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.
Time travel on two wheels
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.
Ride roughshod in style
The folks at KTM are on a roll, and not just with their X-Bow track monster. Their motorcycles are just as impressive (with an excellent color scheme, we might add), including the brand new, limited edition KTM 990 Adventure Baja Edition ($14,899). Designed specifically for North America, the 990 Adventure Baja makes the world of enduro riding even more sexy.
Mad Max has it on his wish list
The last time we mentioned Ural, they were introducing a bike with an integrated paddle; the time before that, we drove a beautiful sidecar bike through the snow of Seattle. This time, they’ve teamed up with Icon 1000, a company renowned for its armored motorcycle gear, and the resulting one-off Quartermaster is just as spectacular as past fare.
Protect your hide
We’re always huge advocates of motorcycle riding safety, and you can’t scrimp when it comes to protection on the mean streets or on the tarmac. The Alpinestars Atem Leather Jacket ($700) boasts the kind of materials and design that make it one of the most complete riding jackets available today.
More dignified than a Zipcar
If the tumble off the fiscal cliff should ever occur, you can blame it for everything from your thin wallet to your kid’s meager college savings account. Another unwelcomed consequence of our current financial disrepair? Motorcycle riding isn’t purely for fun anymore — more and more people are opting for two wheels to save some coin at the pump. The 2013 Honda NC700X is evidence of that change — but in this case, it’s change we can get behind.
Classic Looks, Vespa Prices
If you love motorcycling but happen to be on a budget and you also don’t plan on doing any “serious” riding, the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 B5 ($5,495) might be just the bike for you. A once popular UK bike manufacturer in the 1950s, the brand took a major hit due to the glut of…
We’re no strangers to Ural sidecar motorcycles, having run them on wet asphalt, dirt and snow. Ural’s offerings — rugged, versatile and as nostalgic as they come — make us long to get out during each of the four seasons. They’ve topped things off in 2012 with their 2012 Ural Yamal Limited Edition Sidecar Motorcycle,…
12 gifts for the lead foot
To find gifts for those men who consider driving simply a way to get from point A to point B, head to the nearest Brookstone. For those impassioned drivers you know — the ones who have 5W-30 running through their veins, love talking about tire aspect ratios and own some kind of driving/riding apparel (which…
While smartphones and google calendar might have replaced much of the functional need for a physical calendar these days, we’re still nostalgic for the analog. Following in the tradition of our Grandfather’s garage, our pick for 2013’s planner is the Custom Motorcycle Calendar from Bike Exif. What it lacks in Bettie Page pinup curves it…
Light, tight, ready to fight
Ducati motorcycles are the kind of machines that make us sweat, bleed and tear up all at once — and that’s a good thing. The introduction of the king of the Ducati superbikes makes us grovel. The Ducati 1199 Panigale R ($29,995) has assumed the throne, and he’s all business. Not just your standard 1199…
Sometimes when things are naked, life is just better — notwithstanding mole rats and fat guys. But when it comes to motorcycles, we’re huge fans of letting it all hang out; the brand new MV Agusta Brutale 800 (~$12,586), a much-welcomed addition to the Italian bikemaker’s handsome naked line, does just that. The Brutale 800…
Portuguese Man o' Gold
In most parts of the country, motorcycle riding season is coming to a close, unless you’re in one of these, but that doesn’t prevent us from showing off some awesome custom jobs. To worsen the blow, the Ton-Up Garage “Gold Digger” Kawasaki W650 has already been sold — but hey, we’re still drooling over it,…
No espresso needed
“Café racer” was originally a derogatory term, identifying a poseur-type of motorcyclist who typically rode from coffee shop to coffee shop without doing any real riding. Luckily, the category has outlived ridicule to become one of the best retro styles around today, as exemplified by the Cafe Racer Dreams BMW R100RT “Ruby Ring”. With the…
Getting hit with road chum, dirt and rain is an inherent part of motorcycling. While you can’t always anticipate what’ll be thrown at you, you can at least combat it with carapaced clothing. Part of L.A. manufacturer Mister Freedom’s Speed Safe Clothing for Modern Riders, the Mister Freedom x Sugar Cane Mulholland Master ($900) motorcycle…
Keep it away from barbed wire
If you just so happen to have an itch that involves jumping a motorcycle over a huge wooden and barbed wire barrier while wearing a grey sweatshirt, then Italian custom bike shop Drags & Racing has just the motorcycle for you: their stunning ‘La Grande Fuga’ (Great Escape) Triumph Bonneville. Just remember how that whole…
Few things in life pull at a man’s heartstrings like the open road and the promise of adventure. Long Live The Kings is a short documentary by Clement Beauvais shot solely on super 16mm film (which can still stand up to digital any day). The doc showcases some fine rides courtesy of Blitz Motorcycles along…