Despite the rollercoaster global economy and the impact of Covid-19, 2021 is hotting-up to be another vintage year for bikes that change the game, skew our expectations, and leave us poorer in our bank balance but richer in our happiness. With all major international shows on hold we are yet to see some of the key players – set to emerge in the coming weeks and months – but here’s MCN Editor Richard Newland’s top 10 picks of the bikes he’s been wowed by so far.

Aprilia RS660

Aprilia are responsible for the dreams of generations of sportsbike addicts – from those who lusted after the RS125 and 250 through to those who still lust after an RSV4. But now there’s a more affordable and accessible slice of Italian exotica available – the RS660. Achingly pretty, dripping with the sort of parts and electronic aids that will win in most Top Trumps games, it’s a superbly accessible road bike and will be huge fun on track. It could be the gamechanger Aprilia have been waiting for.

BMW S1000R

While other super-nakeds can boast bigger this and cleverer that, the S1000R has long been the everyday rider’s crumpet. Less extreme than some rivals, it rocks a delightful balance of power, torque, electronic support and inherent BMWness. And the new one looks better in every regard. It’s still devoid of the firm’s revolutionary ShiftCam cleverness, sadly, but BMW say you won’t notice. It’s lighter, punchier, gets all the trickle-down loveliness from the flagship RR – and looks far sharper, too.

Ducati Multistrada V4 S

Let’s be honest, you’d struggle at a glance to be sure if you’d just seen a new Multi or the old one – but the new one is a very different proposition. Gone is the thumping 1260 V-twin, surrendered in favour of a lighter and more compact all-new 1158cc non-Desmo V4 stomping out 168bhp. Ducati say it’s better on-road, and even more accomplished than old off it. And it’s now front and rear radar enabled, too – meaning an adaptive cruise control safety net and useful blind-spot warnings. 

Harley-Davidson Pan America

Yes – we’re still waiting. The Pan was supposed to arrive in 2020, but with various global meltdowns in full flow, the Pan got pushed back to 2021. Why are we excited about it? Well, it might look like the lovechild of Futurama’s Bender and Dr Who’s K9, but this is a ground-breaking bike for H-D. Stylistically bold, debuting an all-new engine platform, and stepping the world’s best-known bike brand off the asphalt and into the dirt, it’s likely to be a strong global performer. We can’t wait to try it.

Honda NC750X

The biking landscape has changed in 2020. Thousands of previous car / bus / train-dwellers have shunned public travel exposure in favour of doing the everyday on two wheels. And the NC is exactly the sort of bike many are now crying out for. Already a wildly popular do-it-all, the new one is a tangible step forward to inspire the early adopters to trade up and new buyers to take the plunge outside of scooter-land. And DCT means another biking obstacle removed for those new to riding.

 KTM 890 Adventure

After pulling off a great 890 step-up for the naked Duke, KTM have decided to repeat the trick with their middle-market Adventure range, too. The 890 offers a more real-world alternative to unwieldy full-blown adventure giants, but it’s still well-equipped and the new engine mixes serious guts with a new level of refinement, making it easy to get on with while retaining its tough edge and clear off-road roots. It’s a fine handling, spritely adventure-tourer that will also breeze rocky trails.

Triumph Trident

It’s not often we get all-new models arriving in our showrooms – but the Trident is exactly that. It looks great, too – with Triumph finally being brave enough to give buyers something that looks palpably different from the existing bikes in their range. Using a 660cc inline triple at its heart, it’s a pure everyday roadster, laden with useful tech features and high-quality parts. It could be transformative for Triumph’s volume sales, and a serious thorn in the side of Yamaha’s MT-07.

Royal Enfield Meteor

The Indian giant has stomped all over the retro sales charts with its Interceptor 650 since launch, blending a superb and authentic bike with a super-aggressive price tag. It’s a two-time reigning MCN Award winner, and really makes us wonder if the new 350 Meteor could be about to spice up the sub-400cc category, too. It’s a simplistic proposition that’s been designed to sell by the millions in Asia – but as a stylish urban commuter with a good badge on the tank, it might just clean-up here, too.

Yamaha MT-09

The bike that changes Yamaha’s fortunes and reshaped buyer’s perceptions on value and fun – it’s often been likened to the hedonistic 2-stroke fun-factory that was the RD350LC. And for 2021 the versatile naked has been treated to the most significant overhaul in its lifespan. New frame, new engine, new electronics, and new styling all thrust the MT-09 back to the front of the test ride queue in the sub-1000 naked class, and none more so than this flagship bejewelled SP version. Park your sanity.

Yamaha Tracer 9

If you love the idea of the MT-09 but see yourself as a little less of a hooligan, fear not – grab the new Tracer 9 instead. The MT-based Tracer had been a huge hit since launch, and this new one is the best package yet. Not only does it benefit from all the new engine and chassis upgrades seen on the 2021 MT-09, it also gets twin TFT dash units, bold styling updates and equally bold colour options. If you want a bike genuinely capable of touring, scratching, commuting and entertaining – this is it.

For all the latest new bike news and reviews, pick up MCN every Wednesday in-store, via Bikes Unlimited in the App store, or head online to motorcyclenews.com.