Our Favorites From '03

Each year we're able to test motorcycles from all of the major manufacturers in our industry, and each year they seem to improve. And much to the dismay of the manufacturers, our road tests become longer. The more we like a bike, the harder it is for them to have it returned.

If you are new to HOT BIKE, our road tests work on a very simple premise: We ride the bikes for a month, not just a day of playing on the bike. This includes a month of daily commuting, traveling, errand running, and weekend playing, just like you would do if you owned it. By using the bike everyday, we can pick out all the good and bad traits it will exhibit.

So here, in no particular order, are the five bikes that we had the hardest time letting go of in 2003.

Titan Sidewinder Hardtail

Tested in our August issue, the Titan Sidewinder grabbed us by the cool and wouldn't let go. The Sidewinder featured a 250 tire, low-slung rigid chassis, and 107 ci of power. In the original article, we described the Sidewinder as the perfect solution for any attention needs, and that has not changed one bit.

This is not a touring bike friends, it's a point-it-in-the-direction-you-want-to-go-and-nail-the-throttle bike. The bike's relatively short wheelbase and aggressive stance will make you want to get from point A to point B quickly -- and it does just that. With a base price of $22,650, the Sidewinder is a perfect remedy for anyone looking to be quickly noticed.

BMC 541

From the minute the 541 rolled out of the BMC truck, we were hooked on it. It wears its minimalist styling like a badge of honor and rewards riders with an immediate trip down memory lane. By today's standards, a small 180x18 rear tire, a rigid frame, and an 88ci motor are all it takes to make anyone who rides the 541 smile.

The $16,995 price tag that hangs on the mirror makes the 541 affordable, without making the bike cheap. Our version was a prototype, but we didn't have any problems, and found out that the only change from our test machine was the difference in using gloss black paint instead of matte. During the 30 days that we had the 541, we can't remember one day that it sat in the garage instead of being on the road.

Vengeance Vindicator

Built to catch your eye, the Vindicator was a surprise for us this year. Usually, a first year company has a number of production changes to make before we find a test bike that we really like. Not so with the Vindicator. We liked the bike from the minute we saw it, and enjoyed it even more when we started riding it around. From one of the nicest polishing jobs on a motor we have ever seen to the beautifully shaped metal work, the vindicator grabs attention.

Twist the throttle and the big 113ci S&S; reminds you of why low, fat customs are so much fun. With chrome everywhere you look, the Vengeance carries a well-deserved $29,995 price tag. Like we said, normally a brand-new manufacturer doesn't score this high, but the Vindicator impressed us so much, one of our senior executives bought it. You may just see it on our pages again.

American IronHorse Tejas

We admit it, we are suckers for a lot of power. In the case of our American IronHorse Tejas test bike in May '03, it was equipped with AI's optional 124ci S&S; motor, and we fell in lust instantly. Until you have spent a month wringing the throttle to the stops each time you ride a bike, you just can't understand the allure of a cool, stretched rigid with a 124. The Tejas is long, lean, and great for blasting around town.

It proudly wears a 250 rear tire by barely covering it with a short rear fender, which leads your eyes to the stretched tank and narrow front fender. Not our first choice as a cross-country ride, the $22,490 (base price plus motor upgrade) Tejas was our first choice for anyone who even thought they could run into another bike or expensive sports car on the way home from the office!

Big Dog Mastiff

The Mastiff isn't your normal production custom. In an age where bigger is supposed to be better, Big Dog realized that the majority of the American population is under 6 feet tall and can't reach the controls on a monster machine. It seems as though the Mastiff was engineered to give you all the features of a radical custom with proportions that anyone can enjoy, especially those who refer to themselves as vertically challenged.

With a 120x21 front and 240x18 rear tire, the Mastiff sits on plenty of rubber. It also sits on a 107ci motor, six-speed transmission, and Performance Machine calipers. With a base price of $25,900, the Mastiff lets you play around with the big dogs, even if you're not so big yourself.