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.
-Sean $159.95 alpinestars.com
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 kawasaki.com
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.
-Sean $9,599 triumphmotorcycles.com
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
Rizoma Limit Sport Mirrors
Ok, the Limit Sport mirrors aren’t Rizoma’s latest but in my opinion they are damn near the greatest. Each time I see them on a custom bike my mouth waters. These aren’t just some high-design tasty showpieces but functional and extremely durable works of art. They proved their price tag after absorbing the brunt of a stoppie roll over without breaking. The outer shell obviously was scratched but the glass stayed in tact and the mounts didn’t bend. Trick mirrors make a massive style difference and are even better when built to perform.
SpeedMetal 7MM Wheel Stripe Tape
Wheel tape costs less than a 12-pack of beer and adds a big visual upgrade to your bike. A couple rolls of SpeedMetal’s reflective wheel tape gets the job done front to rear and leaves room for some errors. Lift the bike on a front/rear stand and take it slow when applying for the best results.
**Montgomery Motorsports Carbon Fiber Kickstand
** In the highly visual world of custom sportbikes, it’s amazing that it took this long for a company to introduce a truly innovative kickstand that offers a high-tech look with adjustability for lowered rides. Montgomery Motorsports Carbon Fiber Kickstand is a true first, although only for the Hayabusa at this time. While a bit pricey, this piece will certainly make you the envy among your riding partners in every parking lot.
** Riser bars and a gel seat on a faired 2009 R1 doesn’t sound appealing on the surface but when you add high-grade carbon fiber bodywork, a built race-spec motor and a list of Superbike-standard performance parts the end result is jaw dropping. Not a stock bolt remained when the rocket scientist owner was complete. How often do you see an auto-blipper for downshifts on a streetbike?
** My pick reveals my penchant for mono-colored stretched machines with fat tires. It’s what I ride and I can only wish that my Kawi was as freakin’ clean as any of the ones that caught my eye in 2012. Peter Ojanpera’s “Stealth Bomber” ZX-10R blew me away with that matte titanium finish, 300 tire on a 6-over single-sided swingarm, and the custom-fabricated dual exhaust. And then there was Fredrik Steen’s turbocharged 1990 Gixxer with its totally twisted two-faced black-and-white color scheme. It was close, but my choice for best custom is Jo Oplotnik’s low-slung 240 Ducati 848. I could look at this bike forever and not get tired of it.
Instead of rewriting the rules of paint, the guys at Icon revamped a retro colorway first seen on the 1991 Kawasaki ZX-7. Sprayed across Team Green’s latest heavy hitter, the classic paint scheme became even better with age. By no means the most complex custom paint job of the year, it proved that sometimes simpler is better.
** Having been a custom painter in a past life, my criteria for aesthetic awesomeness covers elements other than simple color choice and depth of gloss. Nowadays, everything is cut and buffed to a smooth luster so I’m looking at the subtle details, the level of skill and artistic talent involved, and how it all ties in with the bike as a package. I’m not a big fan of elaborate paint jobs or theme bikes but when it’s executed as nice as Ali Long’s Cyborg Suzuki is, I have to give credit where it’s due.
What’s not to like about getting to see a hot film star taking a break from her day job to heat up a product shoot in the SSB studio? Not only is Daisy a pro in front of the camera, she’s sweet as can be in person and rides her own pink R6 too!
She rolled up in a blacked out CTS-V, sings in an electro band and loves going fast—plus she is smoking hot. To top it off she acted like one of the guys and was easy to work with. Summer made me rethink my affinity for brunettes.