After BMW announced several changes to the potent in-line four powerplant in its S 1000 RR superbike earlier this year, we figured it was only a matter of time before the tech trickled down to its flagship adventure sport tourer. And sure enough, here comes the 2020 S 1000 XR, lighter, faster and more versatile than ever before.
The big news of course is the RR-derived engine, which pumps out a claimed 165 horsepower at 11,000 rpm and 84 lb-ft of torque at 9,250. Fourth, fifth and sixth gears have longer ratios to reduce noise, fuel consumption and engine speed (hopefully addressing some of the buzziness we’ve noted in our tests — read our review of the 2016 S 1000 XR here). It also now features what BMW calls engine drag torque control (MSR), which reduces rear wheel hopping under hard deceleration.
The suspension, frame and swingarm have all been tweaked to reduce weight, and coupled with the lighter engine the 2020 S 1000 XR is said to weigh just 498 pounds (our 2016 test bike weighed in at 531 pounds).
The list of standard features is long: Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension), four ride modes (Road, Rain, Dynamic and Dynamic Pro), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) with wheelie control, ABS Pro (cornering ABS) with Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), 6.5-inch TFT display, LED lighting and Hill Start Control Pro. Options include Dynamic ESA Pro with two damping modes and automatic load compensation, HP Shift Assistant Pro (up and down quickshifter), Headlight Pro with DRL and cornering lights, and electronic cruise control.
The 2020 BMW S 1000 XR will be available in Ice Gray and Racing Red/White Aluminum. U.S. pricing and availability are TBA.
Harley-Davidson made some waves at EICMA this week, showing off two models it teased in 2018, the Pan-America adventure-tourer and the Bronx streetfighter. Both are powered by a new liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine platform called the Revolution Max — 1,250cc in the Pan America and 975cc in the Bronx. Harley also confirmed that both models will launch in late 2020.
The Revolution Max is a bold new step for a company invested so heavily in (air-cooled) tradition — although perhaps not as bold as its LiveWire electric motorcycle unveiled earlier this year and now on sale at H-D dealerships nationwide. (Read our First Ride Review here.) Harley says the Revolution Max is designed to minimize weight and maximize performance, with a narrow profile that integrates into the bike as a stressed member of the frame. It also features a counter-balancer for smooth and comfortable operation.
Harley claims performance targets of more than 145 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 1250, and more than 115 horsepower and 70 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 975.
A few other details about the new Pan America and Bronx were released as well, including a collaboration with Brembo to create a new radial monoblock caliper that complements Harley’s unique design, and a continuing partnership with Michelin to develop co-branded tires specifically for each model.
Thanks to a smattering of new images (scroll down to see them all), we can also glean a bit more info about the new bikes.
Suzuki has announced updates for its lineup of big V-Stroms, including a nomenclature change from 1000 to 1050. The 2020 V-Strom 1050, V-Strom 1050XT and V-Strom 1050XT Adventure feature sharper styling with bold, bright paint schemes that reflect Suzuki’s historical race livery, and a few technological updates.
At the heart of each Strom is the tried-and-true 1037cc 90-degree V-twin that Suzuki says has been updated with more horsepower while still complying with worldwide emissions standards. Ride-by-wire with dual electronic throttle assemblies powers a revised traction control system with an additional ride mode (for a total of four), a new three-mode Drive Mode Selector that adjusts power delivery characteristics and the addition of Suzuki’s one-touch Easy Start System. There is also a new LCD instrument with mounting bar for a GPS and a new USB port.
The base V-Strom 1050 rolls on cast wheels, but the V-Strom 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure both include tubeless spoked wheels for more off-road endeavors. They also feature the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) with a new six-direction, three-axis IMU. The S.I.R.S. includes electronic cruise control and an updated cornering ABS and combined braking system that now includes Hill Hold Control and a Slope Dependent Control System that manages rear wheel lift when riding downhill.
Both the V-Strom 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure also come with a redesigned windscreen, hand guards and mirrors, a new height-adjustable two-piece seat, a centerstand, engine guards and more.
The 2020 V-Strom 1050XT will be available in two colors, Championship Yellow and Orange and White. The V-Strom 1050XT Adventure will be available in Glass Sparkle Black and includes quick-release aluminum panniers and heated grips. Pricing and availability on all three models is TBD.
Ducati has announced its entire 2020 motorcycle lineup, which includes new models such as the Streetfighter V4 and V4 S and the Panigale V2, updates to its Panigale V4 and V4 S, a new version of the Multistrada 1260 S called the Grand Tour and the Scrambler Icon Dark.
After a four-year absence, the Streetfighter returns for
2020 and is now a naked version of the Panigale V4 with an upright handlebar. Its
1,103cc Desmosedici Stradale V4 makes a claimed 208 horsepower at 12,750 rpm
and 90 lb-ft of torque at 11,500 rpm. Features include “biplane wing”
aerodynamics, a full IMU-based electronics package with riding modes, fully
adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork, Sachs shock), a Sachs steering
damper, Brembo Stylema monoblock front calipers, Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II
tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.23-gallon aluminum tank full,
the Streetfighter V4 is said to weigh 443 pounds.
The higher-spec Streetfighter V4 S gets Ducati Electronic
Suspension (DES) EVO, Öhlins suspension (NIX-30 fork, TTX 36 shock and steering
damper) with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 control system and forged aluminum Marchesini
wheels, and claimed curb weight is 439 pounds.
Both the Streetfighter V4 and Streetfighter V4 S come in
Ducati Red with a dark gray frame and black wheels. Pricing and availability
2020 Ducati Panigale V2
The Panigale 959 has been renamed the Panigale V2, and it’s
powered by a Euro 5-compliant version of the 955cc Superquadro L-twin that
makes a claimed 155 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and 77 lb-ft of torque at 9,000
rpm. For 2020 the Panigale V2 gets all-new bodywork, a full IMU-based electronics
package with riding modes, fully adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork,
Sachs shock), a Sachs steering damper, Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers, Pirelli
Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.5-gallon
steel tank full, the Panigale V2 weighs a claimed 441 pounds. The only color
option is Ducati Red with black wheels; pricing and availability are TBD.
2020 Ducati Panigale V4 and V4 S
Introduced for 2018 as the first mass-produced Ducati to incorporate a 4-cylinder engine, the Panigale V4 and V4 S have been updated for 2020 with “a series of refinements [that] make for an easier, more user-friendly, less fatiguing ride while simultaneously making the bike faster not just on individual laps but over entire timed sessions.” Adapted from the Panigale V4 R, the V4 and V4 S get a new aerodynamics package for improved stability, modified Front Frame stiffness for better feel at full lean and new settings for the electronics, suspension and throttle-by-wire mapping.
The Panigale V4 and V4 S are powered by a version of the 1,103cc
Desmosedici Stradale V4 with “new rider torque demand control logic” that makes
a claimed 214 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and 91.5 lb-ft of torque at 10,000 rpm.
The Panigale V4 features a full IMU-based electronics package with riding
modes, fully adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork, Sachs shock), a
Sachs steering damper, Brembo Stylema monoblock front calipers, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa
SP tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.23-gallon aluminum tank
full, claimed curb weight for the Panigale V4 is 436 pounds.
The higher-spec Panigale V4 S gets Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) EVO, Öhlins suspension (NIX-30 fork, TTX 36 shock and steering damper) with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 control system, forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, a lithium-ion battery and sports grips. Claimed curb weight is 430 pounds.
Both the Panigale V4 and Panigale V4 S come in Ducati Red
with a dark gray frame and black wheels. Pricing and availability are TBD.
2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour
Joining Ducati’s adventure bike family for 2020 is the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour, a special version with enhanced style and touring capability. Powered by the 1,262cc Testastretta DVT L-twin that makes a claimed 158 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 95 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm, the Grand Tour features riding modes that adjust power, throttle response, ABS and traction control settings, a full suite of IMU-based electronics (cornering ABS and traction control, cornering lights, wheelie control), semi-active Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evolution, an up/down quickshifter, hill hold control, cruise control, Brembo M50 monoblock front calipers, a TFT display and the Ducati Multimedia System. The rider’s seat height is adjustable, and the Grand Tour comes standard with a centerstand, hard saddlebags, heated grips, a keyless gas cap and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour comes in Sandstone Grey with Ducati Red trims, red frame and black wheels with Ducati red trims. Pricing and availability are TBD.
Returning for 2020 are the Multistrada 950, Multistrada 950 S, Multistrada 1260, Multistrada 1260 S, Multistrada 1260 S D|Air, Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak and Multistrada 1260 Enduro.
2020 Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark
Joining the Icon, Full Throttle, Café Racer and Desert Sled
in Ducati’s 803cc air-cooled Scrambler lineup is the Icon Dark, a matte black
version with a black frame and black seat with gray piping. All Ducati
Scramblers are Euro 5 compliant without any loss in performance, and cornering
ABS is standard equipment.
Other returning Ducati models for 2020 include (pricing and availability are TBD):
It started innocently enough. At 507 pounds ready to ride, Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin is the lightweight among the liter-class ADV machines, and given my short legs and lukewarm off-road riding skills I had little desire to make it any heavier. What goes down must come up in order to carry on, and much beyond 550 pounds or so there’s little chance I’m picking it up by myself.
But before riding off into the sunset, every proper ADV machine should have a centerstand and heated grips, right? Both are Honda accessories and were easily installed. Hard saddlebag mounts were next — Honda’s bags are good-looking and convenient since they drop and lock right onto the bike’s built-in mounts, but aren’t quite sturdy enough for the adventures I have in mind. Wanting to mount either soft waterproof saddlebags to save weight or locking aluminum panniers for riding behind enemy lines, a good option is theHepco & Becker Fixed Side Carrier ($281.18), distributed in the U.S. by Moto Machines. This adds just 10 pounds and carries my Hepco & Becker Alu-Case Xplorer 30-Liter Panniers ($821) quite securely, providing some tipover protection as well as storage. The bag/carrier combination on the bike is about an inch wider than the handlebars, and asymmetrical since neither the carrier nor right bag wraps around the muffler, but the offset is only two inches (which can be symmetrized by mounting a 40-liter Xplorer on the left).
Now, I swear I was going to stop there, but the Moto Machines website sucked me in and before I could tame the mouse it had clicked on Hepco & Becker Handlebar Protection bars(2.75 pounds, $163.33) and its Tank Guard (8 pounds, $301.68) for the Africa Twin. I like the style and wind protection of the stock plastic hand guards on the AT — the sturdy steel Protection bars beef them up like an exoskeleton and install in about 10 minutes. And Tank Guard is kind of a misnomer — it protects far more than just the tank by mounting the tubular-steel bars solidly to the bike’s frame at top and bottom and wrapping around the front and sides of the AT’s fairing. Should make a good grab point as well.
When I was installing the Tank Guard, I noticed just how exposed and vulnerable the Africa Twin’s radiators are to flying rocks and such, and that the thin plastic grates Honda has installed over them aren’t much better than soft cheese. That led me to Black Dog Cycle Works (BDCW), which offers a pair of well-made aluminum Radiator Guards ($95) that bolt on over the stock ones and don’t impede airflow. Turns out BDCW has lots of nice stuff for the AT, including tubular-steel Lower Engine Bars(6.5 pounds, $285); lightweight aluminum Connector Rods (1.75 pounds, $160) that link its Engine Bars to the Hepco & Becker Tank Guard; an aluminum Rear Rack(3 pounds, $149) extension; and large aluminum Traction Footpegs ($229). All of this stuff somehow found its way onto my bike in about 2.5 hours, helped by good instructions, well thought-out design and an underpaid second pair of hands.
But what really blew me away was BDCW’s Ultimate Skid Plate (11.5 pounds, $349). Not only because it covers so much more of the bike’s tender underbits with tough 3/16-inch-thick aluminum than the stock 3-pound unit, but because its clever design takes less than 10 minutes to install, and it comes off for oil changes and such with just two bolts. The smooth bottom lets the Skid Plate slide over obstacles, and it’s contoured to the frame for maximum ground clearance.
Oh boy, I was on a roll now. More wind protection: National Cycle’s VStream Sport/Tour Windscreen($159.95) is about 3 inches taller and wider than stock, and quiets wind noise down quite a bit. Protection for that expensive LED headlight: Touratech’s Quick-Release Clear Headlight Guard ($139.95) is like a pair of safety goggles, straps on and can be removed in seconds. It doesn’t seem to affect the headlight beam either. More aggressive DP559 and DP121 Brake Pads from DP Brakes, a Nelson-Rigg Adventure Tank Bag ($101.95) and Sahara Duffel ($112.95), and I was nearly finished except for suitable rubber. We gave Michelin’s new Anakee Adventure Tires (MSRP front $202.95, rear $287.95) a thorough review in the June 2019 issue, and found them to be an exceptional choice for 80/20 ADV work. In addition to greater grip off-road than the Africa Twin’s stock tires, the Anakee Adventures sacrifice very little wet or dry on-road performance, and don’t make any noise riding in a straight line, just a mild hum in faster bends.
All told I ended up adding about 50 pounds to my 2018 Africa Twin (not including the Xplorer bags), but now it’s ready for almost any adventure, and some of that weight should pay for itself the first time it takes a dirt nap….
Back in 2016 Honda launched a reboot of the Africa Twin, a
legendary, ’80s-era, Dakar-inspired dual-sport that never made it to the U.S. Sharing
the “CRF” model designation with Honda’s line of off-road bikes made it clear
that the all-new CRF1000L Africa Twin was designed to be just as capable off
the pavement as on it.
Powered by a snappy 998cc parallel twin, the Africa Twin shared
DNA with Honda’s Dakar competition bike, the CRF450R Rally, with a semi-double
cradle frame, 21-inch front/18-inch rear spoked wheels with tube-type tires, extra-long
suspension travel (9.1 inches front, 8.7 inches rear) and nearly 10 inches of
ground clearance. It was offered as a standard model with a 6-speed manual
transmission with an assist-and-slipper clutch, or as a DCT model with Honda’s
Dual Clutch Transmission with automatic and manual modes.
For 2018, Honda introduced a more touring oriented version
called the Africa Twin Adventure Sports, which benefited from engine updates, a
lightweight lithium-ion battery, throttle-by-wire with riding modes, an extra
inch of suspension travel, a 1.4-gallon larger fuel tank (6.4 gallons), a taller
windscreen, a taller handlebar and other cosmetic, ergonomic and functional
There’s been buzz for a while now something new coming down
the pike, and today Honda announced the new 2020 CRF1100L Africa Twin and
CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES. Both get a larger, more powerful
engine, a more advanced suite of electronic rider aids and other updates. The
standard Africa Twin is geared more toward off-road performance, while the
Adventure Sports ES is designed to deliver more comfort and confidence for
The liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin powering both Africa
Twin models gets an 86cc bump in displacement, to 1,084cc, which, along with along
with improved intake and exhaust systems, results in a claimed 6% increase in horsepower.
The frame has been updated for optimized handling, the rear subframe is now made
of aluminum construction and is detachable, and the CRF450R-style aluminum swingarm
is lighter and more rigid.
A six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) enables new rider
aids including wheelie control, cornering ABS, rear-lift control, DCT cornering
detection and cornering lights. A new 6.5-inch TFT color touchscreen display is
compatible with Apple CarPlay, and cruise control is standard on both models.
2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin
The 2020 Honda Africa Twin features a shorter, fixed
windscreen and a 5-gallon fuel tank. It will be available in March 2020 in
Matte Black Metallic for $14,399 with a 6-speed transmission or $15,199 with
2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES
The 2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES features new Showa
Electronically Equipped Ride Adjustment suspension (EERA), tubeless wheels,
heated grips, an accessory socket, a larger skid plate, an aluminum rear rack
and a 6.5-gallon tank. It will be available in March 2020 in Pricing Pearl
Glare White/Blue for $17,199 with a 6-speed transmission or $17,999 with DCT.
Suzuki has announced new and returning models for its 2020 motorcycle lineup. New models include the modern interpretation of the iconic Katana sportbike, which we test rode in Japan and reviewed last spring, and the V-Strom 650XT Adventure.
All other returning models for 2020 are unchanged except for colors and pricing.
Based on the GSX-S1000 naked sportbike and powered by a liquid-cooled,
DOHC, 999cc in-line four that’s a modified, street-tuned version of the
GSX-R1000 K5 (2005-2008) engine, making 147 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and 80
lb-ft of torque at 9,500 rpm (claimed), the new Katana is based on the Katana
3.0 Concept created by Italian designer Rodolfo Frascoli.
Read about the history of the original, Hans Muth-designed 1981 GSX1100S Katana and the evolution of the new model in our First Ride Review. The 2020 Suzuki Katana will be available in Metallic Mystic Silver or Solid Black. Pricing starts at is $13,499 and it will be in dealerships in November.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure
Replacing the V-Strom 650XT Touring for 2020 is the V-Strom 650XT Adventure, which is equipped with tubeless spoked wheels, aluminum panniers, an accessory bar, a handlebar cross-brace, mirror extensions and a centerstand. Powered by a 645cc 90-degree V-twin, it is mechanically unchanged from the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT we last tested.
The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom XT Adventure will be available in
Pearl Vigor Blue and base MSRP is $10,399.
The rest are returning models….
2020 Suzuki Burgman 200
For 2020, the Suzuki Burgman 200 scooter is available in
Pearl Brilliant White and base MSRP is $4,999.
2020 Suzuki Boulevard C50
For 2020, the Suzuki Boulevard C50 cruiser is available in
Candy Daring Red or Glass Sparkle Black and base MSRP is $8,299.
2020 Suzuki Boulevard C50T
For 2020, the Suzuki Boulevard C50T touring cruiser is
available in Metallic Oort Gray No. 3 and base MSRP is $9,599.
2020 Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.
For 2020, the Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S. muscle cruiser
is available in Pearl Glacier White/Glass Sparkle Black or Metallic Oort
Gray/Glass Sparkle Black and base MSRP is $15,199.
2020 Suzuki DR-Z400S
For 2020, the Suzuki DR-Z400S dual-sport is available in Solid
Black and base MSRP is $6,799.
2020 Suzuki DR-Z400SM
For 2020, the Suzuki DR-Z400SM supermoto is available in Solid
Iron Gray or Solid Special White No. 2 and base MSRP is $7,399.
2020 Suzuki DR200S
For 2020, the Suzuki DR200S dual-sport is available in Solid
Iron Gray and base MSRP is $4,649.
2020 Suzuki GSX-R600
For 2020, the Suzuki GSX-R600 sportbike is available in Pearl
Glacier White or Glass Sparkle Black and base MSRP is $11,399.
2020 Suzuki GSX-R750
For 2020, the Suzuki GSX-R750 sportbike is available in Pearl
Glacier White/Glass Sparkle Black or Metallic Mat Black No. 2/Glass Sparkle
Black and base MSRP is $12,499.
2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000
For 2020, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 sportbike is available in Metallic
Mat Black No. 2/Glass Sparkle Black or Pearl Glacier White/Glass Sparkle Black and
MSRP is $15,599.
It’s seldom (if ever) easy to pick a Motorcycle of the Year…not that anyone ever feels sorry for us and our “but we had to ride so many motorcycles” tale of woe. For example, we took our initial ride on the first of this model year’s crop of Contenders, the Yamaha Niken, way back in May of 2018. We can’t even remember what we had for dinner last Tuesday, but fortunately Yamaha jogged our memories of the bike by unveiling the tour-ready GT version of its three-wheeled LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheel) in April 2019.
In the interim, Royal Enfield released a pair of highly anticipated 650 twins, designed, tested and engineered at its brand-spanking-new R&D facility in England and built at one of its sprawling factories in India. Triumph showed off its truly off-road capable yet still pleasantly retro Scrambler 1200 XC and XE. Harley-Davidson, meanwhile, was creating a lot of very different noise with its LiveWire electric motorcycle, but as a 2020 model it’s not eligible for this year’s award. The rightful successor to the dearly departed V-Rod, the dragbike-inspired FXDR 114, is a 2019 contender though. At the decidedly non-dragbike-inspired end of the motorcycle spectrum, Honda, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in the U.S. this year, brought us two absolutely adorable throwback models designed to both tug at Boomer heartstrings and appeal to vintage-loving Millennials, the Monkey and the Super Cub. Indian tapped into another vein of nostalgia and good ol’ Americana with its FTR 1200 S flat-track replica, one of the best-performing American bikes we’ve ridden in a while. Meanwhile BMW managed to improve once again on its bestseller by introducing the R 1250 GS, and Suzuki did the same with its venerable V-Strom 650 XT Touring.
So no, it’s never easy. That said, one machine stood out above the rest as our pick for the 2019 Motorcycle of the Year, and not just because it’s capable of scrabbling to the top of a mountain—then carrying you and your stuff comfortably home again. Our choice, as always, goes to a machine that succeeds best at its intent and could be considered a game-changer in its category. We celebrate all new motorcycles, as they each represent the opportunity to get more people on two wheels, experiencing this great adventure we know and love. Congratulations to all the manufacturers, and thank you for keeping our passion alive!
BMW’s big GS
gets ShiftCam variable valve timing that broadens the powerband, increases fuel
efficiency and decreases emissions, a full-color TFT display, updated
electronics and a bump in displacement (and power) from 1,170 to 1,254cc, making what was already arguably one of the
best all-around motorcycles even better.
The V-Rod is dead, long live
the V-Rod! Well, sort of. The newest member of the Softail family is a long,
lean power cruiser that channels the spirit of the VRSC V-Rod, with a 114ci
Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, raked-out cartridge-style USD fork, 33 degrees of lean
angle and a 240-section rear tire wrapped around a solid-disc rear wheel.
years ago, the original Super Cub proved that motorcycles needn’t be feared by
the masses, and this new version continues to make good on that promise, with a
4-speed semi-automatic gearbox, 244-pound wet weight, timeless styling and
modern conveniences like keyless ignition and ABS on the front brake.
The FTR 1200 S is a light, fast, agile street tracker
inspired by Indian’s championship-winning race bike. It’s also a breath of
fresh, young air in the cruiser orthodoxy that’s dominated American-made
motorcycles for decades, and features include a liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin and
a six-axis IMU-based electronics package.
The Interceptor 650 and Continental GT are completely new,
the first global models for India-based Royal Enfield and the first to be
designed, tested and engineered at its new facility in England. Powered by an
air/oil-cooled 648cc parallel twin, both bikes manage to evoke the simple
pleasure of riding for riding’s sake.
While we haven’t yet ridden
the 2019 version, we’ve spent many thousands of miles aboard Wee Stroms, and
this is the best-equipped one yet. With tubeless spoked wheels, locking side
cases, hand guards, a centerstand, cruise control, ABS, Easy Start and Low RPM
Assist, it’s ready to take on almost any adventure for just $9,999.
Most modern scramblers talk the talk, but don’t walk the
walk of off-road capability. Enter the Scrambler 1200, a full-on adventure bike
with minimalist, retro styling—and a 21-inch front, nearly 10 inches of Öhlins
suspension travel on the up-spec XE model, multiple riding modes, switchable
ABS and traction control.
They’re a bold, groundbreaking move from Yamaha, and they nearly snagged our top honor. The Niken and Niken GT, based around the Tracer 900—a fantastic bike in its own right—work surprisingly well, with ridiculous front-end grip that must be experienced to be believed and that lovely 847cc in-line triple at their hearts.
It’s no secret that adventure
bikes are exploding in popularity, as riders discover the utility and versatility
of their combination of upright seating position, decent ground clearance and
suspension travel, wind protection, the ability to carry luggage and, to
varying degrees, venture off-pavement. ADV bikes have been getting increasingly
bloated, however, bigger, more powerful—and heavier—each model year. Hard-core
ADV-ers have been clamoring for years, begging for a bike that returns
adventure riding to its truly adventurous roots. Something lightweight and
trail-capable, yet with enough elemental protection, power and luggage capacity
to comfortably travel cross-country, and modern fuel injection and electronic
rider aids wouldn’t hurt.
At long last, KTM answered
the call, and what an answer it is. The 790 Adventure and its even more
off-road-oriented R sibling manage to check all the boxes: light weight at a
claimed 417 pounds dry, a state-of-the-art 799cc liquid-cooled, DOHC LC8
parallel twin that produces a claimed 95 horsepower and 65.6 lb-ft of torque
delivered low in the rev range for optimum grunt, and spoked tubeless wheels in
21-inch front/18-inch rear sizes. The standard, more touring-oriented model has
a still-respectable 7.9 inches of travel from its WP Apex suspension and a
fairly accessible, adjustable seat height of 32.7/33.5 inches. Multiple riding
modes (Street, Offroad and Rain) adjust throttle response and lean-angle
sensitive Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) settings, and power reaches the
rear wheel by way of an assist-and-slipper clutch, a 6-speed transmission and
chain final drive. The more off-road-oriented R model gets a Rally ride mode,
fully adjustable WP Xplor suspension with 9.4 inches of travel and a 34.6-inch
A defining characteristic of
the 790 Adventure is its rally racer-inspired, 5.3-gallon horseshoe-shaped gas
tank, which keeps the bike’s center of gravity low, creates less bulk between
the knees for stand-up riding and makes air filter, battery and fuse access
easy, plus it does double-duty as engine protection in case of a tip-over.
On paper the 790 Adventure is
impressive, and riding it is confirmation; the seat is flat, spacious and
comfortable, the wide handlebar is six-position adjustable and the long-travel
suspension soaks up road irregularities at high and low speeds. Bosch 9.1 MP
cornering ABS backs up powerful brakes and many useful features are standard,
such as an aluminum skid plate, a 12V dash socket and an underseat USB port.
Cruise control, a centerstand, a quickshifter, heated grips and TPMS are
At long last, the empty slot
between a street-legal enduro and an open-class ADV tourer has been filled, and
that sound you hear is the cheering of all those riders looking for a bike to
rule both mountain and highway.
Congratulations KTM, for the 2019 790 Adventure, Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year!
For reasons that remain a mystery, Honda waited until the 2016 model year and the introduction of its very capable CRF1000L Africa Twin to get serious about joining the adventure bike party. Sure, there were short-lived tryouts late in the last century (e.g., the original Africa Twin, Transalps and NX650 models), but these were well ahead of the explosion in ADV-bike understanding and popularity, and the 1998-2013 semi-ADV Varadero was never brought to the U.S.
But just prior to the new Africa Twin, Honda dipped a toe in the ADV pond by calling its ruggedly styled new-for-2013 CB500X an “adventure sport” motorcycle, and despite its 17-inch wheels at both ends and 4.7/5.5-inch suspension travel, quite a few riders took that description at Honda’s word.
Subsequently our March 2014 issue tour test to Tombstone, Arizona, included some dirt roads, where the CB500X’s light weight and decent ground clearance helped it do OK (absent deep sand or ruts). The bike’s lower price and seat height has since endeared it to beginning and smaller riders, some of whom want to sample the ADV experience without spending a lot of money—call them the “Adventure Curious.”
The CB500X’s ADV role got a boost when a UK-based outfit called Rally Raid Products created an “adventure kit” for it that includes spoked tubeless wheels with a 19-inch front, longer travel suspension, an ABS cutout switch, taller handlebars and more, and sold lots of them.
Honda has been paying attention to all of this, of course, the result of which is a new 2019 CB500X that incorporates several updates to make it more adventure capable as well as some solid upgrades to its performance and user friendliness. Chief among them is a new 19-inch front wheel that improves bump absorption, front-end feel off-road and high-speed handling, and longer suspension travel (up 0.4-inch front and rear, with an upgraded shock from its larger sportbikes) that reduces bottoming and increases ground clearance.
Unfortunately, seat height is up 0.8-inch as a result, so Honda has narrowed the seat front to make the ground an easier reach–with my 29-inch inseam I can still plant the balls of my feet on the ground. Steering rake and wheelbase are slightly longer for more stability, yet the bike’s turning radius is 8 inches smaller, and new 7-spoke cast wheels are shod with Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires that have an aggressive tread pattern and deep grooves.
At 471cc the CB500X twin is in that size and price sweet spot that makes it both a great ride for beginners and a nice first or second bike for commuting and short trips. There’s power aplenty for most riding, with a screaming 8,200-rpm redline and a flat torque curve that makes it very responsive throughout most of the powerband. Grabbing a handful of throttle in top gear on the interstate doesn’t inspire much urge without a downshift, but the bike cruises along nicely at 75 mph with little vibration and (based on our 2013 model test) should get great fuel economy.
Changes to the parallel-twin engine for 2019 (which also apply to the CB500R and CB500F) like a new intake tract design, fuel injectors, valve timing and muffler give it a claimed 3-4 percent more midrange power and a racier exhaust note, and help it meet looming Euro 5 emissions regs. More dogs on the transmission gears improve shifting, and a new assist-and-slipper clutch reduces lever effort by 45 percent, adapts to the load for better hookup under heavy acceleration and reduces engine braking when downshifting.
Although the Grand Prix Red CB500X can be had with ABS, that’s it for electronic rider aids, and the optional ABS is not switchable (but the fuse box and ABS fuses are readily accessible under the locking seat). For 2019 the bike gets an adjustable brake lever, a revised hydraulic ratio for the rear brake and upgraded ABS modulators that improve braking in low-traction situations (on the ABS version).
In the cockpit there’s a new tapered handlebar for ADV looks that is slightly (0.3 inch) higher and rubber-mounted to minimize vibes; a 0.8-inch taller, two-position windscreen and a new full-featured LCD display with a larger screen and thinner bezel that includes gear and adjustable upshift indicators. The CB500X also looks more adventure-y thanks to a restyled fuel tank, all-LED lighting and a new shroud design that directs radiator heat away from the rider’s legs.
Besides weight, displacement and cost, the chief difference between the CB500X and its 300- and 650-class ADV bike competitors is probably ergonomic. Those bikes have genuinely sit-up riding positions with tall handlebars and lowish footpegs, and though it’s closer to them now the X still retains some street bike feel, particularly for larger riders.
The bar is taller for 2019 but it’s still low by ADV standards, and the footpegs are a bit high, so it takes more effort to stand up, and standing up off-road creates a long reach to the grips. On the other hand, that wide handlebar and more tucked-in seating position works even better on the pavement now, and the upgrades to steering, suspension and brakes as well as the additional power make the bike serious fun on a twisty road. Wind protection from the taller screen is quite good, and vibration can only be felt in the grips and footpegs at higher rpm.
Honda set up a brilliant ride for the press in the mountains around Julian, California, with a mix of dirt and pavement that showed off the bike’s capabilities very well. Rather than the stock Dunlops, Honda hedged its bets by equipping the bikes with Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tires, an aggressive ADV knobby that works surprisingly well on the street and provided reassuring traction on the dirt bits.
Clutch pull and shifting are indeed butter now, and with the slipper clutch, more linear power delivery and new ABS and brake settings the bike is quite easy to control on loose surfaces and stops hard when needed. Although damping settings are fixed, spring preload is adjustable at both ends, and other than some rear tire chatter when accelerating over washboard the suspension performs quite well for a bike in this price range. It was a warm day yet I didn’t notice any engine heat, and though the new display suffers from glare when the sun is directly behind it is otherwise highly functional.
The accessories list for the CB500X includes heated grips, a centerstand, locking panniers, hand guards, a rear carrier and more, and outfits like Rally Raid will continue to carry ADV upgrades for the new bike as well as for previous model years. At 433 pounds gassed and ready to ride, weight-wise the ABS version is right in between the 300- and 650-class ADV bikes, and the CB500X’s seat is still lower than the 650-and-larger machines, so it’s a good choice for someone who wants interstate touring capability in a smaller, more affordable machine that is also ready for the adventure curious.
This handy guide includes all new or significantly updated street-legal motorcycles for the 2020 model year. Organized in alphabetical order by manufacturer, it includes photos and links to details or, when available, first rides and road test reviews about each bike. This guide is updated regularly as more new/updated models are announced, and when we’ve had a chance to ride them and report our impressions.
Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. It also gets a mild style refresh with a TFT display,
a DRL option for the halogen headlight and new color options. Although originally
announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 R didn’t make it to the U.S. in time. BMW
says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at $14,995.
Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. The RS also gets a style refresh that drops the
asymmetrical, winking look of the S 1000 RR in favor of a sporty twin-LED
headlight assembly, and an LED DRL (daytime running light) is an option.
Although announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 RS didn’t make it to the U.S. in
time. BMW says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at
More power (205 hp), less weight (434 lbs), updated
technology and a new up-spec Motorsport version. The 2020 BMW S 1000 RR is at
the pointy end of the sportbike spear. Pricing starts at $16,995 and bikes will
be in dealerships in summer 2019.
Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire electric motorcycle is seriously sporty, shockingly fast and whisper-quiet–everything a typical Harley isn’t. And that’s just the way Milwaukee wants it. It’s propelled by a liquid-cooled electric motor that makes a claimed 105 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque, drawing power from a 15.5 kWh battery that offers, according to H-D, a range of 146 miles in the city and 95 miles of combined stop-and-go and highway riding. Single-speed transmission offers twist-and-go convenience, and styling, ergonomics and components are the sportiest offered on any Harley-Davidson. MSRP starts at $29,799.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana features styling cues that pay direct homage to the 1981 original, and it’s built around the potent GSX-S1000 999cc inline-four. It features ABS, traction control, Easy Start and Low RPM Assist, as well as a twin-spar aluminum frame, braced superbike-style swingarm, KYB suspension, dual front Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers, 310mm floating rotors and a model-specific LCD panel. We got a chance to ride the new Katana in Japan last March, but pricing and availability are TBD.
Announced in the fall of 2018, we’re still waiting to see the
new Ténéré 700 (T7, for short) in the flesh–Yamaha says it will be coming to
the U.S. in the second half of 2020 as a 2021 model. We know it will be
powered by the 689cc CP2 parallel twin used in the MT-07, housed in a new
tubular steel double-cradle frame. Other details include a 62.6-inch wheelbase,
9.5 inches of ground clearance, a fully adjustable USD 43mm fork with 8.3
inches of travel and a remote preload-adjustable rear shock with 7.9 inches of
Yamaha has updated its flagship sportbikes, the YZF-R1 and the track-ready YZF-R1M, for 2020, with both featuring refinements to their CP4 crossplane crankshaft engines, an augmented electronic rider aids package, enhanced suspension and redesigned bodywork. MSRP is $17,300 for the YZF-R1 and $26,099 for the YZF-R1M (the latter is available in limited quantities through Yamaha’s online reservation system).
The first new model from Zero Motorcycles since 2016, the 2020 SR/F’s streetfighter look and steel trellis frame blur the styling lines between gas and electric motorcycles. Powered by a new ZF75-10 IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery, it delivers a claimed 140 lb-ft of torque and 110 horsepower. It also features Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control System and Zero’s new Cypher III operating system. Pricing starts at $18,995.