Before the onslaught of coronavirus, the motorcycle market was booming in the UK. Despite Brexit, annual sales last year were up to 107,551 – an increase of 1.6% on 2018.
Sadly, it hasn't been all positive, though. Indeed, after more than 120 years of trading, the famous British motorbike company Norton Motorcycles went into administration in January.
There's no doubt annual motorbike sales will take a dive this year – thanks, COVID-19.
But in the spirit of ‘this too shall pass’, we thought we’d still take a look at a selection of the latest machines on the market.
So, whether you fancy cruising across the continent (remember Brexit?), heading for the hills, having a blast around your local circuit, or even enjoying some plug and play on a Harley, here’s our pick of the best – for when the world is ready for them…
DUCATI SCRAMBLER 1100
Scrambler motorcycles are dual-purpose machines. They’re the equivalent of 4x4 cars. Most of the time they will be used for street work and commuting, but on the odd occasion if the owner fancies some fun, they can happily head off the black stuff.
Ducati entered the scrambler market in 2015 and it’s had terrific success. To be fair, its original scrambler bikes tended to err on the off-road side of the market but, as with most 4x4 cars, there’s been a desire for hunky looks but with an eye firmly set on road work.
The 1,079cc engine is great for lazy riding but with plenty of oomph for some serious acceleration.
There are two new models in the 1100 range – the Ducati Scrambler 1100 PRO (£11,295) and the Sport PRO (£12,795). Both have just gone on sale.
They’re bigger than the Scrambler 800 both in terms of dimensions and weight. OK, the 1100 ‘feels’ bigger and doesn’t quite have the chuckability of the 800, but it’s not aimed at the same sort of owner. The 800 is brilliant for novice riders while the 1100 is aimed at the more experienced owner. We’ll avoid using the word ‘mature.’
TRIUMPH ROCKET 3
If you saw figures for an engine which read 2,500cc, 180bhp, 7,000rpm redline, fuel consumption 41mpg, top speed limited to 138mph via a 6-speed manual gearbox, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking we were talking about the latest hatchback or family runabout.
However, those are the figures for the latest Triumph Rocket III. Power comes from the world’s biggest motorcycle production engine.
Oh, and here’s another figure: £19,500.
There are two models available – the 3R and 3GT. The only differences are that the GT has a more feet-forward driving position and a lower seat. The handlebars are wider, too. If you enjoy long-distance cruising, the GT is the one to go for. You’ll need to find a further £700, but you’ll get a pillion backrest and heated hand grips as standard.
The Rocket 3 is incredibly imposing and supremely stylish. The aluminium frame is brand new as is the carbon-fibre bodywork, brushed aluminium features, leather seat, TFT dials, 20-spoke wheels and twin headlights. You even get different rider selection modes – Road, Rain, Sport, and Rider-Configurable.
This is a hugely desirable bike. Join the queue.
Whereas the Triumph Rocket 3 has a lot of mass, plenty of folk want a ‘bobber’ – low-slung style without the bulk. This is where the latest Honda Rebel 500 scores. It has the looks of a Harley Davidson but doesn’t have the price tag.
Powered by a 471cc, 47bhp parallel twin-cylinder engine, with strong bottom end torque, it is the sort of bike that will happily amble around town but also stretch its legs on dual carriageways.
The 6-speed gearbox is really slick and the suspension is set-up for comfy riding. You can also guarantee that it’ll be reliable, just like any Honda. Mechanically, they’re bulletproof.
The retro styling is really smart and the bike has been built with an eye on being able to customise it.
The Rebel is also A2 licence compatible meaning it’s a great bike to use before making the final step up to an unrestricted licence. A price tag of £5,699 and around 60 mpg isn’t bad for a one-way ticket to cool.
YAMAHA YZF R1
We featured this motorcycle three years ago and raved about it. Bearing in mind the R1 was developed under the watchful eye of multi-MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, you know that it’s going to be fantastic.
However you need to be an experienced rider to get the best out of it because this bike is all about speed. The latest machine has been uprated and, you won’t be surprised to read, it is still one of the best Super Sport bikes available anywhere.
Styling now reflects even more closely the bike you’ll see on the MotoGP circuits with the aerodynamics incrementally improved. Most of this will be beneficial for the speeds you should only really be reaching on a track.
The 998cc engine and suspension set-up now has seven electronic rider controls. Power output stays the same with peak 200bhp arriving at a staggering 13,500 rpm. The price is £16,945. You can also get a race track version (R1M) for £22,145.
HARLEY DAVIDSON LIVEWIRE
SMIDSY is a motorcycle rider’s worst nightmare: ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You’. Well now you can add ‘I Didn’t Hear You’ because Harley Davidson has launched the LiveWire.
This is their first electrically powered motorcycle (a world first from a major manufacturer) and, as the PR blurb says, ‘The loudest sound you hear will be your heart racing.’
But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is some underpowered, underwhelming city runabout. It is the most powerful bike that Harley Davidson has ever produced: zero-60mph takes just 3 seconds because, just as with a Tesla, as soon as you apply the power, you have all of it –100 per cent. The 60mph to 80mph time is a mind-blurring 1.9 seconds.
There’s no clutch to release, no gears to run through, all you do is flick your wrist and take off. In other words, from a standing start, you won’t be far behind the Yamaha R1.
The range is around 95 miles on a full charge. You can plug it into the mains at home for a full overnight charge, or if you visit a charging station you can get a full charge in around an hour.
It ain’t cheap – we’re talking £28,995 – but if you want to save the planet, and rip it up on the odd occasion, the LiveWire could be what you’ve been waiting for.