It would’ve been a shame if the Mayan Calendar and Doomsday whackos had got it right, as you would’ve missed out on the important sportbike product buying info found in this year’s top picks of 2012. Over the past 365 days we’ve had our hands on the hottest items the industry had to offer. From tires to exhausts to helmets and riding shoes, a range of each item found its way to SSB HQ. With the New Year here and holiday cash burning a hole in your pocket we’ve compiled our best of the best to help you find the right place to spend that money.
We know not all of our picks should be taken as testament. For instance, making the very important decision of hottest model of the year is purely subjective. But most of the category winners were hard-tested and reviewed to help you decide the smartest way to feed your sportbike addiction. Without further jibber-jabber, here are SSB’s top picks of 2012:
AGV Sport Tornado Perforated Leather Jacket
When it comes to jackets I prefer leather to textile and protection over weight savings. The best indicator to the best jacket of the year is choosing the one that sees the least amount of time hanging in the closet. AGV Sport’s Tornado jacket was that for me. It’s loaded with armor but doesn’t restrict movement, the fit is tight and it breathes great for a heavier jacket. Instead of losing 5-pounds in sweat on hot days, the perforation keeps me cool commuting and the leather retains warmth when riding in the cold. The Tornado’s got that go-fast look with features to back it up. The style isn’t loud but it sends the high-performance message across loud and clear.
Icon Airmada SB1 Helmet
Lime green bike owners know that Icon always has gear and helmets to match the ride, but color coordinating is only part of the reason why the Airmada Sportbike SB1 is on my best list. Standard features such as a breath deflector, race fit padding and base gasket makes this an excellent value in the low- to mid-level price range. Vent controls are easy to find and operate with a gloved hand, and seal around the shield is up to par. I truly appreciate the company’s art department leaving the huge ICON logo off of this model. Brand ID is important but in this case the designs are cool enough to stand on their own.
TCX X-Street WP Shoes
You know a product is good when you crash in it and still find yourself wearing it weeks later. The X-Streets stood up to a slow speed lowside and are still kickin’ thanks to well-placed reinforcement. Apart from protection, riding shoe styles often veer way off the path of my favorite Nikes or Vans but TCX kept the cool street shoe design intact. They don’t breath well being waterproof but they are a great everyday riding option.
Alpinestars Axiom Kevlar Denim Pant
I find myself wearing Astars’ Axiom riding jeans even when there aren’t any plans to go riding; they’re ultra-comfortable and disguise their true purpose of leg protection superbly. With the kneepads removed, you’d never guess the denim was reinforced with thick Kevlar and made for sport riding. A bit pricey but think of it as a two-for-one purchase since these will save you from road rash when riding and double as a stylish pant option for nights out at the bar.
Here is an example of how far we’ve come in sportbike technology. This bike made our Best Of list last year based on first impressions alone. It’s back again. Now with serious seat time under our belts, and as the cover story indicates there is no doubt about how hard this bike rocks. With a dose of aftermarket love it becomes an absolute street terror. The scariest part about it is how quickly and easily it makes shattering the speed limit. Speed freaks who require civility, this bike is for you.
$14,699, $14,899 for SE model
Triumph Street Triple R
If there were a way to rate a bike by grin factor, the 2012 Street Triple R would top the street riding charts. This agile little bike is by no means the best choice for a long haul down the freeway or a top speed run nor is it loaded with tech but at the urban commute level it is ridiculously fun. Hooligan behavior comes standard with each purchase. Just make sure a cop isn’t behind you when lifting the front tire off the pavement because the excuse of, “But officer, the bike made me do it,” will not get you out of hot water.
Roaring Toyz Signature Series Swingarm
Adding 50mm of width to a sportbike wheel-and-tire combo can be a dream or a nightmare depending on the quality of the swingarm design and the support provided by the company who makes it. I’ve installed several different swingarms but I recently threw Roaring Toyz a special request for a custom Signature Series 240 extended swingarm for a second-generation ZX-10R. My only requirements were that it had to be a bolt-on and it had to work with the factory undertail exhaust system. I was pleasantly surprised when I got into the installation and everything fit perfectly. Even the mandatory shaving of the frame for chain clearance was less than any other swingarm I’ve installed. A true best! Also available for stock-tired bikes.
MSRP varies by custom order
Avon 3D Ultra Sport Tire
Finding a balance between grip in a corner and commuter longevity is the goal of every performance street tire and Avon nailed it with its new 3D Ultra series. Tested on the drag strip, over hundreds of twisty road miles and back and forth on the freeway, all on a modded 954, and the tire stood up to the challenge. It made leaning the bike over easy, stuck to the pavement once warm and sucked up the miles without wearing thin too quick.
Yoshimura R-77 EPA Noise Compliant Slip-On
We can only imagine what kind of red tape had to be cut for Yoshimura R&D to have one of the first EPA Noise Compliant sportbike mufflers in the aftermarket, but their achievement is worthy of recognition as a best product. Yosh took their tried-and-true R-77 muffler, added new packing material and redesigned the baffle with a tamper-proof sound insert to meet all of the requirements that allows them to rivet that special tag on their product. Whether it’s performance, style or compliance with a federal agency, being at the leading edge is what it’s all about.
Starting at $459
Bazzaz S125LC Principia Motorcycle Dyno
If you have ever run a bike on a dyno chances are the unit used was labeled Dynojet or Superflow. A new option has entered the mix and takes tuning to the next level. Easier to operate, more precise readings for finer tunes and an optional ram air system that blows up to 170 MPH comes compliments of a machine that works to better replicate real world riding conditions. Stay on the look out for more and more high-performance shops to start wheeling one of these suckers inside.
Starting at $24,338.67