Choosing the most thrilling motorcycles of 2023 by genre is certainly a matter of opinion, so, let’s stir this pot, shall we? Completely at random, we decided to take a look at superbikes, electrics, adventures, supersports and naked classes to hash out a few standouts. These are competitive categories loaded with exceptional rides, and we fully expect to ignite a little controversy here.
Superbikes—2023 Ducati Panigale V4 R When it comes to the realm of superbikes, the Ducati Panigale V4 R is the reigning champion. Equipped with a beastly 998 cc Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, it unleashes nearly twice the horsepower (240.5 to be exact) of a Toyota Prius. Derived from Ducati’s MotoGP technology, the engine’s aggressive nature is enhanced by its counter-rotating crankshaft, reducing inertia and optimizing handling during aggressive cornering.
The Panigale V4 R is not just about brute power; it’s got a healthy resumé of engineering and design under it as well. The chassis is a combination of lightweight aluminum and magnesium, meticulously crafted to minimize weight while maximizing stiffness, lending to a mere 368-pound (167 kg) dry weight. The result is a bike that handles with unparalleled stability and agility.
To harness all that raw power, the bike features Ducati’s advanced electronics package, including traction control, wheelie control, engine braking control and a quick shifter. These systems work harmoniously to keep the bike in check and the rider (well most riders, anyway) in control, even during the most sanity-questioning riding scenarios. A multi-level riding mode system tailors the bike’s performance to rider preferences and road conditions—everything from rain to race.
Fully adjustable Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and lightweight, forged-aluminum wheels provide the ultimate setup for precision handling and braking. Combined with the electronic aids and the engine’s explosive power, the Panigale V4 R becomes a formidable weapon that can outmaneuver and outpace competitors like the BMW S1000RR and Yamaha YZF-R1. [Ducati]
Electric Motorcycles—2023 Harley-Davidson LiveWire ONE For enthusiasts who yearn for the future, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire ONE earns our vote. Powered by a high-voltage Revelation electric motor, this cruiser hooks up with instant torque that propels from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. While the 100 horsepower might be considered middle class, an astonishing 84 lb-ft of torque from the Revelation definitely bumps performance up a class or two. With an electric motor, there’s no need for shifting gears. Riders control the power with merely a twist of the throttle, allowing for instant and precise acceleration.
Absent the typical Harley V-twin roar, you could argue silence has never been more golden. Harley-Davidson has cleverly engineered a unique sound for the bike that is as distinctive as any traditional rumble. The bike emits a futuristic, almost science-fiction-like whirring sound, giving riders the sensation of piloting a machine straight out of the Jetsons.
To further enhance the riding experience, the LiveWire ONE comes with a range of rider aids and electronic features. These include multiple riding modes, traction control, cornering ABS, and regenerative braking. The LiveWire features a large, full-color TFT touchscreen display that provides essential information such as speed, battery status, range, and navigation. The screen is also compatible with Bluetooth. Sounds like the stuff of Panheaders’ nightmares, but hey, that’s the future.
LiveWire advertises a range of approximately 146 miles (235 km) on a single charge in urban conditions, and charging the bike is straightforward with Level 1 and Level 2 charging options. Level 1 charging uses a standard household outlet, while Level 2 charging utilizes a dedicated charging station for faster back-on-the-road times.
While the LiveWire ONE embodies the classic Harley-Davidson spirit, its design is refreshingly modern and minimalist. A lightweight aluminum frame and fully-adjustable Showa suspension provide excellent stability and control in various riding conditions. Reinforcing its focus on electric machines, LiveWire is now its own brand, but we’ll miss the signature Harley-Davidson logo on the tank. That was good for jamming a little heritage back in your face. [LiveWire]
Adventure Motorcycles—2023 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure When it comes to adventure motorcycles the GS series have earned a reputation for being rugged, reliable, and capable. The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure is the flagship of the GS range, with a powerful 1,254 cc boxer engine delivering 136 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. The R 1250 GS Adventure can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds on pavement and provides ample pebble-crawling power as well.
BMW has engineered a rugged and purposeful design, emphasizing its adventurous spirit. A 7.9-gallon (30-liter) fuel tank allows for long-range touring without the need for toting an extra can. The bike comes equipped with a high-mounted windscreen, robust crash bar, handguards and engine protection to protect both the bike and rider from off-road rigors.
Adjustable suspension with options for dynamic electronic damping provides riders with the ability to tailor the bike’s handling to the terrain.
While the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure embraces its rugged roots, it also integrates modern technology to enhance the riding experience. The bike features a full-color 6.5-inch TFT display with navigation, trip data, and connectivity options. [BMW]
Supersport Bikes—2023 Honda CBR600RR When it comes to the world of sportbikes, Honda has always been at the forefront of innovation and performance. At the heart of the Honda CBR600RR lies a high-revving, 599 cc DOHC inline-four delivering 113 horsepower and 48.7 lb-ft of torque. The engine’s compact design and lightweight construction contribute to the bike’s agile handling and precise cornering abilities.
With its race-inspired DNA to further solidify its track-focused intentions, the CBR600RR comes equipped with adjustable Showa Big Piston Forks in the front, and a fully-adjustable rear Pro-Link suspension out back. The bike comes equipped with Honda’s Dual-Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI) with 40 mm throttle bodies and Denso 12-hole injectors. One of the coolest features on the CBR600RR is Honda’s Quickshifter, enabling clutchless upshifts without lifting off the throttle.
The CBR bolts on dual, radial-mount, four-piston Nissin calipers, gripping 310mm floating discs in the front, and a single-piston caliper with a 220mm disc in the rear. Combined with Honda’s advanced Combined Anti-Lock Braking System (C-ABS), the bike provides an extra layer of safety and stability should you get a little wiley. [Honda]
Naked Bikes—2023 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo There’s no discussing the naked bike segment without the Duke, and KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R Evo is certainly a mouthful. While there are certainly faster bikes out there, few challengers come from the naked bike segment, and fewer match the level of technology packed into the Duke.
Referred to in Team Orange parlance as “BEAST,” you’d better believe the Super Duke R Evo is powerful. The 1,301 cc LC8 V-twin in the Duke puts out a massive 180 hp and 103 lb-ft, and the engine is a stressed member in the reworked, lightweight trellis frame. For 2023, the V-twin has shed ounces here and there, has new bronzed copper coatings in the gearbox and reworked cylinder head geometry for low to mid range power.
With all that power on tap, KTM went to great lengths in the tech department to be sure the Duke reaches its full potential on any surface. To start, you’ve got all your standard stuff, like cornering ABS, a slipper clutch, riding modes, wheelie control and track modes. There’s a supermoto ABS feature and a performance street mode for your inner hooligan, and a semi-active WP suspension, allowing you to control suspension sag and preload from the TFT dash. [KTM]