BMW dominates the adventure-touring market with the iconic 1200 GS and the purebred F800. How many times can you watch Long Way Round before you succumb to the BMW bug? (Recognizing the market, Triumph and Honda both introduced big-brute adventure tourers last year.) For 2012 BMW offers two new versions of its 650—a street model and the purpose-driven Sertão for off-road addicts. Both are powered by a modest but muscular single cylinder. The Sertão will be called a beginner GS—but trust us, there is no such thing as a beginner’s motorcycle. Around town or lost in the outback, this is affordable fun.
Kawasaki set out to regain the crown of most powerful production bike ever, and it looks as if it succeeded. The ZX-14R—stock, right out of the box—clears a quarter mile in 9.71 seconds. Like the road itself, the fun never ends. With power comes great technology: ram air, a slipper clutch (no wheel hop) and KTRC traction control. For a decade, motorcycle companies have limited top speed to 185 mph—part of a gentleman’s agreement with European manufacturers. Most people who buy this bike will remap the engine, get rid of the speed governor and wet themselves. To hell with the euro.
WHEN HARLEY introduced the V-Rod in 2002, it rattled cages. This was not your grandfather’s Harley. This was a Euro bike, a sport bike in cruiser togs. It was water cooled, the ultimate heresy. Unleashed five years ago, the Night Rod Special—the most sinister looking of the V-Rod family—took the oomph of a Porsche-designed engine and harnessed it to a Michelin Scorcher rear tire. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the V-Rod in 2012, Harley added better suspension, lighter wheels and beefier braking to a new Night Rod Special. The real treat is the subtle styling cues—a slender fastback rear fender, a trick LED taillight and enough black to move the night.