Over the past 20 years we’ve tested a lot of bikes. Including all reviews, we’re at over 200 test rides. To celebrate our 20-year anniversary, we thought it would be fun to look back at our favorites. In keeping with our half-organized, randomly chaotic approach here are our favorite reviews from each of the last 20 years.
1996 – 2003
by Victor Wanchena
1996 — Buell S1 Lightning. We liked it and didn’t have a lot more to say. But the real story behind the Buell was this was our first review bike and we crashed it. Yup, our first one ever. In fairness we put to the two shortest riders in our crew on the Buell, but we were 0-1 for bikes not crashed going into issue #2.
1997 — Valdez V8. This review was so wonderful because it was all a lie. The Valdez V8 was our first April Fools story and it worked. We got calls and letters asking for more information and follow up stories. There were plenty of clues in the story that it was fake, but plenty to make a person wonder. It was partially based on the news that Yamaha was building high performance motors for Ford. Ironically, the performance numbers, which we thought were mythical then, are common for liter class sport bikes now.
1998 — Polaris Victory 92C. This one was significant for us because Polaris was the first of the two local builders to make it to market. The motor and chassis were excellent. The style was a bit too industrial for our taste, but we were enamored with the LCD display and handlebar controls. Apparently we were easy to amuse back then. We were fortunate to snag #22 off the assembly line for our test. A small coup in the publishing world for our upstart publication.
1999 — Ural 650 Deco Classic. This was the Ural that set us on a love affair with the Russian sidecar brand. We tested it in late winter and were instantly enthralled by the all weather (read icy road) capabilities of the Ural. We were so smitten in fact that 2 out of 3 MMM editors have owned Urals. We didn’t seem to mind its faults, of which there were many, and instead just rode it like we stole it.
2000 — Honda RC51. There was something about the RC that made us swoon. It was a hard-edged sport bike that was a blatant copy of Ducati’s superbikes, but somehow that worked for us. It also inspired one of the funnier analogies we ever penned, “When you compare the sound of a Harley to a Ducati, the Harley sounds like a crazy old man yelling at his dog.”
2001 — Suzuki Hayabusa. We rode this two-wheeled missile and were stunned. The big Suzuki looked half melted and did the same to its tires. The king of speed raised the performance bar quite high and it got us riding like fools in the process. The tales of high triple digits and rolling burnout wheelies got the notice of the insurance man. Nope, we weren’t covered for any of that.
2002 — BMW K1200LT. The K thru 12, as the LT was known around MMM, opened up distant horizons forus. The BMW flagship tourer came well equipped with everything to make the continent your playground. Big miles were easy on the LT and it felt like a shame to ever put the side stand down. Staffers and known MMM associates have gone on to log several hundred thousand miles on LTs. Need I say more.
2003 — Moto Guzzi V11 Sport Rosso Mandello. The V11 is the sporting gentleman from Italy. For some reason MMM has always had a soft spot for Moto Guzzi. They’re not the fastest, most reliable, or the most tech laden machines. But in our minds as a motorcyclist you need to own one at some point in your life. The Rosso Mandello was a special 80th anniversary model to the venerable V11 Sport. It was a fine machine that had us dreaming of hot laps around Lake Como.
2004 – 2009
by David Soderholm
2004 — Suzuki Vstrom 1000. The bike that helped usher in the current ADV bike craze. It was the R1150GS that mere mortals could afford to ride. Charlie and Ewan didn’t ride it around the world, but many we have seen have multiple world trips on the odometer. MMM reviewers praised it for its versatility, power, handling and affordability. The big V was cheaper, more reliable and arguably a better bike than the GS of the day for what most people really used these bikes for. MMM penned – “I find it to be a great bargain. Sorry, but I refer to it as “The Perfect Strom”.
2005 — Triumph Rocket III. 2300cc’s 148 hp and 147 foot pounds of torque @ 2750 rpm – WOW. MMM wrote “…strong enough to shove even a tobacco barn down the road. Impressive? Yes, but scary too. In any gear, I could whack the throttle open and the bike slammed forward like an angry F-18 on full afterburner…. Those monster throttle bodies suck loud air, the horizon goes blurry, and around fifty-five hundred the mill really howls. By then you’ll back off anyway, palms sweaty and eyeballs itchy from windburn. This thing flat-out cooks.” The surprise (bonus?!) for us? It even handled well.
2006 — Triumph Daytona 675. It was a punch in the face to the highly competitive Japanese 600 class. The Daytona carried a 675cc version of the famed Hinckley triple. Broad torque, blazing top end and the distinctive howl were pure heaven. The unique Daytona was a much less demanding but no less quick bike to ride or race than the Japanese 600’s. The engine and chassis were so good it was used as the basis to produce the brilliant Street Triple®. MMM gushed – “Triumph finally has a serious contender in the hottest class in motorcycling.”
2007 — Piaggio MP3. A cool Italian scooter with 2 wheels up front that still leans. MMM loved it. “Riding the MP3 is, well, let’s just cut to the chase and say that this thing kicks ass.” The enhanced safety of the unique twin tire front end was a hit – “I like its quirkiness, but also appreciate its sure-footedness on all types of road conditions. Good practicality was also a plus – “they were probably just interested in all the beer I was able to stash under the seat.” Overall, the MP3 was a loved, unique and practical scooter from Piaggio.
2008 — Victory Vision Tour. A triumph of function and engineering. This stylishly polarizing bike showed that Victory had arrived. Love or hate the styling, but the engineering beneath it was world class and showed the direction Victory was headed. They carefully thought out and addressed the touring rider’s needs. MMM said – “Everything about this bike is based on engineering, performance and handling”….Somebody did their homework: the Victory Vision works”….and….” Victory can take a bow for building a bike that looks like no other and is built to ride.” Both reviewers loved the VVT from the hometown gang.
2009 — Yamaha YZF R1. A blisteringly fast sport-bike from Yamaha. The number one feature was the “big bang” firing crossplane crankshaft engine from Yamaha. It made big power like an inline four but sounded and felt very twin like. The 09’ R1 represented one of the great first Motogp technology trickle downs…..Motogp tech one day – Street bike Tech the next. MMM wrote – “In typical trickle down fashion, the technology that started on Valetino Rossi’s championship winning YZR-M1 MotoGP bike has come to the unwashed masses.” Now day’s things like Multi Maps / Traction Control / Slipper Clutches and Unique Engines are common across motorcycling. Yamaha started that with the amazing 09’ R1.
2010 – 2016
by Bruce Mike
2010 — Grand National Replica. It’s a Flat-Track replica that is street legal. It is a hand-built bike with a racing pedigree. Out of all the bikes I’ve ridden through the years, this was and is my all time favorite. My fellow reviewer told me “It promotes hooliganism”. Most fun I ever had on two wheels.
2011 — 796 Ducati Monster. I picked this bike because the Monster has been a been a big seller for Ducati since it was introduced in 1993. This was a new variation in 2011. It’s a naked street bike that anybody can ride. It’s a good, solid bike built with all the right components and it rides like you would expect from a Ducati. Our only issue was it was geared a little high from the factory. Change the sprockets and you have the perfect commuter bike.
2012 — CBR250R. “Most of us at MMM have adopted a new philosophy — Light Is Right. Simply put, you don’t need a bike with a kajillion ccs and twin nitrous bottles to have a good time.” These little sport bikes are a ton of fun to ride and make great starter bikes. If you are considering a scooter, you might want to check out one of these. They cost about the same.
2013 — Indian Chief. We’ve ridden a lot of Indians over the years at MMM and this variation, built after Polaris purchased Indian, was the best one yet. It is well engineered and the fit and finish is beautiful. It’s a giant motorcycle that rides and handles like a much smaller bike. Exactly what you need in a cruiser
2014 — Can-Am Spyder. We have reviewed several Spyders over the years. We even rode one on the Minnesota 1000. They are not a trike and they are not a typical motorcycle. They weren’t converted from something else, they were engineered from the ground up. If you have never ridden one, you should.
2015 — Ducati Scrambler. Everybody is building a Scrambler these days. Retro is where it’s at. With six different models, one at 400 cc and five at 800 cc, there is a scrambler for every rider. Like the Monster, this bike is as fun as it looks. This a very affordable Ducati and I have a hunch we’re going to see a lot of them on the road.
2016 — 1972 Smith Brothers and Fetrow Chopper. This was my bike that I owned for 15 years and put about 400 miles on it. It was time to move it down the road and the April issue seemed the perfect time to review it. I wanted one since I was a little kid. I’ve had one and I never need another one. Victor’s take on the chopper — “I kind of liked the chopper. It was loud, crude, ridiculously hard to ride, and probably even harder to live with. But that was also its charm. I have a soft spot in my heart for hard to ride machines. They require dedication, perseverance, and commitment”.
“Damn it. I like a chopper”.