Reviewing cars, trucks and motorcycles is a big part of our job here at Gear Patrol. After all, we’re here to tell you about the best products out there, and in order to do that, we need to know ourselves what’s worth considering and what doesn’t deserve a second glance. That means a lot of seat time — both on saddles and in climate-controlled interiors.
Last year, we had the chance to hop in and out of an incredible variety of machines, both two-wheeled and four-wheeled alike. On the former front, the biggest news was the appearance of truly mainstream electric motorcycles, with Zero Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson’s new models fighting it out for EV supremacy. But 2019 also saw the arrival of plenty of other cool bikes, stretching from ADVs to cruisers to a genre-breaking muscle bike from Italy.
Here, we’ve pulled together a list of the best motorcycles we rode last year, to give you a chance to remember the great bikes that 2019 brought in. And expect to see plenty more such reviews here in 2020.
2019 Zero Motorcycles SR/F
“When an electric bike promises cost savings, environmental friendliness and one-of-a-kind thrills, you pay attention. Zero Motorcycles has been at this game for 13 years, outlasting fly-by-night competitors and even impacting Harley-Davidson. The Zero SR/F flies contrary to the hallmarks of classic motorcycling: there’s no engine to purr, no gears to shift, no neutral to pop it into at a light. But any doubts whoosh away the moment you twist the throttle; try going from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than two seconds. Green means go, baby.” —Steve Mazzucchi
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire
“The first EV from the Motor Company delivers something few, if any, other manufacturers have managed: a well-rounded, battery-driven two-wheeler that comes with a distinctly formed sense of identity. Thanks to well-executed user interface details and an engaging riding experience, the LiveWire delivers more than you might expect, especially given Harley’s predictable propensity for V-twin-powered thump-a-lump. Say what you will about the hefty MSRP or the charging limitations — the LiveWire manages to surprise and delight enough to make Harley-Davidson’s future look very bright, indeed.” —Basem Wasef
2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
Photo: Sam Bendall
“Scrambler-style motorcycle are jacks-of-all-trades, and like any such compromised proposition, concessions must be made. But in that category, there’s no doubt the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE raises the bar to a new level. It’s not the best on the road — but going in and out of corners, it still inspires more confidence than most other road bikes. It’s not the last word in off-road performance — but it’s more sure-footed than some bikes built specifically for the dirt. The only mistake here is that the company undersold this bike by calling it a “scrambler” when it’s something far greater: a naked ADV.” —Bryan Campbell
2019 Indian FTR 1200
“The FTR 1200 will almost certainly succeed in its goals of opening up new markets for Indian. Sure, it’s a looker, which is imperative when going against the Ducatis and Triumphs of the world. But more importantly, its engine, smooth power delivery, and spectacular balance should tick all boxes with demanding European and Japanese buyers — especially those looking for an American bike that delivers on its promises.” —Nicolas Stetcher
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP
“The Hypermotard manages to be more focused than ever on comfort and user-friendliness, without sacrificing any of the engaging personality that made it so groundbreaking when it first debuted. It’s a delicate balance, especially considering how motorcycles can easily tip into becoming annoying or anodyne when their winning formula is messed with. The latest Hypermotard isn’t everything to everybody, especially if you’re looking for a long-distance bike that carries saddlebags. But for an undeniably fun bike to ride that’s more than just an urban runabout, Ducati’s latest iteration of the Hyper is just about ideal.” —Basem Wasef
2019 Indian Chieftain Limited
“From a pure performance standpoint, the Chieftain is a dream on the highway. I took it on a 500-mile weekend roundtrip to central Pennsylvania, and it devoured the distance, even negotiating an unexpected stretch of climbing up a gravel off-road path. The bike feels super-stable, even when surrounded by wind-shearing semis. And the V-twin engine paired with a six-speed transmission is smooth and responsive — to the point where you can easily hit 90 miles per hour without noticing just how fast you’re going.” —Steve Mazzucchi
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260S Review
Photo: M. Neundorf & C. Merey
“The Ducati Diavel 1260S does so much more than raise eyebrows when parked. It’s comfortable enough to handle extended touring trips, nimble enough to hang with supersports in the twisty bits and isn’t fazed by the confines of city life. The new Diavel 1260S is a unique motorcycle that offers a visceral, athletic riding experience — one that, quite simply, needs to be sampled to be understood.” —Matt Neundorf