As Senior Road Tester, Michael Neeves is in the envious position of riding a huge range of bikes every year. So we got Neevesy to run through the top five bikes he's ridden in 2012.
1. Ducati Streetfighter 848
This has been my long-term test bike this year and I racked up close to 10,000-miles on it in six months. I rode it on trackdays, commuted to work on it, did two 3000-mile European holidays and generally larked about lots. It does all of these things brilliantly well.
I love the way it looks, sounds and pulls wheelies so easily from walking pace. It never missed a beat, even when I put diesel in it once by mistake, and it’ll do 160-miles between fill-ups – twice that of a Panigale.
It’s the bike I’d buy with my own money.
2. BMW S1000RR HP4
BMW gave us two new S1000RRs models this year. The first was an update of the 2010 original, with better-quality suspension, more mid-range, tweaked styling and a smoother throttle, power delivery and electronic rider aids. When we pitched it against its superbike rivals earlier in the year it won by miles.
But the hopped-up HP4 version of the S1000RR is even better. With its semi-active suspension, it’s one of the best-handling, most stable bikes I’ve ridden on the road and it gives the perfect set-up for the track. The engine is even smoother, has more grunt and you get lighter wheels and stronger brakes.
3. Honda RC30
Earlier in the year I got to ride an RC30 as part of a Honda V4 celebration feature (I also rode an RC45 and an NR750). It was completely standard, aside from the wheels – lightweight 17” Marvics, replacing the standard items. It was incredible.
Even by today’s standards it’s a breathtaking machine. It’s light, handles beautifully and rock-solid stable. The engine hasn’t got much more than 100bhp, but the power delivery is linear and the carburation lovely and smooth. It’s so easy to ride fast.
Then there’s the RC30’s soul-stirring V4 soundtrack. I still think about that test now – an unforgettable day.
4. Honda Legends World Endurance Fireblade
I rode this at Oschersleben as part of an ABS feature. They’ve raced a C-ABS equipped Blade in the German superbike championship for a few years (winning it in 2010) and are now using it in World Endurance.
It’s a work of art, easy to ride and loads of fun. The power delivery is unbelievably smooth and the grip from the special Dunlop slicks amazing. It has a 130-section 16” front and a 210-section 16.5” rear giving more side grip than I’ve ever experienced at full lean. The braking power and stability from the linked C-ABS system is second to none.
5. 1999 Suzuki RGV500 GP bike – ex-Aoki
This is the last generation of the knarly 500cc GP two-strokes. It would be further up the list, but we couldn’t really ride it that fast - it’s a one-off moving museum piece and we didn’t want to break it. But, riding it for pictures as part of a Suzuki celebration feature, the engine broke anyway. Whoops.
It sounds fantastic and it weighs nothing - just 130kg, so the speed it can go into corners is incredible. Even tickling the throttle, acceleration is like being punched in the stomach by a heavyweight, in every gear. A very special experience.