For many riders 2018 has been a year to remember, with plenty of exciting new motorcycle models arriving in showrooms. While many would have you believe that motorcycling is dying out, the plethora of new machines hitting the road really does seem to point in the opposite direction. Motorcycling is not dying out, it is just evolving.
With that in mind, we have put on our thinking helmet to count down our Top 10 motorcycles of 2018 (NB: which we have personally ridden) to come up with our inaugural On Throttle Bike of the Year 2018.
Without further ado, let's get into the countdown.
#10 | Triumph Speedmaster
While Triumph Motorcycle's upgraded Bobber Black could have also made this list, we start off our 2018 Top 10 Motorcycles countdown with the Triumph Speedmaster instead. Why do you ask?
For starters, let's talk about this bike's gorgeous looks. While the feet forward cruiser is an acquired taste for many, there is no denying that the Speedmaster is a great looking bit of kit. From the LED headlight back to the faux-hardtail rear end, the Speedmaster is a masterclass in what a stylish bike should look like.
Add to that the fact that the Speedmaster is based off the Triumph Bobber (which debuted in 2017 in NZ) which means it has the same High Torque 1200cc parallel twin engine and trick chassis with monoshock rear, but it also adds plenty of practicality onto the Bobber chassis by way of pillion accomodation and the ability to carry more luggage if needed.
#9 | BMW G 310 GS
While BMW Motorrad has a comprehensively updated S 1000 RR superbike waiting in the wings for a 2019 arrival, the stand out model to arrive in BMW dealers in our minds this year was the new entry level to the GS lifestyle – the BMW G 310 GS.
While it may only have 313cc of grunt behind it, don't let that fool you into thinking the G 310 GS isn't a fun bike - quite the opposite. Get this little adventurer off the well-trodden sealed roads and onto some gravel and it positively comes alive!
Based off the G 310 R, the G 310 GS features long travel USD forks paired to a preload adjustable monoshock out back. Ergonomically the bike is very comfortable, with the only fly in the ointment from our week spent riding it around the Waikato and Coromandel being the small factory footpegs. Swap those out for larger units and you'll be adventuring around the country in no time, and at less than 1/3rd the price of the full-sized R 1200 GS!
#8 | Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
Harley-Davidson are on a roll at the moment, pumping out new models with a pace not seen from the Milwaukee based manufacturer in years.
With 2019 and beyond set to see the debut of a range of Harley-Davidson product that steps away from the brand's tried and true cruiser focus, the 2018 standout has to be the bike in the current range that tries - and for the most part accomplishes - to blend the needs of Harley riders into one machine which can do a wide range of riding duties.
That bike is of course the 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide, which offers Harley riders the option to ride easy as a cruiser or as a versatile bagger with detachable screen.
While it may only beat to the drum of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 as opposed to the bigger, torque heavy 114 version, the combination of a 180 section rear tyre and the revvy 1745cc V-twin makes for a fun and very enjoyable ride no matter which personality you have your Sport Glide configured into.
#7 | Kawasaki Z900RS
Kawasaki New Zealand has been without a modern classic in the lineup since the departure of the W800 from our shores a couple of years ago. While the heritage of the W800 was sound, the bike didn't resonate with Kiwi motorcyclists and was consequentially deleted from the New Zealand line up.
Stepping into the gap is the Z900RS – which on debut sent shockwaves throughout the industry as it proved that you could not only have a classically inspired bike that looked great, you could also have modern performance to back it up.
With great looks and a sleek modern chassis at its core, the Z900RS tore up the rule book for the modern classic movement and reinvented the category with the competition scrambling to debut models to take on the mighty Kawasaki.
#6 | Aprilia Tuono 1100
When it comes to incredible sounds emitted by a motorcycle, there is nothing like the howl of an Aprilia V4. While the firm's superbike - the RSV4 - is an excellent and devastatingly quick ride, we much preferred the more practical Tuono when it came to the riding experience and that's exactly why it enters our countdown at #5.
While we may have forgotten to do a full write-up on the Tuono 1100 (Sorry Aprilia NZ!), it certainly left an impression not only in our minds, but also our Rev'It! leathers – with the big 1100 V4 being surprisingly easy to carve around our favourite track during the Aprilia Owners Day at Hampton Downs earlier this year.
With a heavily revised model due to hit our roads in 2019, we can't wait for the chance to jump aboard the V4 screamer again for some knee sliding fun!
#5 | Kawasaki Ninja 400
As one of the top selling motorcycles in New Zealand for 2018, there was no doubt whether Kawasaki's new Ninja 400 would make this list. For learner riders wanting a taste of a sportsbike, the little Ninja offers a friendly package that can also be incredible fun on and off the racetrack.
Not only that, it is a bike which is clearly worth forking out for the new version for. During its launch Kawasaki NZ also let us play at Pukekohe on the old Ninja 300, and to say the Ninja 400 was head and shoulders above is an understatement.
Add to that the ability to race the Ninja 400 at the Carl Cox Motorsport Cup and it's no wonder the Ninja 400 has been one of the biggest sellers of 2018.
#4 | Benelli Leoncino 500
The biggest surprise of 2018 came from Italian brand Benelli with their Leoncino 500. Not only did the brand secure their comeback with the LAMS approved model, the bike itself proved to be a solid and enjoyable performer with build quality up there with the best brands in the world.
The joy of riding the Leoncino has stuck with us all throughout 2018, and with a fantastic warranty and roadside assistance programme backing up sales of the bike from dealers, it would be a surprise if the Benelli brand didn't take off in New Zealand.
#3 | KTM 790 Duke
Austrian brand KTM - alongside sister brand Husqvarna - made great strides in 2018 towards a more well-rounded lineup of motorcycles. While the dirt sector is dominated by Orange (KTM) and White (Husqvarna) machines, neither has had a strong road presence. While Husqvarna debuted the Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401 and Vitpilen 701 in 2018 – all three based on existing KTM models – KTM went one step further to deliver us a completely new motorcycle in the 790 Duke.
Based around the new LC8c compact parallel twin engine, the 790 Duke brought us a far more refined KTM road bike than we've ever seen before. While the single-cylinder Dukes of the past have been known as aggressive machines and the modern V-twin Super Dukes are completely bonkers with more power than any sane human could want - the 790 Duke offers a more restrained, sensible ride which is also a metric tonne of fun to boot.
#2 | Yamaha Tracer 900 GT
The Sports Touring segment of the motorcycle industry has largely been ignored in recent years, but Yamaha saw the gap in the market and relaunched the MT-09 Tracer as the Tracer 900 GT for 2018.
Featuring a large list of upgrades over the MT-09 badged Tracer, the Tracer 900 GT features updated suspension, rider accomodation, factory panniers and the very same TFT display as seen on the YZF-R1 superbike.
Featuring the brilliant 115hp (85.7kW) CP3 triple cylinder engine, the Tracer 900 GT is an accomplished tourer with the heart of a sports bike. Even with its longer wheelbase (courtesy of a revised swingarm), the Tracer 900 GT requires little effort to lift the front wheel skyward if that's your thing.
While Australia gets both a Tracer 900 and the Tracer 900 GT, Yamaha New Zealand recognised that most Kiwi buyers would spend the extra $2000 anyway and didn't go for the lesser specced variant. We're glad they did, as this is one all rounder we could easily spend plenty more time with!
#1 | Triumph Speed Triple RS
Taking out the inaugural On Throttle Bike of the Year award is the bike that left the largest impression in our minds - the new 2018 Speed Triple RS from Triumph Motorcycles.
It seems Triumph Motorcycles can do no wrong currently, and the Speed Triple RS proves that feeling.
Not only does it build upon the Speed Triple's excellent heritage, it also features electronics and rider aids that make it a much more usable on a day-to-day basis. With everything from Traction Control and ABS brakes to even cruise control, the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS is a comprehensive all-out road weapon and it does this while still retaining its signature 1050cc engine.
The engine however does see 105 new parts to ensure that while it doesn’t have as many cubic centimetres as some of its contemporaries, the Speed Triple can still hang with the best of them and show them a thing or two.
Some of the updates the boffins at the Triumph factory in Hinkley included to the engine include a new lighter crank gear, lighter Nikasil-plated aluminium cylinder liners, a smaller starter motor, plus lighter battery and alternator. As you can see, dropping weight was a consideration, and the new Speed Triple tips the scales at 3kg lighter than the outgoing bike – with a dry weight of 189kg.
On the road where the bike will spend 99% of its time, the Speed Triple RS is certainly not lacking in usable power, and it wasn’t long before I started to genuinely worry for my licence as I rode the Speed Triple RS back to home base. Thankfully, Triumph – unlike other manufacturers in the segment – have opted to equip the Speed Triple with cruise control from factory, which allowed me to set the speed to well within the legal limit and keep the boys in blue at bay.
Read the full review of the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS here.