The unique and varied bikes we enjoyed across the year

We at Road Dirt saw incredible growth across the 2021 year and with it, a widening circle of relationships with motorcycle manufacturers. We’ve had the opportunity to sample quite a variety of bikes this year, and frankly, we loved them all. So when we kicked around the idea of sharing our “Top 5 Faves” for the past 12 months, we honestly had a tough time selecting just five. We found much to love in each one we got to throw a leg over. Unlike the days of old, when brands would occasionally “lay an egg” with a debut model, motorcycles today are state-of-the-art, high-tech, very well-built machines from manufacturers who take form and function seriously. No lemons here.

So after some spirited discussion, a bit of shouting, and one thumb-wrestling bout, here’s our 2021 Top Five Fave Motorcycles. In no particular order, mind you. Another condition we arm-wrestled over.

MV Agusta Superveloce- The Hot Italian

Rob flew to St. Petersburg, Florida for a week to blast around the Gulf Coast Bay Area on this gem. Considered by some moto publications to be the most beautiful motorcycle of 2021, the MV Agusta Superveloce is indeed a stunner, to look upon and to ride. Rob was so smitten with the bike, his story was written referring to the Superveloce in the feminine, equating the bike with a beautiful, volatile Italian woman.

In Rob’s own words, “Strolling around the Superveloce, admiring her lines, I’m drawn to the beautifully arched single-sided swingarm, revealing her gold rear rim to the right, six spokes paired and angled like Lola Pagnani dancing in the Cirque du Soleil. The 800cc triple exhales via a triple stack of menacing black and brushed aluminum pipes. Juxtaposed with that sexy rear wheel, and you’ve got Lola brandishing a triple-barreled scatter gun. The gold trellis frame tastefully reveals just enough of her powerplant, beckoning you to peer (leer?) a little deeper, a bit closer, while trying not to be obvious. Eyes up here, young man. Geez, this bike is hot.”

Yeah, he got a little PG in his review. Kinda weird, if you ask us. But the bike has been a hit around the world for its looks and lines, hearkening back to the MV Agusta Tre bikes that Giacomo Agostini won so many world championships on in the late 60s-early 70s. It’s one powerful performer too, sporting MV’s F3 800 incredible powerplant. Rob loved it, and we do too.

For our review, click here- MV Agusta Superveloce

Triumph Rocket 3R Black- The Beautiful Beast

We were gifted the chance to spend the better part of a month with the largest displacement production motorcycle on the planet, the Triumph Rocket 3R Black limited edition, and took full advantage of the opportunity. Phil and Rob were the wrists entrusted with the beast, and with their relative size differences (Phil stands 6’2”, Rob all of 5’8”), disparate riding styles and backgrounds, we knew their impressions would be quite varied. They both came to love the Rocket 3R for different reasons, which is why pairing them with it was such a good idea.

Rob found the new Rocket 3R, with its bumped-up 2500cc inline triple engine, a shockingly easy-to-ride monster of a bike, smooth to shift, low and manageable in maneuvering, yet thrilling to throttle through corners, curves and twisties. As he opined, “I became comfortable quickly on the Rocket 3R, which surprised me… In no time I was diving the beast deep through corners, accelerating out with confidence, and tossing it around like a much smaller standard or naked sport. Almost. With its low, centralized mass and huge tires, I can’t call it effortless in corners, but it dives in, holds a line, and straightens up back on throttle way better than a massive machine normally would. The perfect ‘super power cruiser’, or two-wheeled ‘roadster’? I’m impressed, that’s for sure.”

Phil’s impressions were, “The Rocket 3R is a fun, fast yet comfortable, compliant motorcycle designed for around town riding, day trips to hit mountain twisties and could even be ridden long range with the right accessories. As Rob and I both demonstrated, the rider triangle is accommodating for a variety of rider sizes and should be strongly considered by anyone looking to ride a great looking bike that is crazy powerful yet supremely manageable. Wherever we rolled through towns the bike was an attention-grabber, pedestrians stopping to gaze at the wonderful design elements of the bike and that beastly powerplant. As we observed this phenomenon, we could see people’s minds churning, trying to find a reference for what they were gawking at. All I could think was, ‘Forget it sir or m’am, there is no comparison to what you are beholding.’”

For our review click here- Triumph Rocket 3R Black

Royal Enfield Meteor 350- The Compact Cruiser

On the opposite end of the motorcycle spectrum, we were afforded a month with the brand new Royal Enfield Meteor 350 before it officially debuted in April. The world’s oldest continually-in-production motorcycle brand designed from the ground up an all-new machine, constructed around a diminutive 350cc single thumper engine, and gave it the name of a popular model they built and sold back in the 1950s in England and India. With an American cruiser vibe and ride, the Meteor has sold incredibly for Royal Enfield, both here and around the world. The bike was a bit small for our testers over 5’10”, but Rob felt it fit him like a glove, and sporting his favorite SA1NT riding gloves, he rode the crap out of the bike, everywhere, nearly every day.

Rob’s musings- “Over the past three weeks, we’ve logged over 400 miles on the Meteor, riding it as Royal Enfield designed and built it for- long country roads, occasional dirt, through city streets, and work commutes. The metallic tank holds a magnetic tank bag easily, a pair of throw-over saddlebags bungee nicely to the passenger grab rails, and the bike proves to be a capable mini-cruiser on American roads as it is already across India’s city and countryscapes. I enjoyed just loping along on open country stretches south of our home, found it a light touch to maneuver through congested streets of our nearby town of Monroe, Georgia, and even throttled the Meteor through some tight twisties on several “secret” roads the fellas and I negotiate for getting our ‘hooligan’ on with bikes. The minuscule Meteor does it all.”

The Meteor is a fantastic, small displacement, do-everything well motorbike. What knocked us out was the affordability to quality ratio- an excellent built, solid motorcycle for under 5 grand (USD). As we observed in our review, “The value packed into this half-pint cruiser is hard to beat for the price.”

For our review click here- Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Harley-Davidson Pan America- Playing In The Dirt Again

Ted Edwards and Road Dirt friend Donni Reddington had a pair of Harley-Davidson Pan Americas for several days out in the Pacific Northwest, and brought a unique comparison/contrast to the review of this all-new, paradigm shifting offering by the venerable Motor Company. Ted is a street sport bike guy, and Donni is a dirt racing gal. They were the perfect pairing for this comparo story. Ted would write from the standpoint of how well the big American ADV handles as a road tourer, while Donni would critique the machine on its dirt chops. What they shared was a well-rounded evaluation of a truly remarkable motorcycle, and the shakeup the bike brings to Harley’s traditional moto world.

Ted asserted, “Kill your thoughts about Harley-Davidson entering the adventure bike market. They’re not. They are going back to their roots… Sport mode unleashed the beast. Choose your poison from the six speed gearbox with the assisted and slipper clutch and make sure the bike is pointed in the right direction. For a few miles I pushed the Pan America and entertained the leaves with antics no Harley-Davidson should be capable of. I late braked the 19” front and 17” rear Michelin Anakee Wild knobby tires with their radially mounted Brembo Monoblock calipers on 320mm floating rotors until the ABS cried enough. It is likely few riders will ever ride a Pan America like this but should they try, as they could potentially embarrass many an average sport bike rider.  We agreed that when ridden properly, this bike hauls ass. Donni passed a plodding van and squealed with glee at the power hit.”

In the dirt, Donni recounted, “‘I have ridden many adventure bikes,’ Donni said at camp that night, ‘from BMW GS series, Africa Twins, KTMs and the Yamaha Tenere.  Out of all of them, I would take this Harley.’  Strong words from someone who makes her living in the ADV industry.”

For our review click here- Harley-Davidson Pan America

Honda Rebel 1100 DCT- Automatic Action

We were given a 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 DCT for a month, and immediately found the revolutionary Honda Dual Clutch Transmission a shocking delight. We never thought we’d enjoy automatic motorcycles, but this new offering from Honda’s outside-the-box thinkers had us quickly singing its praises. And that they affixed it to an entirely new, full size Rebel, a line that first premiered back in 1985, was a stroke of genius to us. A bike for the masses, young and old, new and veteran, women and men alike, with a trove of customizability and versatility. We mused, “Could this be one possible glimpse into the future of motorcycling?” Since the last generation that grew up learning to drive with clutch shifting is rapidly aging out of motorcycling (Boomers), maybe this is an idea whose time has finally come.

Rob observed, “Okay, I know what some are thinking- ‘No clutch means no fun,’ or ‘automatics are for sissys,’ or ‘that’s not a real motorcycle if you’re not shifting with a clutch.’ Blah, blah, blah. Those same critics likely drive a car or truck with an automatic tranny, and they haven’t stick-shifted a ‘cage’ in years, maybe decades. So let’s be open to new things, people. And may I remind us all, automatic motorcycles have been developed and sold by many moto brands over the years, and the tech keeps getting better with each new iteration. This Honda DCT system was derived from Honda’s Formula 1 racing and high performance automobiles, and is also offered on the new Africa Twin and on the Goldwing since 2018. And it’s sweet.”

Phil opined, “Overall I think Honda has done an excellent job on the Rebel 1100 DCT. It has a nice blacked out finish, a smooth quick engine and is a great value. I look forward to seeing how far they can tune and deliver the DCT transmission. This bike provides a legitimate clutch & shiftless fossil fueled option to new riders coming into the culture. Now where did they park that Goldwing?”

For our review click here- Honda Rebel 1100 DCT

There were so many more bikes that we absolutely loved riding this year- the new H-D Sportster, Triumph’s little Trident and beloved Daytona 765, even Harley’s legendary Heritage Classic, the beautiful and powerful Indian Chief, among others. It’s been a great year for great motorcycles, and we’ve enjoyed our time with every one we’ve experienced. So we look back over 2021 with the deep satisfaction felt after a wonderful day’s ride, and anticipate even greater roads in the year ahead.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours, and we look forward to riding into ’22 with you!

The Road Dirt Crew

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