Motorcycle Live begins this weekend, one of the final major motoring events of 2018. To help provide guidance as the 2019 new bike buying season begins, Auto Trader Bikes has conducted its annual run-through of the best new bikes you can buy.
The Auto Trader Best Bike Awards 2018 comprises 12 categories, with one bike going forward to be named the overall winner of the Best Bike Awards. “Whether you’re a first-time rider looking for a humble 50cc,” say the judges, “or an adrenaline junkie seeking a 200+ horsepower superbike… the awards reveal the best machines on two wheels”.
How the bikes were judged
A total of 36 motorcycles were tested for the 2018 Auto Trader Best Bike Awards, from 16 different manufacturers. Machines for all levels of rider ability were sampled, including for learners and those taking their CBT.
Judges assessed machines across a broad criteria, including performance, practicality, reliability, running costs, appearance and technical features. “Our impartial awards, now in its fifth year, brings independent judges together to celebrate the best bikes available in each category, giving honest and transparent advice and guidance to UK bikers, said Auto Trader Bikes director, Rob Morphet.
Best Scooter: Honda X-ADV
Runners up: Piaggio MP3, Vespa GTS300
Half scooter, half adventure bike, more than a little bonkers – the judges didn’t quite know what to make of Honda’s innovative X-ADV, but they ended up falling for it. “This bold hybrid is practical and fun,” they said, and is “brilliantly executed”. However, the price of almost £10,000 did raise a few eyebrows.
Best AM: Peugeot Speedfight 50
Runners up: Yamaha Aerox 50, Aprilia SX50
The long-running Peugeot Speedfight is the gold standard among scooters if you’re 16 years old. This is the poster scooter, the ultimate, and the latest model is “smart, cool, easy to ride and has a top notch image”. Complete with phone dock, USB socket and backlit digital dash, the cool factor is better than it’s ever been, too.
Best A1: Aprilia SX125
Runners up: Honda CB125R, Lexmoto Titan 125
This is “Aprilia at its best”. The SX125 is “cool, fun, easy to ride, well equipped and affordable”. Judges described it as the perfect A1 motorcycle and a great learner supermoto with proven quality. The only area where some may struggle with this novice-friendly motorcycle is its tall saddle.
Best A2: Kawasaki Ninja 400
Runners up: Honda CB300R, Triumph A2 Speed Triple
The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is “a great sports bike introduction for novices”. Its mini ZX-10R styling means the wow-factor is off the scale, but while it’s involving to ride, it’s also unintimidating. An easy, entertaining machine.
Best Middleweight: Suzuki SV650X
Runners up: KTM 790 Duke, Ducati Monster 821
The SV650 isn’t the newest of machines, but it’s ‘X’ naked makeover has turned it into a fun cafe racer that’s appealing and affordable. Not only is it surprisingly convincing, it’s also great value for money. It may seem like bandwagon jumping by Suzuki, but the overall machine is much better than that.
Best Naked: Triumph Speed Triple RS
Runners up: Honda CB1000R, Husqvarna Vitpilen
The original super naked has been improved for 2018 and is now better than ever. A 10hp power boost is useful (although others remain more powerful still), and the RS additions of Ohlins suspension, carbon bits and Arrow exhausts add to the classic charisma. Handling is now better than ever, too.
Best Retro: CCM Spitfire Flatracker
Runners up: Ducati Scrambler 1100, Kawasaki Z900 RS
A tiny British motorcycle maker, CCM has come up trumps with the Spitfire Flatracker. It’s a cool, fun city bike that’s simple and packed with feel, although the judges do admit it’s “not versatile, practical or sensible”.
Best Adventure: BMW R1200GS Adventure
Runners up: Honda Africa Twin Sports Adventure, Triumph Tiger 800
The standard by which all others are judged: Auto Trader Bikes calls the BMW R1200GS “the Range Rover amongst bikes – the definitive”. The Adventure is the ultimate version, with a bigger tank and more rugged looks.
Best Sports Tourer: Yamaha Tracer 900 GT
Runners up: Kawasaki H2 SX, Yamaha Nikken
The Yamaha Tracer 900 GT is the best ‘do it all’ sports tourer of 2018 – made even better by a revised body and seat. The MT-09 underpinnings mean it’s a fun ride and the GT spec adds panniers, adjustable suspension, heated grips and a cool TFT screen.
Best Cruiser: Harley Davidson Fat Bob
Runners up: Triumph Bobber Black, India Springfield
Harley Davidson has completely revamped its big twin cruiser line-up for 2018. Now focused on the Softail, an all-new frame means it’s lighter, handles better, is quicker and generally more modern-feeling. The V-twin engine is now liquid cooled, there’s an LED headlight at the front and equipment levels are 2018-spec as well.
Best Tourer: Honda Gold Wing GL 1800
Runners up: BMW K1600 Grand America, Triumph Trophy 1200
The gold standard of full-size luxury tourers, the Honda Gold Wing GL 1800 is another machine that’s all-new for 2018. New Gold Wings don’t come around that often, and the latest one offers “astounding refinement and ability… it’s a quantum leap on before”. The flat-six engine is silky-smooth and delivers more power, there’s a clever new DCT gearbox, it’s surprisingly lighter than before – although, at nearly £30,000, it’s hardly a budget buy.
Best Sports: Ducati Panigale V4S
Runners up: BMW HP4, Yamaha R1M
Ducati has done the unthinkable, and swapped the Panigale’s V-twin engine for a brand new V4. In doing so, it’s transformed its sports bike, “setting a new standard in superbike performance”. The decision to ditch the V-twin is “utterly vindicated [by] the sheer brilliance and speed of the Panigale”. The only negatives? The fact that it looks virtually identical to the old model. Oh, and the small matter of a list price as much as £10,000 more than some rivals.
Best Bike Awards 2018 overall winner: Ducati Panigale V4S
It’s a strong gathering of new bikes for 2018, but the exceptional Ducati Panigale V4S’ sheer breadth of brilliance saw the judges give it the nod.
Guest judge Andrew Shim – ‘Milky’ from This is England – summed it up: “The Ducati V4S is by far the superior bike this year. I own a Ducati V4S and I can say first-hand that Ducati hasn’t just moved the goal posts; it’s changed the game.”