Admittedly, two of the categories for the Best of 2011 are totally subjective and you’re well within your rights to write us objectionable emails explaining how clueless we are. Custom paint jobs and pretty girls aside, we make our selections for the other categories based on facts. If a particular jacket or boot takes top honors from one of the editors, it’s not going to be because it simply has nice colors—form and function must equal each other and have a purpose.
We’ve weeded through the stacks of press releases, bikes, photos and products that have passed through the SSB office over the last year and selected the best of the best. Here they are, the editors’ picks for the Best of 2011.
Speed and Strength Bikes Are in My Blood
Motorcycle gear says a lot about the person wearing it, and Speed and Strength has understood how important image is (alongside safety) since its introduction. While its premier flagship line was perhaps a bit bold for some enthusiasts, the latest helmet/jacket combo rings home for just about everybody on two wheels.
$199 (jacket), $169 (helmet)
**Icon Overlord Prime Hero Jacket
** Icon stepped it up with the Overlord Prime Hero jacket. It isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for. It’s got style, breathes well, is light and the armor doesn’t get in the way as you might expect. Not to mention it fits like a jacket should; the cut sucks up around your waist nicely and as a tall lanky guy, the XL size offered proper length sleeves without sacrificing a tight feel.
Scorpion Torque jacket
Few pieces of gear have had as a profound effect on my daily commute as the Scorpion Torque Jacket has. It gets you noticed, and being seen by errant motorists is the key to surviving the ride. There’s no way around it, this florescent coat is bright, but thankfully it also has enough style to rid you of the geek’s list while still remaining safe enough to be deemed effective. While I never thought I’d ride in such bright colors, the merits of the florescent garments are so strong that I’ll never brave a commute without such precautions.
** OK, so technically it’s a 2012, but it was released in 2011 so it counts. Kawi won’t let the cat out of the bag and claim a peak horsepower number, but the rumors are upwards of 190 at the wheel—that’s about 20 more ponies than the Hayabusa. The addition of traction control, drive modes and a gentle sharpening of the bodywork are bonuses, but it’s the brute power that is the biggest attraction. I’ll take one in black please.
**Kawasaki Ninja 1000
** This one is easy. The 2011 Ninja 1000 won me over with a single ride. It is by no means the best canyon carver, the fastest or best looking, but it can’t be beat as an aggressive commuter—it does it all. Get on the throttle anywhere and there is torque (under 120 MPH), take it from Mexico to Canada in a day and your back won’t fall out of alignment, and the top heavy shape will dip right into a corner when asked. If I could afford one without losing my supersport, it’d already be in the garage.
** At a few ticks over $8500 bucks the Yamaha FZ8 represents one helluva deal thanks to an inviting chassis wrapped around a solid motor. Sure the suspension is a tad soft for aggressive riding, but a swap to used FZ1 suspension components is an affordable fix. When it comes to all-around fun, the FZ8 is a great playmate.
** At first glance the garishly painted Hayabusa from Rick’s Custom Cycles looks a lot like just another of the endless pack of highly customized wide tire ‘Busas cruising boulevards in a town near you. But pressing the starter button indicates an entirely different animal. Equipped with a custom RCC turbo kit it’ll put down over 400 horsepower to the pavement that’s good for low eight-second runs at the strip. The catch? It’s also a daily rider.
** I’m all about the path less taken and this grizzly ZRX is as bad as they come thanks to a built motor with a custom turbo kit huffing 21 psi and making 302 HP and 140 LB-FT at the tire. If that’s not enough, a custom swingarm, aftermarket wheels, upgraded brakes and top-shelf suspension make this greenie a meanie. It wheelies well into the triple digits and makes even a tuned literbike feel soft. If this isn’t a home-built sleeper, I don’t know what is!
** Form has to meet function in my book. The Citizens Suzuki GSX-R750 epitomized this with an excess of dream parts. No cost was spared, and at the end of the day this racer would still be acceptable to take on the street.
Montgomery Motorsports Tank Stand
This ingenious little device eliminates the need for a tank prop (like the common two by four or long screwdriver). The tank stand attaches to the frame with double sided tape, and when needed a bracket folds up to support the tank high and out of the way. The only downer is that it’s only available for the Hayabusa—but every ‘Busa should have one.
Tougher emissions and noise regulations mean bikes are getting increasingly stifled from the factory. This would be a crying shame if there weren’t motorcycle computer geeks standing and ready to reverse what manufactures are forced to do. Reflashing an ECU allows adjustments to timing, fueling, rev limiters and much more. ECUnleashed flashes your ECU after you send it to them through the mail—talk about power delivery.
GoPro LCD BacPac
People have voiced their displeasure with the GoPro’s lack of a display screen. The new LCD BacPac for the GoPro 1080p not only works as a viewfinder, but it’s also a display screen for video playback should you choose to watch the onboard wheelie you just recorded. It’s also removable, which means when you don’t want the extra bulk, off she comes.
High Performance Part
**NX Power Booster System
** One of the most misunderstood and ignored mods is nitrous. Whether it’s due to Hollywood misdirection (think Fast and the Furious) or poor mechanical installation that led to failure, nitrous generally gets ignored. When used properly it can be a great cost effective asset, as we discovered by adding 47 horsepower to our project GSX-R600.
** While not technically a new part for 2011 it’s new to me. I had never used a quick shifter and it was an exciting mod to play around with. Down the strip it has obvious benefits but on the street it is as much a leisure item as one that adds excitement into the commute. Not having to roll off the throttle in-between shifts is addictive and keeps acceleration seamless. It beats power shifting, that’s for sure.
**Continental Conti Road Attack 2 tires
** Seldom do you find a streetbike tire that’s as sticky as it is durable. But such is the case with the Continental ContiRoadAttack 2 tires that stuck like glue in all conditions and lasted well beyond the 8000-mile mark. Although billed as a sport-touring tire, the US definition is more tour than sport and these buns better match the European definition of the category with enough performance to hang on any road ride and enough longevity to justify the expenditure.
Factory Effex Wraps
A lot of riders pull the stock graphics off their bikes and run the plain panels. Sometimes it looks unique, other times just bad. For a lot of us, a custom paint job isn’t in the budget, but what if there was a way to add some unique style without destroying bodywork or coughing up big bucks? There is. Crossing over from the motocross world, Factory Effex offers mild to wild graphic overhauls that can freshen up scuffed bodywork or transform a new bike’s look.
**Nice Cycle Bodywork
** As an advocate of all things cost effective, Nice Cycle bodywork really puts to rest the myth that Chinese plastics are ill-fitting pieces of garbage. We have used them on numerous bikes from various model years and they look awesome every time. ABS plastic, clear-coated decals and a range of themes—it beats going OEM any day.
$ varies by application
Luminics JDM Yellow Headlight Bulb
By now you probably realize I’m all about form and function. If I can improve the aesthetics and performance with one mod, I’m money ahead. This is exactly what the Luminics JDM Yellow bulb achieves; it not only looks great and is oh so unique, but its bright yellow beam shakes drivers from their daily-commute stupors. Seriously, these yellow lighters are so vivid they help you standout in a sea of standard headlights. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact, and these Luminics bulbs are one such mod.
$40 per pair
** She was down to prance around—scantily clad—in a rundown homeless haven with a smile on her face.
Candy stole the show for the simple fact her shoot was one of the most memorable ones ever. We found an abandoned mini golf course that was taken over by a half-dozen homeless residents. With locals watching our every move from their vantage points in the old windmill, the Mayan ruins and in the giant skeleton, she braved the rubble and captured the shots.
**Pretty Da Model
** What's her real name? It's a secret. One thing's for certain—this little New Yorker was sizzling on our October cover.
**High Plains Drifters
** Nick “Apex” Brocha demonstrated that he could live up to his nickname in a drift video where he slid around a racetrack on his purpose-built ZX-10R. It has well over three million views, and for good reason.
For me, the two real standouts of this year have been Throttle Trauma 3 and Fastest. Each took a close look at what drives the top riders in their respective disciplines and the insane dedication it takes to get there. “Fastest” did it for me though. The footage, the narration, the battle for wins and the MotoGP history lesson are just intense. You don’t even have to be a race fan to like this documentary. It’s a bit long so clear your schedule before pushing play (and watch your speed after watching this flick).
MotoGP shot with crazy angles, amazing picture quality and a serious back-story that ropes even the non-riders into the two-wheeled world. It had big boots to fill since the first iteration, Faster, was a great flick. But the latest and greatest doesn’t disappoint, even if you don’t follow MotoGP.
** The overall scheme is a bit much, but the fine detail is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from a paint gun before. Insane talent was painted on everything from the wheel hubs and calipers to the kickstand and clip-ons.
I’m not a huge fan of the paisley design on our October 2011 cover ‘Busa but there is no denying the insane amount of detail. The attention to perfection is enough to put your eyes on overload mode. Who airbrushes wheel hubs to lowering links to tree clamps to other components most would never notice? That is dedication.
** One look at the ’90s mini truck inspired paint scheme on the Garwood Customs Next Level bike and you’ll be throwing out accolades like “fresh,” and “radical.” But in reality the overall theme is only half the story since a closer look reveals a paint job so intricate it’s worth a second and a third look. You’ll find flake, foil and sparkle along with hints of airbrushing that add depth to the various shapes. Instead of a scattered flat look, the paint is as complex as the bike it’s laid upon.