Maybe hitting rock-bottom is what it takes for some of us to get our mojo back and push through the funk. That's the first thing that came to mind when I saw the radical machine normally-conservative Honda rolled out a few months back. Bikes like the F6B Gold Wing are so far out of Big Red's carefully-curated comfort zone these days (the Fury seems like eons ago) that I have to believe a positive shift in industry groupthink is under way. Even Suzuki has made major ripples by shutting down its car division and focusing instead on...yep, bikes. Hopefully everybody's sick of all the meltdowns and doom and gloom of the last four years, and is itching to innovate again.
Two all-new model releases, not just graphics packages—within a week of each other—from two Japanese manufacturers seems to indicate that the metric cruiser segment is very much in play again. Suzuki's new C90T is especially momentous, as it signals their real return to the middleweight category. Although the design is nothing earthshattering, it's different enough from the staid releases of the past few years to make us sit up and take notice.
Then there's Indian. Judging by its big, boisterous displays at the IMS shows, the company is hard on the throttle with the all-new Polaris-engineered Indian models set to launch by 2014. Meanwhile, they're doing their part to educate consumers that the Indian brand really is still alive and well. While we're on the subject, check out an upcoming IMS show in your area if you get the chance. This year especially there's plenty of new eye candy and events to experience.
It's also been a breakout year for the Italians. And now Guzzi is betting big on its new flagship cruiser, the breathtakingly-detailed California 1400. The company has been short on details since the model's initial announcement back in January of 2012, but it looks like production has finally commenced. The machines have already hit Europe and they'll be here shortly.
Of course, all these just-announced models decided to debut right after our big Buyers Guide issue shipped, leaving that particular section somewhat incomplete. See our Letters page and BTL section in this issue (or our website) for updates.
None of the new iron is in this issue's cover story, but Billy Bartels' Classic Cruiser comparison is still a comprehensive overview of that venerable class of bikes. The definition of classic has swung around a bit over the years, but the machines we feature here are pretty much the state of the art. We were hoping to recruit Kawasaki's well-qualified Vulcan 1700 Classic as well, but couldn't secure a test unit from Team Green.
I also got the chance to take a quick spin on Guzzi's new V7 Stone, a lean, new-style standard. This bike hits the same segment as Sportsters and Bonnevilles, doling out tons of fun with just enough of a performance edge and low buy-in to make them attractive all-rounders. Just be prepared to live with some quirks.
I also highly recommend you take a slog down to Hobbit land via our pal Alfonse Palaima's tour story. Fonzie just got back from New Zealand and managed to find the time to explore both islands by bike.
The issue's absolutely jammed with excellent material, from tests and design news, to tour stories and tech write-ups—so dive in.
Til then, hope to see you on the road.