Look, friends, I'm going to level with you—recently I find it harder and harder to get excited about new motorcycles. Not that there aren't a slew of great new bikes out there, there really are, but not many of them are in my wheelhouse. ADV bikes seem to the new hotness, and while Harley's promised smallbore Pan America, the V-Strom 800DE (Dr. Big, I presume?), and other offerings from BMW, Yamaha, and Triumph are nice—and don't get me wrong, I think that smaller PanAm is gonna rule—I'm just not that into them.
Regular readers know that I like small, weird, quirky bikes and well-done, neo-retro standards. Stuff like Kawasaki's Z650RS and Honda's entire MiniMOTO line is my jam. Well, and Urals, obviously, but Ural doesn't do exciting new models. So, I sat myself down with some rye whiskey and pored through RideApart's output for the past year to jog my memory. What was coming out in 2023? Had I written about it? Had I ridden any of it? Would I actually have any of these new bikes in my garage? Turns out I would, and here's a selection of upcoming bikes I'm looking forward to.
2023 Honda ST125 Dax
Number one with a bullet is Honda's resurrected Dax. I'm sure we're all shocked to see this one on my list. Seriously, though, Honda's been killing it with the MiniMOTO line over the past few years—it's legit my favorite thing going in the industry right now—and the cute, cuddly Dax is a phenomenal new addition. I love its classic CT70 lines, its tiny wheels, its swoopy, scrambler-esque exhaust, and its adorable daschund mascot. What I don't love is the fact that we're not sure if the Dax is coming to North America. I assume it is, what with it being released in Europe and the U.K., but you know what they say about assumptions. I'll import one if I have to, honestly, because the Dax is such a perfect example of everything I like in a bike right now that I couldn't not own one. Plus, I think it'd make a great bike to teach my daughters to ride with.
2023 BSA Gold Star
Another big surprise, right? Remember Project Firebolt, my late-60s BSA A65 Frankenbike? Well, I'm still slowly but surely working on it, but it's not done yet. Not by a long chalk. To hold me over, though, the newly-resurrected BSA Gold Star seems like it's right up my alley. mean, just look at it. Proper Beezer lines augmented by new technology backed by a multi-national auto and motorcycle manufacturer that knows what it's doing. What more could I ask for? Yeah, yeah, I know the engine is a single and not a parallel twin and it's water cooled (insert gnashing of teeth and rending of garments here) but come on, it's TYooL 2022 and we have to make some concessions to modernity.
I'm excited about the new goldie not just for itself, but for what it represents—a future for a revitalized BSA. Is a new Lightning around the corner? A new Hornet? A new high-po, triple-powered roadster? Well, probably not that last one since Triumph stole the Rocket 3 name for itself, but a boy can dream, right? Hopefully the new Gold Star will come to the Colonies, and sooner than later. If and when it does, I'll be there opening night, first in line, to take one home.
2023 Honda CL500
Another Honda, another resurrected nameplate, and another bike I need in my garage right now. Seriously, slapping a scrambler exhaust, taller suspension, some knobbies, and a flat seat on a Rebel 500 is inspired. It's also in line with how the CLs grew out of the CBs back in the 70s. If I'm picking at nits—and I am, because I'm president and Chief Hater of the RideApart Dot Com Player Haters Club—I'd say that I would have preferred a non-Rebel frame and a proper, two-tone, old-school, CL-style tank, but we can't always get what we want.
As it is, the CL500 looks great, and hopefully, I'll have a chance to ride one next year. At least this bike is confirmed to be coming to America, unlike the Dax and Gold Star.
2023 Norton Commando
What can I say about Norton that hasn't already been said over the past couple years in thousands of pages of legal documents? Despite Stuart Garner's disgraceful tenure as CEO and the near destruction of the brand (again), Norton seems to be thriving under TVS's ownership. The best example of this is the extremely sexy Commando 961, as seen above. As Janaki said in her story about the bike's launch, the new Commando looks exactly like a modern Commando should look. Proper classic lines, that gorgeous engine, laced wheels—the whole package is a great combination of modern tech and OG style.
Now, look, I'm not usually one for zombie brands despite my love of the new BSA. We don't need a resurrected Vincent or Matchless or Sunbeam, in my opinion. Hell, I'm still not sure about Indian's newest lease on life, and the current iteration of that company's been around for, what, seven years now?
I want new bikes from established companies with pedigree, not bikes of questionable quality from vulture capitalist firms who bought a dead IP and some tooling. These new Nortons, though? They really do it for me in a way I'm ashamed to admit. TVS knows what it's doing, and honestly, the Indians have a decent track record of keeping storied British marques alive.
Would I have one? Maybe? They're pretty pricey, and I already have (or, well, am building) my dream Britbike, so I don't really have room for a neo-Commando in my garage. I really want to try one out, though. Spend a few months tearing around SE Michigan and taking it down to SE Ohio to flog it around on some quality roads, you know? So, uh, yeah... Norton, if you're reading along, slide into my DMs and I'll send you my address.
Okay, I lied. This isn't five bikes I'm looking forward to, it's four solid contenders and a handful of runners-up and mildly upgraded existing models. That doesn't make for a compelling headline, though. I'm not frothing at the mouth excited about these guys, but they are compelling for a variety of reasons so I couldn't not include them. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
- 2023 Honda CB750 Hornet: Yay the return of the Hornet name! Boo that a CB750 is a parallel twin and not an inline-four as The Old Man intended! Come on, Honda. Stop screwing around and give us a proper neo-CB750 with a round headlight and a metal, two-tone fuel tank. I'll take mine in flake sunrise orange and black, please. It'll look great parked next to my '71 CB500.
- 2023 Ural GearUp: I really want to get my hands on one of the new Kazakh Urals. Not just to see how the boys in Petropavlovsk stack up to the team back in Irbit where my Ural was built, but to check out the updated engine. 2023 GearUps have an all-new upper engine case, new roller tappets and cam, and a sexy new CV axle to drive the sidecar wheel. These new upgrades, along with a rubber rocker cover gasket to replace the ancient cork units that have kept the oil in for the past 80 years, are all easy upgrades I can do to my '22, but I want to try out the whole beshbarmak-flavored dish, if you will.
- 2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650: Oh, Enfield's killer 650 parallel twin in cruiser drag? Word? Looks like it. Honestly, I'm not that big a fan of cruisers (they're not my style) but I am a fan of Enfield's 650 twins. I'm not so much excited about the Super Meteor itself as I am about what its existence suggests—an expanded line of 650-powered Royal Enfields. Guys, seriously, but that engine in everything. Put it in a Himalayan frame (a Bigalayan, if you will). Give me a Scram 650. Slap it in something bonkers that I'm not even considering like that XV concept from EICMA a few years ago. Just put that mill in everything and send them directly to my house.
- 2023 Kawasaki Z EV: Color me intrigued by Team Green's fashionably late entry into the EV market. This is another one of those "interested more in the concept than the actual bike" kind of entries, though. The bikes that were shown at EICMA 2022 are pretty cool, especially the HEV hybrid, but I'm more excited about what this move suggests for the Big Four moving forward. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha have, in their very conservative and cautious ways, made recent strides to break ties with internal combustion engines. I feel like EVs aren't the answer, but a stepping stone or stopgap technology for use on our way to the real solution. What that is, I'm not entirely sure. Hydrogen? Maybe, the Big Four also seem very interested in hydrogen tech. It's likely some technology no one's even considering or hasn't been imagined yet. Whatever it is, these three Kawasakis—the Ninja EV, Z EV, and HEV—speak to the Japanese bike industry's commitment to the future.