Yes, driving a good sports car can get your heart pounding. If you want the best bang-for-the-buck in terms of life-affirming, adrenaline-pumping, and testosterone-raging rides, though, you’ll want to wrap your legs around a nice motorcycle. And there were a good lot of them that came out this year. Here are our favorites.
Indian FTR 1200
Since the badge’s relaunch in 2013, Indian has banked on traditional cruisers to cut a slice into the motorcycle market. This makes 2019’s FTR 1200 such a pleasant surprise. Drawing clear inspiration from the outfit’s storied history in flat track racing, the sporty stunner combines a 1203cc V-twin engine with a dry weight of under 500 pounds, turning out a bike that gives you all the speed you need and lets you keep it all, whether you’re riding paved cross-country roads or dirt-covered trails along the backcountry.
Truth be told, the sheer uniqueness of this bike in the current motorcycle scene is what really sells it. From what we can tell, it’s the only production bike that faithfully embraces the classic flat track styling, making it an absolute looker that will grab attention like few other bikes will. The performance is also unique, in that it takes elements from sport bikes, dual sports, and dirt bikes, but doesn’t belong in any of those categories.
Simply put, it’s a different bike. And that’s a good thing.
Kawasaki Z H2
With this bike, Kawasaki placed the supercharged, liquid-cooled four-cylinder engine from the Ninja H2 in a naked chassis, turning out a bike that, in all honesty, sounds too fast for its own good at the 240 mph peak speed. Yes, it’s the kind of bike that feels downright dumb to take out on the road, if not for the comprehensive electronics package that should reel some of that insanity back in. It’s an absolute looker, too, with unmistakable sport-focused aesthetics.
Will you be pushing this thing to its maximum power while driving on public roads? Unless you’re a very skilled and experienced rider, absolutely not. If you want a bike you can go wild with on a closed-circuit track during the weekends, though, this scarily aggressive streetfighter is the kind of bike you might want to add to your stable.
2020 Triumph Rocket 3
An absolute crotch rocket for the big boys, the newest iteration of the muscle cruiser doubles down on what made it so notable: size and power. While it has a physically smaller three-cylinder engine, the displacement beefs up to 2,458cc, allowing it to put out an unmatched 164 pound-feet of torque. They pair this new mill with a lighter build, a comprehensive electronics suite, and a new rolling chassis that should give riders better control of all that weight and power between their legs.
Is it still as brutish as the original Triumph from 2004? In sheer power, yes. With more electronic riding aids than ever before, though, the beastly cruiser is a lot more forgiving and can actually ride a lot tamer than its looks would suggest.
We have massive respect for Zero Motorcycles and their decade-long quest to replace gas-guzzling rockets with more sustainable electric counterparts. While they’ve made notable strides in the past, there’s just nothing in their back catalogue that touches this year’s Zero SR/F, a highly-refined electric streetbike that can take you from standstill to 60mph in under two seconds, all while delivering a level of control that just didn’t feel present in any of their previous releases. Sure, you’ll miss the loud engine and the gear shifting that have become a beloved part of motorcycle riding, but the thrilling performance and zero emissions should make for a compelling counterargument. That is, if you don’t mind paying that high sticker price, which has been electric motorcycling’s biggest hurdle through the years.
2019 Honda CB300R
As far as commuter bikes go, the 300cc class has always been our favorite. It brings just enough power to make a satisfying ride, without all unnecessary muscle that will go unused in everyday traffic. For this year, our favorite of the lot is Honda’s upright-riding 286cc two-wheeler, whose narrow frame and smooth power delivery allows you to weave through urban traffic with relative ease, while a generously-angled rake helps keep the 300-pounder stable when riding at higher speeds in open traffic. While we’re not really big fans of the “neo-sports café” styling, we do know more than a few people who want one purely for its aesthetics. Your tastes, naturally, may vary.