Opinion: Motorcycle of the Year

This morning, the Canadian Car of the Year will be announced at the Toronto auto show – I know, because I’ll be the person who tears open the envelope on stage and announces the winner. But there’s no award for Motorcycle of the Year.

There would be plenty of contenders. Zac tells us about nine of them this week, which will be on the floor at the Toronto Motorcycle Show that also opens on Friday. The challenge is that buying a motorcycle is such a personal decision that every one of those nine bikes will have somebody who loves it and somebody who hates it, and a whole bunch of people who say meh. How to choose?

The Triumph Street Cup is a gorgeous cafe racer that could easily become somebody’s favourite motorcycle..

The Car of the Year thing is easier to select, because there’s a large pool of qualified automobile journalist testers who all vote on specific attributes of the cars and SUVs they drive all year round. As well, so much of what cars do is just functional, and they vote on how well those functions are performed. That’s just not possible with bikes. There are maybe a dozen properly qualified motorcycle journalists in Canada who could vote – 20 at a stretch – and no organization in place to co-ordinate such decision making. But mostly, the decision would be irrelevant because motorcycles are so much more varied than cars, and so much more emotional a choice.

Off the top, I’d say right now that the new Honda Gold Wing should be the Motorcycle of the Year, because it seems to do its job so well and it’s such an important machine for North America. But I’ve not ridden it and have only Costa’s word for it that it succeeds. More to the point, is it any better at its job than the Honda CRF250R that Kate rode last year, or the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob that swayed Zac’s opinion on The Motor Co, or the excellent Suzuki GSX-R 1000R that Costa leant into the curves at Phillip Island, or the Triumph Street Cup with which I fell in love?

So maybe we should just accept that there’s an embarrassment of riches right now for motorcycle choice. Sure, some bikes are better than others and some bikes should be avoided, but we tell you all about these in our reviews. When it comes to one that’s the best bike for you, that’s far too personal a choice for us to make – and that’s a big reason why we love bikes so much.

7 thoughts on “Opinion: Motorcycle of the Year”

  1. My vote goes to the Indian FTR750. Starting from ground zero, building a sophisticated flat tracker and winning the championship in the first year. Then making them available for sale to anyone with deep enough pockets. That (IMO) trumps a lot of other bikes.

  2. An embarrassment of riches maybe, but without affordable insurance, what’s the point?
    I don’t know the situation in the rest of the country, but here in the GTA rates are ridiculous. I’ve seen mine nearly double in the last five years – I have a spotless record btw – and for the first time in 30 years, I have no immediate plans to renew.
    The manufactures may be going balls out to give us the latest and greatest, but their efforts will probably benefit riders in much less restrictive parts of the planet.

  3. I’m a big fan of consumer reports – no sponsors.
    This year we see pretty much the same brands listed for reliability.

    In order:
    Honda/Suzuki tied for 2nd
    Victory (surprise!)
    Harley Davidson (really?!)
    BMW (hahahahahahahaahahah)
    Can Am

    There was a significant gap between Victory and Harley, but not a very large gap from Yamaha to Victory.
    Other brands did not have enough data for rating.

  4. In my eyes, the AJAC awards are pointless, and only useful to auto marketers. Why award a vehicle just because its new to the market this year? What if its worse than others on the market already? And having no competition in a category makes it easy to win.
    Car & Driver is the only one doing it right, and even their system has many limitations. New is not always better.

    1. Singletrack, AJAC adjusted the Canadian Car of the Year Awards to include all new vehicles this year, not just recently updated.

      Now, back to motorcycles… the Goldwing isn’t a bad choice for bike of the year, though I’ll reserve my final judgement until after I get to ride it.

  5. The Gold Wing could also win the car of the year, just kidding. It’s obvious that the motorcycle industry needs new riders, as well as affordable insurance for them. I would vote for the new Ninja 400, but the manufacturers need to make more choices in smaller and affordable bikes that appeal to young people.

    1. A touring big with noticeably less storage shouldn’t win car or bike of the year. This goes back to back to Mark’s functionality criteria for assessment.

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