Do the last five MCN bikes of the Year still cut it?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Micheal Neeves SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

You’d ex­pect a bike that’s been crowned MCN’S Bike of the Year to be good... but have the pres­ti­gious ti­tle-tak­ers of the last five years stood the test of the time? And what ex­actly have they brought to mo­tor­cy­cling? MCN fled the Bri­tish heat­wave... and rode straight into a French one!

Kawasaki’s bal l is­tic Ninja H2 is MCN’S cur­rent Ma­chine of the Year. It’s in a class of its own – quite lit­er­ally, be­cause it doesn’t fit neatly into any other cat­e­gory. The su­per­charged mon­ster didn’t win the sports­bike class (the R1 got that one) and it’s not ex­actly an ad­ven­ture, tourer or com­mut­ing bike. The only other bike in our awards his­tory to win the over­all ma­chine of the year, with­out win­ning its class, is the Du­cati Des­mosedici RR in 2008. So the Kawasaki is in great com­pany.

MCN Sports Ed­i­tor Michael Guy was quick to grab the H2 key ahead of our two-day road trip to Le Tou­quet. “We’ve all heard about this in­cred­i­ble mo­tor­bike and to get the chance to ride it is too good to turn down,” he grins.

“It’s nice for a bike to look gen­uinely dif­fer­ent to any­thing else and it’s got some amaz­ing touches, like the metal­lic black chrome paintjob and an­odised green-topped forks and shock. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think it’s a good-look­ing bike, but it’s in­ter­est­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing. For a Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer they’ve done a very nice job.”

We tested the H2 lots last year – pok­ing and prod­ding it to find out what made this unique cre­ation tick. It’s

not per­fect, though. The knife-edge throt­tle re­sponse is a pain mid-cor­ner, around town and on the mo­tor­way. It’s un­com­fort­able, poor on fuel and like all lat­est-gen­er­a­tion Ja­panese ABS sys­tems, the brakes lack bite and con­fi­dence. But when the H2 is in its sweet spot, noth­ing comes close.

Michael gasps: “It’s spe­cial and the mo­ment you get a clear bit of road it’s gen­uinely stun­ning. You’re al­ways look­ing for that over­take or stretch where you can start to feel the su­per­charger spin up and pro­pel you for­ward. It’s amaz­ing and takes you in a di­rec­tion you’ve never been be­fore.

“The way it de­liv­ers its power is so silky-smooth and it makes you want to keep the throt­tle open. It hides its weight well at speed, but in con­trast I’m not feel­ing it around town.

“It’s hard on the wrists and the throt­tle is snatchy, but not as bad as I thought it would be. If you had this kind of power 20 years ago it prob­a­bly wouldn’t even run in town – it would be over­heat­ing and the clutch would be grabby and slip­ping.

“I com­mend any man­u­fac­turer to go out on a limb and build some­thing like the H2. For some­one to build some­thing even faster and tricker than the cur­rent crop of 1000s is amaz­ing.”

The game-changer

Rewind five years and I had to go back through the MCN archives to check the Du­cati Di­avel did ac­tu­ally win MCN’S Ma­chine of the Year in 2011. It seems like a strange choice look­ing back on it, but it was ac­tu­ally a game-changer. It was one of the first gen­uinely in­ter­est­ing bikes that didn’t fit cosily into the sports­bike/tourer/com­muter/ ad­ven­ture bike bracket.

Mo­tor­cy­cles have di­ver­si­fied over the past few years and we’re spoilt for choice now, but when Du­cati took their 1198 su­per­bike en­gine, chas­sis and brakes and moulded into a cruiser it was a big deal.

I grabbed the key­less ig­ni­tion key fob for this beastly, lat­est-gen­er­a­tion Di­avel Car­bon. After rac­ing and test­ing lots of sports­bikes this year I fancied some­thing more re­lax­ing but still fast —

for the trip down to the Euro­tun­nel — and then to the D940 coast road from Calais, past Wimereux, Bologne and into the sea­side town of Le Tou­quet.

With its stretched-out rid­ing po­si­tion and comfy seat, you can en­joy all-day rid­ing with few aches or pains, but like all cruiser-style bikes, if you for­get to ride straight-backed your lum­bar re­gion gets sore after a while. But sat so low in the bike wind pro­tec­tion is pretty de­cent on the mo­tor­ways.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing power are su­per­bike-grade, and turn­ing the ABS and trac­tion con­trol off let me at­tack the French coast roads with as much joie de vivre as I would on a sports­bike. Even with its fat 240-sec­tion Pirelli at the rear, the Di­avel steers sweetly.

It’s sul­try, moody and classy all at the same time and it gets ad­mir­ing glances when you growl by. I love the handy key­less ig­ni­tion, the swathes of car­bon and the black ce­ramic-coated pipes on this model, al­though they were burn­ing my leg by the end of the day in the high sum­mer tem­per­a­tures. It’s as re­ward­ing rid­ing slow as it is fast and it’s still the best in its class.

The ad­ven­turer

From the low­est bike on test rid­den by lanky me, to the high­est ma­chine pi­loted by a shorty; here’s Joe Dick on the BMW R1200GS. “Tall bikes have never been my forte be­cause I’m small,” says MCN’S res­i­dent 5ft 6in snap­per.

“Call it a fear of heights, I steer away from big bikes as I can only just touch my feet on the floor, but I’m in­ter­ested to see how I get on with the GS. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of bikes and can do ev­ery­thing.”

And he’s right. Ever since the R1200GS ar­rived on the scene in 2004, re­plac­ing the uber-suc­cess­ful R1150GS, it’s dom­i­nated the ad­ven­ture bike world. It’s as happy at­tack­ing dirt trails as it is cruis­ing the con­ti­nent in com­fort. It han­dles su­perbly, has stonk­ing brakes and with so many ac­ces­sories and good­ies avail­able, it can be specced to the moon.

“I’ve al­ways looked at the GS and seen it like the Har­ley thing,” Joe ex­plains. “I thought peo­ple bought them, and all the as­so­ci­ated kit, to be like ev­ery­one else, but the BMW blew me away as soon as I rode it. I knew in­stantly what all the fuss is about. It does ev­ery­thing so well, is re­ally comfy and I’d have one in a heart­beat. It’s more than just an ad­ven­ture bike.

“Low-speed turns are heart-in-the-mouth for me, even on a lit­tle bike, but I never had a prob­lem on the BMW. That said, a few times I had to get some­one to get the side­stand down for me when I stopped on un­even ground.

“I had the seat on its low­est set­ting (850mm), but you can get a lower seat op­tion (790/810mm). I had to open the bars and prop­erly swing my leg to clear the rear seat to get on and then yank it off its stand, but it’s not a fear­ful event.

“It han­dles re­ally well and I like the tall, com­mand­ing rid­ing po­si­tion, the en­gine char­ac­ter, the sporty-sound­ing ex­haust and the pop and bang of the auto-blip­per. I’m not keen on the small ana­logue speedo, though, which is hard to read at a glance.”

Ad­ven­ture bikes and tour­ers were al­ways BMW’S bread and but­ter un­til they un­leashed the S1000RR in 2010.

'The Kawasaki H2 is spe­cial and the mo­ment you get a clear bit of road it’s gen­uinely stun­ning'

The racer

Prior to the S1000RR'S ar­rival, the su­per­bike world was dom­i­nated by the Ja­panese and Ital­ians. They be­grudg­ingly gave us 150-160bhp to play with, but the BMW had close to 200bhp and a full suite of elec­tronic rider aids, from rac­ing ABS to a quick­shifter, anti-wheelie and trac­tion con­trol.

Liam is a fan: “It’s one if the most so­phis­ti­cated sports­bikes out there and for a trip like this the cruise con­trol and quick­shifter will make things easy.”

In the hair-split­ting world of the MCN group test the BMW has it been put in the shade by the lat­est-gen­er­a­tion R1 and 1299 Pani­gale over the past two years, but the S1000RR is still a thing of high-speed, tech­no­log­i­cal won­der.

“Ev­ery­thing feels so re­fined and easy on the mo­tor­ways and in the corners,” says a smil­ing Liam. “Ev­ery ride is an oc­ca­sion with the speed and sound of it, es­pe­cially when it pops on the over­run. There’s power all the way from as low as 2-3000rpm, so you don’t have to knock it down through the gears to get some­where quickly.

“Even in traf­fic it’s OK. Granted, it’s a bit hard on the wrists and the en­gine pumps out a lot of heat in this weather. It gets un­com­fort­able after a long time, but the clutch is light and over­all it’s easy to ma­noeu­vre and looks good. It turns heads as much as the Di­avel and H2.”

The cheeky one

In 2014 we proved that an MCN’S over­all award win­ner doesn’t have to have make 200bhp or cost a small for­tune. Yamaha’s 77bhp, 689cc par­al­lel twin­cylin­der MT-07 al­most came in un­der the radar, with lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion, when it was unveiled. Cost­ing just over five-grand, and still in the same ball­park now, this was go­ing to be just a cheap run-around, surely?

Within yards of rid­ing it at the world launch in the Ca­nary Is­lands on Fe­bru­ary 12, 2014, it was clear it was more than that. In per­for­mance terms it had the cheeky spirit of the Yamaha RD350LC (third gear, clutch-up wheel­ies are a cinch), but it was so light and easy to ride it was the per­fect post-test big bike.

MCN of­fice man­ager Ali­son was re- ally look­ing for­ward to rid­ing Yamaha’s un­ex­pected gem. She says: “I’m a big mid­dleweight fan and have owned an ER-6N and a Street Triple, I can’t wait to see what the Yamaha is like.”

There isn’t a sin­gle type of rider who wouldn’t be smit­ten with the MT-07 and such is its suc­cess it’s spawned a num­ber of spin-offs al­ready: the café racer-style XSR700, tour­ing Tracer 700 and stunty MT-07 Moto Cage.

“I’m re­ally im­pressed,” smiles Ali­son. “It’s just so light and easy to ride. It ac­cel­er­ates off round­abouts quickly and it’s easy to filter and nip through gaps in the traf­fic. It’s not as punchy or sports-ori­en­tated as the Street Triple R I used to have, but bet­ter than my old ER-6N. It’s ex­cep­tion­ally comfy, even after a nine-hour day in the sad­dle get­ting here, on the hottest day of the year. It’s fine on the mo­tor­way for a naked and I never got a sore neck, but it could do with a lit­tle bikini fair­ing to take away the buf­fet­ing.”

All this fun and prac­ti­cal­ity for just £5349 de­fies be­lief and as such makes the Yamaha bet­ter than any of the head­line-grab­bing over­all award win­ners in re­cent his­tory.

'Ev­ery ride on the S1000RR is an oc­ca­sion with the speed and sound of it, es­pe­cially when it pops on the over­run'

2 1

3 5 4

Is it a cruiser? Is it a sports­bike? Du­cati's Di­avel changed the game in 2011 The H2, S1000RR and MT-07 don't have much in com­mon, apart from the fact they're all MCN Award win­ners

MCN'S pho­tog­ra­pher Joe fi­nally finds out why BMW'S GS is a big deal

Nippy, nim­ble and a mas­sive sales suc­cess, Yamaha's MT-07 is a wor­thy win­ner

Five years worth of MCN Jk Awardjl jl jkl win­ner­sljk kjlkj meetk­lkj on lk the kjl sun-soaked­klkj jkl kljk jkljk streets ljk of kjljkLe Tou­quetjkl jkljk kjl jkljk jkl jkljk jkl jkljk

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.