Top 10s

Top 10 motorcycles we can’t wait to ride in 2018

The motorcycles we reckon could be the best of 2018

WITH the big bike launches of 2018 still fresh in our minds, there are some clear stand-outs that we’re particularly looking forward to swinging a leg over soon.

The crop of new models for next year might not be the biggest we’ve ever seen, but it’s amazingly diverse and includes several bikes that are particularly important. Whether because they’re long-overdue replacements for legendary predecessors, bold steps into new markets or simply models that have grabbed our attention thanks to interesting design, we’re hoping these will all be highlights of next year.

As ever, let us know if we’ve missed something from our list or if there’s a bike that you’re particularly keen to hear more about.

10: Kawasaki Ninja 400

At one stage, Kawasaki’s old Ninja 250 and the Ninja 300 that replaced it stood alone as twin-cylinder baby sports bikes. Now, rivals include Yamaha’s R3 and – in Asia – Honda’s CBR250RR. With the Kawasaki’s engine dating back to the 1980s, it was overdue a revamp, and the new Ninja 400 is precisely that. With 600cc supersports machines fading from popularity, there’s a clear need for a stepping stone for riders who want to take a route to superbikes, and the Ninja 400 looks like it could provide an important stage in that process. Let’s hope it lives up to that expectation.

BMW rules the adventure bike roost with the R1200GS but its smaller F-series models have always had a tougher time, competing with rivals like Triumph’s Tiger 800. The new F850GS should be a big step forwards, though. The new 95hp parallel twin has more power than Honda’s Africa Twin, and at 229kg wet, it’s lighter too. Those numbers could well result in a bike that’s not only more appealing than its mid-sized rivals but perhaps even one that’s better than its bigger, heavier brother.

We know what to expect from a bigger-capacity Scrambler. The stripped-back Scrambler chassis is familiar and Ducati’s 1078cc air-cooled motor has a long history with the company. But the combination of the two might be just what the Scrambler range needs to widen its appeal to riders who simply see the existing versions as too small and short on performance to suit their needs. While the 1100 won’t be fast, it could just hit the sweet spot.

Do we know what to expect from this one? Not in the slightest. Yes, we’ve ridden the Tricity and Piaggio’s MP3, but never have we tried the three-wheeler idea combined with 115hp of performance. The Niken could be spectacularly good. The MT-09 engine it uses is already a gem and the idea of having twice the front-end grip of a normal bike is a tantalising prospect. But this is one new model that we really can’t have any preconceptions about, and as such it’s going to be fascinating to find out whether it really is the revolution that Yamaha hopes it could be.

The old GL1800 Gold Wing is just about old enough to have a bike licence of its own, so the completely new 2018 version is long overdue. Casting our minds back to a time when the 21st century was still new and exciting, and the old GL1800 was freshly-launched, the Gold Wing was a technological masterpiece that previewed tech that would filter down to other bikes. As such, it was important to everyone, not just prospective owners. Does the new, 2018 Gold Wing perform the same task? We’ll find out soon enough.

It was years ago that Husqvarna first revealed the Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401 concepts, followed by the Vitpilen 701 design study. For bikes that are ostensibly re-styled versions of existing KTMs (the 390 and 690 Dukes), it’s taken a long time for the production versions to be readied. Will the resulting production bikes live up to their concept bike styling? Or should we all have just bought Dukes instead of waiting for them?

The Svartpilen 701

Just as Husqvarna gets ready to launch its take on the KTM 690 Duke, its Austrian parent firm has created the bike that will surely make that model redundant soon enough. The 790 Duke looks like it could sit in a sweet spot, combining low weight (169kg dry) with three-figure power (105hp). It’s that sort of combination that used to make 600cc four-cylinder machines so popular until they became too track-focussed for daily road use. The naked KTM might just be in that Goldilocks zone that Triumph hit so successfully with the Street Triple.

Royal Enfield’s new British-designed parallel twins are a landmark for the firm, and if they’ve been done right could catapult the company from a nearly-forgotten sideshow in the UK market to a unique brand offering a tempting, sub-Bonneville retro bike option. First impressions are good; the new 650 twin-cylinder models look wonderful. With engineering and styling from some of Britain’s best bike designers – largely ex-Triumph guys – hopes are high that they’ll ride well too. And if the prices are right (and with RE, they usually are) then the sky’s the limit for their potential.

The Interceptor 650

The original Ninja H2 was without doubt one of the sensations of 2015. But let’s be honest, its price meant that, for most of us, it was a bit irrelevant. The H2 SX didn’t get jaws hitting the floor in quite the same way when it was unveiled at EICMA – it’s exactly what you’d expect an ‘SX’ version of the H2 to be. But we smacked our chins on the carpet when we discovered the price; £15,099. Cheap would be the wrong word, but that’s certainly fair for a 200hp-plus, supercharged sports-tourer. It’s 60% of the price of the normal H2, and we’re pretty sure it will be about 90% as good to ride.

Surprise… Okay, so this was always going to be in number one spot. But be fair; the Panigale V4 is a MotoGP-derived, V4-powered Ducati, with class-leading power and weight figures. The first mainstream, mass-produced four-cylinder that the firm has ever come up with. An 1103cc four in a sea of 1000cc rivals. Of course we’re excited about it. On paper, this should be the superbike of 2018 (although we’ll have to wait until 2019 to see the 1000cc ‘R’ version that will actually go head-to-head on track against Kawasaki’s WSB-dominating ZX-10R).

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