Can it really be 2008? The new year snuck up out of nowhere and just passed us on the back straight, which means it's time to get reflective and look back at the Best of 2007. So without further adieu, here are MotorcycleUSA's picks for the 'Best of 2007.'
Best New Streetbike: 2007 Ducati 1098S
The Ducati 1098 caused a stir in the motorcycle community from the moment its existence was rumored. After an excruciating wait, we got our grubby mitts on one and fell in love.
The Ducati 1098 dominated headlines from the moment it made its debut at the 2006 Milan Bike show. The much-anticipated replacement to the divisive 999, Ducati's beautiful new superbike upped displacement by 99cc and had the Ducatisti salivating. We were no exception, but getting our hands on a 1098 test bike proved difficult. The problem was our esteemed journalistic colleagues were crashing the new Ducs left and right. Once we did get behind the controls, during our 2007 Aprilia RSV1000R vs. Ducati 1098S
comparison test, the 1098 proved to be worth the wait. With its sexy lines and monster motor, the 2007 Ducati 1098S lived up to the hype in our book. Now the question is whether it holds up on the racetrack. This year we can find out, thanks to controversial rule changes pushed through by Ducati which will put an 1198cc version of the Superbike, dubbed the 1098R, in the 2008 World Superbike Championship. It will be a treat to see what a real pro like Troy Bayliss can do at the 1098 helm.
Best New Dirt Bike: 2007 KTM 450 EXC/ 525 EXC
We've always wanted a street-legal dirt bike and the KTM delivered with the new EXC lineup.
There were some sweet rides introduced in 2007, but the winner of this category is more of an old idea and an existing machine brought together for the first time. And the results were stupendous. Dual-sports are definitely a niche market and every machine that has come out of the factory doors has always been subject to criticism from the dirt bike crowd. We've been crying out for a street-legal dirt bike for years, and with trail closures a hot topic in 2007, there are plenty of off-roaders who find they need to access public roads to connect our dwindling trails - and not just vanilla DS trails, but full-blown enduro loops. Finally, a bike maker did what the community has asked for - the simplest of concepts - and bolted turn signals and a plate holder onto one of its awesome dirt bikes. Thank you, KTM.
Best New Standard: 2007Aprilia Factory Tuono
The Aprilia Factory Tuono was victorious in our 2007 Streetfighter Comparo and our Best Standard of 2007.
Last year the non-Factory version of the Tuono took top honors in this category, so it should surprise no one that adding Ohlins suspension and trick graphics puts the Aprilia Factory Tuono on top once again. The Factory Tuono proved its mettle during our 2007 Streetfighter Shootout
, where it bested a strong showing from the Kawasaki Z1000. The 17K price tag stings a little, but what can we say, it's the best standard we tested in 2007. If only we hadn't crashed it five minutes before calling our '07 comparo finished...
Honorable Mentions: 2007 Ducati Hypermotard and Kawasaki Z1000
Testing the Hypermotard was possibly the most fun we had all year and was a strong candidate for both Best Standard and Best New Streetbike. The new Z1000 also deserves mention, because while it finished second to the Factory Tuono in our test by a hair's breadth, at $8649, it rings in at about half the price.
Best New Cruiser: Harley-Davidson XL1200N Nightster
Fifty years is a long time for a model line up and The Motor Company celebrated with the release of the XL 1200 N Nightster, our pick for Best Cruiser of 2007.
For our 2007 Cruiser of the Year, we salute Harley-Davidson's turn to the dark side with its XL 1200 N Nightster. The release of the Nightster was just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Sportster, making the Sporty the longest continuously-produced model in the venerable American motorcycle manufacturer's history. Fifty years - that's worth a reward in itself! We admire the way the lines of the Sportsters stay true to its roots while adding just enough new tech to keep it fresh. As far as the Sportster is concerned, this meant saying good-bye to the carb-fed engine, reducing the shake, rattle and roll of old with a rubber-mounted 1200cc Evolution mill, and reducing the iron grip required at the clutch. The Nightster's Evo puts out plenty of tire-smoking power to the rear, the low seat height leaves riders comfortable and in control, and the bevy of blacked-out components make it a real looker. Trimming down the rear fender and throwing gaiters on the front fork was icing on the Cruiser of the Year cake.
Honorable Mention: Roland Sands Vintage Kit
We couldn't in good conscience give Cruiser of the Year to a bike that is built around another manufacturer's model, but the way the Vintage Kit transforms a stock H-D Softail or Fat Boy is one hot ticket. You have to love a bike that can turn a schlub into a player. Rock on, RSD.
Best Open-Class Sportbike: 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 has the number-1 plate nailed down in AMA Superbike. It also seems to have our Best Open-Class Sportbike category covered as well.
The Gixxer Thou has dominated this category for three years now by virtue of its three-peat in Superbike Smackdown IV
. The GSX-R1000 has done pretty well on the racing circuit also, at least here in the States. You may have heard about two fellows by the names of Ben Spies and Mat Mladin. The Yoshimura Suzuki aces have dominated the AMA Superbike series the past few years. Actually, dominating is almost an understatement, as the duo currently enjoy a 27-race winning streak with the GSX-R1000. With the redesigned rides from Honda and Kawasaki looking to knock it off the top, who knows where it will stack up in 2008, but for now - the Suzuki GSX-R1000 reigns supreme.
Best Middleweight Sportbike: Honda CBR600RR
When a juggernaut like Honda decides to win, the competition had better start saying their prayers. The largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world put its might and resources into the new 2007 Honda CBR600RR and the result was a 600 that swept not just our Supersport Shootout, but every other SS comparo we saw in 2007. Smaller, lighter and more powerful than its predecessor, the new CBR600RR saw success on the race track and in the press. It is without hesitation our pick for Best Middleweight Sportbike .
Best Touring Bike: 2007 BMW R1200GS
A beacon on the adventure-touring market, the BMW R1200GS is our pick for Best Touring Bike of 2007.
Sure, when people hear the word touring, names like Gold Wing or Electra Glide come to mind, but we're tapping out the 2007 BMW R1200GS as Best Touring Bike of 2007. Why? Well, the Beemer has been the unquestioned champion of our Adventure-Touring Comparos
, a genre it has defined since its inception. Need further proof of the GS's success as a model design? This past July, BMW celebrated production of the 100,000th R1200GS, declaring it the "most successful BMW motorcycle of all time." Not bad for a company that's been producing bikes since 1923.
Best Motocross Bike: 2007 Honda CRF450R
If you based this category solely on professional race results, then the winner would definitely not be red. Despite flying under the radar on the big screen, the 450R is still one of the most successful machines in racing thanks to its popularity with privateer riders and satellite teams. Plus, it also beat all comers in a few 450 motocross comparisons. This bike is the best overall package for destroying MX tracks, whether you race year round or only show up on practice days.
Best Off-Road Enduro: 2007 Yamaha WR450F
We probably could have given this bike the nod based solely on those incredible footpegs, but there's more!! Aluminummmm... it tastes so good. Enduro, motocross, minis, you name it and the industry is trading in steel chassis for cast, forged and extruded aluminum. Yammie has had good success with the YZ-F line and those frame technologies made the transition to off-road very well. Not only that, but the rest of the machine completes a racier feel, look and performance. Now if we could just convince Yamaha to figure out a realistic way to make a bike that runs hard in 50-state legal trim. Imagine what kind of award we'd give it then!
Best Lust Object: 2007 MV Agusta F4 R312
Although AWD systems have been in the works, 2007 saw Christini marketing and distributing an All Wheel Drive system for Honda and KTM machinery.
Sure, we could've gone with last year's pick, the $70K Desmosedici, but we'd really like to tap another Italian beauty: The MV Agusta F4 312R. Let's face it, there are some things that Italians know how to do better than any other nationality in the world. The first is naming guys with letters that end in "o" - Claudio, Pablo, Massimo, Valentino - there's no denying it, in this aspect the Italians are tops. The second thing is designing sexy bikes. Bimota, Ducati, MV Agusta - the Italians just know how to make riders cry with lust. The F4 312R is the latest gorgeous Superbike to hail from Italy. The fact that its 312 moniker derives from its reputed top speed in kilometers only adds to the lust factor. A looker that hits 193mph in stock trim at a $24,999 MSRP... How much are kidneys selling for on the black market nowadays?
Best Product Innovation: Christini All Wheel Drive
Damn, where has this been all our lives? Steve Christini and his crew have actually had this mechanical AWD system in development for several years now, but 2007 marked the year that his marketing and distribution programs really got some steam behind them. Also, previously designed to mate with only a few Honda models, the frame modifications have been adapted to KTM in what is the first of hopefully many future expansions across all colors of two-wheeled machines. Besides that, the price has dropped to virtually half. Keep an eye on these guys in 2008 and beyond. Visit www.christini.com
Best Crash: Bowling Ball's MiniMoto Shame
When our editor decided to try his hand at mini moto, the result was a number-1 plate... As the Crash Master of the 2007 Kawasaki Amateur Mini Moto.
We had some doozies in 2007. Our Dirt Editor JC had a nasty take-down during the BMW Xchallenge intro, with some pretty good helmet footage to go with it, and our utter destruction of the $17,000 Factory Tuono during the Streetfighter Comparo was a real buzz-kill.
Our Best Crash, however, would have to go to first-time mini moto competitor, MCUSA Managing Editor Bart Madson, who managed to take out the entire lead group during Kawasaki's 2007 Amateur Mini Moto Invitational
. Riding into the main event, our deluded editor thought he had a shot against holeshot competitors like Kawasaki drag racing stud Ricky Gadson. As the Madson/Gadson sprint entered the first corner, our rider was astonished to be up in front and forgot a little thing called braking. As a result, the 205-lb chump piled into the amateur mini moto field like, well, a bowling ball. Which the invitational's guest MC, Greg White, bellowed over the PA system as our doomed scribbler began kickstarting his mini in front of the pointing, laughing crowd. Lucky for us, Madson didn't injure anyone, just his pride. But what makes it the Best Crash? He got an award for it, with Kawasaki presenting our shamed editor with the 2007 Crash Master number plate. Good work, Bowling Ball!
Best Motorcycle Film/Video: Pass
There wasn't a World's Fastest Indian
to take undisputed top honors this year. Instead, the biggest commercial motorcycle film was Wild Hogs
, which ain't no World's Fastest Indian
. Our nominees come from across the board. Dirt Editor JC Hilderbrand says Metal Mulisha General Brian Deegan's bio pick "Disposable Hero" is tops. While Editorial Director Ken Hutchison feels Travis Pastrana jumping out of a plane without a parachute in "Thrillbillies" warrants top honors. On the other hand, Managing Editor Bart Madson says surely the Centenary IOM TT Review deserves the 'Best Of' for 2007. Hmm... which brings us back to Wild Hogs
? Naw, we'll pass on this one.
Best Motorcycle TV Program: Speed Channel's Superbikes
Speed Channel's Superbikes has become one of the best motorcycle programs on TV. We ran into show host, Jason Britton (left), at the Bonneville Speed Trials, where he talked strategy with rider Butch Cook (right).
Host Jason Britton deserves credit for developing Superbikes
from its stunting origins to a much broader base of sportbike programming. Superbikes
has been testing the latest superbikes, go figure, as well as attending interesting events like the R1 Forum Deals Gap Ride and the Bonneville Speed Trials. In short, the show has delivered interesting two-wheeled content, something that's hard to find on the dial nowadays. How do we know it's interesting? Because we keep crossing paths with the Superbikes
crew at various events and, well, great minds think alike.
Best Assignment: BMW Motorrad Days 2007 and Kawasaki's Japanese Adventure
Our Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison-san, mugs next to the Geisha who played hostess at dinner during a Japanese tour of Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
We've had some stellar trips in '07, including onsite coverage of the Motocross of Nations and the Isle of Man TT Centenary, but we have to go with the vacations, excuse us, assignments of covering the 2007 BMW Motorrad Days Report
and the Kawasaki Heavy Industries Tour in Japan
. The BMW Motorrad Days event in Southern Germany, along with the accompanying three-day tour of the Alps, was one of those life-changing, never-going-to-forget experiences. As were the bright lights in the Land of the Rising Sun - courtesy of Kawasaki. We wolfed down Bavarian beer and Japanese delicacies, like raw sea urchin and horse neck. We experienced some incredible rides on BMW and Kawasaki machinery. We also, for once in our lives, got to look down our nose at the little people from our cush Business Class accommodations on the airplane. Assignments like these that make all those long hours and hard work worthwhile. Oh yeah, at this very moment we can almost feel the envious venom spitting from your mouth.
Best Helping Hand: Mickey Cohen Motorsports
We got a dyno up here in Southern Oregon, but we do a lot of our testing down south in California. Mickey Cohen Motorsports
has made our lives a lot easier by lending us the use of their dyno on many occasions and we can't thank them enough for their generosity. The easy-going crew also runs the Triumph press fleet on the West Coast and always make themselves amenable to all our pesky journalist questions. Thanks for running a tip top shop, fellas.
Rider of the Year: Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner was the surprise of the year, with the second year MotoGP rider coming from nowhere to dominate the premier roadracing series in the world.
The argument for Casey Stoner as Rider of the Year is simple: The second-year rider dominated the premier roadracing championship in the world. But it's more than that, because to claim the '07 crown Stoner, came out of nowhere to blindside a fellow by the name of Valentino Rossi - the five-time MotoGP champion. After a mistake-prone rookie season in MotoGP, the 23-year-old champ came out of nowhere, upgrading from his satellite Honda/Michelin setup to a seat on the factory Ducati with Bridgestone rubber. The result was Rossi-like domination, with Stoner logging zero DNFs and 14 podiums to accompany his 10 wins, leading some in the paddock to hail the young Aussie as the second coming of Mick Doohan. Doubters question whether the new champ owes his title to the superior Ducati/Bridgestone combination or his pure riding talent, but by schooling the master, Stoner is our Rider of the Year. He has also made the 2008 MotoGP championship a much-anticipated head-to-head battle with The Doctor. We can't wait!
Honorable Mention: Ryan Villopoto
Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto (2) had a spectacular season, culminating in two championships as well as top position in the Motocross of Nations.
The Rider of the Year category split our office into warring street and dirt factions, with the off-road crew vehemently arguing for Supercross Lites dominator Ryan Villopoto, who had a fantastic year as well. Here's the argument for RV51 from our Dirt Editor, JC:
As the Off-Road Editor, there's no doubt in my mind that Ryan Villopoto deserves the 2007 Rider of the Year award. Unfortunately, I'm the only one in the office voting pool. RV's competition, Casey Stoner, is a young athlete who raced a terrific MotoGP series on arguably the best equipment available. RV is also just beyond his rookie seasons and has the benefit of top-notch bikes. But, let's break it down a little.
Stoner raced one series consisting of 18 races (10 wins), against 25 other competitors. His races were each roughly 30 minutes long and track conditions fluctuated whenever it rained. Stoner defeated a former World Champion in the form of Valentino Rossi with a 56% win ratio and collected one title.
Ryan Villopoto was dominanting in the Supercross Lites class, but it will be another season before we see him line up against James Stewart in the premier Supercross class.
Villopoto raced for three titles, two full series championships, AMA West SX Lites, and AMA MX Lites, and the winner-take-all Motocross of Nations championship. He won 7-of-8 West Coast SX Lites rounds, but not the East/West shootout. Then he picked up 5-of-12 overall outdoor MX Lites races, but scored 14-of-24 moto victories while battling tooth-and-nail against former World MX2 Champion, Ben Townley. Every outdoor moto is roughly 35 minutes long, has roughly 40 competitors and track conditions change by the lap, rain or shine. He also picked up the MXoN team championship with a two-moto sweep which also earned him the top individual honor - a first ever for a Lites class rider. All this while en route to being named AMA Pro Racing Athlete of the Year. His overall combined race win percentage was 59%, and if you go by individual races contested, it jumps to 66% for a total of three recognized titles.
That's more racing, more competition, more physical and mental challenges, more wins and more titles for the kid on knobbies. Score it however you like, but by the numbers or by sheer determination, grit and talent, Villopoto walks away with this one. I must therefore respectfully disagree with my officemates... Okay, no I don't. Let's hear the chant, folk... Nuts and bolts! Nuts and bolts! He got screwwwed...
Most Memorable Motorcycle: Matchless G.50
We may not have chosen the vintage Walmsley Matchless G.50 as Bike of the Year, but it was for our Memorable Motorcycles correspondent.
Our Memorable Motorcycles correspondent, Frank Melling, insisted on being in the loop for this year's 'Best Of' article. It was no surprise our British buddy nominated his beautiful new vintage racer - the Matchless G.50 as Bike of the Year. We'll tap it out as Most Memorable Motorcycle of 2007, but in the entertaining prose only he could concoct, our man Melling explains why his latest vintage purchase is his Bike of the Year:
There can only be one winner in the 2007 MCUSA "Bike of the Year" competition: the Walmsley Matchless G.50. The G.50 is a masterpiece of form and function uniting in the true manifestation of the two-wheeled horse. Other than eating race fuel and "R", rather than hay and blue grass, the G.50 is a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred in metal. But is breathtaking beauty enough for "Bike of the Year"? On the track, the G.50 is the supreme incarnation of the classic racing motorcycle. How about a two-wheeled, 100-mph drift with the toe slider just kissing the tarmac? The G.50 can take an average Joe like me and transform mediocre ability into race-winning form. How much is that worth? And finally, what price for a bike which is so utterly beautiful that it positively demands that you go across to the workshop the last thing at night, take off the dust cover - and just stand back in awe.
Now, let any other bike on the planet do better than that!
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