Stock market crashes, a historic presidential election, roller coaster oil prices… A lot of memorable news stories have dominated the headlines for 2008. But make way, because it’s time once again for the Motorcycle USA staff to convene in a smoke-filled backroom to debate Best of 2008 honors. The ground rules are simple: Determine the best of the best from our 80-plus motorcycle reviews from 2008 – including numerous multi-bike shootouts. Enjoy the article and let us know what we got right and wrong by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
2008 Motorcycle of The Year
Ducati Desmosedici D16RR
If you can just look past the steep price tag, you will see an absolutely amazing motorcycle.
: At $72,500, it costs more than most high-end sports cars but there is simply nothing cooler on two wheels - Period. Leave it to Ducati to bring a true MotoGP bike to the street, and to do it oh-so right. Just being in the presence on this machine is enough to get one’s blood going and riding it takes the term ‘assault on your senses’ to a whole different level. The power, the sound, the look – this is motorcycling nirvana. (Stay tuned for an in depth Desmosedici Review in the upcoming weeks.)
Best Open Sportbike (over 750cc)
: Hot styling? Check. Big power? Check. Compact size? Check. The days of Honda domination in the literbike world are back. Universally loved by all who rode it, winner of our 2008 Superbike Smackdown
and the smallest and most compact 1000cc of the bunch; for blending the worlds of racetrack and street together better than any of its competition, we give the award to the Big Red’s big-bore CBR.
Best Middleweight Sportbike (under 750cc)
The GSX-R750 offers the rider middleweight handling with more oomph in the motor department than the supersport 600.
. Winner of not one, but two comparison tests in 2008, this middle Gixxer proved it has the ability to kick sand in the face of the 600s or the open-class steroid freaks.
Best Street Bike
2008 Kawasaki Versys
: V is for versatility. Cheap, fun, quick, handles like a dream. If you are looking for an all-around street bike, look no further. Comfortable ergos, sporting disposition and an affordable price tag made us fans of the Versys. We enjoyed each and every mile spent on the jack-of-all-trades Kawasaki, not to mention how great gas mileage was, thus we needed to look no further when it came to selecting the best street bike for 2008.
Honda knows a thing or two about building excellent motocross bikes like the CRF450R. The '08 CRF450R has the motor to get over any obstacle, the suspension to land it and a composed chassis the competition only wishes it had.
: Honda has been racking up shootout wins with the CRF450R and the 2008 model was no different. The CRF had the motor to get over any obstacle, the suspension to land it and the chassis to negotiate during flight. Sweeping every category and unanimously voted as the best 450 MXer in our 2008 comparison
: The fleet of 2008 off-road bikes have far more distinct personalities than the motocrossers do. Deciphering which was our favorite was more difficult, but ultimately it was the Honda’s great ergonomics, build quality and monster motor that won us over. The 450X is definitely aimed at more open, rough and fast conditions like those found in the rocks and deserts out west. Adding the Honda Progressive Steering Damper really gives Big Red an advantage over other 450 enduro offerings
in stock trim too.
Kawasaki released the new KLR650 so long ago we almost forgot it is a 2008 model. What we didn't forget was how much it improved.
: This early release model seems like it’s been around forever, but technically it’s a 2008 machine. It’s not much to look at, but this KLR is much better at long-distance dual-sporting than it was before, and still costs less than $6000. There are dual-sport machines that will go faster off-road, but few will go farther and with more comfort.
Yamaha T-Max: A scooter for best commuter? Yep. This isn’t your average scooter though. Capable for doing well over 100 mph, the T-Max also provides ample under-seat storage and a mega-comfortable seat with tons of wind protection. Did we mention it handles like a sportbike? We spent several months commuting on the rippin’ little Yamaha and when it was time to give it back they literally had to pry it out of our hands – it’s that good..
Best Economical Two-Wheeler
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
You're looking at the 43mm Keihin throttle body on the 2008 RMZ450, the first-ever production Japanese motocross bike to sport EFI.
: Revised for the first time in 20 years, the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250 also saw a $500 bump in MSRP to a paltry $3499. With MPG figures in the consistent 60s, the little Ninja is a kick in the pants on the open road and is still the best bargain out there. The Ninja 250R is without question our pick for economical two-wheeler.
Best Motorcycle Technology
Suzuki Motocross EFI
: Fuel injection is nothing new to motorcycling in general, but adapting it to the abusive needs of MX was apparently difficult. The hype about EFI being introduced was swirling heavily around the 2008 bikes, but when the new machines were unveiled, only the Suzuki had stepped up. A trick aluminum fuel tank to accommodate the EFI was an added bonus.
Honorable Mention – Ducati 1098R Production Traction Control
Emergency Quick Release System will potentially save many from time wasted by EMS after a crash.
Another example of racing technology trickling down to street models, traction control came stock on the production 1098R. And, no, this isn’t a quasi-TC system either. Pure Ducati racing tech, with incredible safety benefits on the track and street.
Best Product Innovation
Shoei VFX-W Off-Road Helmet
: Shoei’s new lid incorporates a host of new technologies, the foremost being the Emergency Quick Release System. It allows medical personnel to remove the helmet’s cheek pads, thereby facilitating safer helmet removal after an accident. The system is a potential lifesaver.
Sometimes getting a taste of asphalt happens to even the best riders.
Nip/Tuck’s John Hensley: The popular young actor and good friend of MotoUSA was recently invited to partake in our three-way GSX-R Shootout
and at the end of Day Two he tested every bit of lean possible from the Suzuki GSX-R1000
… and then some. It was the Hollywood star’s very first racetrack get-off and for that, plus doing it with utter style and grace, Mr. Hensley takes home the top honors. Much better than an Oscar, right John?
Rider of the Year
Fiolek was nominated as the WMA
Sports Female Rider of the Year
among other recognition.
Ashley Fiolek: This 18-year old rider from Saint Augustine, Florida, put on an impressive debut in the Women’s Motocross Association by capturing the title in her rookie season, knocking off five-time champion, Jessica Patterson in the process. She guided her Red Bull/DRD/Honda CRF250R to four overall victories in the six-race WMA series en route to being nominated Sportwoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation. With her immediate success has come a whirlwind of publicity and she has embraced her status as a role model for female riders with her great attitude and engaging smile. Fiolek is at the forefront of women’s motocross and she will be instrumental in advancing the sport.
PR Person of the Year
Kawasaki’s Jan Plessner: From putting on some of the best intros and press events in the industry, to assembling an equally awesome staff, Jan is the Queen of Kawasaki. During her tenure she has turned the Green PR Machine into the envy of the industry. Her role in advancing the sport of motorcycling for women has been incomparable and her faith in her team’s ability to choose event locations and accommodations appropriate for the event has proven to be an asset for editors and readers alike.
Best Motorcycle Experience
We had a hard time deciding which was more memorable, the Losail Circuit or our off-track debauchery.
2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R
Press Launch – Qatar: At the start of 2008, the all-new Kawasaki ZX-10R was launched at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Located on the Arabian Gulf (That’s Persian Gulf to us outsiders) it is a mere 250-miles south of Iraq. The gang from American Kawasaki set us up at the posh 880,000-sq-ft, 160-room Al Sharq Resort. At the time, our new kid on the block Steve Atlas was working at Cycle News, so he and I were both there causing
Here's a glimpse of the Al Sharq Resort that was our home for the week in Doha, Qatar.
trouble. After the trackday was over we signed up for massages at the spa and that’s where things really started heating up.
Steve got dibs on the open massage room, so I stripped down and covered up with a robe. A few minutes went by before a muffled explosion shook the building. I thought, ‘damn-it, everyone was right we shouldn’t have come here!’ But when I peeked out the locker room and sized up the threat it turned out the fireplace powering the sauna in the adjacent room had exploded into flames. A surging fire engulfed the far wall, igniting the massive ship-timbers that framed the stucco building as spa attendants struggled in vain to figure out the fire extinguishers. The incident quickly spun out of control. Flames overtook the entire wall and started burning the bottom of the second story in a matter of minutes. Long story short, we joined forces with the spa director and ended up helping pull a half dozen panicking patrons out of the burning building before the fire department showed up. It could have been a disaster but it turned into a tale we will remember for all time.
We even got to ride quads on the dunes of Qatar. This truly had to be one of the most amazing adventures Kawasaki has sent us on to date.
Next adventure was an ATV tour of the Qatari desert. Our group found some big, easy jumps and we soared alongside brave locals who took the leap rocking Birkenstocks, Christian-Dior sunglasses and trick Louis-Vuitton-print bodywork without any helmets aboard their various bad-ass quads and Rhinos. We even stumbled across the Sheik’s mobile dune palace. Apparently he likes to play in the sand like the rest of us. Just don’t get too close because the guards looked scary.
Capping things off was a boat tour of the Persian Gulf from the deck of an old Junk. After fending off an armed coast guard patrol vessel wondering why a dozen Americans were leaving the harbor at dusk with a crusty-
What a motley crew this is, with our old friend Duke Danger and our new pal Atlas enjoying the Arabian Leaf on board our tour boat in the middle of the Persian Gulf.
looking (but friendly) pirate crew, we set sail to some remote sandbar island somewhere a few miles off shore. There our hosts fed and shared their huka with us. As you can tell by the pics, everyone liked that part. We even had a chance to dive off the deck and take a late night swim, but the water tasted like diesel so it was only a short trip in the drink for us.
Oh, did we mention turning countless laps we turned over two days on the Losail Ciruit with fresh Pirelli tires on the new Ninja ZX-10R? It is only the most state-of-the-art facility in the Middle East. All of this made our decision to select the press introduction of the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R as the most memorable trip of the year.