Since introducing its Big Boxer-powered R 18 in 2020, BMW has invited some of the world’s best customizers to put their own spin on Germany’s heavyweight cruiser. At the Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy, BMW unveiled the R 18 M and R 18 Aurora customs.
The latest customs are the result of the collaboration between BMW Motorrad Italy and its dealer network. The R 18 M was developed by Italian magazine LowRide and created by American Dreams. Commissioned by BMW Motorrad Roma, the R 18 Aurora was created by Garage 221.
M is the letter that distinguishes the sport versions of BMW four-wheeled models, and today it also includes motorcycles like the M 1000 RR. The source of inspiration for the BMW R 18 M project by the editorial staff of LowRide is the following: the idea is to give the BMW cruiser a sportier, more streamlined look, avoiding exaggerations while showing respect the R 18’s retro lines.
“Stability, long wheelbase, and readiness of the 1,800cc Big Boxer instigate lightning starts and deserve, in our opinion, a sporty and retro look,” said Giuseppe Roncen, director of LowRide. “In the R 18 M design, we find suggestions from BMW Motorrad tradition and cues from the four-wheelers: M stands for Motorsport.”
The work has focused on chassis, suspension set-up, bodywork, and accessories, leaving mechanics and electronics unchanged as the natural strengths of the R 18. Lightened and with a different riding position, the BMW R 18 M promises to be even more fun to ride.
“We remain curious to experience its potential,” continued Roncen. “Significantly lightened, the bike should also be easy to handle due to its riding position, which is more compact and forward loaded, without exaggeration.”
The R 18 M project was made possible by BMW Italia and was born in the wake of the emotions that this bike can give: a fun cruiser, powerful and lively, with a big heart and an infinite torque. LowRide has involved some of the best Italian craftsmen and companies specialized in the sector.
The realization of the sketches was entrusted to designer Oberdan Bezzi, already a partner of LowRide in the past. He has managed to make it an exciting power cruiser without upsetting the essence of the BMW R 18. American Dreams handled the assembly and coordinated the work. Elaboratorio, specializing in prototyping and modeling, created the headlight shroud, lower cowl, and tailsection.
Carbon Italy handled the head covers, intake ducts, and other carbon fiber details. The short exhaust pipe, designed to make the line more compact and allow greater lean angles, bears the signature of ER Exhaust Revolution. L.R. Leather covered the saddle in leather, while the paintwork was entrusted to Dox Art Factory. Rizoma provided mirrors, grips, and universal indicators for the accessories.
The idea and desire of Garage 221 to create a custom bike based on the BMW R 18 found its origins a while ago, at the presentation of the bike at EICMA 2019. The lines of the new BMW cruiser, innovative and at the same time faithfully traditional, deserved “complementary elements and an even more Heritage spirit, starting from the soft lines of the tank to the characteristic shapes of the boxer,” said Pier Francesco Marchio of Garage 221.
The project initially focused on the study of the different sections of the bike, keeping in mind the need to connect the new elements in a unique harmony of lines, taking inspiration from the cruisers of the 1970s, which have always impressed Pier Francesco “for their impressive aesthetic fluidity.” Distinctive elements of the BMW R 18 Aurora are the wraparound fenders and the batwing fairing.
Modifications that led to the R 18 Aurora stem from Garage 221’s deep knowledge of BMW Motorrad history. The saddle was borrowed in its entirety from a 2005 BMW R 1200 C. The fairing supports are adapted from parts on a 1982 BMW R 100 and a 1991 BMW K 75. Even for the color of the body, a 1983 BMW R 100 RT was used as a reference, customizing the graphics in its shades and intensity. The front and rear fender supports, saddle supports, and license plate holder arms are entirely handmade.
The exhaust pipes were made in collaboration with Leo Vince, taking particular care of the sound, to make it even more full-bodied and captivating. Their design has been specifically studied to give a very personal and muscular line to the central part of the R 18.
The R 18 Aurora’s oil cooler grille gives a classy natural touch, inspired by the grille of BMW’s cars from the 1960s. “It was a lot of hard work,” said Pier Francesco, “but the result is truly stunning. The textured paintwork of the cylinder head covers, the injection housings, the central crankcase and our oil cooler grille make everything look homogeneous, creating a unique effect with the cylinder block and the bevel gear.”
We’ve seen (and tested) two 2022 Hondas already, both in the miniMOTO family: the updated Grom and the all-new Navi, an affordable, user-friendly motorcycle for commuters and new riders. The 2022 Honda lineup includes another miniMOTO, the Super Cub C125, as well as Africa Twin, Gold Wing, Rebel, Fury, CBR, and NC750X models.
2022 Honda Super Cub C125
Honda’s Super Cub is a living legend. Introduced in 1958, more than 100 million have been built, making it the most produced motor vehicle in history. It’s also the inspiration for the wildly successful “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” advertising campaign.
For 2022, the Super Cub’s new SOHC, 124cc, single-cylinder engine benefits from a longer stroke, which delivers more useable power while also improving fuel economy. Honda also managed to shave off 2 pounds, reducing curb weight to just 238 pounds. Offered in a new Matte Gray Metallic colorway, the 2022 Super Cub starts at just $3,799.
2022 Honda Africa Twin
Since its 2016 reintroduction, the legendary Africa Twin proven itself to be a highly capable adventure bike both on- and off-road, and the platform has grown to include four models. For 2022, the sporting- and off-road performance-oriented standard version now comes with the same rear carrier as its more distance riding-oriented Adventure Sports ES sibling. Meanwhile, that version gets a shorter windscreen for improved visibility.
Both Africa Twin versions are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both are available with either a manual gearbox or Honda’s advanced automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which has a program change for 2022, delivering smoother shifting in the lower gears.
The standard Africa Twin comes in Grand Prix Red, with an MSRP of $14,499 for the manual transmission version and $15,299 for the DCT version. The Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES comes in Pearl White, and MSRP is $17,299 for the manual and $18,099 for the DCT.
2022 Honda Gold Wing
Now in its sixth generation, Honda’s flagship Gold Wing caters to long-distance tourers with an ultra-smooth opposed six-cylinder engine, spacious cockpit, and ample storage capacity. Despite it’s 1,833cc mill and 804-pound running weight, it delivers sporty performance and handling that belies its size. The Gold Wing delivers style and luxury for multi-day road trips with comfortable seating options, cutting-edge rider aids, and a top-of-the-line infotainment system.
Last year, Honda updated the Gold Wing Tour with a larger trunk and more comfortable passenger accommodations, and all Gold Wing models got updated audio and Android Auto integration in addition to Apple Car Play.
In 2022, the Gold Wing DCT trim comes in Nightshade Blue and retails for $25,300. At $28,500, the trunk-equipped Gold Wing Tour now sports Ultra Blue Metallic and Metallic Black colorways. The Gold Wing Tour DCT offers the same paint schemes but with an MSRP of $29,500 and the 2022 Gold Wing Tour Airbag DCT rounds out the range with a $32,800 sticker price and Ultra Blue Metallic livery.
2022 Honda NC750X
For commuters covering longer distances, the Honda NC750X has become one of the top picks in the adventure category. The fuel-sipping 745cc parallel-Twin isn’t all business though. Its low to midrange torque makes it a great option for backroad weekend excursions as well.
The standard NC750X remains affordable in 2022 with a $8,699 sticker price. The Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) trim comes in close behind at $9,299. Honda’s Selectable Torque Control is available in both trims, reassuring the rider that the NC750X is just as practical as it is versatile.
2022 Honda Rebel 1100
Introduced last year, the Rebel 1100 returns for 2022. Don’t let its cruiser stance fool you. With a liquid-cooled, 1,084cc parallel-Twin derived from the Africa Twin, a solid chassis, and electronic rider aids, it delivers both style and performance.
The Metallic Black and Bordeaux Red Metallic paint options carry over from 2021, but a stunning new Pearl Stallion Brown makes the Rebel stand out from the crowd. Honda offers the 2022 Rebel 1100 at $9,399 while the DCT version comes in at $9,999. Regardless of the trim, both Rebel 1100 models include ABS as standard.
2022 HondaRebel 300/500
Also returning for 2022 are two of the industry’s most popular entry-level cruisers, Honda’s Rebel 300 and Rebel 500. They combine user-friendliness with stylish, minimalist design, including a peanut fuel tank, LED lighting, and blacked-out finishes.
The Honda Rebel 300 is available in Matte Gray Metallic and Pearl Blue, with an MSRP of $4,699, or $4,999 with ABS. The Honda Rebel 500 is available in Matte Gray Metallic and Matte Pearl White, with an MSRP of $6,399, or $6,699 with ABS. The Honda Rebel 500 ABS SE ($6,899) comes in a new Matte Silver and has select accessories preinstalled.
2022 Honda Fury
The Rebel may bring cruiser performance and aesthetics into the 21st century, but the 2022 Honda Fury sticks to its chopper roots. With a long and lean stance, aggressive styling, and 1,312cc V-Twin, the factory-direct custom lives up to its name.
However, with dual counter-balancers, fuel injection, and shaft drive, the Fury delivers a smooth ride. In Pearl Yellow paint, the 2022 Fury is sure to turn heads, and at $11,499, it’s priced to take on all competitors.
2022 Honda CBR600RR
Honda’s CBR600RR is back in 2022, offering the utmost supersport performance for spirited road riders and track day enthusiasts. With eight World Supersport titles under its belt, the CBR600RR retains its championship pedigree in 2022 with full Showa suspension and a high-revving inline-four engine.
Resplendent in Grand Prix Red, the base 2022 Honda CBR600RR has an MSRP of $11,999 and the ABS-equipped model goes for $12,999.
2022 Honda CBR1000RR
Last year Honda introduced the exclusive, track-focused CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, a premium, World Superbike-caliber machine that cost $28,500.
For those seeking liter-class performance on a more affordable scale, Honda’s legendary CBR1000RR is available for 2022 in Grand Prix Red for $16,499, or $16,799 with ABS.
Indian came out of the gate early last year with an all-new Chief platform and a revised FTR lineup for the 2022 model year. The full 2022 Indian Motorcycle lineup features an updated Ride Command system and fine-tuned traction control on select models, as well as new colors and accessories.
Ride Command-equipped 2022 models now feature a speed limit overlay, reminding users of the current speed limit on a street-by-street basis. The system also benefits from faster loading times and expanded Bluetooth connectivity this year. The new features are included on 2022 models and available as a software update on 2020-2021 Indians.
2022 Indian Challenger
In addition to the robust Ride Command system, Indian also retuned the PowerPlus 111-powered Challenger’s traction control for smoother engagement. The platform has been refreshed with new colors as well.
The standard Challenger comes in Black Metallic and Titanium Smoke with an MSRP of $23,999. Starting at $27,999, the Challenger Limited is offered in Black Metallic, Maroon Metallic, Spirit Blue/Black Metallic paint options. The Challenger Dark Horse, on the other hand, retails for $28,499 in Black Smoke, Bronze Smoke, and Indy Red/Black Metallic colorways.
2022 Indian Springfield, Chieftain, and Roadmaster
Indian’s Thunder Stroke models also receive fresh liveries for the 2022 model year. Starting at $21,999, Springfield buyers can choose between Maroon Metallic/Crimson Metallic and Black Metallic/Dirt Track Tan color schemes. Additionally, the Black Smoke and Quartz Gray paint options complement the Springfield Dark Horse’s black finish and starts at $22,499.
The Chieftain goes back to basics with Black Metallic paint job and a $21,999 MSRP. However, at $27,999, the Chieftain Dark Horse amps up the options with Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, and Quartz Gray paint jobs. The top-of-the-line Chieftain Limited commands $28,749 but sweetens the deal with premium Silver Quartz Metallic and Deepwater Metallic colorways.
The Roadmaster returns in Black Metallic or Maroon Metallic/Crimson Metallic paint and costs $29,999. At $30,499, the Roadmaster Dark Horse boasts Black Smoke, Polished Bronze, and Silver Quartz Smoke liveries while the Roadmaster Limited comes with a $30,749 price tag and Black Azure Crystal and Crimson Metallic colorways.
2022 Indian Scouts
Indian doesn’t forget the Scout family either, bringing back the Scout (MSRP $$11,999), Scout Sixty (MSRP $9,999), Scout Bobber (MSRP $10,999), Scout Bobber Sixty (MSRP $8,999), and Scout Bobber Twenty (MSRP $11,999). The base-model Scout now features Black Metallic, White Smoke, Maroon Metallic, and Silver Quartz Metallic/Black Metallic paint while the Scout Sixty keeps it simple with Black Metallic and Storm Blue color schemes.
The Scout Bobber line take the paint options to the Nth degree with 2022 Scout Bobber Sixty offering Black Metallic, Black Smoke, Quartz Gray, and Ruby Smoke. The Scout Bobber now comes in Black Metallic, Alumina Jade Smoke, Maroon Metallic Smoke, Stealth Gray, Silver Quartz Smoke, and Titanium Metallic, while the Scout Bobber Twenty is available in Black Metallic, White Smoke, Maroon Metallic, and Silver Quartz Metallic/Black Metallic.
Along with the model updates, Indian expands its accessories catalog with Spirit Lake Luggage Collection, LED lighting add-ons, and hard fairing lowers for the Indian Challenger platform. The Scouts also benefit from the extensive collection with new piggyback rear shocks and a 5.75-inch Pathfinder Adaptive LED headlight.
It’s all hands on deck at Harley-Davidson as the brand works toward its World Premiere Event on January 26, 2022. While The Motor Company prepares to debut new models and the latest Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) entries at the affair, it’s already started rolling out returning 2022 Harley-Davidson models.
The Pan America and Sportster S signaled a paradigm shift for Harley-Davidson in 2021, and the two models are back in the new year. Despite the Pan Am’s impressive rookie year in the competitive heavyweight adventure segment, Harley didn’t rest on its laurels. In response to customer feedback, the 2022 Pan America’s TFT display features more legible information and the Hill Hold Assist system now remains active for 3-5 minutes.
The big-bore ADV keeps its 2021 colorways but also adds an exclusive Fastback Blue/White Sand option to the Pan America 1250 Special. The standard model still retails for $17,319 while the Special variant holds on to its $19,999 MSRP.
The MoCo didn’t have to take similar measures with the 2022 Sportster S, however. The new-age cruiser still boasts a 121-horsepower Revolution Max 1250 V-Twin, but the sportiest Sportster only gains new paint schemes for its second outing. In addition to the standard Vivid Black option, H-D introduces White Sand Pearl and Mineral Green Metallic. The Sportster S will remain at $14,999 in 2022.
New styling options remains the theme with the Softail range. The Heritage Classic 114 returns with a standard black finish, but customers can now opt for chrome accents instead. In black trim, the touring-ready Softail flaunts Wrinkle Black upper rocker covers, camshaft cover, primary cover, and transmission cover. Gloss black lightbars, indicators, and lower rocker covers provide a tonal contrast while the chrome muffler tips shine on the fully-dressed cruiser. The 2022 Heritage Classic 114 starts at $20,799, and Harley will offer both black and chrome edition with 9-spoke cast aluminum or laced wheels.
The Fat Bob 114 also undergoes a facelift with a new waterslide graphic on its 3.6-gallon gas tank. The two-tone color scheme may draw from Harley’s past, but a modern H-D logo retains the model’s edgy aesthetic. The Fat Bob 114 still pushes cruiser performance boundaries in 2022 and comes with a base price of $19,149.
Changes to the 2022 Fat Boy 114 go beyond a new livery though. The legendary Big Twin is known for its disc wheels but the restyled Lakestar cast-aluminum wheels now flaunt an 11-spoke turbine design. The Fat Boy badge also receives an overhaul, with a single trailing wing contemporizing the military-inspired logo. With those revisions in tow, the 2022 Fat Boy 114 now starts at $20,349.
The Street Bob 114 and Softail Standard don’t receive the same cosmetic updates, but the new Annihilator cast aluminum wheels are an upgrade over the laced wheels of past models. Rolling on new hoops, the Street Bob 114 now costs $15,349 while the Softail Standard remains the budget-friendly option at $13,949. Rounding out the Harley’s Cruiser range, the Evo-powered Sportsters return once again with the 2022 Iron 883 retailing at $10,749 and the Forty-Eight going for $11,799.
When it comes to touring, the Motor Company brings back the Electra Glide Standard (MSRP $19,429), Road King (MSRP $19,929), Street Glide (MSRP $22,249), and Road Glide (MSRP $22,249). In new color options, the base model baggers still house the firm’s 107 Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin, but Reflex linked Brembo brakes deliver more than enough slow for all that go.
Of course, the premium Road King Special (MSRP $23,429), Street Glide Special (MSRP $27,449), Road Glide Special (MSRP $27,449), Ultra Limited (MSRP $29,169), and Road Glide Limited (MSRP $28,729) feature the up-spec 114 Milwaukee Eight powerplant. However, the Special trim Road King, Street Glide, and Road Glide roll on Prodigy cast wheels while the Limited variant Ultra and Road Glide show off Harley’s Slicer II wheelset.
Harley couldn’t leave the trike category out of all the fun, and the 2022 Freewheeler gains a new V-shaped tank medallion along with a two-tone Midnight Crimson/Vivid Black paint option. Similarly, the Tri Glide Ultra gets an intricate cloisonné tank medallion, dual pinstripes, and Midnight Crimson/Vivid Black and Gauntlet Gray Metallic/Vivid Black colorways. The new Freewheeler carries a $28,499 price tag while the 2022 Tri Glide goes for $35,699.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson models are already hitting showroom floors, and we can’t wait to see what new models join the lineup at the brand’s World Premiere Event. For more information or to find a dealer near you, visit harley-davidson.com.
BMW has long been committed to designing and building motorcycles for travel, and the all-new 2022 BMW R 18 Transcontinental continues that tradition in a new segment for the German brand. BMW’s current lineup is filled with sport-tourers, adventure tourers, luxury tourers, and even a bagger, but all occupy the modern, performance-oriented end of the spectrum. Many are popular and sell in respectable quantities each year, especially on a global scale.
But here in North America – the biggest market for large-displacement motorcycles – cruisers are king. And when it comes to heavyweight touring cruisers, Harley-Davidson is by far the dominant brand.
According to data from Infobike, two Harley-Davidson model families – Street Glide and Road Glide – accounted for 65% of global sales for heavyweight cruisers last year. If you add in Harley’s Electra Glide, Sport Glide, and Road King models, that number jumps to 84%. Of 67,859 units sold worldwide, Harley-Davidson accounts for 57,178 of them, and 49,331 (73%) were sold in the U.S.
That’s a lot of iron.
Carving out even a small slice of the big cruiser pie can be profitable, which is why the Japanese brands entered the traditional cruiser segment years ago. Taking a bite out of Harley’s market share motivated Polaris to launch Victory in 1998 and buy Indian in 2011. BMW gave it a shot, too, when it launched the R 1200 C back in 1998, but its small engine, funky ergonomics, and out-of-touch styling failed to resonate with buyers.
A Bigger Boxer
For its traditional cruiser reboot, BMW focused on both style and substance. First, it needed an engine – a big one. Just as Harley-Davidson is known for V-Twins, BMW is known for its horizontally opposed “boxer” Twins. In the spring of 2019, BMW unveiled a prototype engine it called the Big Boxer, which was the centerpiece of The Revival Birdcage, a minimalist custom built by Revival Cycles and shown at the Handbuilt Show in Austin.
Later that year, BMW unveiled the Concept R18 /2 and revealed that the Big Boxer displaced 1,800cc, making it by far the largest boxer to come out of Germany. In early April 2020, just as the pandemic began to suck all the air out of the room, BMW announced a production-ready model called the R 18. Rather than the modern styling of the Concept R18 /2, the R 18 had traditional styling inspired by the 1930s-era BMW R 5.
When we finally got a chance to test the R 18 late last year, former EIC Mark Tuttle wrote: “At 788 pounds fully fueled sitting on a long 68.1-inch wheelbase, the R 18 looks and feels overbuilt, like there’s a roomful of bagger and dresser bodywork tucked away somewhere just waiting to be hung on the sturdy platform.” The R 18 Classic, equipped with a windshield and semi-soft saddlebags, soon joined the lineup. But it wasn’t until this past summer that BMW announced the models that would compete with all those Road Glides and Street Glides.
Flight of the Hard Baggers
The R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental fully realize the vision of what the Big Boxer platform was meant to be. Both have a handlebar-mounted batwing-style fairing, an infotainment system, hard saddlebags, and a comfy passenger seat. And the Transcontinental adds a top trunk with a wrap-around passenger backrest.
BMW invited Rider to test both models at their U.S. press launch in Denver, Colorado. After the one-day press ride, I spent four days riding an R 18 Transcontinental (TC) more than 1,500 miles through five states, with my wife, Carrie, as a passenger and the luggage packed full of gear.
PHOTO CAPTION: Carrie and I loaded up the R 18 TC and set off on a 1,500 mile journey. Starting in Denver, we rode west through the Rockies, crossing the Continental Divide several times (Loveland Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Monarch Pass) and visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We continued west through Utah and Arizona, riding through the red rocks of Monument Valley, crossing the Colorado River, and visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Photos by the author)
Whereas the K 1600 B and K 1600 Grand America are high-performance, high-tech touring bikes powered by BMW’s inline-Six, the R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental take a different approach. The K 1600 mill is ultra-smooth and makes 130 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel. Traditional cruiser buyers aren’t concerned about horsepower. They want generous torque at low revs, and they want an engine with rumbling sound and feel. When we put the R 18 on Jett Tuning’s dyno, it made 109 lb-ft of rear-wheel torque at just 2,900 rpm, with more than 100 lb-ft of torque on tap from 2,000 to 3,600 rpm. Horsepower topped out at 80 at 4,500 rpm, and the rev limiter kicks in 6,000 rpm.
The R 18 B and R 18 TC are both equipped for long-haul touring, but they’ll appeal to different buyers. With its low windshield and slim seat, the R 18 B is suited for solo touring and boulevard cruising with the occasional passenger. Designed for two-up touring, the R 18 Transcontinental is equipped with a tall windshield, a wide seat, wind deflectors, driving lights, heated seats, highway bars, a trunk, and a passenger backrest. The saddlebags hold 27 liters each, and the TC’s trunk holds 48 liters. Fuel capacity is a generous 6.3 gallons (up from 4.2 on the R 18), and over the course of more than 1,500 miles on the TC, every one of them ridden two-up and fully loaded, we averaged 42.5 mpg, which translates to about 268 miles of range.
The Right Tool for the Job
The R 18 B and R 18 TC are not just the R 18 with a fairing and luggage tacked on. Their shared frame was beefed-up to carry more weight; even with their higher curb weights, load capacity meets or exceeds that of the standard R 18. Compared to the R 18, the B and TC have a shorter wheelbase (66.7 inches, down from 68.1), less rake (27.3 degrees, down from 32.7 degrees), and more trail (7.2 inches, up from 5.9). They also have more rear suspension travel (4.7 inches, up from 3.5), which translates to additional cornering clearance (35 degrees, up from 32), and the rear shock auto-levels to accommodate various loads. The B and TC are heavier, but they handle better, especially on twisty roads and during low-speed maneuvers.
The R 18 B and R 18 TC bikes we tested were equipped with optional packages that BMW believes most buyers will want. The Select Package adds a locking fuel filler cap, central luggage locks, a tire-pressure monitoring system, an anti-theft alarm, and heated seats on the B (they’re standard on the TC). The Premium Package adds the Adaptive Headlight with a mechanical cornering light function, which swivels +/-35 degrees to illuminate the inside of curves, as well as hill-hold control, reverse assist, Active Cruise Control, and Marshall Gold Series speakers in the saddlebag lids and, on the TC, in the passenger backrest.
In the Saddle
During the one-day press ride, I logged about 100 miles on the R 18 B. With its low, 28.3-inch seat and mid-mount footboards, my knees were level with my hips and my back was straight, which I preferred over the hip-rotating “clamshell” seating position that’s common on many cruisers. A comfortable reach to the pullback handlebar allowed me to maintain a relaxed bend in my elbows, and smooth airflow over the low windscreen hit right at helmet level with no buffeting.
Because the Big Boxer’s cylinders jut far out to the sides, the rider’s legs are hemmed in place, limiting options to adjust knee and hip angle during long stints in the saddle. The engine is too wide to accommodate highway pegs, so BMW will offer (though we didn’t get a chance to test) accessory leg rests so riders can stretch out their legs on top of the cylinders without roasting their calves. The TC has highway bars in front of the cylinders, and my legs are long enough that I was able to put my heels on them and mostly straighten out my knees, though only briefly because it felt awkward.
Thicker foam in the TC’s seat adds nearly an inch of seat height, which resulted in more legroom and additional comfort during the 350- to 400-mile days in the saddle on our ride from Colorado to California. Carrie found the TC’s passenger seat and backrest to be all-day comfortable, and she liked the comfort and convenience of the footboards, especially when climbing on and off the bike.
Airflow over the TC’s tall windscreen went above my helmet, and Carrie appreciated the calm pocket of air with no turbulence. The top edge of the non-adjustable screen was in my line of sight, which was sometimes distracting during back-and-forth cornering. At the bottom edge of the TC’s fairing are adjustable air flaps that can be closed or opened to direct air into the cockpit. It also has non-adjustable wind deflectors mounted atop the highway bars, which were helpful when temps dropped as low as 40 degrees on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway, but less so when we encountered triple-digit highs in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada.
Large and In Charge
To assist riders while piloting these machines, the cockpit is packed with data, functions, switches, and buttons. Behind the fairing are four analog gauges (speedo, tach, fuel, and power reserve) and an enormous 10.25-inch TFT color display, with different screens for vehicle info as well as music, phone, and navigation functions via a smartphone and the BMW Motorrad Connected app. BMW’s Multi-Controller wheel on the left grip makes menu navigation, volume control, and other functions easy, but the TFT’s hardened, glare-resistant screen isn’t touch-enabled.
BMW partnered with Marshall to create a premium audio system for the R 18 B and TC, and the standard setup includes two 25-watt speakers in the front fairing. The Premium Package adds two 90-watt subwoofers in the lids of the top-loading saddlebags and brings total output up to 230 watts on the B. The Premium-equipped TC gets another pair of 25-watt speakers in the passenger backrest, for a total of 280 watts. The surround-sound audio pumps out the jams, and the subwoofers add serious bass.
One downside of the extra speakers is that they reduce storage capacity by 0.5 liter in each of the saddlebags and 1 liter inthe trunk. The saddlebags seem large on the outside, but their narrow interiors present some challenges with packing (BMW offers accessory drop-in liner bags that should make the process easier). The trunk has a spacious, carpet-lined interior with a charging port. Pop-up metal levers with positive actuation make the luggage easy to open, close, and latch even when filled to the brim, and the central locks add convenient security.
On the Road
The R 18s have three ride modes – Rock, Roll, and Rain – that alter throttle response, idle character, engine-drag torque control, and traction-control intervention. In Rock mode, they feel lumpy and shake a lot at idle to add some visceral theater, and throttle response is direct. But in Roll and Rain mode, the response feels duller and slow to respond. The single-plate dry clutch requires some slip when pulling away from stops on hills and riding up steep hairpins, but the 6-speed transmission shifts smoothly and the heel-toe shifter comes in handy.
Like most heavyweight cruisers, the R 18 B/TC work best when they are short-shifted and kept in their peak torque range. Riding the TC day after day, it cruised smoothly in top gear and when maintaining steady throttle on flat stretches of road. Rolling on and off the gas while accelerating or negotiating curves and grades, however, sent a fair amount of vibration through the seat and grips that became tiresome after a while.
Despite the weight of the fairing on the handlebar, the R 18 B/TC steer with stability and confidence, though some effort is required. The massive brakes with BMW’s linked Full Integral ABS slow down the heavy bikes with authority, and the large brake and clutch levers are adjustable for reach. The R 18 and R 18 Classic have spoked wheels with tube-type tires, but the R 18 B/TC roll on cast wheels with tubeless tires, which is a real boon for roadside flat repairs.
Dynamic Cruise Control is standard on the B and TC, and, if necessary, it applies the brakes to slow the bikes on steep descents to maintain the set speed. Active Cruise Control, which is part of the Premium Package, uses radar sensors embedded in the front fairing that scan the lane in front of the bike when cruise control is activated. If a vehicle is detected in front of the bike, the system will automatically reduce speed to maintain a fixed distance. Using inputs from the lean-angle sensors, ACC also adjusts speed to assist with safer cornering. The system works well and isn’t affected by vehicles in adjacent lanes.
Toward the Horizon
Given BMW’s extensive experience in the touring segment, it’s no surprise that it built fully featured, highly functional heavyweight touring bikes right out of the gate. Traditional cruisers, though, are as much about style as they are about substance, and it’s tricky to strike the ideal balance. The R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental are good-looking motorcycles that caught the attention of many people we encountered at gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and national parks.
Cruiser buyers tend to be conservative. They’re wary of unconventional styling and will embrace high-tech features only if they don’t alter the look and feel of the motorcycle. BMW’s Big Boxer is a large-displacement air-cooled Twin, but its configuration is very different from a traditional V-Twin.
Likewise, there was no small amount of skepticism from the ADV crowd about Harley-Davidson building an adventure bike, a segment long dominated by BMW. But the Pan America 1250 proved itself to be highly capable, and Harley says it has become the best-selling ADV in the U.S.
For those interested in a heavyweight bagger or full-dress tourer with traditional styling, the R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental are worthy choices
2022 BMW R 18 B / Transcontinental Specs
Base Price: $21,945 / $24,995 Price as Tested: $28,420 (Premium & Select Packages, Galaxy Dust metallic/Titanium Silver 2 metallic) / $35,244 (Premium & Select Packages, First Edition Black Storm, Vance & Hines exhaust, Roland Sands Design accessories) Website:bmwmotorcycles.com
ENGINE Engine Type: Air-/oil-cooled, longitudinal opposed flat-Twin, OHV w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,802cc (110ci) Bore x Stroke: 1 x 100.0mm Compression Ratio: 9.6:1 Valve Insp. Interval: 6,000 miles Fuel Delivery: BMS-O EFI w/ 48mm throttle body Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.2 qt cap. Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated single-plate dry slipper clutch Final Drive: Shaft
CHASSIS Frame: Tubular-steel double cradle w/ tubular-steel double-sided swingarm Wheelbase: 66.7 in. Rake/Trail: 27.3 degrees/7.2 in. Seat Height: 28.3 in. / 29.1 in. Suspension, Front: 49mm telescopic fork, no adj., 4.7 in. travel Rear: Single cantilever shock, adj. for spring preload, 4.7-in. travel Brakes, Front: Dual 300mm discs w/ 4-piston opposed calipers & ABS Rear: Single cantilever shock, adj. for spring preload, 4.7-in. travel Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.5 x 19 in. Rear: Cast, 5.0 x 16 in. Tires, Front: 120/70-B19 Rear: 180/65-B16 Wet Weight: 877 lbs. / 941 lbs. (claimed, base models) Load Capacity: 512 lbs. / 448 lbs. (claimed, base models) GVWR: 1,389 lbs.
PERFORMANCE Horsepower: 80 hp @ 4,500 rpm (2021 R 18, rear-wheel dyno) Torque: 109 lb-ft @ 2,900 rpm (2021 R 18, rear-wheel dyno) Fuel Capacity: 6.3 gals. Fuel Consumption: 42.5 mpg Estimated Range: 268 miles
Triumph has an early holiday present for fans of Britain’s custom-classic and road racing culture, in the form of four limited-release Special Edition models, each available for one year only: the Street Twin EC1, Thruxton RS Ton Up, Rocket 3 GT 221, and Rocket 3 R 221.
2022 Triumph Street Twin EC1 Special Edition
Triumph’s best-selling modern classic model, the Street Twin, gets a makeover inspired by the vibrant custom scene of London’s East End – particularly the historic streets of the EC1 district that gives the Street Twin EC1 Special Edition its name. The EC1 is set apart as a Special Edition with a unique Matte Aluminum Silver and Matte Silver Ice paint scheme with special EC1 graphics on the tank and side panels, as well as a matching fly screen.
The spunky Street Twin is unchanged otherwise, with its liquid-cooled 900cc parallel-Twin engine, Brembo 4-piston front brake caliper, ABS, Road and Rain ride modes, traction control, torque-assist clutch, and USB charging socket, all standard. The Street Twin EC1 Special Edition will be available starting in January 2022, for an MSRP of $10,350.
2022 TriumphThruxton RS Ton Up Special Edition
The legendary Ton Up boys of the 1950s and ‘60s – the original café racers – and the first ever production 100mph lap of the Isle of Man TT, achieved by Malcolm Uphill in 1969, are celebrated by the new Thruxton RS Ton Up Special Edition. With its Aegean Blue gas tank, Fusion White seat cowl and front fender, and Carnival Red accents and graphics, the Ton Up will stand out in a crowd. Also included are unique “100” and “Ton Up” graphics and an accessory Aegean Blue fairing to complete the café racer look.
Otherwise the Thruxton RS retains all of its standard features, including a character-filled liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel-Twin, twin 310mm Brembo floating front brake discs squeezed by Brembo M50 radial monoblock calipers; fully adjustable Öhlins shocks and Showa 43mm fork; Metzeler Racetec RR tires; throttle-by-wire with Road, Rain, and Sport ride modes; ABS; traction control; torque-assist clutch; and a USB charging socket. The Thruxton RS Ton Up Special Edition will be available starting in January 2022, for an MSRP of $17,300.
2022 TriumphRocket 3 GT and Rocket 3 R 221 Special Editions
The Rocket 3 GT and Rocket 3 R 221 Special Editions seek to remind the world of one thing: their superlative 221 Newton meters of torque (or 163 lb-ft for us Yanks), the highest claimed torque of any production motorcycle in the world. The 221s get their message across with a rich Red Hopper paint scheme incorporating the Rocket 3’s performance numbers emblazed on the tank: horsepower, torque, engine size, bore, and stroke.
Backing it up, of course, is the massive 2,458cc inline-Triple producing all that torque and a claimed 167 horsepower, along with a fully adjustable Showa shock, adjustable 47mm Showa fork, Brembo Stylema 4-piston radial monoblock calipers, TFT instrumentation, IMU-based ABS and traction control, four ride modes (Road, Rain, Sport and Rider-configurable), hill hold control, cruise control, keyless ignition, heated grips (GT only), and a USB charging socket.
The Rocket 3 GT 221 Special Edition will be available starting in January 2022, for an MSRP of $24,600. The Rocket 3 R 221 Special Edition will be available starting in January 2022, for an MSRP of $23,900.
BMW’s R 18 platform is the German company’s first foray into the large-displacement, traditionally styled cruiser segment. To showcase the platform’s versatility, BMW has partnered with some of the top names in motorcycle customization. The latest R 18 custom is called “The Wal,” and it was designed by well-known Japanese customizer Shinya Kimura and is the third R 18 build in BMW Motorrad’s “Soulfuel” collaboration series.
The first R 18 custom was unveiled in late 2018, when BMW and Japanese builder Custom Works Zon presented an industrial-looking custom called “Departed” at the Mooneyes Show in Yokohama, Japan. Enormous cylinder heads covered in cooling fins jutted out from each side, providing the first look at what would come to be known as the “Big Boxer” engine – a flat opposed Twin that is all buy synonymous with the BMW brand.
In April 2019, Revival Cycles pulled the covers off The Revival Birdcage at the Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas. The minimalist custom bike, with a delicate-looking “birdcage” frame wrapped around the Big Boxer made the engine look even bigger, and BMW confirmed it would eventually power a production model cruiser.
A month later, at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, BMW presented the BMW Motorrad Concept R18. It was done in-house, and lead designer Bart Janssen Groesbeek drew inspiration from classic BMW models such as the R5, R50 and R60.
Next, in late 2019, came the Concept R18 /2, a classic cruiser in design, with modern flowing lines, a small headlight cowl, and a slightly bobbed rear fender. It had cast wheels – 19-inch front, 16-inch rear, Brembo brakes, and a gorgeous Candy Apple Red paint job. BMW confirmed that the Big Boxer displaced 1,800cc – by far the largest boxer Twin offered by the company.
BMW finally announced the production R 18 in early 2020, but due to the pandemic we didn’t have a chance to test it until later that year. The standard R 18 cruiser was soon joined by the R 18 Classic, which added a windshield and saddlebags.
The first R 18 custom in BMW’s “Soulfuel” collaboration series came from Roland Sands Design. Called the R 18 Dragster, a long and low hot rod with open exhausts and a fat drag-racing slick out back. We had a chance to see – and hear! (what?) – the R 18 Dragster at the Americade rally in September.
The third Soulfuel build is Shinya Kimura’s “The Wal.” Known for customizing older motorcycles and the originator of the “Zero Style,” Kimura has recently devoted himself to projects involving modern bikes.
“The basis is the R 18, powered by the latest and greatest engine I have ever worked on,” said Kimura. “It all started with a visit with the BMW Motorrad R 18 development team in Germany. I got to know the unbounded passion and innovative power that prevails at BMW Motorrad.
“Finally, in February 2021 in California, I rode the standard R 18 for a few hundred kilometers to get to know the character of the bike. Following a whole series of conversations, this eventually led to my personal interpretation of the R 18, in which I applied the entire range of my activities as a customizer.”
Shinya Kimura’s approach to craftsmanship is “hands on” – there are no sketches, drawings, blueprints, or mockups during the building process.
“I built the R 18 entirely for myself,” he said. “When I rode the production R 18, I thought it might suit my build and riding preferences better if I designed it to be a little more front-facing with a fairing.
“I decided to adopt the frame, wheels, and tires as well as suspension elements and brakes because I didn’t feel the need to change them after I had ridden the bike. I also wanted to be able to ride for long distances with my R 18 while feeling and enjoying the legendary boxer engine.
“It was very important to me to preserve the two characters of the R 18 as I experienced them when riding. Thanks to its mighty engine, the bike is wild and has almost inexhaustible power on the one hand, yet it is completely good-natured on the other. Just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R 18, which for me is something like a ‘Sports Endurancer,’” Kimura explains.
“The Wal” has a redesigned fuel tank that is larger than the original, an elongated, rounded seat hump, and a half-shell fairing.
“I also moved the footrests back about 2 inches to have more flexibility for positioning the legs,” Kimura said. “At the same time, I lowered the handlebars and changed the seat to my liking. The seat cushion was also designed by me and then handmade by Backdrop Leathers in Japan. It all added up to the very natural posture that I like.”
The semi-shell fairing houses two asymmetrically arranged headlights that almost look like eyes and, with a little imagination, give Kimura’s R 18 the appearance of a whale together with a set of teeth underneath. The color scheme and coarsely textured paintwork also match the whale theme.
“What I like best about my version of the R 18 is that I was able to change the style and seating position to my liking without destroying the excellent original functionality of the R 18,” Kimura explains. “But drastically changing the seating position and adding my own style and taste was a big challenge in my interpretation of the BMW Heritage. Besides, all these computerized systems and wiring were quite new to me, and I learned a lot.”
Facts about the BMW R 18 “The Wal”:
Handlebars: 8 inches narrower, 6 inches lower.
Fuel tank: Made longer to move the seating position rearward and gain additional fuel capacity of about 1 gallon for longer trips.
Seat pad designed by Kimura himself, handmade by Backdrop Leathers in Japan in bucket style for more bottom support.
Seat designed so that it creates a natural flow from the seat cushion and leads to the round rear light.
Semi-shell fairing for comfortable handling at high speed.
The side covers have been designed in such a way that they do not destroy the look of the original frame.
Special paint finish in the form of a bronze powder coating, after the components have previously been hammered to give the surface texture.
After Kimura had completed all the bodywork, he decided to keep the classic symbolic shape of the standard exhaust system but painted it black.
Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, and Jack Daniel’s, America’s first registered distillery, along with Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, have partnered to create the 2022 Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse. Marking the sixth year of the partnership and limited-edition series, the latest model draws inspiration from Jack Daniel’s renowned Tennessee Rye whiskey.
With only 107 available globally, the Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse makes a one-of-a-kind statement. Its custom Rye Metallic paint with gold and green accents nod to the high-touch crafting process of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye whiskey, while the bike’s premium amenities and state-of-the-art technology deliver unmatched comfort and performance.
“We’re proud to continue this unique partnership with Jack Daniel’s and Klock Werks – two respected brands with whom we share the age-old American ethos of uncompromising quality and craftsmanship,” said Aaron Jax, Vice President for Indian Motorcycle. “The Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse takes our award-winning bagger to an even higher level, representing the highest levels of premium technology and craftsmanship – just as Jack Daniel’s has done with its Tennessee Rye whiskey.”
With custom-inspired style and technology at the forefront, key features for the 2022 Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse include the following:
Bold, Exclusive Design The attention to detail and spirit of innovation that has made Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye whiskey a bold, unique success has been imparted throughout the design of the limited-edition motorcycle. Along with its custom paint, the motorcycle features a numbered Jack Daniel’s Montana Silversmiths badge, custom engraved rider and passenger floorboards, and a genuine leather, Jack Daniel’s custom-stitched seat.
Premium Amenities & Technology Premium features aboard the Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse, include a Pathfinder Adaptive LED Headlight and Pathfinder S LED Driving Lights, electronically adjustable rear suspension preload, Powerband Audio, a stylish flared windscreen, low-rise handlebar, and more.
Pathfinder Adaptive LED Headlight and Pathfinder S LED Driving Lights The adaptive headlight from Indian Motorcycle senses the bike’s lean angle and activates individual LED projector beams to provide unprecedented visibility. With 15 individual LED lenses that adjust in real-time to bike lean angle, patent pending technology, and the industry’s first adaptive high-beam feature, the Pathfinder Adaptive LED Headlight delivers unparalleled illumination of the road ahead – whether upright and traveling in a straight line or leaned over to carve a turn.
Fox Electronically Adjustable Rear Suspension Preload The Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse has Fox electronically adjustable rear suspension preload which allows riders to adjust their rear suspension preload from the convenience of their infotainment system. To do this, riders will select if there’s a passenger and simply enter the approximate weight of what is being carried on the motorcycle. The electronically adjustable rear suspension preload handles the rest and sets the preload for optimal riding and handling.
Powerband Audio Loud and clear. The Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse features the premier Indian Motorcycle sound system, Powerband Audio. With upgraded fairing speakers and added saddlebag speakers, Powerband Audio is up to 50% louder than stock audio.
Ride Command Riders will also receive the luxuries of the Indian Motorcycle industry-leading seven-inch display powered by Ride Command with Apple CarPlay, which delivers an easier, more customized level of control for music, navigation preferences, and mobile device information. In addition, Ride Command provides riders with traffic and weather overlays, key vehicle information, and extensive customization capabilities.
PowerPlus Liquid-Cooled V-Twin Featuring the liquid- cooled, 108-cubic-inch PowerPlus engine, the Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse delivers a class-leading 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque.
Riders looking to add custom style and improve sound can add a PowerPlus Stage 1 Air Intake with the Indian Motorcycle Stage 1 Oval Slip-On Muffler Kit. To unleash 10% more horsepower and 3% more torque, riders can upgrade to the Indian Motorcycle PowerPlus Stage 2 Performance Cams.
“Just as the Indian Challenger breaks the mold for American baggers, so does our Tennessee Rye for American whiskey with its unique distilling process and bold finish,” said Greg Luehrs, sponsorships and partnerships director for Jack Daniel’s. “This year’s bike perfectly embodies what our rye is all about – innovation and a relentless, uncompromising drive to craft American products of the highest quality.”
Each Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse will come with a custom, co-branded bike mat with the corresponding motorcycle number (#001-#107).
Starting at $36,999, the Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse is exclusively available through Indian Motorcycle dealerships. The order window opens on October 21, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. EST, and will close once all bikes are sold. Each Indian Motorcycle dealer will have a chance to place orders during the window and will then contact the lucky buyers when the order has been confirmed. To ensure the rider is in contention for a purchase, each customer needs to fill out the form on IndianMotorcycle.com and contact their Indian Motorcycle dealership. Each bike will be built as a model year 2022 with delivery starting October 2021.
We test the all-new 2022 BMW R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental, two heavyweight touring cruisers powered by the 1,802cc Big Boxer that cranks out 116 lb-ft of torque at 3,000rpm. Based on the R 18 platform, they have traditional styling inspired by the 1930s-era R 5.
The R18B and R18 Transcontinental (TC) have a handlebar-mounted batwing-style fairing, a Marshall audio system, an infotainment system with a 10.25-inch TFT display, hard saddlebags, and a passenger seat. With its low windshield and slim seat, the R 18 B is suited for solo touring and boulevard cruising with the occasional passenger. Designed for two-up touring, the R 18 TC is equipped with a tall windshield, a wide seat, wind deflectors, driving lights, heated seats, highway bars, a large trunk, and a wrap-around passenger backrest.
We rode both bikes at the press launch in Denver, Colorado, and then we rode 1,500 miles through five states on a R 18 Transcontinental fully loaded with a passenger and gear. See them in action in our video review.
2022 BMW R 18 / R 18 Transcontinental Specs
Base Price: $21,945 / $24,995 Price as Tested: $28,420 / $35,240 Website:bmwmotorcycles.com Engine Type: Air/oil-cooled, longitudinal opposed flat Twin, OHV w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,802cc (110ci) Bore x Stroke: 107.1 x 100.0mm Horsepower: 91 hp @ 4,750 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Torque: 116 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated single-plate dry slipper clutch Final Drive: Shaft Wheelbase: 66.7 in. Rake/Trail: 27.3 degrees/7.2 in. Seat Height: 28.3 in. / 29.1 in. Wet Weight: 877 lbs. / 941 lbs. (base models) Fuel Capacity: 6.3 gals. Fuel Consumption: 42.5 mpg (R 18 Transcontinental, as tested) Estimated Range: 268 miles (R 18 Transcontinental, as tested)
Our first Motorcycle of the Year was awarded to the 1990 BMW K1, and for the past 31 years we’ve limited contenders to current model-year motorcycles that are new or significantly updated. In recent years, however, production timing and model-year designations have become more fluid.
And then there’s the economic shutdown last year caused by the pandemic, which disrupted the global supply chain for everything from toilet paper to semiconductors. Some manufacturers were forced to delay the release of certain models, while others skipped the 2021 model year altogether.
We’ve posted announcements of new/updated 2022 models as early as January of this year. And so far, we’ve ridden 2022 motorcycles from BMW, Honda, Indian, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. To give all makes and models a fair shake during the calendar year when they are released and most relevant, eligible contenders for this year’s MOTY include any new/updated motorcycle released since last year’s award that are available for testing.
There were plenty of motorcycles to consider, and we’ve narrowed them down to 10 contenders and one winner. Without further ado…
1) BMW R 18 B/Transcontinental
BMW entered the traditional cruiser segment in 2021 with the standard R 18 and windshield-and-saddlebags-equipped R 18 Classic, built around the 1,802cc “Big Boxer.” The 2022 R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental are touring-ready with a batwing-style fairing, infotainment system, hard saddlebags, and a passenger seat, and the TC adds a top trunk with a passenger backrest.
Yes, pigs – or more accurately, hogs – can fly. The Motor Company shook up the hyper-competitive ADV segment when it introduced the 2021 Pan America 1250/Special. Powered by a 150-horsepower V-Twin and fully equipped with all the latest bells and whistles, it proved itself to be highly capable on- and off-road, and the optional Adaptive Ride Height is its killer app.
Honda’s GL1800 won Rider’s MOTY when it debuted in 2001 and again when it was thoroughly overhauled in 2018. Updates for 2021 may seem minor, but they make all the difference when it comes to the two-up touring the Wing was designed for. The larger trunk holds more stuff, the improved passenger accommodations are appreciated, and the audio and styling updates add refinement.
The all-new Rebel 1100 is the sort of cruiser only Honda could make. It has styling like its smaller Rebel 300/500 siblings, a powerful engine adapted from the Africa Twin CRF1100L (including an optional 6-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission), ride modes and other electronics, well-damped suspension, good cornering clearance, modest weight, and a base price of just $9,299 (add $700 for DCT).
The KLR is dead, long live the KLR! After a two-year absence, Kawasaki’s legendary dual-sport returns for 2022 with fuel injection (at last!), optional ABS, and other updates aimed at improving reliability, comfort, stability, load capacity, and user-friendliness. It remains one of the best deals on two wheels with a base price of $6,699.
KTM’s street-oriented 790 Adventure and off-road-ready 790 Adventure R shared Rider’s 2019 MOTY. Just two years later, the folks in Mattighofen kicked it up a notch with a larger, more powerful engine from the 890 Duke R, chassis updates, and tweaks to the suspension, brakes, and electronics, all of which contribute to the 890 Adventure R’s all-terrain capability.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the original Chief, Indian revamped its entire Chief lineup, with six models that strike a balance between old-school style and new-school technology. Powered by the Thunderstroke 116 V-Twin, the all-new Super Chief Limited has a quick-release windscreen, saddlebags, a two-up seat, ABS, and a Ride Command-equipped display.
Yes, the Meteor 350’s air-/oil-cooled Single makes just 18 horsepower and 18 lb-ft of torque. But rarely have we encountered a motorcycle that offers so much substance for so little money. In top-spec Supernova trim, the Meteor comes with ABS, turn-by-turn navigation, a two-up seat with a passenger backrest, a windshield, and a two-tone paint scheme for just $4,599.
The former winner of the late-’90s top-speed wars got its first major update since 2008. Thanks to more grunt in the midrange, the Hayabusa’s updated 187-horsepower 1,340cc inline-Four helps it accelerate faster than ever before. Refined and reworked from nose to tail, the ’Busa has more aerodynamic bodywork, a full suite of IMU-enabled electronics, and much more.
Designed to be equally capable on- and off-road, Yamaha’s middleweight adventure bike is powered by a liquid-cooled, 689cc CP2 parallel-Twin and has a durable tubular-steel frame, adjustable long-travel suspension, switchable ABS, and spoked wheels in 21-inch front/18-inch rear sizes. Contributor Arden Kysely liked the T7 so much, he bought our test bike from Yamaha.
For the better part of the past decade, the adventure bike segment has been the darling of the motorcycle industry, growing while other segments have been flat or declining and siphoning off R&D resources. With some adventure bikes making 150 horsepower or more, traditional sport-tourers have been all but neglected. Stalwarts such as the Honda ST1300, Kawasaki Concours 14, and Yamaha FJR1300 haven’t been updated in years.
That’s what makes the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT such a breath of fresh air. At less than 500 pounds fully fueled, it’s much easier to handle than the 600-plus-pound S-T bikes on the market. And with a claimed 115 horsepower on tap, there are few motorcycles that will leave it behind.
We first tested the bike that would evolve into the Tracer 9 GT when Yamaha introduced the FJ-09 for 2015. At its heart was the liquid-cooled 847cc CP3 Triple from the FZ-09 – an absolute ripper of a motor. It had an ADV-ish upright seating position and wind-blocking handguards but rolled on 17-inch wheels with sport-touring rubber, while its windscreen, centerstand, and optional 22-liter saddlebags added touring capability. The FJ-09 was light and fun to ride, but it was held back by fueling issues, poorly damped suspension, and weak brakes.
Yamaha did its homework and gave its middleweight sport-tourer an overhaul for 2019, renaming it the Tracer 900 GT in the process. Updates included better throttle response, a longer swingarm for more stability, higher-quality suspension, a new TFT color display, and a larger, one-hand-adjustable windscreen. The saddlebags were made standard as were other features, such as cruise control, heated grips, and a quickshifter.
Two years later, Yamaha went even further. For 2021, the new Tracer 9 GT gets the larger 890cc CP3 Triple from the MT-09, which is lighter, more fuel efficient, and more powerful. An all-new lightweight aluminum frame is made using a controlled-fill diecast process that reduces mass and increases rigidity. A new aluminum swingarm is longer and stronger, and a new steel subframe increases load capacity to 425 pounds and allows an accessory top trunk to be mounted along with the larger 30-liter saddlebags. New spinforged wheels reduce unsprung weight, and they’re shod with grippy Bridgestone Battlax T32 GT sport-touring tires.
In addition to updated throttle response modes and all-new KYB semi-active suspension, the Tracer 9 GT now has a 6-axis IMU that enables a suite of electronic rider aids adapted from the YZF-R1, including lean-angle-sensitive traction control, ABS, slide control, and lift control. It also has full LED lighting (including cornering lights) and a new dual-screen TFT display. The rider/passenger seats have been upgraded, and the rider’s ergonomics are adjustable.
We had an opportunity to test the Tracer 9 GT just before the MOTY polls closed, and it swept the field. Thanks to steady evolution and improvement over three generations, Yamaha has demonstrated just how good a modern sport-tourer can be, especially for riders who value agility over couch-like luxury. Performance, sophistication, comfort, versatility, load/luggage capacity – the Tracer checks all the right boxes and leaves nothing on the table.
Congratulations to Yamaha for the Tracer 9 GT, Rider’s 2021 Motorcycle of the Year!