2023 Motorcycle of the Year

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

2023 Motorcycle of the Year: Suzuki 800 Platform

It’s been yet another fantastic year in motorcycling. But, of course, isn’t motorcycling always fantastic? Each year we see varying levels of innovation from BNGs (bold new graphics) to evolutions, and inevitably entirely new machines gracing the motorcycle market. As enthusiasts, we are in a golden era of motorcycling, rife for choices backed with technology that makes it so much easier to own and ride.

And that’s what makes selecting the Motorcycle of the Year so interesting and challenging. There are so many good candidates to choose from, and they all add something different to the mix. Since we always seem to need to explain ourselves, Evans’ words from last year are eerily fitting for 2023. The same situation, yet slightly different:

“Remember, the MOTY is not about choosing the absolute best motorcycle of 2022. While the bike needs to be one of the best by winning one of our MO Best Of categories (MOBO), the bike needs to be something more; it needs to say something about the current state of motorcycling. The 2022 MOTY is no different. In fact, it was alone in winning two MOBO categories. When you combine the two, the motorcycle says a lot about its current class of motorcycles, in this case adventure-touring and value motorcycles.”

And that’s the case we find ourselves in again, yet with a different manufacturer.

The Suzuki 800 platform has not only provided an excellent value and adventure motorcycle, it has simultaneously provided us with a fantastic naked bike, too. The GSX-8S may not have been able to place itself on the steps of the Best Naked of 2023, but it is an excellent motorcycle housing a stellar engine. The folks in Hamamatsu have a history of building long lasting engines that are able to provide diversity in their use, so it’s no surprise that the 776 cc Parallel Twin appears to be a home run.

For the adventure scene, the V-Strom 800 DE provides a solid middle ground between motorcycles with punchy torque like the Tenere 700 and provides a smoothness that makes the KTM middleweights seem frenetic. Likewise, with the GSX-8S, you get a fun engine with plenty of midrange torque for an excellent price relative to its competitors. Suzuki even found its original tuning spot on for both applications, using the same mapping for both machines. We look forward to further iterations.

Stepping back to put things in perspective, Suzuki has built yet another platform on which two motorcycles have debuted with another on the way. Are we looking at the next K5 1000 or 650 V-Twin engine? Time will tell, but if time’s told us anything so far, it’s an absolute possibility.

2023 Motorcycle of the Year Runner-Up: Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide

By Dennis Chung

Taking the runner-up spot for our MOTY is probably our most polarizing individual category winner, the new Harley-Davidson CVOs. We gave it the nod in the Best Cruiser/Bagger category, and the response was as contentious as we expected it to be.

Interestingly, a lot of the objections stem from the CVOs’ $42,999 starting price. That was one of the few major critiques we had for them, but it obviously wasn’t as big a factor to us as it was to our readers.

Price is a one of several factors we consider for the MOBO awards, but it carries more weight in categories such as Best Value and Best Lightweight/Entry-level than it does in, say, Best Sportbike or Best Cruiser, where few top contenders would be considered “inexpensive”.

When it comes to the Motorcycle of the Year category, pricing usually becomes even less of a factor, which makes it a bit of a surprise that our most expensive MOBO winners finished second to the Best Value winner.

Ultimately, what swayed our decision to select both the winners and runner-ups for MOTY is what they each represented in motorcycling in 2023. For the CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide, they represent the next generation of Harley-Davidson’s cruiser and touring ranges, and because of Harley’s influence on the market, the U.S. heavyweight segment.

With the 2023 CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide, Harley-Davidson introduced variable-valve timing, a modern electronics package, and subtracting 30 pounds of weight compared to the previous models. Yes, many will balk at the $42,999 starting price, but considering the 2022 versions came in at $41,899, that’s not that dramatic a price increase for the changes Harley implemented.

Evans was so impressed with the bikes that he felt the need to voice this opinion to Paul James, Harley's communication manager, after the ride. Harley heard the cries about how antiquated the lineup was and actually did something about it. The result is a thoroughly modern cruiser that (arguably) doesn't lose the essence of what a Harley-Davidson is. For that, H-D deserves praise. And let's not forget – what you see first on CVO models eventually trickles down to the more affordable non-CVO models.

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Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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2 of 17 comments
  • Ponch Ponch on Dec 19, 2023

    I know that the parallel twins are setup to sound and more or less function as a vtwin, but are easier and cheaper to manufacture. In my mind, if I wanted a vtwin, I'd buy one. I just look at this as another spreadsheet commoditization like SUVs. They all look the same and function similarly. From a design standpoint, it's boring and lacks creativity, but hey, that's business.

  • Rick Rick on Dec 21, 2023

    One, and that was enough! 😉