Visordown Bike of the Year 2023

As the year draws to a close, we’re looking at the bikes that impressed us most in the last 12 months

Visordown Bike of the Year

And just like that, 2023 is drawing to a close. It’s been a hell of a year for motorcycles, with stacks of brilliant new machines launched over the last 12 months, and plenty more to look forward to in 2024. 

It’s the former we’re focusing on here, though. After clocking tens of thousands of miles on everything from learner-legal 125s to big cruisers in 2023, we’ve had a sit down to discuss (and argue a bit) to try and come up with a list of bikes that have impressed us the most this year.

For a bit of housekeeping - we’ve stuck to bikes the Visordown editorial team has ridden in 2023, and that means a few omissions for machines we won’t be riding and getting enough mileage to give a verdict on until 2024. So, for example, the BMW R1300 GS isn’t in with a shot of being shortlisted this year, and neither is the Kawasaki Ninja Hybrid. Equally, there are some bikes here that were launched in 2022, but we had our first taste of them in early 2023.

Anyway, we’ve shortlisted eight bikes, the first seven of which are in no particular order, with the final machine on the list crowned as Visordown Bike of the Year. For each, Visordown's editor at large Toad Handcocks has weighed in with his thoughts. 

So, without further ado: 

Yamaha YZF-R125

The R125 has long been one of the hottest learner-legal options, and in 2023 it’s been propelled back to the top - ahead of the Aprilia RS125 - thanks to a comprehensive update. First, there’s the styling to think about, with new bodywork to bring the pint-sized sports bike into line with the R1 and R7. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but few will disagree with the R125 now being one of the best-looking learner-legal machines out there. 

The engine and chassis have been pretty much left alone, but it was such a sweet setup already, that’s just fine by us. What Yamaha has done, though, is added a smart new colour TFT display, Bluetooth connectivity and even pre-wiring for a dealer-fitted quickshifter. 

At £5,321 it’s at the more expensive end of the 125 spectrum, but it justifies that price. 

Toad's take: “There are only a handful of 125cc sports bikes that can genuinely cut it when you take them to the track. The R125 is one of these bikes. It’s got a big-bike feel and silhouette to it, and casting your eyes down to the cockpit you’re reminded of this bike's lineage stretching up to the all-conquering R1.”

Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide

Harley-Davidson CVO preview 2023 | Visordown

The CVO Road Glide represents a big step forward for Harley-Davidson. Now, you can have a Harley that actually stops and steers nicely, while also riding with a superb sense of smoothness. For a bike weighing nearly 400kg, it’s surprising just how good the CVO is on a twisty road.

The engine may sound like a traditional Harley affair - a 45-degree, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin - but it’s thoroughly different under the skin, and a strong performer. You also get a huge and impressive 12.3-inch touchscreen - that’d be a good size for a car, let alone a motorcycle.

It’s not cheap, nudging £40,000, but for the ultimate Grand American Tourer, perhaps that’s not such a bad deal.

Toad’s take: “Yes it’s big, brash and unashamedly ostentatious, but the new king/queen of the road has been improved massively with the latest update. The engine has much-improved tractability while being smoother and more economical in the process.”

LiveWire S2 Del Mar

The S2 Del Mar is here because, all things considered, it’s the best electric motorcycle we’ve yet tried. With the Harley-Davidson branding dispensed with, LiveWire is carving out its own identity, and doing it in style with the Del Mar.

At £16,990 it’s a good deal cheaper than the LiveWire One - nee Harley-Davidson LiveWire - while also undercutting the Zero SR/F. But you wouldn’t know it - this still feels like a top-quality product. 

While pitched as an urban runabout, the Del Mar is also a blast on country roads, helped by a well-set-up chassis and an astonishing 194lb ft of instantly delivered torque. 

Toad’s take: “The S2 Del Mar is a bike that’s as good around town as it is on the open road. It looks great, handles brilliantly and has a level of premium detailing that is hard to find in the battery-powered sector.”


The SMT is back for 2023, and it’s just as quirky an idea as the old V-twin-powered 990 version. The idea of a ‘Supermoto Touring’ bike sounds daft on paper, but this bike makes a lot more sense on the road than you might expect. 

With 180mm of plush WP-provided suspension travel at each end of the bike combined with 17-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Power GP rubber, the SMT is both comfortable and - on the right road - an absolute riot. Sitting in the mix nicely is KTM’s 889cc ‘LC8c’ engine, which might just be the angriest of all the current crop of 270-degree crank parallel twins. 

Yes, you might think you want an adventure bike, but for a lot of riders, an SMT 890 will be a better fit. Just make sure you get the taller screen, as this is a bike you’ll want to go far on.

Toad’s take: “Sometimes tourers can take themselves a bit too seriously, but not the KTM 890 SMT. Think of it as a bonkers middleweight naked, with long travel suspension, bags of room for two and long-distance comfort that could whisk you to the sunshine in a heartbeat.”

Ducati DesertX

The DesertX is here because it surprised us on two fronts. Firstly, surprising that Ducati would make a bike like this in the first place (and later up the ante further with the DesertX Rally), and secondly, because of just how good it is off- and on-road.

A 202kg bike sounds like it’ll be a handful on the rough stuff, but thanks to a fine chassis and a suite of electronics that flatter the rider without proving a hindrance, it makes life incredibly easy. And then, once you’re back on the asphalt, the DesertX will carve up a country road in a way that makes you get off the bike, lean over the front, and confirm that yes, it really does have a 21-inch front wheel. 

While doing so, you can also take a step back and admire what might just be the best-looking adventure bike out there currently, thanks to the gorgeous Cagiva Elefant-inspired styling. 

Toad’s take: “Few all-new bikes have impressed me quite like the Ducati DesertX did when I got to swing a leg over it. The engine is a riot of fun, with a pop-bang soundtrack that begs you to wring its neck at every available opportunity.”

Triumph Street Triple 765 RS

The RS version of Triumph’s Street Triple wasn’t exactly crying out for changes, being one of the best-riding middleweight naked bikes out there. And yet, in 2023 we found ourselves at Spain’s Jerez circuit having ridiculous amounts of fun on a thoroughly updated version of the machine.

The 765cc three-cylinder engine is full of new components, while the Showa/Ohlins suspension setup is tweaked, and the electronics overhauled. All of these ingredients come together to make this already brilliant bike just that little bit tastier. 

Considering the performance and the level of technology on offer, the value is still fantastic at £11,295. If you want the ultimate middleweight naked, the Street Triple 765 RS is your bike. 

Toad’s take: “The Street Triple RS has (and probably always will) sit at the very top of the mid-weight naked sector. It’s a cracker of a track bike, yet as happy commuting through rush hour as it is at chasing apexes on your favourite B-road.”

Commended: Suzuki GSX-8S

After producing new bikes using the same ageing components for years, Suzuki at last has a new engine and frame combination. This has now been used for the V-Strom 800 DE, V-Strom 800 RE and the GSX-8S, but it’s the latter bike that impressed us the most. 

The new 270-degree parallel twin is a surprisingly revvy thing thanks partly to Suzuki’s clever twin balancer system, and in terms of power and torque, the unit is bang on the money for the middleweight naked class. A long wheelbase means the 8S isn’t as lively in terms of handling as a Yamaha MT-07, but it’s still heaps of fun, while also being very stable. 

It looks like one of the pricier options in the class on first inspection, but it becomes cracking value once you factor in all the electronics it gets as standard, including an up-and-down quickshifter, three levels of traction control and three riding modes. 

Coming in 2024 is the fully faired, drop-handlebar Suzuki GSX-8R, which we’ve now very high hopes for. 

Toad’s take: The GSX-8S is a bike that seems to have been a very long time coming, but the good news for fans of Suzuki is, that it’s worth the wait. The engine might not quite have that thumping V-twin character of the SV650, but in every other area it is leaps and bounds ahead, and the chassis is a peach too!”

Visordown Bike of the Year: Honda XL750 Transalp 

And finally, we arrive at our bike of the year - Honda’s excellent XL750 Transalp. We were impressed enough by the CB750 Hornet, launched at the tail end of 2022, so in some ways, it shouldn’t be surprising that Honda was onto a winner by taking that new frame and engine and reimagining them in an adventure bike package. 

The 755cc parallel twin (which, of course, has a 270-degree crank) feels properly naughty for something built by Honda, and when unleashed on a trail it’s especially good fun. It helps that the Transalp is so capable on the rough stuff, while also being not far off as amusing on the road as the Hornet. Much like the Ducati DesertX, it doesn’t handle anything like what you’d expect considering the use of a 21-inch front wheel. 

It’s a great-looking bike, especially in the throwback OG Transalp livery, and spectacular value at £9,699. For something that comes with the peace of mind of Honda aftersales, that really is a steal. 

Toad's take: “I love it when I bike has me saying ‘I really didn’t expect this to be this good’ and the Transalp is one of those bikes. Honda hit the sweet spot for this one, making it not too extreme an off-roader to be rubbish off-road, but with a level of ability on the rough stuff that should mean 99 per cent of owners can do all of the trail riding they’ll ever desire.”