Naked or retro? The 6 best motorbikes right now

From cafe racers to Grand Tourers, there's a perfect bike for every gentleman

Motorbikes seemingly never go out of style. From Steve McQueen to Ewan McGregor, some of the most celebrated alpha-males, past and present, are synonymous with then.  You simply can’t beat a two-wheeled hunk of metal roaring beneath you on the open road (or when making a Great Escape).

And at Gentleman’s Journal, we never tire of writing about glorious bikes.

We spoke with motorcycle journalist Phil West, judge in Auto Trader’s Best Bike Awards 2018, about the hottest bikes out there right now, and which would make the smartest choice for you…

Best Sports & Overall Bike: Ducati Panigale V4S

“Ducati revolutionizes the superbike class yet again with this all-new, ultra-sophisticated and dazzlingly fast V4. The sheer brilliance — and speed — of the Panigale utterly vindicates them. Fast, sophisticated, exotic and sublime this is the new superbike standard.

Why it roars: “It has the most power, is the fastest, has the best electronics, has class-leading handling too and is Italian, gorgeous, exclusive and exotic. No wonder this bike has been crowned Auto Trader’s Bike of the Year 2018.”

Best Retro: CCM Spitfire

“The Spitfire is fabulous looking, decently specced and, by all accounts, a hoot to ride as well. In other words it’s a fashion victim ‘toy’ – and a brilliantly executed one at that.”

Why it roars: “Hand built in Bolton by historic British cottage bike builder CCM, the new Spitfire is a response to the fashion for retro-influenced café racer/scrambler fun bikes. It’s available in a variety of styles – all of them raw and unfettered by equipment or even comfort – so sensible or even effective transport, it is not. But as a lively and fun style statement, the Spitfire has few rivals.”

Best Tourer: Honda Gold Wing GL1800

“There’s no getting away from the fact that the ‘full-dresser’ market is very niche. So much so that there really are only three or four bikes which qualify. Going by the abilities and spec of this latest model, this new one will prove just as successful as previous ‘Wings.”

Why it roars: “New Gold Wings don’t come around very often so this all-new 2018 example (the last was in 2001) is big, big news. It’s been worth the wait, too: more power, lighter weight, a DCT option and more equipment than most can imagine.

Best Adventure: BMW R1200GS Adventure

“The adventure version of BMW’s class-defining GS has been the benchmark adventure bike for decades and, since 2013, led the way for refinement, sophistication and versatility. This latest updated version keeps it ahead of the pack. It’s a Range Rover Vogue among adventure bikes: Definitive, ultra refined and with an immense spec.”

Why it roars: “The standard GS remains a best seller for good reason and was updated with improved electronics and TFT screen in 2017. The big-tank, more rugged, more off-road Adventure variant is the ultimate version of the breed and gets these same updates (and more) for 2018. The adventure bike by which all others are measured.”

Best Sports Tourer: Yamaha Tracer 900GT

“The original Tracer 900 was a great bike. For 2018 it’s been improved with revised bodywork and seating, while this top spec GT version is even better yet. A true do-it-all machine.”

Why it roars: “Three-cylinder MT-09 underpinnings are lively and fun, updated Tracer comfort and practicality give true versatility while the new GT trimmings (panniers, adjustable suspension, TFT screen, heated grips and more) add a real touch of class.”

Best Naked: Triumph Speed Triple RS

“The Speed Triple, certainly since the first 1050 in 2005, has always been the super naked you could buy with your head and heart – a thrilling, invigorating, characterful performance roadster with added real-world practicality and value. With this Speedie, you really CAN have your cake and eat it.”

Why it roars: “The reworked Triple gives 10bhp extra, there’s a new colour TFT display, updated electronics, new wheels and, in top spec RS form, Ohlins suspension, Arrow cans, further electronics updates, carbon goodies and more.”

To find out more about the best bikes around at the moment check out the Auto Trader 2018 Best Bikes Award winners here.

If you prefer four wheels to two check out the best five modern classic cars to invest in now

Further Reading