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The MCN Fleet: meet our long-term test bikes for 2019

Published: 13 March 2019

The 2019 MCN fleet is a wildly varied collection of new metal that reflects the huge range of models now available both in the mainstream and in niches that hadn’t even been invented just five years ago.

We’ll be delving beneath the marketing hype their creators spout to see how they cope with thousands of real-world miles, modifications, different tyre choices, all-weather exposure and showing how you can get the most from yours. Each bike will get its own page where you'll be able to find each update, video and anything else about what life's like with them.

In the process we’ll be targeting #ride5000mile totals, notching up trackdays, venturing deep into Europe, and testing the mods you most want to see. It’s going to be epic...

Meet the MCN Fleet for 2019 here:

BMW R1200GS Adventure Rallye TE

BMW R1200GS Adventure Rallye TE

Key stats: •£18,100 •134bhp •105.5ftlb •790-910mm seat •268kg (kerb)

Rider: Richard Newland (45, 5ft 11in, 110kg)

Mission: The rise and rise of the adventure bike had led us to this: a 268kilo steroid-abusing enduro-styled globe-shrinker that’s wide enough to intimidate Transit vans and clever enough to bamboozle your expectations of what such a behemoth should be capable of.

I’ve covered more than 40,000 miles on various incarnations of the GS over the last decade, but the GS Adventure has always eluded me. I’m excited by the new 1250 engine, which feels tangibly fitter and feistier than the 1200, and the sheer practicality of a 300-mile tank range, Transit like luggage options, and its all-weather all-terrain capabilities. Is this the best GS ever built? Only the miles will tell...

Read the full BMW R1200GS Adventure Rallye review


Suzuki Katana

Suzuki Katana

Key stats: •£11,399 •147.5bhp •80ftlb •825mm seat •215kg (kerb)

Rider: Andy Calton (50, 6ft, 95kg)

Mission: Suzuki’s Katana was big and brash when it first broke the mould in 1980 and the re-make looks almost as avant-garde, even if it is essentially a GSX-S1000 beneath the 80s-aping angular bodywork.

I can’t wait to see if the GSX-R1000 K5 derived engine does the legend justice or whether it’s a powerplant that was better left viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. I’m looking forward to taking it to a few race meetings to see what reception it gets from the old guard and younger riders alike, and I don’t doubt that the odd trackday may prove too tempting to resist. And, of course, I’d love to find an owner of an original model and go for a blast together, swapping bikes to see if Suzuki have achieved something deeper than a simple lookalike.

Read the full Suzuki Katana review once we've ridden it in April. For now, full details here

Indian FTR1200S


Indian FTR1200S

Key stats: •£12,999 •120bhp •85ftlb •805mm seat •231kg (kerb)

Rider: Jordan Gibbons (28, 5ft 7in, 78kg)

Mission: I’ve been rather hot for the FTR since we first heard it was happening. Ordinarily the idea of a 1200cc naked would turn my stomach because they can be a bit too one-dimensional, and I’m probably not a focused enough rider to exist only in that one dimension.

However, the genius of the FTR is its ‘inspiration kits’ that turn it into anything you want it to be. That means – your budget allowing – you could have one bike that wears the Sport kit for doing trackdays, the Rally kit for off-road adventures (I might do Sammy Miller’s Despatch Rally) and then dress it in the Touring kit for something like the Great Mile. It takes versatility to a whole new level, and I’m fascinated to see if it works.

Read the Indian FTR1200S prototype review here

Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE


Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE

Key stats: •£12,300 •89bhp •81ftlb •840mm seat •205kg (dry)

Rider: Simon Relph (53, 6ft 1in, 96kg)

Mission: Ever since Triumph first came out with the Scrambler model family it’s always just been a road bike in varying degrees of disguise – but with the new Scrambler 1200, especially in this XE guise, it looks like they have finally come up with a serious dual-surface weapon. And I’m delighted, because this is completely my kind of bike.

I love the look of it, and the intent, but it will be a bike that’s been produced to please the biggest number of buyers possible. So I will try to find the areas where the Scrambler could be made better, from handling improvements to weight reductions, to performance boosts and visual changes. I’ll also do a back-to-back comparison with my 1955 Triumph T110 Scrambler, take it off-road to test that super-long-travel suspension to the max.

Read the full Triumph Scrambler 1200 review


Ducati Scrambler Café Racer

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer

Key stats: •£9995 •72.4bhp •49ftlb •805mm seat •196kg (kerb)

Rider: Simon Brown (49, 5ft 9in, 75kg)

Mission: I did some miles on the first-generation Scrambler Café Racer last summer and loved it. Nonetheless, taking on the Scrambler Café Racer may seem like an eccentric move, given that I already have a Scrambler Full Throttle of my own to play with – which I bought brand-new three years ago – but there is method in my V-twin madness.

The two are the same, yet very, very different. Not just in the obviously low clip-ons on the Café Racer but in the way the folk from Bologna have shifted the game along. My bike, going for its first MoT this very week, is handsome but the new-generation machine feels fare more resolved and refined. I can’t wait to run it in then enjoy warm evenings down twisty backroads, the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride and a whole lot more.

Read the full Ducati Scrambler Café Racer review here

Honda CBR650R


Honda CBR650R

Key stats: •£7729 •94bhp •47ftlb •810mm seat •207kg (kerb)

Rider: Ben Clarke (33, 5ft 11in, 95kg)

Mission: I think the Honda CBR650R is pretty much the perfect new bike for me right now. Its 94bhp is a nice step up from my usual daily ride (my 2001 SV650S) without being too much of a shock to the system, and it should be similarly well-suited to commuting and weekend blasts.

I ride around 300 commuter miles per week, but also have some longer trips planned this year – including dropping down into Portugal, which should answer questions over its abilities as a sporty tourer. I also think the CBR650R will be the ideal bike to pop my trackday cherry on. It certainly looks the part, and tests of the old one revealed that it wasn’t much slower than the CBR600RR in talented hands.

Read the full Honda CBR650R review

KTM 790 Adventure R


KTM 790 Adventure R

Key stats: •£11,999 •94bhp •65ftlb •880mm seat •189kg (dry)

Rider: Michael Guy (46, 5ft 9in, 70kg)

Mission: There’s no escaping the fact that my ideal world is populated with adventure bikes, off-road riding and big road miles. And the new 790 Adventure R is the bike I’ve been waiting for since I nearly bought a 640 Adventure fifteen years ago!

I have a big commute and use my bike for everything, meaning I’ll be racking up a lot of miles on tarmac, but also plan some multi day European off-road adventures where I will carry everything I need in terms of cooking and camping equipment, and would love to ride it to Romania. I’d like to hook up with Dakar rider Lyndon Poskitt, who is riding a heavily modified 690, to compare his highly evolved bike with a production 790, find out if it really any good off-road, hit the trails in the UK, and see if it’s anywhere near as refined on the tarmac as its bigger stablemates.

Read the full KTM 790 Adventure R review

Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE


Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

Key stats: •£14,399 •118bhp •75ftlb •840mm seat •257kg (kerb)

Rider: Dan Sutherland (23, 5ft 6in, 67kg)

Mission: I spend a lot of my time on bikes, but it’s often local to my home on roads I have been riding for years. I desperately need my horizons expanded, and I think the new Versys could be the bike to unlock them. There’s so much of the UK that I’ve not ridden through, and with family hundreds of miles away in Devon, that will be one of my first planned destinations.

I’ll be piling on the miles on my daily 100-mile commute as usual, and testing the bike’s ability to cope with all-weather usage – but I’m also a bit of a sportsbike nut, so I’m interested in seeing if the adventure-styled world can lure me away from my performance addiction. If it can’t, I’ll be getting my fix on a Ninja 400 in the Team Green Senior Cup this year.

Read the full Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE review


BMW S1000RR Sport

BMW S1000RR Sport

Key stats: • £16,700 •203.8bhp •83.4lbft •824mm seat •197kg (kerb)

Rider: Michael Neeves (49, 6ft, 76kg)

Mission: My time with the S1000RR will be spent explore the wealth of its new track-based tech, getting under the skin of its new electronics and comparing its engine and chassis to the previous model that I know so well. Using the RR day-in, day-out, over some serious mileage will give me the chance test the full range of its skills in even more geeky depth and detail than we do in our road tests.

I’ll be racing a new RR as well this year, which will also allow me to test the new BMW race kits, and measure what improvements they give. As well as all the track testing, I’ll be smashing in the miles on the road, and I’m keen to see how much value the new ShiftCam engine contributes to normal riding.

Read the full BMW S1000RR review

Triumph Speed Twin


Triumph Speed Twin

Key stats: •£10,500 •96bhp •82.6ftlb •807mm seat •196kg (dry)

Rider: Emma Franklin (37, 5ft 6in, 60kg)

Mission: After years of riding sportsbikes, I fancied switching gears for 2019. That’s not to say that I’ve not had some eclectic long-term test bikes over recent years – with bikes as diverse as KTM’s RC390 and Ducati’s XDiavel being the wildly different bookends. Somewhere between the two is the new Speed Twin.

With its 97bhp and capable twin-shock chassis, the Speed will still scratch a performance itch on the backroads, but it'll also allow me to kick back and cruise in jacket and jeans when the mood takes me. I plan on taking it on a few road bike only trackdays as well as generally behaving like a bit of a poser at far-flung biker cafes.

Read the full Triumph Speed Twin review

Yamaha Niken GT


Yamaha Niken GT

Key stats: •£14,869 •113.5bhp •64.5ftlb •820mm seat •267kg (kerb)

Rider: To be confirmed...

Mission: The Niken GT could be considered as the second attempt Yamaha have made to answer a question no-one really asked – but that would be doing it a big disservice. When we first put the Niken through its paces last year, it was a revelation.

Not only did it perform with impressive composure on the MCN250, and over 1000 more test miles, but it even delivered a shockingly good ride on track. The criticisms we levelled at it were all to the effect that it would make more sense as a grand-tourer than it does as a naked sports-tourer. Yamaha clearly had the same thought, and the challenge now will be to rack up the miles and see if the GT changes deliver the touring dream.

Read the full Yamaha Niken review

Ducati Diavel S


Ducati Diavel S

Key stats: •£19,895 •113.5bhp •64.5ftlb •820mm seat •267kg (kerb)

Rider: Alison Silcox (49, 5ft 10in, 81kg)

Mission: From a weekend tour from Devil’s Bridge to Devil’s Punchbowl, to daily commutes and touring to Italy – I’m determined to see if there’s an angel lurking within Ducati’s ‘Devil’. With the help of the #ride5000miles Facebook group I’m also planning the best way to meet my 2019 mileage target.

Apart from all my Devil-named destinations, I’m determined to take it back to Bologna, too. It's 12 years since I last visited the Ducati factory and what better bike to return on? Santa Pod is also calling to me, so I’m planning a Run What Ya Brung event to experience the thrills of the drag strip – and will also thunder along to a DGR ride dressed in my best bib and tucker, too. Why should the boys have all the fun?

Read the full Ducati Diavel review

Want more long-term motorbike reviews? Check out last year's fleet.

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