2019 Motorcycle Review Wrap-Up

  • Here’s Part 2 of our 2019 Motorcycle Review Wrap-Up.

  • We continue with a batch of the next ten bikes.

  • Here are summaries of our verdicts.

The second batch of motorcycle reviews began in April. April holds a special place for us as it’s the month when we gear up for rides to Thailand to celebrate Songkran and the Phuket Bike Week. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to test bikes all the way there.

Still, we got the opportunity to ride one of the baddest bikes on the road and a newcomer to the middleweight adventure segment.

11. Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE

If you thought the Ninja H2 was mental, it makes as much sense as using a rocket launcher to kill a fly when it’s converted to a sport-tourer in the Ninja H2 SX.

It’s not about top speed (limited to 299 km/h anyway) but the sheer, visceral acceleration. To illustrate, cruise at a steady 110 km/h in sixth gear and slam on the throttle. It’ll hit 200 km/h in just about four highway lampposts. And that’s in L (low) power mode! It took only 17 minutes from BHP Gombak to Starbucks Gohtong Jaya without pushing it to knee scraping cornering and such. Talking about knee dragging, this thing handled really well, too!

All these with hard panniers and smile to go along with it.

12. Zontes ZT310-T, ZT310-X, ZT310-R

Zontes shows what a Chinese manufacturer could do when they think outside the box rather than CTRL+C CTRL+V others. But Guangdong Taiyo (manufacturer of Zontes motorcycles) demonstrates the willpower and courage to build almost everything in-house to control quality and address potential issues. This trio is just one small part of what they produce but they have gone to invade many markets around the world, so much so that there’s limited supply of stock (of bikes, not parts).

They were surprisingly good to ride and somewhat comparable to established brands. They’re not perfect but we’re confident that they will be sooner than later.

13. Kawasaki Z900RS Café

The Z900RS Café was one of the most awaited bikes along with its Z900RS brethren. Surely you’ve read this many times: It’s built as the soul successor to the groundbreaking Z1 from 1972. Yes, it looks great and there’s plenty of low-down torque and power but blighted by snatchy throttle response (on/off) and a mule-like rear shock. But hey, most don’t mind because they want how good a bike looks, instead.

14. Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

The Tracer 900 was a sales success in many parts of the world but there were things that many wished were addressed. And that’s exactly what the GT did. TFT screen, revised suspension, smooth throttle response, better seats, wider footpegs, longer swingarm, etc. etc. turns it into a legitimate sport-touring contender. Oh, let’s not forget the low price!

14. Moto Guzzi V85TT

The Piaggio group was very excited with the launch of the V85TT and so were many avid motorcycle fans. Here was a bike that looks good by mixing the elements from rally bikes with a modern classic. The result surprised even MG. The V85TT was an easy bike to just hop on and go without needing to worry about anything at all. Its handling catered to newbies and veterans alike, and it was comfortable to ride on the entire day. Shame that it costs much more than it should in Malaysia as it’s fully-CKD.

16. Honda PCX Hybrid

The first commercially available hybrid motorcycle. That electric motor certainly gave the bike that low-down punch which surprised many Ysuku riders. And it still saves lots of fuel! The Hybrid version is finished much more exquisitely than the run-of-the-mill PCX and attracted the attention of Honda City, Civic and Accord drivers when we tested it. The hybrid system really worked and we wish more bikes will be fitted with it in the future.

17. Kawasaki Z250 ABS

The Z250 is the naked version of the Ninja 250. While it doesn’t look as pretty as the Ninja 250, the suspension was something totally different. Hernia inducing bumpy roads, smooth roads, slippery road – it didn’t care. The engine was rev-happy and provided lots of hooligan-like entertainment. About the way it looks, well, we never bought into Kawasaki’s “Sugomi” design theme. We tried. Oh, we tried hard.

18. Yamaha YZR-R25

The 2019 YZF-R25 was given a facelift to look like the YZF-R6, but was also given upside-down forks. Other parts including the engine stayed the same. The forks made handling a whole world of difference compared to its predecessor – providing gobs of confidence to chuck the bike into corners despite the stock iRC tyres. However, the engine showed its age as it revved slowly. It shows just competitive the 250cc market is.

19. BMW R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure

We tested these two at one go. In shaping up for the imminent Euro 5 regulations, BMW built an entirely new Boxer engine. First, they took the capacity to 1254cc, and then topped it off with the BMW ShiftCam VVT/VVL head. Some may feel disappointed because the “feel” of the engine was almost exactly the same as the previous engine despite the hike in power and torque. But we called that an achievement because it retains the Boxer’s punchy yet smooth character. The new model is also equipped with new and revised electronics (including a bi-directional quickshifter) to make it even better as a long-haul runner.

20. BMW F 750 GS

The F 750 GS is actually the F 850 GS with the same engine but less power and meant for the road. But don’t let that stress you out because it was still a nice bike to ride. The suspension is a little tauter than the F 850 GS’s and uses 19-inch front and 17-inch rear cast alloy wheels. It’s a simple bike with nothing much to play around with apart from the excellent TFT screen, but it does allow you to fit all the luggage and accessories you need to an extended tour. That is in fact the main draw of the F-series. They cost less and are easier to maintain or repair.

  • Here’s Part 1 of our 2019 Motorcycle Review Wrap-Up.

  • We test nearly 40 bikes in 2019.

  • We summarize some of our verdicts here.

Looking back through 2019, we reviewed some 30 motorcycles. That’s why we decided to present our 2019 Motorcycle Review Wrap-Up, to welcome the new year.

We tested bikes in China, Morocco, Spain (multiple times including a tyre test), and Thailand (of course). The rest were conducted locally.

Here are the bikes we rode in 2019, in chronological order.

1. Yamaha YZF-R15

The YZF-R15 may be just a little 155cc sportbike but it’s just so much fun. What it lacks in outright horsepower it makes up in superb handling. We even scored a few kneedowns on it. We do need to say this: It did outrun the Yamaha “Ysuku” (Y15ZR”).

Read: 2019 Yamaha YZF-R15 Test & Review

2. BMW F 850 GS

We were super excited to receive this bike. It wasn’t just a 50cc hop-up from its predecessor, for it’s an entirely new bike. The supple suspension makes it comfortable for everyday use but that shows its intended off-road DNA. It has a lot more low- and midrange punch now, plus a whole lot more comfortable that the previous F 800 GS.

Read: BMW F 850 GS Test & Review

3. Honda CFR1100L Africa Twin

Yes, the Africa Twin has many fans but we kind of struggled to get to grips with the DCT 2 (Dual Clutch Transmission). Maybe it was because we needed more time to get used to it. In any case, the bike was good to ride, and we did a number of long trips out of town during testing. Great low-down and midrange torque for zipping around town with a long-legged highway prose.

Read: Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Test & Review

4. Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport

This model is the alpha bike of the Ducati Scrambler family, bedecked with Öhlins suspension. It sure was a soulful ride but it’s no Monster, of course. The fun is using that torque and handling to zap traffic. It can do some light off-roading, as well.

Read: Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Test & Review

5. Honda CB250R

The naked CB250R is the smallest model of what Honda calls the “Neo Sport Café” line-up. As the name suggests, it combines classic and modern styling elements. Well, styling is just styling because it’s a punchy little bike to ride. It may be a 250cc, but the acceleration would match something in the 300cc range, and the lack of weight makes it easy to throw around. Build quality was the typical top-notch Honda.

Read: Honda CB250R Test & Review

6. Honda CB1000R

While the CB250R was the smallest, the CB1000R was the taikor (big brother). It’s inline-four was sourced from the pre-2017, long-stroke, CBR1000RR Fireblade. Doing so gave the bike great low-down and midrange torque, while still maintaining enough top-end power to keep things entertaining. It’s a modern classic kind of bike with a single-sided swingarm.

Read: Honda CB1000R Test & Review

7. KTM 790 Adventure (790 Adventure R)

The KTM 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R represent the most off-road capable middleweight adventure bikes. The former is more road-oriented while the latter is an out-and-out off-roader. Still, they are both good to ride on the road. Confused? Well, just think of the base model being for the occasional off-road rider, while the “R” version is for hardcore riders. But you can still take either one for touring. New electronics, suspension, fuel tank placement, seats, etc. makes it a legitimate middleweight dual-sport contender.

Read: KTM 790 Adventure Test & Review

8. Ducati Hypermotard 950 (and Hypermotard 950 SP)

The King of Hooligan bikes. Bar none. Wheelie-happy, kneedown-happy, foot-out-happy, stoppie-happy and everything else in between. Ducati brought in more refinements for the 2019 model while still maintaining its rowdy character. This is one bike you just couldn’t be nice on!

Read: Ducati Hypermotard 950 Test & Review

9. Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE

Kawasaki is rightfully proud of the ZX-10R as it’s the multiple WorldSBK title winner, after all. The ZX-10R SE isn’t the WorldSBK homologation model (that’s the ZX-10RR) but it has the new Showa electronic suspension. It’s claimed to work faster than their rival Öhlins’ offering. It was certainly true as the damping rights made the bike less tiresome to ride on public roads. The bike’s chassis shows a bit of its age where it still has a stiff frontal area, where almost all new superbikes have gone the softer route. It means that you would need more effort to get the front to lean into corners compared to the others. Also, the inline-four engine is tuned for higher power, so it needs to get above 6,000 RPM before any real acceleration happens.

Read: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Test and Review

10. Ducati Diavel 1260 S

The Diavel 1260 S is 90% new. A lot of work had gone into giving the bike butch features such as electronics, display panels, bodywork panels, etc. However, the biggest news has to be the engine as its now powered by the Desmo Variable Timing (DVT) equipped 1262cc Testastretta V-Twin from the Multistrada 1260. It means more power, of course, but the DVT gives the bike engine a more precise engine response, rather than a sudden kick.

Read: Ducati Diavel 1260 S Test & Review


That’s Part 1 for now. Stay tuned for further instalments.


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