Best of 2010: Manufacturer and Innovation

December 31, 2010
By Motorcycle USA Staff
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Watch as MCUSA dishes out its 2010 awards for the street in our Best of 2010 Street Video.

Manufacturer of the Year: Ducati

It has been another forgettable year for many motorcycle manufacturers, who are just starting (or still waiting!) for the long recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown. Predominant headlines from most OEM in 2010 were of job cuts to staunch hemorrhaging balance sheets. And one manufacturer, Suzuki, did not even import 2010 models to the United States, as the market was glutted with too much unsold 2009 machinery. Ducati, however, seems to have fared better than most.

The brand continues to retain an industry presence much larger than its market share. This is due, in large part, to its road racing success and strong consumer devotion. The loyalty of the Ducatisti, which our Road Test Editor witnessed firsthand at the 2010 World Ducati Week in Misano, must prove more valuable than ever before in these lean times. But it’s Ducati’s bold moves that have contributed most to its earning our Manufacturer of 2010 designation.

The Multistrada 1200 is available in Red or Arctic White while the Multistrada 1200S is available in Red  Arctic White and Diamond Black.
Ducati pushed forward with new developments in 2010 such as the Multistrada 1200 and Monster 796, as well as signing the most coveted road racer in the world, Valentino Rossi.

Where the bigger names in the industry have circled the wagons in recent years, Ducati continues to push itself forward with new model development. The company credits sales of the new-for-2010 Monster 796 and Multistrada 1200 (see 2010 Street Bike of the Year) for strong summer figures that beat expectations and registered actual growth over 2009 numbers. Ducati has also shown its willingness to push into radically new markets with its Diavel, which debuted at the EICMA Milan Bike Show and represents the Italian firm’s first crack at the performance cruiser segment. While the Diavel launch is risky, it shows a company unafraid to take chances.

Which brings us to Ducati’s biggest move for 2010: getting Signor Valentino Rossi on the payroll. Nabbing the Italian MotoGP star for 2011 and beyond is a thrilling strategic gambit, made more intriguing by Ducati’s corresponding decision to withdraw support for its once championship-dominating World Superbike effort. The Bolognese brand is betting heavily on Rossi’s success, as The Doctor will drive development of a new 1000cc Grand Prix program for 2012 and beyond. That liter-class racebike figures to be the basis for Ducati’s next generation of sportbikes, which will also be marketed by the greatest GP racer of all time. It’s an audacious personnel move by the Italian firm. But fortune favors the bold, and so do we. – Bart Madson

The BMW S1000RR control panel.
The BMW S1000RR had a traction control system that was out of this world. Its overall engineering was spot on and in our books the brand was definitely a top innovator for 2010.
BMW S1000RR swingarm.

Innovation Award: BMW S1000RR Dynamic Traction Control

Leather race suits with built-in airbags, push-button electronically-adjustable suspension and motorcycles that don’t even run on gasoline. Plenty of innovative equipment and technology adorn the 2010 motorcycle model year, but none of these advancements had a bigger effect on outright performance than BMW’s ingenious Dynamic Traction Control.

Available as a $1480 option on the BMW S1000RR sportbike, our first experience with the BMW DTC was in the rain at a racetrack we had never ridden, Portugal’s Portimao circuit. While evaluating the Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact Tire, we jotted down notes about the new Beemer’s DTC that would get posted in our BMW S1000RR Traction Control is for Real blog:

“With the bike set in Rain mode it’s utterly amazing how the electronics automatically compensate for stability during corner exit. I specifically remember one section of the track, the exit of Turn 4, where you’d get the rear end to wiggle around on other manufactures 1000cc sportbikes as you accelerate up a short hill. Where the other bikes would spin the Beemer’s engine would instead cut-out ever so gently—still accelerating forward but curtailing power just enough to keep the rear wheel inline.”

“After a couple more laps, I was comfortable with how the TC reacted and I started to get on the throttle earlier and no matter what I did, the system always sorted everything out and just let me focus on riding without having to worry about slipping or sliding. Coming into the final bend—a right-hand, off-camber sweeper (Turn 15) you could literally hold the throttle pinned and the bike would just do its thing—accelerating forward without a hint of rear end instability. It felt like a well-sorted traction control system in a modern sports car—incredible!”

Subsequent testing in more favorable conditions at tracks we regularly frequent has us sold on the BMW technology, which also includes integrated anti-lock braking and wheelie control. While BMW wasn’t the first to market with a sportbike TC system, it has introduced a refined set-up that dosen’t just make the riding experience safer, it allows riders greater access to the absurd performance of liter-class sportbikes. – Adam Waheed

Honorable Mention: Yamaha YZ450F

2010 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride
The 2010 Yamaha YZ450F featured radical design changes that were groundbreaking.

It’s not often that we get to see technological advances like those found on the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F. Yamaha engineers had the gusto to flip the traditional engine design around by rotating the cylinder 180 degrees, tipping it rearward and adding fuel injection. The intake is now on the front of the engine and the exhaust exits straight out the back with a unique corkscrew exhaust. The air filter is located above the fuel tank and stays much cleaner as a result. Handling was altered greatly by the new engine which helped lower the center of gravity. The list of changes on the ’10 YZ-F is long, and any one of them alone would have been considered major. Put them all together and the 2010 Yamaha was groundbreaking. – JC Hilderbrand