Wednesday, March 2, 2011

10 Great First Bikes

Motorcycles Spotlight10
Zero Electric Motorcycles
It's not, in my opinion, a question of whether or not electric motorcycles will become popular. It's a question of when.
Though the Zero X dirtbike I threw a leg over a couple of years ago wasn't exactly perfect (or particularly cheap), it offered new sensations you simply don't expect on a motorized bike, among them eerily quiet operation and oodles of seamless torque.
Zero has added a fifth model to their 2011 lineup, and the new XU ("Urban Crosser") combines the brand's offroad chassis with street gear for a supermoto-type ride-- sort of an restyled and updated "S" model.
The new XU model, unlike Zeros of the past, offers a removable battery and an optional standalone charger in case you don't have a power outlet in your garage. Though range is a paltry 30 miles (and the 50 pound battery's quite a bit to lug), the XU has an updated lithium ion battery pack with a new quick-charge feature that drops recharge times by 50%, down to one hour.
Still a premium product with a $7,995 price tag, the Zero XU represents the inch-by-inch progression of electric motorcycles towards more widespread viability. I'll be track-testing the 2011 lineup in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for a review!
Victory Police Motorcycles
The photograph above is completely tongue-in-cheek*, but its implicit suggestion is simple: Victory motorcycles could out-perform Harley-Davidsons in the arena of law enforcement. Add to that a Victory vs. BMW YouTube video and a quote from a Tuscon PD Motor Sargeant who says, "It can do everything a Harley can do, only more and better," and you've got the makings for a serious battle from an upstart outfitter intent on selling Victory bikes to American police departments.
Arizona-based Victory Police Motorcycles-- not affiliated directly with Victory or Polaris, apart from dealer ties-- offers two models: the windshield-equipped Commander I (based on a Kingpin), and the fully-faired Commander II (based on a Cross-Country.) Both bikes are powered by a 97 horsepower, 106 cubic inch V-twin, and can be ordered as turnkey units with the requisite lights, sirens, crash bars, and miscellaneous law enforcement accoutrement.
Could Victory police motorcycles catch on and challenge the red & blue two-wheeled establishment (like Kawasaki, BMW, and Honda)? Time will tell, as will the question of whether or not the bikes are perceived as truly worthy for police duty, or simply a patriotic option in the face of other viable (and pre-established) alternatives.
Quail Motorcycle Gathering
Classic motorcycle events don't enjoy the same consistency as their four-wheeled counterparts.
I enjoyed the Legend of the Motorcycle soiree at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay in 2007 and 2008, but that event has since (and sadly) been retired. Classic bikes made a guest appearance at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance; while it was surely a lovely proceeding, I'd hardly consider squatting at a car show a proper way to fully appreciate two-wheeled splendor.
Marcus Moto Design F1 Tracker
It doesn't quite qualify as one of the world's most expensive motorcycles, but the F1 Tracker-- conceived, designed and constructed by Swede Marcus Carlsson-- is certainly one of the most unique.


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