Best Standard Motorcycle of 2023

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2023: Ducati Scrambler

The Scrambler has always been about classic Ducati styling, but with the latest Scrambler Icon, Bologna has managed to incorporate just enough tech to modernize the Italian standard a bit without going overboard. Of course, if you’re going to revamp the tech, it’s only fitting the Scrambler would get a style update, too. The ’23 Scrambler isn’t a huge departure from the previous gen’s stilo, but aesthetic upgrades can be found throughout, including nine color options, a slimmed down subframe, and even an offset shock, just because.

The meat of what sets the new Scrambler up for success in this year’s Standard category is the new ride-by-wire throttle and Bosch IMU-based ABS. The Scrambler now has two ride modes, five traction control settings, three power modes, and the aforementioned cornering ABS. Despite all of that extra tech, Ducati has managed to shave nearly nine pounds off of the Scrambler overall.

And then there is, of course, the time-tested air-cooled, yet Euro 5 compliant, Desmodue 803cc 90º V-Twin engine. Punchy and lumpy, the Scrambler’s mill excites in a way that’s less and less common these days cough* V-Twin*cough. Strong brakes slow the 408-pound bike easily and its excellent chassis keeps the Italian light on its feet.

Thanks to the Italians for not only keeping the Scrambler Icon alive, but for bringing it into the modern age just enough.

Best Standard Motorcycle of 2023 Runner-up: Kawasaki Eliminator

By Dennis Chung

For the longest time, Kawasaki dominated the small-displacement segment in the U.S. with the Ninja 250. After moving up to become a 300, it was soon joined by a naked Z300 in 2015, and the Versys-X 300 introduced in 2017, and an upgrade to 400 and pretty soon a 500. With due respect to the adventure bike (which somehow didn’t get bumped to 400 and has remained at a displacement that is now two generations old), we’ve always thought of the Ninja and Z models as being a complete and complementary set, a sportbike and a naked.

It wasn’t until Kawasaki introduced the new 451cc Eliminator (or Eliminator 500, as it’s being marketed in other markets) that we really thought about adding a standard model to the mix. We’re glad Kawasaki did, as the Eliminator has brought a new element to the segment, while managing to keep a personality distinct from its siblings.

Though it borrows some cruiser-ish elements from the Vulcan S like the low 28.9-inch seat height, 18-inch front wheel, low-rise tank and tail fender, the Eliminator offers a fairly neutral riding position. The footpegs are further forward than on the Z400, but they still require more of a knee-bend than “mid” controls on, say, a Nightster 975.

In his review of the Eliminator, Tom Roderick praised the bike for its claimed 386-pound curb weight (388 with ABS), increased low-end torque, and how it is both approachable for new riders while still capable of bridging the gap to intermediate and experienced riders.

Throw in a reasonable $6,649 price tag, and the overall package makes the Eliminator a welcome addition to Kawasaki's line-up and a worthy runner-up to the Best Standard Motorcycle of 2023 award.

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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 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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