Rider Magazine’s 2012 Motorcycle of the Year
Rider Magazine Staff
July 3, 2012
Filed under BMW Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on BMW Motorcycles, Cruiser + Touring Motorcycle Reviews
Our 23rd Annual Award!
The chilly “New Economy” seems to be thawing slightly at this writing, but it’s been a challenging 12 months since Rider last presented its Motorcycle of the Year award. Any new bike introduced into this fiercely competitive environment has got to be a solid hit, drawing in plenty of enthusiasts with the combined promise of excitement, performance and affordability, while still bringing a profit to the manufacturer, distributors and dealers. Nevertheless 13 manufacturers stepped up for 2012 with more than 30 new motorcycles—by our count even more than last year!
Picking one of those bikes for our top honor is never an easy task. As always Rider chose its Motorcycle of the Year from the list of all-new or significantly changed bikes, this year those designated 2012 models, many of which are featured in The Contenders section that starts below. The winner is the one motorcycle we think succeeds best at its intent and lengthens the list of history’s truly significant motorcycles. Rather than a single overriding theme to the group of new machines, this year, the manufacturers seemed to go their own ways to win customers, pushing the envelope in the areas of performance (e.g. Ducati 1199 Panigale), practicality (Honda NC700X), affordability (Harley Softail Slim) and luxury (BMW K 1600 GTL), even factory specials (Star Raider SCL).
Any previous-year models that didn’t reach us for road testing in time for last year’s awards were included in the current year’s judging. Due to manufacturer test bike and production timing some 2012s (the Honda NC700X, for example) may not have reached us by our deadline of March 30, 2012, in order for us to ride and consider them, in which case we’ll put them up against next year’s contenders. And though we may have already ridden several early release 2013 models that could reach dealers before the end of this year—the Victory Judge and BMW C 650 GT maxi scooter, for example—since they’re not 2012 models they’re not eligible for this year’s deliberations. More grist for the mill next year!
We have to say that one exceptional new model made our choice a little bit easier this year. Congratulations to our winner and all of the contenders—you made 2012 special indeed!
BMW K 1600 GT
(May, December 2011)
With slightly sportier ergonomics and suspension than the GTL model, a notched electric windscreen and minus the top trunk, the K 1600 GT is a feature-laden, 6-cylinder, luxury sport-touring cruise missile. We’d like to see a no-frills version at a lower cost and weight.
Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback
Remove the quick-release saddlebags and windscreen and the sleek custom cruiser beneath is revealed. Put them back on and the Switchback is ready for the long road yet still handles better than many cruisers.
Honda GL1800 Gold Wing
(July, August 2011, May 2012)
The Gold Wing’s fans seemed to want a new bike...without changing the old one. Honda’s 2012 solution improves upon the iconic tourer in numerous ways, while maintaining the low- and midrange engine
performance, luxury, comfort and versatility that made it the standard bearer of the class.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R
Holy horsepower, Batman! Just when you thought the supersport class had reached the limit, along comes the Ninja ZX-14R with so many ponies Kawasaki won’t even speak the evil number. Fine with us—thanks to traction control we can twist the loud handle all we want.
Kawasaki Ninja 650
Team Green showed the depth of its design expertise and
customer savvy with a complete revamp of its already popular and well-rounded middleweight. The Ninja 650 combines sportbike performance with standard comfort and entry-level ease of use, making it both a great starter bike and a keeper.
Star Raider SCL
The first entry in the new
Star Custom Line is a very
limited production Raider S
with a number of special
custom touches. Only 500 of
the chopper-inspired bikes will be built; we rode one of them for the cover story in this issue (see page 28).
Suzuki V-Strom 650
We knew Suzuki’s versatile middleweight adventure tourer would be getting an overdue styling change, but the 2012 V-Strom 650 also came with more power and torque, fewer vibes and increased comfort. The addition of the package-priced, luggage-laden Adventure version is a nice surprise, too.
Triumph Tiger Explorer
After a brief first-ride in Spain, Triumph’s trademark in-line triple seems to be a good match for its all-new, liter-class adventure-touring machine. We’ll know more after we have a chance to flog a test bike stateside.
Victory Cross Country Tour
When Victory launched an all-new model family with the Cross Roads and Cross Country, Rider and cruiser-touring enthusiasts gave them two thumbs-up. Adding the fully dressed Cross Country Tour with top trunk (for 41 total gallons of storage), Comfort Control System and cruise control just came naturally.
Yamaha Super Ténéré
(February 2011, January 2012)
Yamaha has finally brought its adventure touring machine to the U.S., and the Super Ténéré proved to be more than worth the wait, with good long-range manners, decent off-road ability and an affordable price tag, too.
And the winner is…
More than 30 new motorcycle models were introduced in the U.S. for 2012, but any way you look at it, this is the year of the K 1600. History will look back upon both the BMW K 1600 GTL and GT as ground-breaking machines in the luxury and sport-touring motorcycle segments. They share an in-line 6-cylinder engine that out-guns anything in either class, and have unique features that are right out of the future, like a dynamic-leveling Xenon headlight and fingertip-close Multi-Controller for scrolling through the many menu-accessed functions.
Here at Rider we feel that—so far—the K 1600 platform makes the most sense parked under the GTL luxury tourer’s standard equipment. Stacked against its luxo competition, the GTL offers less weight, more power and load capacity, and if the owner of one wants more of a sport-touring experience, the top trunk is easily removed (and it fits and is offered as an accessory for the GT). Comfort is equal to or better than anything in the luxury-touring class (although the stock seat needs a rethink), and the GTL steers, stops and handles like it weighs even less than its 776 pounds ready-to-ride.
Rider magazine is far from alone in picking the 2012 BMW K 1600 GTL for its top honor. Thanks to the GT and GTL’s early introduction in February 2011 in South Africa (Rider, May 2011), both have been racking up countless awards from publications all over the world for more than a year. The bikes are so good, some pundits even based their decision solely on the preproduction bikes at the introduction. Both common sense and our MOTY rules wouldn’t allow that, but we have to admit to digging out the ol’ bylaws and having some in-depth discussions about them as soon as we all got back to the office after South Africa….
Congratulations to BMW for the K 1600 GTL, winner of Rider’s 2012 Motorcycle of the Year award!
(This article was published in the July 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)