Motorcyclist’s 2009 Picks of the Year

The mavens at Motorcyclist magazine have announced the winner of the award for 2009 Motorcycle of the Year, as well as their other picks.

Motorcyclist's Motorcycle of the Year: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1
Motorcyclist's Motorcycle of the Year: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

The bike picking up the top award this year is the Yamaha YZF-R1.

Modern sportbikes are engineered so close to the edge of the performance envelope that we’re conditioned to expect incremental changes: a shaved pound here, an added pony there. It’s almost unimaginable that any sportbike could surprise us with a novel riding experience that realigns our understanding of what a liter-class sportbike is, and what one can do. The 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 is exactly that sort of bike-which is why it’s our Motorcycle of the Year.

Other notable picks include:

Ben Spies as the Motorcyclist of the year.

The Kawasaki ZX-6R as the best sportbike of the year, closely followed by the Ducati 1198.

The Ducati Streetfighter as the Best Naked Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson XR1200 Sportster.

The Kawasaki Concours14 as the year’s Best Touring Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

Best Adventure Bike honors go to two BMWs, with the F800GS in the top position, and the R1200GS Adventure in second place.

The Best Dreambike is the Aprilia RSV4, with the BMW S1000RR as the follow-on.

Best Bang For The Buck goes to Kawasaki, with the ER-6n as the winner, and KLX250SF as the second-place finisher.

For Best Cruiser, Motorcyclist goes strictly for muscle this year, with the Star (Yamaha) V-MAX ruling the roost, and the Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle in the supporting position.

Best Dirtbike is the Husaberg FE450; second best is the Honda CRF450R.

Best New Technology is the Honda Combined ABS system, followed by the Ducati Traction Control.

And, finally, the Best New Product honors go to the Gopro Motorsports Hero Wide Camera, with the Bazzaz Performance Z-FI Traction Control taking the runner-up position.

Scooter + Ducati Monster = Scootster?

Italian motorcycle designer Oberdan Bezzi is convinced that Ducati will be revealing a new scooter at the Milan EICMA Motorcycle show in November.

Oberdan thinks the motor will be an 850 and offer a multi-mode transmission like the Aprilia Mana. That’s not a bad assumption; I just had a conversation with a source at Piaggio, who told me Piaggio loves to sell powertrain units to anyone who’ll buy them. “Would they sell one without heads so Ducati could install Desmo heads,” I asked? “Sure” was the answer. Oberdan’s drawing shows the Testastretta motor’s deep sump, so maybe that’s not what he had in mind, but it’d make sense, no? He also envisioned an “S” version, with Öhlins suspension and maybe some lightweight 16-inch wheels as well.

Bezzi also has a concept drawing of this supposed cross between a scooter and a Ducati Monster.

Ducati Scooster
Ducati Scooster

Huh. We’ll see.

Motorcycle Sales Cratering in 2009

As I mentioned before, the economy isn’t good.  And since motorcycles are a luxury good for most people, they are being hit especially hard.  The MoCo had a 91% drop in profits last quarter, Suzuki’s sales numbers have collapsed…it’s bad all over.  And I can prove it now.

The Motorcycle Industry Council is reporting their collected sales data for the first six months of 2009, and I can’t find any good news in it.

Scooters took the brunt of the fall in sales, decreasing over 67% year to date compared to the same period last year and an incredible 77.5% in June 2009 over the same month in 2008…

Dual-purpose motorcycles fell nearly 47% in year to date sales compared to 2008 while the month of June saw 58%, or 4,431 fewer motorcycle sold than the year before…

But not all of the drop can be attributed to motorcycles falling out of favor with the would-be riding public. Many buyers complain about trouble finding financing for their new motorcycle purchases.

Regardless, looking at the year to date number, a staggering 177,650 fewer motorcycles were sold in the first six month of 2009 compared to the year before.

So, the good news is that a lot of motorcycles are just sitting on showroom floors, waiting for someone to buy them.  The bad news is that it’s getting hard to get motorcycle financing.

And I don’t think it’s gonna get any prettier any time soon.

Bad Farkles

Some motorcycles are inherently uncomfortable.  Some of them get uncomfortable as you age.  Sometimes, if you really like a bike, you try to modify it to make it fit you better.   The thing is, there is a right way to do this, and a wrong way.  Case in point:

Well, at least it has good lumbar support.
Well, at least it has good lumbar support.

I’m sure that getting this thing up to 80MPH + on the freeway is an…interesting experience.

Motorcycle Sales

In case you haven’t been keeping up with current events, things are slow in the economy.  We went to the local mall Friday night to see about getting a part for our dishwasher, and the place was a ghost town.  After finishing up at the mall, we also went to a popular local eatery.  We were one of three parties in the place.  All the rest of the tables were empty.

This afternoon, I went to Escondido Cycle Center, and North County Yamaha.  I was the only customer in NCY–another customer was leaving as I arrived–and one of two customers as ECC.  Dead, dead, dead.

Interestingly, the sales guy at NCC couldn’t have been less interested in trying to sell me a bike.  Since I have an insurance settlement coming from my accident last December, I am looking at possibilities for a second bike.  Something small and hooligan-like, but without the cramped riding position of the Gixxer or CBR.  I went to NCY because they have Triumphs there, and wanted to look into a Speed Triple 1050.  I told the sales guy what I was after, and he said, “I don’t know mcuh about it.  It has a good torque range.  Broad. why not go sit on it and see if you like it.”  He then turned on his heel and left me to my own devices.  Apparently, trying to sell a motorcycle didn’t fit into his schedule this afternoon.

And, keep in mind that this is their chief sales guy, and as far as I could tell, the only sales rep there.  I’ve seen him there before, and his whole vibe was that I was being a pain in the ass for trying to engage him.

Wierd.

The sales guy at ECC, on the other hand, was knowledgeable, and showed me not only the sportbikes, but an array of standard bikes that have same sportbike engines, but more comfy ergos.  Totally different sales experience.

Sometimes the guys at NCY are helpful, and sometimes they act like they’d rather you just didnt show up at their door at all.  When sales are as bad as they are currently, you’d think they would deep-six the latter attitude.