Adventure bikes weren’t really a thing in 1989, at least not in the United States. Even BMW’s venerable GS was nothing more than a misunderstood, oversized dual-purpose machine with ties to the Paris-Dakar rally, which itself was only a little more than a decade old at the time. At the back of the dealership where I worked in 1991, parked next to the tire rack, languished a 1989 Honda XL600V Transalp. Along with other two-year-only (’89 and ’90) model offerings from Honda, including the GB500 and CB-1, the Transalp was nothing more than a curiosity.
Like it or not, regulatory agencies around the world are cracking down on vehicle emissions and imposing some of the strictest rules we, the motoring public, have ever seen. One of these rules includes restricting, or even banning, petrol-powered vehicles through portions of some European cities. Naturally, rules like this hit the auto industry the hardest and present a fundamental change in how the industry as a whole operates. As a result, it seems as though all of the world’s major auto manufacturers have decided to abandon the internal combustion engine and are phasing it out over time in favor of purely electric vehicles.
The arc of the aging sportbike rider goes a little something like this: In their youth, going fast and taking chances is the name of the game. Sportbikes are the status symbol that fulfills this desire and is the closest thing to a two-wheeled land missile they can get their hands on. Not to mention it costs a fraction of what supercars go for. The aggressive position of clip-on bars and rearset pegs adds to the sensation of speed and places the young rider in a position of power they may not have experienced yet in their young lives.
It’s pretty gratifying to discover a youthful British entrepreneur’s madcap gamble that he could find sufficient customers ready to stump up the steep price for his self-conceived, self-developed, self-manufactured and self-promoted series production motorcycle that’s unique in today’s marketplace, has paid off. Bingo!
In recent years, what it means to be a supersport motorcycle has gone through a dramatic change. It had to – sales of traditional 600cc supersports have tanked since the Great Recession, and most of the old guard have either stopped selling their 600s in the US, or haven’t updated them in years. Why should they? Instead, we have a smattering of motorcycles with sporty intentions – some with fairings and others without. The only common denominator is they all have engines under 1000cc.
Just when you thought Honda couldn’t possibly add something new and different to its middle-range moto lineup, it surprises us with a reiteration of a previous cult classic, the CL350, best known for paving the way for the Baja 1000 back in the 70’s. This modern version of the peppy lightweight scrambler has all the goodies of Honda’s current offerings, with all the style of the paired down desert racers of the past.
New motorcycle model introductions follow a well-worn path: travel to the event location, eat nice meals, get briefed on the bike of the moment, ride a route designed to highlight the bike’s strengths, take photos/video, eat more good food, return home, and write up a review. After 27 years in this industry, I still get a cheap thrill about throwing a leg over a new motorcycle before it is available to the general public. However, what really gets me going is when I have a chance to log more than just the couple of hundred miles typically covered in an intro and spend some real time on the road with said bike.
The more I ride the Ducati DesertX, the more I like it. There are so many excellent choices in the middleweight adventure bike segment these days that any ADV-curious motorcyclist should be able to find themselves a compatible match. The DesertX is like that one friend you know is always down for some sort of mischief – more partner-in-crime than just a partner. It’s rowdy, loud (with the Termi pipe seen above), and raucous, and it coerces you into having a good time. Since we’ve been able to pass Ducati’s latest adventure machine around amongst the staff, it’s become a crowd favorite.
Adventure bikes were made to unlock possibilities, to transport you from your garage to places unknown. As the category has evolved it has become more segmented to better suit the needs of the intrepid pilots looking to explore the furthest reaches of their abilities – whatever that may mean to said pilot. The new Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally was built to be the best long-haul ADV steed the Italian firm has ever built. With increased comfort, fuel capacity, suspension, and tech, on paper it looks to have checked the boxes. But everyone knows you can’t always believe what you read on paper. For that, you should turn to the internet and Motorcycle.com for the unadulterated facts.
To most North American motorcycle riders, China-based motorcycle maker CFMOTO is a newcomer when it comes to street bikes. Elsewhere, it’s a familiar face, especially in Australia, the Philippines, and the UK, where CFMOTO’s sub-300cc motorcycles and scooters have been sold for decades. But CFMOTO is now making a play for a share of the street bike market in America, and the new 2023 450SS is one of the high-profile new “bigger bikes” beginning to arrive at over 300 CFMOTO motorcycle dealerships across the nation.
MV Agusta is on a full-court press to show the world that, thanks to Pierer Mobility, it finally has the support it needs to grow into its full potential. We’ve written about it on this site and are following all of the news concerning the company. One nice change from our perspective as journalists is the availability of a MV Agusta press fleet. Another is the U.S. introduction of a country-exclusive 2023 MV Agusta Dragster RR SCS America, which is designed to appeal directly to buyers in MV’s most important market. It seems only fitting that the heart of Southern California’s motorcycle country was chosen as the place to give the moto press a sample of the latest offering from Varese.
Last year, we voted the Aprilia Tuareg the Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2022 and the 2022 Motorcycle of the Year. Clearly, we like it, but after almost six months without riding one, we began to wonder if it was really as great as we remembered. Fortunately, we recently got to spend some quality time with a 2022 Aprilia Tuareg while adventure touring in South Dakota thanks to the good folks at Travel South Dakota, and it only rekindled our fondness for this motorcycle. This time, however, we spent more time in the dirt than we did on pavement, which only made us appreciate the balance provided by this motorcycle even more.
The Honda XR150 has been in production since 2003, though up until recently it wasn’t available in the US market. Selling most of the units in Asia or Latin America, the XR150 platform is one of the most popular entry-level dual-sports, and its introduction to the US comes with some welcome perks; time tested engine and components plus a 20-year history of available parts – both OEM and aftermarket. Honda’s reliability is legendary, and this little XR150L is likely no exception.
Our perception of the world is influenced by both nature and nurture. Just as our individual experiences shape how we view situations, the same can be said for the handlebars you sit behind. Each bike delivers its own unique experience that plays a part in how you interact with and take in the scenery around you whether that be flying through mountain roads at warp speed, filtering through traffic on the way to work, or cruising through expansive glacial valleys skirting the German/Austrian border.
It had been quite a while since I last rode a multi-cylinder KTM on a racetrack – all the way back to 2011 and the Red Bull-sponsored factory RC8R 1200cc V-twin on which Martin Bauer was victorious in that year’s IDM German Superbike Championship, with teammate Stefan Nebel third. That was a key moment in the Austrian dirtbike specialist’s climb up the ladder to equal status with the likes of Honda and Ducati in the road racing pantheon, and showed that orange was a color to be reckoned with on-road as well as off it.
Astute readers are probably wondering why Motorcycle.com is publishing a First Ride of a bike that’s not coming to the States this model year. Our reasoning is that, thanks to the sleuthing of Dennis Chung, we suspect the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+ will be coming to the U.S. in 2024. (Read about it here.) So, we thought our fellow MOrons might be as interested as we are in how well the new technology incorporated into the GT+ performs. We hope you enjoy this taste of what it has to offer. –EB
The Route Napoleon is considered one of the best drives across France. It starts near the French Riviera and runs up to the southern tip of the Alps. The route earns its namesake by following the path that the one-time French emperor used to covertly make his way north after escaping his first exile. Despite wet conditions with gravelly sections enroute and frost at higher elevations, it was a most excellent place to have our first dance with Suzuki’s new naked, the 2023 GSX-8S. The second of two 776cc Parallel-Twin-powered models from Suzuki, the GSX-8S proved its mettle over just a single day’s ride in terms of being a contender in the middleweight naked category. Let’s get to it.
You don’t get a name like Elite without earning it (or buying it in this case), and today Indian has introduced two model lines to get the Elite treatment: the Pursuit Elite and Chieftain Elite. What makes these models Elite? All you have to do is look at them to figure out what sets them apart from the standard models. For the Pursuit, this is the first time it will be getting Elite treatment, which consists of Super Graphite Metallic and Black Metallic paint schemes nicely offset with bronze details throughout to exude an air of exclusivity the base models can’t touch.
Harley-Davidson and Hero Motocorp announced a partnership back in 2020 for the distribution of existing Harley motorcycles and the development of a new range of models for the Indian market. We haven’t heard much from that arrangement… until now, when a selection of “spy photos” of a Harley-Davidson-branded motorcycle with a 400-ish cc Single landed in the hands of the Indian press.
Writing about Ducati’s 2023 Streetfighter V4S is nice and all, but while at the Andalucia racetrack riding the bike, I also attached a GoPro to my helmet and spun some laps. This happened for a few reasons: first was so you, the viewer, could hear the amazing roar of an 1103cc V4 at 13,000-plus rpm. Next was to get an idea of the different challenges the Andalucia track poses. The camera doesn’t quite do it justice, and I never did figure all of them out, but the experience reaffirmed just how remarkable the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4S really is.
You’ve read the review (maybe), now watch the video! Skirting through beautiful twisty bits of tarmac intertwined with rocky fire roads, the Suzuki V-Strom 800DE’s excellent new Parallel Twin engine is a peach. On road, the Twin powers out of corners with all of the punch expected of a 776cc 270-degree crank-driven Twin. Suzuki tells us the new engine puts out 84 hp at 8,500 rpm and 57.5 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm. Off-road, the new power plant puts traction to the ground smoothly via the RbW throttle and is easy enough to modulate that traction control can easily be flicked off and forgotten about. The engine is the star of the show, but the V-Strom 800DE is an excellent sum of its parts and is the most off-road focused ‘Strom yet – this excites us (me).
For miles, we rode into a dense cloud of ruddy South African dust. Those dusty roads connected rocky trails and choice stretches of pavement like the famed Franschhoek pass which, on a Saturday, was reminiscent of California’s own Angeles Crest Highway. We watched eclectic groups of open topped roadsters interspersed with an equally varied slew of two-wheelers strafe from apex to apex while we made photo passes. Husqvarna had invited the world’s press to experience the new Norden 901 Expedition amongst epic terrain at the southernmost tip of the African continent.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but we’re big fans of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 around here. The do-it-all naked bike is fast as hell when you want to get crazy, but as docile as a puppy when you don’t. For years, fans of naked bikes have yelled to the hilltops for a manufacturer to build one that was a sportbike without fairings. No neutering, no “re-tuned for torque” BS, just pure naked power – and a handlebar. Ducati has firmly delivered with the Streetfighter V4 and we’ve sung its praises endlessly. Which begs the question: what on earth could Ducati possibly do to warrant yet another press intro and new model launch?
Alan Cathcart’s conversation with Stefan Pierer continues, as the PIERER Mobility president and chief executive officer discusses his motorcycle brands (namely, KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas), and some of their competition. This includes MV Agusta, of which PIERER gained a stake in 2022. —ED.
A couple of days ago, we were tipped off by Harley-Davidson blogger Dr. Dan Morel about photos of an alleged new CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide taken from the factory floor. Morel has since sent us another photo, offering a clear look at the CVO Road Glide’s right side, including evidence that the new 121ci engine uses variable valve timing.
Harley-Davidson released the bulk of its 2023 lineup about two months ago, but we’re still waiting to here about more models, such as the Custom Vehicle Operations models that will be joining the CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary. We may not have much longer to wait, as videos of a new CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide have popped up on line, revealing some big changes to the CVO models, and perhaps a sign of what to expect for the 2024 lineup.
Harley-Davidson has officially revealed the X 350 for the Chinese market, a small displacement flat track-inspired roadster produced with Qianjiang Motor (QJ Motor). As of this writing, the X 350 is only confirmed for China, though a modified variant known as the X350RA will be used in Harley-Davidson Rider Academy programs in the U.S.
Fresh off of winning the 2022 MotoAmerica King of the Baggers championship, Indian has gone and done it – Indian is offering a super-exclusive opportunity to actually buy yourself a Challenger RR. This is an exact replica of the bike Tyler O’hara used to win the KotB championship. Yes, an exact replica. Meaning if you had the skill that Tyler has, you could go and win bagger races with it. This is a full-on, non street legal, racing machine that just happens to look like an Indian Challenger (well, loosely…).
Indian Motorcycle and Jack Daniel’s have once again partnered together for a limited edition model. Developed once again in partnership with Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, the latest model is based on the Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse, and will be limited to a production run of just 177 motorcycles worldwide.
The Harley-Davidson vs. Indian rivalry is a great American classic on par with the likes of Army vs. Navy, Lakers vs. Celtics, Ford vs. Chevy, Pepsi vs. Coke, and even…Google vs. Bing? Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the point. Harley and Indian have been at each other’s throats going back over a century, save for a 50-odd-year pause in the middle when Indian originally closed its doors. But when Polaris bought the keys to the palace and opened the doors again, the fight resumed as intense as ever when the FTR750 flat tracker started beating Harley’s legendary XR750. Repeatedly.
For the previous week, I’d anxiously checked the weather reports for updates. Sandwiched in between swaths of little sun icons were two little black clouds spewing raindrops. Naturally, those were the scheduled dates for the US press to ride the 2024 Triumph Street Triple 765 R and RS on the Andalusian backroads and the famed Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto in southern Spain.
Flying over the second largest island in the Mediterranean gives a view of rocky coastlines, lush greenery, small villages, and surprisingly stout topography with mountains stretching more than 6,000 ft. into the sky. Idyllic yet rugged, the isle of Sardinia boasts addictively serpentine asphalt and endlessly challenging off-road terrain. This is where we would get our first test of the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE. An exciting new model for Suzuki, particularly due to its all-new powerplant, the 800DE carries on its shoulders both a legacy and an expectation of what a middleweight adventure bike should be in the modern era.
As we expected, Husqvarna announced a new Norden 901 Expedition, adding a more adventure-capable model to its lineup. Equipped with longer-travel suspension and coming standard with a number of accessories such as waterproof luggage, the Norden 901 Expedition carries an MSRP of $15,799, a $1,300 premium over the regular Norden 901.
Indian pulled no punches and left no doubt when it came to the bike it had in its crosshairs when developing its latest model. Usually at press intros, we all know what other model(s) could be considered competition, but it’s very rare to have the host manufacturer come out and say it. They usually resist the urge to talk about their competitors by name – and especially won’t mention a specific competitor model – when hyping up their new product.
Last month, we reported that Honda was preparing to bringing the XR150L dual sport to the U.S. market, introducing an air-cooled carbureted model marketed internationally as an agricultural vehicle to America. While we’re still waiting for a formal announcement form American Honda, it’s Canadian counterparts confirmed the XR150L will be arriving to North America.
It’s pretty simple. If I find a vintage Speed Triple story, I’m going to republish it. Now, 20 years later – 20 years! – we bring back to you MO’s First Ride aboard the 2002 Triumph Speed Triple. So many people have memories with this bike. A lot of them are good, but these early years of the Speed Triple also brought with it a few reliability problems. Let’s not focus too much on that for now and instead appreciate Triumph’s beloved three-cylinder naked bike that basically ushered in the category of naked sportbike.
With no US publications invited to the press launch of the BMW CE 04 more than a year ago, we had to enlist the help of our friend Bertrand Gahel to send us his thoughts in the form of his First Ride Review. Thirteen months later, we finally got our hands on the BMW scoot.
Indian Motorcycle is preparing to give the Pursuit the Elite treatment, adding a new limited edition version of the PowerPlus-engined tourer for 2023. The Indian Pursuit Elite will join the Challenger Elite and the Chieftain Elite in getting custom paint schemes and finishes and select upgrades.
Just over four years ago, Italian trophy marque Moto Morini narrowly avoided joining the many other defunct brands from all our two-wheeled yesterdays already deposited in motorcycling history’s trash bin. But in October 2018 Chen Huaneng, the owner of Chinese scooter and minimoto manufacturer Zhongneng Vehicle Group, saved it from extinction by acquiring 100% ownership of Moto Morini from the previous Italian owner.