Each year, motorcycle manufacturers task their designers, mechanics, and engineers with delivering upgraded bikes for the coming model year, updating the aesthetics and bolstering power and overall performance, all while adhering to increasingly stringent emissions standards. Despite this being a fairly monumental undertaking, it’s a vital part of convincing the motorcycling public to shell out their hard-earned money for the latest and greatest two-wheeled offerings. And with today’s motorcycle market arguably being more competitive than ever before, we thought we’d take the time out to highlight the finest models the industry has in store for the 2021 model year.
With more than a decade having passed since the global recession of 2008, the majority of major motorcycle manufacturers have managed to bounce back, now possessing the resources needed to develop new models across a host of styles and classes. Satisfactory sales numbers have also given way to an increasingly diverse market that includes a growing number of purpose-engineered models, from entry-level adventure models to 200mph+ superbikes capable of going toe-to-toe with the latest MotoGP machines. So, after poring over every model release from the last year, let’s dive into our picks for the best new motorcycles you can buy off the lot.
Reasons To Get On Two-Wheels In 2021
The Latest & Greatest Features & Elements On New Production Motorcycles
As previously stated, today’s new motorcycle market is incredibly diverse in terms of the bikes’ size, style, engine configuration, and amenities, though there are a few traits and characteristics that are largely present on 2021 models across the board. Below, we’ll be exploring some of the greatest strength and features offered on today’s latest crop of scoots.
More Power: While there are obviously numerous other key factors involved, horsepower (and torque) has long been used as a go-to means of conveying a bike’s potency. Today’s latest sport and superbikes boast unworldly amounts of power that are often more in line with the figures you’d see on automobiles than two-wheelers. This metric counts for more than just numbers of the dyno, and translates to hair-raising top-speeds.
Improved Mechanics: Not only are the newest bikes the most powerful, but their cutting-edge engines also offer unparalleled reliability and maintenance intervals easily exceeding 10,000 miles. The current Euro5 emissions standards have also ushered in models with improved fuel economy and reduced emissions outputs. There are also other modern mechanical elements such as variable valve timing, quick-shifters, and assist/slipper clutches that further enhance a motorcycle’s performance and rideability.
Advanced Electronics: Even the most talented riders on earth would seriously struggle with managing the immense oomph of 200 horses being sent to the back wheel. As a result, high-performance motorcycles are outfitted with a suite of electronic rider assists that, amongst other things, helps to keep their enormous power in check. Modern motorcycles also feature other advanced electronics systems such as lean angle-sensitive ABS, wheelie, slide, launch, and traction control, as well as different fuel maps and electronically-regulated active suspension setups.
Industrial Design: Quite possibly the most obvious selling point associated with buying a new motorcycle is a bike’s outward appearance. Whether hailing from America, Japan, Germany, Sweden, or Italy, the latest crop of two-wheelers feature the sleekest and most modern bodywork and visual themes. And, because pretty much every new motorcycle offers relatively solid performance—at least compared to earlier models—there’s nothing wrong with letting your aesthetic tastes play a guiding role in making your purchase.
Aerodynamics: Just like with traction control, winglets first appeared on MotoGP bikes before eventually trickling down to production models. And though they were at first reserved for homologation specials and track-only models, winglets and other down-force-generating aerodynamic bits have more and more started appearing as standard fare, even on nakeds and adventure models. On top of bolstering stability, handling, and overall performance, winglets sport an unmistakably modern and race-derived appearance that adds to a bike’s appeal. Winglets aside, the bodywork on new models almost always offers a better, more slippery drag-coefficient compared to outgoing model years.
The Latest Bells & Whistles: Similarly to the automotive industry, the motorcycle world in recent years has been increasingly permeated with cutting-edge computer-driven technology and components. TFT touchscreen displays, Bluetooth connectivity and smart tuning apps, ride-by-wire throttles, tire pressure sensing monitors, and other tech-driven bits have more and more become commonplace in the two-wheeled realm.
Competitive Pricing: Buying the latest high-performance nakeds or superbikes has never come cheap, and that reality isn’t changing in 2021. The entry-level motorcycle market, however, is a different story entirely. As the beginner-friendly segment has hugely expanded in recent years. manufacturers have managed to deliver more and more accessibly-priced models, typically boasting MSRPs that are around or below the $5,000 mark. This factor on its own represents a pretty solid reason to invest in a new motorcycle.
2021 KTM 390 ADV
Initially debuting with the Duke 390 in 2012, KTM’s 390 platform has been an incredibly successful addition to the Ready To Race brand’s lineup, offering a beginner-friendly package that still boasts plenty of thrills, as well as running gear that’s typically reserved for larger, more high-dollar bikes. In response to the continued customer demand, the Austrian outfit has finally built an entry-level adventure motorcycle around the 390 platform. Taking obvious aesthetic design inspiration from its 890 and 1290cc siblings, the 390 ADV is equipped with crash bars, a skid-plate, handguards, and numerous other off-road upgrades.
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 373.2cc Single
Power: 43hp / 27.3ft-lbs
2021 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
After an extended, multi-decade hiatus, Husqvarna announced in 2014 that it would be returning to the street bike market with the launch of its neo-retro Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401 models. And after a ridiculously warm public reception, the Swedish firm proceeded to green-light the 401 models, along with the larger 701 models, the latest of which to break cover was the 701 Vitpilen. Powered by a punchy 692.7cc counter-balanced single, the Vitpilen 701 puts an idiosyncratic spin on the custom moto scene’s traditional flat tracker visual theme with a low-profile headlight and neo-retro tracker tail with integrated number boards, coupled with one of the most unique gas tank designs of the last decade.
Engine: 692.7cc Liquid-Cooled OHC Single
Power: 75hp / 53.1ft-lbs
2021 Yamaha Tenere 700
First unveiled at EICMA in 2016, Yamaha’s Tenere 700 is another highly-anticipated model that after several years, has finally entered production and is available for purchase at local dealerships. The successor to the mighty XT660Z, the Tenere 700—or “T7”—is powered by a modified version of the Tuning Fork Company’s proven MT-07 DOHC parallel-twin, though it’s been tuned for more low-end grunt in order to better lend itself to off-road applications. On top of its engine architecture, the T7 is also heavily visually inspired by Yamaha’s Dakar Rally racers with the tall windscreen, navigation tower, and extended range fuel cells.
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 689cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 72.4hp / 50.2ft-lbs
Weight: 452lbs (Wet)
2021 Indian FTR1200
After making its triumphant return to American Flat Track Racing in 2017, Indian Motorcycle proceeded to utterly dominate the competition, thanks to some incredibly skilled pilots and its extremely-potent FTR750 factory race bike. Celebrating the FTR750’s immense success on the dirt oval, American oldest moto marque opted to shake things up and introduce a road-going model inspired by its AFT-winning factory race bike. A major departure from Indian’s cruiser bikes, the FTR1200 is a decidedly sporty American-made motorcycle, with high-performance suspension and brakes, and a full electronics suite including multiple ride modes. Indian also offers an even higher-specced S-version, as well as a number of bolt-on accessory packages for the FTR.
Engine: 1,203cc Liquid-Cooled DOHC 60° V-Twin
Power: 123hp / 87ft-lbs
2021 BMW F 900 XR
BMW Motorrad first introduced the world to its F 900 XR back in May of 2018 as the “Concept 9cento,” and after another incredibly warm public reception, the Bavarian brand opted to fast-track the modular sport-tourer for production. The F 900 XR is a versatile machine that’s conducive to commuting and urban riding duties as well as long-range touring applications, with an 895cc parallel twin that makes for a planted yet nimble ride. Other highlights on the top-shelf tourer include an optional suite of hard luggage, a TFT display, an electronically-adjustable windscreen, adaptive cornering LED headlights, and BMW’s Dynamic Braking and Engine Control.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 895cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 99hp / 68ft-lbs
Weight: 482lbs (Wet)
2021 Kawasaki Z H2
After introducing its supercharged Ninja H2 and H2R models in 2014, Kawasaki has more recently applied its forced induction engine architecture to a markedly more accessibly-priced model to deliver the Z H2. Continuing Team Green’s naked Z lineup, the liter-sized naked packs a supercharger that enables the inline-four to put down a whopping 200hp (as well as more than 100ft-lbs of torque) and to achieve speeds exceeding 200mph. Despite its $17K MSRP, the Z H2 still gets a myriad of high-end amenities including cruise control, launch control, a slipper clutch, custom sound tuning, smartphone connectivity, electronic throttle valves, and multiple power modes among numerous other features.
Engine: Supercharged Liquid-Cooled 998cc Inline-Four
Power: 200hp / 101ft-lbs
Weight: 527lbs (Wet)
2021 BMW R18
First debuting at the 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in concept form before entering production in 2020, the R18 is an unmistakably heritage-inspired model that’s powered by the largest boxer twin BMW Motorrad has ever produced at just over 1.8 liters. Drawing visual inspiration from earlier iconic Beemers such as the R5 and R60, the R18 is draped in genuine metal bodywork, and sports modern versions of a classic bobber saddle, fishtail exhausts, and a teardrop-style tank. Like BMW’s earlier heritage-themed model, the R nineT, the R18 was engineered to be modular and to lend itself to customization, and as such BMW offers a large array of bolt-on parts and accessories to make the R18 your own.
Style: Heritage Cruiser
Engine: Air & Oil-cooled 1,802cc Boxer Twin
Power: 91hp / 116ft-lbs
Weight: 761lbs (Wet)
2021 Triumph Daytona Moto2 765
After roughly a decade of Honda’s 600cc four-banger serving as the basis for every race bike in the Moto2 class, Triumph has taken over the job with its newly developed 765cc inline-three platform. Replacing the outgoing Daytona 675 model, the new 765cc track weapon is essentially a road-going version of the new Moto2 bike, wearing updated bodywork and fitted with all of the modern bells and whistles one would expect on a high-end European sportbike. Prior to the new 765 entering mass production, the Hinckley firm is producing just 765 limited-edition Moto2 bikes for the US and Canadian markets.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 765cc Inline-Three
Power: 128hp / 59ft-lbs
2021 Ducati Streetfighter V4
A new generation of Ducati Streetfighter powered by the Bologna-based marque’s all-new V4 engine platform, the Streetfighter V4 is essentially a stripped-down version of Ducati’s Panigale V4 superbike. As such, the Streetfighter V4 not only gets a 1,103cc V4 engine that generates well-over 200hp, but also an advanced suite of electronic rider assists, down-force-generating winglets, a TFT display, top-of-the-line running gear, and one of the meanest-looking two-wheeled designs in recent history. It admittedly doesn’t come cheap, though the Streetfighter V4 genuinely does offer world-class performance capabilities, with top speeds of over 200mph. Ducati also sells the Ohlins-equipped S-spec for an extra couple grand over the already-incredibly-capable base model.
Style: Naked Superbike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 1,103cc 90° V4
Power: 208hp / 90.4ft-lbs
2021 Zero SR/S
Despite undeniably being the market leader in the electric motorcycle space for over a decade, it wasn’t until this year that California-based two-wheeled EV outfit, Zero Motorcycles finally introduced its first fully-faired model with the SR/S. Starting with the firm’s existing SR/F naked sportbike model, the SR/S gains a full front fairing that affords it 13% better highway efficiency. An upright rider’s triangle and a 31” seat height make for a comfortable riding position ideal for navigation urban traffic, while still lending itself to spirited riding in the twisties. Backed by a half-decade warranty, the SR/S’s battery is good for up to a 200-mile range (with the optional “Power Tank”) and can receive a full charge in as little as an hour.
Engine: Z-Force 75-10 Air-Cooled PMAC
Power: 110hp / 140ft-lbs
2021 MV Agusta Superveloce 800
While MV Agusta may have been a decade or two late to the modern-retro segment, most would agree it was well worth the wait considering that MV’s Superveloce 800 model is unlike anything else on the road. Built around the boutique Italian brand’s already immense-capable F3 800 supersport, the Superveloce 800 is a cutting-edge full-faired two-wheeler dressed up in neo-retro aesthetics paying homage to MV Agusta’s glory days of Grand Prix Racing. The idiosyncratic appearance, coupled with its cutting-edge performance and host of top-shelf componentry easily makes the Superveloce 800 one of the most desirable motorcycles of the 2021 model year.
Style: Neo-Retro Supersport
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 798cc Inline-Three
Power: 148hp / 72.1ft-lbs
2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
For years Honda was recognized as being one of the market leaders in the supersport and superbike realms, with its CBR600 and 1000RR consistently setting the standard in the segments, though over the last decade Big Red’s high-performance two-wheelers have grown noticeably-long in the tooth. For the latest model year, however, Honda went all out, delivering a cutting-edge ultra-high-performance superbike with the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. This Japanese-made homologation special boasts a modern electronics suite, down-force-generating aerodynamic winglets, a 215hp engine, and a sub-450lbs wet weight that allows for speeds of over 200mph. Honda also sells the non-Fireblade SP version of the bike that’s a little more accessibly priced without hugely compromising on performance.
Style: Homologation Superbike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 999cc Inline-Four
Power: 215hp / 83ft-lbs
Weight: 443lbs (Wet)
The 8 Best Beginner Motorcycles
Want to check out a selection of more entry-level-focused models to cut your teeth on? Then be sure to cruise on over to our guide to the best beginner motorcycles for eight fantastic options to start your riding career on.