Another year gone by in a flash, and it is time again for me to select the top five best motorcycles I encountered during 2017. During the course of the year, I was given the opportunity to ride some amazing motorcycles, including one which is at the very top of the bike engineering pyramid.

Some of the motorcycles I managed to ride were limited editions and very expensive, like the Zero Engineering Type 9i, another was a blast from the past, the Momoto MM1 a.k.a. the Foggy Petronas FP-1. Others were work-a-day machines, designed to be cheap and cheerful and yet managed to grab this reviewer’s attention, such as the Modenas Pulsar RS200.

For 2017, I rode a little over 70 different motorcycles, not all of which were for review. Some were pure track tests, some were prototypes. Others were for manufacturers who wanted development input for new models – especially in motorcycle handling behaviour and ergonomics – which led me to spending a lot of time on racetracks in Europe and locally.

Along the way, I noticed that a few manufacturers and distributors, both overseas and local, were listening carefully and taking note of my comments, some of which actually made the transition to the motorcycles you buy and ride today. In any case, in the course of my reviews, I have always tried to be as honest in my appraisal as I can be, without fear or favour.

For reviews, I attempt to get to the essence of what a particular bike is trying to be, and the purpose it is supposed to serve the rider. This means I sometimes tend to gloss over the numbers, which can be read off the specifications sheet anyway, and concentrate on what the bike is like to ride.

Choosing this year’s top five was not an easy task, although one or two choices immediately found a place in the ranking within minutes of me getting on the bike and chucking it into a corner. With the level of performance between modern bikes being so close, some choices were not so simple, and sometimes came down to a matter of which brand of brakes were on the bike.

However, in all cases, one criteria that over rode everything was, “would this be a bike I would ride everyday, will it do what I want it to do and can I afford to buy it for the stable?” The choices I made are bikes that were not completely fussy to live with, would go round corners in an interesting fashion and stopped on a dime.

In all, it has been an interesting year, for me as both a professional moto-journalist and a rider, being given the chance to ride some really awesome motorcycles, and the opportunity to share that experience with you, the reader. So, here it is, the paultan.org 2017 Top Five Best Bikes.

5. 2018 KTM 390 Duke

Very narrowly making the time cut-off for this year’s list is the 2018 KTM 390 Duke, priced at RM28,800. This makeover of the original 390 Duke brought ABS with “Supermoto” mode, TFT LCD instrument cluster and LED DRLs into the sub-500 cc class, and we are all the more grateful for it.

While the single-cylinder, 373 cc engine stayed much the same, fuelling was very much improved, with the stumble of the previous model gone, and vibration brought somewhat under control to a liveable level. The Supermoto mode was insane, leaving ABS on for the front wheel, letting the rear wheel be locked up at will and coupled with the slipper clutch, was all that was needed to bring out the author’s inner hooligan.

Compared to the RM21,730 KTM 250 Duke – which made last year’s top five – the 390 Duke was completely stark, raving, bonkers mad, but at a completely controllable level. That there was always a grin on my face when I took off the helmet was enough to earn the 2018 KTM 390 Duke a place on the list.

4. 2017 Kawasaki Z900 ABS SE

Carrying on Kawasaki’s heritage of four-cylinder naked sports bikes that began with the 1973 Z1, the 2017 Kawasaki Z900 ABS SE brought things up to date with ABS and lighter weight. This helped in translating the RM50,959 Z900 into a better handling, rider-friendly package.

Whilst being dimensionally smaller than the Z800 it replaced, the Z900 ticked all the boxes for a do-anything, go-anywhere street bike. The 948 cc inline-four, fed by dual-valve throttle bodies, is good for 123 hp, a 10% increase from the 111 hp of the Z800. It lost some 21 kg over the previous model as well, going from 231 kg to 210 kg.

That Kawasaki designed this bike to be accessible to a wide spectrum of riders can be seen in the 795 mm seat height and very light pull of the assisted clutch. This makes the bike easy to ride under all road conditions, and we liked that we could just hop on and ride the Z900 with no issues.

3. 2017 Yamaha NVX 155

The thing about Yamaha is when they make small bikes, they make small bikes that flat out work. When we rode the Yamaha NMax, from which the RM10,500 Yamaha NVX 155 takes its engine and running gear, we found it to be a nice, if placid, city scooter.

Dressed up in more aggressive clothing, and given a minor makeover in the suspension department, with the inclusion of ABS the NVX 155 was transformed into a very sporty, fun runabout. So what if the 155 cc single only put out 14.8 hp and could barely crack 126 km/h on the highway?

With front wheel ABS, keyless start, remote fuel and seat opening, plus a 12-volt socket in the dashboard cubby, the NVX brought a new level of sophistication to city scooters. Primed for ease of use, and with many members of the public making good comments on the NVX 155’s sharp looks, we are finding a place for this one in the stable.

2. 2018 Ducati SuperSport S

Fine, no bones made about this, Ducatis are special to the author. That combination of sleek Italian design, thumping V-twin drive and sublime handling always strikes something in the heart, and the 2017 Ducati SuperSport S, priced at RM88,899 (take off RM8,000 if you want the base version) was one we looked forward to reviewing.

Taking the Testastretta 11 from the Ducati Hypermotard, and bodywork design sourced from the Panigale, the boys from Borgo Panigale made a easier to ride sports bike that was capable of tearing up the track or munching the miles on the highway. That the S version we reviewed, with its Ohlins suspension and Brembo M4-32 brakes, was icing on the cake.

A more upright riding position, with foot pegs set a little lower down and further forward, made the SuperSport S comfortable, as sports bikes go. We liked the Ducati SuperSport S simply because it put the “sports” back in sports-touring.

1. 2017 Triumph 765 RS Street Triple

So, the one that made it to the top of the list for 2017. We were asked lots of questions about this year’s bike of the year, as a Ducati Multistrada 1200 topped out last year’s list, and many were genuinely curious as to what our choice would be.

We first rode the 2017 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS at Catalunya, Spain, during the world media test ride. On that occasion, we tore up the track with racers Carl Fogarty and Gary “Gaz” Johnson, and during discussions, one thing almost all present agreed upon was the balance of the 765 RS, priced at RM66,900.

Full disclosure, the author has a 765 RS in the stable, which he purchased the day after the media ride. There is a lot to like about the 765 RS, from its M50 Brembo brakes, premium Showa and Ohlins suspension, upgraded inline-triple engine that puts out 121 hp and TFT LCD screen with selectable ride modes and traction control.

From the previous generation Street Triple 675 R – which was part of the author’s stable – Triumph took a winning formula and made it sportier and very much race ready. We proved this by tracking our personal 765 RS several times, as well as during several media rides.

The sheer poise and balance of the 765 RS, high speed or low, along with a price which we felt reflected the value and performance being brought to the table, earned it a place at the top. Making a motorcycle that can satisfy riders of different skill levels on the road, and yet still being able to deliver top-flight performance at the track when demanded, is not an easy task, but Triumph has succeeded.

Special Mention: Honda RC213V-S

This choice was a matter of some debate, but, in the end, we decided to include the Honda RC213V-S as a special mention, simply because of how, well, special it is. Costing some RM1.1 million, too many journalists and readers were fixated on the fact that only the restricted version, without the race kit – an additional RM50,000 – was allowed to be ridden, while ignoring what makes the RC213V-S what it is in the first place.

We loved it for the handling performance, and that it makes no apologies, and gives precisely zero (expletive deleted) for existing. The hand-built engine with MotoGP and WSBK technology, the way the bodywork is sculpted, the real-deal MotoGP riding position, that awesome, truly awesome suspension, made this the author’s dream bike.

Not many will get the chance to ride the Honda RC213V-S, but we managed it, twice, and both times found more and more to like about it. Does anyone know the going rate for a kidney?