Our Picks for Road Dirt’s Motorcycles of the Year

 

2023 was a very enjoyable year for us here at Road Dirt. The riding, the road trips, the racing, the rallies and shows we attended, all made for a fantastic spin around the sun. We tested lots of riding gear and apparel elements, but mostly, we loved the motorcycles we sampled across the past twelve months. Riding a wide variety of motorbikes is still our favorite part of the job of course, and sharing them with you. We appreciate you riding along with us this year.

After some discussion, a little debate, and maybe a thumb-wrestling match or two, here are our top five favorite motorcycles that we got to ride in 2023. We’ll review them in reverse order from fifth to first. We also have a few “honorable mentions” to toss in at the end as well. We must point out that there was not a bike we rode in 2023 that we didn’t love, so just because some aren’t mentioned doesn’t mean they are not great bikes. We just decided to drill down on a few faves.

So let’s dive in!

Janus Motorcycles Halcyon 450

Rob had the opportunity to travel to Goshen, Indiana back in the summer to spend a few days with the good folks of Janus Motorcycles, a small company designing and hand-building unique, 1920s-vintage looking bikes with modern reliable tech. The Halcyon 450 and its little brothers the Halcyon 250 and Gryffin 250 are solid, well-constructed motorcycles with quality, (mostly) locally fabricated parts, and are supremely easy to ride. But more than anything, they transport the rider back to an earlier time in motorcycling, a simpler time, when bikes were purpose-built for the buyer, and riding had a much more visceral, connected feeling between man and machine. For those reasons, the Janus Moto Halcyon 450 makes our fave list.

Our Janus video review HERE

Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650

We knew eventually Royal Enfield would introduce another bike in their fantastic 650 twin lineup, and their wildly popular Meteor 350 cruiser from a couple of years ago made us suspect that their 650 twin mill would eventually find its way into a cruiser frame too. For 2023, that’s exactly what the legendary Brit/Indian brand did. Joining their Continental GT cafe racer and INT 650 standard, Ted got to ride the new Super Meteor 650 cruiser around north Dallas, Texas for a couple of days, and found it most impressive for all-day pleasure cruising. Ted doesn’t normally ride cruisers, but admitted that if he did, the RE Super Meteor 650 would be a definite candidate to join his stable of sport bikes and sport tourers.

Our Super Meteor 650 video review HERE

Triumph Street Triple RS

Our favorite bike of 2022 was the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, so it’s no surprise that the little sibling Street Triple 765 RS would be a fave as well. Rob enjoyed riding one around central Georgia back in the summer, retracing and remembering the last rides he took with his father some years prior. The Street Triple is the direct descendant of Triumph’s original “naked” sport bikes that created and defined a motorcycle genre in the 1990s, and the modern iteration is an absolute joy to ride. We’ve sampled the Street T a couple of times over the years, and they keep getting better with each new generation.

Our Street Triple video review HERE

Honda Rebel 1100T Bagger

The reason Honda’s batwing faired cruiser makes the fave list is that trick DCT transmission. Seamless automatic shifting, both up and down, plenty of available torque down low, all-day comfort and Honda reliability make this bike a pleasure to ride. Neale, Rob, Phil, Ted and Dave all got to ride the Rebel 1100T Bagger, several on an extended road trip, and found that DCT tranny a spoiler, whether around towns or up in the twistys. And of course, the bike can be manually shifted with left grip finger/thumb paddles, which were fully employed on a swift stint through the famed Tail of the Dragon, US 129 in North Carolina. That DCT transmission must be experienced to be appreciated.

Our Rebel 1100T Bagger review video HERE

Our Road Dirt “Bike of the Year” Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+

Several of us had the chance to sample this Yamaha sport tourer, with Ted getting first dibs at the press launch back in August. Ted is a sport tourer himself, traveling thousands upon thousands of miles each year on his own sport touring rigs, so he was the perfect candidate for the first-ride. And he was supremely impressed. Rob and Phil split some long-term seat time with the big Yamaha starting in September, Rob even making a five-state road trip with his school years chum Lyle, who also rode it extensively. Everyone agreed- the Yamaha proprietary Adaptive Cruise Control, coupled with their Unified Braking System, makes this the first-of-its-kind ground-breaker and ground-pounder for long distance sport touring. As of the end of 2023, no other motorcycle brand in the world has this level of fully integrated and seamless tech available in a sport touring machine. That will change in the coming years, but for now, the Tracer 9 GT+ stands alone. For those reasons, this bike wins the Road Dirt “Bike of the Year” for 2023.

Our Tracer 9 GT+ video review HERE

*We would be remiss if we didn’t mention several “honorables” we also enjoyed, so here’s a few more that had this been a “Top 10”, would have made the list as well.

The Harley-Davidson Nightster Special

This one polarized the Road Dirt wrists that sampled it back in the spring. Rob and Phil weren’t fond of it, feeling the long Sportster lineage and DNA were no longer present in this reimagined version. Yet Ted and guest tester Dave both loved it, quipping, “Harley built a better Honda” and “They’ve put the ‘Sport’ back in the Sportster.” Whatever the sentiments, all agreed the Nightster is a harbinger of things to come from the Bar & Shield brand.

Our Nightster Special video review HERE

Indian Scout Rogue

This was another bike that polarized the boys. Rob absolutely loved the Rogue, as did Phil, while Ted and Dave hated it- at least, hated riding it. They agreed it was drop-dead gorgeous as a hooligan cruiser, but the rear suspension could not be softened enough to ride without feeling like the rider was straddling a jackhammer. A FOX shocks swap-out would likely fix this. Ted opined, “Indian built a better Harley,” after spending some miles and hours in the saddle. The Scout Rogue rolls with a true bad-boy vibe, and it reminded Rob of what the H-D Sportster used to look and feel like, and loved it for that reason.

Our Indian Scout Rogue video review HERE

Honda CB500X

Rob was the wrist for this pint-sized sport-adventure bike, and liked everything about it. Honda sells these briskly around the world, and they have quite a cult following for some reason, with many aftermarket accessories found from many sources for kitting out the parallel twin machine to one’s liking. Clearly created with smaller riders in mind, the CB500X is confidence-inspiring for mild off-road travel, and supremely capable for road tripping nearly anywhere. Mike Boyd owns one, and has ridden across America with it.

Our CB500X video review HERE

So there’s our Faves List for 2023! Any thoughts, comments or questions on these? What bikes have you ridden in the past year that make your faves list? Please share with us in the comments section below.

See you in the coming year!

Road Dirt Crew

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Cycle World Athens

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Rainw

    Really enjoyed the motorcycle reviews.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Thanks Tommy! More to come in 2024.

      Reply

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