From the Archives: Motorcycles are more than just simple transportation. They strangle attention. Ride one down the street and watch as babies point and smile mid-whimper, dogs chase joyfully, angsty teens fight the curling in the corners of their mouths, old biker types in leather nod with supreme comprehension. There are countless combinations of weapons-grade speed, sex, beauty, design and freedom found between two tires, sure — but these fifty, specifically, are the icons hand-picked by Gear Patrol as our favorites of all time.
Old-School Looks, Meet Modern Power
Some modern motorcycle manufacturers — some of the best, in fact — have designed and built bikes that harken back to timeless style. Though we don’t recommend that you get out there with a flimsy leather helmet and goggles, we do strongly urge you to invest in the right gear and then hit the road on any of these five fantastic vintage-style motorcycles, looking damn good while you do it.
Catering to a group of riders that had historically ignored protective gear completely, Icon Motorsports created its own market and developed one hell of a loyal base by literally saving their customers’ skin. Thirteen years after their inception, the Portland-based company is still kicking ass, pumping out both no-compromise protective gear and some tire-shredding bikes.
Check One Off Your Bucket List
The right helmet makes a world of difference in both comfort and protection. Upgrading your headwear at least every five years ensures you’re equipped with the latest in technology and safety innovations; it also instills instant rider confidence. Here are the best motorcycle helmets on the market today.
Italian for batshit crazy
Limited in production but not in power, the Ducati Panigale 1199 R ($31,000) is a cross between a Navy Seal and Usain Bolt. It’s got carbon fiber and titanium for bones, a computer for a brain and a 195-horsepower engine revving to 12,000 rpm for a heart. We took it out for a few days — after we updated our will.
An awesome two-wheeled show, despite the snow
Twenty-eight hours before the doors officially opened at The One Motorcycle Show, in Portland, Oregon, things started looking messy. #TheOneSnow was already trending, and many builders were stuck in whiteout conditions, struggling to make it at all. Those who had arrived, bikes in tow, wondered if anyone would be crazy enough to attend. But motorcyclists are a passionate bunch — even the ride scheduled the following day continued as planned.
A Young Man Reminisces on his truest ride
Somewhere in a musty garage basement in northern Pennsylvania, my 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250, silver with a few small red stripes on its cowling, sits collecting dust. I miss her. She deserves far better than this, and someday soon I’ll give it to her: open roads dappled in spring sunshine, screaming lunges out of tight twisting corners, highway cruises where she can yell as loud as she likes. She’s just a little thing, but ccs don’t mean anything to me. I ogle Ducatis; she doesn’t mind. Our relationship is not about displacement.
The intersection of leather and rubber
Rule one of motorcycling is to armor yourself from head to toe with the right gear; style comes second, but when done right, it plays its part in your staying in one piece as well. For that extra bit of protection and tasteful flair, we’ve gathered five great leather moto jackets for the upcoming riding season and paired each with a like-minded beauty of a bike.
A New Motus Operandi
It’s hard enough to bring a brand new motorcycle to market that can compete with the existing best. Try doing it as a new company, charging up the hill of well-established sport-touring segment dominated by the likes of Triumph, Yamaha and BMW. Then try it as a new American company. Birmingham, Alabama-based Motus Motorcycles is doing just that with their own distinct flavor in the form of the MST ($30,975) and MST-R ($36,975) sport-tourers. We break ‘em down.
Rising Suns of Anarchy
2014 promises to offer up a ton of great bikes by which to dispel your winter blues, a handful of those out of the Far East. Japanese motorcycles are well built, reliable and typically more affordable than their counterparts from Italy and America, and they also have a strong history of great performance. From cruisers to sport-tourers to sport bikes, here are our five favorite new Japanese bikes of the year.
Be cool, not cold
Warm sunny days are still several weeks away at least — and yet taking your motorcycle out for a few “pre-season” blasts can be a joyous, refreshing experience. At 55 mph a simple flip of your visor is like downing a triple-shot of your favorite espresso; at eighty-five it’s even better. Hell, a simple whiff of spring air mixed with just a touch of exhaust is enough to give you the stamina of Sting — provided you’ve prepared. We’ve lined up our own personal arsenal for your cold-weather-riding pleasure.
Until now, the vehicles featured in our Octane Icon series have been but singular iterations of automotive excellence — standout models, limited runs and one-offs that have bucked trends, pumped blood and turned heads. The first motorcycle to be honored in this series defines most of that very criteria. And yet, it is readily available and remains relatively inexpensive: this is the Harley-Davidson XL or, as its more commonly known, the Sportster.
Full Contact High
American drivers are starting to learn something Europeans have known for a long time: winter tires do wonders for traction in snow, slush and ice. The extra edge in slippery acceleration, braking and steering is worth the hassle of swapping rubber with the seasons. We researched top performing winter tires for various types of vehicles to compile this ultimate list of winter treads for your car, truck, SUV or sports car.
Gifts for the Rubber Burner
Drivers can be a picky bunch. It’s likely that fuzzy dice and sheepskin seat covers won’t cut it this (or any) year, so take some direction from us this holiday season. Car or motorcycle guys tend to appreciate things that enhance the experience or provide a bit of insight into the hobby/obsession. And you have no excuse to be stingy. He’s given you rides in his vintage roadster, and he even bought you some driving gloves for your Camry SE in hopes of steering you toward a more legitimate ride someday. It’s time you ponied up for something he’ll appreciate. Of course, you can still stuff his stocking with a box of synthetic 5W30.
Intentionally Stranded in a City of Gridlock
Navigating LA, which is known for its vastness and interlocking freeways, without a car is akin to a New Yorker pulling his vehicle from storage to run errands in midtown for a few hours. It’s crazy. It doesn’t even seem like an option. But what if I made it an option? I decided to try the unthinkable: live in LA for one week while my car sat in the driveway. The goal: see just how dependent I was on my car — and determine just how much I could buck that dependency.
Time travel on two wheels
Motorcycling is all about speed, freedom and personal style. Look at a bearded and tattoo festooned Harley-Davidson Electra Glide rider, and he’s clearly making a statement that’s half showman, half American pride, all tough guy. There’s no subtlety there, unless there’s a frightened chihuahua in one of his saddle bags. And then there’s the café racer rider. His is a statement about retro-style and a unique simplicity you don’t often see anymore. He’s just the kind of guy who’d fancy the new Royal Enfield Continental GT, a motorcycle that does more than just move two wheels: it brings back a style from yesteryear while showing what a modern café racer is capable of.
Silicon Valley does motorcycles
With the recent proliferation of electrified transportation, it seems things are swinging solidly from Who Killed the Electric Car? to “Who Maimed the Gas Engine?”. Motorcycles are no exception. One of the best e-bike makers out there, Zero, let us test their Zero DS ($14,000) for a few weeks in L.A. to see if a silent motorcycle is a groundbreaking way to ride or a tad emasculating.
50 ways to ride like the wind
They are equal parts simple and complex, a mechanical interpretation of form meeting function with attitude to spare. Whether it’s chrome glimmering in the sun, the artful engineering behind a single-sided swingarm or their ability to outrun just about anything, motorcycles are more than just simple transportation. They strangle attention. Ride one down the street and watch as babies point and smile mid-whimper, dogs chase joyfully, angsty teens fight the curling in the corners of their mouths, old biker types in leather nod with supreme comprehension. There are countless combinations of weapons-grade speed, sex, beauty, design and freedom found between two tires, sure — but these fifty, specifically, are the icons hand-picked by Gear Patrol as our favorites of all time.
Two wheels to greatness
Though the riders participating in MotoGP races are the best in the world, it’s taken a while for this style of racing to gain traction in the United States. After having the chance to see the MotoGP World Championship at The Circuit of the Americas thanks to Ducati, we easily count ourselves among its growing fan base. Read on to see our photo essay of the insane speed on two wheels.
Motorcycle boots make up a small portion of most riders’ PPE (personal protective equipment), and compared to the sexy jackets, gloves and helmets that are worn proudly while carving canyons and combating congestion, footwear often ends up forgotten. To keep you safe on two wheels and still looking good on both legs, we’ve torture-tested five of the best motorcycle boots. Regardless of whether you drag a knee or seek forward control, there’s an option for you — and you’ll no longer relegate your feet to the status of “least important body part” when you ride.
Feel alive, stay alive
So now that you’ve chosen which starter steel horse suits you best, you’ve got to figure out just how to ride this thing safely — the only thing uglier than a bike confined to a garage is one on its side. Getting out with your knees in the breeze is the best way we know to decompress and let the work week wash away, but before you swing a leg over and head out on the highway on your first bike you need to understand a couple guiding principles. We’ve compiled them for you.
Don't Mind If I Ducati
In the world of thrilling machines, Ducati registers somewhere between Ferrari and Alfa Romeo — this on two wheels, of course. Offering bikes ranging in price from $10,000-$30,000 and covering a range of “yeah, that makes sense” to “humans aren’t supposed to travel that fast”, the brand has a legacy and heritage dating back to 1926 that it maintains with pride today. This is especially obvious in the 2013 Ducati Monster 796 ($10,000).
A day of cruising sunny, funky San Diego is enticing enough without a brand new ride underneath you. All the better, then, when Yamaha brought us to downtown San Diego for a well-organized day aboard their new Bolt, an American-style bobber — an exercise in convincing some die-hard riders that their bike is a viable alternative to Wisconsin iron.
If only movie remakes were this good. BMW has just pulled the covers off the BMW Concept Ninety at Italy’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Lake Como. Consider this one of the finest homage bikes ever, created in honor of both the legendary BMW R90 S and 90 years of BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of the famous Bavarian car company. In partnership with prominent designer Roland Sands, BMW brings to life a truly modern bike with echoes of the vintage R90 S.
No ride like the present
Now that the riding season is under way in many parts of the country, it’s time to sign up for riding lessons and start thinking about the machine that’s best suited for your needs. You could jump right into researching bikes for months online, but we’d recommend starting with our roundup of the 5 best starter motorcycles first.
The Spirit of Burt Munro
Burt Munro set his first speed record in New Zealand in 1938. He was riding an eighteen-year-old motorcycle that was factory built to top out at 55 MPH. Burt clocked 120.8. That sort of bump doesn’t happen on its own. When it left the assembly line, Burt’s Indian Scout was powered by a side-valved 600cc V-Twin complete with a mechanical oil pump and helical gear transmission, a very advanced system for the time. The tinkering began almost immediately, and the speeds increased. Munro would continue to chase speed on the salt flats of Utah for the rest of his life.
Gatsby's Great Garage
Jay Gatsby had it all, except perhaps the presence of mind to dial down the drama so he could hold on to the good things, namely cars and bikes that would stand the test of time for unrelenting beauty and elegance. The art deco era, spanning over two decades, influenced design internationally — and vehicles were beneficiaries of this arty approach to industry. So much of what was built in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s now only exists in the hallowed halls of museums and collectors’ garages as we drool upon this glorious motoring past. Gatsby’s greatness could’ve remained had he chosen to drive one of these beauties into the West Egg sunset, leaving Daisy behind in a cloud of rich exhaust. Fresh for Baz Luhrmann’s full throttle cinematic interpretation of the landmark Fitzgerald novel, we’ve collected 10 of the finest art deco cars and bikes ever built.
1199 problems, but a Suzy ain't one
Short on space in the garage? Gear Patrol’s new series, “Want This, Get This”, moves into a whole new vein this week, presenting a lust-worthy sportbike along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. Read on for the dream screamer and its reality-based substitute.
Forged in the Far East
Based on the 400cc Honda Bros, the Bandit9 Hephaestus (~$13,635) is truly impressive — forged from all stainless steel, including the tank, cowl and fender. The custom frame is also accentuated by side covers, exhaust, muffler and turn signals that have been designed and fabricated by the Bandit9 shop, so you know the Hephaestus isn’t some Frankensteined job created by a crazed creator screaming behind closed doors.
Who needs a bike to look cool?
Aether shook up the outerwear market by blending the technical chops of today’s most advanced outerwear with the clean lines and styles of the city. The newly revealed Aether Skyline Motorcycle Jacket ($650) looks poised to do the same thing for a niche most fashion brands ignore.