Top 5 Modern Motorcycles Part II

Top 5 New Motorcycles, Part II

Last week we showcased five modern motorcycles that hit the mark in terms of attitude and style. It was a mix of retro re-issues and well-designed modern machines, and struck a chord with many readers.

All of the featured bikes had one thing in common—they looked great in both stock and custom form. But we quickly realized that five wasn’t nearly enough, so we’ve decided to revisit our selection.

Here are another five showroom bikes that we’d love to take home, ride, show off to our friends and customize. Let us know which one grabs your attention the most—unless of course you’re still stuck on the original list.

2014 Triumph Speed Triple
Triumph Speed Triple I’ve been a fan of the Speed Triple ever since Tom Cruise’s famous Mission Impossible II chase scene. Triumph’s iconic naked hooligan bike has seen some technical and styling changes over the years, but it’s still a very relevant motorcycle.

The key ingredients are all present: a brilliant 1050cc three-cylinder engine, unapologetic styling and headlights that look like they were unceremoniously ripped from a sport bike fairing. There’s also ABS braking to keep you in check.

It’s a bike I’d happily park in my garage, but more importantly it’s a bike that I’d like to see more custom shops tear into. Almost $2,000 more gets you the R-model, with Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and a smattering of bolt-on accessories.

At a glance: $12,799, 135hp, 111Nm, 214kg (curb weight) What we’d do: Hit up LSL for some parts and ride it daily. Or we’d send it to: Spirit Of The Seventies in England. They’ve already teased us with Speed triple concepts, and we’d love to see them build one.

Triumph Speed Triple concept by Spirit Of The Seventies

Yamaha XJR1300 Yamaha have really been swinging for the fences with their Yard Built program. Last week we showed off the SR400, this time we’re on the other end of the spectrum with the four-cylinder, 1,251cc XJR1300. It’s the epitome of Japanese muscle – a nod to the past with up-to-date tech that includes Öhlins shocks and monobloc four-piston brake calipers. There’s even a four-into-one exhaust system with an EXUP muffler to add the appropriate soundtrack.

Yamaha wasted no time in farming it out to the Wrenchmonkees and Deus Ex Machina Italy. The resulting customs were inspired and ultra-desirable, and off-the-shelf custom parts from both shops are now available.

2013 Yamaha XJR1300

At a glance: 71.9kW, 108.4Nm, 245kg (curb weight) What we’d do: Order in some parts from Deus Ex Machina Italy and put together our own Project X replica. Or we’d send it to: Japanese muscle-bike specialists AC Sanctuary. Or the Wrenchmonkees, for a replica of the mighty Monkeefist (below).

Yamaha XJR1300 custom motorcycle by the Wrenchmonkees

Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Forty-Eight I’ve never been big on Harley-Davidsons myself, but even I can’t deny the Sportster’s popularity among builders. I’ve seen Sporties utilized for everything from flat trackers to café-racers, and a good few of them have stopped me dead in my tracks. Plus there’s the torque and the distinctive ‘growl’ from that V-twin mill.

There are currently six models in the Sportster line, but we’ve settled on the 1200 Forty-Eight (below). Right off the bat it has a brawny feel to it, with a raised peanut tank, solo seat, tiny headlight and blacked-out engine casings. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, the smaller-capacity Iron 883 would be a solid second choice, and you could always give it a performance boost at a later stage.

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty Eight
At a glance: Priced from $10,749, 67hp, 96Nm What we’d do: Move the foot controls back to where they belong, and sprinkle some Biltwell parts on it. Or we’d send it to: Roland Sands for a flat-tracker makeover (below).

Harley Sportster tracker custom motorcycle by Roland Sands
Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt Normally we wouldn’t include two bikes from the same manufacturer, but since the XV950 is sold in the USA under the Star brand as the Bolt, we’ll give ourselves a free pass. Besides, we can’t help but love the Bolt’s bare-bones vibe, aptly described by Yamaha as a ‘neo retro Japanese look’—even if the exhaust is a little gaudy.

Yamaha’s interest in the new-wave custom scene is also refreshing: last year they ran the Bolt Custom Build-Off, where they shipped Bolts to ten builders and asked the public to select a winner. The results were intriguing, with top work coming from the likes of Roland Sands, Chappell Customs, Burly Brand, Jeff Palhegyi and Greg Hageman, who took top honors.

2015 Yamaha Star Bolt
At a glance: $7,990, 45hp, 68Nm, 540lb (curb weight) What we’d do: Keep it bobbed, and ask Chappell Customs to send us the bolt-on, mono-shock subframe that they used on their Build-Off entry. Or we’d send it to: Greg Hageman. His competition-winning bike (below) was sublime, and we’d love to see what he’d do second time around.

Yamaha Star Bolt custom motorcycle by Greg Hageman
Kawasaki W800 Special Edition We really should have included the Kawasaki W800 in our first Modern Motorcycles round up. It’s easily one of the nicest neo-classics currently on the market, exuding tons of British charm despite being manufactured in Japan. Its predecessor, the W650, was in production from 1999—two years before Triumph launched their new Bonneville.

After a short hiatus from 2008 to 2011, the W800 was released with a displacement jump to 773cc and fuel injection. It’s an easy going motorcycle thanks to its parallel-twin mill, but what’s really great about it is how much attention Kawasaki have paid to small details—such as the pairing of an 18” rear wheel with a 19” front wheel for a more balanced stance.

The current Special Edition’s predominantly black paint scheme (below) is a winner, and both it and the regular model are available in ‘Café Style’ versions, with a solo seat and a small bikini fairing. And if it seems like I’m waxing lyrical about the W, I will admit that I’m biased—I own a W650 and love it.

Kawasaki W800 Special Edition
At a glance: €8,569, 35Kw, 60Nm, 217kg (curb weight) What we’d do: Turn it into a vintage trials-inspired scrambler, like James Whitham’s gorgeous W650 tracker. Or we’d send it to: LSL, for a Clubman-style W800 special (below).

LSL Clubman Kawasaki W800

Header image: Low and Mean’s Star Bolt. Read last week’s Top 5 Modern Motorcycles here.