements that made the GSX-R1000 so popular over the years. The engine is new (now with variable intake-cam timing system) and repositioned within the frame, the chassis is 10-percent lighter, and the electronic rider-aid suite includes everything from 10-level traction control to a bi-directional quick shift system on the GSX-R1000R. The spec sheet says all of the right things, and so long as that new engine makes a good step in terms of usable power, and the electronics are an aid rather than a hindrance, then this really could be the bike that puts Suzuki back in the thick of the literbike class battle. Right now, Yamaha and AprilIa have some of the best showroom-stock bikes on the market, and if the Suzuki can run with those, then we’re staged for one heck of a year.
FIRST LOOK TECH PREVIEW: 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R Superbike
2) Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
The best thing about Husqvarna’s new Vitpilen 401 is that it’s almost exactly what Husqvarna’s previously released concept bikes promised it would be. Designed loosely around the KTM 390 Duke's running gear (that’s a good thing), consider it a more uniquely styled small-displacement bike, perfect for around-town stuff or even the occasional blast down the local canyon roads.
That engine is claimed to make around 44 hp, suspension is from WP, and brakes are from ByBre. All good and well, though honestly, the big thing here is the looks, and how Husqvarna is making an honest attempt to produce street bikes that will bring a new audience into its dealerships. Don’t necessarily want that sporty look that comes with KTM’s “Ready to Race” slogan? Then this could be the ticket. So long as the ergos are nicely sorted and the controls are all new-rider friendly, then this bike really could be one of the bigger successes of 2017. Because style. Because options. And because the bike it’s taken influence from is already one of our absolute favorite small-displacement bikes.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 and Svartpilen 401
3) BMW HP4 RACE
BMW hasn’t said much about its HP4 Race, but that hasn’t kept us from day dreaming about this S1000RR-based, carbon fiber-clad beauty since BMW pulled the covers off it. What do we know? Only that it will be built around a carbon fiber twin-spar frame and carbon fiber wheels, while being “manufactured by hand in an exclusive limited series and supplied in the second half of 2017,” according to BMW Motorrad.
In reality, only a few very select (and very fortunate) people will ever get to ride an HP4 Race, let alone own one. And while that makes it hard to get overly excited about this bike, we can’t help but want to know more. Is this BMW just looking to have its own halo model? Is it a sign of things to come in the motorcycle world? Or is it the answer to some of the flickability (and chassis rigidity) issues that the S1000RR has suffered from in years past? Honestly, we don't know. All we're sure of is that we really, really want to ride one and to see how it compares to the already very potent S1000RR. We bet it’s no small step.
FIRST LOOK: BMW HP4 Race Advanced Prototype
4) Ducati SuperSport
Tissues, please, while we go on about how sportbike ergonomics ruin our back and wrists on the daily commute. There are worse problems to have, we know, but for a lot of people low clip-ons and cramped, track-biased ergos are just that: a problem. Or at least a detouring point when it comes time to buy a new bike.
Fully faired, supersport-inspired bikes with taller clip-ons (or a one-piece handlebar) have long offered a solution to the problem, and with its new SuperSport, Ducati is offering the same. The bike borrows a 937cc Testastretta engine from Ducati’s street-eating Hypermotard 939 and wraps that powerplant in a trellis frame with lower-mount footrests for a more-accommodating peg-to-seat gap. Add Panigale-esque fairings, an adjustable windscreen, TFT display, and Ducati Safety Pack with traction control, ride modes, and ABS, and you have a sporty looking bike that’s a better dance partner in the daily grind. If there’s still enough performance hiding beneath those svelte side panels, then this could turn into a great all-around bike for Ducati fans.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 Ducati SuperSport
5) Yamaha YZF-R6
With its 2017 Yamaha R6, Yamaha is pumping some much needed life back into the middleweight category. In reality, we like it just as much for what it represents within the category, as we do for the parts it wears.
The updates aren’t anything to scoff at, Yamaha having taken what it learned with the latest-generation R1 and using that to improve on a bike that already dominates showroom floors and racetracks alike. A beefier, 46mm KYB fork is used, as is larger, 25mm front axle, for more planted feel at corner entry, under load. On top of that, you get a six-level traction control system, selectable riding modes, larger front brake discs, aluminum fuel tank (instead of steel), and reshaped seat/subframe.
No, this is not an all-new bike with class-leading hp figures, but it is a warning sign to other manufacturers that Yamaha is still paying attention to the middleweight category, and that they should too. No need to mention that it’s also one seriously pretty motorcycle with those R1-inspired fairings…
FIRST LOOK: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6
6) BMW R nineT Racer
BMW’s R nineT platform has always held a special place in our heart, but with a price tag that didn’t quite match its personality, it was hard for us to fall fully in love the bike. With a new generation of R nineT models, BMW has found ways to offer that same look and feel but at a lower price. Our favorite new model? The R nineT Racer.
Described as a “stripped-down” version of the R nineT, the Racer uses a conventional fork, traditionally mounted brake calipers, and steel tank (instead of aluminum). What’s lost performance-wise is more than made up for by a new frame-mounted half fairing, seat hump, rear sets, clip-ons, and that iconic BMW Motorsport paint scheme. It’s sad to see a little performance go, but if you’re looking for hardcore performance, you’re probably not shopping in the retro/vintage/café racer category anyways. Here’s a bike that’s got that BMW fit and finish, is downright easy on the eyes, and won’t break the bank like the original—a combo we’ve been waiting for. Just the idea of walking out and seeing this thing parked in our driveway makes us all kinds of happy.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 BMW R nineT Racer
7) Honda CRF250L Rally
Honda has turned its CRF250L into something that’ll actually catch your attention with the release of the CRF250L Rally. With it, all of a sudden technical (or at least more technical) trail riding doesn’t seem as daunting. How did it get here?
To start, Honda increased tank size, added ground clearance, and increased seat height. It also updated the suspension, revised the airbox, and recalibrated the engine mapping. Peak power is only up 2 hp, but with that new asymmetrical LED headlight, windscreen, and small bump in performance, you can’t help but feel like there’s more to love than the spec sheet suggests. This might not be a true dual-sport class killer, but it’s a nicer balance between practical, affordable, and performance. For a lot of people, including us, that’s something to get excited over.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 Honda CRF250L Rally
8) KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
The 1290 Super Adventure R is the most off-road oriented model in KTM's refreshed 1290 lineup, which consists of an S (not available in the States), R, and T (for Touring), all of which come with a new TFT display and all the electronics your tech-loving heart could hope for. Adding to that, the Super Adventure R also gets crash bars, larger wheels (21-inch front and 18-inch rear), and stiffer springs—all things that turn an already great bike into something that feels way more willing to tear down some remote trail.
For so long now, the KTM adventure touring bikes have felt like the most off-road oriented bikes in the adventure touring category, and with the 1290 Super Adventure R, that’s almost guaranteed to be the same. That’s probably what keeps the adventure-loving kid in us drooling over this thing. Just one big adventure, please!
Okay, maybe two…
FIRST LOOK: 2017 KTM Super Adventure Range
9) Aprilia RSV4
Aprilia says that its 2017 RSV4 is more than one second faster than its predecessor around a racetrack thanks in part to the bike’s updated electronics and larger front brake discs. There’s probably an asterisk in there about professional rider, racing slicks, and such, but it’s a claim that makes you stop and think nonetheless.
Especially so for us, since the RSV4 (RR or RF) is already one of our favorite motorcycles, with tons of character and even more performance. The chassis is a gift from the engineering Gods, the sounds the bike makes are beautiful, and while the electronics have always been just a step behind, recent updates have gotten them closer to the competition. This new bike takes things a step further with small engine tweaks, a TFT display, and smaller things that you won’t realize you need until you have them, like cruise control and an auto-blip downshifter. Would we really go a second faster on it? Maybe not, but something tells us we’d have fun trying.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 Aprilia RSV4
10) BMW R1200GS
The BMW R1200GS is more capable than its figure leads you to believe it’d be. For a bike carrying so much weight, and with hips that wide, it shouldn’t be nearly as good as it is in off-road situations or even at parking-lot speeds. Balanced, smooth, and comfortable, it’s a surprisingly versatile machine good for serious adventuring.
For 2017, BMW has made the R1200GS appear much less cumbersome through nipped and tucked fairings. The bike does gain a little weight, but it also received updated electronic rider aids and BMW’s latest air-/liquid-cooled Boxer engine. Two models are available—a street-oriented Exclusive and Rallye—though we’d probably opt for the more off-road oriented version (which gets stiffer spring rates, added travel, endure pegs, and frame guards) and set off on some epic adventure. Just throw a tent on the back of it, some camping gear, and we’d be set.
FIRST LOOK: 2017 BMW R1200GS
A handful of manufacturers got an early jump on 2017, meaning we’ve already had the chance to ride a few of the bikes that would’ve otherwise ended up on the list above. To make sure the bikes that we've already ridden, and that really stood out, didn’t miss out on the attention they deserve, we’ve gone ahead and listed them here. Consider this the, “10 Bikes We’re Dying To Ride Again In 2017.”
1) KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Just when we thought KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R couldn’t get any more menacing, KTM went and gave the bike more power, updated the electronics (so that you can actually wheelie it with traction control on!), and revalved the suspension. You won’t hardly notice the more aggressive ergonomics, but you will absolutely notice how freakishly fun this bike is. Cue uncontrollable, mid-wheelie laughter.
FIRST RIDE: 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
2) Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Triumph has done a great job with its Bonneville platform, ultimately creating a very unique lineup that offers something for everybody. And, okay, the Bobber isn’t for everyone, since it only comes with a solo seat and no passenger seat option. It’s an incredibly fun motorcycle though, and much more comfortable than it might appear. It handles the twisty stuff well, too. All that is to say, yes, we’re absolutely trying to get one for a long-term test…
FIRST RIDE: 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber
3) Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
Ducati set out to give its Scrambler lineup some real off-road capability, and has absolutely succeeded with its new Desert Sled, which is something more than a Scrambler Urban Enduro with a few extra parts thrown at it. Thanks to a stiffer frame, longer swingarm, and (much) beefier suspension, this is the off-road Scrambler we’d long been waiting for.
FIRST RIDE: 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
4) Honda CBR1000RR
Honda finally jumped on the electronic rider-aid train with an updated CBR1000RR, a bike that also lays claim to an updated frame, engine tweaks, and more. And while those electronics might still feel like a step behind the competition, the bike itself is an important one for Honda, who hadn’t updated either of its sportbikes in more years than it’d probably like to admit.
FIRST RIDE: 2017 Honda CBR1000RR & CBR1000RR SP