Years are always defined by bikes in my mind’s eye. I can’t distinguish one year from the next – or previous – unless I can remember what bike I was riding, or the
hottest new model launched that year. Once I have, everything comes flooding back to me with complete clarity.
This year has been defined by Kawasaki’s insanely effective Ninja H2 SX, a bike that should be as compromised by its forced induction as Kawasaki’s 750 Turbo that came more than three decades before it. But it isn’t. It’s superb in almost every way and you can read the full test report in this issue of What Bike?
So what bike will define 2019? Will it be one of the increasing barrage of adventure bikes already – or about to be – unveiled? BMW’s clever new ShiftCam R1250GS, Moto Guzzi’s V85TT, or perhaps the new KTM 790 Adventure we expect to be see before the end of the year? Or could it be Indian’s fantastic all-new FTR1200S? It looks set to be the benchmark for flat-track or scrambler style retros for 2019, blending stunning good looks with excellent build quality, and a cheeky 120bhp V-twin that makes Ducati’s Scrambler 1100 feel dull.
Maybe. But I can’t help thinking that one of the sales successes of the New Year could be more about rose-tinted glasses and a cunningly simplistic homage than any number of more impressive technical or engineering strokes of genius.
I’m talking about Suzuki’s new Katana (p8). It might just be a GSX-S1000 beneath its angular and evocative 1980s-aping bodywork, but that’s missing the point entirely. The clever trick is that it taps into a part of our brains that craves the romance of the bikes of our past, with the full recognition that very few of us can stomach their maintenance demands or reliability issues. If Suzuki get the price right (and this is a crucial ‘if’) they could enjoy one of the laziest success stories since they chucked an aging engine in a simple street bike and called it a Bandit.
But don’t worry if the Katana isn’t your thing – just look at what else 2019 could bring you. It’s going to be a vintage year.
What’s inside this issue
Real world tests of all the latest showroom fillers.
New bike listings
The UK's most comprehensive new motorcycle guide - with expert reviews, ratings, pictures and prices of over 300 new bikes.
The 1000 mile test
Our riding kit put through its paces so you can buy with confidence.