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It’s early January, that time of year when a crop of new production motorcycles typically starts trickling in to your local dealers. Although we at Cycle World have already ridden many of the new 2015 motorcycles—such as the Ducati Scrambler, the Yamaha FJ-09 and the Kawasaki Versys 1000LT—there are numerous other 2015 machines that demand to be sampled as soon as possible. And these 10 bikes are at the top of Cycle World’s list.
1. Kawasaki H2/H2R
Without doubt, this supercharged machine—in track-only H2R form or as a street-legal H2 model—is at the top of our must-ride list. Simply put, no other production motorcycle is supercharged, and we absolutely need to feel the otherworldly accelerative effects of that chain- and gear-driven blower, which spins at 10 times the speed of the crankshaft and transforms this new-from-the-ground-up Kawasaki into a bona fide 200-plus-mph machine. A full suite of electronics will keep that front wheel on the pavement, while top-notch suspension and brakes do their best to give these heavy H2s an agility that properly complements their insane straight-line abilities.
2. Ducati Panigale 1299R
This is the first production Ducati to crack the 200-horsepower barrier, thanks to a 1285cc Superquadro V-twin engine that produces 205 horses at 10,500 rpm and 106.7 pound-feet of torque at 8,750 rpm. While the stroke is identical to the 1199’s, the bore of the 1299 has been increased to 116mm, which means the pistons now measure more than 4.5 inches across! Compared to the Panigale 1199, a bike we already love, the new 1299 has half-degree less steering rake, for quicker response, and its swingarm pivot has been lowered 4mm for improved geometry with the drive sprocket. An 1199 is still available, but it’s only sold as the race-ready Panigale 1199R model.
3. Yamaha YZF-R1
Yamaha knows how to build a superbike. Case in point: the all-new Yamaha YZF-R1, whose 998cc 4-cylinder engine is a technical marvel boasting a cross-plane crank, titanium connecting rods, big valves, higher 13.0:1 compression and compact combustion chambers. Yamaha tells us this latest R1 was developed largely on the track, and parts such as its magnesium wheels, LED lights and titanium exhaust prove that Yamaha has been serious about keeping weight in check. Fully fueled and ready to ride, the R1 tips the scales at a claimed 439 lb. The R1M, with Ohlins Electronic Racing Suspension, is also available, but Yamaha says fewer than 500 of these limited-edition models will be available.
4. Honda RC213V-S
In our opinion, this Honda—effectively a street-legal version of Marc Marquez’s V-4-powered MotoGP racebike revealed at the big EICMA motorcycle show last fall in Milan—was designed to steal attention away from the likes of the Kawasaki H2, Yamaha R1 and Ducati 1299 Panigale. Well, it worked. Although a serious lack of actual information about this RC213V-S means we’re not totally convinced that Honda will actually build the bike, we really like what we see. Honda has a wonderful history with V-4s, and a seriously fact V-4 sportbike with a strong mechanical relationship to Marc’s MotoGP machine would be nothing short of a blast to ride.
5. Ducati Multistrada 1200S
We already know the Multistrada pretty well, but the new 1200S for 2015 has something special up its sleeve: DVT. This stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing, and we’re told it works wonders with the powerband of Ducati’s 1198cc Testastretta V-twin. In short, by minimizing valve overlap at low rpm and by increasing it at higher rpm, the latest Multistrada has the best of all worlds: excellent low-end torque, broad midrange power, and a superior top end any time that ride-by-wire throttle is whacked and kept open. We’re sure DVT makes for a fun ride, and the 2015 model has been enhanced by upgraded electronics and semi-active Sachs suspension, which s standard on the 1200S model.
6. BMW S1000XR
Why do we want to ride the new BMW S1000XR so badly? Easy: We all want to see how it compares to the R1200GS, the classic boxer-powered BMW that shines as a long-distance adventurer but can readily take to the dirt whenever necessary. The new S1000XR, on the other hand, is exclusively a pavement pounder, and it’s powered by the potent inline-4 taken from the impressive S1000R streetbike.
With its big windscreen, comfortably upright riding position and advanced electronics suite, the S1000XR really does look like an excellent way of crossing the Alps, aided by the potent and smooth four-cylinder. But is it better than the big GS? That remains to be seen.
7. Husqvarna 701 Supermoto
KTM has big plans for Husky. It wants to see the historically Swedish marque become the number 3 motorcycle in all of Europe by 2019. Leading the way is the new 701 Supermoto, which Husky revealed at the EICMA show in Milan. If there ever was an example of fun on wheels, the 701 Supermoto is it. With its narrow chassis, KTM-based 690cc single-cylinder engine, big brakes, top-notch WP suspension and grippy rubber, the 701 looks should be a delight around town, thanks to upright dirtbike-style ergonomics and a playful personality that will allow skilled riders to slide the back wheel into turns and then loft the front with every power-on exit. Look for the 701 Supermoto to arrive late this summer.
8. KTM 1290 Super Adventure
As far as we’re concerned, you could put KTM’s 1301cc LC8 V-twin engine into any motorcycle and we’d love it. Which is why we can’t wait to ride the new 1290 Super Adventure, an opulent Austrian dripping with standard equipment. In addition to cruise control and heated seats, the new 1290 Super Adventure has heated grips, a huge 7.9-gallon fuel tank, LED cornering lights and a full suite of electronic aids that includes lean-sensitive ABS, traction control and semi-active WP suspension. At a claimed 505 lb., the 1290 is not light, but it does have a hill-hold feature that keeps the bike from rolling back while stopped on a grade. Think of the new 1290 Super Adventure as a Ducati Multistrada fighter, but one with a fantastic engine.
9. Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS
This is a 2016 model we expect to see in Suzuki dealers this summer. Essentially, this new Suzuki is a street roadster with the heart of the legendary GSX-R1000, but with camshafts tuned for better low and midrange response. Suzuki’s idea was to make a powerful run-around street bike, one that has comfortable everyday ergonomics and full suite of electronics that enhances rider safety without stealing any of the fun. Three-mode traction control and ABS are standard on this machine, which has an all-new aluminum frame and servo-actuated exhaust valve that enhances combustion at low rpm. A comparison test with the Kawasaki Z1000 is n order as soon as we can get our hands on the new Suzook.
10. Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Okay, folks, we’re going out on a limb: Harley has not committed to building the electric LiveWire for production, but we rode one of several prototypes this year and came away so impressed with the machine—particularly with regard to its manners and its impressive level of fit and finish—that we feel a production version must be a done deal. Let’s hope so, because our Senior Editor said the prototype, with its cast aluminum frame, three-phase DC motor (with 74 horsepower) and lithium-ion battery, felt very much like a “real” bike, able to smoke its rear tire off the line and hit an electronically limited top speed of 95 mph with ease. The LiveWire is a far cry from the cruiser you’d expect from H-D, and we see it as a great way for Milwaukee to embrace the future.
[Related video: Harley's Project Livewire: Motoramic TV]